Tuesday, June 8, 2010


 Below is Apalacha Dam as viewed from Apalacha Lake

Click on photos to enlarge

Finally, after all the motorcycle rides to Hiwassi and Apalacia Lakes;  I finally got the boat on the water.  I really wanted to get up to Calderwood Lake but it is such a long drive since Route 129 is closed.  I thought to myself, "self; it's probably closer to drive down to Apalacia Lake in North Carolina."   I hadn't been on this lake to date.  My first visit to an unfamilier lake is usually by motor boat and so it was today.
Douglas and I drove straight to the power house and boat ramp located just below Hiwassi Dam.  Everything was perfect.  The scenery is beautiful on this lake.
Two thirds of the lake down stream is wild and primitive.  There are a very few houses located atop cliffs at the lower end of the lake as one approaches the Apalacha Dam.  I could see no way for the occupants to get to the water from their elevated heights.  I noticed very few boats beached or docked on the water and most of those were either small fishing boats or party barges.  Hiwassi Dam is in the below photo.
The shoreline is typical of a mountain lake with the embankments inclining rapidly from the water.  There was no shoreline erosion noticeable at all.  This is a result of the absence of ocean size boats and ski boats.
The water is greeted by rocks and a few boulders where it touches the embankments.  It is nothing like Calderwood Lake, however.  Calderwood's shoreline is studded with huge rocks and enormous boulders.  The terrain rises sharply from the waterline to a near vertical incline.  Apalacia Lake is larger than I expected.  In my minds eye, I watched myself paddling a canoe around it in a day.  No way!  I haven't included any lake specs here as there are plenty (on line) for those who care to look.  One huge difference in the two lakes, Calderwood and Apalacia, is the underwater obstructions just feet from the shoreline.  One has to be careful and alert when on Apalacia.  Look below:
This is prop busting territory for sure!
A canoe would glide right over all this.
I noticed a creature swimming across the lake.  I thought beaver at first.
As I drew closer I thought muskrat.  I don't have any pictures of them.  Oh boy!
The little guy didn't fit the muskrat silhouette correctly.
And then I made the identification.  It was Rocky Squirrel.  Rocky was taking a swim;  across the entire width of the lake.  Yep;  one side to the other side.  Amazing!
What on earth would drive a Gray Squirrel to swim that great distance?
The little fellow was moving along as fast as a muskrat.  The only difference is that the Muskrat can dive.  Rocky can't.
I kept my distance.  Didn't want to stress the little fellow out.  He appeared to be quite at ease with the water thing.  Nature amazes me all the time.  This is a first for me.
He was heading into a dead fall, no doubt to grab onto a limb and clamber to dry land.
In my haste to photograph him, I forget to set up the camera properly.  The shots above were taken at 1/350th of a second.  I like to use a minimum of 1/500th of a second with the 500 mm lens.  But, the pictures came out fair I'd say.
Rocky swam into the fallen tree and the last glimpse of him I had was his back.  He quickly dissappeared onto the bank.
Watching that Gray Squirrel was pure pleasure.  I never know what I will find out here.  A good friend photographed a squirrel and I saw the picture.  It was amazing.  I never would have thought I'd get my own swimming squirrel picture.
After searching for a half hour, we finally found a spot offering a relatively safe approach to land.
Douglas needed to get off the boat.  It's been over an hour and a half since we left the boat ramp.
I kept close to the shore line constantly looking for a spot that didn't have boulders.  I couldn't find one.
There was a spot that looked interesting on the downstream side of a huge fallen pine tree.  We would check it out.
An old dead fall was laying with its stripped branches splayed out to the sides and I guided the Gheenoe between them until it was stopped by the crotch of the tree.  It looked like a good spot to tie her off.
I always like to photograph the boat when it's beached or tied off.  There's something mysterious about it for me.  Not too many people do what I do on the lakes and I rarely see boats tied off to tree limbs and stumps unoccupied.
Canoes make the best shots when beached.  They are reminiscent of a bygone era.  And, they're easier to handle when the desire is at hand to go ashore.
Douglas can be strange at times.  I am in the habit of looking carefully about for him before calling him as he usually is within sight.  He just doesn't stick tight with me.  If I don't see him and call loudly;  he may think I am scolding him.  I'd never do that.  But I turn completely around and notice the little patch of gold way up in the woods on a high spot.  He's just sitting there watching me.  Click on the picture to see if you can see him.  Below:
He's a sweet boy.  I missed him and made a little chirp/whistle sound real soft and he came right down and lay beside me.  Well, he put a tree between us.  He's his own man.
What a great friend and companion!  Love him.
The quiet is punctuated by the chirps of birds and the buzzing of flies and bees.  A Kingfisher has passed by in front of us twice since we got here.  Palliated Woodpeckers are on this lake in good numbers.  I can hear their calls and their jack hammering sounds back in the forest.  There is not one Heron or Osprey on this lake.  Ducks of any species are absent also.  One would think a duck would be common sight on such an expansive piece of water.  But none were to be found.  I wonder whether the absence of these birds has anything to do with the quantity of fish or the quality of the water?  I have circumnavigated the entire circumference of this lake and have seen not one of the above mentioned birds.  Strange.
As we moved on back up the lake;  I followed the opposite shoreline.  I was looking for an old fisherman's boat ramp that has gone to ruin.  It may be useful for canoe launching at some point in the future.  I tried to find it while on my last visit by motorcycle.  I could not turn it up.  But things are different from the water side of things.
I believe I can carry a canoe down that little ramp.  The main road is at the top of the ramp.  The road only borders that side of the lake for one mile and then veers away.
The only bad thing about launching a canoe here is that one would have to leave the truck along that desolate piece of road at the top.  That's pretty chancy as there are outlaws, thieves and worse lurking out there in the dark places of the wilderness.  Just thought I'd toss in a bit of drama.
We were about a quarter mile from our boat ramp when I saw a fishing boat with a guy waving his hands at me.  He had a young man and two coon hounds on his boat.  The rule of the water is that you never pass a person in need of help on the lake.  Never!  I cut the engine and idled over to him.  He was out of gas.  I couldn't tow his boat as the Gheenoe had no cleat strong enough to do the job.  He had no loose piece of fuel line with him, nor I.  We could siphon gas from my tank to his if we did.  I offered to take him to the boat ramp where his truck was parked and he could go get some fuel.  I promised him I would stay put until his return and take him back to his boat.  His son stayed with the boat and dogs.
He returned to the ramp and I drove him back to his boat and all ended well.  His offer to top off my tank was refused by me with a my comment;  "return the favor to some other needing person in a bad way on the lake."   He promised he would and extended his hand.  The hand clasp was strong, indicating truth and trust.  Douglas and I sped off to the ramp.   It was late.
Hope you enjoyed Apalacha Lake.  I'll see what I can drum up for the next blog entry.