Trail Review : Woodland Trail

Moderate miles near Memphis

Three weeks ago, The Guy and I started our training for the ultimate goal: an overnight backpacking trip with him this year. I figure it’s best to start small and build my experience up: short hikes with snack breaks, longer day hikes with diaper changes, camping in the house, camping in the yard, car camping, then – dun dun DUN – an overnight backpacking trip.

I chose the Woodland Trail at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park north of Memphis for our first practice hike of the season. There are a few combinations of this trail – a 2-mile, 3-mile, and 4-mile option. I opted for the 3-mile since I only wanted to take a little more than one hour for this first outing.

Finding the trail was easy. After a quick visit to the visitors’ center to have The Guy’s TN State Parks Passport stamped (it’s a thing and you should do it), we followed signs to the trailhead where there was ample parking, even on a gorgeous Sunday.

The first thing I noticed was how shaded the trail was. It’s not quite the green tunnel of the A.T., but the SPF 5,000,000 I slathered on The Guy and the sunshade on the pack were overkill. Since it was mid-April, wildflowers abounded – especially blue phlox and red buckeye. (Fun fact: the Chickasaw and other tribes would throw powdered red buckeye seeds and branches into water to stun fish so they would rise to the surface for an easier catch. Brilliant.)

Soon, I noticed this was definitely a moderate trail. Whether it was because I am out of shape or had an extra 35 lbs (pack + The Guy + snacks), the elevation gains were more noticeable than I thought they would be. I read somewhere that there is a cumulative 500 feet of elevation gain in the 3-mile loop, and I believe it. Since this is a heavily-trafficked trail, there were steps built in on the steeper parts.

There were also a few creek crossings, which I normally wouldn’t think twice about, but it becomes an Olympic sport when there’s a squirmy infant on your back. The biggest crossing had some concrete blocks laid out to get you within leaping distance to the other side. On the plus side, all of the water meant a lot of level, lovely banks for stopping at snack time. (I thought ahead and a squeezable food pouch means no spoons or bowls – yay! – but I haven’t figured out a less cumbersome solution for the sippy cup.)

In my last post, I mentioned I had difficulty seeing how The Guy was doing because it’s not easy to turn around and look, and I don’t often have another adult, so I improvised this time. I ordered a cheap small mirror attached to a retractable lanyard thing from Amazon and clipped that to my pack straps. Then whenever I wanted to check on him, I simply pulled the mirror out. Done and done.

All in all, this trail was a great first pick for our training. There was a lot for him to look at, the trail was challenging enough to keep me interested, and the ability to hike varying lengths makes this a winner if you’ve got hikers at different skill levels. It’s just a 20-minute drive from downtown Memphis, and worth the visit if you’ve got the chance.

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