Cades Cove Hayride
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Staying Active in Tennessee During the Holidays

No matter what the weather, I make myself get out of the house after the Thanksgiving feast. Rooms are stuffy and I’m stuffed, so it’s off the couch and into fresh air.

A favorite place to go for me is the UT Arboretum in Oak Ridge where I can pick level trails or some with more challenges. Nine walking trails spread across three forested areas. I search for the ginkgo, the tree with bright yellow, fan-shaped  leaves that overnight nearly all drop to create a wondrous leaf shadow.

The arboretum may be quiet, but nearby Haw Ridge Park is always a hive of activity on clear days. Hikers and mountain bikers spread across this small peninsula at Melton Hill Lake. A greenway for road bikes and walkers connects this park to the boathouses of the rowing marina.

Recently I took a hayride through Cades Cove, so I can recommend this fresh-air activity too. We saw plenty of deer and turkey, plus the spectacular mountain scenery. Cades Cove Riding Stables, the concessioner for the national park, offers hayrides on the loop road through Dec. 2. Reservations are accepted; hayrides are subject to a minimum of 15 riders per scheduled time, so it’s a good idea to plan and call ahead. Guided trail rides and carriage rides are available also.

My day that day in the Smokies began with a morning of flyfishing on the Little River. Guide Chad Williams of the Smoky Mountain Angler picked the spot. Rhododondron thickets lined the banks and the water was clear as glass. The snowmelt coming down from the higher elevations caused water temperatures to be colder than usual. Brown trout swam by, but after awhile I caught a rainbow trout and quickly released it.

Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort has already launched its snow tubing. You can sled down the slopes on soft snow blasted from a snowmaking system. Sessions are 1.5 hours. They are open to people ages 3 and older. This year, the ski resort celebrates 50 years of “skiing in Tennessee.”

This need for activity to keep the pounds off lasts through the holiday season. To that end, ice skaters will be sailing around an open-air rink in downtown Knoxville’s Market Square until Jan. 6. With its glittering lights and music, Market Square remains a gathering spot throughout the holidays. The Jingle Bell Run and Fun Walk kicks off there on Dec. 8.

Davy Crocket State Park will host the Pioneer 5 mile run on Dec. 15, one of the 21 races held in Tennessee State Parks as part of the State Parks Running Tour, in its 34th year. Participants will run through the park and the Limestone Community.

Chattanooga residents will join the Lookout Mountain 50-Mile and 10K Trail Race on Dec. 15. Many more outdoor activities are available through Outdoor Chattanooga, a part of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Kayaking, mountain biking and hiking excursions, cycling tours, and family canoe trips will get and keep you going as weather permits. Its facility at Coolidge Park serves as a resource for outdoor experiences in the area.

Those hunting the more strenuous activity can join the hike at Pogue Creek State Natural Area on Dec. 8. A ranger will lead the group into wild areas of the Cumberland Plateau where they will see gorges and rock formations during the four-hour hike. Participants will meet at Pickett State Park.

How did you stay active during the holidays? Let us know in the comments!

Hi! I’m Linda Lange. As a travel writer living in Knoxville, I fully appreciate barbecue, bluegrass and Dollywood. My story...Read on

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