Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ALCOA LODGE AREA REVISITED

CLICK PICTURES TO ENLARGE The lake surface was silky smooth. Not a ripple could be seen anywhere. A gentle breeze wafted down the valley and provided a welcome element to an already fantastic 65 degree morning. The only sound was the water falling off the paddle as it was withdrawn from the surface in preparation for the next power stroke. Soon the sounds of loud exhausts and the engines of endless tourists would start. But for now; only total peace and quiet. I am on Chilhowee Lake and I'm paddling up the side of the lake toward the old Alcoa Lodge site. I wrote of this place earlier in this blog. I investigated the trout pond in that entry. Today I will beach the canoe on the original old ferry landing that lies across the lake from the Route 129 side. It is quite a way and a lot of paddle strokes to get there. From the Rt 129 launch site I paddled across the lake and followed the embankment toward my destination. The morning was so calm and quiet I found myself paddling slower and slower. I have had a serious problem with a vertibrae between my shoulder blades this week that prevents me from lifting anything more than about 50 pounds; and I have to be very careful doing that. The Chiropractor told me not to lift anything at all. He didn't say anything about paddling. But I was experiencing pain in the center of my back while paddling. I just paddled slower. As the canoe moved slowly ahead I marveled at the glide this thing has. It slices through the water like a knife. I pulled the paddle through the water and laid it across the gunnels and photographed the glide lines. The boat continued on and on. I became bored with this game and commenced paddling again. I could hear the roaring of water up ahead coming from the mountain side. A cove lay in front of me and I opted to steer into it to investigate. The water was tumbling down off the mountain and flowing into Chilhowee. Gorgeous! I had to beach the canoe and check it out. What a great time to just sit down and relax my back and finish a good book my friend Tom in Pennsylvania sent to me. It's a great read. What a perfect place to relax. I found a sandy little channel to tie off the boat. I took off my life vest and put it on the ground up against a rock that jutted vertically out of the ground. Perhaps I'll peal an apple and grab a few mouthfuls of trail mix. Great spot, this! As I was paddling into the little cove; a bald eagle did a fly by directly over me. I did not see him the rest of the day. How unfortunate. That is the first bald eagle I have seen on Chilhowee since I have been coming here. I have, however, seen one on Abrams Creek, far up toward the headwaters. Thats about ten miles from this spot. I'm to meet up with my friend Paul today and that's part of the reason I'm not in a hurry. Why rush? I figured I would linger along slowly and eventually see his yellow canoe coming up the lake. And I did; but later. For now all I wanted to do was take pressure off my back and lean against something. And I did - a rock; and commenced to read. I finished that book there on that mossy spot. A great read on a great day. My back ached as I tried to get up. Very sore! What am I putting myself through this for? And as I stood and painfully straitened up; I scanned the lake and the mountains behind it and knew the answer to that silly question. The mountains are starting to show their spring colors. Red buds are emerging as well as some of the colorful forest flowers. I rounded a slight bend in the lake and came up on the old Alcoa ferry landing that once brought the rich and well to dos to an elite lodge owned and operated by The Alcoa Company. The lodge was eventually demolished along with the three cabins that housed guests on the property. Incidentally, this area is a game preserve. I love those signs. The ferry landing has stood the test of time well. I have seen present day boat ramps deteriorated more than this old ferry landing. I pulled the canoe up on land and tied it off. A path was clearly apparent and I decided to follow it for awhile. And I am glad I did. A small stream was flowing across the path and on the other side was a set of steps. I wonder what lay beyond them. I quickly jumped across the stream and up the steps. I felt as if I were discovering some new land or something. Investigating these old places is exciting and interesting. I search the internet for information pertaining to my finds and am prompted to ask questions of local people. I rounded a corner in the trail and there were stairs with stone corner markers with stone flower holders. This must have been an elegant creation in its day. The stairs lead up and onto a terracotta tiled area surrounded by a stone wall. A babbling brook ran unimpeded past it all. Outrageous! Gorgeous. I can almost envision the richness of this place at one time. How many conversations had taken place here?; how many couples walked hand in hand along these paths and up these stairs? How much wealth changed hands through deals made out here across the river in this private place? We'll never know. But you can bet it happened. I kept walking. A stone wall was constructed along the left side of the path; and it was a long path. The cost must have been astronomical to construct this place. After a while I came upon a structure . It appeared to be a cabin of some sort. I later found out from Paul that it was an old original milk house. The building was here even before Alcoa built the lodge. Very old. It is a slate building. It's amazing the thing lasted this long as the slate pieces are simply laid one upon another in no particular pattern. Bricks and block buildings are built with the materials overlapping one and other to create strength. As can be seen here on this old milk house, the walls are leaning precariously. It soon will be given back to nature. As I was leaving this mystical place; I took one last picture of this great old structure. I did eventually meet up with Paul. Funny; I did not take any picture of him. Well, I did get one. And I wish I would have had a camera in my hand for a photo opportunity that may not present itself ever again. That photo op caused me to laugh while paddling with Paul the entire distance across the lake. Maybe I'll tell you about it some time.