Thursday, October 22, 2009

CHEOAH LAKE; I'M A BIT DISAPPOINTED

Click on the photos to enlarge I tossed the canoe on top the truck last night after work in preparation for an early start today. I was headed for Cheoah Lake. No dogs and no messing around. I had it in my head to paddle around the entire lake both shorelines. And I did. Ouch! I arrived at the access point that George and I found last week while on a motorcycle ride. The wind was blowing harder than I would have liked but, I watched a Bill Mason movie last night and I was feeling pretty confident I could handle anything that came up out on the lake. I wasn't going to worry about a little breeze. I shoved the canoe off the grassy bank as soon as I could see the water fairly well. It's a strange feeling in a canoe without sun and having the wind blowing the boat about. I think in the future I'll wait until I can see better. The wind was having its way with the canoe. I would have to focus and apply strength to the power strokes and use more emphasis on the correction strokes. As the sun climbed higher, my resolve to persevere increased. I decided to stay close to the left shoreline. That was a good decision because the water was smooth there out to about thirty feet. I just kept the boat in that flat, smooth water. The wind was at my back and at times would catch the tail end of the canoe and try to spin it if I left the boat wander left or right. It was an experience I had not been tested on before. I soon adapted and the canoe went straight down the edge of the lake. The lake resembled Calderwood in width. Cheoah's shoreline was rugged but, not as boulder strewn as Calderwood. There were some huge boulders present for sure! I set a steady pace with the paddle. You may notice by the pictures that the foliage has not taken on the color of Fall. I thought the leaves would be changed by now for certain but by the looks of things it will be another week to achieve full color. There were, however, areas of fairly bright leaves hear and there. At no point in my travels today did I pass any areas containing expansive areas of colored foliage. As the sun rose in the sky; so did the sounds on Route 129. Route 129 follows along the top of the embankment on the North side of Cheoah Lake. The motorcycles were starting to run over the route on the way to the Dragon ; that piece of Route 129 that has been transformed into a motorcycle crotch rocket mecca. The sounds of motorcycle mufflers were piercing the silence that I earlier enjoyed. The lake, in an instance, lost its magic. It seemed to be changed somehow into "just another lake." Motorcycle after motorcycle raced along on Route 129. The individual bikes soon became swarms of bikes. They were passing in twos and fives and even tens. The noise from their exhausts sounded like bee swarms. It was unending and impossible to paddle away from. I thought the water might pull away from the road further down the lake. It didn't happen. A constant, steady flow of motorcycles passed unending all day from that point on and I was forced to listen to each one as it motored by. I was getting hungry and decided to paddle to the other side of the lake and beach the canoe. Time for some good ol trail mix. I found a small cove and a spot where I could safely bump up against the shoreline and step out of the boat. Ouch! Stiff legs. I had been in the canoe for three straight hours and the legs didn't want to work properly. It felt good to stand on solid ground. But as I looked up the embankment I saw something I didn't like. Someone had taken it upon themselves to claim this little spot for their own. Most of the furniture was made on the spot. The junk, er, I mean the other furnishings were freighted in. Now all they had to do was boat on over and they had all the conveniences at hand. I view this as junk. Garbage! This is total disrespect for the wilderness. This debris that was dragged in here ruins the flavor of the place. It changes the taste from sweet nectar to sour milk. Its presence smacks of disrespect to any other person who might like to savor the wilderness experience and enjoy nature at its finest. Great Scott! It's litter plain and simple. It can't be justified. If my back didn't ache so much I would take each piece of trash and toss it into the lake. This is what people do to wild places. This is what I come out here to get away from. It makes me think of the camp sites the Forest Service built on Calderwood Lake. These conveniences attract people. People bring their junk and inadvertently leave much of it. They throw their Pepsi and Beer cans into the fire and leave them there for the next visitor to look at. If Calderwood Lake ever becomes a litter receptical; I'll break the canoe in half and leave Tennessee. With the beautiful sound of motorcycle mufflers ringing happily across the lake; I'll shove off for the return paddle back to the put in. The wind is really blowing now and I'm paddling into it. This is going to be a little like work. The photograph above shows the surface tossing about due to a strong wind. A little more wind and small white caps would appear. We don't want that to happen. I'm really putting my back into it. The correction strokes require a lot of power to maintain a true course. My strength, however, is not tested yet. I am lucky I guess. I will feel the results of the efforts later. And so with the sounds of wind and water lapping against the canoe, and of course, motorcycle mufflers every thirty seconds; I hold the canoe on a fairly steady course down the lake. I have to use modified "J" strokes and pry's off the gunnels mixed with sweep strokes left and right sides to keep going straight. I even tried the Canadian stroke in order to use a different set of muscles for awhile. That didn't go well at all. Eventually my cove appeared on the right and I cut across the lake toward it. It was necessary to point the canoe at a boulder fifty feet above the cove so that by the time I got to that shoreline through the wind; I would be aligned with the mouth of the cove. And it worked. I popped on into quiet water and beached the boat on the grass. I had to sit in the canoe a minute or two in order to find my legs. I extended first my right leg out and planted my foot on dry land. I couldn't stand as my back ached at the belt line. I had been sitting and paddling for seven hours accept for fifteen minutes on shore to inspect the junk and litter at the other end of the lake. Slowly I stood and withdrew the other leg. Success! Cheoah Lake is a gorgeous place. It is a shame that the most famous motorcycle road in the United States borders its shoreline. The noise from the road is continuous and never ending. Maybe the noise goes away at night. I didn't hear it when I arrived early in the morning. But, Cheoah is just another lake to me. Nothing special. It is elevated above the valley lakes in my mind but nowhere near the spectacular presence of Calderwood Lake; my favorite. Look below at what will be tested on the next outing. These stabilizers will allow me to keep the camera close at hand instead of locked in a dry box where I can't get to it. Until next time; be nice to a dog.......