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

Short West Knoxville Walks

I spend a lot of time promoting South Knoxville trails on this blog, and rightly so, since South Knoxville to most Knoxvillians is the Undiscovered Country.  But the fact is, it isn’t the only place to walk in town.  And it’s a good thing, because I am exiled to Northwest Knox County and I don’t have time for a thirty minute drive every time I want to take a walk.  Nor do I enjoy the only safe non-driving option of walking up our very steep hill and around a couple of cul-de-sacs.  (Knox County motto:  We don’t need no stinkin’ sidewalks.)
Lucky for me, West Knoxville offers several greenways too, and I’ve written about some of them here and here.  However, some of our very nice greenways have a drawback:  they aren’t loops.  When you are in a hurry and want to do some exercise walking, loops are what you want.  I expect that’s why Lakeshore Park, with its 2.2 mile loop, is so popular.
I have found four loop trails within five minutes of my neighborhood.  Lorelei and I go walking every Wednesday–gym for her, fitness for me!  I walk with a friend every Friday.  Emily and I try to walk during the week as well as on Sunday (even though some times it’s just up that despised hill!).  And I do hope to start coaxing John on walks once it gets cooler.  Below are some of the places we go.
1.  Nicholas Ball Park
This is the closest park to our house.  It’s on Ball Camp Pike, which if I thought about it at all when I was a child I assumed referred to the fact that the nearest baseball field was located on that road.  You can read about the actual source of the name in the picture below:

photo credit: Donald Raby

As a park, this one is replete with every attribute:  a bathroom, a picnic shelter, baseball and soccer fields, a small playground, and trails.  There are two of these, one your basic loop around the soccer field, where people always seem to be having so much fun that I almost feel interested in soccer, and the other a short climb up and down a hill where you can see majestic cedar trees and a smattering of wildflowers.
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We usually do the hill trail, then do as many loops as we have time or energy for, then do the hill trail one more time.
2.  U.S. Cellular Trails
I hate to call them that, but anyway, if you park at the soccer field you can loop around the main trail and you can also shake it up by incorporating the sidewalks on the bisecting road to do some figure eights if you get bored.  And you could easily get bored if you don’t bring a friend along to talk to, because there’s not a whole lot to see!  I did catch some pretty sunset pictures there one evening:
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And got pretty close to a bunny:
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And then there’s this house which I have always loved and would pick up and move somewhere safe if I could.  I remember when Lovell Road was two lanes and this was nestled in the woods.  I dread the day when I drive by and it’s gone.
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3.  All Saints
As part of our religion curriculum, Lorelei and I attend Mass every Wednesday morning at All Saints Church, the closest Catholic church to our house, just three miles away.  Afterwards, we walk around the trails and then I let her play on the playground.  This trail offers special opportunities for prayer as well as exercise, plus flowers and interesting trees.
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There’s a bench in the area below, where I usually take a break while Lorelei plays on the playground for a few minutes.
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One section has the Stations of the Cross, which we plan to come back to pray during Lent.
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The Marian Garden:
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4.  Fort Sanders West Trail
I don’t have any pictures of this one but want to mention it anyway.  It’s a big loop that runs around the campus of Fort Sanders West.  There’s plenty of parking, or course, and it’s ideal if you are feeling motivated to exercise after a visit to your doctor.
So there you have it!  If you live in West Knoxville and thought South Knoxville was too far, what’s your excuse for not walking now?

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:
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