Monday, October 13, 2014

Ijams Nature Center: Ross Marble Quarry

I was one of the lucky few to have off today for Columbus Day. Noelle, Sierra and I took advantage of my day off (and a rare dry day) to do some hiking aver at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville again. This time we wanted to see the Ross Marble Quarry where the workers stacked spoils rock to form a bridge and tunnel.

The drive into Knoxville was uneventful. We stopped by the nature center to use the restroom and look at the animals. We then drove a little further down Island Home Pike to the trailhead for Mead's Quarry and the Ross Marble Quarry. We headed off on some abandoned railroad tracks and then on Imerys Trail. The autumn color has not yet peaked here, but there was some color in the leaves to make the hike interesting. Soon we found ourselves at a trail intersection with a sign for the Ross Marble Quarry.
Ross Marble Quarry sign
We opted to head over to the rockbridge and keyhole. The rock bridge was cool from the top.
noelle on bridge
It offered a nice view out and over the quarry. Once we had crossed over the trail descended on wet, slippery leaf-covered rocks to the keyhole.
Noelle Heads Towards the Light
It was much as it looked in the photos I had seen of it.

We passed through the keyhole
Noelle Through the Keyhole
and as we made our way into the quarry we found we were not alone. We saw a box turtle making his way across the floor of the quarry through the vegetation.
box turtle
We watched the turtle for a bit and then explored the floor of the quarry a bit.
in quarry
We went as far as a fenced off cave in which we could hear flowing water, then we turned around and headed back through the keyhole. Once on the other side of the keyhole we completed a short loop by taking a different trail from the one that had crossed the rockbridge.

We arrived back at the trail intersection we had stopped at earlier and then proceeded to head into the quarry again, this time via the Hayworth Hollow Trail.
Noelle on trail
The Hayworth Hollow Trail was like a trip down into a sheer walled canyon. Cut stone lie scattered everywhere, most of it covered with thick green moss. We made it to the end of the trail
end of trail
and turned around to head back to the car. Just before reaching the parking lot we stopped to inspect the site of the old limekilns.
lime kiln
site of stacks
Besides the industrial relics, we saw a monarch butterfly on the blooms of some butterfly bush.
Then we walked the old railroad tracks
on train tracks
back to the car for our drive over to the zoo.             

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