Thursday, February 3, 2011

Seven Island Wildlife Refuge - 1/30/2011

Old Man Winter, according to the forecast, was loosening his grip on East Tennessee this past weekend. I reckon his hand must have been hurting or cramping. He's recovered however because it's cold once again. Seeing that springlike weather was going to grace us over the weekend, our minds raced over the possibility of getting out two days in a row. With so much going on around here, two whole days just wasn't in the cards. But we're thankful we got to get out for the time we did.

Earlier in the week, wifey stumbled across Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge during one of her morning trips across the interwebs.  An absolute gem of a place and close to home to boot. Why hadn't we ever heard of this place before? As it happens, this place is quite popular with bird watchers, trail runners, and nature lovers in general. It was at one time a large homestead belonging to the Kelly family and was donated to Knox County to become a wildlife refuge.

Seven Islands features lush pastoral land cradled by the French Broad River. Additionally, there are roughly 5 miles worth of double-track, grassy trail  that takes the walker, hiker, runner, or nature lover through the fields, up the Overlook Trail, and past all sorts of bird houses, roosts, and research implements. On the Overlook trail, the views of the Smokies are breathtaking, and when coupled with sights of the French Broad, one couldn't ask for a more serene backdrop.

The River Island, Steamboat Island, and Homestead trails along the lower parts of the refuge guide you through more fields along bluffs of the Overlook trail and alongside the French Broad. Along the way are ample opportunities to glimpse various species of birds, aquatic life, and plenty of trees, flora and fauna. There are two barns on the homestead each featuring their own Appalachian quilt marking their significance in the area and making them part of the Appalachian Quilt Trail. The Kelly home is still present on the grounds as well and is a beautiful farm house at that.

We hiked a total of 3.72 miles of trail during our visit after all was said and done. Graced by clear skies, wonderful views, and plenty of much needed sunlight, we couldn't have been more blessed. We found tons of "Critters'" eggs all along the way too. It turns out they weren't critters from outer space, nor were they brains, but rather they were Osage Oranges (aka Horse Apples). Robin and I both had never seen these softball sized fruits.

And the thorns on the trees they grow on! Oh my!

The hike was indeed wonderful and we plan on going back again. If you fancy a trip there, may we suggest getting there early. As the day grew longer, more and more people were spotted along the trails. If you are anything like us, we try to avoid the crowds so we can enjoy the peaceful solitude of nature. Early in the day, that is what we got. Once church let out and the masses arrived, it was a completely different vibe (think inner city park). Luckily, we were about done anyway.

Lunch was calling our name from the car, and the Beene was bugging about her "sammich."

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

P.S. Here's our track details from Trimble, and here's more pictures.

Pre-track edit:

Post-track edit: