Friday, February 15, 2013

HANGING OUT AT THE OLD MOUNTAIN MAN CABIN AT CHILHOWEE

Bad weather was due late today and I shouldn't have gone on the water in the Gheenoe but, I had an uncontrollable urge to go to Chilhowee Lake.  Yep - that's where the old Alcoa Scona Lodge used to live.  I knew better than to take the risk putting the Gheenoe on that lake with high winds predicted but the only other options were to stay in the house, kick leaves around the yard with my foot, clean the house or put the boat on Douglas Lake.  None of the above excited me.  Shade and I were on the road around 9AM headed West.
The water was like silk and the sky a rich blue.  This lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Tennessee.  It's right behind Calderwood in my book.  The scenery is as it should be surrounding a lake.  Thank heavens for the Cherokee National Forest, Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  If it weren't for them and the fact that Alcoa Aluminum Company owns this lake, the surrounding mountains would be inundated with homes.  Too bad someone didn't set aside areas to be left natural over here near Cherokee and Douglas Lakes instead of putting the land up for homesteading.
 As you can see it's a picture perfect morning.  We whistled Dixie as we putted down the lake.
The area below is where the huge landslide occurred two years ago.  If you look carefully you'll see an enormous net stretched out across the face of the mountain to collect falling rocks.  The shot above shows the tornado damage caused to the trees when it hit two years ago.  Amazing power!
I have posted many shots of this area in previous posts but everything is so gorgeous I can't resist photographing it all again.
The Route 129 bridge above crosses the mouth of Abrams Creek's channel.  We need to revisit that body of water soon again.  I think that will be a canoe paddle trip.
Above and below are shots of an active bad eagle's nest.  It's location has been noted on the GPS and I'll forward it to the State Ornithologist shortly.  They sure picked a tall old tree to call home.





The sun is bright and the colors vivid.  It makes one hold back on the throttle so more attention can be brought to bear on the passing scenery.

The familiar shoreline covered with kudzu comes into view indicating that we are very close to the old Scona Lodge site.  That place has a magnetic draw for me.


What a sight!  It's the only spot on the lake that has kudzu on it.  The twin cable towers shrouded in heavy kudzu act like beacons that mark the grave of the gracious lady, Miss Scona.


I drove around the corner of the projecting land and beached the Gheenoe in the usual spot - the boat cove.  I didn't feel like tramping through kudzu today as I was inspired to walk around on the mountain.  I needed altitude with a view.  The old mountain man's cabin, or what is left of it, is very near.  We'd climb on up and hang out there.
Above;  I hate when she does that.  The water is crystal clear.  It's very different over East of here on Douglas and Cherokee Lakes.  Of course, they are fed by powerful rivers that pick up silt along their travels and flow into those lakes making them muddy, or stained as we say.
It didn't take long to find the old, almost obliterated trail that winds along the side of the mountain and leads to the old cabin's location.


The old trail to the cabin is almost 80 years old and is nothing more than a whisper in the wind.  It was difficult to find when I originally searched for it. I kept looking down at the Gheenoe parked at the edge of Scona's parking lot.  It got smaller and smaller as we went up the mountain.
You can see Shade going up the hill in the shot below.  The trail goes to the thin tree to the left of center of the shot and takes a 90 degree right turn straight up the mountain.  Shade is on the trail in the shot.
I seem to always be able to discover something new when I visit this Scona Lodge site.  I've been up this mountain to the cabin site a few times and I never saw steps before.  I noticed a square end to what I thought was just a thick limb laying on the trail.  Closer inspection and leaf/soil removal with my foot revealed old steps.  They are deformed and rotted but, they are still there.  Amazing stuff!


Is that not amazing?  I feel like an archaeologist.
There are three separate sets of steps on the trail.  What a find!
Just ahead is the stone wall that was built to prevent the ground from eroding from around the cabin.
 You can see the trail better as it winds around the hill to the left and heads up toward the stone wall.
We slipped and slid on the leaves while making our way up the hill.  Guess the soles on these boots are worn out.  No tread left.  The leaves and underlying soil are very wet and it's like walking on ice.  Gotta be careful.
The Gheenoe is getting mighty far away down there.
I won't go into history or much detail about the old site as I've done so in previous entries.  All that is left is the chimney.  The location and the age of this place, you'd think, would demand it be preserved.  What a historical land mark this old cabin would have been.  I wonder why folks were so short sighted about such things in those days.  I just wonder.

There's the old chimney to the cabin.  It's all that is standing.  I walked around it and continued to photograph it from other angles.



I even laid on my back and took pictures up the chimney.  Silly me!  Seemed like a novel idea at the time.


And, what a view the old mountain man had!  It's spectacular.  He lived on top of the world.
He could look out, down and across and see the town called Alcoa, later to be named Calderwood.  he could see up and down the lake both ways and feel the raw wind, pure and fresh, every morning and evening.  The ferry landing on the opposite shore can be seen from this vantage point at the old cabin site.  If I could select one spot to finish out my life and breath my last breath in, it would be this site.  Maybe I could join the Haints in their nightly wails of unrest from the solitude of this tall mountain.  Whew - scared myself there.
We slid, slipped and fell down the face of the cliff and rolled out, onto the service trail that serviced old Scona Lodge.  I decided to take a short walk around the kudzu just for fun.


I noticed the bamboo is becoming a voracious predator as it eats up the remaining bare spots of earth, competing with the kudzu for the title of Monster Plant King.  I notice an obvious spread of this plant from clumps and small groves to a more massive land covering over the past six years.  It may actually be the force to be reckoned with when visiting this site in the near future.  Move over kudzu - a new plague is on the site.  I still have suspicions that Jimmy Hoffa is buried over here somewhere - I'd like to dig around in the basement of the old lodge.  It's still down there - buried and preserved under four feet of dirt, with Jimmy.
I noticed the temperature dropping and the wind was starting up.  We'd better be gone.

Things were calm when we left the boat slip and pulled out onto the center of the lake. About half way back to the boat ramp the wind started blowing hard.  The surface changed from a ripple to waves of up to two feet with white caps.  The Gheenoe was taking a pounding.  She would ride up one wave and crash down in the front onto the following wave creating an enormous splash with spray that came back the length of the boat and hit Shade and I square on.  We both were quickly soaked.  I couldn't turn up the speed as the boat would be pounded to death against the waves.  We had to creep along and just take the water that was coming on board rapidly.  The bilge pump was automatically activating and tossing the water back overboard.  Shade was going nuts trying to get out of the water spray.  She sat on the seat beside me, behind me and on me.  There was nothing to do about it.  Finally she bit the bullet and laid down beside me and let the water splash against her face without budging.  What a great girl!
I couldn't take pictures as the cameras aren't water resistant.  They were tucked inside a water proof Pelican instrument box.  Too bad.  You'd have been impressed at the seas raising and lowering around that little boat.  I'm absolutely thankful I didn't bring the canoe today like I planned to.  I'd still be over at Scona tonight if that were the case.  Chilhowee is an unpredictable lake with ever changing conditions and, they change very quickly, especially in the winter time.  Spring will calm things down and predictability will be more certain.