As the seasons moved on to spring, I was looking for a new hike. After looking through some of the hikes listed in Outdoor Knoxville, I saw the River Bluff Trail, which winds along the western side of the Clinch River, just south of Norris Dam. The description mentioned this as a great opportunity to see spring wildflowers. Wildflowers are always good subjects for photographs, so that seemed like a perfect idea.
Back in early February, I decided to give the Loyston Point Recreation Area a try. There are a few trails on this peninsula that extends out into the Clinch River, most of which are multi-use (hiking and mountain biking). It was a chilly morning, but I headed off to hike the Loyston Loop Trail, a 5.4-mile trail that winds around a hill in the northwest part of the peninsula, passing by the river as it goes north, before looping back.
This hike was taken some time ago, back the winter, but I've had less time to hike and/or work with the photos, so I'm only now posting them. During last winter, I went up to Frozen Head State Park, which is northwest of Knoxville, past Oak Ridge. One of the more interesting parts of the drive up to this park is that as you get closer, you pass an incarceration facility. Not that that's a bad thing, but it is a little odd to pass by fences and barbed wire just before you head out into the park to hike the trails.
I discovered this gem during the late winter of 2015, and I've been back multiple times. As I made the trek back and forth between Knoxville and South Carolina, to finish the move, I passed the sign for the Seven Islands State Birding Park. The sign was just off of I-40, about 20 minutes from Knoxville. The sign indicated hiking, and I kept figuring that I'd give it a look. But it took some months before I went out there.
A colleague of mine at the University of Tennessee, another hiking enthusiast, let me know about the House Mountain State Natural Area. This mountain, with a network of easy or strenuous trails, is just 8 miles northeast of Knoxville. Since I currently live in the northeastern area of Knoxville, it's right nearby.
Some time ago, I was driving through the Smokies looking for a trail that I had found on the map called the Huskey Gap Trail. This trail was listed in trail guides as being 4.2 miles round trip and moderate. According to the official Smokey Mountains trail map, the trailhead was just off Newfound Gap Round, a few miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Last year, some friends of mine with whom I was working at the Clemson Libraries went with me to hike to the top of Blood Mountain, which lies along the Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia. It's one of my favorite places, and I was glad to share it with folks who had never been there. Unfortunately, due to rain and low clouds, there wasn't much of a view when we reached the top. This is a pretty strenuous hike, although it is only just over 4 miles up and back, and it was disappointing to have worked so hard for so little to see.
Completely unaware of the serendipitous nature of the hike I was about to take, I headed off on Oct. 31 to see what I could find up at Big Ridge State Park. I had been getting more annoyed with the crowded nature of the Smokies in the fall, and going in the opposite direction to find a quiet experience in the woods seemed appropriate.
During my transition from working at Clemson University to working at the University of Tennessee, I took a few trips to the Smokies to try to get connected to new opportunities for wandering. To start with, I went with a hike that I had done before, the Andrews Bald hike. This hike is part of the Forney Ridge Trail, near Clingman's Dome. It's a shortish hike, about 3 to 3.5 miles round trip.