NANFA-- return to the valley
Mon, 12 Aug 2002 01:11:20 EDT

i just returned from a weekend wander w/ my daughter of seven. we started off
sampling ice cream at the famous mayfield's dairy in athens tn and checked on
a mapped little spring that flows from near a small house. guthies spring. i
kept trying to locate it using the gazateer but the map road numbers were
incorrest. finally i got true bearings and confirmed them when i spied a
totally vine covered ancient springhouse. years ago the owners had filled in
the spring run to make a "nice" front yard for the house. well their well
went dry at the original spring house. hum... i wonder why:). the spring
burst forth downstream 50' from the culvert ditch side that runs alongside
the backroad. i did not get in it but looked like there were a few orange
side daces dashing about. im always thinking flame chubbs in these parts and
i sure understand why they are decimated with all the spring and the spring
runs tampering that takes place. next time i will kick net it, who knows
maybe a few flames will be there but i doubt it. we headed on to etowah tn
and the swinging midway drive-in to catch the new scooby do flick which was
followed by the spider movie, 8 legged freaks. it started putting fear in my
little girl ( she was covering her eyes and asking me when it was ok to look
:) so we cranked the van up and headed toward my buddies cabin near the
tellico river.
after a good nights rest and no bad dreams we drove across the state line via
the cherohala skyway. a very fine drive. scenic overlooks. impressive vistas.
it gets to almost 6000 ft at hooper's bald. then drops down to about 3 or
4000 at the joyce kilmer and cherokee state forest. we hiked back to a site
called rattlers ford that i use to camp at. it has been over 3 years since i
last had visited w/ my son and a friend of his. a wonderful clear mountain
stream flows along the campsite. most excellent. giant hemlocks. riffles,
pools and boulders. we put on masks and i quickly noted warpaint shiners,
green fin and greenside darters, molted sculpins, hogsuckers, stonerollers,
river chubbs ( a big different than i see at home ), rainbow trout... maybe
brooks, a unknown saffron type shiner ( cant id ), colored rosy side dace and
longnose dace. the longnose dace were very sleek and much bigger than i
remember from the citico. they tended to stay under rocks in the riffle runs.
very large fleshy nose. nicely colored. the green fin darters lacked the
bright green fins i had remembered from before. some of the stonerollers were
developing the pattern of blueish tubercules on their heads. i turned over a
few rocks to look for hellbenders but only found a couple unknown salamanders
and sculpins. i had seen a couple small hellbenders here a few years ago
along w/ a dead one resulting from a trout fisherman. no bass or sunfish were
seen in the 100 yard stretch we explored. the time years before i had been
mystified on the ids but this time i was only skunked on the shiner. i would
like to spend more time working the length of the stream but i wanted to
spend most my time teaching my little girl. we had a nice evening building a
twig tower campfire and watching the sky for persied meteors and fireflies.
during the day we had also watched a perfect dragonfly be ressurected after
being long doused in the cold mountain stream water. we put a magnifying
glass on the little beast to study its intricate body parts, dried it off on
a warm rock, blew off the water with our breath and watched its body slowly
pulse back to life. beautiful creature, yellow banding and bright irridescent
green eyes. dissappeared into the sky.
the next morning we broke camp early and hiked back to the van. i wanted to
check this stream's exodus just above the point where it flowed into
santatelee lake proper. i was amazed to see tangerine darters at this site.
at one point i had 7 in my glass and another 2 just over a stonework. the
reddist tangerine males were in the intense rapids and their back dorsal fins
were flayed a bit. dark, blackish were the two dorsal fins. very honcho.
warpaints and the unknown shiners once again. large black tailed bass were
here. i rarely see tangerines expressing fear nor concern. they always seem
confident and inqusitive. yet all the river chubbs were hiding under stones
at 10 am. not like yesterday afternoon when they were very active at the
other locale. hum. could the bass have been in hunting mode? there were
several very big cruisers about.
one thing that very much impressed me after seeing so much silt in my recent
travels. these massive boulders, stones and gravel were relatively silt free.
i could easily see how so much more habitat was available for all the
critters. deep boulder pockets, lots of hiding places. very deep silt free
pools. if i could have dove down im sure beneath many of the large, flat
rocks were hellbenders. i would love to return to this area and spend 2 or 3
days checking out all the niches including the lake and its exit flow, the
cheoah river. very nice camping is along the banks of both the lake and
feeder streams. some of these streams are quite large. many springs i presume
would flow in offering different habitats.
we headed to robbinsville nc for some lunch by driving along the lake and
found the dam that allowed but just a small stream that was exiting this high
mountain lake.
after lunch in robbinsville ( has anyone ever read peter jenkins' walk across
america? this is the town he was run out of because of the locals suspicion
which eventualized into death threats against his dog and presumably peter. )
we made it down to andrews nc ( just south of which lays murphy nc where the
distraught white boy after being runoff and then nearly wasted w/ influenza
for several days in an appalachian trail shelter found love in a black
families offering ) ( great story, and true... peter j walked all across
america and found more than most of us will ever experience. ) ( he began the
walk over despair for our country after the vietnam war ) ( awesome
experiences he had )
anyway it was back to the valley river where my nw ga and nc trip had
concluded. this was the river fritz r had urged me to check out. that day had
been mirred in cold, murky, leech infested water. not a good experience on
the whole.
now the water was clear, cool and inviting even tho the substrate was very
silty. the river flows thru a plethora of farms, fields, houses and man's
work. thus the silt i believe. cerulean and i worked our way much futher
upstream and saw in all: rainbow trout, redline and gilt darters, creek
chubbs, big eye chubbs, hogsuckers, stonerollers, sculpin, warpaint, mirror,
whitetail and a emerald type shiner(s), blotched chubbs, massive redfinned
carp, bass, rock bass and redbreast sunnies. redhorse type suckers tho im
getting concerned on seperating and iding properly out the carp. no leeches,
orange side dace or gambusia. a very good locale that merits a full day. i
had thought i had seen a blotch side logperch in the murky water on my first
visit but i now believe it to have been a gilt. i dont know why i did not
consider that possibility then. they do look somewhat the same and have the
same get up and go behavior. the blotched chubb id im sure of after
memorizing the body marking and characterisitcs and comparing them to
peterson's and the range maps. i observed over 6 of them at only one of the
many snorkle sites we tried. they were just below a small dam probably
created by kids piling up boulders. 17 species for sure in about an hour and
a half of snorkling. i know i could go 20 to 25 if i spent the day there.
we headed on back to chatt making stops along the way. mostly the ocoee
river. an odd assortment of dams, lakes, wooden tresseled water shutes,
manmade concreted kayak runs, nearly dry stream flows and bridges make up its
length. very clear water in places upstream tho probably devoid of most life
as the water rages for kayakers intermintently and then is abruptly diverted
for power production on some kind of schedule. recently a rock fall took out
a portion of the water shute which runs high along the ridge. it directs the
river water in and through the shutes to turbine generators. the upper ocoee
river was modified and used for the whitewater portion of the atlanta
olympics a few years back. all the structures, parking, roads and welcome
center still remain. interesting area to explore.
we have returned home a bit after dark tonight and i should be in bed. my
little snorkler enjoyed herself when the water was not too cold and the rocks
not too slippery. she excitedly got to watch while snorkling sparing
whitetail shiners and gilt darters coming to her hands. the conasauga runs
about 80 degrees this time of year so a trip there would be ideal for her.
much warmer. she had a couple shiver fits but were quickly eased in the warm
sun of today. all and all a fine long weekend. school starts this week for
her which will limit our excursions.
good night all.
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