Saturday, December 31, 2011


Click photos to enlarge
As I said previously; today is the last day I would be running the state boat on Cherokee Lake.  The 2011 schedule is over and the 2012 schedule transfers my efforts to Douglas Lake, located at Dandridge, TN.  I took some photos of some of the prettier places on the lake that were in my assigned area today.
The light of morning is not soft like afternoon's light but, the shots are acceptable.  The area I was traveling in today was all big water, bay areas, with few coves exhibiting navigable water conditions.
I've gotten used to this lake and it's fickle water and ridiculous boating hazards and I guess I can say that I will miss it,  just a little.  I'll certainly be back on it in one year, and surely I'll visit these waters when the lake is full again for the Summer.  She's a beauty when the water level is up where it should be.

Today was Shade's day on the boat.  She has not been with me in ages and she needed to get out of the house and into some action.  I wanted today to be a great last day at work and I expected to really apply all I had to collecting some of the best data I have yet so far.  I didn't have time to swing in and out of training mode with Falcor.  Falcor, lately, has been very obstinate in obeying my commands, primarily the command to come. He has been frustrating me daily at the boat ramps and also at the little stops we make on the islands for lunch.  I just wasn't into being frustrated today.  Shade, on the other hand, is the perfect, obedient partner.  She presents absolutely no problems at all.  Getting her into the truck in the morning has been an effort but, I found if I put the leash on her she will jump right into the front seat of the truck.  She will, however, not get in the back under the cap.  She absolutely remembers the terrible accident that day when she was back there under the truck cap.  Once we arrive at the lake;  she will enter and exit the truck and boat without a hesitation.  I just say;  "get in the truck" and she is instantly on the seat.  At islands all I have to do is walk toward the beached boat and she beats me to the deck without a word.  She's been with me a long time and knows the ropes.  Falcor will do fine but, he needs worked with.  I am not a dog trainer by any stretch of the imagination.  I'm terrible at it and don't have the patience for it.  Falcor has to start cooperating more if he will be a daily companion.
"Dad;  did you bring any of those Pennsylvania Christmas biscuits by chance?"

One old fisherman who I see on the lake almost every day asked me how many dogs I have.  He's a nice gentleman and a dog lover himself and thinks it's great that I take turns bringing the dogs to the lake.
I've never seen Shade happier than this morning.  Her muzzle was in the wind and her nose constantly twitched with the scents that the breezes brought to her.  She really doesn't care where she's going;  just so she's going somewhere with me.  What a dedicated friend!
The breeze picked up but did not present any problems.  The air wasn't what one would call warm but, it wasn't cold enough for the slightly elevated wind speed to cause problems.  I have a habit of judging water conditions in canoe terms.  Actually, this boat can take 4 foot waves or greater, and swells, easily without any problems.  A canoe is a slightly different animal.  The water above would be no problem in a canoe.  It's the wind that requires the strategy.  If a person can travel 5 miles per hour paddling a canoe and, the wind is blowing 20 miles per hour against him;  you can imagine the frustrating situation the canoeist faces.  If you look at the second picture above and compare it with the picture directly above;  you can see a difference in surface texture.  That change took only ten seconds to occur.  It's no big deal in this ocean liner but, a canoeist needs to know how to deal with those subtle changes.  
There were no fishermen on this side of the bay.  I knew there wouldn't be due to the elevated wind.  The gulls could be seen flying in circles at the center of the lake and beyond toward the far shoreline.  That would be where the wind is blowing the bait fish namely, the Shad, would be.  That would be where the Rock Fish and Cherokee Bass would also be.  But, the schedule is written in such a way that I must cover the water, fishermen or not, and so go we.  We were approaching a favorite beaching spot and would pull in there for a leg stretch and maybe a peanut butter sandwich.  I made Shade and I four peanut butter and jelly sandwiches this morning before we left.
This is a sweet spot to stop at.  It is on the leeward side of the island and the texture of the soil is sandy so the boat can easily slip onto and off of the beach.  I'm very careful where I put the bow of this boat.  There is actually more danger of hitting rocks while beaching the boat at the boat ramp areas.  They are miserable places.
Shade was in her glory.  She jumped off the boat and hit the ground running.  It was great to see her stretch out and run.  I wanted to see if I could stop her and make her return.  "Shade Stop!"  She stopped and looked back.  "Shade Come on, Come on!"  She instantly turned and blasted back to me full speed and jumped up on the boat with me.  Now, that's what I need Falcor to do.  He has to in order to stay safe and allow me to maintain my temper with him.
She's running free as a bird and fast as she can.  She owns this place.
"Shade;  STOP!"  Look at her.  She stopped dead on the spot.

"Shade;  Come on Sweetheart, Come!"  Like clockwork.

The neat thing is that I never spent much time training her.  She learned by following the golden dog, Douglas for years.  All I do is substitute her name for his and she responds.  She had the greatest teacher.  The best!
We wolfed down the sandwiches, two for her and two for me, and I left Shade investigate the island.  There was no danger of her getting lost.  Not Shade.  That girl knows where I am at every moment.
The wavy lines on the beach appear to have been created by the hand of an artist.  In reality;  they were.
Note the houses in the background.  I rarely include houses in my photos.
One of these days, when my ship comes in;  I'm going to get myself a really good wide angle lens for these panoramic shots.  I can't do them justice with my current equipment.
Shooting into the light.  Yuk!

We'll walk around to the other end of the island where the light will be at our backs.
Ah;  that's better.  These little stops only last about 15 minutes.   I view scenic shots in sections when I look around and try to see what the lens sees.  That way I don't have to waste time walking to an area that will not be acceptable to photograph.  It's fun and it's interesting to see what quality of photos I've collected when I get home.  When viewed as a whole, an area may be unattractive or even ugly.  But, when that same area is split into quadrants;  each quadrant or section is judged separately from the whole and an entirely different emotion is captured by the lens.  Well;  a good photographer can do that.  I simply dabble about.
The shot above is straight out of the camera.  Note the dull, mundane color and lack of contrast.
The shot below is enlarged slightly but, note the contrast.  This is achieved in the camera with a simple adjustment before the shot is taken.  Practice tells me when to adjust contrast and when not to.
It's amazing to know that all this beach area will be covered with water in March.  The tree will stand alone, out of the water, as if it is growing on top the surface.
When I took the shot above;  I eliminated the houses on the far away shoreline of the lake from my vision.  I wanted a shot that would portray loneliness.  I like those kinds of pictures for some reason.  No;  I'm not lonely.  
I could camp here for sure   
Shade's having a great time playing in and around the water.  That water is 48 degrees and she doesn't care a bit.
What a super friend to be with! 
"Good girl Shade.  Good Girl!"
What a place to sit down!
This whole stop took only about 15 minutes;  maybe 20 minutes on the outside.  It's good to stretch the old legs a bit and watch a good friend be happy.
"Come on Darlin;  It's time to roll."
I'll say one word; "BOAT!"  Watch what happens.
She has become an amazing dog since the passing of Douglas.  She had this inclination to be dedicated to me all along.  She chose, however, to direct it toward Douglas.  I'm glad she did.  He needed her too.

We backed off the island and continued our search for anglers in boats.  As it turned out; my suspicions were correct about them being across the lake.  We talked to several fishermen and they had some really nice Striped Bass.  There were no unusually large fish but, at least they were catching them and that's what it's all about.
"About those biscuits, Dad."
This was a fine, fine day.  Everything went perfectly.  Even when things don't go quite right;  it's a great day.  It's a super life.  We motored back to the boat ramp.  It was going on 12:30 PM and we're supposed to be off the lake at noon.
"Love ya girl."
Don't get the idea I'm getting down on Falcor.  I'm not.  It's just that I didn't want to deal with training issues today and I wasn't in the mood for frustrating situations this morning.  And---I wanted to enjoy Shade.  I love her as much as I ever loved Douglas.  She was his right hand girl.  And;  now she's mine.
She's beautiful!
And, she's a big baby!
And another shift and day comes to an end.  Tomorrow will find us, me, on Douglas Lake.  I make it sound like a visit to hell but, I kid around a lot.  Douglas is also a flood control lake and it is low on water too.  I'll simply refer to it as The Mud Hole. 

HAPPY NEW YEAR Everybody.  I hope to see ya all in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


click photos to enlarge
I've got two more runs to make on Cherokee Lake and then it's off to Douglas Lake for 2012.  It was a brisk morning today and I had to put on my wind pants to stay comfortable.  I thought about this lake, the Rock Quarry, and in a way I'm going to miss it.
It took me a long time to learn all the parts of Cherokee Lake;  all the coves and back water;  the channels and creeks that flow into it.  I guess that going through the experience of learning all the secrets of a lake sort of creates an intimate relationship.  Cherokee is truly a beautiful body of water when it's at full pool.  It's the depletion of water that creates the ugly duckling.  The low water situation is a temporary one, thank heaven.  But then, one can view the lake at full pool as a temporary situation also;  a face lift destined to failure if you will. 
Cherokee Dam in the early morning mist

I guess beauty doesn't last forever.  At least Cherokee Lake gets a new face lift annually.  The earliest morning moments are indeed beautiful and mysterious.  I always feel like I'm the only one on the lake in the moments just after dawn.  When the fog is thick and the engine is pushing the boat along; it feels like we are sitting still.  There is nothing to gage motion against.  Nothing can be seen but white.  I sometimes can envision us bridging some imaginary barrier and entering into an unknown dimension and when the fog lifts we are lost in a foreign place.  Wow;  that's far out!
Hard to believe that in April, boats will float over all that is brown.
I have to admit that Cherokee does have it's beautiful places.  There are certain vistas that stand out and are photo worthy.  My problem with the lake is that it is a habitat disaster.  Fallen trees can't even fall into the water to provide habitat for fish and water fowl.  They topple over and lie on the barren banks to bleach in the sun.  Ecology is affected in a negative way when the water rises and falls frequently.  The detrimental affects to wildlife due to water level fluctuations are evident everywhere.  Birds for instance, that are common on other lakes, don't even exist on Cherokee.  I have only seen two Ospreys in the six months I've been on this lake and only four Kingfishers.  Kingfishers love trees on the edge of the water.  The edge of the water on Cherokee is 150 feet from the forest.  I understand the flood control issues but, it's a shame the lake must be regulated the way it is.  As I've said before;  I'm ruined living near Calderwood, Tellico, Chilhowee, Abrams Creek, Santeelah and Indian Boundary Lakes.  This, like Douglas Lake, is a work lake.
The unfortunate aspect of the whole situation is that I'll be returning in 2013 to the same scenery.  The lake will be depleted of water.  But, I'll be on it when it's full also.
The option to Cherokee is Douglas Lake.  It is just the opposite of Cherokee.  Where Cherokee has a solid rock bottom and sides;  Douglas is solid mud.
Falcor needed a break so we beached on a spot covered with natural gravel.  We avoid rock shorelines with passion.
It's a very cold morning and the landscape offers no warm visions. The barren shorelines add to the chill in the air. It's a frigid place.
Falcor had a great time on shore.  I have to remember that he is still a puppy.  Sometimes I expect him to act like an adult dog and he just won't do it.  For instance;  when I give him the command to "come" I expect a reaction.  Sometimes he will stand there and stare at me unmoving.  It drives me nuts.
Today; I tried to get him back onto the boat so we could leave the island and he would not come.  He would not allow me to approach him either.  I guess he knows that to get back onto the boat means his play time stops.  I don't know.  One thing I do know.  If he doesn't start reacting to my commands he will eventually get into a situation where he will die.  He has to listen and react to  my commands immediately.  He's young and I'm trying to be patient with him but, I'm concerned about him too.  Maybe I'm spoiled by having dog friends that listen and react perfectly to my commands.
He is a pretty boy!
Falcor is already a hit with all the fishermen on the lake. All of them comment about his good looks and his cuteness.  I'm sure he'll be fine.  It's all up to me to shape him.

Well; life's metronome continues to tap out the beat of time and I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of wilderness activities due to my new location.  I've got to find new wild places to visit or contrive a way to budget money for gasoline to return to my old haunts.  I'm off tomorrow but, the winds will be in the 25 to 30 mph range.  That eliminates canoeing.  I may take the dogs to the old state park back at Tellico.  I'll figure it out in the morning.  This entry is just a "stay in touch" blog entry.  I want to keep the keyboard limbered up.  Keep watching.  I have a couple ideas I will implement soon. 

Monday, December 26, 2011


click photos to enlarge
I was excited last night about the prospects of finally visiting Slickrock Creek today.  My original plan was to camp at the mouth of Slickrock Creek but, the weatherman changed my mind.  I wouldn't have minded the rain at all but, the addition of freezing temperatures made me think less of the idea.
We were up at 4 AM and ready to go.  I hitched up the Gheenoe last night.  Shade went through her "I ain't getten in the truck" routine.  I finally lifted her up onto the bed of the truck.  Falcor jumped in the front and we were off.  It seems amazing to me that I used to live so close to Calderwood and Chilhowee Lakes and now it takes me about two hours to get to my favorite place in the whole world.  The drive is not one of the favorite things a dog cares to do either.
It was a relief to finally pull into the boat ramp area.  I jumped out of the truck and hurried back to Shade, who was waiting at the door of the truck cap.  When I lifted the cap door;  her eyes lit up and she didn't know which way to look first.  She was heading out into the wild places she loves so much.  It's been a long, long time for her to be on Slickrock Creek.  Falcor immediately fell in with Shade and followed on Shade's heels.  Everything Shade did;  Falcor did.  I wanted this opportunity to put Falcor and Shade together so Falcor could learn from Shade.  I think Falcor picked up a few wilderness skills from Shade today.  I launched the boat and we were off.  It was cold.  The entire deck of the Gheenoe was ice.  I thought a dog would slip off the boat the entire ride to Slickrock Creek.
The water was calm, the fog was lifting, the mountains were beautiful and it was cold out.  My hands were really freezing.  I left my super good lobster gloves in the state boat.  All I had was a pair of  Waldo Mart winter gloves.  My North Face gloves were with my canoe gear.

A guy almost needs double everything so nothing is forgotten.  I have special piles of stuff for every thing I do.  I have a motorcycle pile, a canoe pile, a hiking pile, a boating pile, a photography pile and a dog pile.  Yes;  a dog pile.  Dogs require special considerations and therefore, a special pile of stuff is accumulated for dogs.  There is a camping pile also that interfaces with all the above mentioned piles.
The sun was just rising
And so, with frozen hands, I steered our little craft down the lake toward our destination.  Our speed was maintained at not over ten miles per hour as the decks were solid ice and any sudden acceleration or stop would surely toss the dogs off the boat.
Calderwood was beautiful this morning yet, it had a coldness about it.  I don't mean as in ambient temperature; I mean it had an unforgiving aura about it.

  "Drink in my beauty all you want but, don't get careless pilgrim.  The price I require of reckless people is a high one."
The cove leading to Slickrock Creek was coming up fast.  I haven't been in the middle of such scenic beauty in, well, I can't remember when.
I had the big Canon camera along but didn't see any sign of critters along the way.  The little SD 990 Canon would see full duty today as we would be hiking beside the creek.  There's just no way I'm packing that big 500 mm lens all morning.
And, finally Slickrock  Creek came into view.
Just like coming home.  The water is very shallow in the cove.  I don't believe I could get back in there if it were 6 inches shallower.  The next problem is anchoring the boat.  Beaching the boat is out as the shoreline is covered with rock and boulders.  I would have to use the off shore anchoring system I set up a couple years ago.  It's a long bungee attached to an anchor.  I drop the anchor out in the middle of the channel, drive to the shore with the bow line in my hand; jump off the boat and tie the bow line to a tree.  After unloading the boat, I simply hold the bow line until the bungee cord pulls the boat back out to the anchor.  I then tie off the bow line to a tree.   It works fine.
The air had a sweet smell to it.  It was so different that the fragrance was obvious.  The blend of clean, fresh aerated water, the aroma of the woods soil, leaves, rotting wood and cold air created an olfactory salad tossed to perfection.
The sounds of the water cascading over rocks was a thrill to my senses.  No need to buy expensive tickets to the symphony in Knoxville.  The sounds I'm hearing here, in this special place, are naturally symphonic and a pure joy to the ear.
Falcor and Shade explored everything along the creek.  It was obvious that Falcor knew nothing of places like this.  Shade, on the other hand, was back in her environment.  The only difference was that she didn't have the golden dog to follow.  She was now the leader and a young pup was with her to learn.
Shade lead Falcor from the edge of the stream to atop the highest boulder in the vicinity.  Falcor followed her every lead.
Have you ever been in a place where everything is absolutely gorgeous no matter which direction you look?  That's the way it is back here.  There are no shabby places.  The eye always rests on beauty no matter what falls under it's gaze.
Falcor is but a young pup and I hope he picks up techniques from Shade today.  It could keep him alive in some unforeseen predicament.
The trail for the first quarter mile was a nice easy walk and afforded grand views of the creek.  Things got interesting when the trail cut across a rock wall and meandered close to the water.
I have not hiked a lot of the actual trail up here.  I've usually walked along the water, jumping from rock to rock while watching Douglas, who lived for the water of this creek.  A lot of this trail through this area is new to me.
Now, that's a root system!

This is a gorgeous spot.
I got a kink in my neck staring up at the top of this rock wall.
The trail continued and was easy walking--for a short distance further.
The trail quickly cut in toward the base of the hill side and lead onto a very narrow rock ledge that followed along the water's edge.  Actually, it wasn't even a ledge.  The trail appeared to be simply beveled rock slanted in the wrong direction to achieve a good solid foot hold.  I really studied this a long time as the trail sloped toward the water and, it was wet.  This is one of those places where a person hiking alone has to be very careful.  A slip off this ledge would put a fella into the water.  Hypothermia would surely be the result or worse;  broken bones and hypothermia.
"You guys coming?  Come on;  it's a good trail, as you can see."

I worried about Shade out there.  She is very powerful but she can slip too.  I don't see how they can stick on those stones like they do.
This is nuts!  Falcor was behind me.  Oh well;  if Shade can get across then so can I.  Shade doesn't even have hands to hold on to anything with.  I, at least, can grab onto, well, stuff.  Not much there to grab on to.  The trail stays on the rock face for quite a ways.  It widens a bit and is flatter but maintains that bevel toward the water and never inward toward the cliff.

It was in the bag at this point.  We all crossed successfully.  Falcor was doing a great job following along.

This piece of trail is fast becoming the highlight of the day.  There is an old fisherman's trail about a hundred and fifty feet straight up the side of the mountain beside where we are but, I don't feel like climbing up there.
Click on this photo and  look behind her at that tiny 2 inch wide trail she just came off of.
What a dog!  Fearless and self confident.
Falcor didn't follow in Shade's footsteps and found himself in a rather precarious position.  It's a long way down and there's little I could do to help him.  This is why it is imperative that a dog reacts instantly to my commands.  Shade will not stay for more than a few seconds;  maybe a minute.  But, she will come back to me at the command "come!"   Many times I am in a position where I can see them and all that's around them, like Falcor here.  I doubt Falcor will come to me if I call so rather than confuse him;  I'll let him figure a way out of his predicament without adding any complication to his plight.  In the end, he did well.  He backtracked and walked down hill toward the stream.  Lucky boy....
Just one more tight spot and we should be back on easy walking turf.
This little spot has quite a drop to the next level also.  Shade powered down, as usual but, Falcor doesn't have the legs that Shade has.  He had to think about it awhile.  I'm glad he did that.
We all got together at the bottom of all this mess and continued on down along the stream.
A particularly pretty, long, quiet pool in the stream of relentless fast water.
We were gradually working our way back toward the creek's mouth and the Gheenoe.  I took a picture of the foot bridge high up on the old fisherman's trail.  The old bridge has taken a beating over the years.  I can't see very many boards on the floor of the bridge from down here on the creek.  I suspect many have rotted away.
Now;  where have they gone?  They were just here a minute ago.  "Shade. Come!"
Then, I saw them high up on the other end of the bridge.  Shade instantly blasted back across the foot bridge.  Yep;  the same bridge missing over half of the flooring.  Shade remembered the slight trail that winds up to that bridge.  She and Douglas discovered it on their own a couple years ago and fooled me by following along with me from high above.  I accidentally saw them up there when I looked up for some reason.  I'll never forget that moment.  Douglas was peering down at me as if saying "I got one on ya, dad."
Right behind Shade came a flash of white.  Yep;  Falcor.
He's thrown caution to the wind.
Those two guys have had the time of their lives today.  Falcor, especially, has seen things that are all first time events for him.  He spent time with a true professional, Shade, and I think he will leave the forest a wiser pup.
I'll have to be careful when we leave.  This thing is only six inches under water.  I'll raise the motor and just float over it.
Well, well;  I pulled the boat in to shore and these guys automatically jumped aboard.  Falcor would never do that alone.  Shade jumped on and Falcor followed.  That's why I wanted Falcor to spend time with Shade.
You did well today, sweet girl.  I love you.
If you enlarge this shot;  look at the water depth.  It gives you an idea of the capability of this boat in shallow water.
One last picture of Slickrock Creek.  I don't know when I will be able to come back.  Actually, it's I don't know when I will be able to afford to return.  It's a gasoline thing.
This is "my" magic place.  It does it for me.  Everyone should have that one spot that makes them ultra happy.  I hope you enjoyed the boat ride and hike with my kids.  There's a lot of photos in this entry and I hope you didn't get bored.  The next adventure will be in the canoe.  Happy holidays and play safe.