I went over to Parker Mill Park on New Year’s Day with the idea of stretching my lazy winter legs. The park entrance is on Geddes Rd. just east of Dixboro Rd. From the parking lot, a path led down past the old mill buildings to a restored log cabin.

Just past the log cabin the path forked, and I chose the well-signed branch toward Gallup Park and a river walk. A word of caution: though most of this trail is almost as flat as my feet, the stretch from parking lot to fork is downhill (and uphill on the way back), and all of the paths within Parker Mill Park can be very snowy or icy on winter days.

The Parker Mill Park path is somewhat older, with a bit of wooden boardwalk and an arched pedestrian bridge. You’ll know when you’ve entered Ann Arbor’s jurisdiction: the Gallup Park path, part of the county’s Border-to-Border Trail, looks like a one-lane blacktopped road. City parks planner Amy Kuras explains that this stretch was recently widened from eight to ten feet to accommodate heavy use. Importantly, there is ongoing winter maintenance.

On New Year’s Day, I shared it with a veritable promenade of joggers, walkers, canines, and cyclists. Even after the widening, it can be challenging at times: bicycles can come up suddenly from behind, and there is the potential for entanglement with dogs on leashes and with wandering children. Signs ask cyclists to announce their presence, either vocally or by ringing a bell, but many don’t.

There are sights of all kinds along this walk in winter. Depending on the day, you may see melting ice sheets providing ever-changing abstract patterns on the river or dramatic clouds punctuating a vividly blue winter sky.

Closer up, I saw bright red berries, many cradled in opened yellow capsules. I sent a photo to Becky Gajewski, Natural Area Preservation stewardship specialist, who identified them as bittersweet and explained that the yellow capsules mark them as the invasive and pervasive oriental variety; capsules on the rarer American bittersweet are orange. On the older Parker Mill path during a snow-free spell, I also spotted patches of emerald green mosses on small boulders and tree trunk bases.

Among the man-made structures visible on this walk, two distinctive red buildings on Concordia University’s campus near the Skyline crew’s docks caught my eye. The Modern-style campus chapel offers yet more visual appeal.

The Gallup part of the path is about a mile; the whole walk from one park into the other is around a mile and a half, or a three-mile round trip. A wintering bluebird flew across ahead of me on New Year’s Day–a good omen for the year.