Thursday, April 08, 2010

Minnesota River Valley Trail Recon

Now that I've set my mind to it, I'm making good progress on settling in. I've just found an apartment in the Highland neighborhood of St. Paul. It's a bit busier than I would have liked, and I'll miss having trees right off my balcony, but it's a great location.

It's 4.5 miles to work, straight down Highway 5. But even better, that neighborhood is right at a nexus of the major trail systems in the Twin Cities. I can take the River Road north on either side of the Mississippi, cross the river and take the Minnehaha Creek parkway west to the lakes, go east down Shepard road nearly all the way to my brother's place, or cross Highway 5 on the bridge and drop into the Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Speaking of the rivers, I'm right over the confluence of the Mississipi and Minnesota rivers at Pike Island, so once I have a car that can haul my kayaks, I'll be heading down there as often as possible. I've found a place to store kayaks and bikes as well, just down 7th, so hopefully no more big drives to my parents place to pick up the boat before paddling expeditions.

Weather was pretty nice today, and the flood waters are down a bit, so I finally got myself motivated to get out for a recon expedition into the River Valley trails. The objective of this one was to find the link between the Wildlife Refuge that surrounds the building I work in, and Ft. Snelling State Park. I know from camping in Ft. Snelling for the Mississippi River Challenge that you can get onto the Highway 5 bridge footpath from the Fort. So if I could find a way into the park, I can run or bike from my new apartment to work using only trails. :-)

It turned out to be much much easier than I expected. I ran from Ceridian to the NWR Visitor Centre on the road, from there I followed the road to the western side of the 494 bridge over the Minnesota River. At that point there was a little path beaten down the hillside under the bridge. That was slightly dodgy . . . I had to laugh at the two taggers who suddenly decided to causally saunter away from their open cans of housepaint, rollers and spray cans in their hoodies and huge backpacks.

On the other side of the bridge there was a bit of trouble picking out trails to get around the fences of the Air Force target range bordering the park. Once the river's back down to lower levels it should be easy, but as it was, I was crossing what appeared to be mud covered gravel roads tracked only by water birds and river otters ahead of me. :-) On the way back, I discovered I can bypass that stretch via Post road along the top of the bluffs for now.

After about a half hour of half-assed running around, I found a way through to the edge of Ft. Snelling State Park. I could see the Mendota Bridge in the distance over Snelling Lake. So that was mission accomplished. I know there are trails from end to end that would bring me back up the bluffs and into the Fort. So discovering whether or not those are above water is another run, probably starting from the other direction.

Next trip I definitely need to remember to bring my little Fuji, I saw so many critters . . . flocks of wild turkeys, and hordes of scraggly looking deer. So next mission is linking my apartment to the north end of this run, and the trip after is linking the Wildlife Refuge trails to Ceridian's little walking path without using any roads. That may have to wait for the flood waters to drop.

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