Monday, June 28, 2010

TWO HOURS ON THE TELLICO HIKE TRAIL & A COMING STORM

 Click on photos to enlarge
I'm still on vacation but, got a call asking if I could help out at work.  They were short one person .  No problem and glad to help out.  Another twenty minutes and I would have been out of cell range on the lake.  I left work an hour early and had full intentions of doing a two hour canoe paddle but, I thought of the dogs hanging out at home in the heat.  I had to go get them.  Believe me;  I'm glad I opted out of the canoe ride.
So;  we're here along the East Coast Tellico Hiking Trail watching a storm brew on the horizon.
The dogs are in the water more than not.  Douglas actually swam beside the trail for about an eighth of a mile never exiting the water.  He's moving to the right in the picture below.  He's in the center of the shot.
Can you find him in the shot below?  He's there.  Its a trick photo.
That rain is coming on pretty fast.  The heat of day is quickly being replaced by the cooler air of the coming rain.  It is a glorious feeling, this between hot and cold; calm and turmoil.  The wind is really picking up.  We'll not linger out here much longer.
The sky is really taking on the aspects of a storm.  We better move.  All of a sudden the wind  increases its force and it sounds like a roar quickly growing closer and louder.  From the main channel I can see a repeat of the day at Calderwood Lake where the wind shear came down the lake and hit the canoe.  The Calderwood shear was so forceful that it blew the waves flat.  This one coming now isn't near as bad as the Calderwood shear but, it pretty impressive.
Gotta get Douglas out of the water and on the trail back.  He hates to leave.
"Douglas;  get up here.!"
The water is taking on the washboard look from the wind blowing on it.  You can see it behind Douglas.
I hope we can make it to the truck.
The wind has instantly increased to a very wild state.  The water is reflecting the wind's force.
This is why I'm happy I opted out of the canoe ride tonight.  I don't think I could handle the boat in this.  The photo above is only the start.  Look at the following two shots.
Ya;  I can see me out there now.  Check out the next one.
I'm sorry but, this child ain't goin out there in no canoe!  Can you imagine getting caught in that situation while crossing a large lake?  It makes me rethink the Boundary Waters canoe trip to Minnesota.  That's big water up there.  Anyway;  lots of thunder and lightning and a few drops of rain fell before we reached the truck.  We got a deluge on the way down the highway.   I'll never forget how fast this weather change occurred and how quickly the calm water turned nasty.  Glad I was on that hiking trail.  I almost took the canoe tonight.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

TICKS AND CHIGGERS

CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE After returning from Kyker Bottoms Wildlife Refuge, I took a break to MOW GRASS. Late afternoon I decided to take Happy, Douglas and Shade out for a run down by the lake. It was still very hot and I didn't want to wander too far from water.
We walked along the edge of the lake clear at the bottom of the cliff that surrounds the old ruins. The dogs loved swimming. When we took a break; all three of them simply sat down in the water and waited until I got up to move on. I noticed some old beaver sign. I'd love to photograph a beaver. But, this sign was very old. Note the wood chips on the ground.
Then I noticed some newer, much more recent beaver sign. They were barking another tree. I'll bet I could set up near here and photograph this guy.
It's good to see active beavers in the area. They are very hard to find as they don't build dams and living rooms. They create or use holes in the lakeside banks as dens. Very hard to find. There is no beaver signature with just a hole in the bank. It was very hot out. I was soaked and I already picked a tick off my neck. It's amazing how they can get so high so fast. We cut straight up and over the cliff and came out in a meadow with very tall grass.
The ruins lay directly across this grassy meadow and we would take a break there. This is chigger and tick mecca. I'll be lucky to get out alive. I love tall grass too. And I'm talking about real, natural, uncut, native grass. Not the domestic "must be cut" grass. We reached the ruins worn out. I drank two quarts of water in an hour. I guess we shouldn't be out here exerting a lot of energy. Remembering the tick I found earlier; I decided to check my cloths for some cling ons. Low and behold look below:
A tick. And, he's on the inside of my shirt. How do they do that. Despicable little wretch! Below is the little begger magnified a bit.
These guys can cause a lot of grief in the form of medical issues. I have never seen so many. They exist everywhere accept at the high mountain elevations. They are invested in every forest I've been in and they get on me even when I mow grass. And what is this below:
Couldn't possibly be a chigger, could it? It certainly could be.. Below are a couple movies that show moving through the tall grass. It was a chore but, I made a big deal of it just in case the Disney people get hold of this blog. We didn't do much out here accept walk and see. Sometimes that's enough. The dogs got worn out and that was my goal. I removed a couple ticks from the wilds so it's safer out there now. Three movies are below. They show jungle life in Tennessee. They're quick movies: And yes; the chiggers got me on the ankles. Don't know what the answer is for them. video video video

KYKER BOTTOM WILDLIFE REFUGE

click on photos to enlarge

Actually, it's too hot for me to be out and about.  But, I figured I could be out of the refuge by noon.  Maybe I could take the dogs down to the lake for a swim.

Kyker Bottoms is a wet lands although, the water appears to be dried up.  There are some water birds there, one of which is a night heron.  I frightened him as I approached.
I didn't notice too many birds about.  It's just too hot for them to be moving.  The foliage is lush green with a vast diversity of native grasses.  This is tick city for sure.  I already picked one off the brim of my hat. 
There is some water in the bogs back under the trees.  I tried to sneak up on these bogs but the wildlife is too crafty.
When in a place like this that appears void of life;  one has to really look hard to find the critters.

Not only look but, take the time to observe and see
There is always something going on somewhere out here


I've been walking for about an hour now and it is very hot.  I have been noticing that my left leg gets and ache in it and my leg and foot seem to grow numb.  I'm sure it's a sciatic nerve thing from an injury received long ago.  It's really bothering me though.
Much of the wetland water is evaporated by the sun and wet mud is all that remains until the next rains

As I said earlier;  one must not only look but,  actually see.  The yellow jacket is busily gathering nectar

Now, heres one that's easy to miss.  Look closely at the butterfly weed.  Of course you would expect to find what?----

Why, butterflies, of course
There isn't much in the way of bird life going on here.  I'll take a few more shots of interesting things and scramble out of here.
You guessed it (Trumpet Creeper)
Gorgeous wildflower

I'm going for a cold water.  As I walked out of the refuge I saw and recorded a field of yellow.

Very cool!
The sunflowers below were actually in the refuge.  I think the birds planted them.
And finally;  what refuge could call itself successful that didn't have a goose or two?

Friday, June 25, 2010

TELLICO BLUEWAY & CAMPING ON CALDERWOOD LAKE

 click on photos to enlarge

A foot long fish thrusts himself vertically from the water only to re enter tail first.  Do fish ever swim to just have fun?  I wonder.   It's Thursday and I'm on a piece of water called the Tellico Blue-way.  The Blue-way is a water trail from the Ballplay boat ramp located below Vonore on Route 360 South.  I've been on the path for two hours now and I fear I've taken a wrong turn somewhere.  There are no road signs on the lakes.  I think, rather than become really lost, I'll paddle around and investigate the area I am in.
There are very few birds out today.  Actually I haven't even seen a squirrel.  The temperature here is 93 degrees and they're all in the shade.  I shouldn't be out here in this sun either.
I  simply wanted to taste the flavor of the place.  I suddenly got it in my head that I wanted to be on Calderwood Lake and in it too.  And that's where we would head after I get home.  I really enjoyed the canoe today and hate to put it away but, I can't haul my three dogs around in it.
I almost went swimming here at Tellico just awhile ago.  While messing with my GPS, the wind picked up to a gentle breeze.  It was blowing the canoe sideways.  I didn't care as the boat was positioned toward the center of the channel.
I happened to raise my head up in time to see I was on a collision course with a underwater stump.
Nothing I could do to miss it.  Hopefully I would float over it.
No luck.  The canoe hit it and almost rolled over.  The GPS that was on my knee dissappeared.
I could not see the GPS floating anywhere.  It is waterproof and will float indefinitely but, the case is black and makes the instrument difficult to see floating on the water.  I paddled in ever widening circles and finally came upon it.  Whew!  What luck!  I didn't want to buy another one of those.
An Osprey watches me intently.  He suspects mischief.
Bright sun, hot day and beautiful water can draw ones attention to navigational duties.  Ya just can't be lackadaisical while in a canoe.
I have to put the power to the paddle and get on up the lake.  Calderwood Lake is calling.
A little color added to the experience.
Just time for one more shot of a new friend who was hiding under the canoe's seat.
There's the dock.  I'll pick up some supplies on the way home for the Calderwood trip.
The drive to Calderwood took over two and a half hours.  That's crazy!  There is only one way to the lake since Route 129 is closed due to a rock slide.  It's a long, long way but worth the effort.  Fog was on the lake at 6:30 PM yesterday afternoon.  The ambient temperature is a lot cooler up here on this mountain lake.   As usual,  I have the lake to myself.
I hurriedly loaded the boat at the launch and shoved off.  What lucky dogs!  Where else can dogs ride on a boat every week Summer and Winter.  They were all worked up and looking forward to the landing on shore.  They know whats up.
We would camp at Slick Rock Creek.  Slick Rock is in heavy shade and the air is cool near the lake where the cold spring water flows in from Slick Rock Creek.  I put the tent up where the creek releases it's water into the lake.
One or two problems arose.  First;  I left the OZTent ground cloth with the awning poles and all the stakes in the truck.
Fortunately I carry the good old blue tarp with me wherever I go.  It would serve as a ground cloth.  No tent pegs?  I also carry the ultra light backpacking tent also.  Those stakes would work well.
It's all working out.  However, the flash light is home on the computer table.  I have to learn to slow down.  It's hard to cover all the bases when gathering equipment and handling three dogs at the same time.  Don't need a light anyhow.  The 357 Sig is equipped with night sights.  Actually, this little overnight is for the enjoyment of the dogs.  They have been sitting for days in the heat just waiting to escape to a cool mountain spot.  So, this is their day and night.  Let me tell you;  they made the most of it.
Darkness is coming on and the photography quality will be iffy at best.  The shots from here on will simply be to document the occasion.  It's nice to just take snapshots.  No pressure to be creative.  Well, not very creative.  That gray line in the photo is the fog on the main lake at the end of this cove.
I am soaking wet with sweat and am going to go for a swim when it gets dark.  Can you imagine this?  Can you?  The only sound is tumbling water.  I'm surrounded by my most loyal friends.  Shortly I'll watch the sun set while up to my neck in clean, clear, cool mountain water.  I wonder if the dogs will join me.  I bet they do.
They are so dedicated, so loyal to me.  Where I am-they are.  such great company!   They are amazing.  All of a sudden they come to full alert.
A loud shriek followed by what sounds like someone beating a blanket on the ground.   It has to be a Bob Cat.  Evidently it has made a kill on a large bird and the blanket sounds must be the wings beating on the ground.  The dogs only stare.  Not a whimper.
Goofball Shade will have none of it.  But, Happy and Douglas keep watch in the direction of the shriek.
I can hear sticks snapping and something being dragged through and over brush.  The sounds are going up the mountain side and finally all is quiet.  Shade heard those sounds and focused her attention in that direction.
There's nothing to worry about  I have the best guards on the planet.  They just don't say much.  But, that's ok by me.
The dogs are playing hard.  Running, swimming and doing happy laps over boulders and through water.  They will be beat tonight.  That's why I brought them here.  Their faces reflect happiness.  At home they display normal dog faces.  Out here they come alive.  They have energy and I know they are ecstatic over the experience.
These guys absolutely love the water.  The rocks are slippery and Douglas has difficulty finding purchase.
This is probably the pool I will mess around in after dark.  I can't wait.
Slick Rock is a magic spot.  I know other people come here but for now it is ours. 
The sun is falling fast.  Just a couple more pictures and I better get back to the tent.  No flashlight;  remember?
These water dogs have no fear.  I wonder if it's because of the breed or a high degree of confidence.  Just one slip and over each or both go.  Shade, Black Lab, and Douglas, Golden Retriever, compliment each other.  Shade is a charge ahead, bull in a china closet power dog.  She does everything with power and strength.  Douglas, on the other hand, is all finess and elegance.  His movement in the water is beautiful to watch.  Douglas usually slips quietly into the water while Shade gets in anyway she can, and powerfully.  They are both fantastic swimmers.  Shade swims faster but Douglas can swim further and longer.  They are both wonderful to be with and to watch.
I hope these pictures come out alright.  That little Elph Canon is a good camera but, I'm curious how it does in very low light to near dark.  I have no tripod with me.  The two shots below show lines in the rocks.  I wonder what created them.  Odd.
 I need one more tent at some point.  This OZTent is great with the Gheenoe or truck but, I need a canoe friendly tent.  I will find something that packs small and opens big like the OZTent.  I have found it.  It is called a Spring Bar Tent.  It resembles the OZTent but does not have a frame built in like the OZ.  It packs smaller.  I believe the pack dimensions are 28" long by 18" diameter.  It's $438.00.  Sure not affordable at this time.  But, this wilderness thing is what I do.  It is a passion.  I deserve the best equipment I can afford. That, however, is the key word----Afford!
They are all so tired!
They've been swimming constantly and running happy laps all evening.  Its good for them to be exhausted.  They can lay in this cool place and enjoy being contented dogs.  I'm glad for them.
Every now and again I'll feel a damp, cool nose touch my arm as one of them comes over for a pat on the head.  It's usually Happy.  and so the evening proceeds.  The beautiful shoreline is becoming dim across the water.  I like to fool with the camera in odd situations.  The sun is almost gone.
There is mountain Laural and rhododendrons over there.   What beautiful wall paper!
One more shot.  These should be interesting pictures.  If they aren't;  I have a delete button on the camera and computer.
The air is cool and sounds of water cascading over rocks is the background music.  Somewhere a lone bird twitters away for minutes at a time.  The sky, my ceiling, is clear through the tree tops with wispy white clouds.
I think I'll go get wet in the pool I showed you previously.