San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Monday, August 24, 2009


At the Museum of Appalachia, a living museum in Norris, Tennessee, animals and birds call its pastures home; the birds preen, the sheep mow the lawns.

There are two of these remarkable birds roaming the grounds. Can you find at least ten different feather colors and patterns on these male peacocks?
These turkeys...humpph! I was minding my own business, paying no attention to them. Apparently curious (or hungry for a people handout?), the whole bunch approached me; two broke away from the "pack," stood right at my feet and in no uncertain terms, told me what for! They then returned to their companions and all stomped away in the rain! Just like that. Guess they told ME!! Too bad I don't talk turkey -- haven't a clue what was bugging them!!!
Simple amusements for simple minds! Sure, they're just chickens, but they have beautiful plumage, and they were immensely entertaining! These birds are also residents of the village grounds, and they are no ordinary chickens.

Camera at the ready, I would approach them stealthily, and they would strut away in the opposite direction leaving me with an ass-end view, complaining and pecking at the ground as they moved away from me. If I sat down though, they would approach me in family groups, still pecking and squawking and strutting their lopsided walk, as if expecting to be fed!
Yes, of course I wouldn't have anyone but Rod Stewart's fave stylist do me!


What is 10 miles long, has 52 rapids, about five hours of wet and wild thrills on some days of the week, and is dry on Tuesday and Wednesday?

It's complicated, so pay attention! The legendary Ocoee River in SE Tennessee is a consistently (when there's water in it!!!) rollicking, rowdy white water rafting river because it doesn't depend on snow melt or rain to maintain its Class III, IV and V rapids. It's dam-controlled in three places, and the Tennessee Valley Authority maintains a strict, no-nonsense release schedule.
The Upper Ocoee River BEFORE (like on a Tuesday or Wednesday)
The Upper and Middle sections of the river receive water on different days, and it's only on Saturdays and Sundays that *both* sections (the full ten miles and 52 rapids) are raftable. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the Upper river is a simply lovely rock garden in a leafy green forest that contains just enough leftover water for kids to play in. The rest of the week, (Thursday, Friday and Monday) only the Middle section is raftable, but it is also raftable on Saturdays and Sundays. Still with me?
A few notes on the Olympic Course (the "Before" photos you're seeing here). Fourteen features in the competitive channel are fake. Oh they're rock-hard alright, but they were manufactured and engineered to tie into existing natural rocks, boulders and ledges after the river itself was reshaped. The river was modified for flood control, to accommodate thousands of spectators, and to create a world class whitewater course.
The company that created the artificial rocks in the Tennessee Aquarium was awarded the contract to create new or enhance existing river features that will withstand the impact of high velocity water flow. 8,500 cubic yards of cement was used to secure the boulders together and to tie into bedrock. A grout of a super plasticized concrete mixture with a fiber mesh additive and a steel rebar skeleton with a concrete core attached to river boulders tied all the elements together and still managed to maintain the river's natural beauty. Bet you can't tell which are real and which are faux!
OK, what're we waiting for?!! Let's check out the AFTER Ocoee!
Jessee shows us what a paddle looks like and hopes we figure out how to use it before we get to the lunch beach!
Get on the bus!
We're putting in HERE?! Where's the beach?
I've rafted rivers all over the West, but the whitewater of the Ocoee in Tennessee was the most exciting and fun by far, and reserving for a Sunday meant being able to raft both sections that included the 1996 Olympic Whitewater Course. Here we pull over to watch other rafters bounce through the final rapids that end in two Class III's and two Class IV's, back to back -- ALMOST as much fun to watch!
Uh...down stream is THATTAWAY! NO! I said BACK paddle BACK paddle!
Later ... bobbing towards the lunch truck!
If you ever get a chance to raft the Ocoee with Big Frog, ask for Jason. He has 17 years experience as a WW guide on the Ocoee, and if you are lucky enough to have fearless, thrill-seeking raft companions, Jason will route you through a Class IV that the guide with two years' experience wouldn't dare! He paints his toenails because he's a colorful character!
But WAIT! There's still the other half!
Oh, no WAY!
WHEW - A work around!
After five hours on a wet river, sometimes flat water looks OK at the end of the day!

is a pretty river, in NE Tennessee but it is fed by rainwater and by mid-August, is almost too low for white water rafting, yet perfect for rock-dodging "Duckies."
And a soloing oarsman!
The Nolichucky Gorge