Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Narrows of the Harpeth

I took off early on Monday and drove 15 miles west of town to Cheatham county, where there's sort of a patchwork, shabby state park called Harpeth River State Park. I shouldn't say shabby, really, but it is made up of little unconnected pieces and parts of land along the Harpeth River. Well, they're connected if you're in a canoe, which I was not, but otherwise, you have to drive to each little one. I decided to go to the Narrows of the Harpeth part. The Harpeth river is a winding, hairpin-ny river and at one point it doubles back and gets to within 200 feet of itself. Sometime back in the olden days, some guy (Montgomery Bell, whose name is on everything here in town) had his slaves chip a tunnel through the 200 feet, thus diverting a good portion of the river, so that the water would turn a wheel to make I dunno, moonshine or flour or something. Wool. Who knows; the signage was all faded. ANYWAY. All the mill stuff is gone and all you get now is a waterfall shooting out of a cliff face. I've canoed down this part of the Harpeth before and sometimes the water is so low you can walk through the tunnel...but not at this time of the year. They actively discourage it, though and to be honest, if you try it it does feel like you might die at any minute. And the slave part gave me the willies. It's like that part in Tom Sawyer where the go in the cave and oh, someone's there with a torch. Injun Joe? I can't remember; it's all fuzzy. But that's what it feels like. Spooky.

After visiting that part, I doubled back and hiked up the ridge above the Narrows. You get a nice view of the surrounding farmland and whatsthatcalled? Floodplain. My knee did okay hiking up. When you get to the top, there's a verrry narrow part you can walk on, like five feet wide. One mis-step and you would fall a long way and die. I didn't do that. There were children up there and they were running around like crazy, which sort of boggled my mind because really, there was nothing to prevent them from tumbling down the cliff. It was insanely windy up there.

Then I got in the car and drove to another little piece of the park, Newsom's Mill. It sits on the edge of the Harpeth next to a now-broken dam. There was signage that said Nashvillians used to take the train from Union Station downtown out to the dam on summer days and have a swim and a picnic. Which was the LAST time a Nashvillian didn't drive his SUV somewhere, I'm just saying. They also found a skeleton in the original dam when they were replacing it with the concrete one which is now the busted one. The whole thing felt very Blair Witchy or maybe like a place you would have gone to a secret rave back in the early 90s and I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Walk in the Woods

Part of my New Year's Resolution is to go camping five times this year and that always entails hiking as well. I've been a little worried about that as I've had a very minor knee sprain that just doesn't seem to want to completely heal. It doesn't hurt, really, but it's not quite fully extending either. Don't leave any dumb comments about telling me to go to the doctor - I'm not doing it. But! I have been doing a little bit of testing to see if I'll really be able to hike the Honey Creek Loop at Big South Fork in May.

On Saturday, I went to Radnor Lake, just south of Nashville. Radnor Lake used to be a "State Natural Area," which I guess is the state's way of saying "nice try, but you're no State Park, honey!" but now I guess it's finally a state park, if a puny one. It's pretty (see pic, which I stole off the web), but I have had issues with it in the past. For starters, it's right smack in the middle of a bunch of upscale residential areas and a few years ago, the people who run it - which I think is an uneasy mix of government and some hippie vegetarian volunteer types - began charging you admission if you drove to Radnor Lake, but it was free if you walked or biked....which of course meant that only the rich white folks who live around it ever went, because YOU CAN'T GET THERE unless you drive! It's a long way away! So Radnor Lake was sort of like a really big Gramercy Park, a private place for the rich. I boycotted and since then they've rescinded that policy. I'm SURE it was because of my boycott, about which I told no one and in fact never really knew I was doing.

There are a few trails there, none of them particularly challenging, but this little test was really about distance, to see how long I could go before I started thinking about my knee rather than the scenery. There were deer and turtles and Canadian geese and regular old ducks and some screechy kinds of bird-type things. I also saw my friend Teri M., who once got her finger broken in a bar fight. She sued and lost, mainly because one of her star witnesses was our friend Chris K., who wasn't a very reliable witness since the defense called about thirteen other people, all of whom saw Chris K snorting up cocaine like a Hoover earlier in the evening of said bar fight. Also, he once called the police and made them come to his house because he was, uh, convinced that there were robbers hiding in tied-up garbage bags in his vestibule, just waiting to burst out of them and kill him for his drugs. Yes, that's what he told the police who then said "uh, well, let's talk about these drugs...." and that was, as they say, that. So Teri M lost her case, but she really shouldn't have; she just called the wrong witness.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the hike. I did pretty well; I got three or so miles in, mostly level around the edge of the lake. It was a nice day, so the 30,000 other people who decided to go to Radnor Lake were sort of getting on my nerves; one trio of women who kept vying with me for the lead on the trail were talking for a LONG time about a mashed potato bar they were planning for one of their daughter's upcoming wedding and I just thought that sounded both nuts and passé at the same time. But at the same time I sort of wanted to get invited to see how creative they were going to get with it. I mean, if you're going to have a mashed potato bar at a wedding, just make the damned cake out of mashed potatoes, I say. Or the dress! Yes, that would have been good, the dress. It sounds like Project Runway challenge. "And I made the hat out of gravy!"

There were also a lot of children and parents, all of whom were ignoring the bajillion signs that said STAY ON TRAILS - FRAGILE ENVIRONMENT so I did secretly laugh when one little kid who ignored the sign fell down when he tripped over a tree root OFF TRAIL and his parents lost their minds about how they really should put up railings. I mean if there were a bunch of railings everywhere, it wouldn't be a natural area, it'd be the second story of a what I wanted to say. Sometimes I really am surprised how tunnel-visiony parents can be. It's really not about you ALL THE TIME. It's about ME. Plus, Radnor Lake is all about the Zen and the loons and the geese and the deer and the solitude and the introspection (or so all their marketing materials would have you believe) so I was irritated that there were screaming kids making me all tense and their parents yelling MADISON! GET BACK HERE! It made me kind of hostile; I was glad to get back in my nice quiet car at the end of it.

And then the next day I did two and a half miles at the Shelby Bottoms Greenways. I think if I keep up the weekend practice, I'll be good for May. I have to introduce elevation next week.