Tuesday, May 28, 2013

PADDLING THE JUNGLE

I awoke this morning with and overwhelming need to paddle a canoe.  I figured that the flood plain at Rankin was the closest place suitable for canoeing and decided to go for it.  The water would have the trees flooded across the river so I selected the 16 foot kevlar canoe for the task.  The Royalex Mohawk at 17 feet would be a bear trying to get through the trees and around the bushes in the flooded forest areas.  As it turned out – The kevlar boat was the right choice.
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That kevlar canoe is so light weight that I just lifted it up off the horses in the living room, put it under my right arm and walked out of the house to the truck with it.  Not so with the Mohawk canoe.  I was on the road in short order.  It was early morning and I was in no hurry.  I wanted a leisurely paddle trip and didn’t want to get myself in one of those “hurry up states of mind” that is easy to do. There were a few fishing boats at the Rankin boat ramp but, they were not running the river.  It seemed they all were anchored out in the river fishing and just taking it easy.  I lifted the Attikamek off the truck and loaded her up.
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I wanted to head downstream and cut left into the flood plain below the old railroad bridge.  The sun was up and the heat was beginning to make me perspire.  It would feel good to paddle under the canopy of the forest.  That sounds like a strange thing to say.  I’ll show you what I mean shortly.
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That little section of water beside the canoe is nothing more than a ditch.  The river is high right now and the ditch is really pretty and deep enough to shove the canoe into .  There are no stones or gravel to mar the bottom of the canoe – only grass.  This is going to be a great morning!
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The old bridge was straight ahead.  I would paddle down below that bridge and turn a sharp left into the flooded forest.
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There’s my turn in.
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The world instantly changes.  I’m on a narrow water path that is leading into the deepest part of the forested area, now flooded.  Isn’t this the coolest thing?
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I’m about ready to just go “wherever.”
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The scenery is gorgeous and ultra green.  The sun is simply intense and seems to drive the green color straight through to the water.  I saw an opening under a tree and paddled the canoe into it.
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There are both large and small pools of water that form ponds back in here.  I paddled over some reeds and water grass in an attempt to get into the forest on the other side.  Sometimes these little avenues lead into an area where timber is laying on the water and blocking the water channels.  There isn’t much I can’t get around though.
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You can imagine how strange this is in here.  It isn’t a river really, nor is it a lake, and it isn't even a swamp.  It’s a flood plain.  That’s all I can come up with.  Two immature black crowned night herons leap into space from a limb.  I wasn't even looking for critters.  I could hear them as I paddled back into this area.  Guess I’m learning my birds.
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I’m really getting back in the thickets now.
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I looked straight up and saw an umbrella shading me from the sun.
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An old wood duck box was still hanging onto an old tree.  I bet it’s been forgotten.  I believe, however, that GPS coordinates are documented for each box.
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Yep – pileated woodpecker.  Saw it right off.
A tiny bird landed on a branch above.  He was a pretty little thing.  I photographed him for later identification, which I haven’t done yet.
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I just discovered something.  I was lost.  I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true.
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I surely was lost, but I didn’t give a damn!
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An osprey was finishing breakfast.
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I probably should start trying to figure out where I am.  Should have brought the GPS I guess.
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Hi little guy.
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I headed toward where I thought I’d hit the river.  No way.  I came out on this artificial bay in the forest.  Pretty though.  I pointed the boat straight across this piece of water and into the trees you see in the shot above.
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That bay lead me to another bay and yet another, each one a bit larger than the one before it.
Paddling the French Broad River flood plain - gary’soutdoorwanderings2
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You’ll see a white dot in the second shot above.  That is an old abandoned railroad coal tipple.  I gotta go there.  I knew where I was now – kinda.  An osprey started chirping just ahead to the right.  There was a nest in an old snag of a tree and mom was in the nest.  Mr. Osprey was in a tree about 50 feet away keeping watch.  He flew at my approach.
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If I’d get too close that old boy would swoop down and do fly byes on me.  I can only imagine what would happen if a guy would start to climb the nest tree.
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He watched every move I made.
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He didn’t go far.  He found a high perch and wouldn’t take his eyes off me.  That’s a good dad!
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Paddling the Flood Plain on the French Broad River–gary’soutdoorwanderings2
I was certain now that I was on the river and I paddled upstream keeping the flooded forest to my right.  I noticed a great blue heron rookery that was also shared by double crested cormorants.  One heron in particular caught my eye.  He was a perfect model for a heron on the nest. 
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Those birds look prehistoric.  I snapped a shot or two of cormorants on their nests.  The two species seem to be getting along just fine.
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I looked up river and saw that I had a long way to go.  Something was disturbing the water ahead of the canoe.  It was moving toward the shoreline.  A turtle maybe.
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Paddling on the French Broad River, TN 3 - gary’soutdoorwanderings2
It was a common water snake.  He must have voyaged clear across the river to this shore line.  I couldn’t get close to him.  He ducked under water every time I moved my arm to paddle.  He was watching.  It’s a good thing an osprey didn’t see him or even a largemouth bass.  Seems everything watches everything.
I paddled for another hour and finally stepped out of the canoe.  Whew!  It was a nice morning and I felt great after paddling that boat for six hours straight.  Gotta get home to the pups and something cold to drink.  Hope you enjoyed the paddle trip.  I’m ready to go back already.  I have one more day off and I may take the dogs back West to the old park.  It will have to be in the morning as it’s too hot in the afternoon. We’ll see.  Thanks for looking in.  Oh – here’s a couple new roses that bloomed after the heavy rain we had.  Yes – I like roses.  This entry needs a bit of color.
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