This trail took me about four trips to complete. It is a good sized trail with a few side trails. The main trail is a gravel road. Here is a good description of the trail along with a map. Many people walk or bike this gravel road. There is one problem with finishing the trail and its accompanying trails before I post this, some of the early part of the trail isn’t as fresh in my mind, but I will try and keep it as straight as I can.
I started my first walk from the guard house on the Oak Ridge Turnpike. At the beginning there is a bunch of the kudzu along the side of the trail.
There is a fence that runs along the right hand side of the trail for a fair portion of the distance. It is clearly in need of repair in some places. There is houses on the other side of the fence, but a bit in the distance. Even though I did have a dog and owner on the other side of the fence at one point and did see some litter on the other side of the fence. There are some places where home owners can walk unto the trail, but I think those of us just walking the gravel road, probably are not allowed to head over to the other side of the fence. Oh, and I did see a for sale sign or two hung on the fence. That would be interesting way to find the house you wanted to buy, especially as you can’t see the houses well from the trail/gravel road.
About a mile up the road, you cross Wisconsin Avenue and see the watertower. At the watertower there was posted some hunting signs, which I am sure have been modified by now to say the October hunting dates were canceled due to the government shutdown.
Oh, interesting. I have never looked at the DOE Oak Ridge deer hunting map before. The sign says scouting November 2nd and December 7th and Hunting November 9th and 10th and December 14th and 15th. It also shows the October dates, but when I was on the other side of the trail, I saw those marked canceled, and read the same in the Oak Ridger online.
There is about seven benches from the guard shack to the Hunley road gravel road and one just past the Hunley road gravel road and then no benches for the rest of the trek. Of course, there is no bathrooms of any sort, which will always be a gripe of mine, as I have a bladder that must be relieved about every two hours. So my word of advice, is that up the road towards Oak Ridge, there is a port-a-potty at the Big Turtle Ball Field. It is either that or the bathroom at the Weigel’s gas station which is a bit of a hazard to get to.
Along the trail here you will also see a few different things including an odd orange thing tied to a tree, and signs on trees that mark the spot as a Partners in Flight Point Count Site with a number. I saw a few of these along the walk.
This is what I found online to describe what a point count is “A point count is a tally of all birds detected visually or aurally by a single observer from a fixed station during a specified period (e.g., 5 minutes). Counts are made in the morning (e.g., before 10:00 a.m. daylight time [09:00 a.m. standard time]) typically during the breeding season (usually May and June) under acceptable weather conditions (e.g., winds less than 20 km/h [12 mi/h] and no rain). In the tally, the birds are identified by species and, where desired, their sex and age are recorded.” Wonder what type of birds tend to be seen from this particular point count site. I like the idea that this land is used for keeping tabs on wildlife a bit, but also used for those of us who like to be outside can walk or bike. There are also a number of hills along this part of the trail, which for me along with gravel would be hard to bike, but I get the feeling that many were doing so.
Somewhere around here is where I ran across the siren with sign along the trail. One can’t imagine they are completely in the middle of nowhere with the fence running alongside the right side of the trail, but the siren still struck me as odd. I guess it makes sense with the houses being so close though.
After about 5 miles, you reach the back end of the trail where there is a bit of a cliff on the right hand side with some water down in the distance and a train track and the right hand side fence has disappeared, finally.
I think around here, a little bit past where one can take the Poplar Creek Road gravel road, there was some water that was along the side of the trail on the right side and I took this photo of some ducks. I like seeing ducks in their natural environment, which for some reason seems less so at Melton Lake for me.
Most of the rest of the main gravel road looks quite similar, as earlier, but nicer to me without the right side fence. Did see some ant homes along the trail, but that may have been on the Hunley road gravel road. I was not able to see the quarry and was unsure how to walk above it as I have heard others mention to take a look. So sometime I have to go with someone who knows the area a bit better than I and ask them to show me the overlook of the quarry. Did see some black eyed susans in some of the more open areas along the gravel road near the quarry or heading towards the turnpike again.
I took the Big Oak Trail once and did the Gallaher trail once also. Trails around here are not always the best marked, but they were clearly trails and fairly well kept, so easy to keep to. Big Oak had a sign marking it near the guard post, but I don’t believe I ever saw a sign at either side of the Gallaher trail. Both trails were nice, as I was now able to walk through the woods rather than on a gravel road around the woods. Never really saw much in the way of wildlife, even though I tend to see that more in the mornings when I walk than late afternoon, which is when I was doing this trail. Gallaher and Big Oak are both marked as 1.3 miles, but Gallaher allows only foot traffic, and Big Oak allows foot traffic and mountain bikes. I did see two bikers on the Big Oak Trail once.
This is getting long, but only have a little ways to go. Next is the Poplar Creek Road gravel road. For some reason of the gravel roads, this was my favorite. Not quite sure why that was, but I know I have a thing for water and there is a number of bridges that one crosses on the Poplar Creek Road gravel road and the scenery of the water and leaves was pretty. Also the leaves were dancing a bit more that day. I think you will be able to tell that my pictures were taken with a bit of time in between. As it took me about four visits and I was going about once a week, took about a months time to finish and I think it shows in some of the pictures. I tried and tried to get a photo of the leaves falling from the trees and dancing around in front of me, but don’t think any of them came out that well. Wish my hubby could have come with me, he takes better pictures than I do, as it is his camera after all.
The Poplar Creek Road gravel road, I parked under the highway sign on the turnpike where 58 and 95 split. I passed up the parking spot the first time through, so know it is literally under the sign on your right coming from Oak Ridge and you should find it. It seems fairly popular as everytime I have been there there was two cars there in addition to mine. When leaving, I have to continue on away from Oak Ridge and then come back around, and when I left the one day, there was two cars there, but by the time I went back by there was three.
I did also walk Wheat and McKinney Ridge, but not sure I have seen the pictures downloaded yet, but did not take that many either. Will add them if I find any good ones. The map lists Wheat as 1.1 miles and McKinney Ridge as 1.3 miles. Wheat does have a sign marking it’s entrance. I am not a big fan of the Wheat trail as it runs too close to the road, so you have road noise that interrupts the peaceful scenery. But I did not see the entrance to McKinney Ridge from the gravel road, so used Wheat to find the McKinney Ridge trail. I did enjoy the McKinney Ridge trail. It does come out a time or two along the electric wires, so probably would not recommend it if you are bothered by electric lines like my husband seemed to be recently at Haw Ridge park. The end of McKinney Ridge comes out by electric lines again and then you come down a bit of a wheel rut trail, but only a short distance, hence why I could not find it from the gravel road. I do wish they would mark these trail entrances a bit more. Never lost any of them, even though there was a point on the McKinney Ridge trail where I was afraid I might loose it. Leaves covering trails can make it a tad harder to follow.
I am so curious as to whether we will have more color this fall in Oak Ridge or not. Silly me assumed that since so many people go to Gatlinburg and other places in Tennessee to see the fall colors, that this area would be nice too, but it seems I was wrong. Leaves seem to go from green to brown with only a few changing to a yellow or a red. I have joked to myself that I need to learn what poison ivy leaves off the vine look like as it might be the red leaf on the ground I try and pick up.