Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ocoee River Dam Whitewater Release



Blairsville, GA (high 78, low 59)


I had forgotten how nice the weather is in September here in Blairsville.  I wish September would last longer.  :)   October will bring much colder temps and with it our desire to head south.

I am trying to get caught up on my blogs now that my laptop is running well again.

The Saturday before last, we decided to head to Tennessee to see the last dam release of the season from the Ocoee II Whitewater Center.  It’s about scenic 50 mile drive, and we made a day of it. There are three different white water release areas  (Ocoee I, II and III). We had never seen it from Ocoee II,and since that was the location of the whitewater events in the 1996 Summer Olympics, we wanted to see it with water flowing.   And flow it did!

We had previously seen this portion of the river “dry.”

There are two bridges crossing the river.  This is the main one.


You can see how rocky it is.  It’s naturally made gorge and no rocks had to be excavated.  They did add some rocks for some of the courses for the Olympics.


The dam release didn’t happen until 10:30am, so we got there early enough to take photos of the before, during and after the water release.

Here is a before picture,  looking upriver.



Looking down river.

Ocoee River III Olympic Center before water release, looking downriver from main bridge


If you look at the top middle of this next picture you can see the water starting to come down.  It started out with a little rise and in minutes the flow began in earnest.


Still looking upriver.  It’s coming.


and coming



A lot of trees are now underwater.


The beginning of the flow looking downriver.


Still coming.



The water no sooner covered the rocks than the whitewater rafts started coming, and coming, and coming.





Then, for some reason, they had to all stop by the bridge and wait.  Maybe they needed to make sure there was enough water downstream?


Finally, they started to go.  One at a time.


There are several different whitewater centers. Each had different color boats.  The blue team started first.


There were no spills, initially.




Notice the waterfall behind the raft in the following picture?


I think the next picture shows the same spot before the water came.



There was an area downriver a little that apparently was the spot where they expected people to tumble out of their boats.

There were 3 guys standing onshore, with helmets, wearing life preservers and with rescue ropes in hand.


This area drew the biggest crowds of watchers, so we knew there would be a lot of spills.


Most got dumped from this raft.


There were people under that whitewater.  We held our breath waiting for them to pop back up.


The guys on shore sprung into action to rescue them.  Despite the rafters wearing life preservers and helmets, they could easily die.  Last year two women died one week-end in separate accidents.  A friend of ours who was a tri-athlete and is a strong swimmer, got thrown out of one of these rafts and very nearly drowned a few months ago.  We’re glad you’re still with us Stephanie! 

The rescuer almost went into the water himself.  The lady there grabbed his foot, as he was trying to grab a guy struggling in the water.


You can see the top of a helmet in the water. The poor guy nearly drowned I think.  I think there was another guy underwater towards the left of the photo.


It took him a few minutes to catch his breath.


There were some serious rapids.



Note to self.  If you decide to go white water river rafting, DO NOT go with the company in the RED boats.  They seemed to like to spill their folks.


Other boats had trouble, but not as many ended up in the water as the red boats.


I watched one boat leader have the group stop paddling right in a dip that I would have been paddling like crazy.  They ended up caught in the swirling water and capsized, throwing everyone but the “captain” out and into the water.

This next picture shows something that nearly gave me heart failure.  Why in the hell was this young mother letting her baby get so close to the water?

We assumed this “rescuer” was maybe her husband?



She let that baby crawl all over on those sharp rocks and she did  not always have her eye on that baby.  I would have had that baby on a leash.


At one point the baby crawled right down to the side walk where bicycles were flying by all the time.  Yikes.  What is wrong with people?


After watching for awhile, we took a drive down to Ocoee III, which wasn’t nearly as exciting and everybody stayed in their boats.   :)


Nice rock walls along the highway.



Tandem kayakers getting ready to hit the rapids.


There is another drop off point at Ocoee III. 


The water becomes like a lake, flat calm and with no apparent current.


On the other side of the bridge in the photo above, there is a spillway.  It doesn’t look as high or steep in the picture as it really is.  No rafts or kayakers go off the spillway.




There is a path that you walk down to the water to launch your rafts or kayaks just past the spillway.


Or you can walk down even further to launch in an area with less rapids.


There is a nice little kayak launch here, but somebody decided to stand right in front of the photographer, so you can’t see it very well.   :)


It’s a beautiful area and a wonderful place to spend the day…even if you choose not to go whitewater rafting.


There are mountain biking trails, hiking trails and of course white water rafting and kayaking.

nice trails





It was a lovely day with a high temperature of 70 degrees or less.  Sure beats Florida in the summer!  The ride home was beautiful with gorgeous scenery all the way home.



Friday, September 18, 2015

A Long and Fun Day Trip


Blairsville, Ga  (high 78 low 55)

We had a nice cold front move in last week-end, which gave us low temps down to 43 degrees, with upper 60’s for the highs for a few days. It felt wonderful.  Cool days, sunny blue skies and no humidity.  It’s warmed up now but still very, very nice and much better than Tampa.

Al has been doing better, but is still having some sporadic itching and hives.  We can’t figure out the problem, but at least it is more bearable .

My laptop suddenly slowed down and was nearly unusable, but after I messed with it a few days, I decided to take it to a professional for some tweaking. It’s back to normal now, so maybe I can get caught up on blogging and blog reading.

Since I’m so far behind on my blogging, I’ll just tell you what we did yesterday, and try to get caught up later.

We have always loved Cades Cove, which is a beautiful valley or cove in the Tennessee section of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park.   It was first settled by the Cherokee Indians but in 1818 the first European settlers arrived there.  Life was hard back then, judging by the many young people buried in the cemeteries.

We made a day trip to Cades Cove on Wednesday with our main goal to see a bear.  With the exception of last year, we’ve always seen a lot of wildlife when we visited.

Cades Cove loop is an 11 mile one way scenic road around the cove.  There are beautiful meadows, streams, old homesteads, churches and cemeteries.  The 11 mile loop can be driven walked, or biked.

It’s a 143 mile drive from Blairsville, through mountains. It takes quite a while to get there, so our time is pretty limited.  Our goal was to see wildlife so we didn’t have the time to spend looking through the old homesteads, churches or cemeteries.

We left home when it was just as the sun was rising. We were treated to a beautiful red sky over the RV park.

Sunrise leaving Rivers Edge on the way to Cades Cove


Sunrise leaving Rivers Edge on the way to Cades Cove

We stopped at a few scenic overlooks on the way.



The most direct route to Cades Cove from here it straight up hwy 129 and over “The Tail of the Dragon”, which is a famous motorcycle trail.  It’s only an 11 mile road, but it has 318 curves in those 11 miles and it’s slow going and not really any fun because you can’t take your eyes off the road for one second.


It’s 114 miles taking the Dragon and 143 driving regular mountain roads.  Neither way is a good option for a one day trip.  We opted for the longer route avoiding the Dragon. We went hwy 64, to 294, to 68, 411, 72, to 129 then to the Foothills Parkway.

As we got close to the Dragon, we started seeing more and more motorcycles, and an accident.

motorcycle accident

We got to an intersection near the Dragon.  If we took the wrong turn, we would have been on the Dragon with no way to turn around.  We stopped to ask directions and verified we were going the right direction.

Beware of the Tail of the Dragon

Beware of the Tail of the Dragon

We finally got to Cades Cove, and as always were amazed at the beauty.  The pictures really don’t capture how magnificent it really is.

Cades Cove Loop

The blooming goldenrod gave some nice color.

Cades Cove Loop

Two large tom turkeys were strutting their stuff and were our first wildlife sighting of the day.

large turkey on Cades Cove Loop 

Soon, we heard that someone spotted a bear up in a tree so we hurried over to see what we could see.  When there is a wild life sighting, everybody stops and jumps out of their cars to try to get pictures.

We got to the “traffic jam” so we knew we were in the right spot. The bear was hiding in the tree and so far up it was very hard to spot him.  Someone had to point it out to you before you could find the very large bear.   Al guessed he was 75-100 feet up in tree  on some small branches.  I didn’t know they went so high up.

crowd watching Large Bear feediing on leaves, in upper part of large tree.

He was eating something, I believed to be acorns, but it may have been some tender new leaves.  I did see acorns when I zoomed in.

Unfortunately, there were some nice thick leafy tree branches in front of his face, so it was difficult to get a good picture.  At least we saw a bear and got some pictures! We were happy.  We stayed a long time, hoping he would move to a better location, but he never did.

This was about the best shot I could get.



Most pictures looked like this.   Darn bear.  :)

Large Bear feediing on acorns? in upper part of large tree

You can tell from this picture that he was a big bear.

Large Bear feediing on leaves, in upper part of large tree

He finally moved a little but still kept covered enough so that I couldn’t get his picture. 


We finally gave up and went back to our loop road. These are technically called the Smokey Mountains, but they sure look like the  Blue Ridge mountains to  me.  :)

Cades Cove Loop

It wasn’t long until Al spotted something.


Our first coyote!



It’s just an incredibly beautiful day with highs maybe 70 degrees.  NO internet, so we never knew for sure.

Cades Cove scenic Loop


Our next wild life sighting was a small copperhead snake. We wondered if he may have been hit by a car, but maybe he was just warming up on the roadway.   I tried to scare him out of the road, but didn’t want to get out of the car to move him.  He was over to the side of the road, so hopefully he survived the day.

Copperhead snake

We got out and walked down into a lovely meadow.

Cades Cove scenic Loop

The mowers left patches of goldenrod. 

Cades Cove Loop


Cades Cove Loop 


Cades Cove Loop


A peak of fall  color.



Cades Cove Loop Fall color


Cades Cove Loop


Cades Cove Loop

We took a little time to visit a couple of old homesteads.  Doesn’t this guy remind you of Popeye?



Cades Cove Loop

How about that view?





Cades Cove scenic Loop

Several times we heard that a bear had recently been spotted, but the time we got there they had moved on.  One had three cubs with her.  Hated to miss that.

Finally, we were rewarded for our patience and spotted a mama bear and one cub.  They were a pretty good distance away, but with the magic of my “stalker” zoom lens, I was able to get a few decent shots.  Unfortunately, the sun was in the wrong place.   But at least we got something.



Mama bear looks a little thin. I hope she will make it through the winter. 

Bear with cub on Cades Cove Loop



Bear with cub on Cades Cove Loop

Bear with cub on Cades Cove Loop

Mother and bear cub

Mother and bear cub

We had been on or way out when we spotted these bears, so we ended up getting a late start for home.

After the bears, we saw this beauty.  He was very used to people.


He stopped and posed for pictures.


Buck on Cades Cove Loop

It was a great day, but then the fun began as we began a looong drive home over mountain roads that would surely end in the dark!  (We never drive in the dark)

We did have to stop for to see “Look Rock” on the way home.

Look rock scenic over look on the way home from Cades Cove

It was a very long day and much too long for a day trip, but we had success.  We saw some bear and many other things as well.