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Climbing On The Island

Author: jmaher
Date: December 04, 2004
The idea of climbing trees on a deserted island has always been a fascinating one. Lately I have found just such an island and have been climbing trees there. The amazing thing is that this island is less than a mile from my place of residence but until recently I had never even thought about going there to see if there was anything worth climbing.

Getting there could involve nothing more than putting my canoe in the water and paddling off to the north. In less than half an hour I would be there. This is a very large lake, however, with lots of great big power boats, water skiers, and all sorts of other obstacles to quiet progress. So instead of putting the canoe in the water at the foot of the hill and paddling the three quarters of a mile across to the island, I load the canoe atop the truck and drive around to a recreational site with a boat ramp on the other side of the lake. From this point it is only a paddle of a couple hundred yards and I can be across the water and onto the island before the powerboaters even realize they have a potential target out there to be terrorized.

The lake is Lake Lanier. The Island is Big Chestateee Island and sits in the middle of the Chestatee River channel where the river widens its way into the lake. This island is nine-tenths of a mile in length, running east-west, and half-a-mile wide, north-south, at its widest point. It is shaped like a giant amoeba with lots of shoreline and coves to be explored. It is covered mostly with hardwoods and a few scattered pines. No one lives there, very few people go there, and when I am there it is as though I am on my very own private island.

Lake Lanier serves a very large amount of people. The shoreline is covered with boat ramps, docks, and houses spanning the spectrum from million-dollar mansions to two-bit rustic fishing cabins. The water itself is constantly plied by powerboats, fishing boats, water skiers, jet skis, houseboats, and almost anything else that floats. Paddling the canoe across to the island must be done with all haste lest one be attacked by an armada of water craft. Once across this watery danger zone the island awaits and peace is at hand. Beach the canoe, walk fifty yards inland, and it is quite easy to forget that this is in the middle of a very crowded area.

It has been a less than a week since my last visit to Big Chestatee Island. Abe Winters, of Tree Climbing USA, my brother, and I went there to give Abe a look at the island and to climb one of the big white oaks up the hill from White Oak Cove on the north side of the island. The tree is ninety feet high and can be climbed to a height of about eighty feet. The top offers a number of nice big limbs where one can hang out for hours. From the top there is a beautiful view out across the lake and it is quite fun to sit there watching the powerboats come and go and know that they have no idea at all of our presence in the top of the tree overlooking the cove.

Of course there are other coves, more than a dozen in fact, and each of them gives access to great trees overlooking the lake. I have now made half a dozen climbs on the island and I can say that every climb was rewarding. I have yet to climb one of the pines, but that will happen; I'm just looking for the right one.

The most wonderful thing about this island is that it is deserted, no one lives there, and I've yet to meet another soul while there. There is one spot near the interior of the island where one can find the remains of an old homestead where some farmer probably lived long before the lake rose around this high spot to create the island. There is an old foundation, some barbed wire fencing, and a well. There are several large poplars overlooking this now heavily wooded spot. I want to climb here someday. I suspect that this may be the only spot on the island where one could climb without a view of the lake.

Hopefully, in the spring, when the weather warms up, we can have a group climb on this island. No matter how many show up there will be at least one good climb for everybody.

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