Monday, October 22, 2007

Visiting Rocket City by Water

Hello all!
"Rocket City" refers to Huntsville AL, and we've been in its environs for a few days.
We explored the Elk River which flows southward from central Tennessee into Alabama and joins the Tennessee River on Wheeler Lake. This first photo is pretty enough, but also demonstrates the old navigator's saying "Don't ever drive your boat towards a spot where birds are standing." The Great Blue Heron is standing on a log which is grounded in very shallow water, or perhaps snagged on a rock or stump.

Moonrise over autumn colors along the Elk River in northern Alabama (faintly seen at upper left). This year, the fall colors are not as vivid because of prolonged dry weather... or so they say... but it's still wonderful to watch the change of seasons.

One last Elk River scene: this is Buzzard Roost Bluffs.... catchy name, eh?

We've seen larger cliffs & rocks along the way, and will see more, but this is one of Kathie's nicer photos, and it is a pretty place regardless of what sights may lie further up or down the main rivers.

We anchored out two nights in a row in the same spot (link to map); it was such a pretty & secure place that we felt no need to hurry on.

Another Great Blue Heron staked out his spot at sunset, ignoring the smokestacks in the background. He returned to this same spot the next evening, too.

Doug & Hank had two days to explore this beautiful cove in Hank's dinghy. This shot is looking northward across Wheeler Lake on the Tennessee River; you can see a small island at the mouth of the Elk River.

You can also see that Hank is pretty casual about taking rides in the dinghy. He's been doing it for a few months now, and is far too confident in his "sea paws."

But Hank has good reason to be confident, he's very agile & athletic. We try to give him enough exercise when we're cruising. Here are two action shots of Hank playing on the beach. This first photo shows him eyeing a tennis ball and taking off like the proverbial rocket.

In the second photo (these were taken on the multiple-exposure setting), a split-second after the first, Hank still has his eye on the tennis ball while he leaps over a big fallen tree.

It's true that this involves a different skill set than leaping into a small tippy dinghy, but Hank doesn't know that!

This is what makes Huntsville "Rocket City." The Loopers toured the city including the US Space and Rocket Center at Redstone Arsenal, which is where the U.S. space program first took off!

Those old enough to remember Project Apollo (or techno-geeks who have followed the space program) will recognize this as the Saturn V, the largest rocket ever built and the work-horse of the United States' moon landings.

NASA is now working on a new heavy-lift booster (link) which will utilize similar engines, along with the re-usable boosters such as those on the Space Shuttle. This will make it possible to continue progress in orbit and beyond; the International Space Station and a Moon base.... maybe even sending people to Mars.

Here's the L.E.M. or Lunar Excursion Module.
Projected manned missions to the Moon or to Mars include landing vehicles that look remarkably like this one... hey, it worked, why mess with success! Seriously, it would be difficult to include all necessary functions in a lander that looked much different.

This is like the dinghy for future space cruisers!

Best wishes to all-
Doug & Kathie

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