This week on Lake Jocassee – April 17, 2017

PERFECT WEATHER

Some days it’s steady snow, without a breath of air, under a slate steel sky. On other days, it’s the ozone-filled air that follows a pounding summer thunderstorm, and the clouds that seem to float just above the surface of the lake. On still other days, it’s the first cool breezes of early fall across my face, after a sweltering August. And then there is this week’s weather. Breezy with winds from the south, sunny, dry air, with temperatures in the mid-seventies. This has been a week of perfect weather, by most anyone’s definition. And there is something about the color of the water under these conditions. Maybe it’s the altitude of the sun in mid-April. Maybe it’s all the fresh mountain water that has joined the lake from the two rains of late. And maybe, just maybe the golden pollen that slowly sinks into the water column has some effect. On a sunny day, at about mid-afternoon, the color of the lake is at its most beautiful this time of year. It will take your breath away.

EAGLE REPORT. All in the same Be Here Now moment, there was an eagle on the nest. There was another eagle watching over the one on the nest. There was yet another one watching over the old nest, and then one juvenile eagle gliding in to create a few moments of general havoc. You had to be there.
 
LOON REPORT. They’re still coming and going most every day, in groups of 10 or 15, and all alone as well. I wonder about the solitary loons. Why do they stay to themselves? Why do they travel alone when most of their kind seem to prefer to migrate in small groups? Migratory loons are wildly hungry when they get here, and a thrill to watch as they go after their prey with such ferocity. If Oconee Bells are America’s most interesting plant, Kay’s stated opinion, surely loons are America’s most enigmatic bird. There are always more questions than answers.
 
BLOOM REPORT In full bloom: Dogwood, Fraser magnolia, horsesugar, foam flower, branch lettuce, Solomon seal, doghobble, pink azalea, flame azalea. Just beginning to bloom: Mountain laurel, short-leaf rhododendron, black locust.
 
SWIMMER’S REPORT. Almost. With lake temperatures just about 60 degrees, you can get in, but I defy you to stay in more than a minute or two. On the other hand, I have seen some tourists joyfully swimming most every day this week. Canadians, I would imagine.~B

This week on Lake Jocassee – April 10, 2017

WIND

That’s the story this week. Three straight days of high winds. You’d think it was spring or something. Two fine days of rain, then three straight days of wind. It’s 36 degrees outside as I am writing this, but it is predicted to reach 70 today. Sounds like spring again, doesn’t it. The rivers are engorged the waterfalls are pounding. And the wind? Light and variable today. I think I’ll just sneak back out on the lake for a while.

BLOOM REPORT Dogwoods are bright white in the understory, pines are swollen with pollen, and Fraser magnolias are beginning to bloom. The long arching stems of both delicate Solomon's seal and less delicate doghobble are blooming. 

SWIMMER’S REPORT I got in this week, but got out just as fast. The surface water temperature breached 60 degrees this week, so the time for divine immersion is nearing.
 
LOON REPORT. It seems that the spring loon migration is tapering off. I’ve seen just one small group of loons on the lake, and a few solitary ones here and there. It will be interesting to see what a few windy days has wrought.
 
 

This week on Lake Jocassee – April 3, 2017

JOCASSEE CANVAS

Staring at a blank canvas, that is how the day began. The lake veiled in a foggy mist, visibility down to a 2. There was no telling what was beyond the boat dock. I like it when days begin like this. Anything can happen. We steered the boat straight into the silvery horizon. As the day progressed the clouds slowly lifted. Headed towards the upper lake, all of the escarpment and even Jump Off Rock was still hidden beneath the lingering shroud. Some might have said it was not the best day to see the Jocassee Gorges. This was a day for the birds.  

 
It began with the solid silhouettes of loons framed by that morning mist. Then a large raft of ducks lifted and disappeared into the fog. As visibility increased we scanned for the Bald Eagles and sure enough we spotted one and followed his flight to a nearby pine. While we were trying to bring him into focus, a smaller bird nearby kept interrupting our view. We all moved our attention to see a peregrine falcon, circling close enough for us to see his bright yellow feet. He was dipping at the water repeatedly, a behavior we could not quite reconcile… until we noticed the northern flicker floating beneath him. He was trying to retrieve his lost lunch! 
 
Back at the dock, when Brooks and Kay heard about the ducks, we all decided to go back out and check it out more closely. By now, the sun had burned away the morning vapors, the lake had become a glass reflection of cotton batting clouds and blue skies. We steered the boat slowly across the basin, scanning the horizon. Soon, we spotted what might be a raft of ducks, but no…there were so many we thought this must be an illusion of ripples on the water. It was indeed ducks. Two distinct lines containing hundreds upon hundreds of ducks! We conservatively estimated 250 in the first line and possibly as many in the second. We slowly eased to them trying our best to identify buffleheads and lesser scaups. When our approach was too close for comfort, the ducks rose and passed over us in a cloud of whispering wings. We sat in moment of sacred silence, letting the moment settle into our souls while the ducks settled further away from us.
 
As if that was not enough, we turned around and there were more birds, lots more! This time they were loons. What a group! We estimated 200 loons had dropped from the sky while we were focusing on those ducks. We were surrounded by birds as far as we could see! Between the ducks, the loons and the gulls, there may have been 1000 birds in that basin! The hungry loons were hooting constantly. All around us we heard hoots and toots and tremolos and even a few squeaky practice wails. Never have I wanted to speak loon as much as that day! We followed as a flock of Bonaparte’s gulls led a group of approximately fifty loons around to the sweet fishing spots. Eventually the excitement settled, the loons dispersed, each group finding their resting place on Jocassee. And leaving us speechless. Yes, we’ll take a day for the birds anyday!
 
 
There are wonder filled moments in life, moments that you cannot plan, you just have to be there to receive. This was one of those. But this is not unusual at Jocassee. Every day there is a wonder waiting to be received here. All you have to do is Be Here Now. ~ Tricia
 

This week on Lake Jocassee – March 27, 2017

MIGRATION

March, April and May are the months for spring bird migration on Lake Jocassee and in the Jocassee Gorges. The songbird migration is just a peep so far, with the first sounds of the blue-eyed vireo and Louisiana waterthrush heard this week, but oh, the loon and other water bird migration is in full swing. Our Jocassee loons have been leaving since the first of the month, but we are getting new birds most every day, from regions farther south. With them, always with them, are lots of horned grebes. The loons are just spectacular, as most of them have finished their ‘pre-nuptial’ molt and are in fine and elegant summer plumage. Some of the male horned grebes as well are showing their most alluring summer attire. Then there are the clouds of tree swallows witnessed today, swooping down for a drink of water on the lake, and the great blue heron doing acrobatic maneuvers to alter a collision course with them. Rafts of red-breasted mergansers were resting in the middle of the basin, so shy as to be almost unapproachable, flying away en mass at even a distant attempt to approach, and turkey vultures were seen well overhead, on their way north. I could go on...

 
SPRING FLOWER REPORT.  Last week, Piedmont rhododendrons were blooming, but this week, after freezing temperatures, not so much. This week, serviceberry trees are in full bloom and dogwoods are just beginning to shine. Horsesugar is budding but not yet blooming, and a brand new find, fetterbush, is sporting bell-shaped blooms of bright white flowers. The maples are showing off in hues of red and apricot. Jocassee's own Oconee bells are flowering still, but not for long. Come see them while you can
 
SPRING SWIMMER’S REPORT. Not yet. Not even close.

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – March 20, 2017

ZUGUNRUHE

ZUGUNRUHE is a German compound word consisting of Zug (move, migration) and Unruhe (anxiety, restlessness). In ethology it describes anxious behavior in migratory animals, especially in birds during the normal migration period. Here is how to pronounce it:

https://www.howtopronounce.com/german/zugunruhe

 
I’m telling you all this because zugunruhe may be the coolest word ever. After watching loons for years start to act edgy, aggressive, and even anxious this time of year, I now have a word to describe what I am watching. It’s all about hormones and such as the breeding season approaches, and is observable from late February though all of March as our loons leave for their summer homes, and through the entire of April as well as loons from other parts stop by Lake Jocassee for a few days of nourishment on their way north. Zugunnruhe should be on display in other waterfowl on Lake Jo this time of year, including the clouds of red breasted merganzers I have been seeing of late, but only the fearless loon allows for such careful, intimate observation.
 

This week on Lake Jocassee – March 13, 2017

THE PERFECT BUSINESS

When Kay and I started Jocassee Lake Tours, we hoped for two things. First, to be able to live and work right smack in the middle of paradise. Mission accomplished. Second, we wanted to be a useful, meaningful part of our community, loosely defined as those who love and spend time on Lake Jocassee and the surrounding Jocassee Gorges. This past Wednesday, our day started early, as we shuttled two people, two dogs, a canoe and a kayak to the Laurel Fork Falls area of the lake so that a couple of days could be spent celebrating a birthday in this wonderful wilderness area. We will retrieve them today, this Friday with predicted 25 mph winds. It should be an interesting ride back to the park. Later that morning we had our first full Wednesday tour in a while, as folks took advantage of a mild, beautiful pre-spring day. Simultaneously, I was involved for the entire day with the ongoing Earthwatch research project, as we assist in the first ever study of loons in winter in a fresh water habitat. To finish off our day, we towed 6 canoes and lots of gear to the Laurel Fork Falls area again, this time to meet up with a group of West Virginia University environmental educators in training, as they spend a week exploring Lake Jocassee and the Jocassee Gorges on a trip we helped them design. It was a full day, and at the end of it, as we begin our seventh season in business, I realized we had done exactly what we set out to do. It’s a perfect business. It’s a beautiful life.

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – March 6, 2017

LIFELONG LEARNING

What do you know, it’s barely March and spring is exploding. Along the lake shore maples are flowering, and Oconee bells as well, weeks early, and the loons are molting like crazy. I use the word ‘crazy’ here intentionally, for as the loons shed their winter attire for their more alluring summer, ‘in-season’ look, it seems to drive them nuts. Mad pruning, wing-bathing, hard-driving, mostly underwater swims, it seems as if they are possessed, or at least that this molting thing itches like, well, crazy. And then there is the rising of hormone and testosterone levels, as breeding season approaches. That surely throws a little crazy into the mix as well, as a certain agitation -- even crankiness -- is evident, if you watch oh so closely. What a place to live this neighborhood along the Blue Wall is. Change is ever-present, wonder is ceaseless. It’s enough to keep the mind and the heart and the spirit engaged for a lifetime.

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – February 27, 2017

EARTHWATCH-WEEK 2. NOTES FROM THE FIELD SEEING

And I thought my interest in loons was a bit obsessive. I’ve spent the last two weeks with three scientists who have dedicated their lives to learning about this remarkable bird. They have spent decades in the backwaters of North America, living with loons, watching their every move, recording even the minutest aspects of their behavior. They are teaching me how to observe when watching animal behavior. I have been paying attention to loons for decades, but in these two weeks I have learned more than in all my former time with loons. Thank you so much, Dr. Jim Paruk, Dr. Jay Mager and wildlife biologist Allie Byrd. Learning how to look, how to see. It’s a wonderful thing.

LOON MADNESS! This is my favorite time of the season that loons share with me on Lake Jocassee. The ‘pre-nuptial’ molt has begun, and things are getting wild. Roll preening, mad, nearly possessed bathing, frantic, aggressive wing rowing, group feeding frenzies, and this particularly bizarre, rapid head bobbing thing that groups of loons do, as some sort of sign of heightened hormones. Thanks to the company of loon scientists, I am learning to interpret behaviors I have watched for years but never understood before. Things are definitely getting edgy here, and it is clear the testosterone is flowing. The yodel, a call made only by males in breeding season, can occasionally be heard across the lake.

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – February 20, 2017

LOON RESCUE

LOON RESCUE! It was thrilling, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and just plain awesome. What a night we had. Two nights of each week during this 3 week Earthwatch research project we go out at night to tag loons. On our first night we successfully tagged two, and had another but it swam out of the net. On the second night, after a long time with no success in finding any loons, we came upon a bird who was in trouble. We caught it, way too easily, and found it wrapped up in fishing line. Its bill was tied shut, its tongue trapped sideways and sticking out of its bill.  The line was entangled in its throat and around its tail as well. This dear bird wasn’t long for the living. It took about 10 minutes or so to free the bird from all the line, but it seemed ok when we were done. The tongue was deeply indented, probably permanently, but I don’t think that will be life threatening. What we couldn’t know is whether the bird swallowed any lead fishing sinkers. If it did, death is certain with a week or two. Even the smallest amount of lead will, without exception, kill a loon. But for now, I think we did good. The loon swam off with vigor and a loud wail, surely glad to be free again. If you would like to read about Earthwatch’s 3 year program of loon research on Lake Jocassee, click here:

http://earthwatch.org/expeditions/loon-conservation-in-south-carolina

 
NEW EAGLE NEST REPORT! That’s right, we have a brand new eagle’s nest on Lake Jocassee. After the sad abandonment of the one nest we had two years ago, suddenly a new one has appeared. I saw an eagle in the nest, one flying to and landing on it, and two mature eagles soaring over it later in the same day. Talk about exciting!
 
SPRING FLOWERNG REPORT. It may be just mid-February, but tell that to the maple trees, flowering with such a lovely red and orange glow through the bare forest canopy. The spring explosion is not far away.
 

This week on Lake Jocassee – February 13, 2017

EARTHWATCH: DAY 1

After three years of growing scientific interest in the loons of Lake Jocassee, the time has finally come for the 3 year Earthwatch research project to begin, studying for the first time ever winter loon behavior in a fresh   water habitat. Volunteers from the 4 corners are coming to our little patch of paradise, to be star struck and confounded that such an incredible place like this even exists in the southern United States. We spent our time today with the project scientists,     going over the daily regime of observation and data collection that is the heart of what field biologists do. I intend to be one smart loon observer when these few weeks are done. I thought I pretty much knew most everything there is to know about our Jocassee loons, but today I learned that loons yawn! Who knew? I’ll try to get a photo of a loon yawning over these next few weeks, and post it right here. Stay tuned.

This week on Lake Jocassee – February 6, 2017

WAITING ON THE RAIN

WAITING ON THE RAIN. It’s Saturday morning, and rain is on the way. In just an hour or so, the radar is indicating. Lake Jocassee, and the entire Upstate is in the grips of a drought, although things are better now, just a wee bit, than it was in December. The rivers are flowing nicely, and the waterfalls, but most of the new water is still being released to downstream users. Such is the nature of things during drought times.  Begrudgingly, we gotta give some of it up to others. The loons are fine with it, though, and the eagles. Over two inches of rain are predicted between today and tomorrow. Glory be.


SHORT PANTS REPORT. Got away with it for two days this week. It’s January.  Amazing.


KAY’S FRIDAY TOUR WILDLIFE REPORT. 4 bald eagles, 3 beavers, and gobs of loons and horned grebes. Friday was sunny and warm, and all  concerned seemed to have a fine time with it.

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – January 30, 2016

January?

I  seriously  doubt  it.  I’ve  been  wearing shorts by noon most everyday this month, and you can’t do that in January around here, not banked up against the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment such as we  are.  Nevertheless,  my  google  calendar  says  it’s January, so I must accept it as fact. Unless, of course, someone out there has any alternative facts for me to consider. I’ll take it, though, as it makes for easy winter touring on the lake. We take along lap blankets, but  by  starting  our  tours  at  noon,  you  hardly  need them at all. Thanks to the recent rains, the lake has come up considerably and the waterfalls are flowing nicely. It has certainly been the most benign January we’ve experienced since moving here.

LOON  REPORT.  The  sunny  afternoons  of  late  bring the balls of forage fish close to the surface, which allows for easy fishing for the Jocassee winter birds, including  the  loons,  horned  grebes  and  ring-billed gulls. It makes for good bird watching as well, and it’s really quite exciting to watch the feeding frenzies that occur under such conditions.
 
BEAVER REPORT. We know where they are, but we ain’t telling. So far, by keepin a respectful distance and being oh so quiet, we haven’t chased them off, as is so often the case when we humans get too close to wildlife. As a hint, they are somewhere right along the edge of Lake Jocassee’s 90 mile shoreline. Good luck.

This week on Lake Jocassee – January 23, 2017

Waiting on the Rain

 

It’s Saturday morning, and rain is on the way. In just an hour or so, the radar is indicating. Lake Jocassee, and the entire Upstate is in the grips of a drought, although things are better now, just a wee bit, than it was in December. The rivers are flowing nicely, and the waterfalls, but most of the new water is still being released to downstream users. Such is the nature of things during drought times.  Begrudgingly, we gotta give some of it up to others. The loons are fine with it, though, and the eagles. Over two inches of rain are predicted between today and tomorrow. Glory be.

SHORT PANTS REPORT. Got away with it for two days this week. It’s January.  Amazing.

KAY’S FRIDAY TOUR WILDLIFE REPORT. 4 bald    eagles, 3 beavers, and gobs of loons and horned grebes. Friday was sunny and warm, and all concerned seemed to have a fine time with it.

 


 

 

 

 

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – January 16, 2017

 

Date: January 16, 2016
Writer: BROOKS WADE



COUNTING BIRDS!  This has been the week for the annual bird counts of migratory birds on Lake Jocassee. On Wednesday, under the guidance of SCPRT naturalists Tim Lee and Scott Stegenga, we spent the day counting bald eagles, as well as everything else that could move through the air on or around the lake. The count was 12 bald eagles, up 6 from last year’s census. We also counted - now take a deep breath - 128 horned grebes, 237 ring-billed gulls, and 115 loons, all of these species being the regular visitors to Lake Jocassee in winter. The lake was mirror calm. On Friday, with a small group of Master Naturalists, we went out again, this time with the focus being on loons. Common loons- 124, horned grebes`-129, ring-billed gulls-484, bald eagles-2. The differences between one day and the next is focus. One day all eyes are on the trees, the next on the surface of the water. The migratory birds that call Lake Jocassee home in winter are the life of the lake this time of year. It was wonderful to spend a couple of days with them.~B


This week on Lake Jocassee – January 9, 2017

 

 

Date: January 9, 2017
Writer: BROOKS WADE


 

 WILD PLACES.  It’s where I have spent most of my adult life, in wild places. Once I find one, and figure out how to stay there, then I am the most determined home body you ever met. Vacation? Out of the question. Why would one ever choose to leave a perfectly good wild place? But alas and yet joyfully, I have family who beckons, including children, grandchildren, and a wife with a fair amount of wanderlust. And dogs, who even they seem to enjoy a change of scenery. So after only 7 years of living here, we took a proper vacation, to Indian Pass, Florida, another remote and wild place, and my former home for decades, on Apalachicola Bay. We spent two glorious weeks watching sunrises, dolphins, and clouds of black skimmers. So it was wonderful, after all. My biggest problem now is what to do with my dog Mica, who has enjoyed 13 straight days of leaving before first light for a 3 mile walk on the beach. Tomorrow, our first morning back to the shores of Lake Jocassee, it is forecast to be 10 degrees at 7am, our regular time for heading out for our walk. What to do? It’s a dilemma, to be sure.

   

This week on Lake Jocassee – January 2, 2017






 

 

 

 

Date: January 2, 2016
Writer: BROOKS WADE



 JOCASSEE WINTER BIRDS. The Ring-billed gull. (Larus delawarensis). Some years Lake Jocassee has hundreds of these wild and elegant birds, sometimes not so many. This year appears to be a modest one, but it only takes one in flight over your head on a grey winter’s day to take your cold breath away. Soaring with ease and grace, Ring-billed gulls are capable in a second of astounding aerodynamic moves in an attempt to catch something to eat. Some folks have a built -in prejudice against these wonders, just because they hang out at landfills and parking lots, but when you see them in flight in a wild mountain setting, then you will witness one of our area’s most beautiful winter visitors. Tarnished as their reputation may be, they deserve your attentive gaze. Even bald eagles spend time at your favorite county dump, you know.


This week on Lake Jocassee – December 19, 2016






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Date: December 26, 2016
Writer: BROOKS WADE



 JOCASSEE WINTER BIRDS - THE HORNED GREBE. (Podiceps auritus) It’s not just about the loons this time of year, you know, although they are the star of the show. Though not related, horned grebes share much of the same behaviors with loons. Baby horned grebes ride on their parents’ backs, just like loons. They both feed on fish and crustaceans as well, but since the grebes are much smaller, they also feed on aquatic insects. Unofficially, horned grebes are the world’s cutest water birds. If a bird can be precious, well, this is the one, the one you want to catch and take home with you. They are oh so shy, but if you know just the right spots around the lake, you can kind of sneak up on them before they flush, thereby catching a good look at their water dance, their delightful means of getting out of your way. It’s quite a thrill, as is their call, which sounds like they are just cracking up in laughter! Give it a listen here:

 

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Horned_Grebe/sounds


This week on Lake Jocassee – December 19, 2016

 

 



Date: December 19, 2016

Writer: BROOKS WADE

 

LOONS-CALLING IN THE HOLIDAYS.  You’ve got family coming, and you need something to do with them, something to get them out of the house and from under your feet.  I’ve got just the thing. Take them down to the kayak ramp at Devils Fork State Park and you can all listen to the loons together. You’ve got to get there early in the morning, as they seem to have a habit of coming along that shore just at sunrise. The gate to the park opens at 7am, which is just the right time to show up. You should hear both the wail, the sound most identified with loons, the sound sometimes compared to the cry of a lone and lonely wolf, and the hoot, the one syllable sound which is the chit-chat sound of loons as they hang out together. Both calls are lovely, even mesmerizing. Your family will love you for it.

 

Hear the wail.

Hear the hoot.

ELK REPORT. Gone again. After grazing up and down Boone Creek Road for the past week, just up from the lake, DNR came and took him away. They had to tranquilize the big fellow, and load him into a horse trailer to relocate him. And to where, you may ask? They’re just not saying.~B


This week on Lake Jocassee – December 12, 2016















Date: December 12, 2016
Writer: BROOKS WADE
 

WAILING AWAY THE MORNING. The wail is the most loved, the most recognized call of the loons. It may be the most recognized call of any bird in North America, for that matter, although not so many have actually heard it. It is the background sound of wilderness in most any movie you watch, no matter where it is filmed. To ornithologists, it is the ‘where are you’ call, heard most often at night and on foggy mornings, as loons try to locate one another. If you want to hear them on Lake Jocassee, then you’ll have to come over just after sunrise. The best spot is the ‘kayak’ ramp, the most remote of the several ramps within the park. Loons come in along the shore there first thing each morning, hunting something to eat and some company. Foggy mornings are best. Come quietly.

 

 


This week on Lake Jocassee – December 5, 2016

 

 

 


Date: December 5, 2016
Writer: BROOKS WADE

CALLING FOR RAIN.  That’s what the weatherpersons say, when they believe rain is on the way, but I’ve never actually seen them do it, and I’m outside a lot! Maybe they do their rain calling inside, but I wouldn’t think that would be very successful. Maybe that’s why, although it was supposed to start raining on Tuesday night this week, it didn’t start until Wednesday evening. When I woke up Wednesday morning, and realized that all that weatherperson calling had not done a thing, well I went right down to the shore to give it a try myself. I was going to call at the top of my lungs, demanding, pleading for some more rain. The problem was the loons. They were softly wailing, sounding so haunting in the early morning’s faint light. I watched about a dozen of them as they swam along the shore, just waking up themselves, or so it seemed. And the otter, who swam by as well, dipping and diving as they do. And the great blue heron, who flew by with such aching grace, without a breath. So you see, it was not a morning to be shouting aloud about anything. Somehow that would seem disrespectful. So I decided to just stare the rain gods down. The sky was dark and ubiquitously grey, so I just stared right into it, clouds to eye. It worked! The rain started later that day.

FRIDAY FRENZY REPORT. We watched about 15 loons in a feeding frenzy like I have rarely seen here. We were at the mouth of the Horsepasture River arm of the lake, and the loons were drifting slowly along the shore, towards Bearcamp Creek. They were looking for fish, but doing so calmly. Then, suddenly, the frenzy began. It was an exciting wonder to behold. On the boat’s fishfinder we could see knots of forage fish in the surrounding waters, and the loons were feeding with abandon. They didn’t notice us at all, popping up right beside the boat, only to take a short breath and dive right back into the knot. We could see the loons swimming underwater, and the bait fish as well. It was thrilling to all aboard.~B

This week on Lake Jocassee – November 28, 2016


Date: November 28, 2016
Writer: BROOKS WADE
 

SMOKING LOONS. Well, I’m glad to report they have landed fully alive, not even partially cooked, but they certainly could have been, considering all the smoke our Jocassee loons had to fly through to get here. They are diurnal migrators, and spot lakes by the shine water gives off in the sunlight. I have been worried since the fires started that our loons would attempt to fly around the smoke and therefore miss us this year, but blessedly, that does not seem to be not the case. They seem to be here in abundance, along with their winter buddies, horned grebes and ring-billed gulls.

SMOKE REPORT. Not so bad, so say us and the loons. The first of the week was pretty smoky, but the skies cleared nicely by mid-week. It has varied in intensity each day with the change in the wind direction, but we’ve not suffered a day when the smoke was too thick to wander out onto the lake.

SHORT PANTS REPORT. On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the dock was full of people walking around looking like they were in Florida (sans the flowery shirts, of course), including me. This morning, Saturday, it was insulated pants and a thick winter coat for me as I shuttled a hiker and his dog uplake in a stiff norther at daybreak. What a difference a day can make.~B 

TRICIA'S REPORT. The loons are settling in for the winter! Around 45 loons were scattered around the upper lake. In the mix, 10 horned grebes separated themselves by daintily dancing across the surface, and one pie-billed grebe was caught enjoying some solitude. On the same day a gray fox was seen nimbly climbing up Laurel Fork Rock, one patient beaver posed for pictures, three bald eagles surveyed the wildfires from aloft, and a peregrine falcon perched on a snag, his noble silhouette holding steady as the sun turned the mountains rose gold. Below, two amphibious coast guard planes scooped up almost 2000 gallons of water with each touch of the lake.~T

SMOKING LOONS. Well, I’m glad to report they have landed fully alive, not even partially cooked, but they certainly could have been, considering all the smoke our Jocassee loons had to fly through to get here.


 

This week on Lake Jocassee – November 21, 2016


Date: November 21, 2016
Writer: BROOKS WADE
 

 WHERE DID EVERYBODY GO? That’s what the maples seem to be saying, raging in bright yellow and red at our inattention to all their late fall glory. Saving the best for last (with apologies to the indescribable beauty of sourwoods in fall) the maples have hit their peak this week. Shining through the gold afterglow of the oaks and hickories, they simply take one’s breath away. The road to see all this is the road to the remote ramps in Devil’s Fork State Park, as beautiful a 2 mile drive as you’ll ever take. Or get on a boat with us, of course.

SMOKE REPORT. Pretty awful on Monday and Tuesday of this week, but despite the intentional backburning going on just up the road at Pinnacle Mountain, blue skies have been the norm for the rest of the week, albeit with a bit of smoke to diffuse the sun’s subtle brilliance this time of year.

KAY’S EXCELLENT WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS-WHILE-TOURING REPORT. Baby beavers one day, adult beavers the next. A trio of young deer swimming across an arm of the lake, and just around the next bend, a young buck silhouetted on a shoreline point. A juvenile bald eagle riding an updraft, and an adult bald eagle watching us sharply from the cover of a tree. All in a day’s work...

SHORT PANTS REPORT. It’s blowing a gale on this Saturday, November 19, with cold air coming behind it. This may be it.

 

 

SWIMMER’S REPORT. Other than the distinct and worrisome possibility of our guests jumping overboard when informed that they have flying spiders in their hair, I would have to say that swimming season has finally come to an end for this year.~B

This week on Lake Jocassee – November 14, 2016


Date: November 14, 2016
Writer: BROOKS WADE
 

 THE AFTERGLOW OF WONDER. Fall lasts a long time in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, and especially along the shore of Lake Jocassee, nestled as it is right in the heart of the Jocassee Gorges, where there is more plant diversity than anywhere else in this part of the world. It starts in August, if you’re watching closely, and ends well into December, when all the leaves have finally fallen to the forest floor, there to nourish spring’s coming explosion of growth. The peak has passed, but I can scarcely notice the difference. The afterglow of fall is as beautiful as the peak, just softer, more mellow. The leaves are ready to fall now, so on a windy day, leaf showers are a joy to behold. It’s a magical phenomenon in a magical time of year. 

GUIDES REPORT. Tricia found a beaver habitat, with two young beavers to keep an eye on! How’s that for a new discovery on the lake. Dan saw a deer swimming across the lake, using his feet to kick along, just like we do. It’s a wonder around here.

WINTER BIRDLIFE REPORT. Loons are appearing in increasing numbers, as are their nemesis, ring-billed gulls. The ages-old battle between the two for the fish loons catch is fiercely underway. Eagles are sighted regularly, and finally the horned grebes are showing up. The Jocassee winter birds, the life of the lake for the next several months, are starting to settle in. 

 

SWIMMER’S REPORT. Other than the distinct and worrisome possibility of our guests jumping overboard when informed that they have flying spiders in their hair, I would have to say that swimming season has finally come to an end for this year.~B

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – November 7, 2016


Date: November 7, 2016
Writer: BROOKS WADE
 

 

FRIDAY REPORT- FLYING SPIDERS!  Just in case the idea of flying spiders doesn’t creep you out enough, let me tell you how they do it. Tiny spiders, almost too small to see with your unassisted eyes, climb up to some high point, stand on their toes, point their  belly to the sky, and spin fine threads of silk, called gossamers, enough to form a spider parachute, and off they go into the atmosphere, moving on to a new place to live. They do this in fall, (which is to say right now) on breezy days like we had this Friday. The air column was literally filled with them, and if the light was just right, you could see them everywhere, including wrapped around people’s hats and tangled in their hair! Now, I don’t necessarily tell folks that they have tiny flying spiders in their hair. The water is cooling off, after all, and the last thing I want to deal with is a bunch of hysterical customers leaping overboard on me.

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – October 31, 2016


Date: October 31, 2016
Writer: BROOKS WADE
 

HOG HEAVEN!  Mercy, what a week it’s been on Lake Jocassee. Chronicled here are the collective sightings of Kay, Tricia, and myself. Let’s start with Kay, who saw a bobcat momma and 2 kittens along the southern end of Doublesprings Mtn. No really, she did. Unbelievable, but true nonetheless. Then yesterday, Tricia counted 27 loons, in this first week of their fall appearance on the lake. What a start to the season of the loon on the lake. And lastly, I had what must be called a whopper of a week on the lake. First there was the mature bald eagle, who, perched at daybreak on a tall pine that hangs over the park beach, swooped down and dropped his talons in hot pursuit of the park geese. The geese took off in a frenzied, noisy hurry, and successfully made their escape. Failed in his attempt to catch what would have been a monstrous breakfast, or was it just too much darned trouble for him, the eagle flew back to his perch, rested for a minute, and then promptly swooped down again, caught a nice bass and ate it on the limb. Breathtaking. While all this was happening, 5 loons flew over my head, to land farther up the lake. There is nothing that excites me more than the return of the loons each year. And, saving the best for last, I saw a huge wild hog swimming across the lake, just as I turned into the Horsepasture River arm of the lake in the early morning light. I know you won’t believe this, so I have included a picture. It’s been a heavenly week around here.

COLOR REPORT. It’s glorious. The colors get brighter and more varied each day. The Peak is upon us, and should extend over the next couple of weeks. 

SWIMMER’S REPORT. You think I’m kidding, don’t you. The lake water temperature is 72 degrees, and it’s going to be in the 80’s right into November. It’s time for a swim!  


 

This Week on Lake Jocassee – October 24, 2016


Date: October 24, 2016
Writer: Tricia Kyzer
 

In case you haven't noticed, the water level is down. About eight feet at last check. And if we don't get more rain, I anticipate it dropping more. As much as 30 feet. It has happened before. This uncovering changes the landscape revealing Jocassee as she once was. Waterfalls are getting taller, rivers and creeks extending further, and the old geological diaries are being cracked open. These rocks have stories to tell. As more rock is exposed, I find myself trying to read this rugged landscape, trying to imagine the pathway of the steep, rocky gorges into the gentle wide Keowee river valley. Every lowering of the water tells me more of the story and it's got me hanging on the edge of my seat. Can't wait to get out on the water this week!~TK

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – October 17, 2016


Date: October 17, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade
 

SWIMMING WITH LOONS. Well, almost. With the water temperature and the air temperature both hovering around the mid-70’s, and a blinding blue sky overhead, the swimming has been lovely this week at Tahiti Beach. The lake is down over 8 feet, so there is now a huge white sand beach to enjoy. After a long, leisurely swim, we motored around the corner  just off the Bootleg Mountain ramp, and there they were,  two loons, diving away to catch their daily dinner. Not frantically, as loons do when they first arrive, but casually, as if their tummies were happy but not quite full. Just the two of them, but it’s only mid-October, after all. The rest of their kin will be here soon enough. I’ll be waiting for them, ready for some good winter company.  

 

COLOR REPORT. Poised for take-off. From a distance one is inclined to say that color has not yet arrived in the Gorges, but on closer inspection, the reds of the sweetgums, dogwoods and sourwoods is breathtaking. Maples are showing a limb or two or brilliant color, as they are wont to do, and green is fading from the beeches and birches to reveal yellows that should be bright by next week.

 

EAGLE REPORT. I’ve seen a pair of bald eagles several times lately, just as we’ve entered the Horsepasture River arm of the lake. They are ours for the winter, I do believe.

SWIMMER’S REPORT. This coming week has temperatures predicted to be in the mid-80’s. Need I say more?

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – October 10, 2016


Date: October 10, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade

CAUTION! I’m tossing it to the winds, from now on. At least that’s how I feel right now. There is a hurricane off the South Carolina coast today (Saturday, Oct. 8), for Pete’s sake. The National Weather Service called for sustained winds of 20+mph on the lake, with gusts into the 30’s. So I did the logical, grown-up thing to do, and cancelled today’s tours.

28 people, 2 boats, cancelled. I’ll bet you can guess what kind of weather we are having as I write this, at noon. Light winds with a lovely, broken blue sky. In other words, a perfect early October day. So dear customers, I am in search of some advice on what to do on such dilemma filled days. Did I do the right thing? Would you be upset with us if you drove here from afar and the weather was awful? Oh woe is me. If you want to discuss this with me directly, you can find me in my hall closet, lights off.
COLOR REPORT. Dogwoods and sourwoods, pretty in green-red-gold, interlaced with black gum’s bright reds, and here and there maples at the water’s edge becoming fluorescent. Bright purple beauty berries. Bright purple capsules of heart’s-a-bustin’, split open to reveal bright orange seeds. Near the top of a ridge overlooking the Whitewater River, a small group of poplars has suddenly turned bright yellow. Not ‘peak’ yet, but oh, so pretty.

SWIMMER’S REPORT. It’s still divine, but I’d do it from mid-day til late afternoon. The early mornings can be a bit cool. That’s where I’ll be today, washing away my sorrows.


 

This week on Lake Jocassee – October 3, 2016


Date: October 3, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade

FIRST FALL MORNING! SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1. I wasn’t particularly excited about it. It was cold, after all, with a crisp north wind blowing at daybreak. I hang on for dear life at the end of each season, so happy with exactly the way things are, but change is inevitable at this latitude, and I will be enamored by the new season soon enough. Not just yet though, although there was a cold fog hanging low over warm water at daybreak up Bear Creek, and light filled the trees, just as a mature bald eagle flew by. It was a pretty compelling argument for change, like it or not.


 COLOR REPORT. It’s just starting, with the sourwoods, maples, poplars, black gum and sweet gum trees all starting to show their preparation for winter. Actually the sourwoods have been at it for a while, but they’re getting some company now.

 MIGRATION REPORT. It’s not just the trees that are on the move. I’ve seen 3 brand new bald eagles on the lake this week, including one catching a nice fish. Rafts of ducks have been seen in the distance, and lots of monarchs overhead, on their way to Mexico. Cloudless sulphurs too, wherever their ethereal selves go this time of year. No loons yet, but I’m ready for them.

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – September 26, 2016


Date: September 26, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade

Cloudless Sunrise. The first week of Fall. Lake Jocassee.


 

This week on Lake Jocassee – September 19, 2016


Date: September 19, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade
 

SKY FALLS.   I’m sorry. I just can’t tell you how to get there. You might get lost. You might get hurt. And most likely, you might never want to leave. It’s not a hard hike to get there, if you rate difficulty by elevation gain, but it’s treacherously slippery, with lots of large boulders and small waterfalls along the way to negotiate. It’s not reachable by boat on Lake Jocassee, but you can only get there by using a boat on Lake Jocassee. Confused? That’s the plan. You must hike up one of the many creeks that flow into Lake Jo, (not going to tell you which one) for 1.6 miles, to be precise. You go around one creek bend after another, never suspecting what you are getting ready to see, a towering, beautiful waterfall, hidden with the depths of the Jocassee Gorges. I’m not particularly good at estimating heights, but I would say it’s 80 to 100 feet high. In- the- water adventure outings are just about done for us for this year, but we’ll head that way again next summer, on one of our Jocassee Adventure Sundays tours. I hope you’ll join us.
 

This week on Lake Jocassee – September 12, 2016


Date: September 12, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade
 

 3 BOATS! Ok, maybe 4 or 5, but that’s it, I swear. Near empty parking lots and boats you can only see with binoculars has been the way it is on the lake this week. All hail flying footballs and schools back in session!  I now officially declare the week that follows the Labor Day weekend as not only the first week of the Forgotten Summer, but also the best week of the entire summer, period. No rain! Not even any rain in the forecast for this entire week, which I am not sure I have ever even seen before here. I admit to preferring daily rains, but a solid week without it has its advantages as well, as long as it doesn’t happen too often. Cloudless, butterfly-filled skies, waterfalls so swimmable it’s hard to get out, quiet so penetrating it vibrates the spirit. Nearly alone for days on end, floating about on the South’s grand wilderness lake.  Some would call it heavenly.

SWIMMER’S REPORT. Heavenly. It’s as warm as it gets for the summer, right now. Comfortably, refreshingly cool. 

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – August 29, 2016


Date: September 5, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade
 

 THE BEGINNING AND THE END. IT’S LABOR DAY.

Summer officially ends today. The kids are back in school, the footballs are sailing through the air, and the attention of most drift to other matters than rushing to the lake every weekend. Saturdays will likely now return to some semblance of sanity at the dock. Can you hear that deep sigh of relief? That’s Lake Jo, returning to its primeval roots. Now begins the hidden month of summer. Ah, September. The water is still sublimely inviting, but the crowds will thin. It’s the best month of summer in many ways, but it’s also the last one, so don’t dally. If you come over on a weekend, you should be pleasantly surprised at the relative lack of parking chaos. And if you come on a weekday? Well, it may be just you and me.

SWIMMERS’ REPORT: The countdown is on. It’s September, after all, and all good things…oh, you know the expression. The surface water temperature is a very pleasant 82 degrees, and much colder, of course, when immersed in waterfalls or wild river pools. Now is not the time to skip an opportunity to submerge in Lake Jo’s wondrous waters. Take a sick day, or just call in sick if you don’t have one. One must have one’s priorities, after all. Come on over. ~B

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – August 29, 2016


Date: August 29, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade
 

 from Ric's perspective:

 Ya know, the creation story in the Bible says that God created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested. …Says He rested; didn’t say He retired! Every time I am out and about, particularly on my favorite lake in the World, I see absolute proof of that often overlooked theological point. The wonderful processes that were put in place long ago are still very much at work in the world. The seasons turn; sometimes slowly, sometimes overnight it seems like. A seed sprouts; a flower blooms then fades. Birds and butterflies come and go. The colors of Jocassee are an ever changing kaleidoscope depending minute by minute on light and of course season by season; pastels of every shade in spring, untold varieties of green in summer, and of course the breathtaking explosion of fall color we all look forward to. Winter offers special views and colors all its own. Winter offers a much better look at the awesome terrain surrounding Lake Jocassee and the splashes of white waterfalls cascading down the steep mountain sides bare of leaves. …the haunting call of a loon.
When will the spring flower bloom be at peak? When will the leaves change? When will the loons return? When will it be warm enough to swim? All at their own appointed time. Lake Jocassee is always a wonderful, ever-changing place. Come and see.

This week on Lake Jocassee – August 22, 2016


Date: August 22, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade
 

 from Dan's perspective:

 Sherrie and I started paddling our canoes on Lake Jocassee in the early 1980’s. Often we took camping gear and spent several days on the lake. Days filled with swimming, fishing, exploring and taking in the wonders of the seasons. We raised our daughters to know and love nature by showing them the wonders of Lake Jo’s many charms. Since retirement several years ago, I have begun leading groups to places like L. Jocassee to share some of my favorite spots. We have often teamed up with Brooks and Kay and the Master Naturalists to do different study groups…Loons, Flora of the shores, and Birding. This progressed into helping to lead tours with JLT. You can certainly see and do more in a day from a pontoon boat than from a canoe. Each season on Lake Jo has different prime activities. My favorite activity of the summer months is “creeking”. Defined as finding out what‘s up around that next bend in the creek or river and playing in the features found along the way. Sherrie and I know a fun day is coming when we head down the road to Lake Jocassee.

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – August 15, 2016

Date: August 15, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade
 

From Tricia's perspective:

Call it puppy love, call it infatuation, call it whatever you choose, but I find myself falling madly in love with Lake Jocassee! I have immersed myself in her cool refreshing waters, breathed in the deep peace of her breath, held on through her passionate rages. I have listened to her stories rising from the valleys and gorges buried in her depths and I have heard her heart echoed in the gentle echo of the loons on the ridges and the wild roar of her rivers and waterfalls as they plunge into the lake.  I have discovered comfort on her waters, confidence in her challenges, and joy in the journeys she leads me on. I continue to find wonder in the mysteries she reveals and can’t wait to know her more each time I am with her. I have felt deep pride and admiration as I have watched some of you fall in love with her too. Jocassee lingers in our hearts like the sweet scent of incense long after we have driven away from her shores. As we all keep coming back for more, I look forward to sharing more of her with you!~TB


 

This week on Lake Jocassee – August 8, 2016

Date: August 8, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade
 

AUGUST. THE NEW JULY. It must be the heat of this intense summer. It used to be that things started to slow down around here in August. Kids heading to back to school, moms hitting the mall for some tax free shopping, dads buried up in the football news on the sports page. Not this year. On Saturdays at Lake Jocassee you’d think it was still the 4th of July. It’s enough to make a quiet man grumpy, what with all the power boats speeding by my attempts at contemplative paddling. But there is much joy here. It’s inescapable when you submerge in Lake Jo waters about noon or so. Speed boat crazies come and go. Joy stays on Lake Jocassee, as does the quiet.

SWIMMERS REPORT. It’s a hot summer and the ambient lake temperature is warmer than most people expect. Which is to say, it is just right for those that think Lake Jo is too cold. Bracing, in front of the waterfalls and in the river pools, but surprisingly mild in the open lake. There’s a just-right place to get in for most everyone. ~B



 

This week on Lake Jocassee – August 1, 2016

Date: August 1, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade
 
JOY.  It’s the three letter word for a summer’s day on Lake Jocassee. Cold, clear water to swim in, waterfalls to immerse in, wild rivers to explore, cold mountain pool by cold mountain pool. And mercy, we’re clearly not the only ones to know about it! It’s the busiest summer we’ve seen around here, but who can blame the steaming masses who head this way on an early Saturday morning. It may be the only place to escape the heat in the Upstate! The nice thing is, there is 90 miles of shoreline, so once you get away from the dock, the crowds are a thing of the past. Oh sure, all the most popular places on the lake may still be busy, but don’t forget, there’s 90 miles of shoreline. It’s easy to get away, to get lost, to find that secret swimming spot your spirit needs in the midst of this torrid summer. But come on a weekday if you can. That’s our recommendation.

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – July 25, 2016

Date: July 25, 2016
Writer: Brook Wade
 
DOG DAYS!  When people are booking a tour with us in summer, they usually ask if I think it is going to rain. My standard answer is ‘probably’, although most of the rain comes in the late afternoon, after our morning tours are completed. We do operate our business in the midst of a rainforest, after all. Now we are entering the last days of July, submerging into the Dog Days stretch of the second half of summer, and it will likely rain most every day. Not nearly enough of course, but it is still some relief from the drought that has settled upon the mountains. This may be my favorite time of year, except for the end of October of course, when the forest is afire with color, and the first of March, when the loons begin their departure, and mid-spring no doubt, but still, it seems like my favorite time of the year right now. Such ambiguity occurs when you really love a place. Towering cumulus clouds at the break of day, booming thunder in the far distance, or right upon you. Sunlight-infused gentle rainfall, perhaps the most beautiful part of a Dog Day afternoon. Darting towards blue sky on the lake to leave black, lightning-filled skies behind. Nature can be tumultuous this time of year, even a bit intimidating, but such is the nature of grandeur. The most beautiful time of day comes right behind a departing thunderstorm, but only if you’re out there to see it.~B

 

This week on Lake Jocassee – July 18, 2016