Monday, March 2, 2009

ABRAMS AND PANTHER REVISITED

click on picture to enlarge Today was sort of special. Today I went canoeing with a friend. Very unusual for me. But I enjoyed the whole experience. How nice it is to talk to someone when I stop! My friend Shaun and I tossed the canoes in the water at the route 129 bridge that crosses Abrams Creek at Chillhowie. There was a mild wind with sudden gusts that would attempt to blow us across the lake at times. Wind also pushes the water in what ever direction it is blowing and sets up currents that move with it. Our canoes were very susceptible to these fast changing currents. One moment Shaun was to my immediate left and the next he was clear against the left bank of the river. I had all I could do to keep my boat running straight up the river too. The slightest wind would catch the side of my light canoe and push it effortlessly in whatever direction it wanted. All I could do is paddle furiously using giant sweep strokes to try and maintain my course. It was great fun! The day was cold. We could see our breaths all morning. It never got to 40 degrees on the water. We paddled up Abrams Creek to the "Y" and went right to Panther Creek. The shore line had rhododendrons and mountain laurel in thick patches sporadically placed in a "hear and there" fashion. It wasn't thick enough to be impenetrable if one decided to hike along the stream. We did pull over once to look at a small mountain stream tumbling into the main channel and noticed either a beaver or an otter swimming up the center of the stream where we had just passed. In our haste to retrieve cameras from the boats and bumbling about like two moose bulls; the critter disappeared. We finally made it to the head waters of Panther and tied off the boats for a walk about. It is spectacular up there. This is truly a wilderness setting out of a book written by James Fennemor Cooper. At any moment the Deer Slayer could walk out of the forest and he would be in his 1753 element. Gorgeous. The sounds of a mountain stream cascading over and around rocks and boulders is mesmerising and finally tumbling into the bigger body of water that makes Panther Creek. This particular spot is a place that is hard to leave. It is splendor personified. Tranquility, peace and gorgeous mountain scenery abound. Thank God it's in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and safe from realty people. We left the headwaters of Panther Creek and quietly paddled downstream to Abrams Creek. Abrams had a fairly healthy flow of water pushing against us, but it had it's calm sections also. The wind seemed to blow against us a bit more as we traveled upstream toward our destination. The water became calm and we were really making time. I could even fool around with the canoe a bit in order to align myself with Shaun to capitalize on photo opportunities. We came up on the headwaters and looked for a place to beach the boats. But Shaun just had to try to paddle up to the creek outlet through some fairly heavy current. I chuckled inside as I watched what I knew was futile work. But it's all fun. He didn't have a chance to beat that water. He was going in the other direction in the picture above; upstream. As you can see he got swept around and pointed downstream. Funny! It was really fun watching him flail about out there. Actually he displayed a fair amount of control over that heavy canoe. Fun to watch! We finally beached the boats and took a break. This place is another gift of Nature. Abrams runs all the way back across the mountain to Cades Cove. Thats well over 20 miles away from this spot as the crow flies. It even runs under ground through a limestone mountain and re emerges again filled with nutrients and minerals that make this water ultra pristine. Well, that is until it meanders through medows over there on the other side of the mountain where large cattle enterprises polute the stream with cattle droppings and silt from farming. The silt is heavy enough to cover the stream bottom and the associated gravel and stones that harbor trout eggs. And yes, you guessed it; trout do not do well in that environment. I doubt I'll be back here in the near future so I drink in the beauty. Even after we shoved off from the shoreline, we just let the current float us downstream. We used our paddles infrequently and then just to rudder the boat on course. It sure was a great day. A grand day. Paul; you missed a good un! Below is a short movie clip of my friend fighting the current while trying to break out of the Abrams Creek channel into the main lake.