Walking in South Knoxville: A Belated Fall Roundup

As those of you who have been following me for a while know, my daughter Emily and I have been hiking the South Knoxville Urban Wilderness trails every Saturday for months, and I’ve been reviewing those trails for my readers.
I fell behind–not in hiking, but reviewing–during the Christmas/Birthday season.  I’ve written about all these trails at least once before anyway, but I still want to share the beautiful fall pictures with you.  I wish there was some safe way to hike them in the snow so I could get some winter pictures!
First up:  the trails of Ijams Nature Center.  These have been around the longest, and of course we had walked all of them many times before, from the time when I was carrying Teddy (who turned 20 yesterday) around on my back and chasing Emily and Jake.  They’ve added new trails since those days, but on this particular afternoon we were on the Discovery Trails, bringing back old memories.
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Next up are what I call the Anderson School Trails, although the official name is Private Land Easement.  You can park either at the TWRA Dove Field off Burnett Ridge Road or at the old Anderson School for this one.
The trails themselves are somewhat more cleverly named, however.
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We have enjoyed these trails so much!  I will be finishing up my final review of the Urban Wilderness trails in a couple more posts, and then hope to have new adventures to share.
For more Walking in South Knoxville stories, look below:
Walking in South Knoxville I
Walking in South Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville III
Walking in South Knoxville IV
Walking in South Knoxville V
Walking in South Knoxville VI
Walking in South Knoxville VII
Walking in South Knoxville VIII
Walking in South Knoxville IX
Walking in South Knoxville X
 

A Quiet Walk at the Quarry

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I have walked the trails at Mead’s Quarry once before and I probably won’t again, unless I REALLY feel the need to take someone there.  Y’all, that Tharp Trace Trail is JUST THAT HARD.
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That’s one of the reasons Emily and I waited until October to tackle this set of trails.  We wanted no part of climbing and climbing and CLIMBING when it was hot.  There are other good reasons for doing this hike in the fall or winter.  Mead’s Quarry has become an extremely popular destination and it was crowded all summer.  On the chilly and cloudy day we were there, we had it all to ourselves.  And if you are going to do all that climbing, you don’t want a lot of leaves obscuring your view, something that is not so much a problem this time of year.
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We started on the lower trail which takes you nearer to the water.  There’s even a stairway to walk down to get really close.  The first part of the trail is full of reminders that the activity here used to be of a very different kind, back when Meads was supplying stone for buildings in our Nation’s Capital.
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The first time I ever saw a quarry lake (at Fort Dickerson), I was absolutely amazed.  They don’t get much less amazing no matter how often I see them.
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Now I want you to look closely at the following picture.  At that sheer ridiculously high wall.  And I don’t know whether you can see that there is actually a semblance of a path, presumably for people who do not value their lives.
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We did NOT take that path.  We took this one, which was safer but still plenty challenging:
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Well, we knew when we were standing at the bottom of that wall that we were going to be climbing because we could tell from our South Knox Trail App that the trail ran right along the top of it.  So when we got to that point we thought we were finished climbing.
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Y’all, we were WRONG.  We walked and walked and walked and WALKED.  (I should be saying climbed.)  This was the most strenuous hike of them all, even though it’s only one mile long.  Every time we thought we must be near the top, we were SO WRONG.
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I already gave away the view pictures at the beginning of this post, so you know the climb was worth it.  And near the end there was a special delight:  if hiking in the Urban Wilderness makes me happy–and surely by now you know it does–then what could make me happier?  How about an actual GRAVEYARD on an Urban Wilderness Trail?  Oh, yes, there is!  Stanton Cemetery, which will be the subject of my next post, is RIGHT THERE.  Stay tuned!
For more South Knoxville Walking Adventures, see below:
Walking in South Knoxville I
Walking in South Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville III
Walking in South Knoxville IV
Walking in South Knoxville V
Walking in South Knoxville VI
Walking in South Knoxville VII
Walking in South Knoxville VIII
Walking in South Knoxville IX

Forks of the River: My Favorite Trails

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Bear with me, y’all because there are going to be a LOT of pictures in this post.
Emily and I have walked on the Forks of the River trails five times, because there is a lot of territory to cover and also because we didn’t plan very well for the task of completing all the trails with the least repetition.  But I can’t say I’m sorry, because we’ve had the opportunity to explore the place in Spring, Summer, and Fall.
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There are wildflowers throughout the Urban Wilderness, but Forks of the River takes the prize no matter the season.
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But even in late fall, there is plenty of color!
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This area can also not be matched for its variety.  You can walk through meadows or in the woods.  Some paths are flat, but along the river bluff there are challenging climbs.
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Also of note are the beautiful views:
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As always, I encountered a few mysteries while walking here.  For example, it looks like this area was lived in at some point, judging by some plants you’d expect to find in someone’s garden:
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At first, I thought this cactus must have been cultivated as well.  But it turns out that prickly pear cactus is native to East Tennessee:
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Now that we’ve hiked almost every trail in the Wilderness, I can tell you that this area is my favorite.  It’s definitely where I would recommend you start if you are interested in exploring these trails.
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I’ll miss hiking here as we move on to another walking adventure but I’m sure I’ll be back!
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For more on walking in South Knoxville, see below:
Walking in South Knoxville I
Walking in South Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville III
Walking in South Knoxville IV
Walking in South Knoxville V
Walking in South Knoxville VI
Walking in South Knoxville VII
Walking in South Knoxville VIII

Walking in South Knoxville: Another One Bites the Dust

Y’all, I’m getting so excited!  Emily and I finished another section of Urban Wilderness Trails last weekend.  We look to be on track to get our badges before the end of the year.  And really, we will have walked way more than 40 miles, since walking all of them necessarily entails walking some of them more than once.
This time we finished up the William Hastie trails, which is actually where we began this project back in May.  Let me come right out and say that these are probably my least favorite trails.  There’s nothing wrong with them; they just aren’t as interesting to me personally as many of the others.  These pictures below show something pretty interesting and actually downright terrifying, though:
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Unfortunately the photos don’t really do it justice, but that’s a sinkhole.  A gigantic scary deep sinkhole.  The first trail off the parking lot is named Sinkhole for a reason.  As you walk you’ll see a trail off to your right that leads right up to the edge of that.  We were too scared to get close enough for a good picture, but we saw evidence that some adventurous (insane?) people had been climbing down into the thing.  To which I say, they are welcome to it.
Moving right along, we enjoyed the cool fall weather.  Walking three miles in the fall is a whole lot different than doing the same hike when it’s 90 degrees.  There are trade offs, though–no wildflowers, or at least not many.  Still, we had this instead:
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See the collapsing boards in the second picture, though?  That particular bridge (not a bridge, exactly–a raised path over an area prone to mud) was rotting right through.  No big problem when you are walking, but it could be dangerous for an inattentive mountain biker.  Looking at some of the trails they bike on intentionally, though, I imagine they’d probably just look at it as another challenge!
I always have to take a couple of path pictures when we walk:
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I’m really pleased with the way that bottom one turned out.  I wasn’t sure my iPhone would be able to pick up that tunnel effect.
Most of the Hastie trails are through the woods, but the main trail (Margaret Road) was originally a KUB access road and was kept cleared.  In fact, there’s one part that in the summer was a meadow festooned with wildflowers:
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That same part is now a somewhat chilly desert with no plant life in sight.  But the absence of trees allowed us to appreciate the blue sky.  Have you ever noticed that the sky in autumn is a deeper, more intense blue?
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Remember, if you don’t have time to get up to the mountains to enjoy the fall colors, the Urban Wilderness is much closer!
For more South Knoxville walks, see below:
Walking in South Knoxville I
Walking in South Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville III
Walking in South Knoxville IV
Walking in South Knoxville V
Walking in South Knoxville VI
Walking in South Knoxville VII

Walking in South Knoxville: In the Homestretch

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If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that Emily and I have set a goal of walking all forty miles of the trails in the South Knoxville Urban Wilderness.  Then we plan to walk the main trail, twelve miles, all in one day.  Rain stopped is from walking this weekend–well, not so much rain as the threat of mud and therefore unsafe walking conditions.  We calculate, though, that it should take about five more weekends to finish all the trails, which we started walking in May.  We’ve skipped around from one area to another to keep things interesting, and last weekend we finally finished all the trails in one section, Ross Marble Quarry.
This was our third visit to the quarry; I wrote about the first two here.  It was such a perfect day for walking.  Even though we hiked almost four miles, plenty of it uphill, we never broke a sweat!
Wildflowers are becoming less plentiful as the weather cools, but fall colors are beginning–not leaves so much, but berries. the bright stems of pokeweed, and other colorful surprises.
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We were walking along a ridge part of the time, so there were some pretty views that will be even better later in the fall when they are less obscured by foliage.
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The Appalachian Mountain Bike Club is primarily responsible for the maintenance of these trails.  Not only are the trails in good repair, they also have a lot of fun features for those who are biking, not hiking.
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For the most part, this trail is a shady one, making it a good choice for hot summer days.  It’s amazing how much cooler it feels when the sun is filtered through the trees.  And even when there are no flowers, the interesting shapes of the trees and the rock formations–much of it rock left over from quarrying days–offers something to look at while you are walking.  If you are riding, you probably only want to be looking where you are going!
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For more South Knoxville walks, see below:
Walking in South Knoxville I
Walking in South Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville III
Walking in South Knoxville IV
Walking in South Knoxville V
Walking in South Knoxville VI

Walking in West Knoxville: The Jean Teague Greenway

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A couple of weekend ago, Emily and I got a late start on Saturday morning.  And there are times when South Knoxville feels far far away.  Plus walking in the Urban Wilderness can take you deep into the woods, with no quick way to get back into civilization.  In short, sometimes you want a walk, not a hike.
So we opted to head to West Hills and the Jean Teague Greenway, a walk that I imagine almost all West Knoxvillians are familiar with.
We were sneaky and parked at the church at the west end of the greenway instead of in the YMCA parking lot.  Unless it’s Sunday, no one is parked there!  The first part of this walk runs behind a neighborhood, and I always think how nice it would be to live in a house with a greenway in the backyard!  This part has wildflowers and ornamental trees that have been planted there just to decorate the greenway.
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Walk a little farther and you will cross a street and enter West Hills Park.  This part of the greenway has a loop, so you could increase the length of your walk if you want by looping as many times as you like!  The right hand loop is shaded with trees.
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Midway around the loop you take an extension that goes past West Hills Elementary and, if it’s a school day, a playground full of staring children.  This part ends at Vanosdale Road.  You can then turn around and come back and take the other side of the loop, which is more open and goes past some playground areas.
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The playgrounds are nice if you’ve brought kids along.  You can leave them there while you walk the loop if you aren’t afraid of the other parents who may call DCS on you if you dare to let your children swing at a well-populated park outside of your direct supervision.
This is a crowded park, with lots of people walking dogs, strolling babies, and having birthday parties.
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It’s not a wilderness hike, but it’s a nice, reliable place to exercise when you are short on time but would rather enjoy the fall weather than run on a treadmill!
For more West Knoxville walks, see below:
Walking in West Knoxville
A May Stroll You Must Take
Short West Knoxville Walks

Fort Dickerson Quarry: Another Hidden South Knoxville Gem

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Yesterday morning, before embarking on our usual Saturday walk, Emily and I did something different: we engaged in a little community service. Along with some other folks, we spent an hour picking up trash at Fort Dickerson Quarry.
This cleanup is a monthly affair–the third Saturday of every month, from 11 to 12–sponsored by South Knox Alliance, a group of local business owners who promote South Knoxville and who have adopted part of the park.
Although I was a South Knoxville resident–our first home was in the Lake Forest neighborhood–for six years, it’s been 13 years since we lived there. So what were Emily and I doing picking up trash south of the river? Well, we were invited by a dear friend, Antoinette Fritz, who is a long time South Knox resident, a business owner (Myrtle’s Mess), and a tireless promoter of the area.
I have known Antoinette since I met her in the kindergarten pick up line when her Andie Rae and my Emily were five-year-olds at St. Joseph School. As they say, we go way back. In those days we bonded as pretty much the only South Knoxville residents with kids at the school. Back then I used to think how much I wished I had a venue in which to write about Antoinette, who is one of the most interesting people I have ever come across. She had a small antique/junk store at that time, which just happened to be on our way home from school, and we spent many afternoons there browsing her wares and just hanging out.
Before I lived there, South Knoxville was primarily a place I drove through to get somewhere else (i.e. the mountains). I had no clue that it held such wonders as Fort Dickerson and its quarry lake. When we moved there, Fort Dickerson had an unsavory reputation but I was too naive to know anything about that, and drove up there one day out of curiosity. It was then I got my first glimpse of the quarry–which was supposedly off-limits at that time, although I’m sure it had its share of intrepid teenage swimmers and perhaps murderers looking to hide bodies.
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I was amazed by that first glimpse–could this be Knoxville or had I somehow stumbled through a rip in space? I could not believe that such an incredible sight was right here, a mile or so from downtown, and that no one who didn’t live in South Knoxville knew anything about it!
Things have changed in South Knoxville since those days, as you will know if you’ve read any of my posts on the Urban Wilderness and its trails, or as you may have heard on the news regarding the plans for the riverfront. Fort Dickerson and the quarry lake are part of all those plans–they will one day be included in the trail system though I hope not before Emily and I finish walking the current 40 miles and get our badges!
Antoinette has been excited about and supportive of the writing I’ve been doing about the trails, and she has been inviting me to come to the cleanup for awhile. Yesterday’s outing was co-sponsored by Trek South, and promised a picnic, so we decided to include the quarry in our weekly South Knoxville excursion.
We were supplied with gloves, trash-picking-up devices (is there a name for those?), and garbage bags by Carl Hensley, organizer of the cleanup. We just about filled ours with beer and soda cans and bottles, cigarettes, and assorted discarded clothing, among other things, as we walked along the partly-paved trail from the parking lot to the quarry. Along the way we enjoyed close-up views of the kudzu that threatens to swallow South Knoxville whole punctuated by wildflowers.
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We were rewarded at the end of our journey by views of the quarry itself, and then the aforementioned picnic. Only this wasn’t just any picnic, because it was planned by Antoinette. So there were table cloths and flowers, and Salade Nicoise and french bread were served alongside more typical picnic fare.
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If you or a group you are associated with is looking for service hours, feel free to just show up and join in the efforts to keep South Knoxville Beautiful. And if you are looking for a beautiful spot to hike or picnic, add Fort Dickerson Park to your list.
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For more information on places to hike in South Knoxville, see these previous posts:
Walking in South Knoxville I
Walking in South Knoxville II
Walking in South Knoxville III
Walking in South Knoxville IV
Walking in South Knoxville V

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:
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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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