Oct 07 2007
Saline, MI is a nice, medium-sized bedroom community just to the south of the City of Ann Arbor. The town has many very nice parks, downtown shops and restaurants and a rather quirky calendar of events. Among these is a Celtic festival that capitalizes on the city’s sister-city relationship with Brecon, Wales.
Like most areas close to Ann Arbor, Saline has tried to build a solid selection of parks. While Saline does not have the fantastic pedestrian possibilities of an area like Chelsea, there are some very nice spots.
Today, I decided to walk a familiar route along the Saline River through Curtiss Park and Mill Pond Park. I parked at Curtiss Park on the south side of US-12 on the west side of Saline.
From there, I walked north and crossed US-12. This is as dangerous a crossing as one is likely to encounter while hiking in SE Michigan. The traffic is heavy. Driver vision is somewhat limited due to a hill to the east. And the westbound lanes are just completing a rather nerve-wracking merge. So, be careful if you cross here.
Once on the other side of US-12, the route becomes very peaceful. Mill Pond Park is located on the Saline River floodplain. The river has cut a very steep set of hills just beyond the floodplain. So, it has the feel that you are hiking in a stadium or bowl.
The scenery is quite good. A dam is found near US-12. Then, the route curves west and north along a mill pond. Fishing seems popular and the place has a very peaceful feel. A dog park makes the park popular with canine owners. And a community play structure makes the kids happy. The accoutrements, however, do not detract from the pedestrian experience.
The hills have some very nice homes on top. These add to the scenery of the area. They are distant and a heavily wooded ridge line separates the hilltop neighborhoods from the park.
At the northern end of Mill Pond Park, there are some very interesting scenic locations. Several streams enter the mill pond. This necessitates several bridges. Also, these streams have a rocky, gurgling quality to them. If you want rushing water similar to the sounds of waterfalls, this is a good nearby option.
Several possible spur routes can be taken from the north. A fence blocks some trails that head north along a condominium complex. I am not sure about the legality of using this trail. It is not marked against trespass. However, it certainly does not seem to be a part of the park.
A walker can also add mileage by taking W. Bennett Street up the hill and into some neighborhoods. In future visits, I will explore some land near the St. Joseph’s Hospital complex that might make for some nice spurs.
The park also has a cool hill option in its NE corner. Two hill paths take an extremely steep route up and down the valley ridge. Given the lack of really good terrain in much of SE Michigan, it is worth a trip up and down. Strangely, the local cross country teams have painted encouraging names and messages on trees on one path. This does not add to the natural splendor of the route.
Once at the bottom of the hill, the walker backtracks to Curtiss Park.
Curtiss Park is a nice complement to the wide, mowed quality of Mill Pond Park. It has a dam and some nice sections of rapids. This is a city park, so there are tennis courts, play structures and picnic facilities, but again, these have been nicely integrated into the natural aspects of the property.
Several nice fishing piers line the Saline River here and, again, heavy woods and the river valley shelter the park from the road and nearby development. As one heads south into the deepest sections of the park, the hiker will find the Max Adler Trail. This trail has been in existence for years, but a local Girl Scout troop created some tree identification signs in 2005.
The Adler Trail is the most natural of any of the trails in this hike. The system makes several loops along the Saline River through thick woods. It is quite pleasant and very natural.
After completing the Adler Trail, a hiker can loop a secluded baseball field. There is a small offshoot path from the SE corner of the ballfield. This continues to follow the Saline River through private land and onto Monroe Street. Additional mileage can be added by hiking south on the road right-of-way along Monroe to the Huntington Woods subdivision. Sidewalks and paths make this a decent bonus loop.
Once back into Curtiss Park, a hiker has another long spur option. As one nears the start of the original loop, a walker can walk up a medium-steep hill into Saline’s Oakwood Cemetary. This is a very nice cemetary with hundred year old vaults, hilly terrain and lots of history. A hiker can head straight through the cemetary to Monroe Street or follow a more leisurely loop route.
Once at Monroe Street, a hiker needs to head south on Monroe Street and cross to the City of Saline’s Peoples’ Park. This park has a straight route through some woods to S. Ann Arbor Street. A hiker can head north into Downtown Saline, but I’d recommend an easterly and southerly route through neighborhoods along Pleasant Ridge Drive and Oak Creek Drive to Wilderness Park.
Wilderness Park does not quite live up to its name. The forest is pleasant, but not spectacular. The trails – three loops labeled red, green and blue – are wide and of the mowed-grass variety. And some of the trails follow close to the backyards of several Saline homeowners. Still, this is quite a wild place for a city as developed as Saline.
A walker will even spot a decent-sized pond in the southern sections of Wilderness Park. In the future, Saline plans to connect this route to Curtiss Park via a state fish hatchery on Saline-Milan Road. This does not exist yet and the state land is closed to public access, so a hiker must backtrack after leaving Wilderness Park.
In all, it is possible to hike anywhere from three to ten miles by using these options. There are, of course, more if city sidewalks are added. But these are the best in the area right now.
Be sure to take a look at the Saline parks and pathways map below:
Here is my rough Virtual Earth Map of the various routes discussed above:
This is the map of the Max Adler Trail created by the Girl Scouts in Curtiss Park:
This is the map found at the start of the Wilderness Park trail system. Just to help you orient your vision, the road on the left side is Willis Road. The road along the bottom of the picture is Saline-Milan Road:
Here is a hike report about this area that I posted a few years back on the Great Lakes Hikes yahoo group: