A few years back, the Centers for Disease Control anounced approvingly that 145 million Americans walk for exercise. But a good hike should be more than racking up steps on a Fitbit or Apple Watch. An amble though our towns can lead deep into history, past neighborhood gardens, or along woodland trails. We asked three local writers to take us along on their favorite walks in Dexter, Chelsea, and Saline.


From in-town walks to the off-road Washtenaw County Border-to-Border Trail (B2B), Dexter is a walker’s paradise. The paths connect more than geography–they connect the past with the present.

Start downtown at the end of Grand and Broad streets, near Forest Lawn Cemetery. You’ll find graves dating back to the 1820s, including the resting place of Dexter’s founder, judge Samuel W. Dexter (1792-1863); Calvin Fillmore, brother to president Millard Fillmore, who helped design and build Dexter’s Gordon Hall; and Col. Harrison Jeffords of the 4th Michigan Infantry, who was killed in the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.

Ric Foley, thirty-two, who lives near Baker and Grand, walks with his two dogs around the cemetery twice a day. “They like the walk, and so do I,” he says.

From the cemetery, head toward Mill Creek, alongside which Sam Dexter built his first mill and a cabin in 1825, just about where the old Mill Creek Sport Center stands. Today, thanks to the 2008 removal of the Mill Creek dam, walkers can enjoy a lovely paved path through Mill Creek Park, where wooden walkways and bridges extend over wetlands and waterways. This spring, a pair of Canada geese built their nest on top of a muskrat den there.

Numerous bluebird houses are placed around the creek; red-winged blackbirds are abundant; outdoor art lines the path, and you may see beavers, fish, turtles, muskrats, and more. Kris Nicolich, forty-eight, a regular Dexter walker, saw an otter climbing up the bank just north of Main St.

When Nicholich and her family moved to Dexter from Royal Oak, they chose a home in West Ridge to be near the B2B trail. “I’ll usually walk about five miles a day,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll walk downtown to get a coffee. Sometimes I head out toward Hudson Mills [Metropark]. My husband and son are runners and are out all the time. We love it here.”

In Mill Creek Park, there’s a play area for kids, steps leading down to the river, picnic tables and benches, and a large stairway leading up to the Dexter Library and the Dexter Farmers Market (open Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings). If you like to walk with others, the Dexter Wellness Coalition (part of the 5 Healthy Towns initiative) sponsors a walk at 9 a.m. the second Saturday of the month starting at the library, with routes between one and five miles.

Head up the steps to the library and turn right into downtown Dexter and Main St. If it’s morning, you might want to consider peeking in the Dexter Bakery (pretzels!); later in the day, join the line at Dairy Queen.

Take Main St. to Central to access the southern part of the B2B trail, just north of the railroad tracks and across from the Dexter Cider Mill. This stretch runs 1.25 miles to the small but lovely Dexter-Huron Metropark. It’s my favorite walk, with wildlife, a beautiful bridge over the Huron River, interesting rocks, and, during the Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival (August 15-20 this year), artists painting.

Longtime Dexter resident Sherry Dickerson, seventy-two, retired schoolteacher and counselor, has been walking Dexter for decades. “I like our new path [to Dexter-Huron]. Often I just walk the streets. I have different paths and know how long they are. I usually walk during the day, but in the winter, I’ll go out with my neighbor when she gets home from work. It’s dark, but there are streetlights and people around. These days, I like to do about a three-mile walk.”

Dexter posts a city walking map on its website, dextermi.gov, with half a dozen routes ranging from 1.4 to 4.1 miles.


Ten minutes north of downtown Chelsea is one of the “finest natural areas in southeastern Michigan,” boasts a Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission brochure. Park Lyndon has sections north and south of North Territorial Rd., each with a parking lot, picnic shelters, and play areas. What you discover along the miles of sign-posted nature trails will depend on how you hike.

Take off at a fast pace and you’ll fully experience the rugged glacial topography. Park Lyndon is a surprisingly hilly place, thanks to terrain created during the waning of the last Ice Age. Retired county naturalist Matt Heumann explains that this was an “interlobate region,” surrounded by glaciers more than a mile thick. He compares the area to a “giant ice cube tray.” Huge blocks of ice tumbled down and were surrounded by rocky debris dropped by the glacier. The resulting topography is key to what Heumann calls “incredible biodiversity” in the park now.

Sand collected in ice channels in the glaciers, forming winding ridges called eskers. Follow the spur trail toward the north boundary of Park Lyndon North, about a quarter-mile from the parking lot, and you’ll be on top of an esker with a good view of the surrounding wetlands.

Large blocks of ice melted away, creating “kettle lakes.” One of them, Lake Genevieve in Park Lyndon South, makes a scenic destination for a one- or two-mile hike. The trail leads to overlooks 100 feet above the lake and to platforms at the lakeshore, where migrating ducks can be seen in the spring and fall, and sandhill cranes, wood ducks, and mallards during the summer. If you are quiet, a muskrat may swim by, collecting material for a den or feeding on water plants.

Hiking at a slower pace makes it easier to spot spring wildflowers and birds. Carol Goodman, a regular visitor to Park Lyndon, noticed uncommon bird’s-foot violets blooming in sandy soil at the top of an esker during a walk in April. She’ll be finding orchids, like yellow or white lady’s-slippers, and pink calopogon, through June, and looking forward to spectacular wood lilies and Michigan lilies in the wetland areas on the north side of the park later in the summer.

Dozens of species of migrating songbirds visit the park in the spring. Many continue north, but some stay for the summer. Mature oak trees are a nesting area for relatively rare cerulean warblers, which are more easily heard than seen while they are establishing territories. Phoebes are easy to spot, as they usually nest in the eaves of the picnic shelters. Buntings, orioles, and tanagers provide flashes of color in the trees.

Turkey vultures often float in lazy circles overhead. They are easily distinguished by their v-shaped wing position and the way they tip back and forth in flight. Occasionally a bald eagle will soar by as well, probably attracted by fishing opportunities in nearby South Lake.

The diverse ecosystems of the park continued to develop after the Ice Age, as erosion, evolution, and human intervention changed the landscape. The land was regularly affected by fires, often purposely started by Native Americans. A fire-tolerant ecosystem of widely dispersed oak trees, prairie grasses, and ephemeral wildflowers developed.

After white settlers arrived, the land was mostly logged and put to agricultural use. The interlobate area was “marginal land,” Heumann says, so much of it was used for grazing rather than farming, making Lyndon Township a leading sheep producer in the nineteenth century.

When farms failed during the Great Depression, the state acquired large tracts of land. Some became state recreation areas, including the Pinckney Recreation Area, which surrounds Park Lyndon.

The area that is now the park was turned over to Washtenaw County in 1964. Now the parkland is gradually being restored to something more like its presettlement condition.

“It is post-agricultural land–still in recovery,” says county parks naturalist Shawn Severance. She says the county is looking for volunteers to help with land restoration and stewardship projects. Crews have been removing invasive shrubs and trees and burning sections of the park, to re-create the fire-tolerant oak savanna ecology. This creates living space for creatures that have been dwindling due to habitat loss, such as the shy Massasauga rattlesnake.

“The seed bank is amazingly resilient,” Heumann says. In the areas that were never plowed, native species return naturally when the conditions are right.

If you’re looking for an extended hike, there’s no need to stop at the Park Lyndon boundary. Its trails connect to the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail, which runs for thirty-six miles through southeastern Michigan.

Maps are available at ewashtenaw.org (search for “Park Lyndon”) and at the park.


A giant map anchors a prominent corner of KeyBank at Saline’s main downtown intersection, with a legend offering walkers fourteen different routes. A new three-mile route goes through some of the city’s most historic neighborhoods, past a few of its most recognized landmarks, and into one of its loveliest parks, where there are up to a further three miles of marked trails.

This route begins and ends downtown. While it’s mostly flat, there are two undulating hills as you head south on S. Ann Arbor St.

It’s fun trying to spot the small bronze plaques identifying historic homes. A favorite is a large yellow house, built in 1873 in an architectural style known as Italianate Villa, with ample front and side porches and thoughtfully laid-out gardens. Other homes reflects styles ranging from Queen Anne to Gothic to Greek Revival. Agnes Dikeman, administrator at the Rentschler Farm Museum and active in the Saline Area Historical Society, attributes the great variety to “a combination of different builders and of the various decades in which these houses were built.”

Down the last hill and across Willis Rd. is twenty-two-acre Wilderness Park. A sign at the main entrance displays three different color-coded trails to help orient walkers. One loop goes to a pond on the park’s southwest border.

Walkers, joggers, and dog walkers on the park’s wide mown trails are treated to diverse birdsong ricocheting through the treetops. A swath of lawn holds picnic tables, benches, a drinking fountain, a cooking grill, and a portable restroom.

Saline parks director Carla Scruggs says the park has benefited over the years from Boy Scouts who have put up bat houses, bluebird houses, and trail markers. “The more people we have in our parks, the better maintained they will be,” says Scruggs, adding that it also deters vandalism.

As you leave Wilderness Park, cross Willis and walk north on Rosemont Ave. until it dead-ends at Pleasant Ridge Dr. Take a right and then a quick left onto Old Creek Dr. These are neighborhoods of modest homes, well-maintained yards, and quiet streets. About half a mile north, Old Creek intersects E. Henry St., on which sits one of Saline’s most iconic landmarks–the Davenport-Curtiss mansion, built in 1875 in the Second Empire style, with a tower and a mansard roof. The mansion and its beautifully manicured grounds take up a full block, with a matching carriage house and stable off E. Henry. The home is still privately owned by the Curtiss family and has only been opened twice to the public. “That’s one of the first questions people ask,” Dikeman says of new visitors to Rentschler Farm. “‘What is that big house and can you go through it?'”

Continue east on E. Henry for two blocks and right onto Harris St. Cross Michigan Ave. at the light and continue about a quarter-mile to the Depot Trail, clearly marked with a sign. Look down the now-abandoned train track and you’ll see a red caboose sitting just north of the Depot Museum.

The first train arrived in Saline on July 4, 1870, four years after the village was incorporated. Service ended in 1981. Today, the gray-shingled Gothic Revival depot building is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday and hosts a restored carriage, a farm wagon, and displays of farm tools used in the 1800s. Also on the grounds are a yellow livery stable, moved from its original site downtown; a replica of an old-style outhouse; and an old windmill.

Walk east past the depot to N. Ann Arbor St. and turn left, or south, back to the main downtown intersection and through one of the most historic neighborhoods in Saline. The Art Deco-style Union School, at the corner of N. Ann Arbor and McKay streets, was built in 1930 as a K-12 school; it’s now the headquarters of Quantum Signal, a product-development firm. From here, it’s just one block back to the starting point at the main downtown intersection.

On the south side of Michigan Ave. are the historic Union and Wallace blocks, rebuilt in brick in the late 1880s after a fire destroyed the previous wood structures, some of which dated to 1830. In the late 1990s, the handsome brick Italianate buildings were renovated and now house more than a dozen local businesses. One of those in the Wallace block is the Carrigan Cafe. Within a block in any direction downtown, it’s easy to find a coffee or a brew, seafood or Italian food, pizza or a burger. After a brisk walk, you’ve earned it.