For adrenaline junkies and those generally unsatisfied by earthbound sports, the greater East Tennessee area provides plenty of opportunities to try something new.
Knoxville Hang Gliding
Skydive East Tennessee
1542 W Dumplin Valley Rd.
Dandridge, TN 37725
Skydive Smoky Mountains
Tennessee Tree Toppers Hang Gliding
Wahoo Zip Lines
1200 Matthews Hollow Rd.
Sevierville, TN 37876
NICK WALLER’S BACKPACKING TIPS
We asked the expert staff members at River Sports Outfitters to contribute some pointers about sensibly enjoying the wilderness. You can also find helpful articles, upcoming event listings, and discussion groups at OutdoorKnoxville.com, where Nick Waller, Mark Hammock (see “Canoeing/Kayaking”), and Eric Nielsen (see “Road Biking”) are also regular contributors:
• The light weight and ease of use make the canister stove a good bet, but it can still get cold enough in the dead of winter to affect the stove. If you notice a drop in performance, try keeping the fuel canister in your sleeping bag with you at night or set it in a shallow pan of water when in use. This will help bring it up to an above-freezing temperature so that if will function properly.
• A trick used by many backpackers is to keep a few feet of duct tape wrapped around your trekking poles or water bottle. Duct tape can be invaluable for any number of reasons, from protecting blisters on your foot to patching a tear in your rain jacket to repairing a split tent pole for the night.
• Looking for the perfect fire starter? Try coating cotton balls (must be real cotton, not artificial) in petroleum jelly. The result is a lightweight fire starter that is completely waterproof and will burn hot for 2-3 minutes, plenty of time to catch your tinder.
• A sleeping bag liner will help you get more value out of your sleeping bag. By protecting the bag insulation from damaging body oils and debris, you can get several more years of use out of your bag. A good quality liner will also add 5-10 degrees of warmth to your bag, allowing you to use it in a wider range of temperatures.
• By keeping iodine or chlorine dioxide tablets in your first-aid kit, you always have a back-up in case your water filter malfunctions or you are caught in the back country without one. About an ounce of these tablets can give you several days’ worth of safe water.
• Sock liners may seem like a waste at first, but can be invaluable if you have ever had a blister while hiking. By adding a second layer between your skin and the sock, it will absorb most of the friction and help move moisture away from the skin more efficiently, even in hot weather.
• Don’t be afraid to readjust the straps on your pack after you get on the trail—after a mile or so, most items will have settled in you pack and the weight my have shifted some. Try adjusting the load lifters first as this is one of most effective ways to determine how the pack sits on your back.
• Try to avoid cotton clothing while in the back country. It will get very uncomfortable, and even dangerous, when wet. Wet cotton draws heat out of the body, dropping your core temperature which can lead to hypothermia. Cotton takes much longer to dry, which can also lead to chafing.
• Always carry a head lamp or flashlight with you. Even on a day hike where you plan to be finished by lunch, you never know what may happen. Having a head lamp with you allows you to keep your hands free and still see the trail after the sun has set.
• Choose a safe water source. Avoid dark, stagnant, or still water, and never try to drink salt water; even a filter won’t clean that. Instead, look for fast-moving, clear water or water that has been flowing through rock or sand. And if you are ever unsure about the source or integrity of your filter, bringing the water to a rolling boil for 5-7 minutes will kill anything you are likely to encounter.
• A bug net or screen is nice in the spring and summer, but not needed in the cold of winter. Most “free-standing” tents can be pitched with only the rain fly, ground cloth, and poles, saving you almost half the weight of the full tent.
• Clean and re-treat your rain gear. At first your new rain jacket will repel water by causing it to bead up and roll off before it has a chance to soak in, but after some use this treatment wears off. You don’t have to buy a new jacket already—simply cleaning the jacket with an approved synthetic detergent and re-treating the surface fabric with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) will restore it.
This fall, birdwatchers can expect to see songbirds coming and going between October and November, including a wide array of sparrows and warblers. There are 381 species of birds to be seen in this state, and early morning is always the best time to see and hear birds in action. Going birdwatching is also a good way to enjoy the beautiful colors of autumn trees.
BEST EAST TENNESSEE BIRDING SITES:
Cove Lake [110 Cove Lake Ln., Caryville]
Eagle Bend [492 Mountain View Ln., Anderson County]
Frozen Head [964 Flat Fork Rd., Wartburg]
Ijams Nature Park [2915 Island Home Ave., Knoxville]
Kyker Bottoms [1610 Big Gully Rd., Maryville]
Kingston Fossil Plant [714 Swan Pond Rd., Harriman]
Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum [2743 Wimpole Ave., Knoxville
Standifer Gap Marsh [Hamilton County]
Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Park [329 Sharp’s Ridge Memorial Dr., Knoxville]
Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge [Take Kodak Rd. to Kelly Ln., Knoxville]
Chota Canoe Club of Knoxville holds paddling schools, rescue classes, and outings. Visit www.discoveret.org/chota/ for a complete listing of available classes, meeting times, and discussion boards. You can even read up on Chota’s conservation efforts and check out their meeting minutes. Upcoming Chota events include:
• Touring Trip starting at Ballplay Creek on Tellico Lake, Oct. 17: Paddle approximately 8 miles round-trip at a moderate speed. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or to register.
• Emory River Trip and Cook Out, Oct. 24: for details contact Paul Alexander at email@example.com.
The East Tennessee Whitewater Club meets every third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the crafts room of the Oak Ridge Civic Center. Attend for discussion of environmental issues related to waterways and help plan club activities.
El Rio Loco Paddling Club (Barbourville, Ky.) can put you in touch with prime whitewater opportunities in the area. Visit groups.yahoo.com/group/ElRioLoco/ to see what’s being discussed.
The Tennessee Clean Water Network (www.tcwn.org) provides an e-newsletter that keeps members up-to-date on legislation and conservation efforts regarding the state’s waterways.
MARK HAMMOCK’S KAYAKING TIPS:
• Always get proper instruction prior to paddling on any level of whitewater.
• Learning to roll your kayak is the first, most essential skill in whitewater.
• Pick a boat to suit the style of paddling you plan on pursuing: smaller, lower volume with flat hull and sharp rails for play; larger volume and more rounded ends for creeking and river running.
• For any type of whitewater paddling, you’ll need the five basic pieces of gear: boat, paddle, life vest, spray skirt, and helmet.
• NEVER PADDLE ALONE! Paddling involves risks. When more people are involved, there’s more people to help in the event of an accident.
• Know the weather situation prior to every trip. Rain can cause rivers to rise rapidly, even if it isn’t raining directly where you are.
• Do research of the run you’re planning to attempt. There are several online sites (such as americanwhitewater.org) that provide in-depth information about most of the rivers and creeks in the region. Knowledge of nearby trails is helpful if you have to abandon the river in the event of an accident.
• Always be on the alert for new dangers. Trees down in the river, also known as “strainers,” pose the largest threat to kayakers. Higher water can move trees from one location to the next. Just because a run was clean the last time it was paddled doesn’t mean it will be that way for the next trip.
Though Knoxville's surrounding mountains provide plenty of crevices and cave systems to investigate, it turns out that many avid spelunkers are quite simply unwilling to share their favorite spots. Many are on private property, others are too dangerous to recommend to novices, and some are just too good to divulge. However, there are a few caves that are open for exploration by the public. Since caves don't have proper addresses, coordinates are the best way to find them.
Cherokee Bluffs (36º 56' 30" N, 83º 55' 44" W) A good choice for a novice spelunker.
Chandler's Cave (36º 9' 2" N, 83º 55' 6" W) Features a twenty-foot waterfall at the mouth of the cave.
Meade's Quarry Area (35º 57' 28" N, 83º 51' 51" W) A web of crawl spaces in a beautiful setting.
Ten Mile Creek Cave (35º 53' 24" N, 84º 5' 20" W) In the Gettysvue area.
Local blogger Rob Baldus provides extensive reviews of these caves here. Look for videos of Rob's caving exploits at his YouTube channel, KnoxvilleAdventure. Coordinates given for these caves come from an article written for UT's news web site, which you can read here.
Knoxville boasts a significant subculture devoted to rock climbing, both indoor and outdoor. For some, involvement begins in one of the several local high schools involved in the competitive climbing league; for others, the experience comes later, but local climbing enthusiasts describe the sport as an intensely physical and mental exercise but also an intensely spiritual one. Maybe it’s the suspension, maybe it’s the concentration or the competition. Go find out.
The Climbing Center is your best bet for climbing in the area. Staff members are always available to assist novices and help climbers get off the ground safely. Among the services offered by The Climbing Center are a monthly “Ladies’ Climbing” event, training sessions for individuals and groups, climbing parties, and a high school climbing league. The Climbing Center is open 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. through Fri., and noon to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Located at 2918 Sutherland Ave. [adjacent to River Sports Outfitters]; call 865-673-4687 for more information.
The Lilly Boulders at Obed Wild and Scenic River (Morgan County, TN) are said to be the best bouldering grounds in the area. Bouldering is a form of climbing done sans-rope, low to the ground and often referred to as a grab-and-go sport, requiring only specialized climbing shoes, a “crash pad” in case of falls and a bag of chalk. Local experts also recommend a sense of humor.
Disc golf, or Frisbee golf, is played much like traditional golf minus the clubs, balls, dress code, and course fees. Knoxvillians are fortunate enough to have three large disc golf courses with varying terrain at their disposal, free of charge, as well as an actual disc golf league in place. Land your specialized rubber disc of chosen size and color in the chain-link enclosure in the fewest possible throws from the teeing point, and look, you’re playing disc golf. Disc golf equipment is available at Pluto Sports [723 Cumberland Ave # C, 865-523-0045 and 245 N. Seven Oaks Dr., 865-693-8990].
These websites can help you get started:
www.knoxvillediscgolf.org (courses, weekly events, tournaments, clubs)
www.pdga.com (Professional Disc Golf Association)
Local parks with public disc-golf courses:
• Morningside Park (1600 Dandridge Avenue, Knoxville)
• Admiral Farragut (2447 Sutherland Avenue, Knoxville)
• Victor Ashe Park (4901 Bradshaw Road, Knoxville)
The Smoky Mountains area is known fondly to local fly fishing enthusiasts as “Trout Country” and boasts miles of accessible waterways.
Little River Outfitters (in Townsend) is a fly shop and fly fishing school, as well as a fully-stocked sporting goods and gear store. Little River provides all levels of classes in this sport and the helpful website (littleriveroutfitters.com) features licensing info, “fishing reports,” and tips for fly fishing specifically in the Smokies. [106 Town Square Drive, Townsend, 877-448-3474]
The Creel in West Knoxville offers fly-tying classes and a wide selection of all things fly-fishing: even books and videos to improve your cast. The Creel also stays up-to-date regarding East TN’s fishing waters and can help you out if you have any questions. Their website (creelflyfishing.com) also provides links to discussion boards and useful info. [6907 Kingston Pike, 865-588-6159]
Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World near Sevierville carries a broad selection of poles, waders, and other necessary gear. [3629 Outdoor Sportsmans Place, Kodak, 865-932-5600]
Fall is a fine time for horseback riding; trotting slowly through the woods can be an excellent way to enjoy the autumn leaves and cool weather in the Smokies. Those interested in renting horses for guided rides will have to drive a ways from the city to find a stable, but it’s worth it for the scenic vistas and hillier terrain of the mountains.
These businesses specialize in taking customers on guided trail rides:
• Apple Valley Riding Stables [5641 Old Walland Hwy, Walland, 865-448-8300]
• Cades Cove Riding Stables [10018 Campground Dr,, Townsend, 865-448-9009]
• Deer Farm Riding Stables [470 Happy Hollow Ln., Sevierville, 865-429-2276]
• Douglas Lakeview Stables [1650 Providence Rd., Sevierville, 865-428-3587]
• French Broad Riding Stables [2319 Winfield Dunn Pkwy, Sevierville, 865-774-5551]
• House Mountain Farm [8630 Washington Pike, Corryton, 865-687-8159]
• Oaks Riding Stables [1628 Parkway, Sevierville, 865-453-8644]
• Smoky Mountain Riding Stables [Hwy 321 @ E. Parkway, Gatlinburg, 865-436-5634]
• Triple Creek Riding Stables [1104 Jayell Rd., Sevierville, 865-428-7506]
• Walden Creek Stables [2709 Waldens Creek Rd., Sevierville, 865-429-0411]
Most stables charge by the hour and on average cost about $20 per rider per hour. Others offer half-day-long trips for more experienced riders. Don’t be discouraged if you’ve never been on horseback before: most stables (usually) have very gentle horses who are highly accustomed to taking the trails. It’s always good form to tip your trail guide if you’ve had a good experience.
Mountain Challenge at Maryville College only offers activities to groups with reservations, but if you have a large party of outdoor adventurers this is a great way to have a new sporting experience with the aid of an expert guide. The activities that can be pursued at Mountain Challenge include:
• The Ropes Course—a fun and challenging activity for groups: individuals must work together to get each member of the team through a series of rope obstacles.
• Constructed of wooden beams and climbing robes, the “Alpine” climbing tower is 60 feet tall.
• “Adventure Racing” program: you choose a combination of activities from among the ropes course, climbing tower, backpacking/hiking, rock climbing, caving, whitewater rafting, canoeing, and guided bike tours.
For more information on setting up a Mountain Challenge event, groups should call 865-981-8125 or 1-800-746-7791 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit mtnchallenge.com for photos and descriptions of all that this program has to offer.
For more athletically inclined seekers of high-impact workouts, mountain biking makes for a great way to connect with the wilderness. If you’re just taking up the hobby check out the message boards on the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club website (www.ambc.serversolutions.com). Meet-ups and outings are posted regularly, and the best trails are discussed on the forums. Knoxville stores The Bike Zoo, West Bikes, and Cycle Gear supply all the equipment and bikes you’ll need. For more information and detailed reviews of these trails and others, see Off the Beaten Track Volume IV: A Guide to Mountain Biking in East Tennessee by Jim Parham. And look for Off Road Trails, by Elle Colquitt and Jon Livengood, available in area book and bicycle stores mid-October.
I.C. King Park Trails, Knoxville (varies depending on loop taken)
Panther Creek, Morristown, TN
Haw Ridge: Lake Trail, Oak Ridge
Norris Trail, Norris, TN
Black Mountain, Crab Orchard, TN
Concord Park Trails, Knoxville
Haw Ridge: Ridges Trail, Oak Ridge
I.C. King Park Trails, Knoxville (varies depending on loop taken)
Lone Mountain, Wartburg, TN
Pioneer/Trout Lily: Morristown, TN
• Alpine Ski Center [7240 Kingston Pike # 148, 865-584-3614]
• Blue Ridge Mountain Sports [4610 Kingston Pike, 865-588-2638]
• The Creel [Suite 4, 6907 Kingston Pike, 865-588-6159]
• Dick’s Sporting Goods [221 North Peters Rd., 865-531-2221]
• Earth Traverse Outfitters [2815 Sutherland Ave., 865-524-0000]
• Little River Outfitters [106 Town Square Dr., Townsend, 865-448-9459]
• Mast General Store [402 S. Gay St., 865-546-1336]
• Obed Outdoor Outfitters [728 Main Street, Wartburg, 423-319-7224]
• River Sports Outfitters [2918 Sutherland Ave., 865-523-0066]
• Rolf Lanz Ski & Outdoors [8039 Ray Mears Blvd., 865-690-3200]
For those seeking a lower-turbulence biking experience, road biking is the way to go. River Sports [2918 Sutherland Ave., 865-523-0066] hosts weekly greenway bike rides on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 8. Bikers depart from the Sutherland Avenue location of the store. Call River Sports at 865-525-6921 for more information.
These local trails provide scenic rides without the rigor of mountain biking trails:
• Townsend Bicycle Trail: A 9-mile trail that runs parallel to Hwy 321 in Townsend. The Townsend Loop (also River Rd.) is adjacent to this trail.
• Cades Cove Loop: A highly scenic 11-mile paved loop dotted with old cabins and churches. Near Townsend; parking available at Cades Cove Store. Bikes are available for rental.
• Springwood Park: A 1.5-mile trail in Alcoa, this ride is good for families as it provides picnic tables and restrooms in addition to a lovely pond and trees.
• City of Knoxville Greenways: Visit www.ci.knoxville.tn.us/map/parksrec.html for a map of all parks in the area.
• Numerous other Knoxville-area routes are mapped and cued in the book Bicycling Routes, by Elle Colquitt and Jon Livengood, available now in area book and bicycle stores.
LOCAL BIKE SHOPS:
The Bike Zoo [4445 Kingston Pike, 865-558-8455] www.bikezoo.com
-The Bike Zoo’s website provides a complete listing of local trails, with maps, as well as a few primers to match new bikers with the perfect road or mountain bike. This shop also provides full repairs and bike servicing.
Biketopia [7328 Norris Freeway, 865-922-1786] www.biketopia.biz
-Biketopia carries bikes from Bianchi, GT, and Jamis, just to name a few. If you’re looking for a trendy Dutch-style road bike, Biketopia carries a number of models.
Cedar Bluff Cycles [9282 Kingston Pike, 865-692-1010] www.cedarbluffcycles.net
-Cedar Bluff Cycle’s website features a special guide to bike purchasing for women, as well as a handy etiquette guide for biking in groups. They carry bikes by Trek, MirraCo, and Gary Fisher.
Greenlee’s [1402 N. Broadway St., 865-522-8228]
The oldest bike shop in town, Greenlee’s specializes in bikes for everyday use.
Harper’s Bike Shop [118 S Northshore Dr., 865-588-5744] www.harpersbikeshop.com
-Harper’s is the only shop in town to sell Lynskey bikes. The website provides a monthly biking events calendar, and the shop provides upgrades and repair services.
Tennessee Valley Bicycles [214 W. Magnolia Ave., 865-540-9979] www.tnvalleybikes.com
-TN Valley Bicycle’s website provides a helpful and complete list of labor rates for all bike repairs and maintenance.
ERIC NIELSEN’S CYCLING TIPS
• Keep your tires inflated to the correct pressure. Check every ride.
• Clean your bike regularly. Extends the life and it looks good.
• Lube your chain twice a month.
• Pass on the left, announcing “On your left!”.
• Sidewalks are not safer than the street shoulder.
• Ride diagonal across train tracks.
• Your bike does not like WD-40!
Skiing may have connotations of being glamorous and involving extensive travel to remote powdery hills in Colorado and Switzerland, but this winter hobby can actually be pursued locally. The Appalachian mountains provide Knoxvillians with plenty of skiing opportunities as close as an hour away. Skiers willing to travel a little further or just get in touch with the local skiing community can look to the Knoxville Ski and Outing Club (www.knoxvilleskiclub.org). This group hosts socials, ski camps, and trips both near and far. While you’re saving up for that European ski vacation, check out these local options:
• Ober Gatlinburg (1 hour away)
• Cataloochee, Maggie Valley, N.C. (2.5 hours away)
• Wolf Laurel, between Johnson City and Asheville, N.C. (2.5 hours away)
• Scaly Mountain, south of Waynesville, N.C. (3 hours away)
•Sapphire Valley, near Cashiers, N.C. (3 hours away)
• Ski Beech, Beech Mountain Resort in Beech Mountain, N.C. (near Boone, N.C.; 3 hours away)