Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SEARCH FOR BLANKENSHIP CAVE

CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE                                                                      
I had heard of a cave high on a cliff located on the East shore of Tellico Lake.  The exact location was vague so I decided to cruise the shoreline in the Gheenoe to see if  the thing could be spotted from the lake.  If I could get fix on it, I could hopefully walk in on it from the forest above the cave.  And so, the day started.  I arrived at the lake around 9 AM.  The sky was overcast and the temperature was hovering around 36 degrees.  People stared at the truck pulling a boat and I'm sure they thought "he's nuts."  Tellico Lake has been lowered by TVA by about three or four feet.  I had hoped to beach the boat under the cave and climb up to it.  That wouldn't happen today.  The shore line was solid rock and would be disastrous to my little fiberglass boat.
 It felt good to be on a lake in the little searcher boat.  This small machine has taken me into more tight spaces on lakes than any other motorized boat I have owned.   It also has the ability to turn on a dime at full speed.  She's a sweet machine.
Tellico has never been one of my favorite lakes.  It is becoming inhabited by huge homes and boat houses.  Those two entities equal the addition of  jet skis.  The lower end of the lake is fairly pristine.  This end is, busy, for lack of a better word.  It's pretty but, it sure isn't Calderwood Lake or Santeelah.  Those are jewels.

All I have to do is follow this shoreline.  You can see how much the water has been dropped in the lake.  All that rock and boulder is normally under water.

All I have to do is turn right when I get out of this cove and go real slow.  I brought my binoculars so I should be able to find this hole in the rock.









 The morning is shrouded with an overcast sky and the temperature isn't warming up like it did over the past couple days.  I heard the word snow on the radio.  I sure hope that holds off till I can find this cave.
















Actually, I like this temperature.  It keeps the casual boaters off the lakes and I pretty much have all the water to myself.  


















There is a small inlet up ahead and I am told the cave is on a cliff about a eighth of a mile upstream from it.  I am thinking all this time about how to hike into this area.  Whew!














Ok;  I can't leave a loon alone.  I will never pass up a chance to photograph a loon.










Enlarge the photo and look at the spots on this bird's back.  This loon is in it's Winter plumage.  The Spring plumage is spectacular!  You'll see........








I kept my eyes glued to the cliffs on my right.  Then I saw the hole in the cliff.  The cave area was cluttered with scrub brush and fallen treesI could not focus the lens on the cave itself due to the clutter surrounding it.
The following are not my best photography but, this was not a very easy subject to photograph.  The shots are good enough to give an idea of what I'm looking at.
This thing is far up on the side of a cliff.  I'm shooting it with a 500 mm lens.
The last shot of this hole in the wall is maybe the best one to show the actual opening.
OK;  I'm all wound up.  Now to get back home with the boat and grab a couple of my friends for company and try to walk in to this cave;  I think....
 I picked up Shade and Douglas and returned to the lake.  There happened to be a hiking trail that skirted around the lake that would be a great help.  I recognized the inlet that I noticed while cruising up the lake this morning in the boat.  We had a long way to go.  Fortunately this trail seemed to be going the same direction.
We had to walk clear around this inlet.  We came from the top left of the picture and must circle around the horseshoe shaped inlet to the right .










The dogs are having a ball out here.  They wanted exercise and they would get it this day.  So would I.  I maintained a very fast pace along the lake.  This path was like a super highway in the woods.  We had a long walk ahead of us and I tried not to dwell on it.  But, the dogs were really into it all.






As you can see;  the trail borders a farmer;s property.  What a great farm!  It is mighty nice of him to allow folks the privilege of walking along the lake on his property.  We have a long way to go.  Look how far you can see out in the distance from this vantage point.    We aren't near the cliffs yet.





The trail finally enters into the forest and starts to slowly climb.   The hike is still an easy one.









We should be getting near the area where I need to be super observant of my surroundings.  The only thing is that things look different from up here.  I scan across the lake at the homes and boat houses but, can not identify any particular one to judge my position with. 





Once around this inlet and upon reaching the point of land that touches the water at top left of the photo;  I'll drop down off this path and bushwack across the mountain side so we don't pass by the cave from above.







Great Scott!  What have I done?  I dropped down off the top of the mountain and ended up on this cliff face.  It was a long way down here and it's only half way to the water.  The lake is seen at the extreme left side of the above photo.  I am not climbing back to the top of this mountain.  Must be about three hundred yards almost vertical to the path from whence we came.   There is, however, a critter path barely visible that the dogs have taken to.  It is not a deer trail as not one hoof print could be found.  Works for me......

I am finding myself hanging onto tree limbs and bushes so as not to slide down this cliff.  I wonder what type critter is using this little skinny path.  Leave it to the dogs to find it.
Steep, steep!
I'm taking my time and moving slow.  I did some slipping and sliding awhile back.  I can feel the weather changing.  It's noticeable out here near the lake.  I always could feel weather changes.  The dropping temperature is obvious.   This area is really rugged.   I remember seeing the above boulder ledge from the lake with binoculars.  The cliff becomes more vertical ahead and I'm not sure where I need to be positioned on the side of it to hit the cave.  I could easily pass by above or below it.  I never thought of that possibility.  Why didn't I take my hand held GPS on the boat when I cruised by this morning.?
I allowed myself to drop too far down this cliff.  I was following the critter trail and wasn't paying attention.  I have to gain altitude.  Sure getting tired.  I'm beginning to think we walked past the cave.  Probably was below us.

The above photo is a perfect example of what the huge ocean size boats are doing to the shorelines of these inland lakes (impoundments.)   This huge swath of cliff side has fallen into the lake due to erosion caused by the huge wakes (waves) caused by enormous pleasure boats busting up and down the lakes.
What is this?  They are actually sitting down.  At last;  they're tired.  This cliff is even wearing them out.  I'm beginning to believe I may have walked past the cave.  I'm very close.  But, it's torture walking on this cliff side.  I'll give a bit more time and then I have to make a run directly toward the top of this mountain.
I'm about to call it a day.  I am actually wet under my Woolrich over shirt and I can notice a chill starting when I rest.  Time to go straight up.  It's getting late in the day.  Well;  after a short breather.
This is spectacular up here.  I could just sit down and look at it.  As a matter of fact;  I think I will.  Bet this is prime snake country up here in the Spring and Summer.
Look at the size of this tree.  Bet it fell hard with a loud crash.  I know;  "Does a tree make a sound when it falls if no one is there to hear it?"  Of course it does.  Good grief!  Philosophy.   I've got my own.......
 
 
 
Douglas is beat.  It isn't often he sits quietly.  This has been a strenuous hike for them;  and me too.









Hang in there boy;  we're going for the top shortly.   Now, where is Shade.  She is a total powerhouse and I have never seen her run short of energy.








He just stood up against the tree and started investigating.  Something was using this tree not long ago.  What a nose.
Clean and uncluttered and;  easy walking.  This is a welcome relief.
Ok;  whats the next tree to fall in this forest?
The diminutive termite;  a vital element in the wild to help break down wood and aid the rotting process thereby supplying nurishment to the soil providing a food source for coming plant growth.  The perfect life circle completed............Termites are wonderful.  They just don't fit in well with human habitation.

We have almost come full circle in our hike.  We have left the forest and are now crossing a field of grass.  I believe this short cut will put us on course to hit the truck straight away.  Douglas has his second wind it seems.   He's got to investigate everything.  Someone will be very tired tonight.





Monkey see, monkey do.  Shade mimmics Douglas.  What a pair!  What loyal friends too!










The truck is sitting in the center, top of the picture above.  It is barely visable.  What a hike!
The truck is visable here at the top of the photo above.  This has been a strenuous hike.  I didn't think it would be so.  I will paddle the canoe along the shoreline when the water rises and simply lift it out upon the shore.  Then I can walk straight up to the cave.  I may become energised in the future to try another hike to the cliffs.  But, I will not make that attempt without better guidance and information or a GPS coordinate.   It's been one energetic day and a satisfying one.   My legs were tested and they passed.  I'm back home now so I guess the heart didn't blow apart.  Until next adventure;  please, please show compasion to a dog.  Later------------