I’ve been visiting my old stomping grounds of East Tennessee lately. I stopped in Knoxville and Chattanooga to see old friends, visit old haunts and do some climbing.
Knoxville is really bustling these days. The holiday season was alive in downtown Knoxville with parades, ice skating, shopping, farmer’s markets and first friday events. Catching up with old friends was so great. Many were unplanned as I kept having pleasant, surprise encounters while walking around downtown. I also got to see the old crew I had planned to visit. Thanks to Holly, Dave, Will and Chelsea for providing sleep space and good eats.
Knoxville has a really good music scene. It’s mostly in the country, bluegrass, folk vain as showcased on the best radio statin ever, WDVX, but the local dive bar, the Pilot Light, keeps things interesting with a diverse lineup of performances. I will always have a soft spot for the Pilot Light as it was where I played my first live show. I’m amazed and inspired that both WDVX and the Pilot Light have been around for at least 12 years. They are both worth checking out.
There is now an “urban wilderness” in South Knoxville with a big network of parks, greenways and single track trails. All are just a short distance from downtown (http://www.legacyparks.org/projects.html). It’s one of the best urban, outdoor recreation interfaces I’ve seen. Before I moved away, I dreamed of such a trail and park network. Good to see it realized. Way to go Knoxville. I did a couple of runs out here. This was the first time I had been on trails since my foot injury and I did my longest run since then with my friend Keil from graduate school. Really fun running and excited to be on trails again.
The outdoor opportunities of Chattanooga are no secret. It has quickly become one of my favorite cities with a small town, southern feel and close proximity to amazing climbing and running. I got to visit my close, old friends Andy and Susanna and help them remodel their new house and check out there amazing new property. Remodeling is becoming one of my favorite new hobbies as well. I love visiting old friends when it’s like we never parted ways and just pick right back up where we left off.
By chance, I was able to meet up with some friends from New Mexico as well. Nick, Kevin and Kristy were all going to be in Chattanooga while I was there. Nick had been climbing in the south for a while and Kevin and Kristy were coming down from Southern Illinois. I was able to get out and climb with them and catch up. The climbing around Chattanooga is amazing. I hit up the Concave in Little River Canyon, Little Rock City, and Rocktown (one of my favorite places to boulder, just behind Hueco Tanks). The climbing circuit is pretty small, allowing for surprise encounters. I ran into a couple of familiar faces from my time at Hueco Tanks and Bishop and met several new folks to climb with. This is one of my favorite things about climbing and traveling.