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The Old Codger and the Coves

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                                         THE OLD CODGER AND THE COVES                                                  4-23,24-19

We rolled into the parking lot of the Fall Creek Boating Access on northern end of Lake Keowee at 9:45, April 23rd, 2019. It was a calm morning with not even a ripple on the water. The trees across the lake reflected in the water, but to mar the picture, there was a fine layer of pollen floating on the gently undulating surface.



The access area is at the end of Shallow Ford Rd., which, as its name implies, crossed the Keowee river back in the days before the lake was formed when power generation dams were built. In the picture, you can see the old road on the left, and the entrance to the ramps to the right.




When we first got there, there was only one truck and empty trailer in the parking area. But, just as we were getting ready to launch, the crowd began pouring in. Among the folks getting ready to launch were two trucks from a dock construction company with the sections of a new floating dock that they were delivering on the water, and would be setting up. I asked one of the guys about the safety of leaving trailers in the parking lot overnight. He replied that he’d never heard of a problem. Fishermen are there most nights fishing off of the dock, as there is also a picnic area on the beach, and bathrooms right next to the dock. Here’s the sign down close to the ramp.

Old Codger was getting excited to be on our way, so I backed him down the ramp and launched him. Soon, we were off. It was a beautiful day, and we were enjoying our first cruise of the year, when Mr. Hatsu (Codger’s 20 hp Tohatsu outboard) decided to quit without warning. On checking him over, I found that the fuel bulb was collapsed. A further check revealed that the fuel pickup in the tank was plugged up. Not a big problem as we had a spare tank to be sure that we could complete our cruise. I switched tanks, pumped up the bulb, and we were off. Here’s the naughty tank, reposing in shame in it’s handy removable carrying rack. This keeps the tank out of the way, and gets the weight in the most advantageous location. I’ll dig into the problem later to see what could have plugged the pickup tube.




Old Codger was getting excited to be on our way, so I backed him down the ramp and launched him. Soon, we were off. It was a beautiful day, and we were enjoying our first cruise of the year, when Mr. Hatsu (Codger’s 20 hp Tohatsu outboard) decided to quit without warning. On checking him over, I found that the fuel bulb was collapsed. A further check revealed that the fuel pickup in the tank was plugged up. Not a big problem as we had a spare tank to be sure that we could complete our cruise. I switched tanks, pumped up the bulb, and we were off. Here’s the naughty tank, reposing in shame in it’s handy removable carrying rack. This keeps the tank out of the way, and gets the weight in the most advantageous location. I’ll dig into the problem later to see what could have plugged the pickup tube.


Update: I disassembled the fuel pickup, checked the quick connect fitting, blew through everything. It all checked out ok. It’s a mystery. I dunno. Can things like fuel tanks have a “haunt”? Now I’m afraid to trust this tank again.




So, off we go, ready for a relaxing couple of days on the lake. Our plan was to explore the northern end of the lake. This would mostly be beyond the highway 11 bridge that crosses the lake. Our goal would be to investigate in infinite detail every nook and cranny of every mysterious cove. Who knows what hidden surprise just might be secreted away just waiting to be discovered.

As we pass under the bridge, we sight the “old-house-on-the-hill” ahead. I’ve related to y’all before that before the lake was formed, this house sat atop a mountain. Now it’s prime lakefront real estate.



Here’s a picture of a clever “no wake” sign. Most docks had plain old, boring signs, but this one is kinda fun.




Off in the distance are the mountains. It’s a pleasant place to live. But not so good for a boating nut. Not too bad of a trip to get to the lake though. 58.6 miles from where Old Codger and I live to the boat ramp.




We have the lake almost to ourselves. Only one lonely fisherman tucked up into a cove trying to outsmart the cagey bass.




Let’s get down to business and poke into the first cove. Interesting creek flowing into the lake here. Old Codger is just too big to poke his nose in. He says he’s scared of hurting his nose again. (You may remember his last adventure when he broke his nose when he got in a fight with a nasty old dock.)




I got out and wandered around while he rested on the bank.




One thing we’re always looking for up in the coves is a cascade. Or waterfall. So, what’s the difference between a cascade and a waterfall. Easy. A cascade flows across a series of rocks on its way down. Kinda burbles and splashes more or less gently along the way. A waterfall just falls over the edge in gay abandon on its way down. Makes a big splash at it drowns at the bottom.




This pine tree has fallen over during some previous storm. It’s arching it’s back trying to avoid  his watery fate.




Now, here’s one of those mysteries we’ve been searching for. How can we explain this conglomeration of blue and yellow butterflies? Dozens are gathered for some kind of ritualistic festival. Besides the ones you see here, dozens more were fluttering around overhead. When archeologists find places that they can’t explain, they often attribute them to a location of ancient religious rituals. I’m sure I don’t know. Maybe you do? Well, I just show them, not explain them. We call this “Butterfly Beach”.






Old codger made me go ashore by myself to take these pictures. Here he is hiding in the bushes. Afraid of some little butterflies. Hrumpf! Scaredy cat!




As we approach the dam and power plant, we see these monstrous towers marching across the landscape looking for all the world like giant space invaders rampaging across the countryside leaving a path bare of all life. They appear to be descending into the still lake waters where they will await some future day to emerge and continue their murderous ways.




After those horrendous tower-aliens, it was a joy to see a bit of color. Among the trees and shrubbery lining the banks, we would occasionally come across outbursts of colorful spring flowering trees and bushes.






We are now approaching the dam. Maybe this is the final goal for the towers. Maybe tonight they’ll burst out of their watery hiding place to rush and trample the dam. Maybe not. But there is still danger lurking about in the dark waters. The sign tells the story.




And here is the dam.




Maybe the rising, swift, and turbulent flood waters caused the bank to wash out. Or maybe it was the heavy winds and rains over this past winter. As we continue our explorations, we’ll see many more spots like this.




This next picture was supposed to show a hidden cascade flowing down among the forest greenery, but I guess you’ll have to settle for the flowers. But, if you look carefully enough, you just might see a slight trickle. No, WAIT. Old Codger urged me to look closer. If you look just above center-right in the picture, you’ll see the water flowing from a pipe. The water looks like it’s just bleeding out of an artery that has erupted from the flesh of the injured mountain. Sorry, guess I kinda got carried away with that description.




It’s a dangerous place to be running fast out here on the lake after the destructive winter. There are floating debris of branches and trees lurking just waiting to tear the bottom out of an unwary, speeding boat. I don’t have to worry about the Old Codger, though. He IS unwary, but he rarely speeds.




Now it’s time to tell y’all a little story about Codger. I guess I don’t know him as well as I thought. You’ll remember that I told you that he was afraid to venture up into the windy, shallow creeks that meander back into the wilderness? This next picture is of one of those streams. I knew that he wouldn’t want to risk running into any more of those vicious butterflies, so I left him securely pulled on the mud bank at the mouth of the creek while I went searching to see if there was a cascade just around the bend. I didn’t even ask if he wanted to go along.




I walked on the hard mud alongside the lazy creek.




After a while, the woods began closing in on me. I continued on until I couldn’t fight through the entangling vines and layers of rotting gushy leaves, I had tried walking in the water, but just sank into the soft bottom.  I could hear gurgling water just around the next bend ahead, but there was just no way to reach it. There was nothing for it but to return by the same path that I had come in on. Soon I was back to where I had left the Old Codger-----he was GONE! What? I looked back, and there he was, bouncing and rubbing along the shore, helped along by the courteous breeze. Sticks and leaves being knocked out of the trees by his top, and falling into his cockpit like a gentle rain. On the OTHER side of the creek!




He had pushed his way off of the yielding shore and proceeded to follow me. I hollered at him to stop. I know you won’t believe me when I tell you this, but I distinctly heard him mutter under his breath, “Catch me if you can!” What can I do? What COULD I do? I had to go get him. He wasn’t about to come to me. So, I carefully stepped off of the security of the hard mud banks into the muddy water and onto soft, gushy bottom. All was going well until I stepped into a hole filled with viscous, soupy, silty muck. And sank up to my knee in it. What do you think happened next? Yep. You guessed it. I fell face down in the cold muddy water. Dang! Soaking wet! Cold! With that nasty Old Codger across the creek chortling at me. What indignity!


Oh well. My clothes and I will dry in the warm breeze. OH NO! The camera! It’s in my pocket! Whew, a miracle. Somehow it stayed dry, or I wouldn’t be able to include these pictures for you in my story. I did finally catch up to my recalcitrant boat. (I’m not really sure what that word means, but it seems to fit here.) I put on some dry clothes, and hung my wet ones out on the backyard clothes line to dry.




Then we turned and made our way back out into the welcoming cove with only a brief glance behind.




This episode with the camera reminds me of another story where the camera didn’t fare so well. It happened like this.

First, I want y’all to know that this camera destruction thing isn’t a common occurrence. The following story happened a LONG time ago. It was just after Miss Debbie and I were married. For a wedding gift, I had bought her a new washer and dryer. She bought me a little yellow sloop with a LOT of sail area. If I remember right, it was about a 12 foot wooden home built boat with the sails from some bigger, 15 foot boat. We were out sailing one day in St. Josephs Sound. We had bought a house across the street from the water in Crystal Beach, just north of Dunedin. I was showing off my superior sailing skills to my bride while sitting aft on the side deck. Suddenly, a gust of wind caught the mainsail and swept the boom across in a wild jibe! I went over one way, and the boat flipped the other. Along with the very surprised young lady! The boat was not of a self-rescuing design. Fortunately, some men were fishing nearby and hurried over to see if they could help. They threw me a rope which I tied to the swamped boat, which I had righted after

lowering the sails. I grabbed the transom on one side, and instructed my poor wife to hang onto the other, and waved the fishermen to go. Off we went. Me and the boat. Miss Debby was frantically hollering to STOP from where she was left behind when our friends had hit the gas, and she couldn’t hang on! Oh Boy, not such a good start to our sailing adventures-or life- together. But, never fear. We waited for my soggy wife to catch up, and then the nice, but amused fishermen pulled us into shallow water at Dog Island, now known as Three Rooker Island, where we managed to tip the water out and resume our sail. Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be telling you something about a camera. Here it is. Debbie had bought a new Nikon camera. It was lying loose in the boat when we went over. Unlike the camera in my recent incident with Old Codger, hers was ruined in the salt water. But all’s well that end’s well. I bought her a brand new camera.

So, let’s leave all of this camera talk behind and get back to the object of our current tale. I mentioned how Shallow Ford road crossed the river before the lake was built. Here’s another old road disappearing into the lake. Wouldn’t it be fun to somehow follow these old roads under water and see the old homes, churches and graveyards, even towns left down there?




We’re now entering Estatoe Creek, the largest creek north of the bridge. This is Island 23. If you look up at the top of those tall pine trees, you’ll see a couple of nests with blue herons sitting on them. There were baby birds peeking their heads out, too. The parent birds were calling out loudly. I don’t know if it was a conversation with each other, a warning to me, or fussing at the young-uns to keep down and hush-up ‘til the old guy in the boat goes by.








We pass by a beautifully manicured golf course as we proceed into the creek. Only a couple of folks out golfing today, but then, it is a work day.




There were a couple of Canada Geese, down from up north for the season, playing a relaxing round of golf.


This appears to be a lone tree standing sentinel, guarding the further recesses of the creek. Apparently it had been attacked and “truncated” by some unknown enemy. Or maybe, if we were to dive down below the point of impact, we’d find the remains of some midnight bass fisherman that was in too much of a hurry to get to the honey hole.



Or maybe it was this guy. He just made it back home before sinking.



When we got to where the creek disappeared back into the swamp, we noticed something yellow trying to hide among the weeds and baby trees that disguise where the creek emerges from its silent journey through the woods. As we approached, the object revealed its identity as a small paddle boat? Board? Whatever ya wanna call it. The Old Codger started quivering with excitement and repeating over and over, “I want it! I want it” I knew that there would be no peace until I got it for him. He got me in as close as he could, then waited until I waded in through the slimy, yucky, primordial ooze to retrieve his treasure. He was SOOO happy. The silly little raft followed us all the way home, bouncing in our wake with joy at being found, and bumping up against Codger every now and then in thanksgiving.



By now, evening was upon us. I like to stop early to fix my Dinty Moore stew, and do the other things that need to be done to settle in for the night. I turn on my little cassette player and listen to Jackie, Barbra, Frank, Glenn, Aaron, Josh, and my other musical friends. Codger found a nice, secluded resting place tucked into a recessed area along a wide part of the creek. We had a good view of the creek, actually wide enough that it seemed more like a river, facing west, where we patiently awaited the sunset. Would it be a “purty” one? It was! Afterwards, it was pitch black except for the glow of lights shining in cozy living rooms of the few houses across on the other side of the still waters. Not a sound broke the silence except for the night crearures,and an occasional slap of a fish catching some air. I kept company with my old friend in his cockpit until the night air began to chill my old bones, then retired below, leaving Old codger on watch, and read “Voyages of the Old Fool” by tom McGrath, a favorite of mine. Soon, sleep overtook me, and I suspect Old codger, and we finished out the night in peaceful slumber.




Next morning, we continued out of the creek. Here’s another place where the mountain is sliding into the lake. As we came close, we could see birds flying in and out of holes in the vertical bank. You can see the holes, but I couldn’t manage to capture any images of the birds. I think that they were barn swallows.



Here’s another slide area. The lake is inexorably eating away at the mountain as if at war. Which one will win at the end? Either the lake will expand its territory and swallow the land, or the land will fill the lake with itself providing more ground for folks to build their fancy homes. But then, with the mountain and the lake both extinguished, who’d want to live there?



Maybe the underlying rock will come to referee the struggle and broker a lasting peace. Let’s hope so.


Next we passed some campers on a secluded point of land in the Keowee-Toxaway State Park.



Also part of the park is a canoe/kayak launching area.



Most home owners have done what they can to “hold it all in”. This line of rip-rap is typical of what folks do to prevent their expensive real estate from disappearing into the unforgiving lake. It’s costly, but better than watching dollar signs drift away each time the rain comes, or wind blows lines of waves like soldiers marching against the shore.



As we reach the mouth of Estatoe, let’s take a look at one last, cascade sneaking through the trees. You’ll have to look closely, as the little trickle is a bit shy.



As we exit from our now good friend, Mr. Estatoe, take a look at these markers in the lake. For you salt water guys, these are NOT channel markers. But rather, they are shoal water markers indicating where a vindictive mountain top is hiding just below the surface of the innocent looking water, just waiting to remove whatever appendage is projecting below the bottom of your vessel. Some future archeologist will someday find a treasure trove of fossilized keels, lower units, and props encapsulated in sedimentary rock, and wonder at the millions years it took too evolve, or if God created them in their current form.



As we idle out into the main part of the lake, we’ll take a look back at the creek entrance where we enjoyed seeing so many interesting things.



Ahead of us is the hwy 11 bridge, signifying that we are almost at the end of our adventure.



Before going under the bridge, there are still a couple more things to investigate. Most of the docks are beautiful fancy affairs, on a par with the houses they serve, and the boats they watch over, but here is an old dilapidated gentleman who has served his owners for a good long time.



This one defies explanation. An old road entering the lake? A rock dump? You decide.



As we cross below the bridge, I’d like for you to take note of the sign on the bridge piling. I’m sure you think you know what it means. You’re wrong! From a careful, scientific study of boats going through the bridge, I’ve been able to discover the true meaning of these simple words. “No wake” means to slow down to the speed at which your boat throws up the biggest wake. Planing hulls as they are just about to come on plane can easily achieve this speed. “Idle”. There is no such speed.



We only have a little further to go now. A lonely fisherman (Hey, didn’t we start off our story with one of these?) watches us go by. He’s about to catch his breakfast.


I couldn’t resist this picture of a real deserted island. This one is even named so we can find it again someday. It’s named Island #22. I must tell you that I’ve always loved deserted islands. Tramped many in my day. There’s nothing like pulling up on some inviting beach and circumambulating a shoreline that hasn’t been trodden by human feet in millennia. Ok, so I exaggerate a wee bit. But the idea is the same. To find treasures washed ashore by the last storm. Footprints left by a mysterious creature. Or just a place to stretch your legs after hours cramped up on an uncomfortable cockpit. (Take it easy, Codger, I don’t mean you!) Anyway, that is one of life’s sweet experiences. I do have to admit, though, that salt water islands have a lot more to offer. I wonder how long it will take for storms to wash our friend, old #22 away. A long time, I hope, before there will be warning buoy markers where the island now projects above the surface.



One more island. #21 I think. The sign seems to be missing, probably a casualty of the war between land and lake. But, no, here it is, I see it now. It has retreated around to the side of the island to await a safer time to emerge. This is a good place to stop, drift, and eat lunch before heading back to the ramp. Old Codger takes us right up under the lee of that rock outcropping and shuts down for a nap as I eat my usual lunch of Vienna sausage and cheese crackers. By-the-way, did I ever tell y’all about how Vienna sausage came to be? Oh, yeah, some of you have read about it, for those that haven’t, I’ll refer you to my carefully researched essay, “True History of Vienna Sausage”.



So I spend our last pleasant hour on Lake Keowee eating my lunch and listening to music, while Old Codger sleeps. The only complaint I have about the sausage is how it’s packaged. Conventional wisdom says that all you have to do is to grasp the center sausage between thumb and pointer finger, and slide it carefully out. HA! BALONEY! Never works for me. Not even once. But, one more time I try it, and wind up destroying the top center sausage, and a couple of its neighbors, too. For one thing, this method was conceived by someone with skinny---even boney fingers. Not my manly, clubby fingers. “Use your knife.”, says Old Codger, “Every real boatsman carries a pocket knife.” Guess I’m not a real boatman, but I do have a spoon. I use the handle to carefully pluck out the remains of that stubborn center sausage, and VOILA’, it works like a charm! A final triumph for our trip.

Time to clean up and head back to the ramp. But, what’s that coming out from behind the island? It’s a cute little micro-tug pushing a big-ol barge with a dredge on it. Heading to some job dredging a shallow spot so a mega-homeowner can get his mega-yacht in next to his mega-dock. Or something.



I get Codger cranked up and head across the lake to the boat ramp.



We’re all loaded up, heading for home, all the while reflecting back on our adventures in the coves and beyond. We’re refreshed and rested up, ready to face the coming trials of life away from the water. One final look at our home for the last couple of days. Here’s a road view of the Hwy 11 bridge. Until next time, bye y’all. And remember, old codgers never die, they just get leaky bottoms.



































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