Formal season on Stone Arch Bridge

A Minneapolis Saunter

On Saturday, May 7 in New York City a group of people known as Shorewalkers hit the trails along the shoreline of Manhattan for The Great Saunter, a 32 mile epic urban hike. Someday I will join them, but this year I decided to walk in solidarity and complete a 32 mile walk in Minneapolis. Since I’ve already walked the Grand Rounds loop (the route I’d recommend if I organized an official event), I decided to set out for the day without a predetermined route.

Walk stats

Distance = 32 miles
Elapsed time = 13 hours and 53 minutes
Moving time = 10 hours and 20 minutes
FitBit Step Total for the day = 72,248

The route

Walk location: Minneapolis, Minnesota (with a few miles in Saint Paul)
Walk destination: None. I went where the wind took me.
Start time: 5:56 AM
End time: 7:16 PM

Minneapolis Saunter route map

Minneapolis Saunter route map

6:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Starting at Bryant Avenue South & West Minnehaha Parkway, I walked along the Minnehaha Creek and followed the Grand Rounds trail on the eastern edge of Lake Harriet, Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun), and Lake of the Isles. After a detour at Isles Bun & Coffee, I walked around Lake of the Isles and met my husband Scott at 35th Street South & Bryant Avenue South. Together, we walked east and after a pit stop at Midtown Global Market, we walked around Powderhorn Lake.

11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. 
En route to the Opening Day Food Truck Fest at Midtown Farmers Market, we visited Pioneers & Soldiers Memorial Cemetery. We had a phone charging emergency so we also stopped at Target. This is not an advised detour on a joyful saunter but I digress. When we finally arrived at the Food Truck Fest, the lines were too long for my patience level so we continued our walk to Harriet Brewing at which point I was getting hangry and their lack of food truck dictated that we move on. As we turned the corner onto Lake Street, the lights of the Le Town Talk Diner sign led us inside for a wonderful brunch. Believe me, I’ve already thought about how I could have waited in line at the Food Truck Fest in the amount of time it took for us to land at Le Town Talk.

Since Scott thought he only had a few more miles in him, we decided to wander west toward our home. We chose LynLake Brewery as our next stop so we could have a beer together before going our separate ways for the rest of the day. To get there, we walked along the Midtown Greenway where we cheered on Bike MS riders and witnessed a person driving a car on the pedestrian and bike trails. After a couple of beers on the LynLake Brewery rooftop, we walked to 26th Street where Scott hopped on a bus and I wanted east.

3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. 
Walking solo again, I walked east on 26th Street and made a lemonade stand stop at Whittier Community Center. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of the day as the parents of the children were friends of mine and talking to them for a few minutes gave me greater confidence that I could make my goal of walking 32 miles.

I intended to walk to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and explore that area but as I was settling into my zen walking, I overshot it and next thing I knew I was downtown near Hyatt Regency where AniMinneapolis was being held. This was another wonderful happenstance of my wandering walk. The next time there is a cosplay convention in town I’m going to camp out near the event and soak up all that fun energy.

Normally, I love walking along Nicollet Mall but the construction was killing my vibe so I tried to hurry through downtown to the Mississippi River. I did make one stop at the Minneapolis Visitor Information center to pick up a couple of maps to help me strategize for my 40 mile walk in a couple of weeks.

I made my way to the Mississippi River and crossed the Stone Arch Bridge where flocks of young men and women in formal wear were posing for awkward photos with the Minneapolis skyline as the backdrop. I continued to the University of Minnesota campus and back to the Mississippi River and followed the Grand Rounds trail all the way to Minnehaha Falls Park. I met Scott and our dog Stewie there in hopes of having a celebratory beer and fish taco at Sea Salt Eatery. THAT LINE. I wasn’t having it after walking 32 miles so we grabbed a pint of Ben & Jerry’s on the way home and called it good.

Caught My Eye Along the Way

Some themes to a great urban hike emerged as I walked around Minneapolis.




Public Art & Engagement

One of my favorite discoveries of the day was a Little Free Library I later learned is named Poetry Hut by its owner. Initially the Scrabble tiles caught my attention and then I realized it wasn’t your typical little library. I opened the door to find an invitation to help myself to a free poem. Among the scrolls, only one was green so I plucked it out of the basket and opened it up. Inside was “Photograph from September 11” by Wisława Szymborska. After reading the poem, I carefully placed it in my backpack and left a note thanking the caretaker of the Poetry Hut. Just before leaving the note, I added my Twitter handle just in case the owner had an account. To my delight, a few hours later I received a tweet from Alison McGhee.

Wow. Alison’s Poetry Hut is the embodiment of community engagement and she has sparked an interest in poetry in me that I haven’t had for a few years. You can read about Alison’s process of creating the Poetry Hut on her blog.




Don Holzschuh painting a lilac bush

Don Holzschuh painting a lilac bush

I couldn’t contain my excitement when I spotted Don Holzschuh painting near an alley at 35th Street and Emerson Avenue South. At first glance I thought I was catching John Sauer in the act of painting an alley for 100 Alleys. I went up and introduced myself and we covered a wide range of topics in our short chat. When I told him that I was on a long walk, he told me that he hates driving. In the next breath he said, “I drive a truck to support my art habit.”

Buildings & Architectural Details

Lemonade Stands

Whittier Elementary Lemonade Stand

Whittier Elementary Lemonade Stand


I’m working on a theory that if you walk around long enough you’ll eventually run into a clown.

Minnehaha Falls Park Clown

Minnehaha Falls Park Clown

Janelle Nivens

About Janelle Nivens

Janelle is an urban explorer who likes to challenge herself to walk long distances (40 miles is her record). She lives in southwest Minneapolis with Scott and their adorable dog Stewie and works at the University of Minnesota. Janelle documents what catches her eye on long walks in hopes of inspiring others to discover hidden gems in their own communities. Walk with her on Instagram, Twitter (@Janellie23), and FitBit.