Sunday, October 23, 2011

ALCOA CLUBHOUSE (SCONA RUINS) AND CHILHOWEE LAKE

click photos to enlarge.

"Simplicity"
 I hitched up the Gheenoe this morning and headed back West to Chilhowee Lake.  I wanted to revisit the old Alcoa Clubhouse site known as Scona.  I would meet a good friend named Gretchen and her husband Paul at some point on the site.   Had I known I was going back over there I would have camped at the site last night and saved the drive and, the gas.  Remember, I was just down the lake on Abrams Creek only yesterday. 
Tellico Lake is the first lake we pass on the way to Chilhowee.  The early morning was beautiful with the sun on the lake and mountains. 


The morning was gorgeous.  We were set to go.  I would turn up Abrams Creek for a look at the channel bank to see if I could find the spot where I saw the Mink.  Buy the way;  the critter was indeed a chocolate Mink.  He was a very big one.  That's what threw me off on the identification.
Fog was just lifting off the lake creating a calm atmosphere but, it was cold.  It was early enough that there were no motorcycles or cars blasting up 129 to break the stillness.
We crept along slowly as it was cold.  Happy was shivering already and the boat just pulled away from the dock.  She has no under-fir to keep the dampness out.
The fog added dampness to the cold air but it was beautiful.  We were idling along at about 5 miles per hour enjoying the scenery.
We drove clear to the end of the channel where Abrams Creek flows into it from the mountain.  I killed the engine and enjoyed the total silence.  The Gheenoe slowly drifted toward the right shore.  I looked into the water and a boulder the size of a Volkswagen lay just under the surface and we were on a collision course.  I fired up the engine and moved slowly forward.  Happy was standing on the bow and she didn't see a low hanging tree limb coming her way, nor did I until it was too late.  It swept her off the boat into the 50 something degree water. She paddled toward shore.  I got to her as soon as possible and could see her shivering all alone on the shore line.  She jumped into the boat and I put her beside me and wrapped her in a rain coat.  I had nothing to dry her with.  What the heck;  I took off my heavy shirt and dried her best I could and headed downstream toward the truck.  She would need warmed up quickly as possible.  Happy has no under fir.  Just hair and the water goes straight to her skin.  She was one cold little girl.
We were on the main lake now and the truck was just ahead.  I was cold myself.  Happy had my shirt on.  I covered her with the shirt and wrapped the rain jacket entirely around her to block the wind.  No part of her was visible on the seat beside me.
I parked the boat and got her in the truck with the heater running.  I had towels there and soon had her dry and good as new.
We were off again.  This time we would go straight for the old ferry landing at what once was the Scona Lodge.
The old ferry landing appeared on our right.  I would pass it and pull into the shoreline where the water is more calm.
Notice the bow line is tied off.  I'll not lose this boat to the lake.  If she came loose, she would go straight to the dam.  Can't have that.  I had one boat, canoe, get away this week and I'll not lose another one.
Bamboo

Happy was having a ball at last.  It warmed up outside.  We headed for the patio of the club house.
Stone stairway leading to the patio at Scona Lodge


I can't believe how the place has fallen into ruin over the past two years.  It won't be long before the entire remnants of Scona are no more.

 I don't want to go into history here about Scona Lodge.  There are some facts about the place in previous entries on this blog.  It was built by Alcoa Aluminum Co back in the seventies.  Near 1980 Alcoa destroyed the entire property.  The place was literally dynamited into oblivion.  Why, I have no idea.  It was a gorgeous lodge built at tremendous expense for people who spent tremendous amounts of money to play.  I'll leave it there.
Below is what's left of the patio:
 If you enlarge the picture you will see the stone pillars on either side of the walkway.  Two years ago the vines and foliage was not there.  It's impossible to stand on the patio now as the past Summer's tornadoes ripped through here and toppled several large trees directly onto the patio floor.
Below is a 1970's era photo of the patio in its prime.
Below is the golf course as it appears now,  that was carved out of the woods for Scona Lodge.   It's covered with trees now.
Below is a photo of the golf course when it was in it's prime.  Amazing change, isn't it?
I may as well throw a picture up of the lodge itself.  It was a beaut!
I want to give credit here to Mr. Harold Lyninger for his kindness in allowing these shots of Scona to be put on this blog.  It is wonderful that Mr. Lyninger retained these precious pictures all these years.  Scona is an important piece of history that should not be lost to the forest without it's story being told.  Thank you again Mr. Lyninger for the photo's.

I have many more photos of Scona
I see Gretchen and Paul have arrived.  They are out in the thick brush thrashing about looking for historic artifacts.  I'll catch up with them shortly.
The water supply for Scona was supplied by damming up a stream that flowed down the mountain behind the lodge.  Large hand cut stone was used to build an 8 foot wall with a pipe and valve coming out the front.  Pretty crude..  It worked though.  There is nothing but dirt behind the dam now as water carried silt and deposited it behind the stone until it filled to the top with soil.
Pardon Happy's rear end please.
Gretchen wanted to see the water fall on the creek that feeds the lodge's trout pond.  Yes;  they built a pond for the wealthy folks to fish in.  I wanted to stay near the lake to take advantage of any critter photographic possibilities.  As I knelt down to look under a tree limb to see across the lake;  I noticed a tail just ahead of my right foot.
It was the tail of a rather large King Snake.  I'd put him at a solid 4 feet long.
I didn't have the big camera with me so did the best I could with the Canon 990.  King snakes are harmless and great at keeping the rodents down.  They are a handsome, stately looking snake.
King Snakes are often simply called Black Snake, when seen by the casual observer.  One easy identifying feature is the markings on his body.  See above.
It's time to stop pestering this fellow and let him alone.  He senses my presence and is becoming upset.
I noticed a disturbance far out in the water and it turned out to be otter.  Actually 3 otters.  They were too far out for good pictures but, I did what I could with it.
They were just too far off to mess with.  I'll be back though, now that I know they are here.
 It was time to get down stream.  Paul and Gretchen had get back home and so did I.  It's a long drive back to stone quarry country.  We said our goodby's and launched.  Thanks for the sandwich Gretchen.  And, I enjoyed the company and conversation. 
 The name of the guy in the middle is Cowboy and is a sweet little guy who is very entertaining at all times.
Happy and I went down stream to run up Abrams Creek just one last time for no particular reason other than it is a sweet place.
There you have it.  Another day has wound down and it's time to leave heaven and return to earth.  Tomorrow's another day back in the stone quarry (Cherokee Lake).  Looking forward to it.  See you later and thanks for looking in.  
Don't worry Douglas;  I didn't have you out of my mind for a minute today