Our Explorer JD Dotson Shares His Favorite Picks
Story and photos by JD Dotson
There is something in my nature that needs to mix up my scenery, wanderlust that keeps me exploring new places and seeking new adventures and experiences. That wanderlust spills into my running and makes training on a treadmill or counting loops on a track unbearable. Fortunately, we live in an area that offers spectacular scenery, challenging paths and hills, water stops and interesting sights. I have done runs through the middle of giant crowds in urban settings, dodging people, watching traffic, and runs where I didn’t see a soul and was surrounded only by trees. Every scenario is available to us, and if I can keep from being a tourist and stopping to take pictures, I can get a great run in and explore at the same time.
Parklands of Floyds Fork
One of my top go-to running spots is the Parklands of Floyds Fork. The Parklands are a series of five parks connected by paths following Floyds Fork tributary and takes you through woods, across fields and bridges, winding paths and open spaces. The Parklands offer so many varying experiences for running, from intensive hills and winding paths to flat, straight shots all on more than 19 miles of paved path and 100+ miles of trails throughout. I have run the entire length of the Parklands collectively and never tire of exploring wherever the paths lead. A good place to start for anyone wanting to check it out is Turkey Run Park. The parking lot off Seatonville Road will offer you a couple of options. Head one direction toward The Strand, across Seatonville Road, and run along the creek, across pastures and a few small bridges. It’s relatively flat and beautiful. Or, Option B, head into Turkey Run Park, toward the silo, and experience intense hills, winding, wooded paths, and end by treating your body to a 60-foot tower/109 stair run up to the lookout. The Parklands offer so many running options for every type of runner and nature lover, you will find yourself wanting to explore every inch of the park.
Charlestown State Park
Charlestown State Park has great paths and challenging options for keeping the intensity level up while appealing to the need for adventure with spectacular views. There is an entrance fee to the park, so take a couple of running buddies and split the fee. The day I visited, I was determined to get my money’s worth, so I got two runs in. My first run was on Trail 6 and began pretty rough. I climbed a steep, rocky hill but was rewarded with a path along a ridge and a sweeping view of the Ohio River. The path led me down past ruins of an ammunition plant and into a creek bed before veering back to the main road. My second run of the day was a few miles up the road at Trail 3 toward Rose Island. For a challenging run, my advice would be to take the first trail off the paved path. The trail will lead you through the woods and downhill. It runs along the water and drops you at the bottom of the paved path right at the foot of the Portersville Bridge. Across the bridge is the entrance to the ruins of Rose Island, which is definitely worth a detour for a quick exploration. Don’t spend too long there because you have to get back to the top via the paved path – and it is steep.
Downtown Louisville and Southern Indiana
Living in downtown Louisville, a lot of my runs occur through the city. Urban running offers its own unique challenges and experiences, but the rewards are often exciting. I have run into picketers and protests, a huge fire, friends, rescued a dog, took my picture with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, splashed through fountains on a hot day and slid across sheets of ice on a cold one. It is not easy letting your mind wander running the streets of downtown, but the sights and sounds are enough to entertain and inspire. I love exploring a city I am visiting by running it, making mental notes to revisit parts and taking pictures, but there is nothing better than exploring my own city and finding new paths. Louisville and Southern Indiana share a unique connecting feature that allows urban running away from heavy traffic and offers the best views from multiple vantage points. The 122-year-old Big Four Bridge has two great inclines from either side to get on the bridge for a total length of one mile, including fantastic views of the river and the skylines. Running west along the river in Jeffersonville and under the Second Street Bridge will lead to Ashland Park and the entrance to the Falls of the Ohio. There is a path leading up along the top of the dam and along the river in Clarksville. I enjoy having that mix of running downtown, which includes people watching and quiet, lonely paths. Many of my runs include city running that leads into a park, and we are lucky in our area to be connected to so many parks. The east side of Waterfront Park will connect to paths along the Beargrass Creek trail, which will lead to Cherokee Park in the Highlands. Running west from Waterfront Park will take you along the river, over train tracks, under the highway, through the woods, along a golf course and eventually to Shawnee Park. Head south from Waterfront Park through the heart of downtown Louisville and Old Louisville’s historic neighborhood, beyond the university, down Southern Parkway, and find yourself in Iroquois Park’s 3.2 mile wooded, hilly loop. Running in Louisville and Southern Indiana offers such a wide array of sights and avenues for exploration, and offers adventure in your own backyard while satiating your (my) wanderlust for a bit.