Thursday, January 27, 2011


The early morning sun slowly pushed the night time away and the shadowy forms cloaked by darkness took shape and meaning.  I love to watch the transition from night time to the light of day in the forest.  The dark of night brings silence to the woodland but, the coming of light entices the happy song notes of the various birds who reside here.
A cardinal alights on a tree limb, his scarlet red form is highlighted by the darkness under the tree's branches that he is perched upon.  As the sun climbs higher in the sky, the colors of the forest come to life.
  Green, red and various shades of brown are predominant.  The scene is like watching a florescent light tube slowly brighten in a dark room.  Vines and other clingy things wrap around trees and dangle, some green and some brown, from outreaching limbs.  A squirrel emerges from a hole in a tree and appears nervous and begins barking in dismay.  He has a right to be upset as there is a golden dog laying at the base of the tree looking up----watching him.
A trail exhists to the right of me that appears much used.
It begs to be followed.  I love to follow these almost invisible paths in and around the forest.  It's interesting to see what a deer sees as he walks along through the tangled growth.
There is a sapling with the bark scraped off where a deer rubbed his antlers in attempts to remove the velvet that clung to the new growth of calcium rich horn.  This path appears to be a daily roadway for the deer leading to wherever....

The contours of the land in this forested area creates flat valley floors covered with fairly large trees.  The valleys usually extend to the lake.  The marks of man are imprinted at every turn.  Man's failed endeavors are prominently displayed throughout these woods.

Relatively steep hillsides surround most valleys and remind one of a horseshoe with the valley being the bottom of the horse's hoof.  The animal trails can be found on the tops of the hillsides following the edge of the horseshoe where a good view of the valley floor can be acquired.   Animals aren't stupid and keep vigil on all avenues of approach to their territories.
We wind through the deer trail and find it is not a difficult route.  The deer use this trail frequently and have pushed away offending bushes and scrub.  The trail seems to be heading toward the old ruins area.  There is much beauty to the left and the right of the little path.
There are rotten posts with old, rusty barbed wire deeply embedded into the rottening wood;  proof that even back here, man has made a go of it but, failed.
This forest has character.  I like it because, so far, the old has outlived the new.  I hope it stays that way.
 We exited the forest and entered a meadow of tall grasses.  There are two dogs in the photo below.  Can you see them?
I caught a movement far away at the end of the field and observed a white tail deer running into the thick brush at the edge of the forest.  He must have been laying in the grass and saw us when we stepped out of the tree line.  Deer always watch their back trail.  Always.
The camera I have today is insufficient to capture any distant subjects or fast moving animals.  I would have never been able to get the big camera to my eyes in time even if I would have had it.
 Something must have been very hungry.  There were Osage Orange fruit (hedge apple) all about, some crushed and some with the meat torn off.  This is a very bitter fruit.  Winter makes animals do whatever is necessary to survive. There were no apparent deer tracks, although a heavy cover of leaves were on the ground and could have covered the tracks.  The fruit balls contain a very large quantity of seeds and I suppose it's possible for turkey to hack away at the fruit balls to get to the seeds.

Across this field lay the ruins and a short walk back to the truck.  The lane to the left goes the long way to the truck.  The old roadway to the right leads down the hill and directly into the lake.
We chose the left path and eventually walked through the fields of tall grass back to the truck.  Tennessee Wildlife Resources has had a controlled burn on some of the acreage.  This will provide room and rich soil to support new grasses in the spring.  It's a good thing.  You can see the blackened areas in the photo below:
We stopped for a drink of water and a breather at the ruins area and Shade and Douglas promptly started digging out moles.  Shade pulled four of the critters from the soil in short order.  She harmed none of them.  She brought them one by one to me and laid them down within ten feet of me.  I promptly took them one by one to a great place in a hedge and watched each one rapidly burrow down into the soil out of sight.  Oh;  I kicked the soil back into place before we left.  Mole hunters!  My great dogs are mole hunters.  Funny thing....I tried to upload a video but there was an error.  I'll try later.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


click on photos to enlarge
Today is a cold day that promises rain later.  I drove through sprinkles of rain with the truck on the way here.  Douglas is home today as I will be paddling around with my good friend James.  We worked together at the Harley store until he sort of "retired" temporarily due to illness.  But, he's coming back strong from some health issues.  He told me he bought himself a 14 foot canoe to play around in and I thought it would be nice if we got together to play on the water.  Abrams Creek is a good mid point to meet up so, here we are.
  He had himself a 14 foot poly canoe that would make a great canoe to fish out of.  I watched him launch it and the primary stability seemed good.
I'm not familiar with the brand of the boat but, it appeared to be well made and proportioned for handling fishermen rather than tripping across lakes.  The most obvious flaw in the whole outfit was the canoe paddle.  That paddle James was using would make a good prop to hold a door open.  Great Scott!  I commented on the uselessness of the thing all morning so that the point was driven home solidly.  That is the sorriest canoe paddle I ever saw.  I wish I'd have known that's all he had or I would have brought him a substantial piece of equipment with which to move that little canoe down the lake.  As it was;  he did quite well flailing about on the water with the little flat stick.
The wildlife were for the most part in hiding conserving energy.  The only critters we saw were kingfishers.  They flew down the side of the lake at the shoreline always keeping ahead of us.  We did see and hear gray squirrels quarreling back in the trees.  They must have had a boundary dispute as they were quite vocal.

The little guy to the left made enough noise for ten squirrels.  He was really upset about something other than us.

He ran back and forth on the limb barking out dismay at whatever had him upset.  He did not face the water so we were not the cause of his anguish.  I'm glad.  I don't like to disturb the little critters.

We would travel up the Abrams Creek channel and turn right onto Panther Creek and travel it to it's end.  Then return and run up Abrams Creek to the stream itself.  At least that was my plan.  When we got to the mouth of Panther Creek;  we saw ice.  I wasn't sure if it was slush or if it was frozen over.  I changed course for Abrams Creek.  We would investigate Panther Creek on the return paddle.  You can see in the shot below where the ice or slush starts at the mouth of Panther.
The reflective quality of the water was fantastic.  As usual;  the reflections created unusual colors on the surface lending a surreal effect.
There were faint remnants of otter tracks on this undercut bank.  As I pulled away the reflections on the water prompted me to take a photo.  Glad I did.

It's amazing how many times I can paddle up a stream and see new views each and every time.  If one simply looks at the big picture, the land forms, it will indeed be continually familiar territory.  But, if one looks into the surroundings he will enjoy views not seen previously.  I look at something beautiful and peer into it to discover an entirely different view of what I'm seeing.  I guess I'm reducing the beautiful vision into it's smaller parts.  These smaller, more intricate parts are what keeps familiar surroundings interesting.  Changing seasons add diversity to the views.
A gentle drizzle began to fall.  It was light enough that I ignored it for the time being.  We were watching the shoreline squeeze in upon the water and the channel became more narrow.  We were getting close to the mouth of Abrams Creek.
James pulled in to shore.  I was far ahead of him and didn't want to get any further away so I also decided to pull along side the shoreline.  I wanted to stretch my legs anyway.
I took a couple pictures of the Mistral at rest and looked about on shore for beaver signs.  I really fear the beaver have been eradicated from this creek.  It is a terrible shame to completely hunt and trap an animal completely out of an area.  A certain wildness is lost with it's passing.  There are otters here.  They probably will be next.  Seems like some animals must die simply because they exist.
Above is proof that beaver did indeed once live here.  There are other sign as well.  But, the sign is old.  I travel up here often and have never once seen any current beaver sign.  A shame.
James is coming upstream so I'll get moving.  We are approaching the shallows at Abrams.
Just around the little bend above is where the shallow water starts.  The bottom of this stream is impressive.  See below:

Oh ya;  the rocks above are under water.  Not too many bass boats will venture this far.  I have brought the Gheenoe here many times but, it is a very shallow water vessel.
The shore line was full of boulders but, there were spots that offered good parking.  And so we did.   The scenery was beautiful and the sound of the rushing water invigorating.  We stood as if in a wilderness painting.
The boulders formed a little natural harbor for the Mistral
James paddled his boat around the outside of these boulders and swung it into shore.
Below is a view of Abrams Creek as it empties into the Abrams Creek channel and flows down stream to Chilhowee Dam.
This water is straight out of the Smoky Mountains and clear as gin.  And;  ice cold
We didn't stay long as the sky was threatening rain.  Now and again droplets would fall promising a sincere rainfall.  It's too cold to be out here on the water in a falling rain.  We drifted the canoe's into the current and were off in the direction of Chilhowee Dam and the take-out.
That little boat James is paddling does really well getting into and out of tight spots.   It's a really nice little river boat I'd say.
I kept thinking about the ice on Panther Creek and I got it into my head to ram on into it and see if I could break through.  It was just ahead.  I love smacking into ice.
It looked pretty ominous as I approached it.  This wasn't just slush;  it was real ice.  I wondered if there was a water way through it close to shore.
Oh well;  what the heck!  Full speed ahead!!
The Mistral busted through the thin ice and broke into the half inch thick stuff before coming to a stop at the solid sheet of ice that covered the creek.  I couldn't break through the ice with the paddle to use it.  I had to push the boat with the paddle embedded in the ice that surrounded the boat.  Ernest Shackleton;  you got nothing on me.
James attacked the ice from the side and also became mired down.
Those little tendrils of open channels are not water.  That is clear ice.
There will be no forward movement.  Might as well back it on out.  The paddle can not be put through the ice.  Remarkable!  This would be a problem if one were to leave camp and find this ice blocking the way back home.  Oh boy!
James was doing really well over there.  He was skating over the top of the ice sheets.  What fun!
The rain was getting heavier now and we started back to the trucks in earnest.  I can't get over that ridiculous paddle he's using.  The guy who designed that ought to be put on the Pacific Ocean in a canoe and given a ball bat to paddle with.  Great Caesars Ghost; what a paddle!
This has been a really super morning!  I wanted to get one last look at that boat of Jame's before he took it out of the drink.
It's different.  This would definitely be a good boat to fish out of or, maybe just play around in a pond.  I doubt I'd want to face wind while crossing a big lake in it.  James didn't buy it for that.  It's a fun boat.  The man needs a decent paddle though.  That ridiculous flat stick he had to use is useless.   But, we had fun.  Until next time;  stay warm and be kind to a dog.