I was wondering what to do for New Years (I’ve never been much of a college football/bowl game fan, and all my friends are currently out of town), when my mom told me about January 1st Hikes. Apparently, on Jan. 1st every year, each of the state parks have free ranger-led hikes to get the New Year started off on the right foot. Seeing as I’m rebooting this year, I thought it’d be the perfect way to get started: by taking a nice hike with other people wanting to enjoy the outdoors as much as I do.
I didn’t want to drive too far today, but I also wanted to go somewhere I’ve never been before, so eventually I settled on Cedars of Lebanon State Park. Cedars of Lebanon, located in Wilson County, is named after the abundance of eastern red cedars, which are actually junipers and not cedars.
The hike started at the Nature Center. A group of 25 or so of us afternoon hikers, plus 2 park rangers headed out through the back of the Nature Center through the butterfly garden, which, from what I could tell from the park ranger’s spiel, is a wildflower paradise from March through June.
Next, we saw two different caves: Jackson Cave and Hermit Cave. Jackson Cave is the biggest cave on park property and goes for several miles. Hermit Cave was apparently not named after the crab, but after a random man lived in the cave for several years completely undetected. I really wish we could have entered and explored, but sadly the bats in the caves around here are experiencing some kind of white-nose disease and for their protection, humans can’t go in right now.
After the caves, our group crossed over from Jackson Cave Trail to the Dixon Merritt Nature Trail. That trail is a half mile loop that goes through a few cedar groves, down some skinny paths, meanders alongside the one and only creek bed in the park, and passes some beautiful scenery. Even in winter, it was a gorgeous, easy hike. The rangers were excellent too. They picked the perfect pace for our mixed age group and were funny, and not just the typically dry educational you get used to.
All in all, it was a great afternoon. I don’t think I’ll be back anytime soon, but that’s only because it’s a 45 minute drive and there aren’t hardly any trails to hike, but they do have lots of picnic tables, softball fields and horse riding trails, if that sounds like your kind of thing and you happen to be in the area. I might have to come back in April or May, though, to see if the butterfly garden lives up to the hype.