Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Ross Marble Natural Area at Ijams

A few years back, I hung out with a pretty adventurous circle of friends. They'd always take groups of people on fun little excursions, some of which made me nervous, but that, in the end, were beneficial to my well-being. One thing we used to do was build bonfires late at night in the far reaches of Ijams Nature Center. We'd walk along train tracks, split off onto an obscure trail, walk through a tunnel made out of large, cut boulders, and set up in the bottom of a quarry. Campfire, music, beer. It was illegal, and it was magic.

I had heard a few months ago that Ijams (click here for directions) officially made our old stomping grounds public, so I finally made a trip out there to see it last weekend.

The area has a name, Ross Marble Natural Area, and the tunnel made from rock has been deemed "The Keyhole." Instead of walking along the cumbersome train tracks, they have cut a trail right to the spot, where one can find all sorts of signage and maps to guide you where you'd like to explore. The once treacherous trail to the Keyhole and the quarry is now adorned with hiker-friendly hand rails.

It was good to see the place again, and now that I'm old*, it's pretty nice to get around the area easily and with a clear conscience. It also looks a little cleaner down there, less trash, which is great, but I thought it interesting that there are obvious remnants of a recently made campfire. Although I'm sure it's a little trickier to get away with nowadays, it's good to know there might still be people enjoying the spot at nighttime.

*I'm exaggerating, just in case you were wondering.


Anonymous said...

ooooh! I want to take a walk and go see this place!

MB said...

The local mountain bike club has been building new trail over there like crazy. There is a new one in progress off of the Emery Trail that promises to be quite interesting.

benjamin said...

Do they have the cave blocked off? I went spelunking in there a couple of times. I'm sure that wasn't something they wanted me to be doing.

The Modern Gal said...


B said...

Benjamin, are you talking about the one with the creek running through it? If so, yes, there's a grate on top of it.

Unknown said...

I never went to Ijams when I lived there. now that i don't live in Knoxville, I really would like to visit there.

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