Western North Carolina is amazingly beautiful. When I drove along Old River Road in the Nantahala Forest I was amazed by the cascades and wildflowers I saw. I felt like I was in some magical wonderland and I knew all the fly fishing guys who were camped along the river agreed with me. Since the Dillsboro Dam was removed in 2010, this area has become a prime fishing spot and many species of fish have made a resurgence.
This dirt road was the nicest roadway we traversed in this part of North Carolina. It was quiet and peaceful and everywhere I looked it seemed pristine and unspoiled.
Thought the road is maintained, it is a dirt one. The only other people we saw were either camping along the road or walking along it to find a spot to fly fish. When I peeked through the trees at different vantage points along this road, which was easy to stop at since it isn't traversed too regularly, I was struck by how differently the landscape was exposed and brought to light by every angle of observation.
The light revealed the substance of rocks in the river and illuminated them as if they were placed there by some highter power.
Above is an image of where another fork joined with the Tuckasegee. The sound of rushing water was echoing everywhere. Running parallel to the road was a pipeline used to carry water for the nearby hydrological power plant.
The pipeline was in the process of being replaced, likely because it has been in operation since Nantahala Power and Light was formed in 1929 by ALCOA. The image above shows a transport truck that may have been being used to carry water while the pipes were being repaired. The image below shows one of the older pipes still in need of replacement.
There are pros and cons associated with hydroelectric power. The positive aspects are that it is one of the cleanest energy sources and is renewable. The cons are that it involves dams which are damaging to riparian ecosystems and requires the usage of large volumes of water. The Dillsboro Dam was removed in 2010 and the river is coming back to life in this area. which attracts many fly fisherman. The Tuckasegee is also a popular spot for white water rafting and a bit tamer than the Nantahala River in places, with some areas only have class II and III rapids.
While we waited for our guide to transport the truck to our disembarkation point and return as part of or white water rafting lesson on the Tuckasgee, I went exploring in the park and found this giant wild azalea bush. It was incredible to see and the flowers looked exquisite against the dark background of the trunks.
The roots and stones and wild riparian banks I encountered were beautiful and everywhere I looked seemed wild, though I knew habitation was just around the corner.
This area of the Tuckasegee is where we put in to kayak a couple of the milder rapids. I was still terrified, as I generally kayak on calmer waters. Fortunately, i only flipped once and my guide from the Nantahala Outdoor Center rescued me with in seconds. Hopefully, next time I will be al little more adroit.
The image above is where we took out, just past Surfer Falls, and I must say that I was relieved to see the calmer water though I know that makes me a wimp. Although I have rafter in white water, this was the first time I have ever kayaked in it and been the only one in control of how I navigated the more treacherous water.
The Nantahala River, which is formed at the base of a hydroelectric dam and is fed by Nantahala Lake, is also in this area of North Carolina. The river and heads towards Fontana Lake, which is controlled by the Fontana Dam–the highest dam east of the rockies. It makes for a cool 50 degree river year-round that is sought after by white water rafters since when the flow is turned on it is sufficient to create class IV rapids.
The Nantahala Forest is an exceptional area filled with lots of unusual sights including Chicken of the Woods mushrooms, which I later learned were edible and a delicacy. Too bad I didn't know that, as the image below shows how many I encountered in this area.
There were so many interesting sights along the way When I encountered this hollowed out tree with its honey comb and leaves, I was struck by how masterful nature is in creating still life compositions. Unfortunately, right after I made this image and before I could stand back up from squatting, my Labradoodle encountered a small white yapping dog and went insane, dragging me, my camera and tripod for many feet. Fortunately I and my equipment escaped unscathed. Takoda is going back to the dog whisper for another training. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful few days spent in the wilderness enjoying nature, both the sort that is controlled by man and that which has been returned to its more natural state which I always appreciate.