Tuesday, November 8, 2011

SCONA LODGE-A SEARCH FOR THE PAST, A CLIMB AND A LONG WALK

Shade and I pulled into McDonalds in Maryville one hour after leaving Jefferson City.  We ordered two egg McMuffins to go and we were off.  Shade ended up eating both McMuffins.  Ok;  I'm a softy.  The morning sun was still a half hour away.
We were here on a mission today.  We were looking for something specific that was still at the Scona site.  I can't divulge what the item is at this time as it is not my secret to reveal.  Someday the little tale will be told, I'm sure.
I had a hard time deciding weather to bring the canoe or the motorboat (Gheenoe) today.  Shade would be along and she has never been in a canoe.  This was not the time of year to start to train a dog to ride in a canoe.  The Gheenoe was the boat selected for the ride across the lake to Scona Lodge.  As it turned out;  it was a wise choice.
The water surface was rippled by a breeze when we launched the boat and we idled away from shore drinking in the absolutely gorgeous scenes around us. 
Alcoa Power Tower carrying wires across Chilhowee Lake
Chilhowee Lake has always provided a splendid color display for Fall for as long as I have been playing on her waters, which is eight years. 
The lake is a long body of water that lays between two very tall mountains creating a natural channel for the wind to travel on.  A few mountain lakes in these parts can experience high wind conditions in a heartbeat.  Calderwood Lake is one lake to use extreme caution on when in a canoe.  Chilhowee Lake would be the other one.
Note the calmness of the surface.  We are half way to the Scona Lodge site.
About a minute after the picture above;  the breeze picked up.  Note the water surface in the following shots:
The wind was gathering strength.  We were in a boat with a motor and it wasn't that big of a deal.  A canoe could be a different story.  The wind velocity moving the water right at the moment the picture was taken above would cause a canoeist to use some fairly creative paddle strokes to maintain his course.
And then all of a sudden I was pulling the chin strap of my hat down over my chin.  Now, a canoeist in this water better have a lot of experience.  Not only must he deal with the wind and maintain his course but, he must pay attention to the waves so as not to capsize.  Sudden wind is just part of these long, narrow and deep valley lakes.  Water was actually coming over the sides of the Gheenoe for awhile.
We are near the Scona shoreline and soon will beach the boat----if we can.  The water is rolling against the shoreline hard.

Taken from the shore
The Gheenoe floated straight into my favorite beaching area.   The waves pushed her up onto the shoreline a bit further than I would have liked but, once tied off to a tree she would be there when we returned.
That wind was cold.  I zipped up my fleece under jacket and also the windproof parka I wear when on the water.  Shade just didn't care.  That water is 56 degrees and she acts like it's 76 degrees.  Black Labs are designed for this.
I brought the 500 mm lens but it would be useless in this wind.  No otter in his right mind would be out on the lake today.  Only foolish humans would.
We immediately walked inland down the path that leads to the tiled patio.  The old stone steps seemed to invite us to enter.

Trees have blown down and lay on the floor of the patio.  The floor is made of beautiful tile but is covered by mud and silt from the stream that runs beside the South stone wall.  Two years ago the tile on the floor was perfect, covered by a few wind blown leaves.  Now, leafy vines are creating a green blanket on all the stone work that garnish the walls and sides of the stairways.  In another year or two this patio will be veiled in a solid covering of fallen trees and a carpet of green vines and plants.  Such is the way nature reclaims her own. 
The wind didn't reach inland this far for some reason.  Maybe the thick shield of kudzu that covers the trees in front of the Scona site is blocking it.  Tall trees far up on the mountainside can be seen swaying back and forth.  It would be windy up there.  That was where Shade and I would be heading.
The item I was searching for was in an area described to me by the person who put it there.  Shade and I were off.
We climbed and climbed and eventually found the spot we were searching for.  The item was not there.  I continued on just to be sure.  The mountain side soon became very vertical.  I have hands to grab trees and pull myself up and around but Shade does not.  I was worried about her.  She was showing good judgement, if dogs have judgement, and was taking the climb slow.  Then, thankfully, we were on top.  The terrain up there was as rugged and wild as any I have ever been through.  This mountain was high.  The views were exceptional.

A rock on the cliff edge covered by vines.  It's a far drop from there.
You can see below why I was concerned about Shade

The angle of ascent and later, the decent.

Getting back down from up here is going to be a trick. 
I was proud of Shade today.  She never left my side for a moment.  I didn't have to worry about her getting lost.  She was acting sensational.

The golf course is dead ahead.  It used to be a golf course in the fifties.
We had drifted to the West coming down the mountain side and  almost came onto the old spring house.  Below:

This is one sinister looking place
"Come on Shade;  lets go to the trout pond."
 The trout pond starts at that concrete wall in the center and goes back toward the mountain.

The pond looking toward the mountain

I wish I could have visited this magic place when it was in operation.  What a get away spot it must have been.
The stream that feeds the trout pond is reminiscent of the trout streams I am used to in Pennsylvania.
It really makes me feel great knowing Shade is having the time of her life.  She is doing what most dogs will never have a chance to do;  living free to be herself.
The stream is bordered on the right by a sheer rock cliff and by marshes on the left.  It's a beautiful piece of water.  It splits and rejoins itself frequently.  Bogs are created by the standing water in low places and mosses and water plants abound.  This is great habitat for all wild creatures.
I remembered  my friend Gretchen mentioning a beaver dam.  My interests soared.  Love beaver dams!

A wetland bog

Cliff bordering the stream

Then there it was--the beaver dam
I'll definitely be back here with the big camera lens.


"Shade;  how do you stand that cold water?"
She is so funny to watch sometimes!  She makes me so very happy!
The wind suddenly stopped and the trees became silent.  The instant quiet was broken only by the sounds of the water in the little stream.  A coldness settled into the place.  I suddenly felt--vulnerable.  I looked at Shade but, she was not uneasy.  My hand settled on the grip of the pistol I always carry as I scanned the heavy brush on the left side of the stream.  It was nothing.  But, I didn't feel comfortable.  Oh well;  we were on our way back and had to make tracks.  The feeling was probably caused by something someone told me about Scona.
The Gheenoe was still there and the water was calm and serene.  Shade jumped in the boat and I fired up the engine.  That feeling I had back in the forest was persisting.  Again, the grip of the gun on my belt felt comforting.  It was nothing.  We were off.  The old Scona Lodge ferry landing was on our left.
The high mountain where I searched for the past is below:   Anne;  I'm sorry I couldn't find your past for you.  I was very close.  Skilled eyes searched that mountain for you.  It wasn't there to be seen.
Shade;  I'm proud of you.  Without you, today would have been like work.  Love ya!

We took our time going back.  The lake was gorgeous.  The coldness was gone;  replaced by fresh, warm air.  It is great to be alive!

Just look at that scenery!  Indeed;  it is grand to be alive out here!!!!!
Scona Lodge is very much alive on my things to do list.  I need to collect exact dates and more photos of the bustling years of it's existence.   I'll slowly put together a history of the place and have it professionally proofed and printed.  If anyone would like to contribute information to my endeavor;  please contact me through this blog site.  You certainly will receive full credit for your input if used.  There is some other mystery about the place that I can't put my finger on, aside from the Scona Lodge.  There is something else there unexplained.  I feel it.


We'll say goodby to Scona and Chilhowee Lake for now.  A return trip will occur shortly for more exploration.  There's something else that needs looked into on that mountain that I don't wish to discuss at this time.   So, from Shade and me;  thanks for going along on our little wandering trip today.

Yes Douglas, my golden boy;  you were in my heart the whole time and, I missed your special senses about the forest today.