Friday, March 8, 2013


I could feel the very tip of the paddle brush against the large, smooth rocks on the bottom as the Attikamek, like a floating leaf, moved closer and closer to the mouth of Panther Creek. 
There was absolutely no wind when I left home but, by the time I got to Chilhowee Lake an easy breeze was gently blowing.  This is the kind of breeze that makes canoeing delightful.  No pressure to keep the boat going straight and no panic, hard paddling to fight strong winds as they attempt to blow the canoe across the water and into the shoreline against boulders.  Today would be a nice day to paddle a canoe on beautiful, clean, clear water.
I took the canoe down to the water's edge and stood for a bit and stared out across the surface of the water.  The first thing one notices when coming to Chilhowee Lake and Abrams Creek channel is the very clear water.  It is cold and clean.  Very impressive!  This is a delightful change for me as I've been subjected to the muddy waters of Cherokee and Dougas Lakes for the past year.  The water here is mountain water from the earth - not run off from agriculture, parking lots and road ways that pour into the lakes from rivers that run the length of several states carrying all the siltation and garbage along the way.   I sure miss having this resource in my back yard.  Well, I guess I better shove off and get out there.
Not too shabby, is it?  Scenes like this make me lay the paddle across the gunnels and just lean back and look around.  After all - there's no rush to get anywhere.   I like to capture scenes like this in my camera for safe keeping.  I can pull them out and remember the moments anytime I want to.  It helps keep me sane.

I keep bringing up the tornado damage that was inflicted here two years ago.  It's hard not to reflect on that issue as the reminders are staring me in the face no matter what direction I turn.  I sure wouldn't have wanted to be camping anywhere near this water way when that twister came through.  I can remember, and have photographs, of beautiful, tall trees that stood on both sides of the water on the mountainsides.  They have been flicked away in a single evening of wild, furious weather.  Actually, the tornado, as I remember, only took about a half hour to come down the mountain across Chilhowee Lake, cross the water, enter Abrams Creek channel and follow it to the end before going over the mountain at that point.  The high winds, trapped between the mountains in the river channel,  devastated "all" the trees on both sides of Abrams.  Look closely at the photos and you'll see the damage that thing incurred.

The right turn to Panther Creek is just ahead.  It's hard to see as creek openings blend into the terrain and many times can't be found until they are approached closely.
Panther Creek is located way back and to the right in the photo above.  Abrams Creek channel is to the left and not shown.

Panther Creek channel goes back a short way and bears to the left.  The water becomes very shallow shortly after that turn.  A canoe or kayak is the only way to get to Panther in the Summer due to the limited water depth.  That's a good thing.  I noticed a definite shortage of birds today.  Actually, I've not seen or heard even one tiny bird.  Odd.

The mouth of Panther Creek is just ahead.  This little channel is absolutely charming and beautiful.  When the trees leaf out this waterway becomes a gem.

The mouth of Panther finally came into clear view.  I didn't want to get closer as I was just about out of water.  The canoe brushed over a rock on the bottom just as I clicked the picture above.  There is no need to get out of the canoe as I had no dog friend with me to enjoy on the shore.  Yes, I miss my friend - either one of them.
Just look how clear and clean that water is.  Even the bottom of this creek is beautiful.

I spun the canoe around and let the current carry us back down stream.

I paddled the canoe over to a fallen log and softly touched against it with the gunnel, reached out and laid my elbow on top of it and held the canoe in place.  I just wanted to drink in the solitude of the rushing stream behind me and the gentle breeze rustling the foliage on the shore.  This is a treat that I relish.  It's a very different experience than driving a motorized boat on a muddy pleasure lake filled with power boats making all sorts of motor noises as they scream from spot to spot for whatever reason.

Don't get me wrong - I like the lakes too but, I for one need a reprieve from them frequently - very frequently.

I pulled the canoe in to shore at a place I call Douglas Landing.  It's been a favorite spot to stop at for years.

Landmark in my mind
The destruction is actually attractive.  The fact that nature caused it somehow makes it alright.

This entire area used to be covered with beautiful, large trees.  They have been twisted and torn by an outrage too powerful to imagine.

I used to chase Douglas back under the trees that used to stand here.  He would run at me and feint to the side – stop on a dime and repeat the maneuver over and over.  He was happy here.  He belonged in this beautiful place.  There are a lot of memories here.  I thought the memories of him would eventually dim but, they remain vivid and strong.  I miss him.
I walked around and tried to find something of interest.  It was all destroyed by the monster.  I was getting bored.  There was no golden dog to talk to and  chase and I left the black one, sweet Shade, at home.  I’ve got to look into getting another 17 foot expedition canoe so she can accompany me.  This isn’t working without my dog friend.
This is still a pretty spot, even with the devastation.  I never thought about it before but this area will never normalize in my lifetime.
 The bruises sustained by the land will probably take half a century to begin to return to normal.  Such is the way of nature.  I got in the canoe and paddled out to the middle of the stream all the while burning the images of the mountainsides in my mind.

I let the boat go with the current, correcting only when the wind would hit it with a particularly strong, short burst that would steer the tiny boat precariously close to the blow downs along the shoreline.
I don’t know when I’ll get back here as the gasoline costs are just plain nuts.  Trips over here may eventually be relegated to overnight campouts. What a shame!
I pulled the canoe out, loaded it onto the truck and walked across the road for a last look at Chilhowee Lake before I headed for home. 

Chilhowee was gorgeous, as it always is.  It was time to shove off down the road and enter the real world of overcrowded interstates and the insanity of jammed up traffic caused by desperate people rushing off to wherever it is they have to be.  And then there’s that damn exit off the interstate at Pigeon Forge.  What a joke!  Look below.  Dolly World, Sevierville and Pigeon Forge.  The massive traffic jambs start even now.  Cars back up onto the three lane interstate slowing traffic to a standstill.  It’s nuts.