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