Monday, February 28, 2011


Below are two short films depicting my two get away machines.  One a super little boat that can go anywhere, a "Gheenoe", and the film below it named "On the Cherohala Skyway" were I'm on a KLR Kawasaki enduro motorcycle and, it can go anywhere also.

ON THE CHEROHALA SKYWAY-a motorcycle ride

How bout a little ride on the Cherohala Skyway?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


click on photos to enlarge
The time is 8AM and i'm sitting on the left bank of Abrams Creek keeping a vigil on the opposite shoreline for otters.

The rain fell intermittently all last night and was gone when I awakened this morning.  I loaded the Mistral canoe and grabbed a coffee for the road.

I noticed the lower end of Tellico Lake was nearly dry.  It was lower than last I saw it a week ago.  All that brown earth you see in the photo below should be under water.  I guess the Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA, has its reasons.
An incident occurred yesterday that justifies a word or two as it almost reoccurred this morning.  I was driving my motorcycle home from a ride when a turkey flew directly in front of the motorcycle.  I couldn't miss it.  the impact broke the windshield.  The turkey kept on flying.  I was relieved it wasn't hurt.  This morning , in the truck, a turkey flew over the hood of the truck and his left wing hit the windshield.  I braked hard and the impact was minor.  That turkey also continued on his way.  Those were two very close calls.   The incident on the motorcycle cost me $280 for a new shield.  I believe in using good windshields.  Better safe than sorry.

The sky is getting darker and the threat of rain is apparent.  I'm not having much luck photographing otter this year so far.  There is always a negative circumstance that influences my success.
I've been dealing with a sciatic nerve problem for the past couple months.  It has manifested itself in my right thigh.  Now, this morning, I encountered an ache in the crook of my left arm.  Feels like a pulled muscle but I haven't done anything to cause it.  It was a chore lifting the canoe onto the truck cap this morning.  I hope this isn't the year I fall totally apart.
A king fisher has appeared on a limb of the tree in front of me.  He flew in on silent wings.  They usually announce their presence with loud chattering.  There isn't enough light to photograph him.  I sure wish I had a lens that would work in low light;  "a fast lens."  But, I don't have an extra $5000 laying around the habitat.  If I did I would get my back fixed.

I'm really looking forward to paddling the Champlain Canoe.  I'll take it to Indian Boundary Lake next canoe trip.  For those of you who don't know;  I have two canoes.  One is a 16 foot Esquif Champlain model and the other is a 17 1/2 foot Esquif Mistral model.  The Champlain is a fast canoe but, doesn't have the initial and secondary stability that the Mistral displays.  I feel more at ease having my photography equipment out of the water proof box and ready to use while paddling the Mistral.

This black Mistral is just super stable and is wonderful for photography.  I can actually stand up in it and move to the opposite end of the canoe without fear of capsizing.

I've been here for an hour and there's not a sign of an otter.  I wonder if they notice the canoe parked against the shoreline.  I doubt they care.  It's probably just bad timing to catch them out.  Two wood ducks just did a fly by and landed about fifty yards up stream.  They are pretty far out for me to get good shots.  The problem is that the light is terrible today for the big 500mm lens.
  These ducks are absolutely gorgeous.  Their colored plumage emits vibrant colors.  They are simply beautiful.
They have no idea I'm here yet; they hesitate to allow the current to float them past me.  The lighting is going to produce very dark photo's.  I just know it.  I'm really not thinking correctly.  I'll explain later.  Right now I'm taking advantage of the scene before me.
I didn't think of it at the time but, all I would have had to do was to push the ISO higher.  The results would have been the same as using a higher speed film.  I didn't think to do that until the wood ducks were gone.  It's a very simple, fast maneuver with this camera.  I don't know where my mind was off to.  I could have done much better with these ducks.
The resultant photos are not all that shabby.  They are not satisfactory in my book but they document the moment for me.
Below is my office on the water.  I like to keep a journal and document some of the highlights of the day.  Sometimes I'll write the entire blog entry while along the river.  I have been recording dates that I see certain critters.  Today is the first day I've heard Spring Peepers this year.  Last year they were audible on March 12.  It's not that important;  just something I enjoy doing.
I better turn the boat around and start heading back.  I want to put the Gheenoe on the water to assure that all is ship shape.  It hasn't been operated since last Fall.  The holes in the tree shown below were drilled out by the pileated woodpecker.  They bore a rectangular hole.  The red headed woodpecker drills out a perfectly round hole.  Who can figure woodpeckers?
I turned the Mistral around and slowly paddled back toward the put-in.  I'm in no hurry at all.  I want to return home and hitch up the Gheenoe for a turn on Tellico Lake this afternoon.  I have cleaned her up and changed all the oils and she should be ready for a Summer workout.
Tellico Lake was beautiful today.  It seemed I had it all to myself.  This is why I love having week days off.  Everyone else is working.  Weekends are horrible on the big lakes.  There are just too many super large boats banging around on the water.  Douglas would go along with me.  He loves riding on the Gheenoe and I wouldn't think of leaving him home.
I just wanted to drive along the shoreline to assure the engine was performing properly.  It started with one turn of the key and didn't miss a beat.  What a great engine.  Honda makes some great marine engines.
We set out at a slow pace, carefully warming up the engine.  It was running perfectly.  I'm a happy camper.  We'll make a pass on the old French and Indian War fort, Fort Loudon, and skim across the lake toward the ruins.  The beach is sandy there and will provide a safe place to park the Gheenoe while Douglas gets some shore time in.
I wonder how accurately these reconstructed forts really are.  I mean, the original posts are located in the ground by archeologists but, who can say what the buildings really looked like.  I guess they are reconstructed in the fashion of buildings of the time.  I have always been fascinated by that era, the seventeen hundreds.  People were a breed apart from what we have evolved into now.
This must have been a formidable fort in it's time.  One must remember that it stood on the edge of the Little Tennessee River; not a lake.  It would have dominated travel on the river in it's day.
We drifted past Fort Loudon and headed for the sandy shoreline that lays in close proximity of the ruins.  The boat was pulled into the shallows where Shade and Douglas usually swim when we visit the ruins.
It was kind of neat approaching the ruins from the lake.  We walked up the road that ends in the lake to the old foundation.  I realized I had too many clothes on.  It was chilly on the water so I dawned long underwear and my flotation jacket.  But, for hiking, I was over dressed and getting really warm while hiking to the ruins..
 Douglas swam, did happy laps and had a great time.  I was overheating.  There was not one bird to be found on the grounds of the ruins.  I'll never understand how one day I can find flocks of robins or yellow rumped warblers and the next day absolutely nothing.
The above shot shows the beach where I usually take a break with the dogs and let them swim and play.  It is covered by water through the Summer months.  Tellico Lake has been drawn down a good eight feet I'd say.
Above is a shot of my beautiful boy Douglas.  It's getting a bit late and I have to get the Gheenoe washed and under wraps in the driveway.  We best motor back to the dock.  The mountains look grand in the sunshine.  All is well in Tennessee.

I had plans to do a motorcycle ride tomorrow but, I just received a call from work and they need me for tomorrow.  So, I'll put that little bit of fun on the back burner.  I hope you enjoyed the photos.  It's been a very nice day and a full one. .  Until next time please be kind to a dog.  Show them some empathy.  

Monday, February 21, 2011


 The weather has been unpredictable lately.  Today held promise of being a stellar day.  However, very high winds started early this morning and continue even now at 11PM.  It would have been a futile effort to put the canoe in the water.  Furthermore;  the wind is so strong that I was reluctant to put the motor boat, Gheenoe, in the water either.  A canoe would be next to impossible to manage when driven by fifty mile per hour wind.  It would be a challenge to unload and load a small motor boat also.  The wind drives the water hard and it takes a bit of skill to unload or load a motor driven craft onto a trailer.
I elected to play it safe and let the dogs have a good time in the forest.  They have been cooped up for the better part of seven days and deserved some free time.  They made the most of it too.  We spent the entire morning roaming through the woods and walking along the lake.
I want to canoe up Abrams Creek in the morning to see if I can catch the family of otters out and about.  I know the exact spot they stay close to and may be able to get some pictures of them.  Soon the fishing boats will be driving past that area and the otters will be impossible to film as they will no doubt turn to nocturnal feeding activities.
I don't plan to canoe Abrams past noon tomorrow as I want to take the motorized boat down the Little Tennessee River to check on the pair of bald eagles that I watch annually.  They should be reinforcing their nest with sticks and other material.  Actually they carry limbs to the nest.  The weather forecast is calling for rain and wind tonight but it's supposed to be out of here tomorrow morning early.  Below is a shot of Ft. Loudon, a French and Indian War fort.  It can be seen from the peninsula where the old state park and ruins area are located.
I brought the big camera lens with me today in hopes of photographing deer but, a fella is roaming the territory with a pack of beagles and they are yelping their heads off chasing rabbits.  There isn't even a bird to photograph.  That's alright; I like beagles.  They sure are noisy though!
Shade and Douglas were chasing their own rabbits awhile ago.  They can't scent a rabbit properly.  I really don't know why.  I guess its a dog breed thing.  They sure are something to watch when the rabbit stays on open ground.  They are fast but not as fast as a rabbit.   Both Shade and Douglas give chase by sight only.  When the quarry disappears into the brush and they loose sight of it; they stop.  The same goes for deer.  They will give chase to a deer but will stop when the deer moves out of their sight.  Thats a good thing.
The temperature is near seventy degrees and all three dogs, Shade, Douglas and Happy are overheating.  Their tongues are hanging out and the lake has become a sudden destination for them.  They can do what they want.  It's their day.
Today isn't a total loss.  We got to roam around through the forests and along the lake and the pups got some much needed exercise.  The day was warm and sunny and the wind even felt good.  We're all over Winter and ready to welcome in the warm days of Spring.  Tomorrow is another day and I believe it will be an "on the water" day. 

The whippoorwills will be gathering at Chota, an Indian burial ground, in March.  It is the largest concentration of whippoorwills in the country.  I've listened to them there for two years now.  I like to ancher the boat just off shore and sit quietly while they make their calls.  A funny bird, those whippoorwills.  They start calling at 9PM sharp.  Not a minute before.  The chuck wills widow's start calling first.  Then the whippoorwills follow.  It's an amazing thing to hear.  I'll try to capture the calls with the audio feature on my camera.  You won't believe what you hear.
Some of the plans I have for Spring and Summer are lots of lake camping by canoe, a trip to Reelsfoot Lake in North West Tennessee, a documentary on the bald eagles on the Little Tennessee River, a motorcycle trip up Blue Ridge Parkway, a fly fishing trip to North Carolina via motorcycle, a visit to the largest tree house in the country and maybe the world, a motorcycle trip from Cumberland Gap, TN West as far as New Mexico without using paved roads.  Yep;  there's a route all the way to Oregon that uses dirt trails and gravel roads.  After all the above;  we'll play it by ear.  I intend to use every bit of free time this Summer to be in the forests, on the lakes or on the motorcycle.  Stay tuned in because this blog will be a busy place to visit.  Thanks for looking in.....

Monday, February 14, 2011




Just a short word about my dogs.  Click link below:

The water is rolling against the shoreline with a constant splashing sound.  The wind is getting stronger by the hour this morning.
I over slept and it felt good.   As I lay in bed at 9AM, I looked around the habitat, warehouse room, and thought about how simple my life is.  Chestnut, the beagle mix puppy, slept against my back with her brother, Spruce, laying against my legs at the bottom end of the bed.  Of course Happy was under the covers against my chest.  Old Sigh, the ancient hound, was still asleep, snoring, on her heated bed on the floor.  Shade slept on the floor at the head of the bed and Douglas;  well, he doesn't follow any plans and is about as disorganized as I am.  The golden dog was outside--somewhere.  The amazing thing is that they all slept in with me.  They are usually up making noise at 7AM.  I noticed light coming through the window of the front door.  That provided motivation for me to get moving.  I still had no plan for the day.  Why should I?
I went across the street to the Greenback Drug Store for breakfast.  While eating, I kept my eye on the huge oak tree across the street.  I watched the leaves for movement.  That tree is my wind indicator.  It's leaves were barely moving.  By the time I drank a cup of coffee, the leaves were really being blown by a stiff wind.  Amazing change in so little time!

Let me see; high wind eliminates the canoe.  The enduro motorcycle is in the shop getting a service done on it.  That leaves it out.  The Gheenoe would be the boat of choice for the day.  I had heard that winds would be strong with gusts reaching 60 miles per hour today.  That's a condition I don't want to deal with.  The last option is to use my legs.  I loaded up Douglas and headed for the trail for a few hours.  We would walk along the lake.

The road to my favorite cove is very narrow and there aren't many houses beside it.  The thing is so narrow that barely two vehicles have room to pass.

The surface of this narrow pathway is better than the best road in Pennsylvania.  I sometimes forget how bad the roads are back home.  A road like the one to the right in PA would be patched over several years and full of potholes. 

Anyway;  it is a pleasurable drive to my cove.  I didn't bring the big camera today as the opportunity to photograph animals is limited where we are going.  Too many people tread the lake trail and that fact keeps the critters back in the woods.

We arrived at my favorite lake cove at around 11AM and the wind had created a severe wash board surface to the water.

The Gheenoe would be fine on this water but, I wasn't in the mood to deal with wind even while driving the Gheenoe.  Maybe I'm just lazy today.

Douglas and I took off at a brisk pace.  I didn't get far when I noticed my left leg getting tingly.  Now What?!  I have an achy thing going on with the right leg caused by a sciatic nerve issue which has been aggravated by a thin disk between two vertebrae in my lower spine.  I went to the doctor about it last week.

I'm sure this newest malady is also related to the sciatic nerve problem.  I ignored this new sensation and walked on trying to focus on the surrounding forest.

 The tingling feeling in my leg has passed and we are really stepping out.  This is more like it.  I can't imagine what I would do if I were to suddenly be incapacitated with a health problem at this point in my life.

We've arrived at a sweet little spot to sit and rest.  I need to make some notes in my journal and this little bench is an ideal place to do it.  I come here from across the lake when in the canoe.  It's become some sort of a hang-out when I'm in this area.

Douglas is standing on the trail behind me waiting impatiently for me to start walking. 

He will trot away down the trail but instantly come back and stares at me.  He is becoming bored and is trying to entice me into action.  He remains aloof back there behind the brush.  "Douglas;  come here boy."

"Good boy."
I notice the wind has increased in strength.  I doubt I'll get on the water today.  This sunny, warmer day is just a tease.  It's a practical joke pulled on me by mother nature.  There will be plenty more sunny days.

There are many beautiful views along this trail.  This particular spot is one of my favorites
I have a cousin up in Pennsylvania who continually asks me to return home and live with her in her house.  She is 84 years old and lives alone.  I thought about doing that last year.
Douglas says, "are you coming or what?"

Moving back to Pennsylvania just wouldn't work for me.  I can imagine myself becoming melancholy about the wilderness places here in Tennessee.  Pennsylvania is a busy place and the population has eaten up most of the wild lands.   With the wild lands went the wild critters and things of nature.

Here, where I live, I can be on the water in five minutes if I choose to.  Ten minutes in another direction are forests where Douglas and Shade can act like dogs should.  They need no leashes and there isn't anyone to force me to put them on a leash.

In Pennsylvania I would have to drive a minimum of forty minutes to reach a large enough body of water to feel like I was alone.  There is a small reservoir not far from my home place but, it is a tiny body of water compared to what I'm used to.  There are no views on any Western Pennsylvania waters such as you see here in my blog.  The only two close lakes within reasonable driving distance are man made and all the property is privately owned by folks who built homes along every inch of both of them.

This trail has two boat landings on it.  To the left is one of them.  Good luck landing a boat of any size there.  That's a super spot to beach a canoe or the Gheenoe.  The water on Tellico Lake has been drawn down about four feet by the look of it.

Anyway;  I simply can not imagine willingly giving up this wonderful chance to be in the wilderness settings I love for the sake of living in a town back up North where the wilderness has long been forsaken in the name of the almighty dollar.

I talk to a lot of folks here in Tennessee and I'm not too sure they know and understand what they have.  There is a lot of wild territory within the boundaries of this state and it is filled with a plethora of wildlife.  There is not a time that I don't see wildlife when I'm out in the forests here in Tennessee.  There exists an amazing variety of wildlife on the lakes.  There are more species of birds than I can keep count  found here on these great water impoundments.

We have black bear, wild turkey, wild boars, elk, white tailed deer, bob cats, beaver, otter, and a host of other mammalian critters.  Possums and rabbits are not to be left out of the equation.  Tennessee serves host to many birds that stop off on their journeys to far away places.  Some of those birds are the sandhill and whooping cranes, the common loon, many varieties of humming birds and even the common robin redbreast.  I have named but a few.

Look at that gorgeous scene to the left.  That can not be had in Pennsylvania.
You want rabbits.  I can walk to almost any bushy shrub down at the ruins area that I visit and kick it.  The chances are great that a large cotton tail will exit stage left at a full run.  Want to see bob white's?  Come with me to the grass lands at the ruins.  Douglas and Shade will push out flocks of them.
Ring neck pheasants used to be "THE" bird to hunt in that state when I was growing up.  My mom and dad would be eating breakfast in the kitchen when mom would exclaim, "look in the yard at the ring necks."  There were four male ring necks and five hens slowly walking along together beneath an enormous maple tree out by the barn.

I guess what I'm trying to say is Tennessee has amazing wildlife resources within her boundaries and I would hope Tennesseans recognize the fact that their land is being sold at a very fast rate.  It seems that Realtors are constantly buying up large parcels of forest and creating developments.   I've only lived down here for seven years and I am amazed at the changes to the landscape I've seen in that short time.  It is too much too fast.  I guess that's progress.  But, where do the animals go?  Are they and the wilderness experience still important?   Those pheasants I spoke about earlier are gone now.  They do not reproduce in the wild.  Why?  Because they are hunted and all are killed each year.  The Pennsylvania Game Commission rears new birds annually and turns them out into the fields and forests so hunters can shoot them.  If the Commission were to stop the practice of raising and stocking pheasants;  there would not be one seen in the state.

  So, you wonder why they don't just stop hunting pheasants for a couple years.  If the Commission did that the hunter faction in PA would scream loud enough to wake the dead.  Well, fact is that without pheasants to hunt, the game bag would contain a sparse variety of game.   The only other small game animals on the roster are rabbits, grouse, squirrel and turkeys.  That's about it.  Deer season provides a diversion for the hunters and, there is the annual bear hunt. The game list for Tennessee is extensive.  The TWRA even tried to add additional game critters to the already full list by proposing a sandhill crane hunt.  That, fortunately, got put on the back burner of the hunting stove.  I guess what I'm saying is Tennessee is a state that is unbelievably rich in wildlife and habitat.  We are so very lucky to be able to enjoy the wilderness experience here.  Other states, at one time, also were blessed with the same richness.  They squandered the habitat and sold the animals out to the highest bidder for property.  I hope the Southern folks are more diligent with their heritage than their Northern brothers were.

There he is again; waiting on me.  "Come on dad and get up here!"

He is staying close.  I like being with just him.  What a fine companion!

If there's water about;  he'll be in it.
We've been on this trail for almost two miles and we better take the loop that leads back to the truck.
The loop back leads up the mountain and will traverse across the top.  There are meadows up here with tall grass.  This is a delightful change.  I've not crossed this portion of trail previous to this day.
The problem I had with my leg is gone.  I hope it stays wherever it went to.  I'm feeling great and the pace I'm setting is fast.
This portion of trail is very scenic.  I bet there would be many wildflowers here in the Spring.  I'll come back in March but, I'll paddle across the cove in the canoe and cut the arrival time in half.
So;  move back to Pennsylvania?  Ha;  not anytime soon!  "Get in the truck Douglas."
 The day was thoroughly enjoyed by both Douglas and myself.   I invite you to keep an eye on this blog as I have some serious adventure plans in store for Summer.  See you next time and do something nice for a dog.