Kentucky Transplant Diaries: Blast to Kentucky’s natural past

Published 12:40 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

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About 20 minutes from Main Street, Nicholasville, among the horse farms and rolling Kentucky hills, there is a little piece of heaven.

Raven Run Nature Sanctuary is an escape from the concrete-clad, vehicle-induced pollution-filled cities and towns we’re all far too familiar with.

During quarantine in 2020, I hardly remember going outside if not for work or groceries. Sure, my roommates and my partner and I would take walks together maybe once a week. But, for the most part, I felt suffocated by my four eggshell walls. They seemed to consume me in their vast blankness.

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Living and breathing in a state of deep grief didn’t help the motivation for fresh air. The loss of my college years while still having to show up as an “essential worker,” the loss of personal growth and most tragically, the loss of a close loved one had me feeling like my feet had been submerged in concrete during a 48-hour slumber.

Since quarantine has ended, it feels like we have all been shoved back into the rat race, subjected to the utmost goal of becoming a girl boss or grinding day in and day out and it’s treated as something to be proud and passionate about, a way to identify ourselves.

But I’m still chugging along in my concrete boots, having suppressed the desire to grieve- just like everyone else in this country – or at least the vast majority of us.

Now more than ever, we need to reconnect. We have had to separate ourselves from our minds, each other and our Earth for so long just to survive, to pay rent, to feed ourselves, to pay for our healthcare.

Raven Run Nature Sanctuary, in my experience, is the most spiritually grounding thing to do in the central Bluegrass region. So often, we are forced to navigate our days mindlessly, but Raven Run puts me in the middle of a sea of trees, turkeys and deer and reminds me how beautiful life is when we get to stop and breathe.

At 734 acres, Raven Run is a nature sanctuary that aims to preserve the natural beauty of the Kentucky River Palisades. It is free of charge with over ten miles of trails, 600 species of plants, and 200 species of birds among many other creatures. Each time I visit, I happen upon a herd of deer at the beginning of my hike. It’s almost as if the natural world is welcoming me to a protected part of its home.

The trails truly have every element of nature one would expect to see on a Kentucky hike. There are creeks, streams, waterfalls, trailblazer-made stairs created from large flat rocks, cliffs and overlooks onto the Kentucky River.

It may be cold now, but very soon, Raven Run will be home to one of the most special spring scenes in the region. Seriously, Snow White’s hideout has got nothing on the flower bowl. The flower bowl is labeled as a moderately strenuous trail, but at only 1.8 miles, I think it’s worth it to see tons of flowers in all different shades of purple. To enjoy this trail, it would probably be best to go when it’s a bit warmer and the flowers have started to bloom, in April and May.

My second favorite Raven Run destination is the Kentucky River Overlook. It’s a moderately difficult two-mile hike that ends on a rocky cliff looking over the Kentucky River. Bring a journal or a book and enjoy the overlook for a while before hiking back to the car, you will not regret it.

For those who need something accessible, the sanctuary does not have much, but it does have the Freedom Trail. It is less than a mile and an easy hike. It is accessible for people looking for a calm walk or those with strollers or wheelchairs. Here, you will pass through a cedar grove and a babbling creek.

I have just listed a few destinations, but there are plenty more to see and countless trail combinations to create yourself so you can have multiple unique hikes.

Raven Run is located at 3885 Raven Run Way in Lexington. From January through March, the park opens at 9 a.m. and the trail entrance closes at 4 p.m., and the trails themselves close at 4:30 p.m. Starting in April, the entrance gate will stay open until 5 p.m. and the trails until 5:30 p.m. For more information, head to the sanctuary’s website at

It is important, I think, to carve out some time in the week to be the only human surrounded by a society of trees and other flora and fauna. Roots growing from our feet, digging into the land, reminding us of our humanity.

This column centers the opinions and experiences of a Kentucky and Jessamine County transplant from Orlando, Florida. Gillian Stawiszynski comes from a land known for the “Florida Man”, its plentiful alligators and Disney’s swamplands. She experienced a culture shock upon moving to Kentucky, a state that strangely has a more southern culture (and far more ice storms) than her home, much closer to Earth’s Tropic of Cancer. Although she misses salamanders, beach air, and Publix’s arroz con leche, she has spent the past five years engulfed in Kentucky’s beauty and intrigue.