Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Walking the Monon Trail

I’ve never been real big on the Monon Trail, mostly because I used to think that it was boring compared to walking around downtown or here in Irvington; and it is boring compared to downtown and Irvington, but it’s not altogether boring, especially if you’re walking with a stroller. I don’t know how many times we have walked the Monon Trail since Jackson was born, but it can’t have been many. Either that, or we’ve taken so many more walks around Irvington with the stroller, since the last time we were on the Monon, that I have managed to forget the advantages of a long, flat, paved stretch of abandoned railroad track.

Irvington has much to recommend it, but its sidewalks are not among those recommendations. There are a lot of trees in Irvington that have been growing for well over one hundred years, and the roots of those trees have shifted many a sidewalk skyward - so that the sidewalks in places vaguely resemble the streets of San Francisco. Yes, there are old houses and winding streets, those beautiful trees and quiet parks, and cute little shops, the library, and (arguably) the best pizza and coffee in town - but very little of that is conducive to taking a walk while pushing a stroller. And those little cup-holders they put at the back of the stroller, for mom and dad? Yeah, those were not designed for off-roading, which is an apt description of running the gauntlet of sidewalks in Irvington.

The Monon may be boring, but you can set your coffee cup down with confidence, and it’s also possible that the smooth, even pavement may well lull your little one off to sleep. Jackson has some kind of pathological aversion to sleeping anywhere but in his crib, but he dozed off for some time while we were walking the Monon a couple of Sundays ago. And the parts of the trail that I thought were going to be sketchy turned out not to be sketchy at all - at least as far as we got. In fact, you could almost think you had become lost in a state park on some of the bits of the trail just south of 38th Street - except for the fact that the trail is paved. And you might still be able to hear the cars whizzing by on 38th Street. I’m just sayin’. It’s that nice. See?

Bridge over Fall Creek, just below 38th Street

"I can see the water!"

It’s also possible that your wee little one might want to get out of the stroller and frolic all about. The Monon Trail can accommodate this in ways that the sidewalks of downtown and Irvington simply (and safely!) cannot. Following are some shots of Jackson in full frolic.

Jackson runs the Monon near the State Fairgrounds

We picked up the trail in Broad Ripple, with no particular destination in mind, and took it south to just below 38th Street, which was a bit farther south on it than we had been before. One of these days we’re going to take it all the way to downtown, but that’s an awfully long round trip when you start in Broad Ripple. Probably would take some advance planning or something. That leg of the Monon comes to an end near the intersection of 10th Street and Mass Ave, which is also where one leg of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is going to come to an end. It doesn’t look to me like those two places connect naturally, which means they’ll have to build some kind of connection between them - maybe a bridge of some sort? I don’t know.

There’s also something called the Fall Creek Greenway, which was new to me (but which we did not explore - this time). The Indy Parks Greenways Trail User’s Guide (PDF) describes it as a trail that could wind up being a little over nine miles long, connecting downtown to Geist Reservoir. According to the map in the guide, the part that has already been built runs northeast - from where it intersects the Monon just below 38th Street - along Fall Creek to the Skiles Test Nature Park. Bits of the trail that have not been built yet would run it through Fort Ben up toward Geist, and then southwest of the Monon toward downtown, also along Fall Creek.

Fall Creek Greenway

There have been some stories of crime along parts of the Monon Trail between 38th Street and downtown, but I haven’t seen a single stretch of it yet that has given me pause. It’s certainly possible that I’ll see stretches of it that are sketchy, especially as we explore more of the trail between 38th Street and downtown; but if people frequent the trails and keep them heavily populated, crime should remain a minor concern - and you might just be surprised by how much nature still remains in the city.

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