We decided on a Tuesday hoping for a reduction in the powerboat traffic that plagues every body of water in the summer months. The lake, owned by Nantalhala Power and Light Co., is called Thorpe Reservoir on the topo map and on the boat ramp sign but, locally, it is known as Glenville Lake, for the town on its eastern shoreline. Its location is southwest of Asheville, our home town, and just north of the town of Cashiers. We chose to paddle it because a) it was closer than most large lakes in Western North Carolina and b) because we heard it was not heavily developed and somewhat picturesque. The forecast was for 84 degrees and sunny and we were looking forward to some swimming and roll practice.
Naturally, with a minimal road map and no previous experience on these particular lakeside roads, we missed the turn for the boat ramp, (Pine Creek Rd.), but we recovered quickly enough to make it to the north end of the lake, at the dam, in just under two hours. We checked out Ralph Andrews Park, who advertised a boat ramp, but they wanted an entire dollar to launch which happened to be beyond our budget for the trip. Besides, the free ramp one quarter-mile down the road was more than adequate. Putting in next to the dam with a sign that read "Warning! Gates open!" bothered us not in the least, (once we were halfway down the lake).
Onion Falls, marked on my topo, were very close and I was disappointed not to see them. A later check, in better light, showed the falls BELOW the dam and I felt fortunate not to have visited them after all. Pushing off at about 10:20, we were glad to see the very clear water indicative of these mountain lakes and even glad to flag down a passing pontoon boat who told us of a lakeside waterfall - at the other end of the lake. Thirty minutes later, we were one-third down the lake and memorizing the location of an island with a beautiful swimming beach, but we were not hot enough yet. Passing us a few minutes later was a sailboat who agreed our collective motors has a pleasant hum.
By 11:30, we found the Signal Marina in Glenville, who graciously provided us with a photocopied map, showing the locations of three waterfalls. Leaving the pontoon boats, jet skis and other power boats in their own stew of gas fumes, we continued south towards Hurricane Falls. Ten or fifteen minutes before reaching the southern end of the lake, which our new map told us was 4.5 miles in length, our breakfast ran out and we stopped on the shady side of a posted island to eat a bagel lunch at water's edge. Hurricane Falls sound more impressive than they actually turned out to be but we gathered in our negative ions, hung for a while in the cool shade and collected a small rock momento for our garden pond. A power boat quietly joined us and we left for our return voyage.
It took us an hour of paddling to reach that sandy, level beach we'd spied earlier. We were ready to swim at that point and the water was a perfectly refreshing temperature. Our non-rolling practice went well. Neither one of us managed to remember a great deal except how to pump water up our nostrils. Eventually, we managed a weak hip snap or two but nothing we'd count on in heavy seas off the coast of Greenland. Incredibly, the light breeze was cool enough on our skin so we quit churning up the water and made the final leg back to the boat ramp for a total of 95 minutes for the 4.5 mile trip. We didn't see any endangered species, (how could we at 2.85 mph?), and were disappointed in paddling beside a roadway with trucks and numerous power lines for part of the way but we were happy to break up the routine and explore someplace new.
The trip home took 20 mintues or less; no wrong turns. Home by seven.