Boone Pond Kayak and Geocache Adventure
- 1.83 mile
- 4 hours
- 5 geocaches found
- 2 DNFs
As another work week drew to a close, I started thinking about plans for the weekend. I already had an event scheduled for Sunday afternoon – New Cache Order’s quarterly litter pick up on our section of adopted highway. However, after a week and a half of dealing with a sinus infection, I was ready to get outside and have some fun on Saturday.
I messaged my friend Mrs. Jack of Team Cache Cracker Jacks (Dori) and was thrilled to learn she was free to go out and play. It had been far too long since we had a chance to spend some time together. I offered a variety of suggestions for our outing, and we settled on taking our kayaks out to paddle on Boone Pond and search for a few geocaches.
Boone Pond used to be Boone Lake. That was before dam seepage. As reported on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) website, “In October 2014, a sinkhole was discovered near the base of the embankment at Boone Dam, and water and sediment was found seeping from the riverbank below. While sinkhole occurrence in East Tennessee is common, the locations of the sinkhole and the muddy discharge were indicators of potential issues with the safety of the dam.”
TVA responded by lowering the water in Boone Lake to extremely low levels so that they could begin a five to seven year, multi-million dollar repair project. This means that the lake is now much smaller than it used to be. Vast areas that were once under water are now dry land. Over the last three years, vegetation has begun to grow where fish would normally swim. Thus, our nickname for the lake – Boone Pond.
Some of the geocachers in our area have taken advantage of all the new dry land by hiding about 40 new geocaches in places that have been exposed by the lower water levels. Many of these are only accessible by water because reaching them by land would require you to cross private property. We decided to target a handful of those on this trip.
I made arrangements with Dori to pick her up at 10:00 am. This would give the weather time to warm up after low overnight temps. She messaged back, “Awesome! I’m excited. See you at 10! I’ll be the one with a faded hot pink kayak on the sidewalk.” After a busy morning at home, I loaded my green rec boat and gear in the back of my truck, and geopup Andy and I headed out to pick up Dori.
I had to stop and take a picture as I approached Dori’s house. Just as she had said, she was waiting on the sidewalk with Heather Patrice – her hot pink kayak. We loaded up her boat with mine, and headed to Boone Pond.
Because the low lake levels and dam repairs have made some of the boat ramps and recreation areas inaccessible, TVA built a brand new ramp, beach, and picnic area a little ways upstream from the dam. It was a busy place on this beautiful spring day. We dodged the fishing and speed boats that were using the ramp, and launched from adjacent grass.
This was Andy’s first time on the lake in a boat. At first, he was a little squirrely – wanting to jump out any time he saw something worth chasing. After I asked him to sit and stay a few times, he settled down and rode along calmly as we paddled across the pond. We decided to make this first stretch a short one, and reward him with some play time in the water and along shore before heading out again. We made land directly across from the boat ramp and let him off leash to play.
I had brought along a squeaky ball, and Andy enjoyed playing with it, splashing in the water, and exploring all the smells along the shoreline. After he had played for a little while, I checked the geocaching app and saw that there was a cache just 200 feet away. We walked over to find it, and then returned to our boats. Along the way we saw some very large prints in the sand, and wondered what kind of animal left them.
Once back in our boats, we paddled out to the middle of the channel to look for a geocache hidden at a sunken foundation marked by buoys. This was the site of an old homestead that was covered when the dam was built and the lake formed in 1952. Typically, it would be deep underwater, but with the draw down it has created a shallow area best avoided by power watercraft – thus the buoys. Unfortunately, the geocache hidden there has gone missing so we had to move on without earning the smiley.
We paddled back to shore to search for another cache. This one was reportedly hidden 15′ up in a tree, and the cache description said you had to “climb like a monkey” to find it. Dori and her husband Tom had searched for it last April without finding it. No one else has found it since their search.
Dori and I both climbed trees in search of the cache. She climbed one and I climbed three. I texted the CO and some previous finders for help, but after a lengthy search we could not find it. We reluctantly gave up, which isn’t an easy thing for gals like us who are stubborn.
Andy had been very patient during the search, so we gave him plenty of time off leash when we returned to the boats. We chatted and snacked while he explored.
Dori found a treasure along the shore – a pink, plastic train whistle from McDonald’s. She remembered these from her childhood and wondered how old it was. We looked closer and found the year 1986 imprinted on it. What a find!
The next cache was at a location I had visited three years ago. I had ventured out on a February morning in search of a cache that was technically only accessible by water. However, with the lower lake levels I had found a route that would not take me across private property to reach it. In my walk along the dry lake bed, I had discovered an old foundation filled with water and had considered hiding a geocache there. I never got around to doing that, so my friend LakeBum (Rob) did.
On today’s visit, the area looked very different with three years of vegetation covering the once barren lake bed. In fact, the foundation was now filled with cattails, a type of perennial plant that favors swampy areas. The cache here is named “Corn Dog Hut” because the rhizomes of cattails look like corn dogs. We found this cache quickly, and then climbed back in our boats.
Continuing along the shoreline, we spotted the next cache easily. Reaching it was a little harder. It was low on the rocks, but just out of reach from our boats. Dori tried to reach it with her paddle, but it was secured to a cement filled bucket and too heavy to move.
I found a spot to exit my boat, and carefully made my way across the slippery rocks to the cache. While I was trying to extract the log sheet, Andy took a nose dive into the water when his paws slipped on one of the rocks. He emerged wet-faced, dazed and looking at us accusingly because we were laughing at his plight.
Once he and I were safely back in the boat, we paddled a little further to the next cache. This one was at the site of an old rail bed that had been cut along the river (pre-lake) in the 1880s. That railroad was never completed, but you can still see evidence of the work that was done to build it all along the lake.
As we neared the coordinates, I looked at the hint which read, “cedar”. Realizing that the only cedars in sight were a pair of trees “way up there” at the top of a rocky hillside, we knew that this was going to be a tough one. We paddled back and forth a bit, looking for the best line of attack. We finally settled on a spot to make land and tied our boats to some flowering princess trees, a beautiful but invasive species that originated in China.
We then took our time climbing up the steep, rocky slope. It was a tricky climb because some of the rock was loose, and we had to be careful not to trigger a rock slide. Andy and I reached the top first, and then he went over to encourage Dori in her climb.
Along the abandoned rail bed were redbud ad dogwood trees in bloom. There was another type of tree with white blossoms that I couldn’t identify.
We finally reached the cedar trees. It appeared that someone had built a fort or maybe a hunting blind here in the past by standing thick branches on end and tying them together. We had a great view of the dam and the construction project.
As we began looking for the cache, we noticed a fisherman on a very shiny boat approaching. He shut off his motor just below us, and dropped a line in the water. As he floated past, we called down to say hello, and Dori told him how much she liked his shiny boat. He began to tell us about the old rail bed, and we pretended that we didn’t already know all about it.
There was no sign of the cache anywhere in the trees. I had just texted the CO to ask if it was supposed to be hanging in the tree, and received confirmation. I began poking at rocks below the trees to see if it had fallen when Dori gave a shout and pointed a little further down the slope. It was lying on top of one of the rocks below. She retrieved it, we signed the log sheet, and then hung it in one of the trees in a likely looking spot.
We then had to make our way back down that rocky slope, which proved to be even more treacherous than the climb up. Once we were back to the boats, we decided it was time to call it a day and leave the two remaining caches toward the dam for another day.
We stopped to log one more cache on the way back to the boat ramp. Dori climbed out to grab this one while Andy and I provided moral support from the water. He was one tired pup by this time, and I think fell asleep during the paddle back.
When we reached the boat ramp, there was a traffic jam of boats floating nearby waiting to be trailered. We were once again happy to be able to bypass the ramp and exit our boats on the grass nearby.
It felt great to be out on the water again, and even better to spend some quality time with my good pal, Dori. Andy handled being in the kayak like a champ, and will be a fun companion for future flat water, or slow water adventures.