Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CALDERWOOD LAKE REVISITED

Cheowa Dam at the top of Calderwood Lake click photos to enlarge I decided only this morning to give Calderwood Lake and the train tunnel another go. My hope is to get some good, clear photos of the area. Of course I want to do some exploring also. Only this time I would have the Gheenoe which would provide a more stable platform for photography. So, with my absolutely favorite companion Douglas, we set out. Douglas is a lot of all play no work. He is fishing while I prep the boat for launching. The only part of getting to Calderwood that I don't care for is the drive over Route 129 South which is full of crotch rockets. These pesky little rodents have a tendency to lock onto ones bumper and pass at the first opportunity, which is anytime and anywhere. God patterned snakes in the image of Route 129. Everything became "alright" when the road appeared that leads to the small boat ramp and campground at the lake. After explaining what a Gheenoe was to four old fishermen/campers; Douglas and I idled away. I took a pass by the outflow of Cheowa Dam and snapped a few pictures. We turned the boat and made for the train tunnel down the lake. I set the speed at twelve miles per hour. The Gheenoe could easilly hold a steady thirty miles per hour on this smooth water but, there's something about this lake that makes me want to "take my time." It's the tranquility of the place, I think. It seems sacrilegious to disturb the quiet with the sound of an engine. We kept mostly to the North shore line and eased on down the lake. It was good to know that Douglas was keenly alert and looking out for obstacles on the water. The familiar Slip Rock Creek appeared on the left. There are no humans back there in the cove. Thats a good thing. The train tunnel lies about a mile further on the right. The scenery is breath taking. And finally I could see it. The tunnel is difficult to recognise even though I was just here yesterday. The water is deep at full pool this time of year and much of the tunnel opening is under water. Just a little further. It lies just to the left of that pile of rocks sticking out of the water. Wow! What hazard! The hole in the wall is easy to miss. It is almost invisible from the center of the lake. As I stated before; the opening isn't in the cliff side. It is in the bulge of boulders that sticks out prominently from the cliff. The tunnel runs parallel to the cliff side through that bulge. I can't drive the Gheenoe into the cave opening like I did yesterday with the canoe. But, these shots should prove to be more clear. It is pitch dark inside and I doubt flash will penetrate that black area from the Gheenoe's vantage point. Note the darkest outline at the rear of the cave. This is the very tip top of the tunnel. It would be possible to swim through there with ones head above water. At a lower water level; a kayak could navigate through the tunnel end to end. I wouldn't tarry though. I would hate to be half way through and the gates be opened on the dam.. The water would rise is just minutes. Whew! I took some shots of both ends of the tunnel and continued on our way down stream. Below it the Western end of the tunnel on the down stream end of the tunnel, if you will....... Again, it is very dark inside and flash will not reach that far. I don't want to risk coming in contact with the boulders on the cliff side with the Gheenoe. I'll stay away a safe distance. Calderwood has the most rugged cliff line I have ever seen on any lake. The water plunges immediately to forty feet only five feet from the embankment. The main channel is 150 feet deep in many places. This is the deepest lake I have been on since I started these explorations. The coolness of the air, the light shades of green appearing in the forest and the ice cold water of this high mountain lake bring on the feeling of Autumn. I will not be specific about the location of which I am about to write. It lies back in a deep cove in shallow water. I had to raise the motor entirely out of the water and pole the Gheenoe over water depths of three to five inches. Below is the inlet to my secret spot. That is very shallow water back toward that little island in the middle of the cove. I had the motor raised clear out of the water and was pushing the boat with a seven foot fairly strait tree limb. We were only inches from the embankment when I saw one of those paper hornet nests hanging low enough to come in contact with the grab bar that surrounds the steering console of the boat. I calculated for a miss by a couple inches. I forgot one thing. Douglas. The wasp nest was directly in line with his head. I called to him but he was fixated on the hornets entering and leaving the nest. He started trying to snap them up as they flew by him. Douglas, Douglas; I yelled. But I only had time to duck my head as the nest passed over my head. We made it without incident. If Douglas would have bunped that nest we would both be under water. I made a split second decision to grab him and pull him into the deepest pool to our right, pull my hat over his head while in the water, and submerge myself completely to avoid being stung numerous times. I came up with that plan off the top of my head but it was all I could think of. You see; a dog would stand there and snap at the offending hornets, all the time sustaining stings. He would eventually run but, not until stung many times. It's hard to say what reaction a dog would have to thirty or forty bee stings. This is no place for risks of that nature. This is also why I am constantly concerned and on the look out for snakes. We polled over water no deeper than five inches and finally eased toward the bank at the point where a creek tumbled into the waters of the little shallow bay. I tied the Gheenoe to a tree. Look to the left of the motor and you can see the water depth. Not much there. It was in calm, quiet water and safe. There was the roaring sound of violent water. We took fifteen or twenty steps up over some boulders where we could see and there in front of us was the most gorgeous vision I have seen in all the time I have been roving over these Tennessee waters. This was eye candy to me. I swear that Douglas got a smile on his face as he charged into this land of make believe. It was a vision of loveliness. A deep pool of crystal clear water lay in front of us. Water poured out of this pool down over rocks toward the Gheenoe. A spectacular water fall plunged into the rear of the pool. I felt like a Captain Nemo in 2009 who discovered some special larger than life place on the side of an unknown dimension. This was great. The Gheenoe is my Nautilus today. She lies at the ready. And the pathway that the Nautilus traveled over to reach the land that time forgot. Woof! Woof! Douglas. I totally forgot him. I better return to the real world. We need to hike around here a bit. Douglas entered every pool of water he came to. He smelled and inspected the containment's as if he had never seen anything like them. Well; this water was icy cold and pure. Clean. It was fresh out of the mountain cliffs. He was in dogie heaven. He swam in it. He rolled in it. He drank it. He ran through it. And at times, he just stood in it. His face glowed in a way I don't often see. His steps were high and he ran puppy like. He acted very young. He was playful. He was ecstatic. It made me feel good to see my friend having such a great time. He's my partner. Douglas is never away from water long. That's my boy out there. Swim your heart out boy. It's your day. Come on Douglas. Lets hike. Both sides of the creek walls are what appeared to be mostly rock. Rhododendron lined the top of the rock walls on both sides. We found a narrow trail along this branch of water and proceeded up the mountain. This creek is a beauty! I couldn't stop taking photographs. I wanted to get it all. I want to remember this place forever. My thoughts move to winter canoe camping here. But most of all I want the ability to pull up actual visions of today. And when one day, perish the thought, that my best friend Douglas is no longer with me; I will remember this place and the joy he had this day with me. This turned out to be his day. His place. Our place. I'll remember him swimming with that intent look on his beautiful face. I will remember him here. Douglas is new to slippery surfaces as he was about to find out. If there is water near; he will be in it. And so it was today. The water was following a narrow, steep trough. It was moving rapidly down and around an occasional boulder. Some areas of the trough leveled out somewhat, while others plunged ten to fifteen feet down to the next level below. There is where Douglas found trouble. I was busy photographing the vertical cliff across the creek when I heard him whine. There he was; sliding down the trough in the water. He could not find purchase with his paws. Around a bend he went. The water wasn't deep. He was not submerged but slipping on the surface of the boulders beneath the water. I instantly sat the camera down and ran to a place where I could intercept him. It was humerus in a way, watching him slide this way and that. But, if I missed him he would plummet down a ten foot drop to a pool of water below. Not a pleasant thought, although I doubt life threatening. I got there just as he came sliding by. I grabbed his hair on top his shoulders tightly and fell on my back with him on top of me. He was fine. He insulted me by shaking water off himself and onto my face and pranced off as if nothing happened. That's my boy. I didn't get pictures of that little escapade, but he almost did it again later and I did catch a shot or two of him as he was about to lose his footing again. Don't go there buddy. Please don't slip there. I won't be able to catch you. Made it! He really worries me pulling stunts like this. This creek runs over solid rock in most places. I like the way it meanders and sort of rolls along quietly and then suddenly awakens and becomes violent as it's waters plunge and splash creating icy cold water spray that cools and chills the air. Everything is green up here. The air is cooled by the rushing mountain water. There are no signs of man. No bottles or cigarette butts. No candy wrappers. This place is the most pristine place I have been in since moving to Tennessee. Nature is practicing with her paint brush. She is getting ready to create the colorful land and lake scapes of fall. One gets a feeling of what it must have been like in prehistoric time. Ok; I have an imagination. "Feet sore? I'll bet. You covered a lot of ground this afternoon. Most of it uphill. Come on boy; lets get to the boat." "Come on Douglas. Don't hold back. We gotta go. It's getting late. Come!" We boarded the boat and I pushed her away from the bank and down over the very shallow water. There ahead was the dreaded hornets nest. I try to keep the boat as far left of it as I can but am scraping the bottom and have to push out toward the nest. As I approach it, I shove hard away from it and for that second the boat curved around the nest. I pushed back from the opposite side to gain the deeper (six inches) water. Finally we were in ten inches of water and could proceed with the engine. The prop was just below the surface and the cooling intake barely submerged. But all was fine. The shots below will give you an idea of how shallow this boat will travel in. We turned toward the end of the lake and made our way down the West bank. Everything was green and alive. This lake is unimaginably gorgeous. Deep, deep breaths of cool, fresh air. Ahhhhh Just simply gorgeous! One has to do more than look to find beauty. One has to see. Feel. Extend ones self to the image being perused. It is true that the finest things in this life are free. The only problem is we can't buy anything with them. But those beautiful things will cleanse the soul and clear the mind and create thought. Nature is a wonder. We are not here that long. Enjoy lifes simpler pleasures. They are there for the viewing. How would you like to climb over these? We are at the bottom of the dam. Time to turn around and head back. We'll take our time Something white caught my eye off to the right of the boat and up high. An eagle. A bald eagle. Now we're talking. But he is so far away. Even with the 300mm lens it's a task. The light is faltering. It's near four PM. He landed in a tree fairly high up on the cliff. I'll sneak the boat over his way. Ya; right! As if he won't see me. He's taken flight. "Camera, camera don't fail me now." ISO, shutter speed, depth of field, focus. It all has to happen right. The light is terrible for good shooting. I cast my fate to the wind and press the shutter. You may want to click the photo's for enlargement if you haven't been doing so. A better view will be had. He is shrieking; Kareeee, Kareee! My heart is in my throat. What a thrill to observe this marvelous creature; our countries symbol of bravery and freedom. A better choice of animals to do our nation justice could not have been made. Trust me. This bird would not stand under any form of government other than a free form. It would struggle until it was no more before it would submit to oppression and captivity. As no true American would. He is flying away from us. He soon will be gone. A memory I'll not soon forget. He's gone. His job done. He has revitalized my spirit of freedom. That's his purpose. It's time to get it moving. Must be around five PM by now. The air is chilling down. Quite different temperatures up here in the high world. Ah ha! An osprey is doing a fly by. You are king of the lakes down below, my friend. But, up here you are second in command. I just saw your king a while ago. Now what's happening here? Don't tell me. Looks like a white out. Dense fog is coming up the lake between the shore lines. No doubt caused by the heat of day giving way to the chilly temperatures of evening. It got cool fast on the lake. Too fast. Faster than the surrounding air could adapt to. Oh well; deal with it. I wrote of such a fog in a story on my blog. It's called the storm. A true story. I ran into a nasty piece of weather one day while working on Melton Hill Resevoir while in the employ of TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources). I'll never forget that day and that storm. I'll never forget this day either, but I hope for different reasons. It's rolling in rather quickly. We'll not be able to make it back without navigating through it. The only real danger is floating debris. Logs of all sizes float on the lake. They can actually sink a boat if hit at speed. We'll be in it in a sec buddy. This day is really turning into a very memorable occasion. We would be enveloped in that soup in another minute. I put the camera away in a dry bag and took the wheel and focused on driving the Gheenoe. We would come through this fog bank and into the clear, only to enter another. It was this way all the way back to the boat ramp. It too was fogged in. I didn't expect this. But then, one should expect anything when on these big Tennessee lakes. Below we prepare to enter another fog bank. We made it back in one piece and in fine shape. What a day! What an adventuresome day! I hope you liked this entry. I know it was lengthy. Today is what I am all about. It is me. I love to chronicle the events as I live them. I write things down constantly all day long. Any note worthy event gets put on paper. Why? Because someday I no longer will be able to do these things; to rove over these waters and to observe first hand what I am seeing now. But I can say that at one time I did see them. I witnessed them first hand. And I can explain things as I remember them. And when I can not remember any longer; I can read them and pull out the pictures. And I'll relive the adventures with my best friend, the golden dog, Douglas. And I'll remember him--------------above all else....