Big Ridge State Park | Hike for the Health of It

It’s funny how you can hear about things to do. If you keep your ears open, there are really a lot of things going on in or around Sharps Chapel.

Case in point – at the Sunset Bay Annual meeting last week, I happened to join in on a conversation between two women, only one of whom I actually knew. I introduced myself to the other and found that she was a 4-H Program Assistant with the UT Extension Office of Union County in Maynardville. Her name was Beth Bergeron and she was trying to get the word out about a walking program she was trying to get started in the area. She mentioned a guided hike that was going to be given by Big Ridge State Park ranger Sarah Nicely, who happened to be the featured guest from that morning’s event.
IMG_3467 IMG_3469 IMG_3470 IMG_3471 IMG_3474r IMG_3551 IMG_3552 IMG_3557 IMG_3560 IMG_3561 IMG_3571 IMG_3578 IMG_3579

Fast forward to Monday and 5 of us (Emily Lemming, Sandy Devery, Annie Grau, Pat Clapsaddle, and myself), pulled together by Pat Clapsaddle (thanks Pat!) were there!

We started out in the visitors’ center where there is a great map showing property boundaries and deed owners’ names around 1935.  At the annual meeting, Sarah had told us that Norris Lake was one of the first lakes to be dammed and when the government purchased property by eminent domain, they bought the whole parcel of anything that touched the area where the lake would be (a practice not repeated at other lakes).  That left an awful lot of land that was not used for the lake, and much of that was converted to parks, such as Big Ridge State Park and Chuck Swan, to name a few.

It was a great hike — only 3 miles, but I had never been on that trail, which went around the lake at Big Ridge State Park.  The biggest surprise for me was to find that Big Ridge actually has their own dam that separates it from Norris Lake.  There actually is no way to physically boat between the two bodies of water!  The trail has you walking across the dam to get to the other side of the lake.

I’ve always wanted to know the difference between white and red oak trees and I took the opportunity to ask Ranger Nicely if she could help me understand this.  She was able to quickly find actual examples of leaves from the two different kinds and explain that white oaks have rounded ends on their lobes and red oak trees have pointed ends.  I knew I wouldn’t remember this without  some little catch phrase or mnemonic and she quickly came up with “red devils have pointy tails”.  That does the trick for me.  Thanks Sarah.  Now if I could only distinguish tree bark.

Some other things she pointed out, that I’ve included pictures of, were:

  • — an umbrella magnolia tree with huge leaves that fanned out like an umbrella.  She said this is native to TN.
  • — a nest of Great Blue Herons in one of the coves we hiked around.  I knew they nested high in treetops, as I had seen this in the Cleveland Ohio area, but would not have noticed it here without her pointing it out.
  • — a stone wall embankment, built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) from FDR’s New Deal.

As an aside, one thing that continually amazes me about Sharps Chapel is how small a community it is.  When you hike with someone, it’s easy to pick up on some of their personal information.  It turns out that Sarah Nicely is married to now Union County Deputy Dennis Nicely, who used to be a builder at Sunset Bay.

Thanks Sarah for a great, informative walk.  We all had an enjoyable time.

So whether you join a formal hike or walk on your own, walking is a very healthy, low-impact way to exercise.  So enjoy this weather and try to get out to stretch those legs.

P.S. Thanks to Pat for half of these photos.

Life is an Adventure!