Easy Peasy Hikes: Mill Creek Greenway

Are you looking for a short, flat, creekside walk within Madison city limits suitable for young children or people with mobility issues?  If so, the Mill Creek Greenway is something you might want to check out.  We asked our friend, Casey the Hound, for his impressions after we took him there recently, and here is his report.

I consider myself an outdoorsy type, and I feel very close to nature.  Well, I am very close to nature, since I stand about knee-high to the upright-walking non-dog members of my pack.  Though my outdoor experiences usually consist of patrolling the back yard, I’m always up for a trip Beyond The Fence.  01in_the_carWhen the pack asked if I wanted to go to Mill Creek Greenway and write about it, it didn’t take much convincing.  Though I typically do my writing in 140 characters (@CaseyTheHound), it would be fun to try my paw in a longer format.  Also, they offered me treats.  I held out for three of them, since that’s the highest number I can count.

02pottiesIt was a short ride to one of the trailheads, at the corner of Browns Ferry and Balch Roads in Madison.  This is the northern end of trail, with a paved parking lot that can accommodate many more cars than I can count.  It has a portable toilet for the non-dogs, and the first of several restroom facilities that you’ll find on this walk for the canine crowd.

03greenway_by_roadFrom the parking lot, take the sidewalk to the Browns Ferry/Balch intersection, then turn left (south) and take the nice wide paved trail to the bridge over the creek.  04bridge_wallI stopped on the bridge to check out the messages and leave a comment of my own.  The honorary dogs in my pack didn’t seem to want to add anything to the conversation.  Oh well, I understand that there are some who don’t like to express themselves in a public forum.

05under_the_bridgeAfter crossing the bridge, you can choose to turn left and loop down and under the bridge, or cross the road and join the greenway without going under the bridge.  Being an adventuresome type, I wanted to go under the bridge, so we went left and made the shallow curving descent to come out by a mostly dry arm of Mill Creek.  Most of the creek is diverted by a culvert so it doesn’t flow under the main span of the bridge.  It’s a shady spot, but we didn’t tarry.  There was so much yet to smell!

06looking_at_creekOn the south side of the bridge, Mill Creek flows along merrily next to the greenway.  I wandered down to check it out and briefly considered a swim, but it was still a little cool for a dip.  You’ll notice in the picture that the creek isn’t that wide (about three Caseys wide), and it would be about shoulder-height on me.

10thepackWe returned to the pavement, and a light breeze brought a thrilling message to my nose.  Dogs!  Four of them, running and playing in a fenced dog park just ahead on the left!  And yes, we were going in!  After a period of getting acquainted, my new expanded pack took me on a tour of the place.  09casey_runningThere are two main areas, one for dogs 25 pounds and over, and one for those under 25 pounds.  Both areas are shady, with picnic tables and benches for the non-dogs, and watering stations.  There’s plenty of room to run over varying surfaces (sand, mulch, grass, and my personal favorite, mud).  07agility_barThere were a few toys scattered around, and the non-dogs were excited about an agility bar that can be adjusted to different heights.  Jumping isn’t my strong suit, but I gave it a try.  I knew there were extra treats lurking in a jacket pocket.

After an all-too-brief visit, it was time to check out the rest of the greenway.  In case you’re not fond of dogs (ha ha, that’s a good one!) you don’t have to stop at the dog park — the greenway runs right past it.   I should point out that every group that we saw on this walk, except for those who were actually jogging, had a dog.  Dogs must be on leash when they are not in the park, but if you have pet hair allergies, bear in mind that this place is a dog magnet.

12winding_walkwayOnce you’ve passed the dog park, the greenway gently winds along the creek, which is a little wider and deeper along this stretch, though it’s still not much more than three plus one Caseys wide, and maybe a little over my head.  14mill_creekIt has a snappy little current, though.  I caught a whiff of several small fish in the water (yes, my nose is that good), which is a good indicator of the stream’s health.  From time to time along the path, there are signs suggesting activities for the pups, encouraging them to use their senses to experience the natural environment.  We saw several young honorary dogs toddling or being wheeled in strollers along this part of the walk.

It was a glorious early spring morning, and a few flowers were blooming on the sides of the path.  I identified some familiar ones that I knew from the yard, such as dandelions and henbit, but also smelled out some birdseye speedwell, and (I swear I’m not making this up) dog violet.

At .55 mile, we arrived at the south end of the greenway, at the intersection of Mill and Balch Roads.  There’s another paved parking lot here, though there’s not a portable toilet on this end.  We turned around at this point and retraced our steps to the north end, putting in a 1.1 mile walk that couldn’t be easier.  This is a level, wide, paved walk along a pretty little creek, tucked in between a neighborhood to the east and undeveloped scrubland to the west.  13tracksLike the other greenways in the area, this is not a place for lone wolves — you won’t find solitude here.  But you’ll find benches placed along the route, flowers and birds, and more than likely, some dogs.  I hope you enjoy it.  As the saying goes, “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but tracks.”

And now, back to my duties on the porch.  Second order of business: to tell all the other dogs in the neighborhood about my adventure.  First order of business, you ask?  Collecting my payment, of course.  I’m a professional writer, after all.21treat




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