Walking in South Knoxville: Ross Marble Natural Area

Emily and I have made significant headway towards our goal of hiking all 40 miles of the South Knoxville Urban Wilderness trails.  Last weekend we did around four miles during our second visit to the Ross Marble Natural Area.
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As you walk the trails here, through woods and within sound of running water, on paths bordered by wildflowers, it’s only the discarded blocks of marble that remind you of the Big Production that once went on here, back when Knoxville was called “The Marble City.”  Which is kind of the point:
Ross
As the sign above points out, the quarry is “a terrific example of how nature can reclaim itself if given the chance.”  And aren’t we all so lucky that the folks at Ijams have helped make that happen for us?
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As the above sign states, most of this area is wild, unstructured, untamed, even with the reminders of Man’s interference:
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As usual, for me, the wildflowers were the biggest attraction:
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I was also intrigued by the landscape.
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We lived in South Knoxville many years ago, when the big kids were small, and one day on a whim I pulled into the Fort Dickerson . . . park? area? I don’t know what you would have called it back then, when it was still pretty sketchy.  But I was curious, and so we went to the overlook and got our first sight of a quarry lake.
I was amazed.  What was this magical place?  Here is was, a couple of minutes from downtown, and I had never even heard of it.  It looked to me like something in Scotland, maybe, but certainly not anything that belonged in Knoxville.  I used to love bringing people there to show them and they were always as enthralled and shocked as I had been.
Now Mead’s Quarry, adjacent to Ross, is super popular, with people swimming and paddle boating and crowds swarming.  And it’s beautiful too.  So as we headed down the path on our first visit to the Ross Quarry area, we were expecting to see another beautiful lake, and we were excited.
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So let me go ahead and clue y’all in:  there is no lake.  We walked and walked and WALKED and I kept saying we must be getting close and then it was we must have missed it somehow . . . but what it turns out is that there is more than one kind of abandoned quarry, and although we didn’t find a lake, it was beautiful all the same, and also somehow otherworldly.
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So take a walk in South Knoxville some time soon and expect surprises around every bend in the trail.
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For more walking adventures, see below:
Walking in Knoxville
Walking in Downtown Knoxville
Walking in West Knoxville I
Walking in West Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville I
Walking in South Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville III
Walking in South Knoxville IV

Walking in South Knoxville: Anderson School Trails

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I’m going to call this particular section of the Urban Wilderness the Anderson School Trails, because the official designation of “Private Land Easement” isn’t useful in locating these charming trails geographically.  The privacy, however, is part of the charm–it’s like a delightful secret that these land owners have been kind enough to share with the rest of us.
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Above is the sign at the Anderson School access to the trails.  You can start here, on what is fancifully named the Lost Chromosome Trail, or you can park at the other end, which is a little harder to find.  It’s located on Burnett Creek Road, and you will have to cross that road to get to the trail.  We’ve been here twice so we’ve done both.
There’s a little bit of everything along these trails.  Water:
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Wildflowers:
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There are some surprises, too.  Both man-made:
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And natural:
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We’ve knocked out the Lost Chromosome and Chicken Coup trails and part of Chain Ring, and still have ACDC and MCR to go.  Someone was having fun when they named these trails.
And you’ll have fun walking on them!  Give it a try this weekend.
Click on the links below for more of my walking adventures!
Walking in Knoxville
Walking in Downtown Knoxville
Walking in West Knoxville I
Walking in West Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville I
Walking in South Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville III

Walking in South Knoxville: Forks of the River WMA

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Look!  It’s the beginning of another path to explore in South Knoxville!
Actually, this is a post about many paths.  Many, many paths, which you can find at the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, one of the stops along the South Knox Loop and part of the  Knoxville Urban Wilderness.
Emily and I have spent part of two Saturdays here so far, and it will take us at least two more to make sure we hit all the trails (so we can cross them off and eventually get a badge for walking every trail in the wilderness).  I have been especially excited about walking here because years ago when we would walk on the Will Skelton Greenway (it runs along the river on the outskirts of the WMA) we used to wonder about all the rest of the land and wish that we dared to walk on some of the paths we saw.  And now we can!
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The Will Skelton Greenway doesn’t start here, of course–it begins at Island Home Park and skirts Ijams before it reaches this point.  The first part of it isn’t even part of the South Loop.  It’s paved and you plan a walk that would include some of the WMA trails and Ijams trails (that’s what we did on our recent visit.).
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Besides the Tennessee and French Broad Rivers, visitors to the WMA will get to enjoy creeks as well.  Don’t you love the soothing sound they make?
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We got a little turned around on the trails the first time we came, but that won’t happen again thanks to the app I told y’all about already.  This last time we just looked at the little dot on our phones if we weren’t sure which way we should be going!  But the trails are well marked for those of you who like your nature technology-free.
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This place abounds with beautiful views.  There are meadow views . . .
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Woodland views . . .FOW 8
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And river views . . .
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What I love most (and can’t stop taking pictures of) are the wildflowers.
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One thing to keep in mind:  hunting is allowed here, so be careful.  Stay on the trails.  The different hunting seasons are posted and you might want to make note of when it’s likely to be more populated with hunters if you are concerned.
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Next time you feel like hiking in the mountains, go the the WMA instead.  Save yourself some gas and see the surprising places a path right here in Knoxville can lead!
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Walking in South Knoxville 2: The William Hastie Natural Area

Years ago, when my big kids were little, any walking I did consisted of pushing a double stroller around our South Knoxville (Lake Forest) neighborhood, Emily walking at my side.  I couldn’t go very fast, but I got exercise on the hills!
Occasionally, we’d make it as far as the dead end at Post Oak Road.  This intrigued us, because where the road ended there were some rocks blocking a KUB access road, and we were very curious about that path and where it might lead.  So curious, in fact, that when the kids were old enough to go walking sans stroller, the five of us walked it to where it ended at Margaret Lane, a little road off Sevierville Pike.  Along the way we spotted a sinkhole with an abandoned car in it and the body of a raccoon frozen solid by a pond.  Ah, memories.
Needless to say, things have changed at what is now officially the William Hastie Natural Area.  Y’all, you are going to amazed at all the wild and empty land that’s back there.  I am once again so proud of Knoxville for saving this land for all of us to enjoy instead of attempting to level the hills to plant some bland subdivisions.
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That’s the sign at the end of Post Oak Road, but I wouldn’t recommend you start there.  In fact, I wouldn’t even recommend you drive down there at all if you don’t live there, because not only is there nowhere to park, it will require about a 15-point turn to get yourself out of the dead end.  Instead, you want to drive to the end of Margaret Lane, but be careful, because the official entrance includes a very narrow road.
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You’ll find these helpful signs at every trailhead in the South Loop system.  And what’s even better, there’s an app for that!  Yes, there is.  It’s called PDF Maps, and it’s free.  You are going to want to go here for instructions and how to get it.  You will show up on it as a little moving dot, so you can’t get lost!
Another tip as you start walking these trails:  there are signs marking the difficulty of the trails.  But pay no attention to these if you are walking.  They are geared toward the bikers, and the challenges to someone riding a bike are very different.  I haven’t had any trouble on trails that had the highest difficulty level.
We have done approximately half of the trails contained in the William Hastie Natural Area.  Here are a few things we saw that day:
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I just love taking pictures of paths.  I do it almost every time we go walking.
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Wildflowers are a big attraction on every path in the South Loop system so far.
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These fallen trees were near the top of the trail that leads into the View Park neighborhood.  There the trail system continues through Marie Myers Park, but that’s a story for another day.
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Emily rescued this little fellow from possible death by bike by moving him to the side of the trail.
Here’s the pond now, with no raccoons in evidence, frozen or otherwise:
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Next time, maybe I will write about the Forks of the River trails, or the Ijams trails, or maybe the ones in the private land easement near Anderson School.  There are so many!
But don’t just take my word for it, y’all.  Virtual tours are nice, but no substitute for actually being there, and reading about walking isn’t exercise.  I started getting healthy barely over two months ago.  Slight hills were torture.  I started with mile-long walks on paved trails.  Yesterday we did about four miles, in warm weather, with lots of evil hills.  I’ve lost at least twenty pounds. and there’s great satisfaction in feeling your muscles do what God meant them to do.

Walking in South Knoxville

This is WAY too big a topic for just one post, y’all.  If you want to go hiking but you don’t feel like driving to the mountains, South Knoxville is the place for you.  And I’m not just talking Ijams, even though we all know how wonderful that is.
But let me back up for a minute. I grew up a Northwest Knoxville girl, and South Knoxville was that place with all the kudzu that we entered approximately three times per year, if that: twice a year to visit our dentist whose office was on Taliwa, just a couple of miles down Chapman Highway; and maybe once for our all-too-infrequent trips to Metcalf Bottoms in the Smokies.
But then I grew up, got married, had three kids, and needed to live in a house instead of an apartment.  Our first home was in the Lake Forest neighborhood of South Knoxville, on the dogwood trail, and I quickly grew to appreciate this underrated part of my hometown.  One of its charms then and now was the large parts of it that remained undeveloped–its topography is less hospitable to sprawl than the erstwhile farmland of West Knoxville.
Thankfully all that Urban Wilderness is now forever safe from McMansions.  Instead we have 40 miles of walking and biking trails with a 12.5 mile loop connecting them all.  Emily and I are working up to walking that whole loop in one day some time this fall, but in the meantime we are hitting the trails every weekend, hoping to walk on them all and get the official patch!
So far we have walked from Island Home Park (this was on the Will Skelton Greenway and not officially part of the Urban Wilderness Loop) to Ijams to walk on some of the trails there.  Of course, we’ve walked all the Ijams trails many a time, but we are doing them all again and probably need one more trip over there to finish them up for the patch.   We spent one afternoon doing some of the trails in the William Hastie Natural Area, and Saturday we started exploring the Forks of the River Trails.  Each of these places deserves a post to itself, so that’s what I am going to do.  And I encourage you to come out and explore the Urban Wilderness for yourselves.

View from the Ijams River Trail
View from the Ijams River Trail

A May Stroll You Must Take!

Let me start by saying that I love love love the smell of honeysuckle.  That’s probably not an earth-shattering revelation because who doesn’t?  But when I had to answer all those email questionnaires that want to know what’s on your mouse pad and whether you like chocolate or vanilla better, honeysuckle was what I always named as my favorite smell.
This love has roots in my childhood, when we had a fence in our side yard that was covered with honeysuckle and wild roses this time of year.  I remember my mother teaching me how to suck out the nectar, and when I was little I probably was more excited about that than smelling it!  My mother also had honeysuckle perfume–just a very simple roll-on variety from Avon, I think–that I would just love to have if I could ever find something similar.  We all loved honeysuckle so much that we even named our collie Honeysuckle!
After Emily was born, for many years our summer visit to Baltimore was timed for Memorial Day weekend.  When we’d get back home, it was usually late at night, and the first thing we would notice upon getting out of the car was the strong scent of honeysuckle in the air.  So not only is it just an awesome smell, it also holds nostalgic associations of childhood and homecoming for me.
In these parts, May is prime time for honeysuckle, at least for the wild (some would say invasive) and strongly scented variety I’m talking about here.  And all of this has been a lead into a very brief Walking in Knoxville post because I don’t want anyone who loves honeysuckle to miss the chance to take this particular walk before it’s too late to experience the intoxicating scent.
I mentioned Grigsby Chapel Greenway briefly in my most recent greenway post.  It comprises 2.25 miles or so of asphalt trails interspersed with walks through several neighborhoods on their sidewalks.  If you do the whole thing, you’ll get to see many beautiful houses and gardens along the whole route.  But if you don’t have time to do that, or don’t want to walk that far, at least do this:  Park your car at St. John Neumann Church and walk the portion of the greenway that connects it to the next neighborhood.  The smell will probably hit you before you even reach the trail.  The air is positively redolent with it.  (And yes, I know that’s an overused phrase, but it’s really the only way to say it.) You will be walking through what amounts to almost a tunnel of honeysuckle.
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After that, there is just honeysuckle EVERYWHERE.  Back in the woods, next to the trail, bushes of it, vines of it well up into the trees.
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Seriously, go there as soon as you can.  Early morning and twilight will afford the strongest smell experience, plus it won’t be as hot.  And if you do go, let me know!
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Walking in West Knoxville

So, a few weeks ago I was telling y’all that I once had planned to write a blog called “Walking in Knoxville,” and that I planned to incorporate that idea into this blog, because eclectic.  I had really meant to chronicle each or my walks separately, but I’ve been walking so much (about which more later) that I had to choose between walking and writing.
What I have therefore decided to do instead is to share pictures and descriptions of several walks at once.  Knoxville readers may learn about some new places to visit.  The rest of you can enjoy the view (and see why Knoxville is such an awesome place to live!).
I want to keep walking regularly and I don’t want to get bored, so Emily and I have been walking somewhere different every time we go.  Since we live in Northwest Knox County, that’s mostly been in West Knoxville, just because it takes too much time to drive elsewhere on a weekday. (Yes, it seems ridiculous to me also that we drive somewhere to walk.  But walking up and down this street and around a couple of cul de sacs is not going to keep me motivated.)
The first five pictures below were taken at The Cove at Concord Park.  It’s pretty there, nice for picnicking, and not bad for walking if you don’t mind retracing your steps (the loop isn’t very long).

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Emily looks out over the water

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Staircase to nowhere – I haven’t researched this place but obviously it was once privately owned

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Snowballs in full bloom

Another day we were aiming for the Parkside Greenway and ended up more or less accidentally walking on the Grigsby Chapel Greenway in Farragut instead.  What a nice surprise!  It’s paved; some of it is wooded; and all of it is beautiful.  It runs through neighborhoods of fancy apartments, upscale condos, and fine homes, many with gardens right by the trail.  One part of it is specifically set aside to showcase native trees.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures that day, though, because I was worn out!  Because we got on this trail by accident we did not know that it was over two miles long, and it’s not a loop.  We didn’t make it quite to the end due to fear of storms.  We are going to park at St. John Neumann (below) one day next week and finish it up.  That was another special feature of this trail–it goes right past a prayer path/garden which was a nice detour for us.
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If you are a Knoxvillian who enjoys walking at all, you won’t need me to tell you about the park pictured below.  Lakeshore Park may be the most popular place in Knoxville, with its 2.5 mile (I think) paved loop trail that offers river views on one side and children playing baseball on the other.  If you aren’t from Knoxville you might be interested to know that this park is on the former grounds of an insane asylum, and most of its buildings remain (it having been still in use as a psychiatric inpatient facility until very recently).
I’m not as fond of this walk as so many others seem to be because it has killer hills.  Also I’m just tired of it.  But it’s a reliable option for people who are not so easily bored.
Lakeshore Park
Lakeshore
Much prettier but not as practical for serious fitness buffs is Melton Hill Park, which I had visited earlier on that same day. (Yes, I did walk about four miles that day!) Well, to be fair, the paved loop isn’t very interesting, but there are two miles or so of trails through the woods.  We only attempted a bit of that, and will return when hills and climbing seem less daunting (actually, that’s already getting better!).
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Overlooking the Clinch River

 
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Redbuds by the river

 
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Start of one of the wooded trails

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Wildflowers

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Another visitor to the park

 
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On another day, we hit the tried and true Third Creek Trail, known to those of us growing up in the 70s as “The Bike Trail.”  Yes, it was the one and only back in the day, and is still both immensely popular and one of the best, winding along Third Creek through forests of hardwood and bamboo, connecting Bearden to Tyson Park and connecting with the Neyland Greenway to make a path for walking all the way to downtown and the river.
We parked at the Bearden end of the trail, which is accessible in several locations, and since we didn’t have time to do the whole thing, took the spur up to Kingston Pike and walked back along the road, getting a nicer view of the churches and fine homes that line it than is available while whizzing by at 40 miles an hour.
I’ll no doubt revisit this old favorite many times this summer and perhaps post more pictures since I didn’t take too many that day.  One thing I especially love is that there are blocks places naming the people who granted the land for each section of the trail, giving a little glimpse into Knoxville history as you walk along.
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A bird nesting in a pavilion at one of the trailheads

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Old school playground behind one of the churches–just see all that fun and dangerous stuff outlawed elsewhere!

This next set of pictures were taken at the Turkey Creek Greenway, not to be confused with the one that goes through the Turkey Creek wetland and then runs behind the shopping center next to the Interstate.  This is the one that begins at Anchor Park, a much-enjoyed favorite of ours when the big kids were toddlers–and then crosses Turkey Creek Road to access the neighborhoods on the other side.
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A heron takes flight

 
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Crabapple blossoms

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Glimpse of an old barn

I mentioned the Cove at Concord Park up above, and we’ve also tried the trails at the main part of Concord Park on the other side of Northshore.  There’s nothing paved there, and you have to watch out for bikers, and then there are those pesky hills.  There are several trails to try so we will probably give it another visit when we are in better shape.
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View of the golf course and water near the end of the trail

Finally, we took a quick trip to the other Turkey Creek Greenway, the Knoxville one.  This is a paved trail that runs through a wetland and then along the side of the Interstate.  Talk about extremes.  For you non-Knoxvillians, the greenway is a concession granted by the developers who turned most of the wetland into an upscale shopping/entertainment destination several years back.
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Lately we’ve been walking in South Knoxville and I look forward to sharing those adventures with you too.  Where do you like to walk?  Tell me in the comments!

Walking in Knoxville

Before I started this blog, I had planned to write a very different one, which I was going to call Walking in Knoxville.  The main focus of it was going to be walks I liked to go on (hence the name!) but I was going to use that as a jumping off point to discuss other issues too.
Just because I decided to go with this much more eclectic blog instead doesn’t mean I have to give up the topic of walking entirely, though!  On the contrary, I can write about whatever I want!  And today I want to begin showcasing some of the many greenways those of us lucky enough to live in Knoxville or Knox County have access to.  Knoxville has over 65 miles of greenways, which I get the impression is kind of a lot.
Today Emily and I walked on the Pellissippi Greenway.  This is one’s a well-kept secret, particularly nice for walkers on these first fine spring days which typically find better-traveled routes like the Third Creek Greenway hazardous due to the volume of bike traffic.  We encountered one other party of walkers, just as we were finishing the return trip.
There’s plenty of parking, since the trailhead is at the Hardin Valley Campus of Pellissippi State Community College.  After crossing Hardin Valley Road, the paved trail follows the Pellissippi Parkway to the south.  The sight and sound of the nearby traffic is counteracted–at least at this time of year–by the daffodils.
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At the end of the paved trail comes a mystery:  a staircase to nowhere.
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If you climb to the top, you’ll find a narrow footpath that continues along a ridge for some time farther, but no signs whatsoever of anything these stairs might have been built to reach.  They are too old to have been built with greenway walkers in mind, and in fact I’m not sure that we are supposed to keep walking past this point although we always do.  We didn’t quite make it to the end, because there’s a steep descent that would have meant a steep ASCENT to return, but I think the footpath ends on the (private) grounds of Centerpoint Business Park (just as pretentious as it sounds and apparently still awaiting most of the businesses).
I’d guess the whole thing is about a mile long each way, and the stairs are the hardest part, so it’s a nice spring stroll for the not-so-fit.  I feel so lucky to live in Knoxville where although so much has been lost the “country” is still quickly and easily accessible from the “city.”
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