Nashville Greenways and Parks – Part V

The last stop on the whirlwind tour of the Nashville area took us to Gallatin. After dropping Ladonna off for her last day it was off in search of one last greenway.

The information I found on line led me to the Gallatin Civic Hall to start this last journey. After parking I started down Union School Road, past the middle school and through a nice little wooded area. Coming out of the woods I found myself in Triple Creek Park, which was very nice, very well maintained and boasted many multi-use fields, a dog park and a pavilion. This is a pretty good loop taking you out into some fields at the northern most point before turning back and running into the Town Creek Greenway.

This section is truly the gem of this system. It started out running along the side of East Broadway before diving down and under the road, following along side of the creek bed. On the other side it continued down towards town. This was as beautiful of an area as any that I saw during this trip. The fall leaves were on the ground, the creek was bubbling along and there were many interesting sights along the way. It seemed like a perfect trail on a perfect day. At the end of Town Creek there was another short trail or spur and then it ended.

On the way back I tried to remember the map I had seen earlier and cut across East Broadway at the lower parking area then shot up Martha Ave to one last trail around Municipal Park. This one was at times more of a circuit of the parking lots more than a trail. One very curious thing that I noticed… The map showed that the trail crossed Albert Gallatin Drive and ended back in the parking lot of the Civic Center and there was a cross walk there exactly where it should be to do that. But on the fence next to that there was a sign on the park side saying no public exit and on the street side saying no entrance.

Oh well, my time was ending and my car was in sight, if the cops wanted to get me for this violation maybe when they checked my papers they would realize that I was a poor lost soul from Knoxville who most likely couldn’t read the sign… All and all the course I took was about 6. 1 miles.

I escaped without being arrested and was off to pick up my wonderful wife. I can say that each of the places that I visited on this trip had great potential in their own way. Each had it’s own draw and each was a pleasure to run. I hope that I will get the chance to go back again, explore some new places and visit the old ones to see what they have been up to.

Nashville Greenways and Parks – Part IV

A drive closer to the heart of the city brought me to Shelby Park and The Shelby

Look closely, between the 2nd and 3rd stall is a ten point deer.

Bottom Nature Center and Trailhead. I was shocked to see a huge buck casually strolling by the electric car parking in the parking lot. His calm strut made a stark contrast to the city skyline just across the river. Shelby Park is a beautiful large park that offers two separate golf courses, baseball and softball fields and playgrounds. The Nature Center has many exhibits and would have been a great place to explore if time permitted.

The Greenway itself was just like the other end. It quickly disappeared into the trees along the river and almost like going through the wardrobe I was magically taken away from the city. A few miles out and there was the Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge again, leading across the river but I choose try a small dirt path instead and found my way to a small pond. Turning back I choose to slow down and really savor the area.

The Shelby Bottoms and Stone River areas are truly something that Nashville should be proud of. Located so close to the center of a large city they offer so much of the country and in ways that almost anyone can enjoy it. They had smooth, mainly flat paved trails, rolling hills and gravel/dirt paths that were easy to escape into and forget the bustle of the city. With the option to run, walk, bike or even rent a bike there is no reason why everyone in the city can’t get out for a while if they wish. Most of the paved paths are also wheelchair friendly. With the surrounding areas offering family fun such as a water park, a skate park, ball fields, golf courses, lakes and rivers there is plenty for everyone to do.

Next it was time to travel North East of the City and explore one last area.

Nashville Greenways and Parks-Part III

The next day it was back to meetings for Ladonna and I decided to explore a different section of the Stones River Greenway and headed to Percy Priest Lake.

The lake was beautiful and I took sometime to enjoy the shore close to the dam before crossing over to the greenway entrance. There were several people walking along the banks and just enjoying the morning view. Across the road again there was a bike kiosk at the start and dog park and then I was off, down the river bank.

Where the bank got steeper instead of digging into the bank they decided to build a walkway hanging from the hillside. Like the day before I was almost surprised to suddenly pop out in the middle of the city at a large shopping center. From there the trail twisted around and across a bridge and followed a fairly busy road for a short period before disappearing back into the trees.

The Stones River was a great place to get away for a while but since this was my last day to explore the metro area I cheated and drove the car for one last stop…

Nashville Greenways & Parks – Part II

The next day Ladonna was free from meetings and we spent the day looking around as we moved slightly North of the city where she would have meetings the next couple of days. In the evening we followed Google Maps to the Forrest Green Drive Trailhead to the Shelby Bottoms Greenway.

It was amazing, within a few feet of the entrance I was transported away from the City and into a rural setting. The trees surrounding the path perfectly shielded it from the sounds of the highway and hid the very existence of the city.

I soon found my way to the Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge and across the river I shot back into Nashville as I went through a tunnel underneath Briley Parkway to find myself at Wave Country and Metro Skate Park. Here I found something that I wish Knoxville and Kingsport had along their Greenways/Greenbelts. There was a self service kiosk that you could rent bicycles from using a credit or debit card. You could then ride from place to place in the city or on the greenway and leave your bike at another kiosk. You could later grab another one to return to your original spot. While I didn’t use one myself I passed several others over the next couple of days that did and am intrigued by the way it makes getting out and enjoying the area easy and affordable for everyone. Past the park there was the Stones River Greenway with it’s rolling hills and then to the Two Rivers Golf Course. Time was running short and with darkness approaching it was time to turn back and find Ladonna.

 

Nashville Greenways and Parks – Part I

Recently Ladonna had to go to Nashville for some meetings and I was able to escape with her. As she was tied up most of the daytime I was able to check out the Nashville Area Greenways so here are some thoughts about them.

The first place that I went was Radnor Lake State Park just south of Nashville. It was a Saturday and to say the park was very crowded would be an understatement. There was a line of traffic to get into the park and I had to park on the side of the road just outside. Continue reading Nashville Greenways and Parks – Part I

North Boundary Greenway

Last Sunday afternoon it was time to stretch my legs and increase my mileage. Once again I turned my eyes towards the Northwest of Knoxville and hopefully drove to a place on a map that looked like it might provide a good run. When I arrived a small sign next told me the small dirt parking lot was indeed my destination: North Boundary – 95 Entrance.

banner_1

I was dubious at first, the uneven parking area with only one car in it (mine) ended at a metal gate that blocked vehicles from a gravel road. I started up the road which was fairly level and straight and wondered what I was getting myself into this time. After cresting the first hill I was greeted with a nice straightaway and I was delighted to see that the road was bordered by thick evergreens to both sides. The first mile went by in solitude as the short but steep hills swept by. I was actually shocked when I encountered a biker, pedaling hard and moving fast towards me.

NBG map
The NBG entrances are marked by the green pins. The area to the west is the Black Oak Ridge Greenway.

Even though the surface was gravel it seemed very firm for running, not the lose and deep type but the well packed, shallow variety that you get a good push off of. A couple of other surprises I encountered were the number of side roads and trails along the way and the fact that each intersection was clearly marked with actual road signs. If only I had bothered to really look at the trail map before I started I could have probably come up with a good variety of turns and climbs. As I had not it seemed smarter to stay to the road I had started on since I was in unfamiliar terrain on a cold late afternoon.

 

Speaking of terrain, it is very beautiful and very hilly. I went 4.1 miles before turning and heading back and was rewarded with a small lake, a huge open field and small stream. According to my Garmin and phone app I had a total of 1300 feet of climb over the 8.2 miles. To put that in perspective, the Guest River Gorge has about 1500 feet over it’s length with all of it coming in the 5.6 mile return. So while the climbing was more spread out, it was none the less very challenging.

The intersecting tracks appeared to be mostly of the same quality as the one I was on with well maintained gravel roads but a few were more of the dirt, single track variety. While I will still have to explore more of these to know the overall quality of the whole greenway, my first impression is that the North Boundary is another quality place to get some real training miles in. In all I have only been on about 1/3 of the trails so it is easy to see getting a full 26.2 marathon training run or more in without leaving the North Boundary Greenway and the neighboring Black Oak Greenway awaits exploration also.

logo_1 (1)

Melton Lake Greenway

For my first official review for places in the Knoxville area I choose a greenway in Oak Ridge: The Melton Lake Greenway.

banner_1

Driving from the Knoxville area the first greenway I have tried starts at Solway Park off Edgemoor Road where there is parking for 20 or 30 vehicles. The greenway itself is paved and exits the parking area to the East through woods Hawwith a fairly steady climb into Haw Ridge Park. In this park there is another small parking area about 0.6 miles in. There are also several dirt paths that branch off and are good for trail running, mountain biking or hiking. The side trails are mainly single track and twist and climb for several miles.

At the far side of the park the main greenway finds the lake as it turns Northward and follows the shore line. The straight, fairly flat stretch between mile 1.5 and 2 is a welcome change from the climbs through the park and a chance to catch your breath. Just past the two mile mark is another small parking area that marks the start of small, rolling hills. On a good day you may even be treated to rowing on the lake as the greenway passes the Oak Ridge Rowing Association just north of Emory Valley Road where it intersects with the Emory Valley Greenway. The main path continues to follow the lake shore until you reach Oak Ridge Turnpike for a total one way length of just over 5 miles. If you add the 2 miles one way length of Emory Valley the total paved round trip can be up to 14 miles.

Overall, despite being a reasonably short drive from Knoxville, The Melton Lake Greenway offers a sometimes shaded escape that has a very country feel to it. It has a smooth, paved surface and alternates between hills and shoreline. Throughout the length you can expect to see several walkers, runners and bikers on a pretty day making it a fairly safe place to go and it is long enough to train distances up to a half marathon. There are also several more challenging side trails in Haw Ridge Park just waiting to be explored. I do wonder how much cover there will be during mid summer runs but maybe the proximity of the lake will offer some relief.

Trail Map. Purple is paved. Red is dirt.
Trail Map.
Purple is paved.
Red is dirt.

As a side note I found the staff at the Oak Ridge Visitor’s Center very helpful in providing information about their greenways. They are very proud of the system and even gave me a map of the more central ones. This was the first trail in Oak Ridge and I have since been back to it and tried another one that I will review soon. Based on these two I see myself making the trek on a regular basis as training for the next half marathon intensifies.

Warriors Path State Park, Kingsport, TN

Warriors Path is a state park located along Fort Patrick Henry Lake beside the Colonial Heights section of Kingsport.

Pros: Location is one of the best things about the park. It’s just off Fort Henry Drive and only minutes away from almost anywhere in the city. There is great parking and you can choose to run on a paved no vehicles trail or you can run along the road. The trail around Duck Island is flat but if you want there are a couple of paths that go up a small hill. If you decide to cross the bridge and run on the road you can go back to the main gate, through the camp ground, by the marina or to the back entrance which is a steep climb. You can also use the park as a launching pad to run the community just outside of the back gate. Bonus-being a state park on a recreation lake means that the scenery is great!

Cons: Almost all of the trails and roads are on the lake but as if it’s cold and blustery there is nothing to stop the wind until it gets to you. On a pretty day the place starts to get crowded and during the spring and summer the weekends and holidays are an early morning only option because the place gets packed.

Guest River Gorge, Coeburn/Dungannon, VA

The Guest River Gorge is a walking/running/biking trail located within the guest 1Jefferson National Forest in between Coeburn and Dungannon, Virginia.

Pros: The Gorge is easily one of the most beautiful trails I have ever tried to run. There is a paved access road and large parking area that never seems close to full. The trail itself is an old railroad track that has been repurposed and is a gravel/dirt surface. Unlike other such trails in the area like the Creeper Trail that in many places are deep and soft and at others narrow and rough the gorge is harder packed and wide. I have even seen wheelchairs used on it and it’s great to walk, run or bike on.  There is a tunnel that it goes through close to the entrance and a trestle that offers unreal views of the river making it great for casual users as well as ones looking for a more challenging adventure. There are spectacular views of the river, plants, cliffs and even animals all along the way. The full length of the trail is listed as 55.8 miles but Garmin recorded it at between 5.4 and 5.6 and it is lined with benches throughout.

Cons: The Gorge is best described as deceptively downhill and decidedly uphill. After you cross the trestle/bridge near the entrance the trail turns downward for the next 5 miles. There is no other official way onto the trail except the entrance so make sure that you take water and snacks as needed ( there is an unofficial way onto the bottom of the trail but it requires parking on a dirt road and walking a mile on an active railroad line). Enjoy the scenery on the way down, for me the way up is an exercise in determination on what my Garmin recorded as about 1,500 feet of climb that was almost constant. After the first two miles cell service becomes really spotty and finally drops so there is no communication. Finally, although it has excellent access from Virginia Rt. 72, it is a long drive for most people from the Tri-Cities.