On March 9, the water level of Norris Lake was at 1000 elevation (full summer pool is 1020). It was warm enough to take the kayak out and this time I decided to do a little backwoods exploring. My destination was the end of Clear Creek. Our boat can only go so far back during the summer, and I wanted to see what was beyond.
It was a beautiful day with minimal wind, and I was making good time. As I neared my destination, the channel narrowed until it petered out to what was clearly “Clear Creek” feeding it. There was lots of mud surrounding the area. Off to the right, before the main creek, was another source of water gushing out of some rocks. At first, I assumed it was a dammed up creek to allow a crude road to go over it, and the water was exiting below. I took my kayak to shore and started to explore.
There was no creek above it. There was a ravine, but no running water. This clearly was an underground spring and the biggest, gushing underground spring I had ever seen. What fun!
I look around and there is indeed, a crude road that follows Clear Creek. I decide to walk down it. It is full of ruts filled with water, and as I look down I see salamanders, in pairs. Lots of salamanders in pairs. They were mating. I counted at least 10 pair of mating salamanders in about a 25 square foot area. The salamanders were a dull green/gray and had faded red spots on their backs. (Later I researched this and found them to be the aquatic adult stage of the red spotted newt.)
I continued on the road, which followed Clear Creek, until it came to a crossroads where I came to find that the road was indeed called “Clear Creek” and the crossroads was “Burnett Hollow”. I made a mental note so that Jim and I could explore by land next time.
I decided to turn back and was almost at my kayak when I heard some engines. They got louder, and in no time at all, I was joined by 5 or 6 individuals on all-terrain vehicles. I could hear one of them say, “Look, there’s a boat”. All I could think of was that those poor salamanders had gotten a crude awakening when all those tires went through their serene setting. The riders stopped to say hi and then noticed the spring, surprised about it as much as I was. You never know who or what you are going to run into.
As I write this post (March 21), the water level is at 1006 elevation – surely covering up the spring. I was glad that I had experienced it and will definitely put it on my list to revisit next year. And to think, I would have missed it if I had gone two weeks later. The lesson learned here is that the joys of exploration involve going out different times of the year and veering off the beaten path. Life is an Adventure!