Friday, May 27, 2016

Walking the Mississippi River Gorge Trails

View from the Ford Parkway Bridge
By far, my favorite walk in the Twin Cities is the Winchell Trail along the west bank of the Mississippi River Gorge between Minnehaha Park and the Franklin Bridge.  It's about a 2.5 mile packed dirt track that gets you off the paved bike and pedestrian path that follows West River Parkway on the Minneapolis side.  I don't really enjoy sharing the paved path with bikers who are whizzing by and who may or may not shout out the customary "on your left" warning.  I try to stay on my side but if I'm looking at a flower or a bird, I may not see or hear you you coming. Pedestrian rage. To get to the Winchell I take the light rail out of downtown Minneapolis to the Minnehaha Park stop and look for the path that starts right after the road that goes down to the lock and dam.  In a perfect world like yesterday, I get an early start and make it to the all the way to the Lake Street Bridge and the Longfellow Grill before their morning happy hour is over.  I can get a $2.50 Freehouse brown ale (Minneapolis North Loop brewery) and have a bite to eat before getting back on the trail.  Yesterday I tried the oatmeal pancakes and I would walk twice that far for those cakes. 


As many times as I have looked under the Lake Street Bridge this was the first time that I tried to do a little clean up.  There was new graffiti and a lot of empty spray cans.  While I understand the desire for people to make their artistic statement, I do not see why leaving the cans behind is part of that mentality.

So back to the Ford Parkway Bridge and a different day.  Does the same kind of trail exist on the east side of the river? First I had to take a peek under the Ford Parkway Bridge.  That's a one time only deal.  Too steep for me to drag myself down and back up more than once.

Looking way up at the underside of the bridge, you wonder who had the nerve to get up there and how?

It is a teenage wasteland down there and LOTS of trash.  I could clean it up but there would be no way for me to haul it back up the hill.

Better for some group like Wilderness Inquiry to canoe into this area and then haul it out.

So yes, there is a similar dirt track that goes along the cliffs on the east side of the river. I could not find this trail referenced on any map, but here it is. There are places on the trail that really come too close to the edge of the cliffs so maybe that is why the park service doesn't mention the trail.  You can bet that any kid from the neighborhood knows which trails go down to the river or have a good view. Even though I can hear the street noise and lawn mowers, better to be down on the dirt track and watch for birds. 

Looking across to the Minneapolis side you can see some interesting views.  I wonder if this is one of the old outfalls from years ago when raw sewage went directly into the converted to storm water only.  

We exited the trail at the University of St. Thomas for lunch, but we'll continue our urban wilderness walk here on another day.  I wonder what else is under that bridge?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

RIP Donald

Sometimes I find the weirdest things on my trash walks. RIP Donald. Cause of death unknown.  Perhaps if I could have looked at the contents of its stomach I would find that it had consumed too many cigarettes and plastic debris. I left the remains and marker along the beach where I found it just north of the Plymouth Bridge just in case folks want to bring flowers and cards.

Last week I participated in an educational event for elementary school kids called Big River Journey.  About 125 fifth graders boarded one of the Johnathan Padelford River Boats at Harriet Island (in St. Paul) in the morning and from there we traveled up the Mississippi River to Snelling State Park landing at Steamboat Point, the same place that boats would have landed in the 1800's.  The kids could choose to participate in three of the six learning stations available as we cruised the river.  They could learn about river otters, look for eagles, learn about the disappearing waterfalls of the river, look at river invertebrates under microscopes, visit with the boat captain....or they could come to my station called CSI.  That stands for Crime Scene Investigation. Our training was provided by folks from Project WET (water education training) through the DNR. After a brief explanation of the sewer system, the storm drain system, and watersheds the kids were divided up into smaller groups where they were given a bag of litter that had been found in the river.

 After selecting one item they discussed what it was, how does it harm the environment, and how can it be prevented.  Of course, the kids were all interested in how litter harms birds and animals that live in the river. Perhaps Donald died from toxic litter like paint chips or lead casings or really moldy food left by someone taking a lunch time break from work.  Donald may have consumed something that eventually blocked the passage of good food and died from starvation.  What if it was a piece of glass that he tried to swallow. Stupid duck, don't you know you can't eat glass!

We dropped the kids off at Snelling State Park where they had more fun activities to do with Park Rangers. We picked up another 125 kids and headed back toward St. Paul.  Repeat the same activities and dock at 2pm.  Clean up our stations, catch a bus back to Minneapolis, have a nap, have a glass of wine, repeat same activity in the fall.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

8 Mile Hike

First, let me say that I played hooky and ditched my volunteer job today.  I never do that (almost).  I am conscientious to a fault, but today I needed to be outside after a crappy night's sleep due to a neighbor's dog. No, this is not the neighbor's dog.  We were walking the Winchell Trail along the Mississippi River Gorge when my husband said "quit looking up and watch where you're going".  I do have a tendency to trip, so I looked down and this was what was staring back at me.  I thought briefly about taking that body less creature with me to give to the park service. What is it?  Wolverine, badger?  I want it to be a wolverine because I just like the idea and the sound of WOLVERINE!  Maybe I'll send this photo to the park ranger over at Fort Snelling.

The trail was not all scary skeletons today.  No, butterflies were waiting for me too.  Is this a Swallowtail or something else?

  Up above the wooded trail the tended gardens along River Road Parkway looked pretty spectacular too.

Down along the river there was plenty of trash to be picked up.  Lucky for me I found an empty bag and at least got some of it.  There is plenty more to be picked up.  And of course there are always storm drain outfalls to take a peak in.

                                   There was some new graffiti on the Lake Street Bridge.

We probably should have just headed home (by bus or light rail or car2go) after mile 6 but decided to keep going past the Franklin Bridge and down to the area near the University of Minnesota landslide that occurred about 2 years ago.

So technically, one is not supposed to be here, if in fact you are capable of reading the NO TRESSPASSING sign.  But, the shortcut was too tempting.  I didn't get 10 feet into the no go zone before two young cops on bikes zoomed in.  "I confess" I said.  They let us go because, well, I'm  sure they didn't want to arrest people that look like your mom and dad.  Thanks for not embarrassing us you guys. So up the hill we had to climb and walk around the back end of the campus and well that's how we ended up with 8 miles on our walk.