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Wonder & Wander: Forest Therapy family activity in Nashville region

Lewis County, TN - December 21, 2020 near Hohenwald

In today's fast-paced technologically connected society, learning to slow down and reconnect with time spent in nature is a much needed digital detox process.

Nature abounds in middle-Tennessee, but what you'll find at Camp Wonder Wander is 17 acres of lovely rolling hill terrain of the Western Highland Rim featuring forest, meadow, bamboo grove, pasture - tamed and untamed, and access to the Buffalo river with about 500 feet of private access along a rocky river basin. The difference between venturing out on your own into a park or other natural environment, or choosing a guided experience is that a guide will help transform your experience into an immersion. The camp offers two types of nature immersion activities that last between an hour and 3 hours that could also be combined. In an easy day trip from the heart of Nashville or choose to camp or stay at the lodge, this outing will be truly memorable for you, your family, your friends, or your work mates.

The naturalist walk is an introduction to the environment specific to the place in the Western Highland Rim and the Buffalo river watershed will depend on the season as to what aspects may be featured with the trees, moss/lichen, geology and river habitat being the consistent pleasure all year round. Certified by Tennessee Naturalist Program, your guide Val will take you on a little hunt for natural treasures with a little bit of nature story as an active learning immersion experience. On the other hand, Forest Therapy is a sensory experience through a series of simple invitations you will be encouraged to slow down and notice all of the minor details of your surroundings. Most of us in this fast-paced world have a hard time slowing down, so with the assistance of your guide, Val who is certified by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy guides and Programs, you'll have a few hours of exploring, wondering, and wandering.

What is Forest Therapy?
Have you heard the term "Forest Bathing" or "Shinrin-yoku"? This is the Japanese terminology for a similar nature immersion that inspired Forest Therapy. In the 1980s, with the height of an economy that resulted in a mass amount of people flocking to the cities and working in office buildings, the Japanese government began to notice an increase of health problems from cancer to high blood pressure. They decided to do a study with test groups and in the process discovered something fantastic about being in nature. They discovered that trees emit what's called "Phytonocides"which "are active substances that protect plants from rotting, being eaten up by certain insects or animals, and even help plants fight disease" ( The Japanese discovered that by spending time in a forest or in fresh air for lengths of time aids humans in developing NK cells (natural killer cells) which help an array of health issues. Therefore, the Japanese wants its citizens to 'bathe' in the air of the forest.

In this article on, another certified guide explains "As human beings, we’re not designed to reside in boxes… Most of our time on this earth has been spent with exposure to natural light, full spectrum UV light, and trees,” Goldman points out. "So it makes sense that spending time in nature “just makes for healthier people,” she says. The Japanese indigenous culture and land is immersed in native forests. Prior to industrialized society we humans resided more in nature and Forest Therapy guided sessions are a link to these benefits of nature.

How does it work?

Take the scenic drive from where you reside to Camp Wonder Wander which is 15 miles southwest of Hohenwald, TN or choose one of several entrances/exits to nearby historic Natchez Trace Parkway if you are able to take that nature immersive drive at some point on your route. The best schedule for Forest Therapy is arriving approximately 12:30pm. The walk is slow and encourages you to engage all senses. A portion of the walk includes a visit to the Buffalo River and the immense mass of rocks on the river basin. The guided session lasts approximately 3 hours long depending on the size of the group (limited to 8 maximum). At the conclusion of the experience, you'll be introduced to some of the Camp donkeys prior to departing. If you would like to pack a picnic lunch and arrive early, that is encouraged. Or, let us assist in your meal planning and preparation.

Can I camp or stay overnight?

Each guest is encouraged to stay longer than a few hours if you can coordinate this in your schedule. It's a true digital detox and immersive experience for kids of all ages and to revisit the kid inside of the adults as well. Overnight options include camping or a fully furnished lodge. If you are interested in camping you can bring your own camper/trailer/schoolie for a prime spot to see the donkeys in their habitat, or choose to bring your own tents and find a quiet spot on the primitive 12 acre campground portion of the camp. If you prefer a roof over your head, beds to sleep in, a functioning kitchen and bathrooms, then choose the lodging option. For those staying longer than a few hours, you can add on workshops such as pottery or additional walks including the naturalist or a tour of the camp including raised bed vegetable garden with fruit trees, chickens, and the peafowl couple.


"After a tough nine months as a nurse during COVID, I finally decided to take a week off of work. Our older son has been having a hard time with Kindergarten but has started showing improvement academically over the last month, so I decided that we should visit a farm because of his love of animals and nature. Val had posted in a mutual group about availability and I contacted her immediately. This was one of the best choices I’ve made in a long while! She was such a gracious host to us and very cognizant of the importance of distancing and masking during this pandemic. I felt that I and my family were very safe the whole time. We loved meeting and interacting with all of the animals, the coziness of the Lemon Lodge, the clearest stargazing I’ve seen in years, and our absolutely glorious forest therapy which included vivid moss, deep listening to the sounds of the breeze, a glistening funnel spider web, the discovery of carnelian and other amazing rocks at the river, and a closing tea ceremony with the most wonderful homemade mint tea! We plan to go back on a regular basis moving forward, as both boys were very sad to leave after only one night! Take advantage of this amazing place if you can — it’s absolutely worth it!!" - Allison Stillwell Young, Nashville 12/6/2020 

"This is the best birthday ever!"- 4 yrs, Collins 11/21/20


"I want to stay here for 1000 days" - 6 yrs, Carter 11/21/20


What is Camp Wonder Wander?

It is a nature immersion creativity retreat center established in 2018 in the rural rolling hills of the Western Highland Rim in Lewis County, TN. The nearby town, Hohenwald (named by the German settlers meaning "High Forest"), and a few entrances to the historic Natchez Trace Parkway, are approximately 20 minutes driving distance. Founded and currently operated by Val Sloan who is a former Graphic Design Professor with additional background in hospitality and scouting who is your certified guide for the nature immersion options. She believes that rewarding experiences occur when we get LOST – lost in thought, lost in a good book, lost in translation, lost in conversation, lost in place, and most definitely lost in the moment while lost in nature.


Born out of the desire for a quiet inspirational place to commune with nature and be reinvigorated as a creative person and human being not human doing, this 17-acre slice of beauty and serenity is the actualization of a dream to create a community for camaraderie and creative endeavors of various forms that also features a growing artist residency program. Val actually walked away from a tenured position as a professor to traverse an unpaved path with nature and creativity as the primary mission. A people person with a background of working with individuals and families starting at the early age of 13 and beyond in such roles as Girl Scout leader and even a nanny, as well as more than 20 years as a faculty mentor and student advisor in small liberal arts institutions she is beyond excited to extend her hospitality to you and your friends, family, or work mates into a unique nature immersion experience.


Val is a certified Forest Therapy guide by ANFT and also completing naturalist certification by the Tennessee Naturalist Program in 2021. In her own lifelong learning endeavors, she has been inspired in her methods in coaching and guiding from attending design and teaching conferences to reading books such as "The Creative Habit" by Twyla Tharp and "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.

In conclusion, it's important to remember that Forest Therapy guided sessions is a slow process whereby participants are re-introduced to nature in a sensory immersion rather than a naturalist walk. These are much different than a traditional hike in the woods. Getting away from screens into a digital detox is beneficial and there is no age limit to who can participate. Sessions may be scheduled on a first come first serve basis with at least 48 hour notice with priority given to those who are also extending their stay to at least one night of camping or lodging. If you are interested in this experience closer to home, please contact Val for options of coordinating an experience in your favorite park or even with your network such as a school group.

Camp Wonder Wander is open year round.

Name of Press Contact: Valerie Sloan

Phone: 931-321-3520


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