Anatomy of an Adventure: Beyond Downtown.

Ever hoped you could run away to Narnia? You can’t, but if you make your way past downtown Minneapolis you can get close.

Samuel Linder

 

Remember when you were a kid âÄî when the cold didnâÄôt matter? The only inside blanket you needed was knit by hot cocoa, and every flake of snow sang an invitation to go grab your friends and find an adventure.

As grown-ups we no longer heed the snowâÄôs song âÄî we canâÄôt hear it. The siren call hasnâÄôt stopped, though, itâÄôs just been drowned out by all of the noise that constantly surrounds us in our busy worlds âÄî the ringing phones and chattering keyboards and screaming deadlines. ItâÄôs gotten pretty loud, but I think we can clear our heads with just some warm clothes, a few friends and maybe a toboggan or two âĦ

Join A&E on a winter romp past downtown into the magical world of statues and sleds that lies beyond.

Directions

You can get downtown, I believe in you. Look for all the big shiny buildings and go that way. If you are around campus and want to bypass a grimy (but interesting) walk, take pretty much any bus (3, 6, 16, 50) or light rail toward downtown and get off at Nicollet Mall. Walk left (southwest) away from the Mississippi (the cross-street numbers will get bigger) until you reach the giant fountain plaza at 10th and Nicollet. Across from the church, to your right, will be a weird pyramid-lookinâÄô statue with a big sidewalk leading diagonally out behind it, onto which you should turn and follow. Through condominium playgrounds, youâÄôll eventually reach Loring Park, a lovely spot in its own right. Head across the park toward the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, the first sculpture in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. If the wind isnâÄôt too harsh, take the time to study John AshberryâÄôs poem as you cross 16 lanes of street and highway. Then scoot down the ramp (itâÄôs way more fun than the stairs) and drop into what very well could be Narnia.

I. The Garden

The true joy of the Sculpture Garden is finding your own way, so we wonâÄôt give you explicit instructions here. However, there are a few particularly striking features that we think you should make an effort to hunt down. Take time to brush snow off of Jenny HolzerâÄôs little stone benches, because each has something undeniably true (and unsettling) to say about the human condition. Visit the Jacques Lipchitzstatue of Prometheus wrestling his eagle to take in a more visual representation of the benchesâÄô themes âÄì  human fragility at the hands of the big world outside and its wild gods.

Then find Dan GrahamâÄôs mirrored walls to see your own fragility and transience floating around you as you circle the giant cross. Want to see someone who will not bow in the face of this heavy knowledge? George SegalâÄôs walking man looks weathered by long years of living, but his sneakers are new and fresh under that great coat âÄî you can make it if you simply keep moving.

Things have been getting a little too deep, so letâÄôs stop for a second to find Mark Di SuveroâÄôs giant swinging platform and fool around for a while with our friends (if a group of kids hasnâÄôt beaten you there). Once youâÄôre feeling magic again seek out Deborah ButterfordâÄôs stick horse âÄî it looks like it could come alive at any moment and break off through the snowdrifts. If at any point in your wanderings you start to get cold, simply head to the greenhouse, where the glittering fish and heavy heat will bring your head straight to the tropics and warm your bones for more time outside.

NowâÄôs the time to join the gaggle of tourists gaping at Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van BruggenâÄôs Spoonbridge and Cherry (mostly just so you can say you have) and then turn onto the road that leads out of the Sculpture Garden parallel to the hill, and running past the BlakeAcademy. ItâÄôs time to remember what it was like to love winter.

II. The Hill out Back

If you follow the road past the academy you will come across a little wooded pond, with a path running off to your right marked by a âÄúCedar Lake Commuter TrailâÄù sign. Ride the path around the pond until it splits at the raised freeway and take a left, following it under the rushing torrent of vehicles. When you exit on the other side you will find a road splaying perpendicular to your own, and a huge landscape of sand mountains and rusted hulks directly in front of you. As city of Minneapolis property, it is illegal to enter this landscape, so donâÄôt. However, a few hardened criminals were willing to tell tales of the mythic place and claimed that it was perfect for every kind of dangerous and illicit cold-weather activity âÄî from sledding to snow angels.

The huge sand mountain on the right has a number of great sledding surfaces, besides an unparalleled view of downtown (and Target Field!) from the top. It even has an easy-access ramp on one side (for road-sand trucks), so that jailbirds donâÄôt have to scramble up an icy slope to bomb down another round.

The entire dump is set up like a paintball course, scattered with obstacles to action-roll behind and sniper posts to bunker down in. ItâÄôs the perfect setting for the best snowball fight of a young felonâÄôs life âÄî as long as the hoodlum is up-to-date on his/her tetanus shots. Once you are done standing at the edge of city property, imagining all the fun you could be having if the government only trusted you not to sue them for your own foolish actions, take the time to peer into the storage area and pick out a few more pieces of artwork, the uncommissioned graffiti that graces rusted pipes and walls inside. âÄúBittersweet GoodbyesâÄù is one of the criminalsâÄô favorites.

Review

The sculpture garden and trails beyond are a dream landscape in the winter, filled with ghosts and surprises. The hedges of the garden keep the outside world at bay even as snow muffles city noises, and, as you move further toward the dump, a sense of the surreal is overpowering. There is no better way to bring back your inner child than bundling up and setting out into a driftbound fantasy, so just remember the outdoorsmanâÄôs old adage: There is no bad weather, only bad clothing. Bound out into the wild but be careful; you might never want to come back.