Ever hear an acoustic guitar or banjo riff and become transported to somewhere similar the set of ‘Where the Red Fern Grows’ or read a passage from ‘Leaves of Grass’ and find a wilderness landscape suddenly painted across your imagination? These places are Americana country, where log cabins puff smoke out their stone chimneys and people take short cuts through the woods to get to town. Radnor Lake is a slice of this world, and it’s free rambling forest makes a great place to spend a few hours
lazily strolling around the lake or hiking up to the ridge tops. Sure there are plenty of hiking trails in Nashville, but there is nothing as close to the city with the abundance of nature and wildlife as Radnor Lake.
One of the only hints that the world has interceded with Radnor Lake is the dirt trails that skirt the lake and squirrel into the hills. These simple paths are intended only for walking, running is not allowed, and do their best to be of secondary importance to the preservation of the natural setting. In fact, we came upon several places where the path split to go around a tree; Jade and I think this is due to a team of romantic forest rangers who divided the walk so people hiking hand-in-hand would have to break apart and then find each other’s hand on the other side of the tree. While we did not find any Cyrano de Bergerac rangers waiting along the benches or vistas of our walk, the calmness in the air and the lost-wilderness setting is great for either a solo hike or couple stroll.
To me though, the chance to see healthy wildlife living in a purely natural habitat is the most exciting part of any trip to Radnor Lake. While there, Jade and I saw several deer, about a dozen turtles, and a handful of Cranes (I even hear there are wild turkeys roaming the park). Seeing any of these animals would make a walk here a fun experience, but what has stayed with me is the tranquility of the animals. To put my experience in perspective, Jade and I once saw a deer at Griffith Park; it leapt off a ledge, across the trail and into a thicket so fast that I wasn’t sure what it was until I saw it later, hiding in the thicket. It had been scared, terrified is more like it. Griffith Park is a natural-ish setting, but the park’s development has focused more on the civilian experience instead of preserving the land. The exact opposite is true at Radnor Lake. Here I sat only five feet from a feeding deer, it was aware I was there and on guard but not scared. It was also not looking for scraps or handouts from me. Very rarely, in fact almost never, have I found animals like these, comfortable around people but not dependent on them. The park rangers and the visitors have worked together to create a habitat in which people can come and go without dramatically altering the life of the animals living on the land.
It is because of the careful balance park rangers keep between the city and this natural habitat that I found myself in the middle of Walden Pond but only a few minutes from the twenty-first century. Radnor Lake offers visitors everything from a easy lake-side stroll to a full on exhausting hike all of which are tucked away in the forest, without a hint of the surrounding city.