Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The wind whips the water into rollers and white caps as it moves with haste across the surface of the lake.  Yet, another audible wind can be heard getting closer and closer.
They rose upward out of the tree tops as if following one particular leader.  They moved as one.
Then, as one, they hovered in their great cloud as if undecided which way to go.
The birds then moved closer together in their darkening cloud making a dense formation.

The formation shifted and swayed - undulated left and right - up and down presenting a ballet spectacle.

 The choreography is beautiful to watch and the performance is perfection.
Then, as if some silent command were given - they begin to disband and the formation spreads over a wide area until the impression of unified movement is removed.

The play is ended - the curtain falls and the performers leave the stage and another performance presented by Mother Nature is over.   The theater is closed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Mareid Nesbit of “Celtic Woman” fame is playing an exciting violin solo called Grainuaile’s Dance.  The CD volume is turned down low so I can think.  With a cup of coffee in hand I step out onto the porch with my girls.  The rockers have been taken inside and there is no furniture to sit on but, the porch has a great railing just the right height to half sit upon.  A small amount of light shines down from a window on the second story onto the yard area just in front of the porch.   A very gentle rain is falling and the temperature, though chilly, isn’t intolerable.   I’m thinking how much I like Celtic music.  Its rhythms are like no other music’s and the ladies of Celtic Woman have voices of perfection.  Chestnut hound casually walks across the porch and sits down on the edge of the top step with her feet on the next step down.  She reminds me of how a little kid might sit there.  Dear Shade is at my feet where she always is.  She is my shadow at all times when we are together.  Happy?  Well, Happy is running back toward the porch from the yard with a florescent green, squeaky tennis ball in her mouth.  Oh, that sound – squeak, squeak constantly!  She’s such a sweet little girl.  It wasn’t easy but I got the ball away from her – just until we went back inside later.

It’s quiet out here.  There isn’t a sound except for the gentle rain falling through the trees.  There are a lot of big oak trees surrounding this house offering many, many leaves for the rain to fall upon and pat against.  Sometimes at night I can think myself into being somewhere else – someplace in a forest where no one exists but my girls and me.  And – I miss “him”   tonight.  My sweet boy didn’t have the chance to share our final home together.  How disappointing and sad!  Carelessness on my part erased him from my life in an instant and I will forever beg his forgiveness.

I can barely see the roof of the house that sits down over the hill 600 feet away to the front of us.  I planted Thalusia Pines along the edge of my drive with the expectation that they would block the view of that roof.  They have grown twice their height since I planted them last July and they are performing their duty well.  The forsythias from Scona reside in front of the pines where I can see them when they bloom this Fall.  This place is indeed pretty and it’s far enough away from the chaos to provide solitude.

A cold nose bumps against the back of my hand that is resting upon my knee.  Clear, bright eyes, the whites predominant, stare up at my face – the eyes surrounded by the softest black hair and fir.  I lay my hand on the top of her head and the white disappears.  How sweet is she?!  With a deep breath and a sigh I ask myself out loud, “what are you doing here?”   It’s too deep to go there.  But, thoughts are pouring through my head tonight for some reason.  Were all the years and experiences designed to lead me down a path through life that would deposit me here, on this spot?  Maybe, but I doubt it.  Then again - maybe.  Life has been some picnic for sure.  The fruit of that picnic has been mostly sweet with a touch of bitter lemon in the later years.   I am happier now than I’ve ever been.  Maybe I feel that way because it actually is “now” and the sensations are immediate and fresh.  I used to say my years as a young man on the farm were the happiest.  Those were indeed good times.  I guess the difference between then and now is that I’ve been through three quarters of living with the emphasis being placed on success and money, work and social acceptance.  Priorities are very different during this last quarter of existence.  Money, social standing, fancy cars and status have been replaced by creativity, appreciation of the wild places and the inhabitants who dwell there.  The acquirement of a dream job that places me squarely in the middle of “out there” helps too.  Instead of focusing on gaining wealth I concentrate on ways to get into the wilderness places to capture what I see in a camera and present it in a creative, pleasurable way that will interest folks who read and view my writings and pictures.  I am passionate about the wild places, as you already know.

“There you go again, Shade.  You’re always licking my hand.  It’s irritating at times but, I’ll never try to stop you because it shows how you feel about me.”  Sweet girl!

The sky is dark and the rain continues to fall.  I turned the collar of my jacket up against my neck.  A chill caused me to hunch my shoulders and shiver.  All I need to do is turn and go inside but I’m reluctant to leave the scene and break the magic of this evening moment.  I guess it’s time though.  I stood up and looked once more toward the dark sky – then down at the girls gathered around my feet, waiting in anticipation of some order or direction from me.  I opened the front door and they all slowly filed inside.  I stopped, turned and looked up at the sky once more and said, “miss ya Douglas”, stepped across the threshold and pulled the door shut.


I figured out how to upload movies and posts from Windows Live Essentials.  I did a test post with photos to this blog and deleted it.  Now, I’ll try movies.  Movies upload horribly slow to the blog and it’s impossible for me to do so.  We’ll see how Live Essentials does.  If this works – what follows are some simple little clips of my boat outings.  It looks like they will go to U Tube also.  Not sure.

Gheenoe Ride on the French Broad River

Fast water at the Rankin flood plain in the state boat (22 ft)

These take hours to upload.  Some of them almost complete and then fail at the last minute.  This is a trial at posting videos and I’m not too upset over the lengthy time it takes.  Again, these are posted to Windows Live Writer and transferred to my blog.  I’ll play around with the program.  Winter’s going to be here awhile and it’s a good project.  I signed up to Generation IV internet.  That will be installed next week.  The results should be like cable or almost like cable, if I believe  We’ll see about that too.

Friday, October 26, 2012


I haven't had the big 22 foot state boat all month due to bad axles on its trailer.  Actually the axles were too light for the weight of the boat.  Heavy over sized axles were installed and some welds were replaced on the framework.  Driving over to Knoxville from here killed the day and I didn't get on the lake.  This has been a rough month trying to get on the lake for job purposes.  The big boat's trailer has been in the shop most of the month, I had to drive to Nashville to exchange my old truck for the new one you see above and I had to retrieve the jon boat from our work center at Buffalo Springs to use while my boat was out of order.  The loaner boat needed the engine worked on so that took another couple days.  I got it working great accept if I take my hands off the steering wheel at 30 miles per hour it will switch directions in a heart beat and head the other way tossing me out into the lake to die instantly.  I gotta work on that next week as I'll be using that boat on newly assigned water.
The property here at home is starting to resemble a TWRA sub station or something.  I like it.  Green is my favorite color.  I stood on the porch with the dogs while drinking a coffee and surveyed the yard.  Yep - there's more government equipment parked around than equipment that I personally own.  Who'd a thunk it?  I like it.  This is a fantastic agency to work for and i'm proud to wear the TWRA emblem.  I like what they stand for and I like the efforts the agency expends for the betterment of wild things and wild places.  I could use a TWRA lawn mower.  I wonder.
The boat below will be used for shallow water.  I'll be picking up some new water to work on this summer and it's river water.   Rivers are interesting to run on.  Actually its the Holston River where Beech Creek flows into it.  Rough assignment.  This little green jon boat is built like an anvil.  It was made in the late seventies and has a motor that is, shall we say, a bit too big for the boat.  I like it.  That old hulk will get up and go.
I'm not one to sit around here so I hitched up the Gheenoe and headed for the river end of Douglas Lake tonight.  I had no purpose in mind.  I just wanted to be on the water.  The late afternoon was very warm and the water smooth as silk.  What a pretty time to be cruising on the lake.  I skimmed close to the shoreline looking for whatever.

The water depth at the French Broad flood plain is 2.5 to 3 feet deep.  Its getting too shallow to run on with the bay boat.  The Gheenoe is fine but I get nervous when I see two feet show on the depth finder.  In another week I'll probably not risk coming back up here until spring when the water will be permitted to rise again.  Its a pretty evening though.

The sun is dropping fast and I turned it around and eased back down the lake toward the boat ramp.  The light was hardly bright enough to be useful for any photography endeavors.  I knew where I'd see some deer and there was just enough light for a few shots if they were there.  I know all the hang outs for critters on the lake.  As suspected - a couple deer were there in the secret cove.  Mom and junior were just lounging around.

That's a pretty mom for sure.   Junior is one of the cutest kids I've ever seen.

I didn't know if these pictures would come out or not it's so dark out.  Not bad I'd say.
We don't work for National Geographic here, ya know.

 Mighty sweet!
The weather is to turn bad starting tomorrow.  Temperatures are to drop and rain move in so I'm not sure which way to head or what to get into.  I'm not a sitter so I'll be into something.  If it's bad,  the boats will remain home and I guess the motorcycle will too.  I have three days off in a row too.  Figures!  Maybe I'll grind on the new dentures with a dremel and a sanding disk.   I appreciate you all looking in.  Thank you.


Hi !

It wasn't until 4 AM this morning that I decided to go to Beech Creek.  I have today off, on tomorrow and off the next three.  With two boats and a bike, it can be challenging to decide what to do or where to go.  Bet you'd like to have my problems.  I tossed the canoe on top the truck as soon as I could see this morning and was off.  I even had my brand new chompers in.  I  was dying for  donuts and stopped at the convenience store on the way.  I opened the package and pulled one of those babies out and pinched off about an inch of donut and popped it in my mouth.  When I closed and opened my mouth to chew,  the lower dentures came off my gums and flopped around in my mouth.  I spat the whole mess onto the truck floor, passenger side - then pulled the upper out and pitched it down there on the floor with its partner and I gave it not another thought the rest of the day.   I have limited patience with such things.

Every single aspect related to good canoeing was present here at Beech Creek.  The sky, water, breeze and lack of any humans was perfect.  The canoe operator was in stellar condition also.  A quick look around found a big red tailed hawk in a tree up on a hill.  It was a very far shot for even this 500 mm lens.  What the heck!

I decided to run Beech Creek upstream and stay on it's narrow waterway.  There isn't a sound up here.

If you look closely you'll see that many trees have lost most of their leaves already.

I was half way up here when I discovered that I had forgotten to bring my binoculars.  Wow!  This would put me at a tremendous disadvantage searching for wildlife.  The trick to this game is seeing the critters way out there - way, way out there.  An avenue of approach is then planned where the subject can't see the boat coming.  Without the binoculars I would have to just move as stealthy as possible and hope I see them before they see me.  So far it ain't working with wood ducks.  Two flocks took off far ahead of the canoe.  I'm paddling in super stealth mode leaving not a track on the water and they still detected my presence.
 As you can see above - this is a lot of work.
I could see tiny birds all about and thought I might try to sneak up on one and at least see if I could identify it.

I'm going to guess and say its a juvenile wood - pewee.  The black beak indicates juvenile and the lack of white edging on the feathers tells me it isn't a flycatcher.  Lets do another one.
 Easy one.  Cedar Waxwing

How about this little guy

 I'm going to say chipping sparrow because it is the only sparrow with that black line behind its eye.  After posting this entry, I checked with the state ornithologist and he says its a swamp sparrow and not rare.  Hey - I'm learning.  Sparrows are real tough to identify.  There are many, many species.

 The scenery is gorgeous.  I'm paddling as slow as I can letting the glide of the canoe carry me quietly along. Its just a tremendous day!  There are no shore birds here at all. Wood ducks and mallards are the only ducks I've seen yet.  Later - green winged teals will make an appearance out on the river.

I was on the way back down stream at this point.  Canoe's are slow and I wanted to do some paddling on the French Broad River.  Might find an otter.  Never know.

The grass along the waterway gets heaviest the further down stream one goes.

Now, who's this?

I turned right and went upstream on the French Broad. 
I saw a movement far up the shoreline.  It was a couple splashes.  I was hoping for otters but, it was ducks.  
The mallards took to the sky and four wood ducks followed.  I wasn't ready for them and missed the shot.  The binoculars would have shown me all these birds a quarter mile away.
Ah ha!  One little wood duck remained behind.  There may be another one or two back under the bank.  Its dark under there and I doubt I can get a good shot of them.
 He really came out of there fast.  I barely got him in the view finder.  These birds are so fast that I can't make the necessary adjustments quick enough.  Its no big deal.  We're not shooting for National Geographic here.
I would continue down this side of the lake to see if the bald eagle was on his perch.  Without the binoculars I would have to look very closely and move the boat slowly.
No eagle today.  But, wait.  He's on the wing and just left his special tree that he perches in.  I'm too late.  I got a fleeting view of him as he disappeared behind the tree line.

 I just missed the bald eagle.  Another 20 minutes and I'd have had him.  No big deal though.  I can always find him when I want.  I headed directly across the river and through the river grass to the channel that lay beyond.  The water was dead calm there and I noticed a lot of waterfowl swimming there.

 Above and below.  Pied bill grebes constantly dive totally under water and pluck the occasional minnow or insect from the surface.
I saw a small duck swimming.  He joined up with a few more ducks.  I couldn't determine what brand they were.   I couldn't until they flew.  These are green winged teals as opposed to blue winged teals.  Look closely at the pictures for the green on their wings.

I know you saw the first picture on this entry and wondered what's up with that.  Right after I took the duck picture above I decided to continue up along the wooded shoreline and cut across the river to Beech Creek and close up shop for the day.  Remember the binoculars?  I didn't see them until I was on top of them.  Two otters were playing on the shoreline.  One swam off and disappeared.  The other one swam close to shore and just stayed in the vicinity.  I turned the canoe into the overhanging limbs of the trees and grabbed a hanging limb to stop the canoe so I could operate the camera.  Otters get me stirred up as you can see.  As I was shooting the one in the water - I saw a bush move.  Then the bush became opaque.  An otter was sleeping in the bush and stood up.  Anyway - here's the best I could do with the situation.  I could have gotten closer with binoculars.  I'm happy though.

These two guys were putting on a show.  They were just having a good time swimming together.  I wish I could have been closer for better pictures but, any movement from me would send them in panic.  And then they saw the canoe and all swimming instantly stopped.  Very cute.

And then they really, really saw me.  "What's that over there?"
Their little heads went below the surface and they were gone.  What a day!  What a day!  I hope you enjoyed it with me.  It's TWRA tomorrow and off the following three days.  I'll be into something for sure.  See ya later.  A last note - In my estimation this is the finest canoeing water in East Tennessee.  There are probably other hidden creeks I haven't found yet but, until I do - this is the ultimate flat water paddling.