Poppy is the author of "A Bard's Lament" and the Black Diamond series. She lives in Enoshima, Japan, with her husband and young son.
Tennessee is home to some beautiful countryside and nature, including mountains, nature reservation parks and forests, and places where people can go to hike, run, kayak and mountain bike. Bays Mountain Park, near Kingsport, Tennessee, is a great day out whether you're looking for a relaxing day with the family, an animal lover interested in a nature program, or a training athlete looking for a mountain trail to run.
Bays Mountain has many different types of places to visit, such as a planetarium, several hiking and running trails of varing lengths and difficulty levels, and a fire tower. The park is a great place to experience nature, snap great photographs and enjoy some fresh air and exercise.
1. Hiking Trails
In the pleasant but sometimes quite humid summer in Kingsport, a walk in the shady forest trails on Bays Mountain is great for refreshment, relaxation, and to be able to exercise and enjoy nature. The greenery in the forest was beautiful and in bloom, with fresh, flowing streams and lush grass. Hiking was sometimes a little hard-going, especially in the heat, but it was great exercise.
Some trails are fairly flat, whereas there is a very steep hill up to the nature centre. Most people opt to drive up the mountain to the parking lot as it is easier, and there's a clear road up the mountain, but the bonus is that if you walk up, you don't have to pay for parking. It's a short but fairly difficult hike - it depends if you want to save your money or save your energy (because keep in mind that you'll have to walk back down, too). Entry to the car park is usually $4.00 per vehicle, or $12.00 per bus, such as for school trips.
On the trail is a 44-acre lake with a wooden bridge, which was fun to cross and spot the various creatures, such as fish and frogs. The forest silence was sometimes broken by a scampering squirrel darting through some leaves - it was fun to spot their bushy tails as they ran along the twigs and plants.
2. Visit the Nature Centre
Up the hiking trail and near the car park there is a nature centre, featuring reptiles, wolves and birds of prey such as owls, all with their own back stories of how they were adopted into the nature preservation. It was interesting to see all the animals that are native to Tennessee, such as insects and snakes, and learn a little more about them.
As someone from the UK, large or poisonous bugs and snakes are literally foreign to me, so it was particularly interesting (if a little creepy) to be able to learn more about the local nature. The centre also featured various types of deer and raccoons. It did not cost extra to see the nature preserve, which was excellent. We were lucky enough to see that there were baby wolves, and could watch them play with the nature centre staff.
Bays Mountain Park is also home to a planetarium and an adventure course. See the official website for details and times.
3. Go Running
For those who enjoy running and jogging, Bays Mountain is a great place to get some exercise in nature, improve your stamina and get used to running on hills and slopes. We ran a short trail around the mountain - it was my first time running a mountain trail, and it was hard work, but tons of fun. Be careful if you decide to run on trails, however, as there are various risks involved:
- Tripping. With roots, stones, branches and rocks on an uneven path, it's easy to lose your footing. Make sure to keep an eye on the path ahead.
- Poison ivy. This plant needs only contact on skin to cause an itchy rash and blisters that can spread across the body. To stay safe, stick to the trails and away from plants and tall grass. Read more about identifying poison ivy and treatment.
- Make sure you know where you are. Bays Mountain isn't a high-risk area for people getting lost, but you can never be too careful. Stick to the trails, or if possible, walk it several times first to learn the way. You could also take a phone with internet or a GPS as a backup.
4. See the Fire Tower
Clearly marked on the trail maps and on signposts is the famous Fire Tower, where you can climb to the top of the mountain, climb the steep steps of the tower, and overlook the river and Holston Defense, where explosives were manufactured during the Second World War.
Panting and puffing, I reached the top of the tower and gazed at the mountains and forests around me, and watched a hawk soar in the sky before disappearing from view, perhaps hunting for its lunch. To me, the hike was worth the gorgeous view, and the feeling of the strong, cool mountain breeze.
As someone who isn't terribly fit, the walk was a little difficult, but people of any walking level should be able to get to the Fire Tower fairly easily. It's worth the view, and you get the ver satisfying feeling of achievement when reaching the top.
5. Ride the Zip Line
The "Flying Squirrel" is a 340-foot zip line that's part of the Adventure Course. Definitely worth a try if you're looking for an adrenaline rush.
People of all ages and up to 275 pounds (19.6 stone) can ride the zip line as long as they fit into the harness and safety gear. Participants climb a 28-foot rope grid net and ascend to the platform, where they zoom across the zip line at high speed as part of the adventure course.
Bays Mountain is a great place to exercise, eat, learn, have fun and spend time with friends and family. Whilst in East Tennessee, pay the park a visit - it's affordable, beautiful and a lot of fun. Why not take a picnic with you when you go? Bays Mountain gets 5 out of 5 stars from me - very highly recommended for a great day out.
© 2014 Poppy
Poppy (author) from Enoshima, Japan on September 10, 2015:
I miss Tennessee a lot! It was a very beautiful place, I agree. Thank you for your comment.
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on September 10, 2015:
Tennessee is a gorgeous place and the way you've described this park makes me long for a vacation there. I once hiked through the Blue Ridge Mountain trail and you're right about the humidity. Sometime in early fall would have been a great time to explore the area. With the cooler temperatures and changing colors of the fall leaves, it is beautiful.