Friday, December 31, 2010

PADDLING THE MISTRAL CANOE UP PANTHER AND ABRAMS CREEKS

click on photos to enlarge
I had those otters in my mind ever since I saw them a couple days ago on Abrams Creek,  So I loaded up the world famous, highly skilled, Tennessee golden dog, Douglas and headed back down to Chilhowee Reservoir and Abrams Creek.  It would be the first time Douglas rode in the Mistral canoe.  I predicted that Abrams Creek Channel would freeze solid and I was correct, as you'll see shortly.

We first paddled up Panther Creek  and quickly ran into solid ice.  Panther runs more shallow than does Abrams so, I could understand it.  Abrams is deeper water and I held hopes the canoe could make it through to the head waters.
Douglas was very excited about the canoe ride and I barely could keep him in the boat, as can be seen in the shot above.
Panther was no go so it was off to Abrams Creek.  The main channel from Route 129 runs straight into the Smokys to a "T".  The left branch is Abrams Creek and the right is Panther.  All that was necessary was to turn the boat around and paddle straight.
The photos of Douglas and myself above are compliments of Davon Dillard.  Thanks Davon;  I enjoyed you folks.

Douglas may not look excited but his every sense is on alert.  He is missing no movement on shore and no lingering scent.  I have trained him to be still while on boats and he does a good job of it.  Every now and again he becomes excited over some critter on land to the point of standing up and turning around a couple time.  But, mostly he just stands to turn and sit down facing the opposite direction for awhile.
As we approach Abrams Creek; I see a white speck clear at the top of a tall pine.  It is a bald eagle.  The distance is far and if I stop paddling to grab the camera, the current will take the canoe where it wants to and that would be off course.  The following shots are more snapshots.  I can't handle this boat in the wind and current and compose perfect photography.  But I'll do what I can.
Don't forget to click on the photos to enlarge them.  I'm using a 500 mm lens and I may get lucky and collect a couple shots worth keeping.  You decide.



My heart skips a beat every time I see one of these majestic birds.  They are magnificent even when sitting still.  It is a splendid occasion when I paddle up on one.  He is watching me.  I can see his head turn toward me.



I can detect a nervousness in him.  He is about to take flight.
He soars off the limb and I am trying to follow him through the air with the big lens while the canoe slowly turns the wrong way in the water.  My shutter speed is a thousandth of a second but my auto focus is set to spot and not pan media.  In short I'm having difficulty focusing on the big guy.  He comes straight at the boat and flies by on the left side.  I've been able to save only one shot out of five as he passed by.  It is below.  It's not the best but its a memory I'll have of the moment.
Wow!  Splendid!  Scenes like this make the entire effort of getting out here worthwhile.  We continued on up Abrams Creek.  I'm looking hard for otters.
Up ahead is an unusual sight.  It appears the water has turned into two distinct colors in the distance.  It is ice.  There is ice on the channel stretching from side to side. 
Oh boy!  We gotta get up there.
What da ya think Douglas?
As we got closer;  I put power into the paddle.  We're going to ram into the ice as hard as we can.  Hey;  its a canoe.  We're talking 5 miles per hour at best today.
Get ready Douglas!  Crunch!  We hit it hard and the Mistral cut a swath through the ice about two canoe lengths and finally the bow tried to run up on the thicker ice.  Douglas glanced at me as if to say "you're nuts.  What you trying to do to us?"
All I had to do was back paddle and back out of the chute that the Mistral cut going in.  That ice was thin on the leading edge and really got thick as we penetrated further into it.  Well;  so much for visiting the head waters of Abrams Creek and playing ice breaker.
 We would go back down stream and pull over at some pretty spot so Douglas can sniff around and play "seek the squirrel" on land.
Across from where we saw the eagle was a sweet looking little spot just big enough to fit the Mistral into.
I am really liking this canoe.  It handles Douglas fine.  He can move about all he wants to and it doesn't make any difference.  I wonder what will happen when I put Shade in here along with Douglas?
This is a good spot to stop.  It's beautiful here.  The mountain behind us seems to go straight up.  Wow;  it is a tall one.  The golden dog is having a ball checking this area out.
Above and below;  this is the added benefit of having a great dog companion with me.  Look at the pictures.  THAT is what it's all about.  Serenity!   The scene is perfect in all ways.
I went up the hill a piece and found a great spot to sit down.  I like to write out here.  Just three days ago I was here in this canoe, on this water in a great white snow fall.  What a day that was!  I'll never forget it.  I notice a grebe swimming way out in the channel.  Even the 500 mm lens won't be able to reach him and do him justice.  But, the lighting on the water is awesome.  I took more than a few shots mainly to capture the colors on the water.  They follow:
The light refraction and reflection are beautiful.  Reflections from both shorelines combine to produce a surreal effect.
I'll not bore you longer.  I'll throw two more of my favorites up here and stop.  I love the colors though.
OK;  one last one.  Promise....
Douglas is waiting patiently for me to do something with him.  I can tell this as he stares at me with imploring eyes.
 He is growling deep and softly while looking at me.  He is asking me to go with him and walk.  I can't refuse him.  But, where will we go?  There's nowhere but----UP!  Oh Douglas;  come on now.  So off we go.
There were beaver here at one time according to this.  It's an old cutting but proof they lived near here.  Wonder what happened to them?  I have an idea about it that I don't want to talk about.  "Hey Douglas;  wait up!"
The higher we climb;  the smaller the Mistral gets.
A look up above us toward the top indicates a very steep ascent awaits us.
If you look closely you'll see a well used trail.  It's covered by leaves now, early in the day, but there is scat on this trail and hair on the edge of trees.  This trail resides near the top of this mountain.  I put the camera away and look up to see Douglas waiting.  He is looking at me as if saying "you coming or what?"
I thought I might have a difficult time climbing this mountain as it's been since Fall since I've done any really active hard hiking.  But, this is not bothering me in the slightest.  I'm not even breathing heavy.  I feel great!
This thing is really steep.  It's beautiful up here too.  "Yes Douglas;  I'm coming now.  Don't be so impatient pup."  The Mistral can be seen dead center in the photo above.  Mighty tiny looking from up here.
We're literally flying up this thing.  I can't believe I'm doing this with such ease.  Must be good genes or something.  Not bad for a guy pushing 65 years old.  I'm happy with myself....
There's the top.  (above picture)  And look who's up there already.  Yep;  he's waiting for me to arrive.  What a partner!
This is great.  What a view.  We're above it all up here.  Even Douglas has to sit down for once and just look at things from this perspective.  The view of Abrams Creek Channel can be seen through the trees.  There is a lot of clutter from the tree branches obstructing the fiew.  The real thing is amazing.
Well;  there's nothing left to do but to return to the bottom and sit for awhile.  I need to make a few notes on the days paddle.  I can hear voices and finally discovered the source.  There are kayakers making their way toward the ice on Abrams.
Come on Douglas;  show me the best way off this mountain.  I'll follow you;  or try to.
There were kayaks moving along the far shore toward the ice.  I could hear the conversations clearly.  I wonder if people realize how well their voices carry across water?  They certainly will see no wildlife with that cackle going on.  They seem to be having fun though.  I really like kayakers.  They select their craft as they see fit.  I respect them as most have a sincere love for the wilderness, as do I.  But, they sure yak a lot.  Oh;  I get it.  Ka--------yakers!   Catchy.....
They paddled over and we all had a very nice communion with each others.  They were very nice folks.  I enjoyed their visit.  Douglas was a big hit.  I loaded him into the Mistral and paddled out into the lake and the folks in the kayaks asked for a Kodak moment.  Ol Douglas was certainly a star on the lake today, as he is with every visit to the waterways of Tennessee.  I asked if they would email me photo copies and they said they would.  Below is a short video with the addition of sarcasm from yours truly.  Imagine that;  sarcasm from me!  But listen to the cackling. 
video
The ride back to the put in was uneventful thank heaven.  I  looked around a bit as I pulled the canoe out of the water and noticed these little lizards trying to soak up what little sunlight was available.  They were moving very slowly.  One appears to be injured.  Probably a bird got to him.  Yes, lizards and not salamanders.  Look at their feet and the scales on their bodies.
My kayak friends pulled in behind me at the landing and we talked awhile before all going separate ways.   I enjoyed them and hope to see them all again.  It's not often I meet people that I can truly say I like right away upon meeting them.  These folks were genuinely fine folks.  I wish them well.  As for the Mistral;  this canoe is a joy and a definite keeper.  The wind is really up today and she handled it fine.   I would buy another identical canoe if she were to disappear by some magic. 
It's been a grand day.  The golden dog and I bid you a goodbye and we'll see you next adventure.  Happy New Year from both of us.