Homework, housework, career demands, and athletic schedules. So many commitments to keep our lives at a frantic pace. Opportunities to slow down and spend time together as a family are always a top priority. For many years my family lived in Nashville, Tennessee, which is a relatively quiet and very friendly town – a lot like Shipshewana in these respects.
But some of my family’s best memories were spent about 25 miles outside of Nashville in a little town called Ashland City. It was in Ashland City that we discovered a 5-mile stretch of paved bicycle trail that had formerly been a railroad line. We spent many Saturdays with our children, sometimes pushing them in strollers and sometimes riding bicycles up and down this peaceful, rural stretch of Tennessee wilderness. Which is the best thing about a trail like the one in Ashland City or the Pumpkin Vine – it is an easy, affordable and safe way for the entire family to get a little taste of the wilderness. A little relief from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. A little time to reconnect to yourself and the ones you love.
And it is also a time to reconnect to nature. And maybe it seems like living in the world’s most beautiful Amish country it feels like you are surrounded by nature. But experiencing nature through the windows of a car or truck certainly isn’t the same as a meandering and reflective stroll or bicycle ride.
I want my kids to grow up enjoying the outdoors, playing outside, and feeling connected to nature. Current research shows that kids today spend less than 30 minutes a week engaged in unstructured outdoor play. And that’s a shame since spending time in nature yields all sorts of health benefits: physical, mental, and psychological. A safe and inviting outdoor trail like the Pumpkinvine is the perfect place for a family to spend an hour or two out in the fresh air.
From my perspective, the Pumpkinvine is a local treasure for the Shipshewana community. To me, Shipshewana and the surrounding areas are one of the most special places in America – a real national trophy – and the Pumpkinvine is like a “trophy case” – a special space that accentuates and highlights Shipshe and provides a “walkable and bikeable observation deck” that really shows-off the unique land and people of this special place.
I’ve been back to Shipshewana and the surrounding communities many, many times since my childhood, but I am especially looking forward to coming back with my husband and children when the Pumpkinvine is complete and exploring anew these places that I love so deeply.