Number one on my list of places I love and will miss like crazy in Louisville is Cherokee Park.
I have been so lucky to live within a five minute walk of this gem since I moved here. I’m there every few days, walking, biking the Scenic Loop, giving someone directions that I hope will either get them to the Big Rock or out of the park, but most likely will just get them even more lost. I know this because my first encounter with Cherokee Park left me so lost I still don’t know exactly where I was.
In August 2008, I took a Peace Corps vacation to visit Gabe in Louisville, where he had moved while I was in Togo. I was training for a marathon, and I needed to run 12 miles. We mapped out a route online that would take me up Lexington Road, through Cherokee Park, and somehow I would return to point A. I got into the park, and then I ended up at what I think, looking at a map now, is the green part between Pee Wee Reese and Rock Creek Road. The people I asked for directions back to the Cherokee Triangle proved useless, so I just turned around. Then I was by Bowman Field (or the “indie airport,” as Gabe called it when we planned the route. To be clear, the airport was not included on the route). Then I was at a gas station on Taylorsville Road. Then I was at the Heine Brothers at the Douglass Loop, calling Gabe to please come get me, because although I finally knew how to get home, I was too dehydrated to keep trudge-running down Bardstown Road.
Cherokee Park and I got off to a rough start. But we’ve been making up since then. I’ve watched Thunder from the playground by the golf course, made friends while running the trails, seen unexpected wildlife (turtle on the trail! Deer bursting out of the brush!), and gotten immense joy from watching dogs play on Baringer Hill at dusk. In winter, I get sad when, standing by Hogan Fountain, I can see clear through the leafless trees, down the hill to the rugby field (or whatever we call that field where the LARPers gather). But in summer, the leaf-cover is so thick and green, it’s easy to pretend you’re far from civilization (until the ice cream truck drives by on the road above you).
I don’t get lost in the park anymore. I know exactly how to get to Big Rock, and while I can’t give you very good directions (“Go down the second hill, and if you go up the hill at the hairpin curve, uh… follow that road… and turn right… or, if you take the curve, go right at the stop…”), I could lead you there on my bike. But it’s probably something you have to learn for yourself.