Memphis Walk North(east)


For the third year in a row, some friends and I have headed out from the cobblestones at the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis and walked, more or less, in a single direction. After going east in 2007 and south in 2008, we headed north-ish this year, looking to take in the northern reaches of the city, such as Greenlaw, Frayser, Raleigh, and then the suburbs beyond, such as Bartlett and Lakeland.

One big difference about the walk this year had to do with the temperature. I’ve had an unusually busy past few months, and this was the first weekend where it was possible to find a weekend day to do the walk. Unfortunately, it is also December, which usually means cold, even in Memphis, so it was a bit more brisk than the other walks, which were done in October. At sunrise, when we set off, the temperature was still a few degrees below freezing.


Despite the cold, some of the trees are still turning colors, like this one in front of the city government building on Main Street. We left the cobblestones and headed up into the hill into downtown, taking a left on Main Street and following it until we could cut over to Chelsea.


Did I mention that it was cold? It is hard to see in this picture of Richie and Robert, but there actually is steam coming out of the sewer, which is relatively rare, even in the winter in Memphis.

Chelsea is one of the more interesting, and disadvantaged, streets in Memphis. Sights like this Ford Explorer with a missing window and back tire are common. One could wonder which one went first.


Abandoned infrastructure was abundant, like this abandoned railroad bridge near Chelsea at Watkins.


Walking up Watkins toward Overton Crossing, we stopped to check out the trollies that looked as if they had been used for parts for the current MATA downtown trollies. Interestingly, all of these were covered in Spanish. It wasn’t clear if they has previously been in service in Mexico, Spain, or somewhere else.


A lot of the route was long and straight, such as this stretch of Watkins as it crosses the Wolf River. We talked about having seen this bridge from our Urban Wolf trip several years ago.


The small community of Rugby in North Memphis provided some of the most interesting sights of the trip, such as this large brick post that marked the entrance to the area.


Rugby is pretty disadvantaged, as is the neighboring community of Frayser. We came across several houses (and apartment buildings) with the doors kicked in and who knows what going on inside of them. At least the number of random loose dogs running around was pretty low, though the cold may have helped with that. A number of properties in the area are in bad shape. I wonder how much this one goes for…


I can never pass up a chance to get a picture of myself next to an interesting topiary. This one is outside a pet grooming place on Frayser Blvd.


One unexpected thing was the abundance of wildlife. We got a photo of this deer in a field right off of Frayser Blvd, while it was down in a field, searching for food.


The town of Bartlett marked the edge of Memphis and brought with it long stretches of stretches of Yale Road, where there was nothing to see but suburban houses, churches, schools, and more churches.


As we prepared to turn off of Yale Road and head up Summer Avenue toward Appling Road, Robert and Richie took a short rest. We didn’t take much downtime during this walk, just a coffee break in Frayser and a BBQ meal in Bartlett. The rest of the time, we were on the move.


Dave was out riding his motorcycle nearby, so he joined us for a bite at Fat Larry’s BBQ in Bartlett. They serve a very good representation of Memphis bar-b-que, and while not the best I’ve ever had, I was famished, and it really hit the spot.


Being winter, the sun started going down pretty early, so we tried to make up time by crossing fields, with the hope of getting to Lakeland by dusk.


We crossed the Memory Hill cemetery at sunset, and I got this shot of the fountain and ducks in the last few minutes of sunlight.


After crossing through some woods, we were eventually turned back by the growing darkness and the desire not to be shot by the wacky cul-de-sac McMansion owners whose yards we were going to have to cut through. By the end, we had Lakeland in sight, but a fence and some horse standing the woods marked the last point of our advance, and fearing a trespassing charge, we headed back the road and out to Germantown Parkway, for a gracious pickup by Dave, who had gone home for his car.


The total mileage for the walk was 22 miles, which easily makes it our longest walk to date. We were all sore and stiff at the end, but I found myself contemplating the route of next year’s trip on the way home. There is simply so much left of the city to explore.

More photos of the trip can be viewed here