Monday, August 6, 2012

Kayaking on Chilhowee Lake

Glade Savory growing on the shore of Chilhowee Lake. 

Kayaking on Chilhowee Lake 
 Dana & Kenny Koogler
1.5 miles round trip 
Sunday August 5, 2012

   I talked Kenny into going kayaking with me on Sunday after church.
Tennessee Landforms lists several cool looking waterfalls you can paddle to.
I showed him some of the photos and they were grouped pretty close together.
We had paddled that far before on flat water so we knew we could do it.
We planned on hunting up Miry Branch Cascade and Nighway Branch Cascades.
We would then drive over to Rhymers Ferry and paddle across to the old Scona lodge site and hike back to Tallassee Falls.  A good days outing especially for a late start.  One 55 foot waterfall. Two 25 foot falls. One 29 foot fall. A nice day of paddling, hiking, and swimming.  

     I programmed in all the GPS coordinates for these waterfalls. We didn't need the ones for Tallassee Creek Falls, but I just wanted the practice with the GPS. I'm 
getting better at it!   Its becoming much easier.  I learn something every time I try it.   We loaded up a few snacks and drinks and headed out with kayaks in the back of the truck.     

     We drove down Foothills Parkway and the rain we'd experienced briefly in Walland let up and was done. The sun was coming out.  How nice!
We got to the boat launch at Chilhowee Lake and put in. The weather was fair.  Overcast, but warm and not too many people or boats out today. I had purchased new paddles for us both.  They were colorful Chute paddles with a nice scooped design.  I was eager to give them a try.  Today would be our first time back in the kayaks after the scary accident in March.   The new paddles were very light weight.
They moved the water better than the previous paddles.  We were digging them.
Having a good time.  I had the camera in a dry bag and the GPS is water proof so I had it running, but lay it atop my backpack between my knees.   

      We found the first cove where Miry Branch merges with Chilhowee Lake.
It was an easy paddle.   Easy to find the first location.  We paddled up to the shore and it was so pretty.  We spotted an old road bed coming right down to the lake shore on the far side!   We also saw a camp site right there by the lake.  It was very pretty.  We found the first waterfall and it sucked. It was way smaller. Only about 15 feet high and had a downed tree right in the middle of it.   It started pouring rain.  We hiked further up the old road bed to see what was back there? Clearly someone has private property accessing the lake shore and it is posted.  Someone had been driving an ATV in the area right down to the lake from the private land.

        We did see a hawk and the forest was pretty. We heard the ominous crack of a tree falling to our left on the bank.   I saw the most filled out cranefly orchid I'd ever seen at the camp site.   Kenny was grousing about the rain and about being disappointed in the waterfall.  He was not blaming me, but he was fussing.   He swore off paddling to any more waterfalls "unless they were really spectacular year round, stunners".    The rain checked up a little and we hopped in the kayaks and started back across the lake while the getting was good.

        It was fortunate we decided to do so.  Halfway across the lake the lightning and thunder intensified.   I did me some praying.  We made it out of there just before the next batch of rain hit.   Driving home the rain was beating down so hard you could barely see to drive and the wind was whipping.  We were glad to be safe and dry.  We laughed at our luck and Kenny got over being mad.

     He says he'll still paddle back the mouth of Abrams Creek with me when the weather cools down a little.   We are planning on paddling back there and hunting up Panther Creek Falls. We went before and turned around and headed out just shy of it so its a point of pride with him and with me.    It was March the month we went and the snakes were thick back there. We got chased by wild hogs too so we were poorly prepared. A return trip will mean going with a better GPS and both of us with better navigation skills.  It will also mean taking a pistol now that one can bring a weapon into the national park.   It is right there by Happy Valley. 
Every August brings the disappearance of Michael Hearon to mind. He vanished August 23, 2008 and has not been seen or heard from again.  He was at his parents home in Happy Valley keeping up the old home place.  It is sad.  You go to mow your deceased parents yard and keep up their home and vanish?

      I strongly suspect he is not among the living anymore. I also suspect someone knows what happened to him.  I don't mess around Happy Valley alone.

Gary Powell told me years ago that it was a bad place to be and not to go there alone.   It is advice I took to heart and will always keep.   My prayers and sympathies to the Hearon Family.



Our starting place on the shores of Chilhowee Lake at the boat launch.

Kenny paddling back across and laughing.

The far shore where we hopped out. This is the mouth of Miry Branch.

Cranefly Orchid in the rain. The binomial for this specis is Tipularia discolor. It is a native orchid species named for the cranefly that it resembles. Craneflies look like giant mosquitoes. They do not bite people or feed on blood. They are called Mosquito Hawks, but they do not feed on or kill mosquitoes either.

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