Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I have been impatiently waiting for years to get great shots of a red tail.  Every now and then I get lucky.  Enough said.

He only stayed for a moment and was gone but he left me with these memories.

Sunday, December 29, 2013


Don't let the title of this entry lead you to think that I've become ecstatic over moving from Cherokee to Douglas LakeIt's just that I've worn my eyes out looking at nothing but rocks and boulders all Winter long and need to rest my eyes on some other kind of scenery - like mud.
And so, out with the rocks and in with the mud - soft, deep, sticky, thick, brown quagmire.  Oh ya, don't get better than this.

I'll be running on Douglas Lake starting the 1st of January and I really am happy to be off Cherokee Lake.  Cherokee Lake is unpredictable during draw-down and it makes me nervous every time I put the boat on it.  Douglas has it's quirks and dangers but it's usually shallow water with mud on the bottom and not rocks.  One great benefit that Douglas has is bald eagles, and they are down there now.  I counted four in an hour with a total of 6 counting the two that were flying.
I am still amazed at the number of bald eagles that migrate to this lake, bypassing all the other lakes in East Tennessee.  I guess that's why biologists make the big bucks.
A misty drizzle fell while I was testing out the boat and I kept my eye to the bigger trees on the shoreline.  Sure enough and large, dark blob appeared out in the distance.
It was another immature bald eagle.  It looks like this Spring is going to be filled with eagles just like last year.  I was the only person on the entire lake today due to inclement weather (cause I'm nuts) and the eagles were sitting idle undisturbed.
This eagle was a big fella that I guess to be about three years old.  Remember that they receive their white heads and tails between 4 and 5 years of age.
 I wish there was more sunlight today but I have to deal with the cards that were dealt.
 I miss my 500 mm lens for eagles as it really brings them in close.  The 400 mm will do the job but I have to get a bit closer or be content with a bit more distant shot.  Complain, complain!
I drove along the shoreline and came to a point that was the mouth of a cove and an eagle was flexing his legs in preparation for flight.  I just got him.
The eagles are going to keep me happy, at least through Spring.  Most of the immature s will migrate back North to Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Main, Canada and other parts North but, some will stay here on Douglas with a host of adults. Exciting stuff!
And, he's outa here.

I may or not have mentioned that I have acquired a second boat to work the shallow waters of the rivers recently and have been putting a lot of work into it to make it ship shape.  It's nothing more than a jon boat but she's tough, rugged and fast.  Not much to look at but she's tough as a tank.
The boat was built to spec for the agency back in 1971 and is constructed with 1/8th inch all welded aluminum, powered by a 115 horsepower Mercury carburetor engine.  She'll scoot!  I probably mentioned all this in an earlier post but I'm old and forgetful and I do a lot of duplication.  Always remember that duplication of effort assures that the job gets done.  If it didn't get done the first time, it will most certainly get completed the second time around.  What am I saying?

Lastly, my heart is hurting for a little dog who belongs to my friend Anne (Scona Lodge) out in California.  Anne's golden retriever is feared to have cancer and she and Cody would appreciate it if you would keep them in your minds and hearts and prayers wouldn't hurt.  Cody is only 8 years old and a gorgeous dog.  I can't stop thinking about him.  A picture follows.  Look how sweet!  I can't get the photo turned.  Sorry.
Pretty Boy
I had to drive to Oak Ridge yesterday, about 50 miles away, and I stopped in a convenience store.  As I pulled into the lot the owner came out and said he was glad to see me.  That was nice.  I asked him why.  He said there was a little dog behind a fence that he was afraid would die of starvation, lack of water and exposure.  He thought that TWRA took care of "all" wildlife.  I told him the county has an animal control department and he should call them or an animal rescue center.  Then I asked him why he didn't give the little dog food, water and something to get out of the weather.  He just bowed his head and looked at the ground.  Imbecile! 

 I ran over to the fence and there was the little dog laying on a pile of cut grass beside the fence.  It was going to rain and the temperatures were to drop to the 40's - a bad combination for a little dog out in the open.  I carry cat food in the truck and gave him some which he ravenously ate.  Then I purchased two cans of soft dog food.  I couldn't take him with me as I was on a mission (work) and I had to leave.  Four hours later the rain came and the temperatures dropped.  I couldn't get the dog out of my mind all day.  I was determined to go get him and add him to the collection.  I made a special detour to drive to him and when I pulled into the driveway I couldn't see him.  It was raining so I thought he might be under thick bushes behind the fence.  I looked and looked but couldn't find him.  I even walked through the tall grasses and shrubs but no little dog.
Eating the cat food
I felt very bad but I guess it wasn't meant to be.  He was sweet and my only hope is that someone saw him and took him away to keep.  He's a beauty.

Another day of high adventure ends and I'm off work for the next few days and will try to get down to Chilhowee Lake to hike around the mountains near the old Scona Lodge site.  Hang in there and thanks for looking in.  Have a wonderful New Years.

Friday, December 27, 2013


I noticed something last night that I never really thought much about.  I like to write sometimes and when I'm really motivated, I can sit at the edge of a river or stream and write for hours.  The material rarely goes anywhere but I like to write.  What I noticed was that when I write with pen and paper I use better language, punctuation and sentence structure.  When I write with the computer I get choppy with the sentences and move through the operation of transferring thought to paper in a more haphazard fashion.  Interesting.  I wonder if those attributes are common among all people.  I wonder if the move to computers and away from the mechanical action of writing with pen and paper might be a detriment to school kids learning to read and write in the grade schools.  Bet cha!!
I've always liked to read about history and usually focus on the 17th century and the times preceding the birth of our nation.  The French and Indian War (7 Year War) in particular has been a fascination of mine all my life.  The people of those days were born with genes that maintained the wild aspect in humans of the time.  Frontiersmen could actually scent an enemy, much like a dog scents it's prey, which offers some small understanding of the differences between the hard people of those times and us.  There is, however, another time in history when the world was on fire and two nations fought each other and worshiped the same Christ, fought each other in his name and both praying to God for victory and the power and glory that would come with it - as if God would pick a side.

England had always felt that it was the rightful owner of the throne of France and in 1345 the turmoil that existed between Saxony (Brittain) and France came to the point of military confrontation. 

In 1346 Edward III of England, a Saxon king, arrived at Normandy and made his way inland to invade Philip VI of France.  The English army laid waste to everything in their path, pilliging, murdering, rapping and burning the pride of France.  King Philip moved against Edward's army, after considerable time, due to the logistics of assembling and moving his enormous military might across the water logged meadows, fields and forests of his country.  The two mighty armies met on a huge meadow near the town of Crecy.

Philip's army consisted of 70,000 men at arms and 6000 Genoise crossbowmen. These numbers are staggering!  The unimaginable and amazing fact is that all these combatants are in one place at one time for one battle and that's only one faction of the combatants.

Edward's forces were comprised of 4000 men at arms and knights, 7000 archers and 5000 spearmen.

The French outnumbered the English, as they usually did, but the English had one weapon that was deadly on the fields of battle of the time.  That weapon was the English archer.  The yew bow was a powerful weapon that was accurate to two hundred yards in the hands of an expert archer and all English archers were expert. They trained with the long bow since childhood, 5 to 8 years of age and wouldn't be proficient until the age of 14.  It required upper body strength to pull the yew's string back to the ear and hold it there for the release, and continual practice built that strength in the youths so inclined to the art.  A crossbow would load and shoot one bolt every two minutes.  An English archer could load and shoot an arrow every 5 seconds.  It's obvious that the 7000 archers fighting for Edward would throw up a wall made of arrows that would hold until the arrows were all expended, and they didn't run out.
On the day of August 26, 1346, France's might aligned on the meadow of Crecy to face the English power of King Edward III.
The warfare of the time was brutal and deadly where men would smash and bludgeon each other with iron and steel implements of all description.  The battle axe was a favorite weapon for those in the front line.  The long sword was replaced with a shorter sword that could be used for stabbing around and over shields and heavy iron maces would swing above heads and crush the helmets and body armor of an opponent.  
The English men at arms formed a shield wall as the French slowly marched forward toward them.  A shield wall is formed by a line of men holding their shields up where the top of the shield is just below eye level and the edges of each shield overlap just a bit with the man's shield who stands left and right of him.  Edward's archers were placed at the ends of the shield wall and to the rear where they could thwart any endeavors by the French to swing around the ends of the shield wall allowing an attack on the English rear.  The French men at arms were aligned in 5 rows of men at arms, foot soldiers, and behind them were the crossbowmen.  10,000 cavalry (knights on destriers) were positioned to the left and right ends of the lines.  They would be used to plow through the breaks in the English shield wall that the French men at arms would create.  Ideally, the cavalry would gain access to the English rear and crush their army from behind.
The French line walked ever closer and the English archers laid their sheathes of arrows on the ground to their left while planting 20 arrows into the ground to their right.  Bodkin tips sharpened to a needle point would be used to penetrate heavy armor and shields while the arrows tipped with broadheads would be used to penetrate deep into the flesh of horses that would become unmanageable, throwing their riders to the ground where the men at arms could bludgeon them to death unmercifly.  There was no mercy in the battles of the time.  The men at arms would push through the enemy lines maiming and killing, stepping over the wounded and leaving them on the ground for the warriors to kill who follow in the next line behind.
When the French men at arms finally arrived within range of the long bow, 2000 English archers drew the cords to their ears and released their arrows simultaneously causing a shadow over the enemy and the slaughter was underway.  The arrows  striking armor and shields sounded like rain made of pebbles falling from the sky, and the French started to run full out toward the English line.  The Genoise crossbowmen moved forward as the French men at arms closed in on the English shield wall.  A collision of men, shield upon shield created a thunderous sound as the French slammed into the English.  The French crossbowmen fired a flight of arrows into the back rows of English men at arms which drew the attention of the English archers who now altered their attention from the French lines to the Genoise bowmen.  The French and English were too close for the English archers to accurately aim their long bows because they were behind the combatants.  They now poured deadly fire onto the Genoise crossbowman with deadly results.  The French bowmen, outgunned, moved rearward.
The battle went on.  The English shield wall held and the French men at arms were pushed back.  Philip sent three more lines of his men at arms across the fields of Crecy to slam once again against the English shield wall.  Again the English archers sent their flying death into the French until the the French were driven back.  Finally, the French knights on their magnificent destriers were dispatched toward the English lines.  Some of the knights attempted to swing around the left of the English to gain access to their backs.  The entire rank of 7000 English long bowmen focused on the French cavalry endeavor and poured death upon them killing and maiming their horses and men alike.  Those who were thrown from their horse were instantly impaled by pike, or sword.  All lines of the English men at arms moved forward pressing the French back further and further and the long bowmen continued their deadly fire.  The English thrust forced the French back to Philip's pavilion where Philip realized his defeat.  His gauntlet was carried to Edward and the battle ended.  

Political and religious intervention prevented the entire takeover of France by the Saxons with the result of an ongoing struggle for power by these two great waring nations.  England would continue struggling against France through the 15th century and beyond and many bloody, barbaric wars and battles would follow Crecy.  Agincourt comes to mind.  And, that was a horrific battle.   


View through my front door.
Note the black splotch between the trucks.
Yep, she's waiting on me.  There is nothing I can do to get her back in the house.  
That dog hangs on my every move.  She knows my morning routines and is always ahead of me to the point that she knows which truck I'm using by the clothes I wear that day.  I love her for it.
I tossed the boat into Cherokee Lake and gave my ducks a double handful of cat food on the shoreline right next to the water.  They'll be on their own after today cause this is the last day I'll be on Cherokee Lake.  I'm not sad about it in the least.  I used a small boat today, one that we've been working on to make operative for quite sometime.  It performed flawlessly.  As a matter of fact I posted a short video of it in operation below this post.
As usual, there's not much to say about the day on Cherokee.  One day on this lake is just about the same as any other day, unless I hit a rock or something.  Lunch time found Shade and I on a rock strewn island wolfing down peanut butter sandwiches and saltine crackers.  I don't even see how she can walk on these rocks.  Better it would be mud.  She'll get a lot of that on Douglas Lake because we'll be down there on that mud hole all next year.
Above is the 18 foot jon boat that I've been struggling with for over a year.  It just wouldn't run right.  That's history now.  See the video below this post.  It's the perfect boat for the river sections of the lake.  The bay boat is just too large for the river when the water is low.
Forget it Shade.  There's nothing alive on this island.

After running on Douglas and Cherokee Lakes, I have to personally prefer Douglas Lake over the two.  At least Douglas has bald eagles and the upper end of Douglas has the flood plain with all the wading birds and ospreys.
It is on Douglas Lake where I got some great coyote pictures and white tail deer shots. The upper end of the lake on the  French Broad River is great canoe water too so, I'm actually kind of excited about getting down there.  Anything but this rock pile.
Shade gobbled her sandwich down in an instant and headed for the water.  How in the world can she stand that 47 degree water temperature?

That's right - roll in the mud.  Make sure you get it all over you.  Good girl!

We only stayed long enough for the sandwiches and shoved off to finish the day.  I don't have a depth finder on the boat yet so I had to stay pretty much on the river channel for safety.  I'll work on getting that issue fixed tomorrow.  Say goodbye to Cherokee Lake.


Written off as junk. Look at her now. Top speed 49.7 mph

Thursday, December 26, 2013


I read my schedule last night to see where I was supposed to be today and to my delight I was supposed to be on the Holston River again this morning.  Whoopee!  I overlooked this appointment with the river when I last ran it on the 20th.  I thought that was my last day.   Today, however, was it, fini, over.  The weather was to be sunny and 40 degrees but, it was very cold on the river at sunup and as usual, my fingertips were hurting with cold.  Thank you Anne for the hand warmers.  Instant heat and so cozy!  I noticed the big red tail hawk, Reggie, perched on the limb of his favorite tree.   I hadn't seen Reggie over the past three trips here and was beginning to become concerned about him.  All is well though.

I think this is Reggie.  His mate, Regina, sometimes shares the old snag with Reggie.  I heard a shrill "Skareeee" and saw another red tail flying very high.  That was either Reggie or Regina.  I can't tell a male hawk from a female at this distance.  Actually, I wouldn't know the difference if I was a foot away from them.  Anyway, Reggie was getting anxious on his perch, moving about and lifting his wings and the closer Regina came, the more antsy he became.  Then I noticed that Regina was carrying a payload in her talons.  These shots were taken at extreme distances and I had to crop them for enlargement purposes.  Red tails are tough to photograph.  I apologize for any lack of clarity in the pictures.  Best I could do.
She was carrying a branch and circling around the tree that Reggie was sitting in.

They were preparing their nest for the Spring mating season, or constructing another nest.  Reggie became very excited and leapt into the air and flew along a row of trees that lead to the mountain.

I wish I could be here this Spring to discover the location of their nest so I could watch it.  But, it is not to be.  Of course I will be canoeing up here off and on so maybe I'll get lucky and find it.  If the red tails are gathering sticks now, you can bet the bald eagles will be carrying wood soon, if not now.  All these birds of prey build, repair or add on to their nests annually.  They're wired to do it.
The second red tail turned instantly and lined herself up with Reggie and followed him along the tree line until I lost sight of them as they flew behind and blended into the trees.  They were heading toward the center of the mountain where the bald eagles dwell.  I wonder how that will work out.

The sun was up but, it was indeed a frigid morning indicated by the numbness of my fingers.  I had my gloves off that held the little heater packets so I could work the camera and in that short time my fingertips went numb to the point of hurting.  Oh, those little hand warmers are such a delight!
I couldn't have picked a more perfect day to say goodbye to the river.  The shoreline was framed by a rich blue sky and the shoreline bordered by smooth water.
I scanned the water's edge as I slowly moved up the river in hopes of catching an otter or two, maybe a beaver out on a log or on the bank.  Those critters are deep in their burrows huddled together on beds of soft, dry river grasses enjoying the warmth of their dens that extend far back into the embankment.

Both these species will be active now primarily at dusk and at dark preferring to spend the day in their dens.  The beavers will be especially industrious at night, working tirelessly cutting wood to repair their dams that have been damaged by recent heavy rains.  They, for the most part, have already stored food away for the Winter but, a beaver will not rest until his perfect dam is restored to "like new" conditions.  Otters, on the other hand, must continuously hunt their food through all seasons , but they will shift their efforts to night time activities during the Winter.  These critters enjoy the warmth of the sun during Summer through Fall and they make themselves available to the watcher's eyes as well as the camera more frequently during those seasons.  The beaver will be very active during late Spring through early Fall gorging himself with the sweet stems of water plants and the new soft wood of favorite saplings that will replace the fat he lost over the long Winter.  He can be found preening his fur on shorelines as well as nibbling on his favorite plants all the while enjoying the warmth of the sun.
I noticed a tiny critter way, way out across the field scampering along stopping frequently.  I saw it was a squirrel.  Don't ask me how I see these things because I can't explain it.  Maybe I'm just so intimately familiar with the edges of this river that I don't miss anything.

He's such a tiny little guy to be crossing such a wide, open space alone.  This is a big time hawk country and he's taking one serious chance.  But, what do I know?
The morning went quickly and it's time to finally say farewell to this wonderful river.  I'll be back with either the canoe or the Gheenoe, however, and I won't wait too long.  Probably early March would be about right.  I'll miss it until then though.  I'll miss it very much.