August 02, 2005

Taking the train

It has been said that "any marathon that doesn't involve the use of public transportation is a success."

I had that thought in mind as I set out on Sunday for a near-marathon length training run, with money in my pocket for public transportation. Idling through the easy miles down the West River Road, through Minnehaha Park, down the old Minnesota Central spur line that is now a bike trail taking you from Minnehaha Park to Fort Snelling, over the Mendota Bridge, and down to the Sibley House. (I would post photos of these places if I had been carrying a camera, but I rarely take the camera running.)

From the Sibley House there is a trail that runs 10km/six miles to the Cedar Avenue highway bridge (PDF map link). It's [mostly] cool and shaded, so at 7.30am on a Sunday morning it was relatively crowded with bikers and runners. Being so close—right beside, in fact—to the Minnesota River the trail is very prone to flooding. I suspect they leave the signs up saying "WARNING! Trail closed due to flooding" year round. If you're going to hike/bike/run/otherwise-perambulate on this trail summer through early winter would be the best times to go, so long as it hasn't rained much recently. The last times I tried to do this run in summer 2002 and summer 2003 I had to turn back between the 494 and Cedar Ave bridges owing to water over the trail.

At the Cedar Avenue highway bridge there is a bike/walking bridge that takes you over the Minnesota river. Carrying an old bike map of the Twin Cities I planned to head up Old Cedar Avenue towards Nokomis. But I was foiled! The old Cedar Ave bridge is closed, very closed (the second linked photo is the prettiest).

I was half-tempted to find out quite what they meant by problems with structural integrity, but decided that ending my days in Long Meadow Lake falling between the beams of a bridge was not the way to go. Having been running, at that stage, for 2:10 I followed the bike/walk signs for Bloomington. This trail is part of the Long Meadow section of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. From the Cedar Avenue bridge a 4.5 mile trail takes you northeast to 80th St in Bloomington. After 4.5 scenic miles you come up a hill and are confronted with the Park 'N' Fly and the Bloomington Hilton. Quite the scenic joy, I tell you.

From here, your options are somewhat less scenic. You can make your way round the side of the airport, following some suburban streets and make your way back to Lake Nokomis and the Minneapolis parkway system. Or, there is a bike bridge on 494 which will take you back to the southern side of the Minnesota river and you can return to the Sibley House the way you came.

After trying to find a shortcut back to Fort Snelling through the National Cemetery (you can't: the only public entrance is on 34th Ave) I was near the 3:00 mark for the run. Bloomington and Richfield are lovely suburbs, I'm sure, but the sun was coming out, I was getting hot, and concluding the run with 30 minutes running on the roads to the west of the airport didn't seem like much fun.

So with 3:04 on the watch I succumbed to the joys of having a light rail line that would whisk me home. I didn't quite do a marathon—probably accumulating 24 miles in the 3 hours—but this was a near-marathon in which the use of public transportation was a success by letting me wander so far from home.

(Water is available at the Sibley House, where there is a tap in the garden. It doesn't look like the highest quality water, but two days later I can report no ill-effects from drinking 10 fluid ounces of it. The MN Valley Wildlife Refuge headquarters—beside the 494 bridge on American Blvd—have fountains inside.

The closest light rail station to the MN Valley Refuge is the Bloomington Central station. On the linked map, the trail exit is about where it says "MN Valley ...")

Posted by robe0419 at August 2, 2005 01:02 PM | TrackBack

Hey that's a nice DNR map too. I'll have to print that out. Great photos by that Charles Robinson guy too.

Posted by: Zeke at August 3, 2005 12:17 PM
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