Friday, May 6, 2011

A CANOE CAMP ON CALDERWOOD WITH DOUGLAS, DOG OF THE TENNESSEE LAKES

Douglas is going to steal this entry;  I can see it already.
It seems like there is always wind on Calderwood Lake.  Six kayakers are unloading their boats at the dock.  Douglas and I shoved off ahead of them.  I heard a commotion at the dock and looked back to see a kayak floating away from shore without an occupant.  I kept paddling down the lake.  They had plenty of help to retrieve the boat.
We had quite a load this trip.  I bet the Mistral held 450 pounds.  The wind was rippling the surface but had no affect on the boat at all.
I did, however, have to pull on the paddle noticeably harder to move the weight.  The long, easy glide of the big canoe was welcome.  She ran straight and true.
We came upon two yakking kayakers that were hugging the left shore line moving side by side.  I guess these guys were the vanguard for the six boats to follow.  The guys were jabbering away, talking about secure mortgages and time shares.  I thought about cutting into Slick Rock Creek ahead of them but thought better of it.  That would be rude.
I would head for the hill side campground. Shaw's Grave Branch would have been great but, my back wasn't up to it.  The hill side camp spot was a three mile paddle from the dock.  That's all I wanted for today.   
That hillside campground is the darnedest place to unload a canoe I ever saw.  The bank is high and it is necessary to bend down and pull the gear "up" and out of the canoe.  Then it has to be lugged up the hill to the site.
Then theres the matter of getting the canoe up the hill.  We don't leave canoe's sitting in the water overnight.  Well;  I don't, especially on this wind swept lake.
Ah Ha;  the canoe wheels!


I pulled the boat right up the hill but, couldn't turn it due to the Aztec Fire Temple that was in the way.  I let her rest on the grass at a fairly level spot.  Small lengths of wood was placed under the gunnel's front and back to keep her off the damp ground.  The worse thing is trying to balance on the edge of the bank and with one hand, lifting the loads up and out of the boat.  That felt great on the ol back.  Then it's up the hill with the cargo to the camp site. 
Douglas ran through the woods while I set up the camp.
This Spring Bar Tent I'm using this trip is a great tent but, it doesn't erect as fast and as easy as the Australian OZ Tent.  I love that OZ tent.  It will fit in this canoe but I doubt Douglas would appreciate sitting on it.  I haven't tried loading that tent in the Mistral but must do so soon.  Maybe I can shift it to the side in such a way he wouldn't mind.
A Whippoorwill is calling very close.  This is the second time I've heard them on the lake.  What a refreshing sound after listening to yakking kayaks for a mile.  I say that with tongue in cheek.

Home Sweet Home
I was writing in my journal earlier when I heard something in the water.  Four wood ducks were swimming past directly in front of me.  The camera was in the water proof Pelican box.  They were only about fifty feet away.  I did slowly move toward the case that held the D50 camera and the ducks instantly took flight.  I should know better by now to have that camera ready at all times.
Aztec Fire Temple (Abomination)
 After the tent was up, I played "I'm gonna get him" with Douglas.  When I say I'm gonna get him, he becomes full alert and runs at me and swerves away at the last second.  He stops quickly and feints left and right as I act like I'm chasing him.  He really turns the power on during this game. 
We wound down the evening with me throwing sticks in the water for him to retrieve.  I believe I finally made him tired as he is laying in a pile of leaves just behind me.
Douglas  is acting just like I remember him in the old days.  This reinforces my belief that the other dogs affects his relationship with me when they are with us.  I don't know what to think about that.  He sure is different tonight.  He's right with me and even sat up tall beside me while I was in my chair.  He's snoring away just behind me now.  I love him.  The night is cold.  It will be a good night to sleep.

I don't think I'll be using this hillside camp spot again.  Not only is it too difficult to manage gear up the steep hill but, I'm sick of looking at others peoples additions to the camp area.  The fire temple is ridiculous yet keeps getting taller each time I stop here.  A cloths line has been thoughtfully strung between two trees.  Dust Pan and drinking cup hang on a nail driven into a tree.  I wonder whats wrong with just camping here and simply leaving the site as it was found.   I knew this would happen when I first saw these sites created by the Forest Service.  With people come their trash and bad habits.  I noticed a little cut in the far bank that lends the possibility of finding level ground enough to put up a tent.  I'll paddle past the place for a close view tomorrow.

The fire crackles adding a kind of texture to Douglas's snoring.  I chuckle out loud at him while he sleeps.  The whippoorwill has been quiet for some time.  It's call has been replaced by the sounds of fish splashing near the shoreline.  It's a beautiful, dark night without moon or stars.  I wonder if it will rain.  The weather is very different up here than it is below in the valley.

The winds awaken me at 4AM.  Two things instantly popped into my mind;  Douglas and canoe.
I slipped on shoes and ran out to tie the lines front and back of the canoe to saplings.  I couldn't park the canoe where I wanted it last night due to the fire temple being in the way.  I had to leave it on a partial slope with a fairly steep grade just behind it.  I didn't want to chance the wind pushing it down the slope to the lake. 

Stars are out now and I don't understand all this wind.  If it's like this tomorrow, we won't leave.  There's Douglas sleeping behind a tree.  Whew!
I tried to coax Douglas into the tent for warmth.  He entered and left just as fast.  I guess the human side of me is worried that he is cold.  Foolish me.  A last thought before I return to the sleeping bag is "glad I brought my Winter parka.  It is cold!
A fairly stiff breeze is blowing this morning although nothing like last night.  I'm lounging here watching the lake.  I wish an otter would show.
There is another tiny creature I am learning to hate as much as chiggers and ticks.  There is a tiny gnat flying around that is about a third the size of a pin head.  They are as bad if not worse than mosquito's and they have a bite almost as bad.  I have not encountered them here at Calderwood before.  Bug chemicals have not been necessary for me at this lake in the past but, I sure would have brought some had I known of these tiny miscreants. 
The wind is fairly brisk as can be seen in the photo below.  I'll wait a bit longer before leaving. 
This would be a great morning to cruise this lake clear to the end.  I don't want to paddle all this gear around and I don't want to haul Douglas all that distance.  I believe I'll bring the Champlain up here for that task;  that is if I can afford the gas to drive here again.  Old trucks are not fuel efficient.
The wind comes and goes.  There is no reliable indication that it has stopped blowing for the rest of the morning.  Below is a moment of peace on the water.

I took the camp apart while the wind was blowing.
The next trick was to ease the canoe back down that hill and over the high edge of the river bank and into the water.  These canoe wheels are fantastic.  I flipped the canoe over and attached the wheels.

You can see the top of the hillside directly behind the canoe.  That thing is steep.  This is going to be a trick.
The shot above shows the hill that has to be traversed both up with the gear and canoe and also back down to the water..  I might add that Calderwood has it's share of rocks everywhere.
Below is the high shoreline.  The wheels will abruptly drop off the edge into the water with the tail end of the canoe.  I'll simply keep pushing until the canoe floats with wheels still attached.
Everything worked perfectly.  The canoe rolled down the hill on the wheels and over the edge of the shoreline into the water.  I set my end down in the water and tied off the canoe to a tree.
Note the canoe wheels are still attached in the picture above and the following two shots:
By the way;  the wheels do float.  Next is the hard part.  I have to lug all the gear down the hill and hang out over the canoe with one hand holding onto a tree while lifting gear bags with the other and situating them into the canoe.
You might notice that the wind is up.  Look at the washboard on the water.
And I wonder why I have back problems.  This is going to be an interesting paddle back.
"Get in the boat Douglas."
The wind comes and goes.  It's not really bad paddling even when the wind is up.  A loaded canoe is much more stable than an empty one,  at least where wind is concerned.
Above:  Look how the canoe lists to the left due to Douglas laying on the left side of the bow.  I paddle on the right side when he is in this position.  Also, note how smooth the water is.
Above:  OK;  here we go with the wind again.  The big canoe is handling fantastic.
I notice a movement against the shore.  It appears to be a wood duck with babies.  I'll paddle over that direction to have a look.
When the canoe neared her, she instantly left the edge of the lake where her babies were and went into a flurry of activity on the water flapping her wings and setting up a terrific commotion.  This was to get danger to follow her and overlook the babies.
Douglas was showing more interest in this duck than I was comfortable with.  "No Douglas;  No!"
She flew clear across the lake to the opposite side and then returned behind us to land at the shore line where her babies were.
I marked the spot well in my mind where she landed and eased the canoe over there.  I saw two babies the size of silver dollars paddling behind her.  There surely were more but they are so tiny and the rip rap so thick I'm sure I was missing them.  Then she quacked and the babies dove under water and disappeared.  Mom came out from under the foliage and swam in plain view, I think to entice us to chase her so she could lead us away from the babies.  What follows are the best photos of a female wood duck I have ever taken.
Her coloration is gorgeous.
And finally my favorite shot.  What a splendid a bird!

Douglas was threatening to dive into the water and chase ducks.  I had to leave.  If he weren't with me I surely would have had shots of the babies.  Guaranteed!  But he is in my charge today and it's no big deal.  There will be other times.
I paddled across the lake to the left shoreline and eased slowly toward home.
I had a tired little friend with me.  He played and ran all afternoon yesterday on the mountain.  A sweeter friend there is none.
So, thats the way the last couple days went.  I hope you found something interesting in all my meandering with words.  See you next time and thanks so much for looking in from time to time.