Sunday, July 29, 2012

CHILHOWEE LAKE AND A HIKE AT SCONA LODGE

click on photo to enlarge

I really wanted to take the canoe to Calderwood Lake today but, Shade talked me into bringing her here instead. See yesterdays entry for the details on that. We arrived early and the water was like glass. I forgot it was Sunday or I may not have come due to the people factor. We were off for the shoreline where the old Scona Lodge used to sit. There is a story about Scona Lodge on this blog and can be found through the search mechanism.














The colors surrounding the lake were bright and, well, crisp.  Now, this is a real lake unlike the pleasure bath tubs east of here.  No houses or buildings of any kind inhabit this lake.  Its all wild.


The Scona Lodge site was about two miles up the lake toward the dam.  Shade was enjoying the ride and in reality - today belonged to her.  That overpass above is where Route 129 crosses the Abrams Creek channel. 






The shoreline of Scona came into view and I idled down the engine to enjoy the sights.  I always try to place the various buildings on the shoreline where I think they sat in the old days.



 Above and below:  The shoreline on the right used to be a beautiful golf course and further up where the tall dark trees are stood a magnificent lodge.












Below:  The ferry landing on the Route 129 side of the lake.  The town of Alcoa sat behind and to the right of that landing on the mountain side behind it.














Kudzu has now claimed the Scona Lodge site and is growing more dense by the year.

What appears to be two tall trees covered with kudzu is really two towers where the ferry boat cables were anchored.

 Above are the kudzu covered ferry boat cable towers.  Below is the ferry boat landing for Scona Lodge.













 Above is a close up of the ferry landing.  Below is the old boat launch area for the lodge.  I always beach the boat here.  It is sheltered from harsh waters by the placement of boulders upstream of the landing to break up wild water.
I wanted to hike up the old service road that goes past the long gone trap and skeet ranges.  Shade needed exercise and I thought we could cover some mountain miles if we stayed on that trace.  I was mistaken.
First I wanted to see the old stone steps - the steps that started my obsession with this place nine years ago.













Two months ago the cap stones were stolen off the right wall.  Now, I see the left wall is missing the stones.  People are just a problem anywhere they are found out of doors.  The area behind the boat landing is covered with trash.  Campers are a dirge on the wild places.  I saw enough.
The trail to the trout pond was almost impassable.  The growth is much heavier than I remember.  The recent lack of rain has all but turned the old pond into a mud hole.  A lot is changing over here.  But, the old pond is still pretty.




The old service road is almost gone, at least near Scona Lodge.  It was all we could do to discern where it was let alone walk on it. The forest has almost consumed the old site.


 The road is really overgrown and almost gone.  This isn't fun and we are turning back.
Above is the old trap/skeet range.  Its been long ago reclaimed by the forest.
 Nothing like laying in a creek to cool down.  The water was surprisingly cool.

While watching Shade, I noticed a dead turtle.  It was odd to find that his shell was very soft.  Usually the shell withstands the deterioration process and remains hard.  Its odd.














We were almost back to the boat.  We were walking down the last part of the trail that goes past the old steps when Shade hesitated and looked to her left.  She side stepped to the right and stared at a particular spot on the trail.  I saw it.  My hand found the grip of the pistol I carried and I knelt down on one knee and took aim at the biggest snake I had ever seen. The spade shaped head was huge and a good target.  I expected to see a copperhead but it wasn't a copperhead.  It was a huge timber rattler.  "Shade - No!"  "Come here, come here!"
She still watched the snake with curiosity.  "Shade, Shade - Come here girl.  Good girl."
Shade was about two yards from the snake and I about five yards.  I had a dead sight on the snakes head and wouldn't miss.  If Shade made any move toward the snake I would fire.  The snake was coiled and paying no attention to the dog.  I don't think it knew Shade was there.  Then in a flash the snakes head snapped to the right and focused directly on Shade.  I tried once more to get Shade to come.  "Shade - come here now!"  She walked back to me slowly all the while watching the huge snake coiled to her right side.  I grabbed her collar and pulled the camera out to catch just the tail end of the snake as it slithered into the deep weeds and growth.  I wish I could have photographed it.  Its odd to find timber rattlers this low.  No doubt the lack of rain has tempted it down from the rock cliffs to the water of the lake.
















You may be wondering why I didn't just shoot he snake and be done with it.  Well, I saw no need to.  The snake was just doing what snakes do.  We, Shade and I, were interloping into its territory.  I do not like to kill things in the wild.  That's not what I'm all about.  I would have killed the snake had Shade even looked like she was going to move toward it.  She didn't.  So, why would I take the life of that creature?  He is what he is and will act accordingly.  One dead snake will not reduce the population at all.  The only thing that would have happened would be the elimination of a beautiful, natural creature for no reason other than it was a snake and snakes make "people" nervous.  People should be nervous, especially with this guy around.  They are nocturnal and tent screens need to be closed.  The campers who tossed all the beer cans all over the place and left toilet paper here and there are probably experienced campers and will no doubt take the proper precautions against copperheads and timber rattlers.  Yep.  I'm sure.  As for me - this is the last visit I am making to that shoreline in the summer.  Timber rattlers should not be there and if they are they will be present in numbers.  I'll stay away.

We took off down the lake for a run up Abrams Creek.  We would stop at the place Douglas and I always visited.  I wanted to make a note or two in my journal.


This is a great place to kick back and let Shade swim and catch up on the journal.  I have a lot more pictures of today's trip but unfortunately Hughs.net doesn't allow me enough usage to post them.  Anyway, its pretty up here.  I noticed the kayak guide service parked along the road at Abrams Creek.  I still can't understand why anyone would need any kind of guide to kayak anywhere on any of these lakes.  I don't get it.


The rest of the photos I took were of the lake.  I'm a slave to satellite internet and it is the worse imaginable. Today was great.  I've got to figure how to sneak out with the canoe while Shade is sleeping.  I just can't say no to her.  The canoe is going out this week for sure.  Maybe tomorrow will be the day.  Thanks for looking in.