My husband and I have a special place in our hearts reserved for Bernheim Forest. It is the scene of our very first date and the place where we were married several years later.
In conversation, we had discovered that we both like to be outdoors, walking, hiking and especially riding bikes. So it was natural when Doug invited me out for an afternoon exploring Bernheim Forest.
Picture a warm, sunny Saturday in June. Clear, blue skies. Not a hint of rain. Driving south down I-65 with our bikes strapped to the rack on the back of his car. Eager to get there and set off. What could have been a disaster because I had not had the presence of mind to check the air in my tires and Doug had forgotten his pump, was averted by a fellow biker who helped us out.
We rode in and out and all around the park, stopping for a rest in a grove of shade trees. I remember noticing the sunlight pouring through the leaves and the lushness of the soft ground. The gentleness of Doug’s touch when he wiped away a bit of dust from my face. It was a magical day together. The start of many.
A favorite walk of ours was the loop around Lake Nevin, the sun glistening on the water alternating with the cool shade under the trees. No wonder that several years later we chose it as the site of our wedding. We were in our 50’s and had been married before, so we planned a simple service for November 30, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so our adult children and out-of-town family could attend. Our original intent was to have the ceremony in the Quiet Garden, but it was a very cold day so we opted for the warmth of the Garden Pavilion.
It was lovely – everything we hoped it would be – that Saturday in 2002. We try to mark our anniversary every year with a visit on or around that date. This year, for our 19th, it was unseasonably warm and we enjoyed lunch outdoors at Isaac’s Café before we reminisced as we walked the Lake Nevin Loop.
Over the years we have enjoyed many hours at Bernheim, on the quiet woodland trails, witnessing the creations of various artists-in-residence, watching the development of native seasonal grasses on the Big Prairie, and most recently, the family of Forest Giants that call it home. We never tire of being there and always leave with our spirits lifted, no matter the season. In fact, recently we met an elderly woman who remembered being there as a child when it first opened. She directed us to an unknown trail which we followed that day.
We are grateful to Isaac Bernheim, the visionary who long ago began the restoration of thousands of acres of abused land that was nearly devoid of trees to become the Arboretum we enjoy today, as his gift to the people of Kentucky. It continues to fill an important place in our lives, just about a 30 minute drive from our home in Louisville. South on I-65.
-Written by Suzanne Hartman
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