Looks can be deceiving.
A patch of woods sits near Walters State Community College and across the street from Shoe Carnival. To most anyone, it would just be another patch of woods.
But, for two communities, it’s much more. It’s a fun and exciting three-mile trek through uphill climbs, gnarly switchbacks and steep depressions.
It’s a place where the bike can hit some ramps and get air.
“It’s actually very challenging in places,” said Brian Cox, president of Five Rivers Mountain Bike Club Southern Off Road Bicycle Association.
Six months ago, Walters State Community College officially opened its multi-use trails for mountain biking and cross country in the patch of woods that sits off U.S. Highway 25W.
The combined effort of Walters State and the Five Rivers Mountain Bike Club made the trails possible that now wind through and deep into the woods.
Dr. Tony Miksa, president of Walters State Community College, said all together there is about three miles of trail system, but, at this time, 2.5 miles are usable.
Currently there are about five trail loops that run through the woods and four of them are usable. Miksa said the last loop is currently down due to some water damage and it will need to be rerouted and smoothed out.
“Trails are always an evolution,” Miksa said.
The idea for the trails started just a few years ago when Miksa first arrived on campus at Walters State.
There was a volunteer day going on at Panther Creek State Park and there were about 50 people at the event. Christ Battig, owner of Panther Creek Bike Shop and trail director for Five Rivers MBC, was also there.
“That was the first time I met Tony,” Battig said.
They started talking and Battig found out Miksa was a mountain biker.
The seeds were sown.
Fast forward almost two years ago, and Five Rivers MBC began developing the first trail. It was one mile-long, but it was the first mountain bike trail on the east side of Morristown.
Walters State spent a little bit of money to open up a parking lot to the site that is graveled.
Battig said it was easy to start on the trails.
“We knew our boundaries, so we started cutting and clearing,” he said.
Battig is proud of one accomplishment: how the community came together to get the trails built.
“This was built by volunteers on the weekend,” he said.
The majority of it was also built without machinery. Most of those weekends, volunteers went through the woods with hand tools, smoothing and cutting the trail.
The area is open to mountain bikers, hikers and the Walters State Cross Country team holds its events on the trails.
The NCAA sanctioned team has 16 runners who routinely run through the woods.
Someday, Miksa said he hopes there could also be a mountain bike club as well on campus.
The next project for the school is to reopen loop five and also to put signage up.
Ultimately, Miksa said he has another dream. He’d love to see a day where the two places in Hamblen County for mountain biking can be connected.
“My dream would be to one day be able to ride from here to Panther Creek,” he said.