If you think you know Knoxville, you're probably wrong. If you don't know it at all, well, join the club.
Okay, I'll be honest. I used to take my dog for walks at Sequoyah Hills Park on Cherokee Boulevard so I could meet girls.
The idea was that my dog would sniff around at a cute little girl dog, and then I'd strike up a charming, witty conversation with the cute girl at the other end of the cute little girl dog's leash. That would lead to dinner andwell, you should know the rest. It works in the movies.
But it never worked for me. The whole plan was based on the idea that dogs are free of the social inhibitions that have erected an impenetrable shield between good-looking women (my beautiful girlfriend, whom I met long after these pathetic and futile excursions, being the exception, of course) and me. But I had the worst dog in the world for this kind of thing. Just like his owner, he's something of a coward, and he has paralyzing social anxiety and an understandable reluctance to sniff dog behinds.
But even though I never met any women thereand even though my dog would have preferred to be at home, asleep behind the couchwe still had some nice spring afternoons at the park.
If you can overlook the signs (unfortunately common in Knoxville parks) that warn against any physical contact with the nearby Tennessee River/Ft. Loudon Lake, Sequoyah Hills Park is a green, grassy gem smack in the middle of the city's poshest neighborhood. The bluffs across the river/lake are scenic, and there's plenty of room for sunbathing, picnics, frisbee-tossing, hacky sack, pick-up soccer, or, of course, dog walking.
The park is also connected to the other best thing about outdoor recreation in Knoxville: the city's ever-expanding greenway system. The 2.6-mile Sequoyah greenway, which runs right down the middle of Cherokee Boulevard on a well-maintained gravel path on the grassy median in the center of the road, is among the most popular walking/running/biking spots in town.
The only reasonable complaintwell, there's the smell down on Neyland Drive, by the sewage plantabout the city's 17 miles of greenways is that they're not well-connected. That's true, especially for the small unlinked sections, many of them less than a mile long, in North, South, and West Knoxville. But the center city greenways are an exception: from Cherokee Boulevard, you can connect pretty easily to the Third Creek greenway, which runs from Neyland Boulevard, through Tyson Park, to Sutherland Avenue, and from it you can get on the Neyland greenway, running from Volunteer Landing to the University of Tennessee's Faculty Club.
And that's all within the city limits. Within a drive of a couple of hours, you can reach several national or state parks: the monumental Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited (and maybe most imperiled, thanks to all the cars) national park in the country, with 900 miles of hiking trails (the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail runs through the park), spectacular views, and plenty of picnic and car camping spots; Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, atop the Cumberland Plateau; or House Mountain State Park in Corryton.
All of them are worth repeated trips. You may not get a date, but you and your dog (as long as you don't take him hiking in the Smokies; pets aren't allowed on trails) will get a nice afternoon out.
Matthew T. Everett
Area National Parks
Public Golf Courses
Campgrounds and RV Parks