Starting in October, Ijams Nature Center will kick off a new series of members-only, monthly hikes that explore areas beyond Ijams’ borders.
“We’ve been looking at ways to increase the benefits of an Ijams membership because member support makes this nonprofit nature center possible and we want to recognize that,” Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker said. “These special hikes feature a small-group experience led by someone who knows a great deal about the history, flora and fauna of some of East Tennessee’s most beautiful areas.”
Each hike is open to only 15 people who have a current Ijams Nature Center membership. Prices range from $60-$75 per person depending on the length of the hike.
Nature expert Ken Voorhis has signed on to lead the first three hikes in the series, which begins with an easy 5.5-mile hike around Cucumber Gap Loop on Oct. 13. Hikers will travel along the Little River on an old roadbed until cutting off on the Cucumber Gap trail, go through a beautiful cove hardwood forest, across a few minor streams and back to Elkmont. The cost is $60.
Voorhis next will lead a moderate 4.5-mile hike to Courthouse Rock with a possible 2-mile extension to Quilliams Cave on Nov. 10. The trail is a fairly well-traveled path up a small drainage on the side of Sugarland Mountain from Newfound Gap Road. Hikers will experience some wonderful views across the valley toward Mount LeConte. The fee is $60.
The last members-only hike of 2018 on Dec. 8 is a strenuous 8-mile hike of Ramsay Cascades and features an elevation gain of more than 2,000 feet. Participants must be able to climb rock steps and tackle a fairly continual uphill climb after the initial two miles on an old roadbed. This popular hike features a spectacular waterfall at the top and old growth forest with wonderful diversity and record-sized trees along the way. This hike is $75 per person.
Voorhis recently retired from his position of chief operations and education officer from Yellowstone Forever, the nonprofit education and philanthropic partner of Yellowstone National Park, and returned to East Tennessee.
“Ken has been a leader on a national level, helping to build capacity for in-depth learning programs in national parks,” Parker said. “He is an avid photographer, storyteller, writer, and musician, and enjoys outdoor pursuits including hiking, canoeing, skiing, birding, botanizing and exploring out-of-the-way, wild places. He also has a great sense of humor, so you know you’ll learn a lot and have a great time!”
All hikes will meet at the trailhead. Specific directions, packing instructions, etc., will be sent upon registration. Hikes occur rain or shine. Early registration is strongly encouraged.