Wednesday, July 13, 2011

CHEROKEE LAKE IN EAST TENNESSEE

Weeks struggling with equipment issues finally came to an end and today, finally, I launched the beautiful state boat on the waters of Cherokee Lake here in beautiful East Tennessee.  Weeks of long hours and prioritizing work efforts finally came to an end with the result of an extremely reliable and safe boat at my disposal that I have total confidence in.  The goal here is to focus on the job and the mission and not whether I'll make it back to shore or not.  I was happy to inject my own sweat and time in the preparation of this boat for my use with the agency.  I am compelled to thank a man who, without his help and expertise, the project would not have proceeded as efficiently as it did.  He has over twenty years with the agency and displays quite remarkable abilities when it comes to mechanical and technical issues.  He is an encyclopedia of knowledge.   He may not appreciate his name being on display but, tuff.   I consider him "the" go to resource when I have a problem or a technical question I can't quite lay my hands on.  His recommendations and advise has never been wrong yet.   He has been selfless in this boat preparation project with me and has relinquished many, many hours of his personal time for lil ol me.  I am very, very proud to know him and am honored to call him my friend.
His name is Paul Shaw.  Thank you Paul.  Thank you.  And, I'm here for you if you ever need....
The boat I've been talking about is a 22 foot Pathfinder and she's powered by a Mercury 150 horsepower two cycle engine.  You can see the tower with the cloth covering.  I appreciate the cover, especially on these hot days but, the tower is stainless steel and lightning has an affinity for tall metal objects on huge lakes.  When the sky gets dark and the lightning dances among the clouds;  I will hasten to shore.  This boat was built in Florida to the specifications of none other than Paul.  Yep;  he specs out the boats for the agency.  He knows what he's talking about.  She's a great handler in all types of water and smooth as silk.  I pulled maintenance on it and I trust it.  This boat only has 150 hours on it.   The problem is that it sat for two years when the government put a freeze on hiring.  TWRA only recently was authorized to fill empty positions. --  enter me.  Idle time and non use is the worse thing for any marine craft.  Needless to say it took a lot of work to bring this boat on line.

I've got to say something here about the Tennessee Wildlife  Resource Agency, TWRA.   The general consensus of what TWRA does,  is a bunch of game wardens going out and writing tickets.  Really;  that's what comes to the average person's mind when they see the wildlife officers roaming across Tennessee.  In reality though, TWRA has been assigned the stewardship of all the wildlife in this state.  Wildlife propagation, habitat, wet land management and procurement as well as tracts of real estate that will be planted for feed, wildlife sanctuary's for both four legged critters and birds of many species, fisheries development and enhancement and species protection and control.  In there somewhere they patrol the waterways of Tennessee in an effort to keep our waterways safe for the public.  Our wildlife officers place themselves in harms way many times enforcing the laws designed to protect our wildlife and the public who wish to enjoy that same wildlife.  Within the framework of the agency resides some of the finest highly skilled, technical people who apply their knowledge  to the environmental problems and issues that affect our wildlife across the state.  The finest biologist available anywhere apply their skills to Tennessee's wildlife concerns, and they proudly wear the uniform of TWRA.  And proud they should be.  And I also am proud to be a part of this organization and to have the opportunity to contribute support to the professional biologists who work so hard to maintain a healthy fisheries within the borders of this great, beautiful state.  Enough said....
Please keep in mind that these photos for the most part are directly out of the camera.  A recent computer crash has robbed me of what little photo software I had.
Cherokee Lake is an enormous body of water.  The lake is 55 miles long and has over 575 miles of shoreline.  It is operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA.   Look up the history of that company for an interesting read.  The lake provides a healthy fishery, thanks to dedicated TWRA biologists, for the general public. 
The views are gorgeous!  One can see forever it seems.  I am used to the smaller lakes in the area I have lived in for seven years and have become very proficient travelling over them.  Cherokee reminds me of an inland ocean.  The depths range from 160 feet to practically nothing.  It can be a dangerous lake as depths change quickly, especially where creek channels inter the main body.  One has to remember that under this enormous body of water lies towns, farms, mountain ridges, forests, roadways, bridges and even homes.  When the water is drawn down in the Winter in preparation for flood control; the stuff on the bottom becomes very close to the surface and the whole lake takes on a new personality.  Caution and care are the key words here when driving a boat.

There is one highlight on this lake I love.  Islands.  There are more islands than I can count.  They're everywhere.  I used to stop at islands to let Douglas stretch his legs occasionally when he accompanied me on a boat.  He loved the stops and would run happy laps on the shorelines.  He would love this lake.  It's his kind of environment.
Cherokee Lake has an abundance of wild shoreline, a subject I fretted about.  Rich green trees border the water and create marvelous wild places to explore.
I always keep my eyes open for that special place.   I look for spots I can stop at to enjoy a sandwich and a cold water.  I have to be surrounded by green and nature or I can't eat.  Just can't.  Below is a special little spot I'm sure I will frequent on breaks.  I wish Douglas were with me to enjoy it also.  There is a narrow cut between two islands that offers haven from rough water and beauty enough where I can enjoy a baloney sandwich.
The following photos show what's back in this little hideaway cove.
I parked the bow of the boat into a bush and walked around on deck to stretch my legs a little.  Then, I absorbed the beauty of this little spot.  And, I missed my golden friend all the more.
A contrived post card could not achieve the natural beauty I am surrounded with
Some friends tell me I have to get hold of things and move on, speaking of Douglas.  Well, I just can't do that.  He is more than a dog to me.  I never viewed him as a dog.  He was my friend.  I can see him trying to crawl out of that ditch along the road as vividly as the moment it happened.   I can hear his whimpers and see the terror in his eyes as clear as when I was at his side.  He didn't understand at all.  It was the first time in his life he felt pain and he didn't understand why his legs wouldn't work.  If I could have;  I would have endured every bit of that pain myself to shield him from it.  But, as they say, it happened and I should move on.  But, I can't just yet.  Not yet.  With him went a part of me and I guess I need more time to morph that lost part back.  My little golden son took something from me with him;  my heart.  I do wish he were here to share this with me.  I miss him so much!

Enough of the memories.  Cherokee Lake is big enough to create a lot of adventures to write about.  I may have a surprise for you in the near future.  I've been thinking about something;  something very special.  Gotta run.  Stay tuned in.  The future will be more than interesting.

I'd like to thank all the folks who read this blog who have expressed their condolences to me for the loss of my best friend Douglas.. Douglas was my best friend and I miss him terribly.  Terribly!  I appreciate your kind thoughts and words.  I think of them always.  As I said before;  Douglas took a big part of my heart with him when he left on his journey.   I am a better person for knowing him,  for his influence on my life was far greater than any other life experience I have known.