"There's no business like snow business, snow business I know," sang WW&W snow tune correspondent Pasty Cline as we strolled down Laurium streets with snowbanks looming high overhead on both sides.
With the temperature near zero, you could see your breath as her rousing rendition froze in mid-air. We kept up a brisk pace on the highly-anticipated, much-ballyhooed and heralded WW&W Winter 2011 Glacier Walk, Snowbank Tour and Pub Crawl of Calumet and Laurium, an unofficial satellite event of Winter Carnival and a snowy version of Senior Walk that celebrates winter, not graduation.
Here in the Keweenaw, the epicenter for snowfall and glacial activity in the Copper Country and all of Michigan, we don't just know snow, we are snow-it-alls, if not snow-offs, but the snow must go on. Somebody stop me before I snow you under with as many punishing puns as the themes of Tech's Winter Carnival, going on this weekend, which wouldn't be possible without snow and cold and lots of it.
Missouri may be the "Show me" state, but Michigan, particularly the U.P., is the "Snow me" state. We've got snow to blow, not to mention driveways and sidewalks. Everybody knows snowmobiling is such thirsty work, they strategically designed the entire trail system to run from bar to bar. Who am I to question their wisdom and plan my Glacier Walk & Pub Crawl any differently?
"Some say it's a closer walk with thee," said WW&W religion correspondent Bethany Lutheran, who walks the walk with me every winter, as Pasty Cline's song playing in my head at the toppa the column evolved to a hymn, one of my favorites, I might add.
Everything to do with dealing with snow is thirsty work. Skiing, snowshoeing, shoveling, scraping, scooping, sweeping, panking and blowing snow, even just walking out in the cold works up a thirst.
The first legga the walking tour starts at the Irish Times in snow-bound downtown Laurium, Their parking lot snowbank is impressive and sets the bar pretty high, but not high enough to win. The Walk proceeds in a somewhat orderly fashion, then zigs and zags though the side streets of Laurium, crosses US 41 at Depot Street, hangs a right on Mine behind Calumet Electronics to Red Jacket, past the towering snowbanks at the Calumet Township office, past the Calumet Colosseum, past the Elks, across 6th Street to 7th Street to our first thirst stop at Randy's, a one-mile walk that works up a thirst indeed.
Mt. Randy's is the perennial hands-down winner of the GWST&PC, and this year is no exception. The mountainous snowbank across the street obscures the bar from view and has ever since it was Eva's. It lies between Carmelita's, the post office and the appropriately-named Snow's Garage, virtually buried in glacial ice and snow.
From here, the bars and snowbanks are much closer together; Luigi's, Michigan House, UP Pub, L&L and the North End; hang a hard left along Pine Street to Harter Mountain, then turn south on Sixth past Jeffro Theil's where the snowbank is up to the Lake Superior Circle Route sign, past the Calumet Theatre, completing the tour at Shute's. It's an ambitious ramble, with truly awesome, mountainous snowbanks towering high overhead along the way, some freshly cut to reveal that disgusting brown and white cross-section concoction of snow, slush, sand and road salt that looks like an agate the size of a boulder or frozen Vienetta, long-forgotten in the backa your freezer.
"I make sure the Keweenaw gets more snow in the Fall then most people get all Winter," said Heikki Lunta, the infamous Finnish Snow God, citing our usual 100 inches or more before the first day of Winter. "But piling it higher and deeper is what inspired the annual WW&W Glacier Walk."
"My snowiest winter ever was 1978-79, when I dumped a record 390.4 inches on the Keweenaw," Heikki bragged, "Last year I slacked off so much, Jim was inspired to coin the term Wimpter. The ice was off the Keweenaw Waterway when Verna Equinox arrived March 21."
"This year Heikki's back in business," said WW&W meteorologist Winter Solstice. "It hasn't stopped snowing since I got here on December 21, including a couple of impressive lake effect events and white-out blizzards that have conspired to bless us with 175 inches so far with about 30 inches on the ground in Houghton County," she added.
"But don't take my word for it, go to keweenaw.info and johndee.com for the latest readings."
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.