Distance = 31.1 miles
Elapsed time = 12:34:28
Moving time = 8:46:39
Average pace = 16.56/mile
FitBit Step Total for the day = 75,528
On Sunday, April 26, my husband Scott and I walked the perimeter of the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System which has more than 51 miles of walking and biking trails.
In order to create a loop, we had to skip the downtown riverfront section and we only went by the edge of the lakes instead of going around each of them (that would have been insane!…oh man…now want to try it!).
A large section of the eastern side of the loop is currently unofficially part of the Grand Rounds because of the “missing link” which is thankfully under construction now (we even walked by the “under construction” signs).
To complete the loop, you just walk on the trails/sidewalks along parkways (listed in the order we did them):
- Minnehaha Parkway
- E/W Lake Harriet Parkway
- E/W Lake Calhoun Parkway
- Dean Parkway (alternatively one could take southern edge of Lake of the Isles Parkway)
- Cedar Lake Parkway
- Theodore Wirth Parkway
- Victory Memorial Parkway (also called Victory Memorial Drive)
- Webber Parkway
- Cross the Mississippi River on 42nd Avenue Bridge
- St. Anthony Parkway
- Stinson Parkway
- Until the missing link is complete: Diagonal Trail, 18th Ave SE, Como Ave SE, 15th Ave SE, Church Street SE or any road that leads you through campus down to the Mississippi River)
- East River Parkway
- Cross the Mississippi on Franklin Avenue Bridge
- West River Parkway
- Godfrey Parkway
- Minnehaha Parkway
Tip: Get a map
Although there are map kiosks along the trail, I found it helpful to have the pocket sized trail map with me.
I picked mine up at Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board office:
2117 West River Road
Or, you can call 612-230-6400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll send you one.
If they are not already, these should be made available at Hennepin County libraries.
What caught my eye
I tried to limit my photos and tweets to one per mile so that we could walk at a decent pace (and also #beherenow). This was extremely challenging! Minneapolis is such a beautiful city and I clearly I love documenting it.
The starting line
Start time: 5:55 AM on Sunday, April 26, 2015
Starting point: Bryant Avenue Pedestrian Bridge across Minnehaha Creek
Walking around Lake Harriet at 6 AM sold me on making it a habit to get up extra early in the summer for sunrise walks. I typically take ducks for granted but because it was so quiet, I was able to better appreciate their calls and swimming patterns. They put on a real show for me.
A great first date spot, Lake Calhoun is where Scott and I had ours. Walking side by side surrounded by natural beauty with plenty of people watching can fill those awkward moments that all first dates have. Plus, walking around Lake Calhoun will probably only take an hour. If the date goes well you can extend it to drinks in Uptown or just end it and you can meet your friends to laugh about it. I’m happy every day that Scott and I both agreed that one lap around Lake Calhoun wasn’t enough. We’ll celebrate walking with each other for 12 years this July (with a spin around the lake and drinks to follow!) and in October it will be our 10th wedding anniversary.
In the Twin Cities, we have a good problem. We have so many trails that it is sometimes easy to venture off one trail and onto another without realizing it. I’m guessing if I went back to to retrace my route, my mistake would be obvious. That said, I don’t know how I did it but I ended up on the Luce Line Regional Trail. It was around this time that Scott let me know he was ready to meet me so I mapped my way to the Theodore Wirth Chalet so we could meet up and we could get back on the Grand Rounds Trail.
My first break was after six miles of walking. I met up with Scott at the Wirth Chalet and after a quick pitstop we were back at it.
Walking along the Grand Rounds trail, you can see the many styles of homes in the Twin Cities. You can’t get much better trail access than this!
Live on the Drive is a free summer concert series – a great way to explore this section of the Grand Rounds!
Victory Memorial Drive/Parkway is a beautiful slice of Minneapolis. I do love walking it but it should be noted that there is no tree cover (thanks to Dutch Elm disease) and if you walk this stretch under the full sun, it can be brutal if you aren’t protected (sunglasses/hats/SPF). I’m surprised to learn that one of my favorite local walkers even advocates that you experience this stretch by car!
We stopped in at Victory 44 so that I could use the restroom. Scott drank a mocha so that we were paying customers using a private bathroom. Carrying a pocket-sized Minneapolis Trails Map is a good idea because public restrooms and portable toilets are marked – though be warned they are seasonal and have limited hours (i.e. rec centers are closed on Sundays).
Located near 42nd Avenue and Webber Parkway, there are some man-made falls on Shingle Creek. Webber Park is still under construction as a natural pool is built. While the sign says it was supposed to open in 2014, the latest project update states the Grand Opening is slated for summer 2015.
When I first saw the Road Closed sign, I panicked but then I realized that we could walk through and have our own private mini Open Streets celebration! More info about the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge project.
After the steep incline uphill to Deming Heights Park, we stopped for lunch. Normally we like to stop at local restaurants on our long walks but a long lunch break would have hurt our chances of completing the loop. I’m a newbie when it comes to packing food for long walks. I usually just pack nuts, dried fruit, and jerky (I like Simply Snackin). Scott made us sandwiches before he left which hit the spot.
We could have stayed on St. Anthony Parkway for awhile longer but we went south on Stinson Parkway to connect with the Diagonal Trail. This section of the walk will change once the missing link is completed. Until then, one can take residential streets (we took Como and 15th Avenue SE to get to East River Parkway).
Along Stinson Parkway, we saw some businesses I’m interested in paying a visit: Mother Earth Gardens (I have a couple of houseplants from their Longfellow location), Zakia Deli, and Empire Coffee (which I’ve added to my coffee shop walking wish list).
We stopped at Target for a restroom break and to purchase inserts for Scott’s shoes. This is a good time to advise you to wear shoes on this route that you’ve worn on a fairly long walk to make sure they’re going to be comfortable all day.
The pair of scissors we bought to cut said inserts was definitely the most random purchase we’ve made on a walk. I guess we should add multi-tool to our packing list.
Since we didn’t have any “race spectators” ringing cowbells and holding up inspirational signs, I sought out encouragement in other ways. This “I’m Feeling Good” mural was perfect.
When the missing link is complete, the Grand Rounds trail will go along the eastern edge of the University of Minnesota campus on 27th Avenue SE. Until then, enjoy a stroll through one of the most beautiful sections of campus – Northrop Mall or the Church Street Pedestrian Mall. I work in the health sciences complex (a section of campus not known for its beauty) so we walked by my office then down the stairs at the backside of Coffman Union down to the East River Parkway and back on the official Grand Rounds trail.
For this walk, we stuck to the upper trail but we usually hike the Winchell Trail which offers more river views.
I forgot to take a photo at mile 24. I even had the perfect photo opp at this moment because Brian and his son met up with us on their bikes. It was unexpected support that gave us energy to get to our next resting spot.
Scott and I were both looking forward to having a long break at Minnehaha Park’s Sea Salt Eatery and may have been singing songs about it around mile 23. When we arrived, it appeared that everyone else in the city had a similar plan for their day. Add in a ton of construction and I just didn’t have the patience to deal with it. After having a beer (thankfully Sea Salt has a drink/ice cream only line) we journeyed on. Scott later pointed out that we didn’t even stop to look at the Minnehaha Falls. Oops. Don’t worry – we’ve visited them many times before.
Mile 26.2 (marathon)
In June 2014, I walked my first self-paced marathon and I definitely didn’t look (or feel) this happy at mile 26.2 then. Walking in cooler temperatures and not stopping as much probably helped.
Fish tacos, falafel, and cheese curds are totally normal foods for an ultramarathon, right? Get yourself to Sandcastle if you haven’t yet.
I walk the Minnehaha Creek segment of the Grand Rounds frequently because of its proximity to my home. I love that there are so many bridges along this route that allow you to explore both sides of the creek.
The Finish Line (mile 31.1)
End time: 6:38 PM
End point: Bryant Avenue Pedestrian Bridge
And twelve hours later, Scott and I celebrate our achievement with an awkward photo taken by a stranger.
Inquiring minds want to know
My friend Ren asked me some questions about our Grand Rounds walk and I thought I’d share my answers with everyone.
How much water do you bring and is it bottled or do you use a camelback?
We had a 32 oz water bottle that we filled a couple of times along the route. I’m confident we didn’t drink enough on this walk but I’ll be honest…I was worried about peeing my pants. Bathrooms on Sunday this time of year are hard to find (Rec Centers are closed on Sundays and many portable toilets are seasonal and we’re still kind of in the off season).
I own a camelback but I couldn’t figure out how to put it in my backpack and I keep forgetting to admit this to the good people of Midwest Mountaineering where I bought it so that they can help me.
You tweet and use a location based app, do you bring spare batteries or an external charger for your phone?
For this walk I used Strava on my iPhone. I tried to limit how much I was using my phone (no streaming music, etc) but I also have a Mophie Juice Pack Plus (120% extra battery). I also brought my iPhone charger and the Morphie charger with me in case we had a longer stop so I could juice up. A note about this practice is that I typically ask for permission if I’m in a business that is not really set up for people using their outlets.
Was your husband with you for the whole loop or just part of it?
I typically wake up before Scott and he wasn’t sure he wanted to sign up for 12 hours of walking so I got a head start. He joined me around mile 6. It ended up being a really good balance for the day.
What was your longest route before you did Grand Rounds?
Last year I set out to prove I could walk as many steps as David Sedaris, a known FitBitter. I ended up walking more than 28 miles that day.
Do you have another epic walk you’re planning or would like to attempt and if so, how many miles is it?
I have a walk wish list with walks of a range of distances. I want to walk the Twin Cities marathon route (not on the day of the race because the course isn’t open long enough). Brian suggested that I walk around Lake Harriet 25 times which would be 62.5 miles (2.5 miles each time around). If I kept up a pace of 3 miles per hour, it would take me 20.8 hours. So I guess that would be pretty epic.