Wednesday, February 22, 2012

OLD MOUNTAIN MAN CABIN AT SCONA LODGE

click on photos to enlarge

"Anne, I found the cabin, or what's left of it."



Otter Chase - Ready for a new adventure.
   The wind was up, as usual, on Chilhowee Lake.  Its a long drive over here and had I known the water would have been as rough as it was I would not have come.  We, Shade and I, would just have to deal with it.  The water was white capping further out in the lake.  This was the hardest launch I ever tried.  The boat floated off the trailer and was instantly washed sideways back onto the boat ramp.  I had to hurry up the ramp to avoid it catching up with the trailer.
video

The only way I could get the Gheenoe out to sea was to cut a long, thick sapling and stand in the boat and push us away from the ramp.  We then got shoved against the floating dock which I grabbed hold of and pulled the boat alongside it until the propeller could be lowered safely in deeper water without fouling against the bottom.  What a mess!
We were heading back to the Scona Lodge site to search out an old mountain man's cabin I was told of by Anne Hutchison who lived at Scona as a teenage girl.  She made mention of this old cabin in her memories of Scona Lodge on the "Scona Lodge" entry of this blog.

This was going to be a really rough ride down the lake.  I had to read the water and steer in the appropriate manner to prevent smashing into waves that would create water spray that blew into our faces.  We were going diagonal against the current, thereby diminishing the spray.








Shade was staying behind the tower of the boat and trying to stay out of the water spray that would occasionally be blown aboard.  Sweet girl!









Something told me to put the life vest on, which I promptly did.
We putted along at 20 miles per hour to avoid crashing onto waves.  It would take longer to get there but, I wasn't in any hurry.  I stopped rushing from place to place years ago.  
It wasn't long before that old familiar shoreline at Scona Lodge appeared.
The kudzu is growing more dense by the year.  Amazing it grows only on top of Scona's grave.
The mountain below is the mountain of interest today.
There's the old ferry landing.  This shoreline was totally void of all this mess from 1932 through 1996.  The kudzu appeared only after Scona Lodge was bulldozed down and buried.

We are going past the ferry landing and around a point of land to the right to what was called "the boat landing" in the Scona days.  The rough water break made of boulders can be seen to the left of the photo.
Shade is all set to get off this bucking horse.  The wind has lessened and the beaching of the boat should be easy.  Look to the lower right corner of the photo below and you'll see a nice set of steps leading from the water to the path above.
Below is a better shot of the steps.
The landing went without a hitch.
Shade was already sniffing out the trail.  No kidding about that.  She knows what we're doing here today and shes on top of it.
I'm not going to go into detail about where this cabin is.  I have my reasons for that and I'll go into it later.  Anne described the area where the cabin could be found and I had a good idea where to head.
I scanned the hillsides and could not see a trail.  It was probably obliterated many years ago.  All I could see is some of the hardest country in Tennessee.  I pulled out the binoculars and slowly glassed the area that Anne assured me the trail would be found.  I noticed a tiny line that appeared to follow in a diagonal direction up the mountain.  It started about a third of the way up the hill side.  We'd give it a try.
We climbed almost vertically.  I was pulling myself up tree by tree.  Shade was just above me moving across the mountain on a horizontal line.  She was on the trail.  I would have crossed it in short order.  I don't want anyone to think that Shade is smarter than me at wood-lore.  Shes not.  I am the one in control here - I think. 
This is unbelievable.  Its amazing this old trail still exists after all those years of storms, wind and non-use!  Its direction was horizontal to the mountain yet, maintained a steady, gradual uphill attitude.
The trail suddenly made a 90 degree right turn uphill and sort of back upon itself and followed beside a ravine to the top.  Just after I snapped this picture of Shade on the trail, I looked up and saw the wall of stone.  Look at the top of the picture and to the right of center.  What was that?
I love discovery.  This Scona Lodge area is full of things to discover.  Anne didn't mention this apparition made of stone.  She probably never noticed it as it was probably out of sight and out of mind in the hey day of Scona.  Everything was proper then.  Now, the beauty of the buildings and grounds are gone and the skeletal framework that held it all together is all that's left, and it is these now prominent features that catches ones eyes.
I have this figured out, I think.  The cabin sits, or sat, above in a flat spot of land between two mountain sides.  A tiny trickle of a creek flows down the center between the two hills, the cabin sits more on the left side of the trickle of water.  This breastwork of very well fitted stonework is designed to span over the creek to the hillsides on each side of it thereby preventing erosion.  Without this wall of rock - the little creek would eventually remove soil from the little valley containing the cabin.  Ingenious!   There is a clay pipe that runs through the wall at the bottom for drainage.
The cabin, or whats left of it, lay two hundred feet behind and to the left of this wall.  There isn't much left.  Weather and pilfering over the years have all but removed all traces of this great old building.
The photo above was taken directly into the sun and it is difficult to see the chimney in the center of the picture.
All that is left of this old log cabin is this chimney and the stone pilings for the wall and roof supports.

 Anne said that a big moose head was mounted above the fireplace opening and a heavy oak mantle spanned the width of the chimney/fireplace.  Neither could be found.  I did see a piece of mounting board that was bolted dead center above the fireplace.  It crumbled when I touched it.  That was what the moose head was mounted to.
Note the small, broken piece of thin board still bolted to the center of the chimney.  Below is an enlargement.  The heavy mantle would have fit into the bottom horizontal slot in the chimney below the piece of wood.
The area in front of the fireplace opening was covered with the same tile as the Scona Lodge patio in the valley below.

  I suspect that the original owner, a mountain man, left the cabin or sold it and Alcoa probably incorporated the place as a "point of interest" accessory to the lodge.  They probably did some renovations to it in order to make it presentable to guests, hence the tile on the hearth.  I find it amazing that photographs of these places can't be had.  Surely someone found them interesting enough to photograph.  I am, as in a desert in want of water for a single picture.
We walked 75 feet to the edge of the mountain.  The view was spectacular!  Whoever built this cabin surely picked a spot designed by God.
The ferry landing on the other side of the lake can be seen not far from the cabin.  The dog is an extra blessing.
Above is a telephoto view.  Is this not spectacular.  Some guy climbed up here and threw up a log cabin and   that was that.  Amazing!
Lets walk over to our left a few feet and see what we see.
How about a view of the lake?  If you could see this you would be speechless. 
I lay down in the leaves and put my hands behind my head, tilted my hat over my eyes and just relaxed before the climb down to the valley below.  This little flat spot on the side of the mountain is one of the prettiest places I've ever been.  It's perfect in its placement on the mountain.  The sun strikes it directly in the morning and lingers a long time through the day.  Its a comfortable place here and non threatening.  Its above everything else.  I think I would have liked the guy who originally lived up here.  I could live up here, as long as I had Shade to keep me company.  I stared at the old chimney and wondered what the rest of the cabin looked like.  I could see Anne as a little girl, walking through the front door so long ago.  Oh, to be able to turn back time - not just for Scona but, for the sake of doing it.
This was a log building yet, no evidence of logs, or any type of building material could be found on the ground.  That speaks of human miscreants at work.  Anne told of a split log with the word "SCONA" carved on it, pinned above the outside door of the cabin.  What a find that would have been.  I found just about what I expected to find.  Stone foundations and chimneys are too heavy and require too much work to steal.  They are always left behind.  It was time to get going.  I wanted to walk over the area that was once the golf course and photograph it for Anne.  I wanted her to realize there was nothing left that matched her memories.  But then, nothing can erase her memories and those are whats really important.

The trail down the mountain was a fun walk.  I like this trail.  I would like to return someday and climb back up past the cabin and continue to the top and over to the other side to see what is there.  One nice feature about this back country walking is that one doesn't find any pop cans or plastic bottles.  It takes too much effort to get to places like these and few have the desire to expend the energy.  Thank heaven for wide screen TV.  It keeps em home watching the ball game - or whatever.
Above is a shot down upon a field of kudzu.  Its not a pretty sight.  I think the U.S. ought to load up about a hundred tons of kudzu seeds and drop em on Iran.  The stuff grows two feet per year.  Whew!
I took one last look at the retaining wall at the top of the ravine and continued on down the pleasant little path.
Shade was having a great time.  I could tell by her face and the way she ran and jumped about that she was one happy girl.
This trail is delightful to walk on.  Don't venture too far to the right, however.  I would love to be here in the summer but, I am afraid it is too dangerous for Shade as this is prime snake country.  There is none better.  Every element on this mountain and in the valley is designed to be prime snake habitat and copperheads and dogs don't mix.  This mountain is too far away to get a snake bitten dog to help in time.
"Above is the trail to you know where, Anne."
As we approached the patio I sensed something was not right with the world.  Then I saw what was not obvious.
The wall end posts with the flower boxes looked proper, as I remember them.  But, the ones at the top of the main steps were different.
The closer I got to the top of the steps - the discrepancy was obvious.  The flower box had been removed and taken away from one of the wall posts.  Oh no!
What I saw next filled me with rage.  I felt the heat flash through my chest as I looked at the beautiful wall of hand laid stone - the beautiful stone work that formed the cap on the top of the wall was missing.  Someone had stolen every stone.  I could only feel outrage!  This special beautiful place was now defiled.  It wasn't enough to destroy Scona and bury her beneath earth and plant filthy kudzu on top of her as a grave marker without even a word of history written about her, but this has violated her sanctity. Almost 9 years ago I happened upon these steps and I stared at them in admiration and wonder.  They appeared as steps that would be akin to those built for an Inca temple.  I delighted in visiting here to look at them and climb those old stone steps that were once a center piece for a beautiful creation out here in this nowhere place.  I didn't know their story in those early years but, it didn't matter.  They were here to visit with and enjoy and to wonder about.  Now they have been defiled.  What nature of man would do this?  Are those stones needed so badly that the site would be visited by night, the vines torn off their surface, the stones pried up and their heavy weight carried one by one to some waiting boat?  Is someone that in need of these particular stones?  I believe the deed was done by a person or persons who delight in destroying beauty.  Stones such as these can be purchased at Home Depot for a very reasonable price.  The stones at Scona represent her body. Would someone be financially broken if they had to buy a few stones for their needs?  Humans - I'll say it here and I mean it.  I carry a disrespect for most of em.  I am one and I'm not proud of it.  I think the soul reason that the human element has been placed on this earth is to test the earth's ability to prevent its own destruction by a creature equipped with a thinking brain.  Humans certainly do test the earth's endurance level.   I have a sincere distrust for TVA also.  They took more land than they needed for the reservoirs and sold it at a huge profit to big real estate brokers, many of whom are not even from this state. Now the banks of the beautiful wilderness lakes are littered with houses owned by the rich.  Litter comes in all forms and values.  Houses are just an expensive form of litter.  Tennessee is filled with history.  It is endowed with more history and historical places than any other state in this country.  Yet, its history is bull dozed over, burned and flooded.  There are Cherokee Indian burial sites at the bottom of these huge reservoirs that could have and should have been excavated and moved to higher, safe ground.  The love of the damn dollar and the time it takes to collect it outweighs any importance of historical artifacts.  Burial mounds can be seen even today in the reservoirs when the water is at low pool through the winter months.  Do we see any effort made to move these artifacts to safety?  None.  Yet, there is no effort too great to develop and sell land bordering these great bodies of water.  "Come and get your lot at lake's edge before its all gone, and at the phenomenally low price of $99999.99."   There is an entire Cherokee Overhill town and burial site that was covered with water at the creation of Chilhowee Dam.  It lays just upstream of Scona Lodge.  "No time.  The dam has to be filled today.  The hell with the Indians.  We need hydroelectric power for the aluminum business and we need it now."  We can build a park and replica home for John Sevier - first governor of Tennessee, a miscreant, tyrant, murderer and butcher but, we can't show the most basic respect to the true "first people" of Tennessee by protecting and honoring their dead by exhuming and re-burying them decently where they can continue to be visited, touched and mourned by their own.  All the cemeteries where the whites were buried have been exhumed and moved.  History is no longer important.  Yep - another rant I'm afraid but then it's my damn blog site.  (Look up John Sevier's history.  We appointed crooks and thieves to government positions even back then.)

Those stone steps are out of the way.  They are not even known by many.  I feel as if someone has stolen something from me that is precious.  The removal of those stones is indicative of the human thought process. "If its there - I'm taking it."  The act reflects a total lack of decency, respect for history, appreciation for beauty and a disregard for anyone else's feelings.  I love that place and someone has brought their filthy human habit of thievery to that beautiful site and has begun to defile the last remaining artifact of Scona.  I despise a thief and I visit that place frequently.  Read into that anything you care to.  My only prayer is that I haven't caused  this violation of the only remaining part of Scona by presenting her story on this blog.  I'll stop this and move on now..
Above:  An outrage and disgusting.  How ignorant!  They're well on their way to stealing the stones from the opposite side.
The beautiful golf course at Scona Lodge covered the shoreline across the Little Tennessee through the 50's and the early 90's.  Above and below are indicative of how it looks now.  Thin saplings grow where the golf course used to be.
Notice how flat the ground is even now.  One can imagine this area, if one thinks hard enough, without the trees.  A vision of the golf course can be seen.
I wanted to photograph the old spring house again.  Anne said it was called the slate house in her day.  A strong, powerful spring of water filled that place in the old days.  I want to get a photograph indicating the charm and beauty of the place, if that's possible to do.
This old building always impressed me as a dark sinister place.  I doubt I'll visit it soon again and I wanted to remember it as a charming place, a place where good people worked and visited when things were bright at Scona.
I found the old magnolia tree that Anne remembers when a child.  It is still there,  healthy and enormous.  Someone will probably cut it down or worse - poison it because its a part of history and beautiful.  Alright - I'll quit it..
Its limbs are weighty and many touch the ground.
I found the creek where the second wooden foot bridge crossed.  It is surrounded by kudzu and almost hidden.
The stream has eroded the banks away and they are no doubt wider than when the bridge was here.  Saplings and young trees have taken root.  There are stone steps on one edge of the bank where the bridge ended.  The other side is washed and eroded away.
There are other friends at work here too.  Mr. Beaver is a resident.  Wonder if he could learn to like kudzu.

We walked over to the first wooden bridge crossing.  It was near the patio and the servants house.  One photograph of the little brook for old times sake.
The stones are still in place where the little bridge contacted the edges of the banks.
Bamboo was planted here along this brook.  It flourished and I liked the look of it.  For a couple years I thought it was cane as I never saw cane.  Look what is happening to it.  See below:
I, at first, thought someone was cutting it for the sake of cutting it.  A friend pointed out that beaver probably been gnawing on it.  Enlargement and careful scrutiny indicate my friend is correct.  Indeed beaver have cut these bamboo pieces.  The shape of the teeth can just be seen on the stalk.  Thanks Gretchen.
Anne has expressed an interest in coming here from California state to visit Scona.  I wanted her to see that there isn't really anything to see.  Its her decision but I wanted her to see up front all that was left.  Her childhood was spent here - her home was here.  Can you imagine how it feels to see it defiled like this.  Its reality.  Its truth.
Kudzu is a despicable plant.  It consumes and kills everything it touches.  It winds its tentacles around native plants and trees and smothers them to death.  The stuff grows two yards and more per year and is unstoppable.
Above:  View facing the ferry landing and the lake.
Above:  View facing Scona Lodge
Above:  Shade is standing on the concrete ferry landing.
Above:  View from the ramp downstream along the shoreline
Above:  Try pushing your way through that mess.  Its impossible without a chain saw.
I had enough of this.  I was getting depressed, disgusted and losing the desire for exploration.  When I get that way its time to find the boat and get back on the water.  Everything is right with the world "out there."
One last point.  For years I looked at those two tall pine trees, one on each side of the ferry landing, and thought they were just kudzu covered trees.  They are not.  As I floated past them I noticed straight lines as I looked into the kudzu.  They are cable towers made of wood.  The ferry cables went over top of them and were anchored to the ground.  They held the cables that held the ferry on course as it crossed the river.  Look below:
Look real close.  Look inside the kudzu.
Amazing.  It fooled me all these years.  I just wasn't looking, or thinking about it.
It's hard to believe that everywhere you see kudzu on that lake shore - there was a golf course that touched the water and a magical building made of memories called Scona Lodge.
The trip back across the lake was uneventful.  The wind was wild down the lake and both Shade and I got wet.  It was fun though.  I'll not forget this day anytime soon.  It was a mix of anticipation of finding the cabin and disgust at the defiling of the steps.  Sorry for my tirade earlier.  Its just how I am.

And - so ends the final chapter of the Scona Lodge story.  The cabin has been found.  There is nothing more to seek.

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