COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Forest bathing



“Contrary to its name, Japanese FOREST BATHING, or ‘Shinrin-yoku,’ has nothing to do with wallowing in water surrounded by trees. In reality, it’s the act of being among trees, absorbing the ambience of a forest…Escaping to the outdoors is the natural antidote to our busy lives, and forest bathing offers the ideal activity to get us back to our roots and redress the balance.” (THE LITTLE BOOK OF FOREST BATHING (Andrews McMeel Publishing))

FOREST BATHING IS LEGAL THROUGHOUT CULLMAN COUNTY — and encouraged. We spend a lot of our lives going 90-to-nothing like non-stop Energizer bunnies ™. We keep going and going and going — until we don’t. FOREST BATHING is about “not doing.” Find yourself in a Cullman County forest — literally and spiritually. Find time to quiet your mind and ease into a relaxed, calm mode.

FOREST BATHING research shows that after spending just a brief amount of time among the trees, stress levels are reduced. FOREST BATHING is FREE, effective mental health therapy that is also good for your physical health.

FOREST BATHING can boost your immune system, lower your heart rate and reduce blood pressure. Trees naturally enhance our health. Every medical doctor in Cullman is known for the mantra, “You need to lose some weight.” They should add, “and go for a regular walk in the woods.”

FOREST BATHING is good for your spiritual well-being. Trees link us earthbound humans to the heavens. The peace and serenity of the woods offer the solace of deep reflection within.

“CULTIVATE CULLMAN: The Countywide Arts and Gardening Celebration” suggests these tree-blessed places are THE BEST FOREST BATHING PLACES IN CULLMAN COUNTY:

COLD SPRINGS — SMITH LAKE is the deepest lake in Alabama and along the many miles of natural shoreline are ideal places for deep thoughts, pleasant reflection and calming FOREST BATHING. Although internet service is available, Cold Springs is a splendid spot for a “digital detox.” Except for all the tempting vistas to photograph, leave your smartphone in your pocket and soak up nature with all of your senses as you interact with the surroundings.

“Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” — Albert Einstein

CULLMAN —THE SPORTSMAN LAKE PARK ARBORETUM welcomes you to 5 miles of wooded hiking through 168 acres. It is FREE and Open to All, 365 days a year. FOREST BATHING at its best begins as you stroll through the bright red “Welcome Arbor” of the Wildflower Garden. Turn left just as you go under the arbor, stroll across the bridge, and you will immediately feel the peaceful relaxation under the tall trees. I like to head up to the area with the slow-swaying swings. I stay a while and then enter the woods, which are filled with birdsong near the wetlands bog. The trails and trees invite you to wander and unwind.

“If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.” — Hal Borland

FAIRVIEW — RANDALL SHEDD COMMUNITY PARK has lots of open space used for playgrounds and ballfields but there are still lovely groves of trees at the periphery and some of the most-stately oaks in the county. You will also find considerable shade and solace at the Baileyton Community Park.

“Keep close to nature’s heart…climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” — John Muir

GOOD HOPE — SMITH LAKE PARK, only 7 miles from I-65, feels like a hundred miles from the hurly-burly hustle of modern life. This park is popular for fishing, boating and swimming but also camping under the trees year-round. There are lots of quiet spots for FOREST BATHING in relaxed solitude.

REPEAT: “I am as grounded as the trees that surround me.”

HANCEVILLE — THE MULBERRY FORK of the BLACK WARRIOR RIVER in aptly named, Garden City, offers miles of FOREST BATHING at its finest. Once bustling Highway 31, now much-eclipsed in speed by I-65, is even better for tree-loving, natural beauty-craving travelers. Just a drive through this mesmerizing beauty is soul-lifting. Stop for a hickory-smoked barbecue at Top Hat, a delicious Alabama tradition. Then, walk it off creekside under the trees.

“There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it.” — Washington Irving

HOLLY POND — DUCK RIVER RESERVOIR has 21 miles of hiking and biking trails designed in harmony with the 640-acre man-made lake. There are two boat launches, and the water is nicely stocked for fishing, but one of the most enjoyable offerings at this beautiful, wooded “must-do experience in Alabama,” are the many acres under the tree canopy, quietly FOREST BATHING.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.” — Henry David Thoreau

VINEMONT — HURRICANE CREEK PARK is 70 acres with four seasons of forested beauty. You can enjoy the views at a distance, and for folks fit enough to climb the steep trails, there are many opportunities for FOREST BATHING alone with your thoughts and reflections. Pack your fortifying “trail mix” and enjoy the soothing sounds of the waterfall.

“I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” — Anne Frank

WEST POINT — STEELE ORCHARD has 20 varieties of apples and lovely fruit trees row after row. The apples and the fresh, apple pies are a delicious way to indulge in nature. Apple trees come in all shapes and branch formations. There is beauty in this natural diversity. FOREST BATHING leads one to this sort of positive thinking.

“In nature, nothing is perfect, and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” — Alice Walker

CELEBRATING IN THE WUNDERGARTEN includes culinary storytelling connected to “CULTIVATE CULLMAN: The Countywide Arts and Gardening Celebration.” This recipe salutes the pine forests in these North Alabama hills:




  • 2 logs (4 oz. each) fresh goat cheese
  • 1 carton (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese
  • 6 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 3 oz. (6 tbsp.) chopped prosciutto
  • 3 oz. (6 tbsp.) finely chopped dried figs
  • 3 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped


  1. Combine the first 11 ingredients until well blended.
  2. Shape into 36 balls; roll in pine nuts.
  3. Refrigerate, covered, until serving.


Find all columns in this series at