Saturday, January 25, 2014

THE FLOOD PLAIN AT RANKIN

It happens every year but I doubt I'll ever get used to seeing a full flowing river disappear each winter and in it's stead, dry, barren river bottom is all that's left to greet the eye.  But, before getting to that I'd like to show you how my little family spends their nights.
I was absolutely drained last night at around 8:30 PM and I just decided to turn in and call it a day.  Of course going to bed that early means that I'll be waking up earlier, and so it happened.  The eyes opened at 1:30 AM and sunlight was a long time coming so  I scanned around the room to see where the girls were which wouldn't present any surprises because  I know them by now.  I love each one dearly but Shade squeezes my heart.  I don't really have a bed, only a mattress on the floor because it seems to help my back ever since the bout with sciatica a few years back.  I placed a baby crib mattress at the head of the bed with a thick blanket on it for Shade and every night she lays on that mattress and puts the side of her head on the top edge of my pillow and waits for me to lay down.  There we are my cheek against her forehead.  At some period after I fall asleep she goes downstairs and sleeps on the sofa.  The sofa is hers.
In the shot above, the top of my head would be between her eyes.  She will actually fall asleep, as will I, and then she will disappear to the sofa downstairs.  I never hear her get up.  How sweet is that?
I took the shot above while stumbling downstairs to brew a gallon of coffee.   She's my black satin sweetie for sure.
The coffee tasted great as I watched the tree limbs bending and swaying outside the window in the hard, cold wind that was also whipping the tarp apart that covers the Gheenoe in the yard.  It is 4 degrees out.  I headed upstairs and looked in on my other two girls and it seems Chestnut hound scooted up to enjoy the pillow since I left.  The blanket they are laying on, or sort of laying on, is an old thing I throw on the bed after I get up.   
 I don't mind them using the pillow as they are very clean and well brushed so what can they hurt?  Actually it's their house and it's a privilege to assure their comfort.  That leaves one more little scampett.  Notice the rather large lump behind Chestnut.  Yep - that's Happy.
I started something when I lived in the warehouse back in Greenback for seven years.  There was no heat in that room and the winters were very cold amd  I heated it with a propane torpedo heater during daylight hours.  Nights were spent in a minus 5 degree rated down sleeping bag with four pure wool Army  blankets on top.  I found that the little Happy dog provided a lot of heat when under the blankets with me with the result that now she absolutely will not sleep on top of the bed and will burrow under the blankets whether I'm sleeping or not.
She just came in from outside through the dog door in the basement and passed by while I was in the kitchen.  The above shot shows her attempt to disappear under the blanket on the bed.  She didn't quite make it.
I sat in my swivel chair, pulled the Kindle off the shelf and continued reading a story about a 9th century Viking that I'm totally engrossed in.  (thanks Janet for the Kindle)
4 AM finally rolled around and I got ready to hit the road and drive the edge of the lake.  It's still too early to go but I like what I do and besides - what else do I have going.  The wind is howling at about 40 miles per hour with flurries mixed in with it so I sat down again and checked email to use up some time, read some of my favorite blogs from readers and finally turned off the computer.  Shade walked in the room and came right over to say hello.  I laid the back of my hand on my knee with palm open and she laid her muzzle on it.
What a sweetie!  This called for a big hug and she knows it.  Down on one knee I went and encircled her with my arms and whispered in her ear - "love ya Shade."  
A better friend is impossible to find, and I ain't lookin.   She's my black satin angel.
I did finally get out of the house and on my way to the lake even though  I knew it was a useless venture as no one would be out fishing from the shore or on the lake.  It is expected of me to look and see with my own eyes and that's what I do and did today.   Part of the area that required inspection was the French Broad River where the Rankin boat ramp and the flood plain are.  The sights don't change year to year but as I said earlier, I'll never get used to seeing the amazing views of, well, nothingness.  
The shot above shows the high wind picking up and blowing the fine, now dry sediment away from the river bottom.  Remember that all the brown you see is normally under water in the springtime.  
There are only shallow strips of water and small pools on the flood plain and will remain so until early March.  The river is over toward the left side of the photo above where the line of trees are located.
When TVA closes Douglas Dam the water will back up and the river will overflow to cover all this brown wetlands with water that will range from one to five feet deep.  I have paddled a canoe all over this area you see above.  It's hard to believe even for me.  This is where I drove the canoe under trees and around bushes.  The forest is behind me in the shot above.  It's an amazing place.
That long gray road above is an old, old highway that was disregarded when Douglas Dam was built.  It disappears into a mud wall far out in the distance now.  One really unique thing about this flood plain is that when the water returns in the spring, enormous flocks of wading birds will move onto the water and surrounding islands that will be created.  Every wading bird in the state of Tennessee, and some out of the state, will be represented here.  It's an amazing bird habitat that must be under migratory bird aerial freeways as the migratory bird counts are amazing.  Rankin is known throughout the state as a birders heaven and biologists and ornithologists from all over, North and South as well, come here with notebooks and cameras to collect their data.  This spot is the only highlight that provides enlightenment to me when I'm on this mud hole called Douglas Lake.  Between the Holston River at Rogersville and this flood plain here on the French Broad River I think I'll be able to deal with the rest of the ugly mess over here when summer arrives.  Don't laugh cause it ain't funny.