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.
Hastie 5
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.
Hastie 9
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:
Hastie 2
I just love taking pictures of paths.  I do it almost every time we go walking.
Hastie 3
Hastie 4
Wildflowers are a big attraction on every path in the South Loop system so far.
Hastie 6
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.
Hastie 8
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:
WH 7
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