Jungle Castle, Castle Jungle

A couple months ago, I went to this boat party. I can’t remember if I wrote about it or not, but I met a dude there. He’s a musician. Dreadlocked. Young dude. I call him young Marley….not to his face, just in my head. As you may or may not know, I have a thing for men with dreadlocks. It started off that I had a thing for one man with dreadlocks, KyMani Marley, son of Bob, mate to my soul, yin to my yang, peanut butter to my jelly, salt to my pepper, bees to my honey, up to my down, you get it. I’m slightly stalkery obsessed. So it basically carries over into my regular life in that I find myself being drawn to KyMani Marley looking dudes. Ex: there’s a Jamaican drummer, there’s the Jamaican food dude, there’s some random thug that walks the streets that I’m enamored with and have never even said two words to but he’s practically KyMani’s twin, and, now, this dude I met on a boat.

When we met, it was a short sweet conversation that led to a Facebook friend request that led to a Facebook message that led to a phone number. You know, the way things should happen. The first time we hung out, we ended up having his kiddo with us. Super cute, toddler with an extensive vocabulary. Second time, it was just the two of us, third time, just the two of us, fourth time we had the kiddo, next time we had his kiddo and my kiddo. So basically, I’ve been friend zoned again. We’ve never kissed. We have good conversation. He’s fun to be around. He’s artsy and smart. And despite my usual feeling about children, I would probably take his and make him mine if that option was on the table. He’s super adorable and smart and well behaved.

So we decide to hang out yesterday. I go pick both of them up and ask them where they want to go. Lil bit says he wants to go to the jungle. We usually go to the park. The park has a trail and he thinks we are in the jungle hiding from dragons and bears. It’s a fun time. So this time, I say, “you want to go see a jungle with a castle?”

He gets super excited.

So we drive to the castle jungle also known as “Mead’s Quarry,” an extension of Ijam’s Nature Center here in Knoxville. If you haven’t been here, you should go. So we get there and the “castle” that I’m going to show him is just really a bunch of rock that was left when they stopped mining for marble. I guess it’s limestone or something, but it’s cool and there are steps so you can navigate through it and definitely super fun for a little one on a jungle adventure. I usually don’t post pictures throughout my blogs, but I took them and just so you can appreciate the scope of this adventure, I shall insert just a few for your viewing pleasure.

Let me preface this story with…. I had no intention of hiking and therefore I was wearing flip flops….

We got out of my “race car” as lil bit calls it and started walking down the railroad tracks to the short cut to the “castle.”  We walked not a long way on the tracks, but enough.

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Shortcut to the Jungle Castle

By the time we were almost to the shortcut, lil bit was ready to get off the tracks. He kept thinking a train was going to come plow us down. We finally convinced him that it wasn’t, but I’m not sure he completely believed us.

We get to the shortcut and make our way to the trail. I’m convinced that we should go right and the castle will be right up on our left. I’m not from Tennessee so the landmark directions that people use like, “go up two oak trees to where Johnny’s old tractor used to sit and turn right” is wasted on me. Basically we start walking. After a while, I tell the guys, “I may have brought us the wrong way. I don’t think it should be taking us this long.” We were on a long muddy trail that just kept going and going and going and going…

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The endless muddy trail 

And we just kept walking and walking and walking and walking. And I just kept sweating and sweating and sweating and sweating. And lil bit just kept talking and talking and talking and talking. And young Marley just kept on a keepin on with us. After we had wandered for about an hour, I knew we were lost. He insisted that we weren’t because we were basically in the city. We would eventually find our way out. But that wasn’t happening any time soon. We did find our way to a clearing though….

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The Deathly Hallows

We had walked down into it thinking that the trail would lead us out the other side. There was a trail all right. It was a 90 degree climb up a hill that had been hollowed out from running water during rain. Young Marley scaled the “mountain” to see what was up top. Me and lil bit stayed at the bottom waiting patiently. Young Marley called down to us to say there was a trail up there….. I’m standing in my damn flip flops wondering how the hell I’m going to get up there. He slides back down the gravels to grab his kid and we decide to trek up the less steep of the hills. I wasn’t really scaling shit so much as I was praying that every branch I grabbed on to was strong enough to hold all 200 pounds of me while my legs were strong enough to dig my flip flops into the gravels to keep some sort of traction. But alas made it to the top of the hill (and I didn’t fall or embarrass myself)….

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The climb out of the Deathly Hallows….It’s steeper in real life than it looks in photo. 

We finally hop back on a trail, asked for directions from a lady who looked like a “regular” there, she turned us back around the way we had come, we walked back past the deathly hallows and continued on the trail. For like… another hour, until we finally came to the place where we started. We went the way we should have gone initially and in about 10 minutes, we were at the Jungle castle. Lil bit kept exclaiming how “cool” it was which made our little pilgrimage totally worth it.

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Bottom of the Jungle Castle

Luckily neither one of us had anything too pressing to do. Otherwise, we would have been totally fucked, but for a city guy who doesn’t hike, young Marley was quite a good sport. I can guarantee that most guys would have been super irritated with my poor sense of direction, but he just rolled with the punches and entertained me and the kid. And he didn’t say a word about me sweating profusely while hiking in pants and flip flops on a breezy 80 degree day. That’s a true friend.

After we had our fun at the jungle castle, we got back on the right trail and made the short trek back to the parking lot to the car. All’s well that ended well. My legs aren’t having quite a happy ending today after yesterday’s 8 mile journey, but I needed the workout anyway.  And I can guaran-damn-tee that I will never step foot on another trail in flip flops again!!

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