Thursday, March 11, 2010

SHAW GRAVE BRANCH - CALDERWOOD LAKE

CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE
The weather is supposed to be wet and chilly today but I needed to get out there on the water again.  It's been a long week.  Sun up today found Douglas and me at the little boat ramp on Calderwood Lake.
 
 I wanted to ride three fourths the length of the lake to a cove that Shaw Grave Branch empties into.  I have been there before but didn't have the opportunity to hike up the side of the mountain.  Shaw Grave Branch is a creek that rivals Slick Rock Creek for beauty and wildness.



 The sky was very overcast and the breeze brought the feeling of rain with it.  I hoped it would hold off until we got back.  As luck would have it;  it didn't.  But, rain is all part of being out here.  The temperature is approaching sixty degrees and will probably touch on sixty four by the time we get the boat beached and start hiking.

It doesn't take much to get Douglas to jump into the boat.  He has been on countless rides with me and he knows the drill.  And so;  with the world famous golden wonder dog at the point;  we set off.  The water was actually very smooth considering the breeze that was blowing and the boat skimmed across the surface unimpeded.  I would steer along the left bank and then cross the lake to the right side and back again.  I wanted to check all the areas along the shoreline where I have seen otter and muskrats.
It's quite a drive up here but I feel compelled to continually return to this beautiful lake.   I have not found a prettier piece of water anywhere.  Of course;  maybe I better get out to some different areas and see if there is someplace more gorgeous.   There may be other gorgeous lakes but Calderwood is my main squeeze when it comes to choices of ladies.
It's amazing how so many birds and critters that I know are on this lake and mountain, can disappear so completely.  I can not see one sparrow.  Not one.  I truly feel that the critters of the lakes and woods can tell when inclement weather is coming.  Hawks, eagles, kingfishers and wood ducks abound when the sun is out.  But,  when the threat of rain, snow or wind is present;  they all either leave the state or crowd into every hole, nook and cranny available.

We can't pass the train tunnel without snapping a picture.  I'm paddling through that thing this summer.  I've been very cautious about attempting that but, I don't care.  It would, however, be nice to have a friend go first in his canoe.   I wonder who I could talk into doing that?




I see the forest service has installed another hillside campsite here on the left side of the lake.  These sites are first class.  I hope they don't become ruined by inconsiderate campers.  We tied the boat off to a tree and climbed up to the site.



Calderwood's shoreline is almost impossible to park a boat against.  The boulders are like the grains of sand on a beach.  I drove the boat into a fork of a tree that had blown down and tied it to a branch.  This particular camp spot would be difficult to carry supplies to.  It is a strenuous hike just to get to it from the lake as the site is on a cliff.  It would be a long way to carry a canoe also.


This site is a cookie cutout of the one I usually use which is located upstream from here about an eighth of a mile.  The quality is first rate with perfect construction.  I believe I shall start using this site for my overnight camp outs.  Who would think a campsite of this quality could be had out here in the middle of nowhere?
 I keep taking pictures of the Gheenoe down there below.  The scene is very peaceful.
 Rain is gently falling now.  It's not a big issue yet.  I actually am enjoying it.  The air smells clean without any scent at all.  Totally pure.  Of course;  that's what one would expect up here in a high country lake.  There are many streams that cascade down off the mountainside into this lake and every one of them is spectacular and beautiful.  They all carry clear, clean water from the watershed to this lake and enhance the overall experience of being in wild country.

We soon arrive at the cove and float up to where Shaw Grave Branch empties into the lake.  The last hundred feet is only three inches deep and I have to use a pole to push the boat through the water as the engine must be lifted clear out of the water to prevent it from dragging into the mud.   This Gheenoe is wonderful for gliding on shallow water.  I wish I could make Douglas understand that I would like him to move to the back of the boat so the front end would float higher.  But, alas;  he does what he wishes.
The beach area is primarily mud.  The lake has been lowered somewhat and this beach of mud is now exposed.  No matter.  Mud washes off.  This beach is one of two places on this lake where a boat can be easily beached and secured safely.




We quickly scrambled across the mud flat and into the woods where the stream flowed into the channel.  There are no words to describe the beauty of this place.  It would be wonderful if people could know and enjoy this delightful place but, it is unfortunate that with people comes litter and garbage.  It's the way of things.  The thought makes me think of Indian Boundary Lake.  Winter finds the lake and surrounding mountains in pristine condition.  When the tourists arrive in the summer; the boom boxes are loud, RV generators in the campground fill the night with obscene sounds and kids walk into trees with cell phones at their ears or attempting to text without watching where they are going.  I say attempting to text because there is no cell phone signal at Indian Boundary Lake.  Too bad.

 One final look back at the boat just to be sure.  Well;  it's the only way out.  Think about it.  Anyway;  off we go.







This is a fast stream that takes advantage of the momentum it accumulates as it rushes down the very steep mountain.  The velocity of its flow is paused occasionally by flat areas that form pools that collect and hold the water.  They overflow and the water continues flowing down and into the next pool, wherever it may be.  No other term accept spectacular will suffice for description.  Douglas and I followed up along the stream and were welcomed by pool after pool of cold, clean mountain water.  The golden one took advantage of each pool.
Douglas should have been born a duck.  He absolutely can not walk beside water.  He must totally immerse himself in it.   He was having the time of his life.  He would swim from one side to the other side and then roll in the dry leaves all the while grunting and kicking his feet.  Then he would spring up to standing position and rip off running in any direction and return.  The look on his face told me he was euphoric out here.  Anything for him!

The walking was getting pretty hard where the picture was taken to the left.  Rhododendron lined the left side of the stream and I was practically slowed to a halt.  I found myself picking my way along the edge of the stream with my feet almost in the water.  Douglas would run ahead thirty feet, turn and stare at me as if to say, "you coming?"


I am keeping a sharp look out for critters as we slowly make our way along the water.  I saw nothing.  I must say that we were in snake country for sure.  The abundant rocks and boulders would surely be home for countless rattlers and copperheads.   Summer hikes up this hillside would require caution for certain.



I can't wait to lay my head down and be lulled to sleep by the sounds I'm hearing now.




There he goes again.
Look at the photo to the right.  Try to experience what you are seeing.  I try to capture the essence of my experiences but I feel I am lacking in this place.  I am not that good with a camera.  I wish I were.









These pools go on and on.  The waterfalls are too many to count.  Every bend in the stream presents a new vista filled with natural beauty and nature's orchestrated sounds.




 
Douglas fits right in out here.  He inspects every water fall and pool he sees.  His eyes are alert and he is delighting himself with all his investigations.




"No;  don't do it boy!  Don't jump!"  Just kidding.  He ain't no idjut.
I bet I could do some pretty good writing out here along this stream.  I may try it next camp out.  Just gorgeous!  Avatar doesn't offer anything better than where we are today.



We stopped for a rest along a particularly pretty pool of water.  I took off my favorite Woolrich pullover shirt because I was getting warm from hiking.   My thoughts ran the gambit from who I am, to where I'm going, how did I get here, what should I do now that I'm here and wonder, will it be a heart attack that gets me and when should I sign up for social security?  When things got too serious  I stood up, called my pardner and lit out down the creek.  I hate seriousness.  Not healthy.




There he goes again.  Back and forth and back again.  He never stops moving.  He's not hunting anything at all.  He's simply investigating everything he comes to.  Nothing gets past him and, he passes nothing without inspecting it.  This is why I worry about snakes.





Yet again!  "Douglas;  get over here!"  It's useless.  But, he better watch his step.  He was swept away in fast water last year when he tried a fast water crossing.  There is no danger below him here, however.





Now this little piece of water to the left is where I almost had an accident.  If you'll remember earlier I said I took off my favorite red Woolrich overshirt because it was too hot while hiking.  Well;  I just laid it over my shoulder and walked on down along the stream.  I slipped on that big boulder on the left side of the trough and the shirt slipped off my shoulder and fell into the water just above the fast flow you see in the shot.  I grabbed for it but missed it.  The shirt was pulled under water and went on into the fast flow and plunged into the pool directly below those falls and became hung up on something.  It was impossible to retrieve.  I tried to catch it with sticks and even whittled a barb like end on a long pole.  I could hook the fabric but it must have been wrapped around a submerged limb that would not release it's hold on the shirt.  Farewell shirt.  I was really upset.  My favorite shirt.  I have worn that shirt on every lake I have been on.  It has accompanied me on every hike and camp out.   It's gone now.  How can I ever replace that thing?
It's raining pretty steady now and we better put it in gear and make a realistic effort to get back to the boat.  "Come on boy."







He's getting tired at last, I think.  It's about time.
Back to the little boat dock and we'll load up the Gheenoe and drive the long, twisty Route 129 (The Dragon's Tail),  back down the mountain.  I hope you found today's little run on Calderwood interesting.