Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Click photos to enlarge Cheoah; an indian name meaning otter Yesterday was a great day to take a motorcycle ride. My good friend George accompanied me. I have been wondering how to gain access to Cheoah Dam for the last couple years. It lies directly above Calderwood. The close proximity of Cheoah would offer another lake for me to explore when at Calderwood. George and I left Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson late in the morning yesterday. Another close friend, James, was to go along but got caught up in the business of the day at work and could not make our departure time. George and I rode South on the Dragon Road, Route 129, which passes Cheoah Dam. There is absolutely no place to gain access to Cheoah's waters from that route. Amazing! But, that's a good thing. It keeps people off the water and maintains a pristine flavor to the area. Calderwood Lake, my favorite, is only two miles below Cheoah Dam and I decided to pull into the familier road to the boat ramps and campground to show George my favorite spot in the whole world. Our motorcycles are very different in construction. George is driving a Harley Low Rider and I a Suzuki VStrom. The Harley is a class act on the road and speaks with authority when underway. Harley's have an unmistakable exhaust note that the Japanese could never emulate. They can't today and I doubt ever will. I have missed my Harley Road King, affectionately named Big Red, ever since I sold her. It seems I never could afford to replace her with another. Hence, the big Suzuki. The VStrom is a great mountain bike, however. But that's another story. George and I just hung out here at Calderwood for a short period of time talking about which roads to try. I wanted to find access to Cheoah Dam and we would today. Construction on Cheoah Dam was started in 1916 and completed in 1919. The impoundment collects the water from approximately 1700 square miles of mountain drainage. It is not really a large impoundment when compared to the huge lakes below in the valley. The lake and dam are located in Graham County, North Carolina. It is a dam used to create power. The hydraulic capacity is 9,436 cubic feet per second. The releases can be spectacular to view. Today, however, a normal flow of water cascaded down the sides of the near vertical concrete wall. You may remember a movie staring Harrison Ford called "The Fugitive." Sequences of the movie were filmed here on Cheoah Dam. We left Calderwood in search of a road called Meadow Branch Road which was to be found just past Cheoah Dam on the left side of Route 129 South. We found it. Meadow Branch Road meandered back on the South side of Cheoah and penetrated deep into the forest. At no time could we see water. It was a guess as to where this little ribbon of asphalt would lead. Finally we came to a prominent division in the road. We could go left or right. Right was Rhimers Run Road and left was a continuation of Meadow Branch. We went left. Good choice. It took us to a beautiful, well shaded spot with a bare minimum boat ramp that offered easy access to the lake. There was a grassy shoreline beside the ramp which would mean I wouldn't have to slide the canoe or the Gheenoe over gravel or concrete when I beach or launch them. I hate doing that as scratches are the result. The little spur road that cuts off Meadow Run Road is a beautiful little narrow road too. It is very rustic back in there and sees very little use. Camping is available here and it's of the primitive type. No one comes back here it seems. I guess it's too dificult to drag large boats up over the mountain on Route 129, The Dragon, just to get to these primitive lakes. That's good! Solid concrete picnic table. I hated to leave this delightful place but, with no canoe, there was not much more we could do here. We left and headed for the Cherohala Skyway; a 55 mile length of road that leads from North Carolina and ends up East in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. The Cherohala has a maximum elevation of 5400 feet and it's pretty chilly up there. I noticed that the Fall leaves were falling off the trees at the 4000 foot elevation and above. Winter comes early that high. But, the leaves are only just changing at lower elevations. I can't wait to get to Calderwood and on her waters next week. The leaves will be fully turned and spectacular. Until next time; please be kind to a dog.