Sunday, June 26, 2011

WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?

I received an email from the UK asking why there have been no new posts on the site.  It's nice to know someone  is concerned about the fact I haven't posted any new material to the blog in over a week.  An explanation is in order I guess.
I hired on to the Fisheries division of The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) on June 20, 2011.  This is a very positive change to my life that I've been patiently waiting and hoping for over a five year period.  The job entails operating a 22 foot boat on Cherokee and Douglas Lakes in East Tennessee.
The past couple weeks have been tiring as I haven't closed on the house I'm buying located 87 miles East of my present location and am forced to drive that distance twice daily until I can close on the property.
The driving part will end within a couple weeks.  But, the boat is new and has been parked and not used over the past two years when the previous TWRA employee assigned to Cherokee and Douglas Lakes retired.  At that same time;  the state government froze hiring.  In short;  the boat requires a complete cleaning and mechanical inspection top to bottom.  I have, with the help of an agency friend, been spending up to 15 hours a day cleaning and performing preventative maintenance on the boat.  As an example;  I had to hand scrub above and below decks to remove oxidation and filth accumulated over a two year period.  The trailer wheel bearings needed repacked with grease and the preload reset.
She's a 22 foot long boat and that's a lot of area to clean.  Batteries were taken out and two of the three require replacement.
We finally got to the point where the engine was ready to be started and tested yesterday.  During this process we found the bilge pump was faulty.  No doubt sitting dormant without water lubrication did it in.  The bilge pump, by the way, is a pump that activates when a flooding situation occurs below decks.  It pumps on board water out of the boat.
A water supply was attached to the motor for cooling and the motor was cranked over.  It started but, there was no water coming from the proof hole in the back of the motor.  The proof hole is a hole where a small stream of cooling water is pumped out of the engine to prove that the cooling system is pumping water.  This indicated that the impeller (water pump) had taken a set (the impeller blades became hard and were no longer capable of drawing water through the engine) and would have to be replaced.  The agency wants this boat on the water by the first of July to start lake coverage.  We made the decision to take it to a good marine shop for an engine going over.
So, that's what's been going on.  Everything will smooth out here in the near future and life will be good.  The blog entries have suffered because I haven't had much personal time to accumulate experiences.  I assure you that the experiences to post and write about will be coming fast in the very near future;  probably faster than I like.  I appreciate the concerns and no;  there isn't anything wrong at all.  Keep watching the blog.   We have two new enormous lakes to explore and with that will be lots of shallow and deep water, storms and odd occurrences that should prove interesting and entertaining.

On another note;  Douglas saw two Mallard ducks floating near the shore.  Those duck lured him far out in deep water on a wild goose (duck) chase before taking flight and leaving him alone.  He is the brown pin head object way out in the lake.  He's amazing and fearless when it comes to water.
The mallards lured him away from shore.
They stayed just ahead of him and then took flight when he closed in
Click on the picture to see him.  He's half way across the bay

Sunday, June 19, 2011

ABRAMS CREEK SCENES BY CANOE

The forest on both sides of the Abrams Creek channel are a shambles.  Trees have been blown down all the way to the top of the mountain on both sides of the creek.  The water channel must have acted like a guide for the tornado;  the steep cliffs on both sides created a long hallway, corridor, which contained the fury between the banks causing it to blow along the creek channel following every turn exactly as if guided by a map.  There will be no bushwhacking on the sides of these mountains.  trees lay every which way on the ground;  pointing down hill being the most popular direction.
It's 7AM and I found the put-in for Abrams Creek devoid of parked cars.  Ha;  I beat everybody here.  Maybe the threat of rain will keep the multitudes away.






A breeze was blowing when I put the canoe in the water but caused me no problems.  It felt good.  I could not sit the paddle down for a second to photograph critters as the wind would instantly turn the big canoe.  The very overcast sky promises rain shortly and isn't helping the photography hobby either.  Let it come.  I don't care.  I'm happy just being here.


I'm amazed at the destruction of so many trees.  These blown down trees were healthy trees of very large diameter.  Many are twisted like a twist of Taffy and then snapped off the trunk.  That is power!




I slipped cautiously along the right bank where the water was calm.  I didn't want to startle any critters lurking under the bank overhang.







I was fast approaching the point where I needed to paddle the Mistral to the opposite shoreline and make ready to tie off the boat.  The otter den is directly across from that spot. 
Dead ahead and to the right of center is a little grassy spot to tie off the boat. 







I wish there was more sun light.  I can't use the big 500 millimeter lens in this very low light condition.  No tripod along.  Oh well....
Just a little further and I'll scull to the shoreline and tie off.
After many bouts with shore line chiggers;  I've taken to carrying a small tarp to throw down to lay on.  I've never had a chigger problem on Abrams Creek but I'm not taking chances.
I unwrapped the office and started to write in my journal, all the while keeping watch on the opposite bank.
The landscape is very different looking now since the tornado's passing.  I can't see the otter's den hole in the undercut bank due to all the fallen trees over there.  The otters may have vacated the area by now anyhow.  It's a quiet, overcast morning and the water is calm.  Otter or no otter;  the time and place are mighty sweet.

I received a pair of binoculars I ordered last week.  They are Nikon 10X56 Monarchs.  I used them at the old park last evening watching Indigo Buntings.  The binoculars add an astonishingly new dimension to critter watching.  I not only watched the bird but could see it's eyes moving and it's beak open and tongue flick up and down as it sang it's song.  I don't know why I never got a pair of "quality" binoculars sooner.  I guess I just didn't want to spend the money.  I'm glad I decided to get them.  I can highly recommend these binoculars.  They have tremendous light gathering ability which will allow very early or late in the day viewing.  The image seen is absolutely crystal clear.  My old Bushnell's are now residing on the shelf in the shed.  Normally I'd toss them onto the pile of warranty, poor quality related items out in the yard.  But, these have sentimental value.   I selected a 10 power model because I suspected a 12 power would be difficult to hold shake free without image stabilization.  I am correct on that suspicion.  The ten power binocular is easy to hold steady and personally;  I couldn't hold a 12X binocular steady without adding quiver to the image.
There is something occurring that reminds me of a mosquito buzzing around my head.  It is the sound of motorcycle mufflers far in the distance.  Ya know;  I love motorcycles.  I doubt I could exist without having one near even if I was too old and feeble to drive it.  But, I'll never understand what the fixation is for loud mufflers.  The only foreign sound I can hear "even a mile up this channel, is motorcycle exhaust pipes off in the distance on Route 129.  Without that sound, all would be absolutely quiet.  I just don't get it.  Maybe the loud pipes command attention.  Loud pipes  definitely  shout  "look at me, look at me."   "Listen" to me sounds more appropriate.   I guess the multitudes have to endure the noisy folly of the few.   I hear the term "old school" when loud pipes are referred to in conversation.  Loud exhaust pipes have nothing to do with "old school" or, more appropriately early motorcycle history.  I'm from those days.  Guess one could say I am old school.   A twenty five or thirty year old guy is talking to living old school when he or she addresses me.  I'm here to tell ya, we drove the bike how it came.  When the thing fell over and crushed the muffler we improvised and modified the part at that point.  The resultant sound was how it was.  Actually, quiet was preferred back in the day.  The bandits and social dropouts were another story.  They liked to raise hell and loud pipes helped them.  The average guy with a motorcycle just rode it.  Blue jeans, white Teeshirt, loafers or work shoes and a pair of sun glasses.  There I go again.  I have to watch my rants.  Now, where was I?
A wood duck flew down and along the far bank at top speed flying under dead-falls too.  How's he do that?  I bet he or she has chicks up under all that debris.  Usually wood ducks fly and hang out in pairs.  I can't see any movement at all over there.  There's no chance for a picture anyhow as the sky is turning darker.  Things change fast out here.  Actually, the sky has turned black and the breeze is now wind.  Prudence tells me to leave now.  And, I shall do so.

This has been a relaxing morning so far.  The only thing missing is a dog.  I miss Douglas.  I'll get him out for a turn in the woods and on the water when I get back.
The breeze is gentle here as I shove off away from the shoreline.  A stronger wind always blows on the main channel.  Everything is good.  The boat feels good, the paddle feels good and I feel good. 
This has just been a little getaway.  I felt the need to paddle a canoe, and so I did.  See you later.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

CHILHOWEE LAKE ACCESS, PRETTY SCENES, BAD ROAD AND KUDZU ATTACK

Chilhowee Lake has been closed ever since the tornado struck the area last month knocking down one of five towers that carries heavy power lines from the dam's power generators across the mountains.  The tower and associated wires laid in the lake all this time.  I rode the bike down today to check if progress was made clearing the debris out of the lake.  I want to paddle Abrams Creek in the worse way and look one more time for otter.  As luck would have it;  the fallen tower and power lines were cleared from the lake and the boat ramp was open.  Hooray!  The spot where I launch my canoes was also open.  Huge trees blocked the ingress to Abrams Creek.  It required a lot of chain saw work to clear those trees.
Canoe Put-In
The mountain side is still a mess and probably will remain so.
I found out what I wanted to know and the sky looked like it was going to drop a lot of rain.  I prepared to jump on the bike when I noticed huge air bubbles on the surface of the water on Abrams Creek Channel.  There was a flag on a buoy just past the bridge.  Terrorists! 

video
Just kidding about the terrorists.  The flag indicates underwater divers.  I hung around to see who it was but the rain was moving in fast.  I'll bring the canoe down tomorrow morning very early if it isn't raining.


My friend Bob and I took a motorcycle ride to North East of here on Tuesday.  The ride took us to a town called Del Rio.  We selected a very out of the way road from Del Rio over the mountain to civilization.  The name of the road is Bull Mountain Road.  She was a doosey!  We drove up and down hills and around curves for about ten miles when all of a sudden the pavement turned to gravel.  That normally is fine but, the gravel was about six inches deep.  The front bike tires wanted to push through the gravel instead of roll on it.  What a mess! 
I kept my wheels right on the extreme edge of the road where the gravel tended to be not as deep.  I still had a difficult time holding the bike on course.  It was tricky business.  My machine is inclined to work well on dirt, gravel or paved roads.  Bob's Ducati, however,  is more of a strictly road bike in design.  To make things worse his machine wore street tires on both ends of the bike.  That Ducati with those tires wanted to push against the gravel instead of roll over it.  Bob had a horrible time of it.  Our only hope was that we would hit hard pavement ahead.
I know the pictures don't show the depth of the gravel but I assure you it was touch and go getting those machines over it.  The brown on the corner is where trucks have pushed that area clear of the gravel.  But look toward the left side of the picture.  That is indicative of how the gravel laid on the flat, straight parts of the road.
What a mess!
Fortunately we hit hard pavement just around that corner above.  Two miles of black top and it turned to gravel again for about a mile and back to black top for the rest of the ride.  We just had to take it slow on the gravel.  I have not seen roads covered with that depth of grave previous to this ride.  I don't know what the idea is about it.  Who cares?  We'll ride it again in a few months when its paved.
Just before we hit the gravel portion of this road, we passed an interesting sight.  Bob kept going but I just had to stop and get a couple pictures of a really neat barn----covered in kudzu.  Check this out:
It looked like a snug, pretty little barn down in that low part of the hillside.  It was pretty as a picture.  The closer I got, the more menacing it became in appearance.
It's still a pretty scene.
Kudzu is a despicable plant that chokes out and covers all other plant life, killing it.  The native grasses suffer greatly due to it's insidious onslaught.   It is tough to control let alone kill.
I believe the stuff came from Japan or some oriental country.  My information is here say and I can't state fact on the results from casual discussion.  It is beautiful in it's appearance;  a blanket of rich green spreading unbroken across meadows and even up into the bows of trees.  The downside is that it kills everything it attach├ęs itself to.  The term suffocation comes to mind.  Wonder why all the negative insects and plants in this country come from Japan. 
I thought it would be interesting to show you the pictures of a building being covered by a plant.  Humm;  maybe I could plant it in my future yard.  No more grass to MOW.
The rain came and went and came again.  I took Douglas, Shade and Happy to the old state park for a couple hours.  The sky was black and we risked getting very wet but, what the heck.  It's only water.  The dogs loved the coolness of the meadows and the wet grass.  "Shade;  what are you doing?  Oh, no!  Shade;  get out of there.  Oh Great Scott.  What a mess!"
Look closely where she is laying.  She simply jumped up in the air and plopped down on her stomach in the quagmire. 
Great Caesars Ghost!  "Shade;  get up out of there and act like the noble breed you are.  You aren't a pig.  Shade!  Oh;  what's the use.  She's having fun.  It will wash off in the lake."
That's the day and a bit more.  I hope the entry was at least a little bit interesting.  Tomorrow, weather permitting, I will paddle up Abrams Creek in search of the illusive otter.  If it's raining I'll take the Gheenoe.  See you tomorrow I hope.  Stay safe.

Friday, June 17, 2011

THE CHAMPLAIN CANOE IN THE MORNING & THOUGHTS ABOUT CANOES

A bulldozer is pushing over trees and creating an open space for a house at the edge of my favorite cove.  I can't bear to take a photograph of the wretched contraption.  Maybe it IS time to move on to new waters.

It is early.  The sun has been up only a short time.  Gentle rain suddenly appears and disappears just as quickly.  It is welcome this morning.  I needed to get away from everything for a few hours.  I've been sort of confined to the computer, scanning, filing and emailing documents to the loan officer in order to expedite the closing of the property I want East of here.  It is both frustrating and ridiculous the quantity of paperwork involved in buying a property.  Most of the paperwork is repetitious and senseless.  I am becoming impatient with the process and I've let the lending people know it.  My American dream never has been and still is not to own a house.  I don't want one now but, I have to live somewhere.  I needed to let those people know that I can walk away from this house deal and think nothing of it.  It might serve as motivation for them to take fewer breaks and work a little faster.  As an example of stupid, time wasting paperwork;  I returned thirty two documents to the closing officer yesterday that I had to download, scan and file, print and sign.  Then they had to be sent back as PDF files.  The last page that required my signature was the "Paper Reduction Act."  What a concept!  I was to read it and sign that I had. 
I had to get away from that process, people, motorcycle noise and even my dog family.  The Champlain was calling me this morning.  I drove past the bulldozer and parked in the grass at the water's edge.  The heft of the kevlar canoe was super light.  There was no chance of this feather weight boat causing a return of sciatica.


I stepped into the canoe and instantly noticed the difference between the Champlain and the Mistral.  There will be no standing up in this canoe.  Primary stabilization requires the operator to pay attention.  A couple paddle strokes and we were flying along the shoreline.  This boat is really, really fast and exhibits tremendous glide characteristics.   I smiled and uttered the single word; "Ya.!"
A canoe ride has a way of making everything alright.  I don't know why.  It just does.  I paddled along the edge of the shoreline close to the dead falls.  Now and again a small log would appear ahead and a simple dip and twist of the paddle instantly steers the bow to right or left of the offending object.



The Champlain is a highly maneuverable canoe.  I can't say it's the best because I haven't paddled others in it's class.  I'm not saying it's the best canoe out there but;  it delights me with it's elegant habits.  Every canoe paddler has his or her particular canoe that's "right for them."  There are as many right canoe brands and models as there are people.  The thing is to get one and enjoy it.  Use it.  Canoe's are peace of mind pills.

I was paddling toward my favorite stop at this cove.

  The park bench on the trail has witnessed my presence for the last few years.  It's a great place to just watch the water and to write.  I do feel the yearning for my dogs though.  I not only adore them but, I think they have become a habit of mine.  It's a habit I welcome wholeheartedly. 

The wonderful thing about paddling canoes is that one needs no purpose to do so.  Nor does one require a destination to paddle to.  I think the exercise of paddling the craft and directing it on the water in total silence, somehow rounds off the jagged peaks on the worry graph that resides in everyone's mind.
I liken canoes to poetry.  The poetic words flow beautifully across the written page ,their structure and form lending elegance to the words; the exact meaning dependent upon the perception of the reader yet, their structure and form lend continuity to the material.

A canoe moves across the water silently;  the bow gently parts the water at it's passing.  Drops of water silently fall from the paddle blade as it is withdrawn from the water in preparation for the next paddle stroke, which if done properly, is totally without sound.  No automated noises are heard because there aren't any.  The canoe glides effortlessly ahead with each completed stroke of the paddle, quietly moving forward, making much the same commotion as the Osprey passing overhead.  If one turns his head and looks rearward he can see evenly spaced dimples in the smooth water's surface, marking the spots where the paddle was dipped into the mirrored finish of the water.  The even pattern indicates uniformity in the paddle strokes.  Both the canoe and the poetry are beautiful;  and similar.
I do love canoes.  Sitting here on this bench allows me to be at ease and not dwell on irritating issues.  I like to let my mind wander.  What is it they say:; "The mind is a terrible thing to waste?"   I'm not saying I wasted my mind over the years but, I find that I'm discovering some files out of place and am working diligently on placing them back into the filing cabinet of my mind
.  I'm also finding that I meet the nicest people when canoeing on the lower lakes.  A voice gently spoke; "behind you."  I turned and a gray haired gentleman came walking up the trail toward the bench I was sitting on.  He said he didn't want to startle me.  Gracious of him.  His name was Hoyt and he was responsible for the care and upkeep of one mile of this trail.  Trail maintenance is handled by hikers and by people who care about wild places.  They are not paid a cent.  They do it to preserve this wonderful avenue around the lake and through the forest so people can "get away" from the pressures of daily life.  Hoyt is retired.  He was a book publisher from Columbus, Ohio.  He didn't name the company he worked for and I didn't ask.  It seemed that neither one of us wanted to reflect on issues that referenced money.  He commented on my canoe and said that he, in his younger year, canoed weekly.  I asked him why he stopped paddling.  He said the job required over half of his free time and family concerns took the rest of it.  We discussed canoes, trail building and repair and he moved on.  I may never see him again but I am richer for the experience of meeting him.
If you look closely at the water in the last few pictures, you'll notice the lake has a texture to it's surface.  The wind is picking up.  What else is new?  Seems every time I take a canoe out the wind shows up.  I jest somewhat.  Wind is a given factor.  We deal with it.  This wind feels good but, I have no ballast in the bow of the boat and may have to be a little creative with the paddle on the way back. 
Thanks for going with me this morning.  I appreciate your company.  I think a cup of coffee and eggs are calling me at the Greenback Drug and Cafe.    Till next time;  watch out for turtles crossing the road.  Please give em a break....