Personal safety concerns have kept me from the completed portion of the Louisville Loop paved near my home for months. With its 100-mile span of discernible solitude, I imagine people lurking in the woods waiting for prey. I could never feel safe running the Loop alone, and at one time when I addressed public safety during an online Q&A with Mayor Fischer, I wasn't able to get a satisfying answer about what kinds of enforcement the Metro was planning, if any.
Occasionally, I see dog walkers or cyclists using the Loop as I drive by on my way to a metro park. At our parks, one can find populations of active people, or frightening (but enjoyable) seclusion surrounded by forest that always promises to loop back to the safety of my car, or to bring me by the patrol of an LMPD officer. But the Loop goes on and on, only promising more miles ahead.
On Saturday, at the end of a lazy afternoon, my family and I decided to explore the Loop. Feeling excited for adventure, but reasonably cautious, I slipped my $20 camping knife into my back pocket and handed my very lucky husband a pink canister of pepper spray.
Hand in hand, we walked the winding path of the Loop together. The kids occasionally let go to chase butterflies and grasshoppers. We took photos that will become family treasures. We crossed the I Love Cameron bridge, and peered into the rocky Polar Pop Pit, a man-made hole filled with busted concrete and plastic soda cups from a nearby Circle K convenience store that are certain to defy the ages. It was quiet with the sounds of nature. The Loop was so tranquil that when I turned around to see a bike whizzing by within mere feet of me, I screamed. My husband laughed, "Didn't you see him coming?"
I really didn't.
After we covered a very slow single mile, my daughter wanted to continue on, demanding that we walk the entire Loop. I insisted we turn back, while her dad explained it would take us days and days [at her pace], and as I expected, when we arrived back to where we first began, her feet ached in her new black school shoes I bought that afternoon. We were homeward bound.
My fears of freaky solitude were unfounded when I was reassured by others enjoying the Loop, too: An elderly couple getting some exercise together; the man on his bike with his daughter, whizzing by. Nowhere to be found were the teenage users of the Polar Pop soda cups or whoever loves Cameron, but they probably stagger out of the woods around dusk.
If I can offer any advice about safety along the Loop's path, don't mess with the residents of cave-like holes the size of dinner plates dug into mounds of earth next to trees. Surely, something lives there.
For families who love our bountiful parks and preserved forests, the Loop offers even more natural experiences within the Metro, with transportation as a perk. You can use the Loop to go places, or you can simply turn around to get back to where you began once little feet get tired.
Basic personal safety precautions apply.
For more information about the Louisville Loop, visit LouisvilleLoop.org.
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Photo: Rachel Hurd Anger