Shelby Farms Park covers over 4,500 acres in Memphis, Tennessee making it one of the largest urban parks in the United States. The land has hosted everything from a commune in the 1800s to a penal farm. For fifteen years I have run the roads, trails, woods, and wetlands in baking heat and bitter cold. The stories, rare photos, and never-before-seen videos are mine. You do not need to believe what I am about to tell you, you only need know that I was there.
What if I were to tell you that a place exists, known only to trail bikers and runners of the deep woods where medical supplies from an ancient hospital hang from the branches of the trees. When the rains come new items arise from the undergrowth only to be quickly reclaimed by the forces which wish to keep their secrets. My first experience with this place came when I made my deepest run into the woods after spending several months exploring new and rarely used trails.
Somewhere on the Wilderness Loop Trail, Before the Utility Clearing
To find this place you must take the Wilderness Loop Trail north of Walnut Grove. After several miles take both of the right forks in the trail. The trail will fade out as it is not as heavily used as the others. The branches will close in on you and the trail will narrow until you come to a collapsed bridge over an offshoot of the Wolf River. You turn right at this sunken bridge and your pace will slow as the branches slap your face. You wind back and forth until you return to the offshoot of the river. It is a steep drop and then you work your way through the mud and sand of the bottoms. The climb up requires you to use hands and feet and then at the top of the hill you see the first signs of . . . Bedpan Alley
Was there once a hospital here? Maybe when the prison occupied Shelby Farms a medical facility was here. At the very least, the area was used as a dump for some pretty unusual items. Whenever you come through the narrow trail some new item has appeared in the trees and something else has disappeared. I took running partner and daughter Laura with me and introduced her to the enigmas of the trails.
I do not know who does it. Someone, perhaps knowing of my interest in all things obscure, sets out new items along the path for the viewer to experience. I began to collect a few of the items, trying to find a date or identifying mark that could unravel the puzzle. Perhaps they want to trade? Who knows. You can view the items and decide for yourself what the clues suggest.
If you ever happen to find Bedpan Alley, you too may want to take some of the offerings of the woods with you. Hopefully, whatever gives up the secrets of the forest will not visit you looking for the return of the treasures. Maybe some secrets were meant to stay in the deep woods of Shelby Farms Park.