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Posts tagged ‘Hiwassee River’

@330daysofbiking Day 71: river & ride

the end of the day

The ride came at the end … again.  Another solo road ride, post-late-afternoon-thunderstorms.  The roads were damp, steam rising from the heated pavement.  Fields are lush and green.  The air was just starting to cool, no winds.  Lovely.


Spent the day on the river with the boys and friends, paddling the upper Hiwassee.  It was the perfect hot day to spend on the cool river – the water is amazingly chill, coming down from the mountains.  It was great to be on the river on a Monday; we had it basically to ourselves, very few others out on the water.  A few fly fishermen, one or two other paddlers, our group. Nice.

Plenty of silliness … getting stuck on rocks, navigating the rapids backwards more than once, paddle-splash wars, sailor hats, the landing at “goose-poop island”. LOL.  Plenty of sun till the very end, when the late-afternoon storms started to pop up.  Mexican food for dinner, and then some music by the boys. Good times.

A few pictures from the day … ahh, summer.

something out of Gilligan's Island??

Leslie ... complete confidence

Matt & Grant ... amazingly NOT backwards

the beautiful upper Hiwassee River

#330daysofbiking Day 67: rain and the river

crossing the inlet

crossing the inlet

It was a beautiful morning … and I should have taken better advantage of it.  The day started out picture-perfect – sun was shining, temperatures were not so warm.  Expected the rest of the day to be more of the same, so I spent the morning catching up with a few things at home, figuring I would have all afternoon to ride.  My mistake. I guess timing is everything (that, and not bothering to look at weather forecasts).

Shortly after noon, dark clouds began rolling in and the rains came.  Thunderstorms, winds, and even a few pieces of hail.  In between showers, the heat and humidity were smothering.  Kind of wanted to kick myself for waiting. Finally got out in the evening and headed towards the Hiwassee River, just up the road.  Reached the bridge and inlets just as the sun was beginning to drop, spreading its last rays over the water.  Sounds of frogs along the banks, several herons overhead.  It was beautiful.  Maybe my timing wasn’t so bad, after all?

#30daysofbiking Day23: river ride & Earth Day rant ~ Olin’s toxic fish

courtesy of Olin Chlor-Alkali, Charleston, TN - a reminder of what has NOT changed since Earth Day 1970

oblivious to the warnings, Brady, age 5: fishing for (toxic) bass with his Nana and Pa

Today is Earth Day.  Forgive me if I don’t feel like celebrating.  I might sound a little snarky, but I find too much of the current Earth Day celebrating to be nothing but a bunch of marketing hype, Earth Day-branded discounts, and various corporate greenwashing tactics – all aimed at wasteful consumerism.  “Go GREEN – buy this (useless-crap-you-don’t-need-that-will-end-up-in-the-landfill) and enter EARTH at checkout to receive your 15% Earth Day discount!” Throw in a few token speeches, a ceremonial planting of a tree, an elementary school poster contest, and you’ve got Earth Day 2010.

As the great Walter Cronkite reported on his CBS news special “Earth Day 1970’’, on April 22, 1970,  “The hoopla of (the first) Earth Day is over. The problems remain.’’

And so they do.

Today’s ride was to points along “our river” – the Hiwassee River that runs near our house.  The river that now, thanks to the wonderful folks at Olin Chlor-Alkali corporation, is so contaminated with their mercury discharge that the few remaining fish that survive outside of the “dead zones”, namely bass,  have been found to contain mercury levels 25% above EPA limits. The last documented EPA Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) indicated mercury discharge rates in tons – both airborne and “discharge to receiving streams and/or water bodies”.   The warning signs are posted at nearly every put-in and boat dock, yet I am continually stunned to see people fishing here – and keeping their catch.  Today was no exception.

Donnie and Vicky; this bass wasn't big enough to keep ... otherwise they keep and consume their catch, despite posted warnings

I stopped at the put-in closest to our house when I saw some people down fishing.  Decided to be brave and talk with them, to see if they would let me photograph them.  After their initial wariness, they were very friendly and obliging.  I asked them if they kept their catch – and they said they did.  I also asked if they were concerned at all about the posted warnings, or knew about the mercury issue.  I got an answer I had heard before, “Oh, we’ve been fishing here for a long time … ain’t never had any problems with it.”

further upriver, but just downstream from the Olin plant

further upriver

catching bass - upriver near the marina/boat ramp

catching bass - near the marina/boat dock just downstream from Olin

I stopped again near the boat ramp/marina – a location closer to the Olin plant and their discharge sites.  I’d been on the water just upstream from here near the plant (by boat) and you can visually see – in the water – a line of demarcation where there are “dead zones” from the pollutants.  Two gentlemen were out on the small dock fishing.  And catching a few bass.  I stopped and talked to them too.  They told me they kept what they caught, as well – “They’s some good eatin’!”  When I asked if they were concerned at all about the mercury discharge from Olin, one of them told me that he knew someone who worked there, and he knew it was “real bad” – but figured if the fish were out swimming, they were probably ok.

In both cases, I just didn’t know what to say?  “Are you out of your minds?!”  I couldn’t say anything, but just thanked them for letting me photograph.

Brady's dad ... taking his son out for an afternoon of (toxic) bass fishing

On my way back was probably the most disturbing encounter I had today.  It’s were I spotted the little boy, Brady (5 yrs old), out fishing with his dad near the bridge.  Again, I stopped, talked to them and asked if they would mind if I took a few pictures.  Sure, no problem.  This time, I only asked if they kept their catch.  They said yes.  It honestly nearly broke my heart.  How could they ignore the warnings? With no concern for possible cancer, reproductive, or brain development issues that can be caused by mercury consumption?  I had to leave.

I’ve had my rants about Olin in the past, and I will try not to repeat myself, but these are the facts:

  • Olin is on record, and has known of the impending need to convert their plant to mercury-free technology – yet has repeated chosen to ignore their responsibility, and they are now crying foul.  With the threat of pending legislation which would require them to convert their plant within 2 years, they are now attempting everything possible to stop passage of the bill.  And they are being facilitated by indulgent (and well-lobbied) politicians – namely Senator Bob Corker (R) and Representative Zach Wamp (R).
  • Olin has successfully converted other plants – including McIntosh, AL, Niagra Falls, NY, and St. Gabriel, LA – and yet continue their exuse-making when it comes to the Charleston, TN, plant.  Because they have been allowed to get away with it.  Because they know the political will to protect the health and well-being of the river and local citizenry doesn’t exist – it is the hallmark of every environmental disaster brought about by abusive corporations and the political power they purchase. Coupled with the recent decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn restrictions on corporate spending in elections, it can only get worse.
  • Olin bases their refusal to convert the Charleston plant on expense and jobs “lost” – which they know is complete fiction.  Over 100 other plants have demonstrated that the conversion to mercury-free technology can be completed within 18-24 months, with minimal production downtime.  The converted plants not only provide safer working environments for their employees and surrounding residents/neighborhoods, but also save energy and increase production capacity.  A similar conversion by PPG provided jobs for over 250 additional workers.  Olin, your excuses just don’t fly!

  • Olin continues to claim that conversion of the plant is “economically unfeasible” … So can they please explain to me how they can justify their recent disclosure of obscene executive pay increases?  Joseph Rupp, Chairman/President/CEO of Olin Corp. received 14% pay raise, awarding him annual salary of 5.7 million dollars. John McIntosh, President of the Chlor Alkalai received 12% pay raise, bringing his annual salary to $1.4 million.  Please explain to me how a plant conversion is “economically unfeasible” when contrasted with your executive compensation?

So, it’s Earth Day.  And Walter Cronkite was quite the visionary.  The problems remain.  The Mercury Pollution Reduction Act appears to be stalled in the federal bureaucratic black hole.  The mercury dumping continues.  A little boy is eating toxic fish.  The problems remain.

What could I say to him?

#30daysofbiking Day 12: river ride

Me. Bike. River.

I have no good excuse to dislike Mondays, but I do.   Always feels like I am at the start of a long to-do list, and lacking the needed amount of motivation to get started.

Woke up to find The Band had spent the night, after some late hours practicing; school was out today.  (The Band, incidentally, is The Night Shines – sons Dillon & Grant, along with their friends Boaz and Tim).  Mark was off the the airport, and I was staring at my usual giant pile of Monday morning laundry.  Bleh.

After getting things around the house in some semblance of order, I headed out for a road ride – a little later than initially expected.  Solo today.  Decided to ride near the Hiwassee River, just north of our house.  I think I subconsciously needed a reminder to get back on track with involvement to fight Olin and their mercury-polluting mess … (more of the story on the subject is in my post from July 15, 2009).  Yet again, as I rode past one of the access areas to the river, several people were down fishing – despite the posted warnings of contamination.  I’m glad I rode by today – and then again, I’m not.  I’m getting so tired of waiting for the Mercury Pollution Reduction legislation to be passed.  How much longer?!!!

(Calming down…) We’ve had an incredible string of amazing weather days.  And quite unlike my feelings about Olin, I hope this weather doesn’t change for a long time…

before heading out, taking aim at myself ... 😉

the stuff we see

A beautiful day for the road ... Mark on Meadowview Rd, Hamilton Co.

It was a lovely January day this past Saturday – temps near 60’F, and the sun poked its head out for a while.  Mark and I took a nice road ride for the first time in too many weeks, over into Hamilton County and one of our favorite loops off of Ooltewah-Georgetown Road.

I guess it’s that time of year, because we saw and heard lots of Sandhill Cranes.  This area lies along one of their popular migration paths, and every winter we are lucky to have them stop and visit.  Up until 2008 (?) the TWRA with the help of several local organizations had held an annual Crane Festival at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Birchwood.  From what I could find, the event no longer takes place … but the cranes still come to the area in the tens of thousands.

They have a very distinctive and unusual call, and one day last winter I remember hearing them flying overhead – for nearly 3 straight hours.  An endless parade of cranes kept coming and coming; I had never seen so many.  It was truly awe-inspiring.

There is one corn field along our bike route where I have often seen the cranes stop and congregate.  As we were riding by on Saturday, sure enough, they were there.  While I was attempting to take a few pictures of them on the ground, several of them took to the air above my head.

Sandhill Cranes overhead

I’m hoping that one day this week if we have some nice weather, I will ride out along the Hiwassee and out to the Refuge area (if it is open?) and take the good camera and try to get some more photos.

One the way home we had another “bird-related” road obstacle.  Definitely one of the more unusual roadblocks we’ve encountered, even here in rural TN.  These two guys were quite, well, let’s just say not timid.  They came right up to us when we stopped for them, and when we got going, they seemed to want to run along with us for a few meters.  Oh brother.

It’s always interesting and amazing … the stuff we see while riding. 🙂

Mark and the turkey roadblock 😉

battling Olin

despite this obscurely placed warning, people still fish & consume, and birds can't read the sign

despite this obscurely placed warning, people still fish & consume, and birds can't read the sign

This past Sunday, Mark, Mason, Dillon and I took a ride, crossing over our Hiwassee river bridge once again.  I stopped to take a photo of this warning.  The small sign, which is obscurely placed at the opposite end of the bridge where the put-in and parking areas are, is barely noticeable.  As I said in the previous post, people are continually fishing the quiet waters near the bridge and many fish directly from the bridge.

The small obscure sign, and guy fishing from bridge in the distance.

The small obscure sign, and guy fishing from bridge in the distance.

While we were stopped, we couldn’t help but notice the guy parked and fishing from the bridge and wondering if he had any idea of the toxicity of what he might be catching?

The campaign against the four remaining out-dated chlorine plants  in the country (our Olin is one of them) has been spearheaded by the dedicated and knowledgeable people at Oceana.  The boys and I have been active in several of their community meetings and events directed at Olin and have gotten to know our local Oceana staff member, Suzanne Wisdom.

Earlier this week, I received an email from Suzanne saying that they were planning to deliver a boxful of signed petition cards to Olin headquarters here in Cleveland, accompanied by the Oceana dolphin mascot.  We were invited to join the event.

Earlier this afternoon, a group of concerned local residents joined Suzanne and the Oceana dolphin in the parking lot of the Olin offices.  We quietly and peacefully gathered, holding several signs and a banner, and Suzanne and the dolphin delivered the petition cards.  Since no Olin representative was willing to even come to the lobby to receive the cards or talk to anyone, Suzanne was forced to leave the box with a receptionist.  Oh well, par for the course.

Suzanne Wisdom (Oceana) and the Oceana dolphin deliver the petition cards to the Olin offices.

Suzanne Wisdom (Oceana) and the Oceana dolphin deliver the petition cards to the Olin offices.

Local citizens demanding mercury-free technology from Olin

Local citizens demanding mercury-free technology from local Olin plant

Suzanne gave me a copy of Oceana’s recent Press Release regarding the introduction of the Senate Bill to eliminate mercury from Chlorine Production within two years.  Here are a few important excerpts:

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2009 – Oceana applauds Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for introducing the Mercury Pollution Reduction Act of 2009 (S.1428) in the U.S. Senatet today.  The bill, co-sponsored by Senators Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), would phase-out the use of mercury technology in domestic chlorine production within two years. Specifically, it would require four renegade chlorine plants in the U.S. to transition to mercury free technology

While 95 percent of chlorine produced in the United States uses a mercury-free process, four U.S. plants have continued to use outdated, mercury-dependent technology to produce chlorine and caustic soda.  Meanwhile, technology that can eliminate the use of mercury in chlorine and caustic soda production has been available for decades.

These chlorine factories release more mercury than the average coal-fired plant, making them top polluters in their states.  A chlor-alkali production facility in Tennessee has historically been the number one source of mercury in the state, and the plant has impaired the river on which it’s located, according to local environmental officials.

Finally, I am sorry but not surprised to report that Olin has apparently contacted Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander (R), requesting/pressuring him to introduce a new bill that would allow the existing outdated chlorine plants an additional twenty years to come into compliance with mercury-free production.  Senator Alexander, with his less-than-stellar environmental voting record still often touts himself as being Mr. Anti-Mercury … so we’ll see how this play out.  In the meantime, I can only hope that the current Bill S. 1428 will pass by the fall of 2009, and maybe then we can halt this nonsense within two years.  The lingering damage to the river ecosystem and the river sediment is another matter…

More on Oceana and their Mercury-free campaign can be found here.


kayak by Xtracycle ... rides better than it looks, truly

kayak by Xtracycle ... rides better than it looks, truly

A couple of miles up the road from our house we have a nice put-in to one of the Hiwassee River’s inlets.  Although there is water year-round, it’s most conducive for paddling/boating in the summers when TVA is releasing water to the Hiwassee.  In winter, water levels can get pretty low.

Despite the doubters in the house, I managed to get our old beater kayak loaded onto the Xtracycle and went for a paddle today.  OK, I’ll admit, when I first felt the (off-)balance of the load I wasn’t sure it was going to work.  But surprisingly, upon taking a test ride, I discovered that it was totally do-able – at least for the few miles I had to go.  You kind of naturally make a center-of-gravity shift, but nothing that changes your cycling position dramatically.  There was occasionally a funny little shimmy-shake in the front, especially when on a downhill coast, but pedaling seemed to eliminate it.  Optimum no-shimmy speed seemed to be about 13mph.  Not sure of the physics behind what was going on, but I’d be curious if someone could explain…

ready to go exploring

ready to go exploring

The great thing about this little inlet are all of the little islands and shallow channels – perfect quiet water for meandering about and bird-watching without a beastly motor.  I had barely paddled off when I spotted a Little Green Heron perched overhead (picture of him on the Pix page).  Also saw several Great Blue Herons, and another black and white water bird I have not yet identified.

Strangest event of the trip was spotting a very large creature swimming across one of the channels.  It was huge – bigger than a muskrat or anything I might have expected to see.  As I sat watching, I discovered it was a deer!  She was swimming across the water, only her head sticking out – and had two lovely little fawns trailing behind her!  I had never seen a deer swim before, so this was something pretty amazing for me.

Of course I didn’t have the telephoto lens on the camera, so I did the best I could.  You can just make her out in the distance, doe on either side of her.

doe and fawns, heading for an island

doe and fawns, heading for an island

closer ... but missed the shot; doe & fawns climb ashore

closer ... but missed the shot; doe & fawns climb ashore

Had a great day exploring, bird-watching … and deer-watching.  When I got back to the put-in, I was greeted by a rather mystified fisherman – a very nice older gentleman who introduced himself as Bill.  Think he was pretty baffled with my boat-on-bike set-up, but offered some help while I was strapping things up, and I enjoyed chatting with him.

We had a brief discussion over the safety of fish consumption from this part of the river.  Thanks to the wonderful folks at Olin Chemical, high levels of mercury in the river sediment and in fish have made it unsafe to consume the catch.  Tennessee Fish & Game and the EPA have posted warning signs, but it doesn’t stop people from fishing.  I was happy to hear that Bill knew about the situation and was strictly a catch-and-release fisherman.  Still, it makes me very sad – especially watching the herons and the other fish-feeding birds and thinking about how it may be harming them and the rest of the ecosystem.

Great day, great ride, great paddle, great sights.  Can’t wait to do it again.

Gee Creek bikamping

Packed up camping gear for a weekend trip to Gee Creek

Packed up camping gear for a weekend trip to Gee Creek

You can’t have much more fun than a camping trip by bicycle.

(I’m posting a few of my favorite pictures in this entry, but some additional photos/descriptions can be found in my Flickr set, here.)

Mark and I packed up the Xtracycle “twins” on Friday and headed out toward Cherokee National Forest, the Hiwassee River, and Gee Creek campground for a weekend of fun and adventure by bicycle.  It was a lovely ride over – although extremely “warm”.  Temperatures in the mid-90’s, and I couldn’t guess at the humidity.

We had only one mapping snafu.  We had mapped a back-roads route so that we could avoid traveling on one of the more major roads – a road that is often used by logging trucks heading for the paper pulp mill in Calhoun.  It was a good plan until the very end.  Near the small community of Delano, TN, we could not locate one of the unnamed roads that would take us through the Amish community.  We backtracked twice, looking for the connector, and finally gave up.  It still remains a mystery as to whether the map was correct, or if the road really exists(?).

Somewhere along the Hiwassee River, near Calhoun, TN

Somewhere along the Hiwassee River, near Calhoun, TN

We arrived at Gee Creek campground in the early afternoon and had our choice of campsites.  We unloaded the bikes, set up camp, and spent the remainder of the hot afternoon relaxing in the shade, trying to stay cool.  Early in the evening we set out again to have dinner at a resort we had read about, Black Bear Cove.  It was nice to enjoy a leisurely dinner in the air-conditioned lodge.

On Saturday morning, we set out early for the Amish community and market that was a nearby.  We had been to the Amish market several times before – by car.  They have just-picked-that-morning produce directly from their fields outside the market building.  They also have some wonderful baked goods – from sorghum sugar cookies, to whole wheat bread, to killer sticky buns.  We decided to have the sticky buns for our breakfast! 🙂

We rode through the community on some of the small gravel roads that meander around, in part trying to see where we had missed our mystery connecting road the day before.  It was pastoral, picturesque and lovely – similar to some of the other Amish areas we have visited in Lancaster, PA, and Holmes County, OH.  There is no electricity, no motorized vehicles or equipment. Tidy farms, tidy fields, windmills, horses and buggies.  It can sometimes make you stop and question the benefits(?) of modern progress…

tractor-less farming

tractor-less farming

not a bicycle, but still non-fossil fuel transport ...

not a bicycle, but still non-fossil fuel transport ...

despite the fact that the community is spread out, everyone walks

despite the fact that the community is spread out, everyone walks

it was a lovely area to explore by bicycle

it was a lovely area to explore by bicycle

As the afternoon heat escalated, we decided to head for the Hiwassee River.  We rented a kayak and had a nice, cooling trip down the river, snacking on a sweet watermelon we had picked up at the Amish market.

cooling off on the HIwassee

cooling off on the HIwassee

Saturday evening proved to be … well … let’s just say an interesting and colorful local experience.  There is a small local winery in the area, and they were hosting an evening concert in their “pavillion”.  The Goose Creek Symphony (YouTube). I’m not sure what I was expecting, never having heard of the group.  The winery staff described them as “putting on a really excellent show, not exactly country, not exactly bluegrass …”.  I kind of envisioned a neat bluegrass-y/mountain music kind of event, maybe a glass of the vinyard’s wine. Uuhhh …. not exactly.

Let me just say, the “Symphony” was actually pretty talented – for that type of music (not really my cup of tea, thanks).  Maybe you’ve heard the song that begins, “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz …”?  Yeah.  Ok.  Well, that’s Goose Creek.   The Symphony may have had talent, the crowd on the other hand, was, well,  quite a different story.  I’ll just leave it at that.  Mark had joked about visiting a place up the road called the Hillbilly Bar.  Well, this may have been a winery, but the description could have fit just as well.

Sunday morning we packed up for the return home.  We had really packed fairly lightly, but it was still impressive to see how much gear we were easily able to stow on the bikes – with still plenty of room to spare – and not any messing with panniers, trailers, etc.  I love the versatility of the Xtracycle slings.  The gear/cargo size and shape doesn’t matter – there are no constraints to deal with when using the slings (unlike panniers).

As much as I loved nearly all of the miles we put in, there was one stretch of county road that we covered that was paved with large, loose gravel/rock.  It wasn’t the nice finely crushed and packed gravel of the Amish roads – it was just nasty chunky stuff.  Without a major detour – or spending a few miles on the logging truck road – we had to use this road.  It wasn’t more than a couple of miles, but without knobby mtn. bike tires, there was a lot of wasted energy pedaling uphill, and a lot of teeth-rattling, sketchy sliding action on the downhill.  I didn’t love it. Yuck.

the gravel road I did not love...

the gravel road I did not love...

... and my thumbs-up return to pavement!

... and my thumbs-up return to pavement!

Arrived home in time to relax a bit in the afternoon (it was Father’s Day, after all).  It was really a fun adventure.  We logged some lovely and scenic miles and explored some back roads I would like to return to some day.  The Xtracycles, as always, proved to be amazing vehicles – easy to haul our gear, easy to ride.  The perfect machine.

So – get your bike out and grab your tent and sleeping bag.  Have an adventure on two wheels.  It doesn’t get much better!

home again ... Father's Day 2009

home again ... Father's Day 2009

Additional photos on Fickr.

today’s ride: river crossing

crossing the Hiwassee River (Bradley County to Meigs County)

crossing the Hiwassee River (Bradley County to Meigs County)

Exquisite day to ride … sunny, not too hot, little wind, no traffic.  Just doesn’t get any better. 🙂

I’ve done portions of this ride as an out-and-back, but decided to find a way to make it into a loop.  Map My Ride proved to be a very useful tool.  There are limited road crossings over both the river and dealing with the interstate (I-75), but managed to plot a wonderful, low-traffic and picturesque loop.  It touches three counties – starting with Bradley (home), Meigs, and finally McMinn and back into Bradley.  A few hills to make things interesting, but nothing epic.  Otherwise you’ll get lovely gently rolling and smoothly paved rural roads, with a few scenic water crossings.

great pavement, gorgeous scenery (Lower River Road, Bradley Co.)

great pavement, gorgeous scenery (Lower River Road, Bradley Co.)

Two interesting country stores along the way – throw-backs to the rural grocery & bait shop days.  The few miles by main road (Hwy 58, Co. Rte. 163 into Calhoun) all have ample, clean and very bikeable wide shoulders.  Literally an entire lane-width of debris-free pavement to keep out of the way of vehicles.

A great distance for a lovely spring or autumn day.  Just doesn’t get much better…

Here’s the link to the mapped route :

View Interactive Map on

Picture 3

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