Tuesday, August 16, 2011

CLOUD CREEK

Entrance to Cloud Creek ahead
I have been looking forward to a canoe paddle for a long time and decided to check out Cloud Creek.   Cloud Creek is located North of the Holston River at point 29 on the Cherokee Lake map.  It's the kind of creek that interests me when viewed on a map.  The little branch winds for miles North toward Route 66 where it takes the outflow water of Renfrue Creek.  Renfrue must be a tiny little branch as there wasn't much water in Cloud Creek.  If the Moon could have a creek on it;  I think it would look like this creek.
The above shot is taken at the entrance to Cloud Creek.  This bay area is very shallow but, will allow bass boaters access.  Anything bigger will enter here at their own risk.  The bottom is solid rock.
Once past the 11E bridge, the water will begin to slowly funnel into a tiny little channel barely capable of floating a canoe.
There are a very few houses on the banks of this bay.  Further up the creek we find an occasional farm.  Even farms are far and few between.  There isn't much along this creek as it winds through the woods and meadows.

The creek narrows just ahead

It's obvious how far the water has been drawn down by looking at the banks.  All that brown should be covered with water.  This creek flows into Cherokee Lake and suffers the water loss that all creeks do that are associated with Cherokee.
One would normally see the Great Blue Heron on or near the water in these parts.  Here, however, he has been replaced by the Great White Egret.
This white bird is more sensitive to intrusion than the Great Blue Heron.  These guys won't just stand there and allow you to take pictures.  They will fly away at the least disturbance.
I spooked many while trying to sneak up on them.  I finally sat perfectly still and allowed the breeze to push the Champlain directly toward them.  They were OK with the approach of the boat in that manner.  But, if I moved a hand or an arm they would fly instantly.  The camera shooting was very quick, to say the least.
The water was like glass.  The above shot shows a wide expanse of water.  That will soon change
A nice part of this paddle trip today is that there is no one back here.  I am totally alone.
Actually this creek appears exactly as I envisioned it would look.  Low water and muddy banks are a trademark of creeks that flow into Cherokee Lake.  I wouldn't call this waterway pretty at all.  It's just a place to paddle a canoe.  I would call it interesting, however.  It takes on many different looks as I travel further and further North.  In reality it is no more than a muddy ditch that drains muddy water into Cherokee Lake.  As long as the great lake water level is lowered to extremes every year; all creeks that flow into it will be nothing more than muddy ditches.  I don't call that pretty by any stretch of the imagination.
A killdeer searches for insects in the soft, muddy soil
He struts about intent on watching the earth in front of him.  Then, he darts ahead and grabs an insect in his bill.
Killdeers often are mistaken for Plovers.  This is a killdeer, however.
Even the mourning dove is represented on the shoreline. 
The creek banks squeeze in tighter and tighter the further North I paddle.
The creek takes on the look of a man built canal
You can see how high the bare mud walls of the shoreline are.  That's where the water should be under normal conditions.  This creek would be more interesting in the Summer when the lake is at full pool. (full pool is the measurement of the water from sea level on a lake.)
This creek is really getting narrow.  I wondered how much further I could travel on it.
All of a sudden my question of how much further was answered.  I was here, or there.

Maybe I could squeeze around the dead fall.
Ain't nothing going past that
I sat and looked around for photo opportunities.  I noticed a turtle plopping into the water.  Closer examination indicated there was still one little fellow on the limb sticking out of the water.
He is a Southern Painted Turtle.  He's either blind or deaf because he didn't care about my poking around his log in the slightest.  Pretty little guy.
It's time to get back down the creek.  If they drop the lake six inches more real fast I'll have to portage this boat and gear clear to the truck, and it's a long, long way back.
A neat little wading bird has been showing itself on the shoreline all morning.  They are green herons.  I haven't seen one of these back West on Tellico Lake.
They sneak along the edge of the water slowly with their heads lowered, watching the water.
He stops, looks and cautiously moves forward as if in slow motion.  And then-----
It's minnow time!

A loud crash sounded to my rear and frightens the heron.  Something big was in the water and it was splashing nearer and nearer, coming toward the canoe.
Being in a canoe;  I couldn't just snap around in an instant and risk upsetting.  But, I did swivel my head as far to the rear as I could.  Great Scott!  A huge dog was bounding through the water right toward me.  I'm toast!  "No, no;  Get back!"    I slapped the water with the paddle over and over to make splashes and noise.  He stopped.  I could see he was not unfriendly. 
He was just a big, soft, adorable, sweet dog that happened to be big.  He liked humans and wanted to play in the water.  Normally I would have accommodated him.  But, not today.  Gorgeous dog, by the way.  Sure scared me when I heard him but couldn't see behind me. 
Part of me wanted to beach this canoe on the muddy bank and play with this dog.  I just wasn't in the mood to sink in the mud up to my knees.  There was not one spot on the entire creek where I could get out of the canoe and be out of mud.  So, I stayed in the canoe.
I continued South.  The sound of many beating wings overhead could be heard.  They weren't in sight yet but coming on fast.  I readied the camera.  Won't be long now.   Then they came around the bend in the creek on a path that would take them directly over the canoe.  See for yourself.  Magnificent display!
They soon were practically in my face.  The shot that would make the cover of National Geographic came out blurry.  They came on too fast for me to recover from the 500mm lens setting to a much lesser setting and refocus.  But, the above shots are fine in my book.  They appeared out of nowhere.  Must have been flying at creek bank level following the waterway.

That's it for this entry.  This creek, like all the creeks that flow into Cherokee Lake lack the natural beauty of pristine mountain creeks.  Calderwood Lake's Slick Rock Creek is a tough act to follow.  There aren't any creeks in these parts like Slick Rock.  Hope you enjoyed the paddle up this little muddy ditch today.  I'll see what I can turn up for the weekend.

Yes Douglas;  you were with me today, as you are every day