Thursday, July 14, 2011

From Wheeler Lake to Nickajack Lake

On Sunday, July 3rd, we left our anchorage at Mile 276 near Joe Wheeler State Park about 8:15 a.m.  It was another hot, still day but we covered 57 miles to reach Ditto Landing Marina (and air conditioning!) about seven hours later.

The new transient and fuel docks at Ditto Landing are very nice!


Later that afternoon we noticed a flurry of activity surrounding a bass boat that had pulled in to the slip next to us.  The Captain went to investigate and saw that the boat was in the process of sinking!  Todd grabbed his hand pump and I threw them a bucket and they started bailing.


Todd finally gave up pumping and went to the source of the problem – a missing boat plug.  Once he got his finger in the hole where the plug should have been, they were able to make some progress.  We then provided a wooden plug to substitute for Todd’s finger until they could troll over to the loading ramp and get the boat up on its trailer.

Todd ran in to Ron Monday morning at the marina.  Ron has a boat at Ditto Landing and we originally met him in 2009 through our friends Don & Rosie on “Just Rosie.”  Anyway, Ron generously gave Todd the keys to his Prius for the day so Todd went in to Huntsville to run a few errands.  When he returned he got really industrious and changed the oil in the generator and both engines.

Ron’s Prius – looks like a toy. Thanks for letting us borrow it!


Lots of ducks to feed around the docks at Ditto Landing.


A colorful July 4th sunset.  Happy 75th birthday, mom!


Tuesday was a cloudy morning with drizzle and light rain through about 1:00 p.m.  When it finally stopped we pulled over to the fuel dock to pump out and take on some fuel.  The fuel was $4.00 per gallon but we got a free night of dockage for taking on 100 gallons, so that reduced the cost to $3.60 per gallon.  Not a bad deal these days.

It was sixteen miles from Ditto Landing to the Guntersville Lock where we had to wait about 30 minutes for a lift.  Once we were up into Guntersville Lake, we anchored in a cove on the port side just past the lock and Todd promptly took off fishing.  Guntersville is a great bass fishing lake and the Captain didn’t waste any time!

Painted Bluff, with its yellow and brown rock, is more than 350 feet high.  It is located about four miles below the Guntersville Lock.


The Captain’s first Guntersville bass – for 2011, that is.


Wednesday Todd was out fishing at daybreak and came back with a mess to give to Norm & Vicki on “Tide Hiker” when we catch up with them in Chattanooga.  After some reading and napping, there was more fishing and we even had fried bass for dinner.

The Captain got a morning shot of “Life’s2Short” while he was out fishing.


Just before dusk we took the dinghy around the corner to the bat cave on the main lake.  We had done this once before, in 2009, with friends Wade & Sue Sadler who live nearby on Guntersville Lake, but we’d never been there in the dinghy.  The cave is a sanctuary for the federally endangered gray bats and anywhere from 20,000 to 45,000 gray bats live in the cave between April and September.  At dusk, thousands of bats fly from the cave to feed on insects.  It is a known local attraction, so to speak, and several other boats had gathered to watch.

It is very difficult to catch the bats in a photo.


Thursday, July 7th, was my lovely niece’s 28th birthday and, unfortunately, she had to celebrate it in the hospital.  Jennifer was paralyzed in a diving accident on July 18th of last year and has had a rough first year.  She’s been through so much but she remains strong and is determined to make the best of her situation.  Keep hanging in there, Jennifer.  You know we’re cheering for you!

We left our anchorage at Mile 350 at 9:00 a.m. and traveled 30 miles to anchor about a mile upriver from Goose Pond Colony Marina, passing through the town of Guntersville along the way.

Apparently, parts of Guntersville suffered tornado damage along the river during Alabama’s severe outbreaks earlier this year.



Todd promptly dinghied over to the marina to get some ice as thunder rumbled to the north.  However, the rain bypassed us and Todd was off fishing again.  Late that afternoon he caught a big catfish but didn’t want to get it too close to the dinghy for fear its barbs would puncture it, so he got the attention of a couple in a bass boat and offered it to them.  He thought they were going to keep it but they ended up letting it go after freeing it from Todd’s rod and taking a few photos.

Now that’s a fish!


 Thanks for your help, Jeff & Rheba!  Hope you made it safely back to Louisiana!


Friday was cloudy and humid again.  Todd spent most the day  fishing while I hung on the boat and read.  It never did rain during the day but a line of storms moved through overnight.

Todd was out fishing at 5:30 Saturday morning and back by 8:00.  We headed to Goose Pond a few hours later and spent a quiet day on the boat in the air conditioning.

Coming in to Goose Pond Colony Marina.


That evening we walked over to The Docks, an on-site restaurant, where we had an early birthday dinner for the Captain, followed by some local live music.  Quite an enjoyable evening!


Even if you don’t stay at the marina, you can tie up to restaurant’s dock and have a meal.  The house specialty is shrimp & grits, one of the Captain’s favorites!


Sunday was the Captain’s 53rd birthday – Happy Birthday, honey!  I started the day off by getting caught up on laundry and then we borrowed the courtesy car and went in to Scottsboro to do a little shopping.  While we were in Wal-Mart, the skies opened up and we had quite a downpour, which at least cooled things off.  So, the Captain took off fishing again when we got back and “had a ball” catching several bass.

We planned to leave Goose Pond mid-morning on Monday but discovered a nasty mess when we got into our stash of Keystone Light 30-packs.  Several of the cans were leaking, and apparently had been for a while, and all six 30-packs were a moldy, wet mess.  So we spent a couple of hours cleaning, drying and repacking 180 beers, less the many leaking ones.  What a way to start the morning!

Keystone ordeal aside, it was a beautiful morning at Goose Pond.


Keystone will definitely hear about this!


After pumping out the holding tanks, we finally got away from the marina shortly after 11:00 and traveled 46 miles to Nickajack Lock where the lockmaster was ready and waiting for us.  It was another stifling day and we stopped for periodic swims along the way.  The water was generally a very pleasant 83 degrees but as we approached the Widows Creek power plant, the temperature increased dramatically, topping out at 91.6 degrees!


About eight miles below the Nickajack Lock we left Alabama and crossed into Tennessee for the first time this year, although we were very close to Counce, Tennessee, when we were at Aqua Yacht Harbor on Pickwick.  At any rate, by 6:00 p.m. we were anchored at Little Cedar Mountain, about two miles upriver from the lock, where we promptly got in the water and floated on our noodles for a good long time.

Tuesday was another quiet day at anchor with Todd fishing and me reading.  It was an extremely hot, muggy morning but the thunder started rumbling shortly after noon.  And even though we didn’t see much in the way of rain at the anchorage, it rained nearby which cooled things off nicely for the remainder of the day.  Unfortunately, the Captain hasn’t been having much luck finding the bass in this area and is becoming very frustrated!

While Todd was out fishing Wednesday morning, he dinghied over to the Shellmound Recreation Area, less than a mile above the lock, to get some ice.  A few years ago we discovered a campground near Shellmound that sells ice and, as hot as it’s been lately, ice doesn’t last more than a couple of days at best.  After dropping the ice off at the boat, Todd fished in the back of the cove where we were anchored and managed to snag a couple of nice ones, so his frustration level decreased significantly!

Looks like we’re having bass for dinner!


The remainder of Wednesday was spent relaxing and reading and trying to stay cool.  By late afternoon we were back in the water, floating on our noodles in the shade.

Today is Thursday, July 14th, and we plan to cover at least part of the 38 remaining miles to Chattanooga.  There is an anchorage about ten miles below Chattanooga at Williams Island that we’ve never tried so we’re going to check it out.  If it isn’t suitable, we will continue on to Chattanooga and pay for an extra night of dockage at Ross Landing.  We’ve already tried anchoring in and around downtown Chattanooga and weren’t even able to get a tentative hold, so that isn’t an option.

Regardless, our plan is to spend the weekend in Chattanooga revisiting some of our favorite venues and to also get together with Norm & Vicki (“Tide Hiker”) on Saturday.  “Tide Hiker” is at Island Cove Marina on Chickamauga Lake, which is where we will head after we leave Chattanooga.  And by next weekend, we should be on our way to Missouri and then to Colorado in early August before returning to Island Cove to continue this summer’s boating adventure.  Maybe it will have cooled off some by then!


Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday, Mr French!


Susan said...

WOW! Big fish, Todd! How sad to lose beers that way..........:)

Anonymous said...