When You Have Already Walked Everywhere Else
Closing in on a year of social distancing as a family of five has been both an extreme privilege and the hardest thing ever. I had never imagined social distancing before it started and, like so many other people, I imagined a much shorter timeline when it began.
As a family, we have concentrated on spending time outside for multiple reasons, often to ease the pressure of so much time together in one place. Stephanie has been adding to our yard since March–garden beds, swings, a playhouse–all the fun stuff. I have learned to adjust to the path of the sun when I go outside for uninterrupted video and phone calls. The kids have worn bike paths and mud pits where there used to be thick grass. Stephanie has made the garage into a workshop. We now refer to different porches and sections of our yard as unique destinations.
In search of socially-distant ways to venture beyond the yard with our three, I have mapped up different walking routes through the neighborhood, stopping by various little free libraries and enchanting fairy gardens on different routes. Even though we gave up playgrounds last March, we still love the Shelby Bottoms Greenway. Still, when January (aka, our tenth month of the “Staycation”) arrived, I wanted a new way to be outside as the rest of winter and spring at home stretched before us. That’s when I hit upon the idea of exploring different greenways, or at least different greenway sections.
We are extremely fortunate in Metro Nashville to have over 100 miles of greenways. Greenways for Nashville are everywhere, spread out throughout the county with long stretches of trail that often don’t go near a road. The only traffic you have to be aware of is on foot or two-wheels. Here are a few places I would recommend from our adventures:
The Stones River Greenway has multiple entrances and ten+ miles of trails. What drew me there the first time was the old Ravenwood golf course. It has expansive open spaces with plenty of hills where kids can feel like they’re running far away but they’re still within view. You can also go under Lebanon Pike and over the old bridge that used to be how you crossed the Stones River on Lebanon Pike.
The Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge is one of the best known parts of the greenway system, for good reason. You can access it from the Two Rivers Park side in Donelson or the Shelby Bottoms side in East Nashville. Built in 2007 as a pedestrian bridge and greenway connector, the scale is for people and not cars. It allows you to take your time looking at the river below and beyond.
Peeler Park is on the very end of Neelys Bend (think the Neelys Bend of the Cumberland River). The park has over 260 acres and access by road is limited. Because of this it is the least crowded one we visited, and because it is so flat and self-contained, it’s nice for easy bike rides.
Forrest Green Trailhead at Shelby Bottoms feels like you’re not at Shelby Bottoms at all even though it’s connected by trail to Cornelia Fort. It’s surrounded by residential neighborhoods mostly hidden by dense woods and wetlands. The trees are thick with vines and off the trail it’s often swampy. If it weren’t for the views of Opry Mills across the river you wouldn’t know you were in the city.
Visiting places none of us already know, exploring trails through woods or big open meadows, feels like we have ventured much farther away than the tiny distance we have actually traveled. And our home feels that much cozier when we retreat to it after a few hours of exploring in the cold. Our mini-adventures make the privileges of a warm home, and time to enjoy it together, that much easier to recognize.