Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ALONG THE CHEROHALA SKY WAY

click on photos to enlarge.
Take a ride with me on the sky way.  see below
video
The Cherohala Skyway, one of the most beautiful roads in America, runs across the mountains from Tellico Planes, Tennessee to Robinsville, North Carolina.  The entire distance end to end spans 46 miles of gentle curving road.  It climbs into the clouds at 5600 feet.
I had a busy day today.  The morning was spent getting an oil change for the truck and building a small door to separate the bathroom/wash room  from the main space in the habitat area.  I've got to keep the dogs out of that space.  My original intentions for the day were to travel, by Gheenoe, down the Tennessee River looking for photo opportunities.  Dark sky's, the threat of storms and an increasing wind made me think better of going on the river.  Instead I opted to drive my new 45 horsepower wheeled magic carpet over the Cheohala Sky way.  I needed to put break in miles on it in preparation for the trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Pennsylvania next month.  That's not a tiny ride.
I picked up the Cherohala Sky way (CS) at Tellico Planes just South of where I live.  The lower stretch  of road follows a wide stream up the mountain.  A right hand turn off the CS leads to Bald River Falls.  I haven't been to the falls in two years.

video

It is a tourist hang out and you all know how much I love to spend time near hoards of people on my days off.  I was in luck today.  No one was at the falls.  I lingered there for not more than twenty minutes before moving on.  The CS bends left and right always on the incline, snaking through the tree covered mountain sides.

video


video

A familiar sign appeared on my right.  Indian Boundary Lake.  I definitely needed to pull in there.  Amazing!  Not one tourist was in sight.  Even the camp ground was empty.
I looked across the lake and had an instant longing for my canoe.  The wind created a wash board surface and a canoe float in that more than gentle breeze would require some energetic action with the paddle.








No matter though;  any time in a canoe is time well spent.  The sky is both bright and dark depending on which side of the mountain the road takes me.










The weather is fickle up here.  It doesn't follow any forecast.  Forecasts are a human thing used to prove that homo sapience have total control over nature.  Of course they do!
I stopped at a few of my favorite overlooks for pictures.  On a clear day one can see forever it seems.  Even on an unclear day, for that matter.  Below is Indian Boundary Lake from far above.
See forever?  Yep.  Here's proof.
How bout this one
The wind has picked up strength and the temperature is dropping.  something is coming to the mountain.  I'll be on my way.  I want to get on the Route 129 side of this mountain.  The sky is blue in that direction.
As I drive along, my thoughts go back to an earlier time when this expansive piece of real estate was truly wilderness.  It's hard to conceive that families actually eked out livings up here.  Many had farms and planted crops, corn, under the forest canopy in acrid, ascetic soil.  There wasn't much of a corn crop with limited sun light, steep hill sides and bad soil.  But, they carried on.  Small wooden shacks, many not even constructed of logs but of a combination of mud brick and sticks.  A lean too of limbs provided shelter for the cow or goat.
I can envision the man of the family returning from the new plowed field on the mountain side just above his shack, his hands filthy with the soil he had just tilled, dirt encrusted under his finger nails and sweat soaking his clothing from his laborious task;  returning home in time to coax his new son from his wife's womb.  A brief interlude and rest would follow before she rises from the tick bed to prepare supper of ramps, wild beats, nuts and pork for him.
It's all just a moment in time that they lived through.
I turn left onto the road to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
I've written about the forest in another entry so I won't delve into it very deep here.
Needless to say the forest is a fascinating refuge for four hundred year old trees.  Some are older.  My God!, imagine what we have done to our old growth forests.
I am amazed that this resource is located so close to the tourist routes yet receives so little visitation.  I guess a visit would require getting out of the car and walking a bit.  I understand......But, this precious forest is magic.
By the way;  that would be Alfred Joyce Kilmer.  Seems people in the South use their middle names as first names.  I don't get it but, that's just the way it is down here.

The little bike is humming along just fine.  Very pleasant.  I think it and I will have a great relationship.
We find Route 129 North and follow it to Cheoah Dam.

  Cheoah is the oldest dam in Tennessee and it is an earthen dam.  Remember the movie "Fugitive?"   Scenes were filmed at Cheoah Dam.  Neat huh?  Cheoah empties its waters into Calderwood Lake.
 You know how I feel about that lake.  Calderwood has fog covering it shore to shore.
Oh;  for my canoe!   I want out there.  I need to be out there.
From here it's deal with the Dragon's Tail, that twisty part of Route 129 known as the Dragon.  A short pause in the ride is taken at the scenic overlook at the North end of the Dragon.  Yep;  its an aerial view of Calderwood Lake and Dam.
The rest of the ride was uneventful but wonderful.  Tennessee is truly blessed with many natural resources.  I hope government leaders wisely protect this rich heritage.  See you next time.  Hope you enjoyed the ride.
 Gotta put a critter of some sort up here: