Monday, December 26, 2011

SLICKROCK CREEK WITH SHADE AND FALCOR

click photos to enlarge
I was excited last night about the prospects of finally visiting Slickrock Creek today.  My original plan was to camp at the mouth of Slickrock Creek but, the weatherman changed my mind.  I wouldn't have minded the rain at all but, the addition of freezing temperatures made me think less of the idea.
We were up at 4 AM and ready to go.  I hitched up the Gheenoe last night.  Shade went through her "I ain't getten in the truck" routine.  I finally lifted her up onto the bed of the truck.  Falcor jumped in the front and we were off.  It seems amazing to me that I used to live so close to Calderwood and Chilhowee Lakes and now it takes me about two hours to get to my favorite place in the whole world.  The drive is not one of the favorite things a dog cares to do either.
It was a relief to finally pull into the boat ramp area.  I jumped out of the truck and hurried back to Shade, who was waiting at the door of the truck cap.  When I lifted the cap door;  her eyes lit up and she didn't know which way to look first.  She was heading out into the wild places she loves so much.  It's been a long, long time for her to be on Slickrock Creek.  Falcor immediately fell in with Shade and followed on Shade's heels.  Everything Shade did;  Falcor did.  I wanted this opportunity to put Falcor and Shade together so Falcor could learn from Shade.  I think Falcor picked up a few wilderness skills from Shade today.  I launched the boat and we were off.  It was cold.  The entire deck of the Gheenoe was ice.  I thought a dog would slip off the boat the entire ride to Slickrock Creek.
The water was calm, the fog was lifting, the mountains were beautiful and it was cold out.  My hands were really freezing.  I left my super good lobster gloves in the state boat.  All I had was a pair of  Waldo Mart winter gloves.  My North Face gloves were with my canoe gear.

A guy almost needs double everything so nothing is forgotten.  I have special piles of stuff for every thing I do.  I have a motorcycle pile, a canoe pile, a hiking pile, a boating pile, a photography pile and a dog pile.  Yes;  a dog pile.  Dogs require special considerations and therefore, a special pile of stuff is accumulated for dogs.  There is a camping pile also that interfaces with all the above mentioned piles.
The sun was just rising
And so, with frozen hands, I steered our little craft down the lake toward our destination.  Our speed was maintained at not over ten miles per hour as the decks were solid ice and any sudden acceleration or stop would surely toss the dogs off the boat.
Calderwood was beautiful this morning yet, it had a coldness about it.  I don't mean as in ambient temperature; I mean it had an unforgiving aura about it.

  "Drink in my beauty all you want but, don't get careless pilgrim.  The price I require of reckless people is a high one."
The cove leading to Slickrock Creek was coming up fast.  I haven't been in the middle of such scenic beauty in, well, I can't remember when.
I had the big Canon camera along but didn't see any sign of critters along the way.  The little SD 990 Canon would see full duty today as we would be hiking beside the creek.  There's just no way I'm packing that big 500 mm lens all morning.
And, finally Slickrock  Creek came into view.
Just like coming home.  The water is very shallow in the cove.  I don't believe I could get back in there if it were 6 inches shallower.  The next problem is anchoring the boat.  Beaching the boat is out as the shoreline is covered with rock and boulders.  I would have to use the off shore anchoring system I set up a couple years ago.  It's a long bungee attached to an anchor.  I drop the anchor out in the middle of the channel, drive to the shore with the bow line in my hand; jump off the boat and tie the bow line to a tree.  After unloading the boat, I simply hold the bow line until the bungee cord pulls the boat back out to the anchor.  I then tie off the bow line to a tree.   It works fine.
The air had a sweet smell to it.  It was so different that the fragrance was obvious.  The blend of clean, fresh aerated water, the aroma of the woods soil, leaves, rotting wood and cold air created an olfactory salad tossed to perfection.
The sounds of the water cascading over rocks was a thrill to my senses.  No need to buy expensive tickets to the symphony in Knoxville.  The sounds I'm hearing here, in this special place, are naturally symphonic and a pure joy to the ear.
Falcor and Shade explored everything along the creek.  It was obvious that Falcor knew nothing of places like this.  Shade, on the other hand, was back in her environment.  The only difference was that she didn't have the golden dog to follow.  She was now the leader and a young pup was with her to learn.
Shade lead Falcor from the edge of the stream to atop the highest boulder in the vicinity.  Falcor followed her every lead.
Have you ever been in a place where everything is absolutely gorgeous no matter which direction you look?  That's the way it is back here.  There are no shabby places.  The eye always rests on beauty no matter what falls under it's gaze.
Falcor is but a young pup and I hope he picks up techniques from Shade today.  It could keep him alive in some unforeseen predicament.
The trail for the first quarter mile was a nice easy walk and afforded grand views of the creek.  Things got interesting when the trail cut across a rock wall and meandered close to the water.
I have not hiked a lot of the actual trail up here.  I've usually walked along the water, jumping from rock to rock while watching Douglas, who lived for the water of this creek.  A lot of this trail through this area is new to me.
Now, that's a root system!

This is a gorgeous spot.
I got a kink in my neck staring up at the top of this rock wall.
The trail continued and was easy walking--for a short distance further.
The trail quickly cut in toward the base of the hill side and lead onto a very narrow rock ledge that followed along the water's edge.  Actually, it wasn't even a ledge.  The trail appeared to be simply beveled rock slanted in the wrong direction to achieve a good solid foot hold.  I really studied this a long time as the trail sloped toward the water and, it was wet.  This is one of those places where a person hiking alone has to be very careful.  A slip off this ledge would put a fella into the water.  Hypothermia would surely be the result or worse;  broken bones and hypothermia.
Fearless
"You guys coming?  Come on;  it's a good trail, as you can see."

I worried about Shade out there.  She is very powerful but she can slip too.  I don't see how they can stick on those stones like they do.
This is nuts!  Falcor was behind me.  Oh well;  if Shade can get across then so can I.  Shade doesn't even have hands to hold on to anything with.  I, at least, can grab onto, well, stuff.  Not much there to grab on to.  The trail stays on the rock face for quite a ways.  It widens a bit and is flatter but maintains that bevel toward the water and never inward toward the cliff.

It was in the bag at this point.  We all crossed successfully.  Falcor was doing a great job following along.

This piece of trail is fast becoming the highlight of the day.  There is an old fisherman's trail about a hundred and fifty feet straight up the side of the mountain beside where we are but, I don't feel like climbing up there.
Click on this photo and  look behind her at that tiny 2 inch wide trail she just came off of.
What a dog!  Fearless and self confident.
Falcor didn't follow in Shade's footsteps and found himself in a rather precarious position.  It's a long way down and there's little I could do to help him.  This is why it is imperative that a dog reacts instantly to my commands.  Shade will not stay for more than a few seconds;  maybe a minute.  But, she will come back to me at the command "come!"   Many times I am in a position where I can see them and all that's around them, like Falcor here.  I doubt Falcor will come to me if I call so rather than confuse him;  I'll let him figure a way out of his predicament without adding any complication to his plight.  In the end, he did well.  He backtracked and walked down hill toward the stream.  Lucky boy....
Just one more tight spot and we should be back on easy walking turf.
This little spot has quite a drop to the next level also.  Shade powered down, as usual but, Falcor doesn't have the legs that Shade has.  He had to think about it awhile.  I'm glad he did that.
We all got together at the bottom of all this mess and continued on down along the stream.
A particularly pretty, long, quiet pool in the stream of relentless fast water.
We were gradually working our way back toward the creek's mouth and the Gheenoe.  I took a picture of the foot bridge high up on the old fisherman's trail.  The old bridge has taken a beating over the years.  I can't see very many boards on the floor of the bridge from down here on the creek.  I suspect many have rotted away.
Now;  where have they gone?  They were just here a minute ago.  "Shade. Come!"
Then, I saw them high up on the other end of the bridge.  Shade instantly blasted back across the foot bridge.  Yep;  the same bridge missing over half of the flooring.  Shade remembered the slight trail that winds up to that bridge.  She and Douglas discovered it on their own a couple years ago and fooled me by following along with me from high above.  I accidentally saw them up there when I looked up for some reason.  I'll never forget that moment.  Douglas was peering down at me as if saying "I got one on ya, dad."
Right behind Shade came a flash of white.  Yep;  Falcor.
He's thrown caution to the wind.
Those two guys have had the time of their lives today.  Falcor, especially, has seen things that are all first time events for him.  He spent time with a true professional, Shade, and I think he will leave the forest a wiser pup.
I'll have to be careful when we leave.  This thing is only six inches under water.  I'll raise the motor and just float over it.
Well, well;  I pulled the boat in to shore and these guys automatically jumped aboard.  Falcor would never do that alone.  Shade jumped on and Falcor followed.  That's why I wanted Falcor to spend time with Shade.
You did well today, sweet girl.  I love you.
If you enlarge this shot;  look at the water depth.  It gives you an idea of the capability of this boat in shallow water.
One last picture of Slickrock Creek.  I don't know when I will be able to come back.  Actually, it's I don't know when I will be able to afford to return.  It's a gasoline thing.
This is "my" magic place.  It does it for me.  Everyone should have that one spot that makes them ultra happy.  I hope you enjoyed the boat ride and hike with my kids.  There's a lot of photos in this entry and I hope you didn't get bored.  The next adventure will be in the canoe.  Happy holidays and play safe.