Walking Journal / Walking

Walk 10 – Jefferson Memorial Forest

. 3 min read . Written by Russell Smith
Walk 10 – Jefferson Memorial Forest

I loop around a lovely lake in America’s largest urban forest

This is the largest urban forest in the United States. That is such an odd fact, but one I delight in as a citizen of Louisville.

In 2019, my brother and I hiked the Purple Heart Trail as part of The Strenuous Life. Later that year, I hiked it again with some other TSL friends. I had never seen another part of the Forest.

This time, I decided to check out the lake in the Tom Wallace Recreation Area. I circled the lake three times, and also walked up the Tulip Tree Trail about a quarter of a mile. Walking the loop three times reminded me of the well-worn paths I have traveled in life. I’ve never blazed a trail. I’ve never sought out new meadows and pastures. I’ve always tread where others – many others – have tread before.

I didn’t judge this observation. I merely became aware of it, noting that on most days of my life, like today, I walk a well-known path.

Of my walks so far, this one contained the most trash. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me, but it did disappoint me. I also became aware of the not-too-distant city noise – strange, as in previous walks I have been closer to highways and busy streets, and felt the noise less cacophonously.

At the beginning of my first loop, I saw no one in the parking lot and only one person, a fisherman, while walking the first loop. Upon my return, I saw three people under the pavilion by the parking lot. The second time around, they’d begun grilling food. The smoke wafted away from my path but I could still smell the delicious aroma of meat over a fire.

A third loop. The sun had risen far above the treetops, creating a stifling air in the tunnel of the forest. I could smell the cooking fire the last tenth of a mile, well before I came out of the forest into the clearing to the parking area.

I walked past the pavilion and into the Tulip Tree Trail. Here, the forest lay so thick that I lost sight of the sun. I heard birds singing and decided to pull out the Merlin appsuggested by my friend Bryan McGrath, to help identify birds by their songs. A few seconds later and I delighted in the knowledge I was listening to a hairy woodpecker. Marvelous!

In these walks, I had not so consciously or purposefully walked a path again and again. My main resolution after this repeated activity was to return to Jefferson Memorial Forest soon — and walk it again.