My Sunday Photo: Downtown Knoxville

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My daughter and I were hiking on Saturday along the Tennessee River when I snapped this iPhone photo of downtown Knoxville.  It was one of those pictures that I knew would be good before I even took it.

The greenway we were on is about two miles from downtown, and connects to the Urban Wilderness with over 40 miles of bike/hiking trails.  We are extremely fortunate in Knoxville to have access to outdoor recreation in such a beautiful place.

OneDad3Girls

NaBloPoMo November 2015

Walking in Knoxville: North, South, and Further South

Emily and I can’t stop exercising just because we finished up the Urban Wilderness Trails.  Our weekend treks have been sporadic of late (Christmas holidays, trips out of town, and hello SNOW!) but we’ve explored a number of trails in and around Knoxville in the past few weeks.
First we took a trip to the north the walk on the Songbird Trail in Anderson County near Norris Dam State Park.  We made the mistake (big mistake) of trusting Siri for directions, and it ended up taking us way longer to drive there than it did to walk the nice, flat, paved trail.  We did discover that there are many other trails within the park that we may come back and investigate another time.
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There’s more to South Knoxville than the Urban Wilderness, y’all.  High Ground Park is a new area to explore, on Cherokee Trail near that awful water tower.  There you will find some historic information (because it’s the site of Fort Higley), a trail, and a nice place to “set for a spell.”  We ran into one obstacle in that the parking lot was chained off for no apparent reason, but we found a gravel lot nearby and we persevered.
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Going back to our car we discovered the existence of another, as yet unfinished, trail system (River Bluff Wildlife Area) that I have been reliably informed leads to some amazing bluff views.  As you can see by the picture below, this is under development, but I believe that the eventual plan is that these trails will eventually connect somehow with those of the Urban Wilderness and the ones at Fort Dickerson.
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The trails at IC King Park were another happy South Knoxville surprise.  When I thought of IC King Park at all, it conjured up thoughts of a somewhat sketchy place where brave souls might go fishing.  But it’s been cleaned up now–with even an on-site satellite Sheriff’s Office–and if you don’t mind risking your life on Alcoa Highway to get there, you’ll be rewarded with eight miles of trails.  We just scratched the surface so I’ll write more on that another time, so consider this a preview:
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Finally, we are making it a goal this year to do more hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains.  You local folks realize, I’m sure, that thousands of people travel from all over the country every year to enjoy what we have in our own backyard.  And I know growing up we took way too little advantage of that.
So we are going to try to take one Saturday a month to hike in the mountains.  I think there are 900 miles of trails all together and some of them are out of our skill level at this time, so it will be many, many years down the road before I am able to blog that we hiked them all!  We started with a couple of Quiet Walkways that are close to Gatlinburg.
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I’ve often wondered about these little trails and have longed to pull off to explore them, so this was a real treat.  It doesn’t take long before you can’t hear the traffic anymore and there is always something beautiful and surprising to see.  For example, I’ll be devoting another blog post to the graveyard we discovered (on top of a VERY steep hill) on the first walkway.
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We are so lucky, so blessed, to have so much beauty to explore just an hour’s drive away, aren’t we?  In, near, and around Knoxville–so many walks and so little time.

Walking in South Knoxville: Success!

So we did it!  We hiked all 42 miles of the South Knoxville Urban Wilderness!  And we have badges to prove it:
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We had just a few awkward pieces of trail to finish up to earn our badges, and we did it by walking the entire twelve-mile loop over three weekends, four miles at a time.  We are considering that as training for walking the whole 12 miles in one day, something we are planning to do in the near future.
We’ve seen the trails in every season now, and each has its charms.  I’ve always found something pretty to photograph–in fact sometimes my desire to take pictures has interfered with the keeping-my-heart-rate up part of walking!  I have a few more pictures to share with you from the main twelve-mile loop.
The first several pictures are from the section of the loop that runs through the Ross Marble area.  This section runs along Burnett Ridge and has some nice views of downtown.
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The next several shots were taken on the Victor Ashe Trail, which runs through Marie Myers Park and ends in the View Park neighborhood.  I wouldn’t walk on this trail again if I didn’t have to in order to do the loop.  It’s almost always muddy and just not as interesting as the other trails, although the bamboo tunnel at the end is a nice touch.
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The following pictures were taken along the Lost Chromosome Trail in the Anderson Schools/Private Land Easement area.
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And these were taken in the William Hastie Natural Area.
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Finally, here are a few final pictures of my favorite groups of trails, in the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area.
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And that’s all, folks!  When we do the 12-mile walk, I’ll write about that, of course.  But for now we are finished with the Urban Wilderness and are ready to share other hiking adventures with you.  In fact, I’m already behind in writing about those other hikes, some in South Knoxville and some further afield.
For more South Knoxville walking adventures, read the posts 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
Walking in South Knoxville XI

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

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: 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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AS 3Meadows:
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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 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