I'm amused every time I mention traveling to Nashville in conversation, both before I went and now after, people light up and usually respond with something like "Ohhhhh Nashville, how fun!!". Honestly, having been now three times I'm still kind of confused by this response. The strip downtown is a never-ending party, but it's also disgusting, filled with horrible music and probably over-priced, low-quality food and drinks, but I wouldn't know as this is not the scene I frequent on my visit(s). In the past, nights out included drinks and dancing at Tribe or Play, and this time nights out, well there weren't any because apparently I'm now old and boring. Instead my days were filled with wandering around town, trying to soak in as much green nature and birdsongs as possible.
Although I have a love/hate relationship with technology and the fact that there is an app for literally everything and anything, there are a few diamonds in the rough, one being Alltrails, and the ease with which it allows you to identify, get directions to and navigate nearby hiking opportunities. When my friend Brian stopped by we used it to find the trails at Fontanel, which was a nice, moderate loops not too far from where I was staying. We had planned to repeat on Sunday, but the threat of rain made us decide otherwise and instead opted to wander around the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park instead, this along with Centennial park are two gems of downtown Nashville which provide convenient, easy to access greenery amidst the hustle and bustle of city life.
After Brian's visit I still had a full week to fill and decided to sprinkle in some nature between my study and work sessions, a great way to maintain sanity in my opinion. As a complete nerd and lover of college campuses, I chose to continue the trend I started in Bloomington with a walk around the Vanderbilt campus, another gem of the city, and opportunity for me to consider my PhD pursuits. The Peabody school of Ed at Vanderbilt does have a pretty solid doctorate program, but I'm not sure it aligns with my research interests, which is too bad because that campus is gorgeous.
I tend to be kind of lazy when it comes to driving to nature, figuring I can walk just about anywhere, so I decided to see what else was nearby before I drove a half hour away for a park. Halfway through my stay in Nashville I made a morning trip to Shelby Bottoms Nature Center and Greenway, thinking it may offer a nice riverside walk but held no real expectations. The walkway was more of a paved biking trail, with a handful of offshoots into the surrounding woods, than a real hike, but it served it's purpose for an am walk and exploration. There were only a few stops with river views, but I was happy for the tree coverage as the Nashville heat was in full swing.
On my last full day before heading south I figured it was time for a real hike, although living in Korea has ruined me for hiking, I now consider anything under 6 miles and a solid elevation gain a walk, but to-may-to, to-mah-to. The first hike I had bookmarked on Alltrails was at Randor Lake State Park, moderate loop with lake views, perfect. The drive wasn't too bad, and took me through some boogie ass neighborhoods, honestly even if I join the club, I'll never understand rich people. I stopped in the visitors center to use the bathroom and wound up speaking with the staff (park ranger), who was more than eager to explain the trail to me including spots for good views and any wildlife I may pass along the way. I loved her enthusiasm and kindness, but honestly this park and the trails in it needed no explanation. I chose to do the river loop with the addition of the Ganier Ridge trail, which is marked as difficult, but I would beg to differ. Regardless of the difficulty level, this park was beautiful, well maintained, not too heavily trafficked (at least for a Thursday morning) and a good mix of forest and lake, although the only wildlife I spotted were squirrels and chipmunks.
I feel like this is one of those states that is forgotten, known only for it's most popular city, Nashville. I too never thought it'd be on my list of places I've been but my best friends relocation changed my plans.