Day Tripping: The Old Forest
My husband and I have brought our Day Tripping act to Memphis. We’ve walked the Green Line where an old railroad track once traversed the city. Bikers tore up and down the asphalt, calling, “To your left!” while Tom and I plodded along. We were the only walkers, though one lone rollerblader silently glided past.
Today, we walked the Old Forest at Overton Park.
Nature lovers everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to Overton Park. There, in 1971, when the federal government proposed splitting the park in two with an interstate, a brigade of women laced on their tennis shoes and protested. The group also sued to stop the highway, and the case went to the United State Supreme Court. The result was one of the early decisions holding that a collection of citizens and environmental groups had standing to protect public green space.
The Park has myriad features, many of which we passed during our walk. A public golf course and an off-leash dog walk and several children’s playgrounds and lots of picnic areas. Also the amazing outdoor amphitheater of Levitt Shell and Memphis College of Art where, were I starting my life over again, I’d be a student. But the gem, to me, is the Old Forest.
The Old Forest is a sanctuary. The trees are hundreds of years old in an ecosystem that dates back 10,000 years. The paths in this designated state natural area devolve from asphalt to strewn gravel to dirt. You can choose which you prefer depending on your level of fear of poison ivy and copperheads—Tom informed me as we walked between lush trees that a lively, well-populated band of copperheads calls the Forest home, but not the truly venomous type. Frankly, I’ve never heard of non-venemous copperheads, but thankfully we found not one snake. As to the poison ivy, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.
As for the humans in the Old Forest, they’re friendly, no ogres or witches with tempting candy-covered houses. Everyone speaks or at least nods. We were a diverse bunch, young and old, mooning teenage couples and chatty Hispanic families. Some walkers, some bikers—about evenly divided, it appeared.
The temperature was cool, as you would expect in the dappled shade of a deep forest. I needed this assistance: the path itself, in defiance of gravity, was one long, slow upwards incline. Thus the walk was the hardest I’ve done physically since the surgery. But I made it—45 minutes—and Tom didn’t have to carry me any of the way.