Monday, February 22, 2010


Click on photos to enlarge
The rain stopped mid morning and I loaded the canoe onto the truck and drove to Calderwood Lake.  What a great day this would be!  I turned off Route 129 South onto the road that leads to the little boat dock at the Calderwood Campground.  Not a vehicle was in sight.  No humans.  I had the entire lake to myself and the water had a mirror finish on the surface.  Totally perfect canoeing conditions!  I was traveling light today as I didn't want encumbered by dogs and "stuff."  My cameras were in the waterproof Pelican case, a bottle of water would be by the seat and a spare paddle was all that would go on this trip.  Oh yes;  my pet log.  I forgot.  I have a log that I use for ballast.  He has to go also.
I would keep a sharp lookout for eagles and otters.  It was a bit late in the morning for sighting either.  Most wild critters get an early start and don't worry about rain and foul weather.  I didn't care.  I was out here.  It's been a long Winter.
I would paddle up the West (right) side of the lake and cross over to the other side at Slick Rock Creek.  I wanted to paddle past the creek and ease along the shore line as quietly as possible just in case the otters were out and about.  I photographed them along this bank last year.

Just past Slick Rock Creek I heard a shriek that I thought was an eagle.  I pulled the camera out and watched.  The chirping and shrieking was coming from the forest far back from the shore line.  Then I saw an enormous hawk fly out of the trees and dart back into the forest.  I got a quick shot at him as he flew by.  This huge hawk would not allow me to approach close enough for good photos.  He landed in a tree close to the water.  I slowly, quietly paddled in a straight line parallel to him.

He was beautiful.  He landed and commenced chirping and shrieking nonstop.  He wasn't looking at me though.  Then I saw the object of his attention.  A second hawk was barely visible back in the trees.  He would sort of hop on the limb and face me for a second or two but, then he would turn toward the mate in the woods.  Still, he wouldn't allow me any closer than I was when I clicked the picture to the left.  He was very far out.  I'm using a 500 mm lens for these shots.

I wished more than anything that this bird would permit me to close the space between us. 

This is the best I could do.  I couldn't get an inch closer.

And a fast as he appeared;  he was gone
Last year while on an overnight camp on Calderwood, I made mention of a sinister looking shelter back in the woods on the East side of the lake.  I was fighting a furious wind at the time and only could take one fleeting picture of the apparition.  That shelter was not there when I paddled past the previous day back then.  That means that sometime during the night, someone constructed it.   Today I noticed it was still there and a decision was made to go over, tie off the canoe and check out this mysterious  habitat.
The structure had the same affect on me as it did when I saw it last year.  Sinister.  It sat back far enough from the water line to indicate that someone didn't want to be seen.  Of course;  it could simply be a fisherman s shelter.  But, I doubt it very much.  The effort to get to that spot would be an enormous undertaking.  And, fishermen wouldn't be that far from the water.  Nor would they be way out here. 

It appears from this vantage point that the thing is covered with black plastic.

I tied the canoe to a tree and started to climb up a very steep hillside toward the mystery camp.

This hillside is a cliff.  I can see it starts to level out onto a shelf above me where the black shelter sits.  I've been on a lot of mountains in my life but these mountains surrounding Calderwood Lake will rival the most challenging real estate anywhere.  Notice the canoe getting smaller?

Another two hundred feet and I'll be over the top and at the black camp.  Whew!  I must be getting old.  Na;  just kidding.

Ok;  one last shot of the canoe way down there and I'm over the top and onto the flat ledge.

And there it was.  Plastic.  A plastic house.  This thing was amazing.  I could see carefully cut limbs sticking out from under the roof as if rafters were created to support the plastic.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  This was a completely framed in structure covered with black plastic.  It's the kind of plastic used in housing construction and comes on a roll.  What in the world is going on here?
There is a mirror and several metal tubs probably used for washing.  The roof, sides and back of the structure are created by the cutting of very straight timber and tying them together with a strong twine.  The plastic is stretched over and around the framework and secured with what appears to be half inch long tacks with a head the size of a half inch metal washer.  Look whats inside this thing.
There are double bunk beds created out of sawed pieces of tree limb.  The wood pieces are straight.  There is even bed springs on the bottom bunks.  There is a very basic stove made out of a metal drum against the wall with a smoke stack to the outside.
No;  this is no fisherman's hut.  I suspect there is more to this than meets the eye.  It is obvious how this thing was created so quickly last year when I passed it.  Remember me saying  it wasn't there the previous day when I paddled in to my camp last year but, it was there when I came back down the lake next day?  The plastic will blow apart and disappear.  All someone has to do is attach one end of a roll of the stuff and walk around the structure and recreate the walls and ceiling.  What I don't understand is how they got up on that flat the night I was camped down the shoreline two hundred feet downstream from them.  Douglas didn't even hear them.  There certainly was no boat engine that night.  The only other way is to walk in to it.  There are no roads behind that mountain.  Someone had to be very intent to walk in to that area.
This is nuts!  Someone designed this place for a lengthy stay.  This is not just an overnight shelter.  This thing is fixed for a week or more.  The wooden construction is designed to stay here and last a long time.  Great looking heater, I might add.  Note the springs on the bottom bunk to the rear.  I got a funny feeling that I didn't like.  I've had them before.  It's like you're being watched .  Or, that feeling I get when I can see the wind coming across the water and I know action will be required to manage the situation.  I was in a hurry this morning and I left the Glock at home.  I never paddle this lake or hike these mountains without the security of that cold friend.  But, today I didn't have it.  I didn't even have Douglas who sees and hears all.  I got the feeling I had better leave,  now.
What type person could exist out here in this?  And, why would he want to?  These mountains are full of wild boar and black bears.  Poachers?  Who knows.  It's none of my business here on this mountain or on these waters.  Why do I take that stance?  I take it because I want to return here often.  There are some strange folks in these parts and a fella wants to stay on the right side of them.  This isn't the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania.  This is a primitive  mountain range and lake located adjacent to or in the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness area.  It's a huge territory and it contains some very primitive thinking people with primitive ways.  Most are wonderful folks but, there are the exceptions.
It felt good to feel the palm grip on the paddle.  It was familier and friendly.  The wood felt soft and comfortable as I planted the paddle blade into the water and pulled the boat to it.  I would go across the lake to visit the submerged train tunnel once again.  I am attracted to it like a magnet.

The water completely covered the tunnel.  Only the opening was visible.  The lake is full this time of year.  It could be months before the level drops enough to paddle completely through and out the other side.

Here's the little site I like to use when I camp up here.
But, I'll not use it again as long as the black camp exists.

Only Calderwood has views like this.  Breathtaking!

Above and below is a wood duck.  These ducks are beautiful.  They are one of the most colorful ducks on the lakes.  The sharp white stripe on the sides of their heads is unique to them.  Again, I could not get close.  Wood ducks are impossible to get close to.  A duck blind is the only way.  They're worse than kingfishers to photograph.  This is the best I can do.  I tried to photograph several groups of them and they all took flight when I would get approximately two hundred feet from them. Cautious bird.  And, fast!
I could not find any bald eagles or otters today.  It was time to turn the canoe around and start the paddle back.  I would go slow.  The water was very calm and the quiet was loud.   I found myself placing the paddle blade carefully into the water and pulling back on it with much thought.  I didn't want to add foreign sounds to the landscape.  Everything appeared as if it were a painting.

I pass under last years bee's next.

Wood ducks pass in front of me

They become startled and lift off quickly, almost out of camera range

 I think I'll pop in at Slick Rock Creek for a look.   It's hard to paddle past that place and not visit.

Oops;  threw you a curve.  Black and white.

That is solid rock on the right mountain side there.  This is very rugged country indeed.

There's a better shot of my pet log in the front of the boat.

Slick Rock Creek is just up ahead.  The scenery is beautiful, even in the Winter

This is Otter Creek.  I named it so.  This is where I photographed the otters last year.  I am hoping for another meeting this year.

I don't think there is a prettier brook anywhere.  The otters were on shore along side this little waterfall.  I blundered past them and they took to the water.  Their inquisitive natures compelled them to surface to see what the strange apparition was that invaded their territory.  Not to worry little friends.  I am a friend.

This shows the upper part of Otter Creek

The pictures above and below are reflections off the surface.  This is smooth water.  This is tranquility.  This is the Calderwood I love.
 And this is Slick Rock Creek.  The water is crystal clear in this cove.  It is straight off the mountain.

As I was paddling out of Slick Rock Cove,  I saw the sun concentrated upon one obscure spot on the mountain ahead of me.  I've never seen anything like it.  This photograph is not retouched or created.  It is pure nature at her best.
Another photo is below:
 The paddle back was uneventful and very enjoyable.  Calderwood is still gorgeous.   Douglas and I will have many adventures on this lake in the coming months.  I will keep my eye on the sinister dwelling.  It bothers me enough that I won't be camping on that side of the lake anymore.  Anyway;  until next time;  be kind to a dog and help them any way you can.  They are silent blessings.