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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.).
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?
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.
This place abounds with beautiful views. There are meadow views . . .
Woodland views . . .
And river views . . .
What I love most (and can’t stop taking pictures of) are the wildflowers.
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.
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!