Monday, March 29, 2010

APALACHA LAKE NORTH CAROLINA-----A HOLLOW DREAM

On the last blog entry I was excited about a camp out on Apalacha Lake or maybe Hiwassee Lake in North Carolina this week.  My plan was to drive down there with the Gheenoe and really check it out.  There is not much information anywhere concerning Apalacha Lake.  I know why now.

I had packed the camping equipment last night and hooked the boat to the truck so I would be ready this morning when I woke up.  Today is the first of three days off in a row and I couldn't wait to get to the new lake.  I love exploration.  Who should I take with me today?  I picked Shade.  As I pulled out on the main highway I looked back at the habitat and there was Douglas sitting alone in front of the chain link fence gate watching the truck pull out of sight.  Wow!  He makes me feel so bad when he does that.  The drive is long and I didn't want any of the dogs under the truck cap that long.  Douglas always gets the front seat and both of them up there with me would be too much for me to handle.

We traveled down route 68 past Tellico Plains and on into North Carolina.  Apalacha Lake catches the outflow of Hiwassee Lake and I have been over the breastworks of Hiwassee Lake previous to this trip and never found a road leading to Apalacha.  We drove over the Hiwassee Dam and came to the Joe Brown Highway, very poor two lane road, that follows Hiwassi Lake at a distance.  I pulled over and turned around to drive back across the Hiwassee Dam.  Joe Brown Highway went in the wrong direction to find Apalacha Lake.  I did see the road to the Apalacha Lake power house but it was gated and signs with numerous threats of vehicle searches, firearms prohibited, guard dogs on duty, and TVA police use drug sniffing dogs were installed at the entrance gate.  No, I wouldn't go down that road even if there was a boat ramp down there.  A private community called Bear Paw had an entrance directly across the road.  I decided to drive up there and ask someone what the story was with Apalacia Lake.  A small guard shack was located next to an electric barrier much like a railroad crossing barrier.  I stopped and casually walked over to the shack.  The door opened and a very gaunt, ancient gentleman greeted me with a toothless smile.

"Kin I hep ya"?,  he said.

He sat down in a chair on a round plywood seat that was painted black and had thick wire legs that were twisted and intertwined together in an elaborate fashion to simulate a more expensive piece of furniture.  He tapped each of his cowboy booted feet twice as he stared at his highly polished boot toes, raised his head and looked straight at me.  "You lost?"

I asked him how to gain access to Apalacha.   I told him about the gated road to the power house.  He said they sometimes shut the gate.  I asked where another boat ramp was located.  He replied that there was one up in the community of Bear Paw but, it wasn't open yet for the Summer.  Then he just looked at me awaiting my next question.  The old gentleman wouldn't volunteer information.  He answered a question with an exact, simple answer with no added embellishments whatsoever.  

I said, "how bout another place, another boat ramp.  Is there another one?"

He said, "well, there used to be another one on the old road that turns off the road that crosses the dam about four miles on out.  Morrow Road, yep, thats it.   Morrow Road."

"So, I drive back over the Dam, go four miles and turn left onto Morrow Road.  Correct?"

He said, "thats right.  You'll come ta a church that sits on the right and it's the first turn to the left past it."

I gave him my thanks and jumped back into the truck and Shade and I were off.  Back across the Dam we went feeling more confident this time that we would be on the water within the next hour.  I stopped at a pull off and attached the leash to Shade and walked her for awhile.  We had been in that truck for two hours.  I gave her a egg biscuit that I bought for her back in Greenback.  Ok, I'm a softy.

We past the church and there was Morrow Road.  I was happy.  Two miles later I saw the lake.  Morrow Road paralleled the lake embankment.  Apalacha is a gorgeous piece of water and nothing like I envisioned.

The road was very high up from the lake and there was a cliff at the edge that would be impossible to even get a canoe to the water.  The road veered away from the lake after another mile and progressed in a direction that was leading us away from Apalacha.  There was no boat ramp and no possibility of launching the Gheenoe.  Amazing!  It's interesting to note that there was not one sign with the word Apalacha anywhere.  Not one sign.  There wasn't even a hint that there was a lake there at all.  I can understand why no one knows of this body of water.  I guess the only two launch sites are at Bear Paw Resort and the Hiwassee power house.   All this way for disappointment.  
It is a pretty lake though.  I still am amazed that there isn't even one small boat ramp along this road for access.  Oh well;  it is what it is.
I decided to go check out Hiwassee Lake.  We backtracked back to the Joe Brown Highway and wound our way up and down the mountain.  Access to Hiwassee isn't easy to find either.  I pulled over at a little boat ramp that was  at the end of a small gravel parking area and got out for a closer look.  I couldn't see any water.  I walked down to the ramp and it disappeared into mud.  What is this, I thought.  I could see the lake about three hundred yards away from the boat ramp.  There was a narrow trough of water that barely touched the end of the ramp that a small boat (might) be able to float out to deep water on.  There wasn't any way I was backing my truck down this ramp.   I didn't take a picture of the ramp as I wanted to get moving to find another access area.  The road did not follow this lake either.  It only touched watered areas infrequently and there wasn't anymore boat access areas.  This is nuts, I thought.  We would soon be coming out on the main route that leads to route 129 North and south.  All I could see under the road overpasses was mud.
I remember reading that Hiwassee was the crown Jewell of North Carolina and that there wasn't any development on its banks.  The lack of houses secures its status as natural and primitive.  I now can see why there is no real estate sold on its banks.  There isn't any water.  Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) regulates the water flow on this lake and they reduce the water level up to 50 feet in the winter.  It looked to me that they were holding that 50 foot level now.  I'm sure that the level will increase as summer approaches. 

I had to smile in disbelief at what I was seeing though.  Mud.  Then I started an internal rant about how it figures that some agency of the government can manipulate the natural resource that belongs to the people and dictate its uses as it sees fit because they are smarter than anyone else.  Or, they can turn big bucks by monopolizing the resource in the name of flood control.  Wonder who keeps the money generated by the power station that uses the natural resource that belongs to the citizens (tax payers) of the state who can't use the lake because it's been lowered to it's current status?  Ok, I'll drop it.

It was almost two PM when I decided the day was a bust and decided to start for home.  Oh no!  Route 129 was closed due to a land slide.  I would have to return by way of the Cherohala Skyway;  and we did.  The fog was thick at the four mile marker and got worse at a mile high.  Rain started and the driving became tedious.  We made it back at 4:00 PM.   I was very disappointed in losing this day and wasting all that gasoline for the trip.  But, that's the way it goes sometimes.  I can't wait to get back to my much loved Calderwood Lake.  Now, there is a jewel of a lake.   Someone sent me pictures of birds today and somewhere written in the message was a few words I need to remember at all times:

Forgetting and laughing is better than remembering and being sad.