Alger County sees near-record snowfall

VAN MEER, Mich. (WLUC) - Warren Johnston owns 27 acres just off of H-58 in the middle of Alger County, where he's been a permanent resident since 1995.

"I first came out here January 2nd, 1977. I came up here on snowshoes with my wife. We bought the property that day,” Johnston recalled.

Johnston’s property is situated right downwind from the best open water this time of year. So it snows more often than not.

“I think this is the biggest snowfall I've seen. We've had a couple that have been bad but I think this is the worst we've had," reckoned Johnston.

He estimates 300 inches of snow have fallen on his property this season. Keeping up with moving all that snow is almost a full-time job.

"I’ve got a real good snow blower and I've got a small tractor that I go out and it just takes a lot of work. An average day would be about three to three and a half hours. If we get a bad snow I might be putting in five or five-and-a-half hours to keep the place clear and get to the road," Johnston figured.

Johnston, a retired police officer looks more like a grown kid in a sandbox moving the mountains of snow with his Kubota so he can get to town.

He’s looking forward to the familiar sound of his Harley starting up whenever the snow thaws. He's also looking forward to seeing some that U.P. wildlife in his yard again.

“You know out here the only thing you see is an occasional squirrel or raven or a coyote this time of year. That's about it. But we’ll see a lot of bear. One time we had about five of them up here. We had names for all of them. One was really friendly. I’d be running the tractor and he’d come up and lay down next to the tractor like a dog. He was more like a dog than a bear,” Johnston recalled.

But until the spring thaw, the only bears Johnston will see are the stuffed ones at the Bear Trap Inn in Van Meer.

Taylor Robinson cooks and waits tables here. She says while it's pretty, this year's heavy snow had made for a tough winter.

"It’s been a weird winter. That's for sure," Robinson confessed.

"If you have a snowmobile you probably love it. If you do not have any toys for winter, depression. Honestly, you can't leave the house it’s just gloomy outside and cold. I cannot wait for the snow to be gone. Honestly. I don't have a snowmobile though. If I did I'd probably love it," Robinson estimated.

She says a bulk of the business at the Bear Trap this time of year comes from snowmobilers like St. Helen Resident, Steve Burke.

He says he and his family have been coming here to snowmobile for nearly 20 years.

"I’ve never seen this much snow in my life up here. It's amazing and the trails are wonderful. We love the U.P. if I could move up here, talk my wife into it, I would,” Burke surmised.

So while the heavy snow might be a burden at times, it does keep places like the Bear Trap in business.