Friday, November 17, 2017

Concord Park: Calloway Ridge Trail (334 More Blog Hikes to Reach #1000)

Trail: Calloway Ridge Trail
Hike Location: Concord Park
Geographic Location: Farragut, TN
Length: 1.4 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: November 2017
Overview: A short lollipop loop around a ridge overlooking Fort Loudoun Lake.

Directions to the trailhead: On the west side of Knoxville, take I-40/75 to I-140 (exit 376).  Enter eastbound on I-140.  Drive I-140 east to Westland Drive (exit 3).  Exit and turn right on Westland Dr.  Take Westland Dr. west 1.5 miles to SR 332 and turn right on SR 332.  In another 1.4 miles, where SR 332 turns right at a traffic circle, continue straight on Northshore Drive.  In another 0.6 miles, park in a gravel/asphalt pull-off on the right just before you reach a bridge over an inlet of Fort Loudoun Lake.

The hike: Owned and operated by Knox County, Concord Park comprises 900 acres along the north shore of the Tennessee River’s Fort Loudoun Lake.  The park is a major outdoor recreation destination on the west side of Knoxville, and its list of amenities rivals that of any county park anywhere.  More specifically, Concord Park offers a boat ramp and marina, a par-3 golf course, baseball, softball, and soccer fields, a dog park, and a skate park.
            In terms of trails, the park features a 1 mile linear paved walking trail and 13.7 miles of natural surface trails open to hikers and mountain bikers.  While many of the trails were built to suit mountain bikers and therefore are too winding to make for good hiking, the Calloway Ridge Trail described here forms a nice single loop with almost no winding whatsoever.  Also, this trail is separate from the main mountain bike trail system, so bikers are not as prevalent here.  I hiked this loop on a chilly Saturday morning in early November and had the trail all to myself.
Trailhead along Northshore Drive
            From the gravel pull-off, cross Northshore Drive using the marked crosswalk to reach the trailhead, which consists of a sign that bears a trail map.  The paved walking trail continues west from here to cross a bridge that leads to the westernmost part of the park, but you need to turn sharply left to begin the dirt and rock Calloway Ridge Trail.  The trail climbs gradually with what appears to be an old quarry downhill to your right.  This hike passes several areas that appear to be old industrial sites, but I was not able to find any sources to confirm the history my eyes suggested.
            Ignore a trail exiting right that is marked with a black diamond sign that says “very difficult.”  While the trails at Concord Park are not blazed, signs such as this one appear at trail intersections.  Black diamonds mark difficult trails, blue squares moderate trails, and beige circles the Calloway Ridge Trail and other easy trails.  At only 0.1 miles, you reach the fork that forms the loop portion of this hike; beige circles go both directions here.  To hike the more scenic southern arm of the loop first, I chose to turn right here and use the trail going left as the return route, thus hiking the loop counterclockwise.
Hiking above Loudoun Lake
The trail assumes an eastward course just below the crest of Calloway Ridge to your left.  Fort Loudoun Lake appears nearly 100 feet below you to the right, but no unobstructed views of the lake emerge due to the dense vegetation.  The largest trees in this forest are tulip poplars and oaks, and the understory features large amounts of honeysuckle.  Ignore the signed Claim Letter Trail that exits left just before a few tall rock outcrops and boulders appear to the left.  The treadway remains amazingly smooth and flat considering the rockiness and steepness of the surrounding terrain.
Rock outcrop
The trail descends gradually via a wide switchback as the relief of the surrounding land starts to ease.  At 0.7 miles, the trail makes a broad swing to the left as it rounds the eastern end of Calloway Ridge.  Soon you start to see why the southern arm of the loop is preferred to the northern one: not only does the northern arm have no lake views, but it parallels noisy Northshore Drive less than 20 yards to your right. 
Calloway Ridge Trail
Near 1 mile into the hike, you cross an old paved road that leads to a leveled area just uphill to the left.  The trail becomes wider and straighter as you pass what appears to be another old industrial area just before closing the loop.  Retrace your steps 0.1 miles downhill to complete the hike, or extend your hike by walking the 1 mile one-way paved walking path that heads west from this trailhead across an arm of Fort Loudoun Lake.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Obed Wild and Scenic River: Cumberland Trail, Emory River Gorge Section (Blog Hike #665)

Trail: Cumberland Trail, Emory River Gorge Section
Hike Location: Obed Wild and Scenic River, Nemo Bridge Access
Geographic Location: southwest of Wartburg, TN
Length: 2 miles
Difficulty: 5/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: October 2017
Overview: An out-and-back to a nice Emory River Gorge overlook.

Directions to the trailhead: From downtown Wartburg, drive west on Main Street, which becomes Catoosa Road after it leaves town.  Drive a total of 5.8 miles to the signed Nemo Bridge Picnic Area on the right.  Turn right to enter the area, and park in the first parking lot on the right.

The hike: Draining most of Cumberland and Morgan Counties, Tennessee’s Obed River forms an east-west concave down arc from just south of Crossville to just north of Harriman.  (Aside: Google “concave down” if you are not a math geek and do not know what that phrase means.)  The Obed River ends at its confluence with the Emory River, and both watercourses are cliff-lined whitewater rivers for most of their distances.  Although the Obed carries more water than the Emory, the combined river takes the Emory name for the rest of its journey to the Clinch and ultimately Tennessee Rivers.
In 1976, 45 miles of the Obed River and its tributaries were designated a National Wild and Scenic River.  Administered by the National Park Service, the Obed Wild and Scenic River receives far less fanfare than eastern Tennessee’s more famous scenic rivers such as the Big South Fork or the Ocoee.  Less fanfare can have its advantages: there were only 2 other cars in the Nemo Bridge Picnic Area parking lot when I came here on a nice Sunday afternoon.
            Eventually the Cumberland Trail (CT) will pass through the river’s Nemo Access on its way from Cumberland Gap in the northeast to Chattanooga in the southeast.  Still under construction, at present the CT’s southbound Obed Wild and Scenic River Section leads 14.1 difficult miles along the Emory River’s west side to the Devil’s Breakfast Table Trailhead, while its northbound Emory River Gorge Section leads 1.3 miles along the Emory River’s east side to a dead end.  Because of the dead end, the Emory River Gorge Section sees little use, but hikers willing to venture that direction will find a nice Emory River overlook and a small waterfall before the trail deadends.  Such is the hike described here.
Old (and new) Nemo Bridge
            Either before or after your hike, you should take a few minutes and check out the old Nemo Bridge, which still stands at the south side of the Nemo Bridge Picnic Area.  Constructed in 1930 after a major flood destroyed a bridge built here in 1906, the 481 foot Camelback through truss bridge carried automobile traffic across the Emory River until the modern parallel span was built in 1999.  Today the old Nemo Bridge connects the Park Service’s campground and picnic area, and it serves as the CT’s route across the Emory River.
CT northbound trailhead
            The CT’s northbound route starts from the north side of the picnic area parking lot.  Only a brown wooden post bearing the universal hiker symbol and an arrow mark this trailhead, but the path is obvious and follows an old road.  After less than 0.1 miles, the CT turns right to begin climbing the hillside where an angler’s trail continues straight.  Another wooden post with another arrow marks this turn.
            The trail climbs the hillside via numerous excellent switchbacks as it gains about 200 feet of elevation.  When it comes to building switchbacks, the volunteers of the Cumberland Trail Conference are as good as the best and better than the rest.  At 0.25 miles, you cross a dirt road and continue climbing via a wooden staircase built in 2007 as an Eagle Scout project.
Hiking on an old road
            At the top of the steps, the trail curves left to begin following another old road on a fairly level grade.  0.7 miles into the hike, you pass below a large layered rock outcrop just before passing a nice stone bench.  Another pair of good switchbacks raises you to a ledge where tall people will have to duck to avoid an overhanging rock.
            You may hear an occasional train in the gorge below, and just shy of 1 mile you pass under a power line associated with that Norfolk Southern railroad track.  Only a couple hundred feet later, you reach the overlook that makes this hike worthwhile.  The overlook sits on a shelf created during construction of the Norfolk Southern railroad tunnel that passes through this mountain.  Located directly above a nice Emory River rapid, fantastic views can be had of the Emory and Obed Rivers’ confluence just upstream.  The cliff below you is vertical with no railings to prevent falls, so keep yourself, children, and animals well back from the edge.
Emory River overlook

Small waterfall at trail's end
            Many people turn around here, but continuing another 0.1 downhill miles on a lesser-used trail deposits you at the base of a small seasonal waterfall.  A sign here announces “End of Trail,” which is true until the CT is completed further north.  For now your only option is to turn around and retrace your steps 1 mile to the picnic area to complete the hike.  Take a few minutes to check out and read the interpretive signs on the old Nemo Bridge if you did not do so before.