Saturday, October 2, 2010


 click on photos to enlarge

My eyes opened at 5:00 AM and I had one thought in my mind.  I could see that narrow channel of water that flows off Santeelah Lake and touches the shores of Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.  I kicked Happy and Vivie, two terriers, out of the bed and made ready to leave.
It was a very early start and I had the road to myself.  The Cherohala Skyway was deserted accept for some trucks that were parked here and there along the twisty road side.  Hunters.  Every truck bed contained dog crates so, I guess the black bears had better be on alert.
A sign indicated Indian Boundary Lake 4 miles.  I pulled in and drove the gravel loop to the lake past the campground which was full of recreational vehicles.  I do not, never have and probably never will,  understand what a thirty foot motorized coach on wheels has to do with the term "camping."  I rolled on past the boat launch and kept going back to the skyway.  Something about crowded campgrounds with RV's turns me off.
It was a treat to watch the sun rise and turn the mountains a rainbow of colors.  No painting can match the natural beauty of a Tennessee sunrise on the Smokies.
I don't think the old truck's speedometer ever exceeded 40 miles per hour the entire drive to Santeelah Lake and Joyce Kilmer.  I was enjoying being slothful.  I think thats a word.  There were campers along the road in designated campsites but, I would soon be away from them in the canoe.
I noticed butterflies sitting on the road.  There were more than a few and I found myself driving to miss them.  It was a thoughtless action.  I've noticed in recent years that my sensitivity and compassion for wild things has escalated dramatically.
I think I know why.  I believe that all my life I've been taught how important success is and that success and the acquisition of money go hand in hand.  I, like everyone else, worked, saved and squandered and sought more money.  Education, military, wives or girlfriend and attention to the general requirements of social success stole the lime light off many other important facets of life and it's enjoyment.  I always liked to get in the woods when I could as I was growing up and did so even after maturity.  But there's something that happens when one gets close to retirement.  When I finally put my hand on the top rung of my "success" ladder and the realization that there were no more rungs to reach for;  the desire to search wilderness places emerged.  The edge was off the success and achievement goal.  The wilderness, ecology and the natural world emerged instantaneously  from somewhere deep inside.   With that emergence came an understanding of just how precious the wilderness places and their occupants really are to me and to everyone.  I just never attached the proper priority to it.  I do now.  The calmness of the past few years have helped create a compassion for animals that I didn't know existed within me.  And hence;  the compassion I feel for those who can not speak for themselves-----Dogs.
To purposefully steer to miss a butterfly on the pavement or to apply the brakes in order to give a kangaroo mouse a chance to get across the road are compassionate acts.  Would it impact nature if I would drive over those critters?  No, not at all.  But, it soothes my soul knowing I did my best not to take either of their lives just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I could get really deep with this topic but will spare the reader any further boredom.  I think I carry this mentality over to my concerns for dogs.  Like all wild creatures;  dogs are innocent.  They are born out of man's temporary desire for them yet, quickly discarded when other human diversions present themselves.  In summary I guess I could describe myself as smitten by wilderness places and appreciative to nature for providing this beauty I so love and respect.  And, a canoe is the best way I've found to move silently around, through and over the wild places without disturbing anything.
I move downstream and delight in the gentle tendrils of fog rising off the water.
The whispy, cloudy stacks of smoke rise vertically and evaporate into nothingness before my eyes.
Funny thing; reminds me of life in general.  The reflection of trees and grass on the water combines with the difused light to create a purple hue to the surface of the water.  A mottled or textured affect is the result.
As the sun rises higher in the sky, the fog gradually dissipates.  It holds on tenaciously to the surface but old Sol wins out----always. 
Hints of color appear here and there along the shoreline.  It's as though the trees and bushes are clinging to Summer with all their might, at the same time pretending they aren't aware that they must prepare for a change.  But change they will.
Nature is preparing her canvas for her Fall paintings.
I paddled up to the mouth of the creek that flows through Joyce Kilmer Forest and empties into Santeelah.  It is a pretty place with a small island located just off to the side of the creek mouth.  I put the canoe along side the stream bank and tied off.
Wood ducks exploded from the little channel above as I silently floated in.  They are an amazing duck.  Very wary and very, very fast.
This little island was covered with the most beautiful red flowers.  Birds were flitting about searching for insects.  I sat down and just watched.
What he is doing is beating the worm against the limb.  At least I think it's a worm.
He is bashing the insect or worm with so much zeal that he actually turns himself upside down with the movement.
Check this next shot.  Yep;  I got him as he left the limb in flight.
Unlike the islands along the big valley lakes;  this high mountain lake has mud shorelines.  I could simply glide the Gheenoe right up on this island if I had it today.
These red beauties are everywhere.  What a beautiful stop over.  They are Cardinal Flowers. (Thanks Paul)
I used the elph camera as well as the D50 Canon with the 135mm telephoto for macro shots.  I forget which photos were taken with the D50 but, they turned out very nice.
I've been here since sun up and I can hear a bass boat warming up somewhere down the lake so I guess it's time to make the haul back to the barn.  This is truly a beautiful part of Santeelah Lake and compliments the spectacular trees of Joyce Kilmer Memorial.  I will return again;  probably in the Winter when I can have it all to myself.
Not to worry.  The Champlain goes right over these shallow rocks
And back we go to find the truck.  A spectacular morning.
I just had to throw one last picture in of this little guy:
Hope you enjoyed the morning with me.  See you next time.