Monday, February 4, 2013

A MORNING FILLED WITH WONDER

The photographs above and below are two reasons why I love what I do in the outdoors.  The colors have not been altered I assure you.  This is what greeted me at sun-up on the banks of Beech Creek this morning.  Simply sensational!  I took the shot above and prepared the boat for launching.  The sun became just a little bit brighter for the second shot.  It was a stunning morning sun-rise.
The water was still at flood stage but getting the boat in the water was doable.  The concrete boat ramp was submerged but, I remembered the direction it took from previous launching s.    There is a two foot drop off on each side of the ramp that could damage a boat trailer if it rolled off the edge.  I was certain of what I was doing and went ahead.

The boat is sitting directly over the ramp.  Water here is about two feet deeper than normal due to the flood waters.  I was set and couldn't wait to get on the water.  The heavy rains with snow and ice have kept me away too long.

I quickly found two fishing boats, the only two on the water, spoke to them and continued on up stream.
The spot above is an otter slide.  The bank is worn smooth by their sleek bodies sliding down over the mud and into the water.  They have eluded the trapper who frequents here.  Their tail and footprints can be seen in the mud at the water line.  The prints are fresh.  Yea!
The two white squares above are salt blocks.  Mighty nice of someone to bring these two salt blocks way out here in the middle of nowhere to put them out so the deer will have something to lick on.  There isn't a house or barn within a mile in any direction so they sure aren't here for cattle.  The distrusting side of me throws up alarms because salt blocks are a way poachers attract deer to a predetermined spot over and over.  But, surely that isn't what these salt blocks are here for.  Surely not.  I'll watch em though - just for fun.

The rocky cliffs and surrounding mountains appear cold and gray.  They tarnish the warm, beautiful morning that greeted me early today.
I saw him in a tall tree across the lake.  He was lifting his feet off the branch repeatedly in preparation for flight.  I was going in that direction anyway so I just let the boat take me across the lake.  Upstream was upstream no matter which side of the water i was on.















I could see through the binoculars that he was ready to take flight.  I wouldn't make it over in time.  The binoculars were put down and the camera came to my face.  It was almost too far away to worry about but, what the heck.  Two loud shrieks rang out as the bald eagle left the tree and spread his huge wings in flight.


I felt a familiar chill on my neck when I heard those cries.  These are amazing birds to see in the wilds away from car noises, traffic and people cackling.  The only sound is the water moving between the shorelines and the breeze blowing past my ears.  Maybe the chill is due to being in the presence of such magnificence or maybe it's due to the one on one close proximity of him and me.  Don't know.  I do know that it is a privilege to be in the presence of this beautiful, wild creature.  I watched him as long as I could.


He flew through the trees on the shore heading upstream.  The river took a curve to the right far ahead.  It would take me fifteen minutes to get there in this boat.  Hell - he was already there.  I apologize for the bad photography here.  I had to crop the shots to be able to see anything at all.  He was very, very far away when I took the pictures.


I had been on the water for over three hours and it was time to stop this thing and eat some yogurt.  Yep - yogurt.  No peanut butter today.  I was in a rush when I left the house this morning and just grabbed a pack of yogurt.    I beached the boat on an old snag along the shoreline and broke out the plastic spoon I borrowed from Wendy's.
There were a lot of Robins here with me.  They were everywhere.  I've seen them like this a couple years ago at the old state park back at Tellico but not this many since.

They were not making a sound.  Odd.  Normally flocks of birds communicate some way.  I watched as they moved through the bushes and trees.  Some were foraging on the ground.  One or two splashed in tiny puddles of water under the button bushes.  They moved forward up the shoreline in unison,  just inside the cover of the bushes.
They wasted no time as they scratched in the earth, flew from branch to branch and bush to bush, all the while maintaining their forward progress as a flock.  Interesting.

I fired up ole Nelly and moved out to the center of the river for the return trip back downstream.  A flock of geese passed in front of the boat.  No, I didn't have the camera ready.  I could only get a few quick shots at them.


They were going to land on the opposite shore.  I always wondered how geese chose their leader.  I mean - someone has to be the leader.  There must be some unspoken squawk that determines where everyone is going.    


I normally cruise along at about six miles per hour when I'm working on these lakes and I noticed that the current was really rolling along.  The idea passed between my ears to shut off the engine and let er go with the flow, which is exactly what I did.  Hows that song go - "here am I sitting in my tin can."  It was right about here that I almost fell out of the boat - laughing.

I had been fighting off the urge to sneeze for the past half hour.  The phenomena was starting again.  First the gasps of air and the pressure behind the eyes, the tickling in the nose and the closing of the mouth attempting to stifle the sneeze and close everything in.  Usually a little, barely audible Ka Klurp is the result of the restraining effort.  Then it got me.  The little, quick intakes of air started and escalated to rapidly repeating gasps until everything built up into a final crescendo that ended with a very loud aaaaKaaaFwalla!  My head was thrown back and my hat went cross ways on top my head and the second aaaaKaaaFwallaWhappa unceremoniously left my mouth--along with the lower denture.  It flew almost the length of the boat and landed on the forward deck area with a resounding metallic plunka.  I hoped that somehow whiplash was avoided.
My eyes settled on the little pink denture that lay before me on the floor of the boat.  Modern dentistry's innovation to restore lost teeth to the human mouth settled there on the boiler plate that was the floor of this boat.  It looked so insignificant all by itself.  I started laughing at the sight of it.  The laugh became repetitive gasps for air until tears filled my eyes and the moisture formed tiny puddles at my feet.  At the sight of the puddles I laughed harder and faster until I had to sit down.  It was then that my hat fell off my head and landed perfectly on the throttle lever beside me.  I said to myself, "that's amazing!"  I reached for my hat and knocked it off the throttle and into the water.  The engine had to be started and the boat turned around to go pick up my hat, which was soaked and unwearable.  Fortunately I had a knit hat in my coat pocket.  I stood up and took a step toward the medical marvel that lay before me on the floor and started laughing again.  More tears caused a vision problem and I tripped on a damn anchor rope and almost fell in the drink.  Fortunately the antenna for the nonfunctional GPS was still bolted to the dash and my hand grabbed onto it and saved me.  That made me laugh too.  I suddenly composed myself and looked around to see if any other boats were in the area.  There weren't.
 I leaned down and picked up the scorned item of scientific wonder, wiped them off on my trouser leg and popped em back on the naked gum.  Everything felt fine in there and off I went downstream hi-lickety-barlow.

I stayed close to the right hand shoreline on the return ride back down the lake.  I noticed something far down the embankment and at the edge of the tree line above that looked out of place.  When I scan the habitat for critters, I don't look for the animal I seek, as a whole-nor do I pay much attention to color differences.  Animals wear clothing that closely resembles their environment.  I look for outlines - outlines that do not fit the location.  After an interesting outline is noted I then resort to shape, form and color.  I learned that in the Army long ago and that process has served me well all these years.


The scene was pretty as a picture.  So I made one.


Pure natural, nonthreatening innocence.  Natures sweetness personified.  
The doe in front was getting antsy.  I purposely left the engine running for the sole purpose of putting some fear into these two deer.  They needed to learn to fear human intrusion.  She was getting the idea.  Those two salt blocks were in close proximity to their present location and I have a few thoughts of what that salt is all about.  She took a few steps and put the pedal to the floor.


 Look at her stretch out.  Go girl go!
She is lightning on the ground.   

Let me tell ya - that's some fast camera work.  The second deer finally got the idea that she better follow her friend.



Now, this deer ran with sort of a gallop, very unlike her friend who went before her.  She obviously didn't realize there was one of those dastardly humans at large or she would have been the thunder behind her friend's lightning.

I continued down the lake with a wide smile on my face.  What a delightful interlude!
There was only one thing left to check and I'd be out of here and on the way home.  The area of John Sevier Dam needed a look-see.  I ran over that water and started up the shoreline toward the entrance of Beech Creek.  I would have to pass the bald eagle nest I discovered in the fall.  Two adult eagles had been hanging out on the mountain side all winter and I wanted to see if they paired.
This nest is tucked pretty far back off the shore and up the hillside.  There are limbs in front of it also that prevents a clear view of the edge of the nest.
If you look carefully at the top of the nest you will see the head of a bald eagle showing above the edge.  This indicates that the eagles have paired up and I'll be a Dad in April.  This is so very wonderful to see.  Hopefully their offspring will stay on this lake.  The habitat is super for eagles and there is a lot of it.  Fingers crossed!

I got the boat loaded and pulled out onto the road.  There in a tall old tree to my left was what I first thought was a red tail hawk.
I was in error.  It is an immature bald eagle.  How about that!!  A new kid is on the block.
And, there you have it.  Another day at the office ends.  The stress is great but, I think I can stick it out.  Hope you enjoyed it.  See ya.
And, a couple extra shots: