Saturday, October 29, 2005

More Urban Hiking

More Urban Hiking

Tonight, after working at WashU, I decided to walk towards home, and see if I could make it. I pretty much did, albeit with a couple brief stopovers on the way. It took just under 2 1/2 hours (5:00 to almost 7:30 pm).

I didn't use my electronic compass, although I could have. I didn't use a GPS, although I have one at home. According to my GPS software, a straight-line route from WashU Eliot Hall to my house would be 5.65 miles. Of course, that route would involve a great deal of trespassing on private property, given the nature of our rather irregular street grid.

My route was about 7.5 miles. So, while not quite a straight line, it was about as close as you'd expect me to get, with no navigational aides and while trying to avoid trespassing.

So, I started off, of course, strolling in a southeasterly direction through the campus, toward Forsyth and Skinker. After crossing Skinker, I headed southeast along Lagoon Drive in Forest Park, through the golf course, until the traffic island at the wedge where Fine Arts Drive intersects Lagoon. Then, I took a footpath and then a direct walk through the grass, along the ridge near the end of what used to be called Fairview Drive, and then back to the footpath along the base of Art Hill and the edge of the Grand Basin.

Here, there were a lot of people just hanging out, strolling picnicking or whatever. Some were affiliated with a wedding taking photos nearby, but certainly not all. It's a testament to the effectiveness of the Forest Park Master Plan. People do indeed congregate around the Grand Basin, even when there may not be a scheduled event there. Thank goodness that area was removed from the golf course.

I continued along the footpath, following the perimeter of that lagoon that connects the Grand Basin with Post-Dispatch Lake. I saw, for the first time I can recall, the Friedrich Jahn / Turnverein monument, which overlooks P-D Lake just north of Government Drive. The footpath in that section used to be part of Washington Drive, I believe; but it was closed to traffic years ago.

At about Washington Drive and Government Drive, I crossed over onto the grand terraces that lead up to the World's Fair Pavilion. Eschewing the traditional stairways, I cut diagonally across the grassy knolls, upward and onward, reaching Concourse Drive a bit north of the pavilion area. Then I cut diagonally, at a slightly different angle, across the picnic areas and toward the comfort station on Carr Lane Drive.

I discovered, also for the first time, a foot path through the gully just to the east of Carr Lane Drive! I'm not entirely sure it's supposed to be used by the public, but it had a broken-down little bridge with railings, just off Carr Lane Drive across from the comfort station. So I took this winding, uphill dirt path through the trees... and emerged immediately across McKinley Drive from the Jewel Box! Quite impressive.

I crossed over McKinley, stopped and admired the Jewel Box a moment, then went south by the traffic circle and the edge of Triple A Golf Club, to Clayton Road. I followed the bike path on the south side of Clayton Road for a while, then got antsy and just cut diagonally across Boeing Aviation Fields.

I stopped for a potty break at the very, very nice comfort station on Boeing Aviation Fields. It was actually open, unlocked at 5:30 on a Saturday; and best of all, heated! The toilet worked, the sink worked, and there were even paper towels in the dispensers. Forest Park management is really setting a higher standard for public restroom maintenance.

From there, I continued across the fields, to access my favorite secret passageway, the Macklind tunnel under Highway 40, just steps from the Mounted Police stables.

But wait - it's not so secret, after all. Two bicyclists were coming into the park that way. Darn, my secret is out. Of course, I don't think the tunnel will be around much longer - the New I-64 plan calls for it to be closed and relocated a bit further east. Too bad.

This was the end of the Forest Park leg of my trip, about 2.7 miles total.

From there, I headed due east along Oakland Avenue, all the way to the alley between St. Louis University High School and Lawn Place. I took the alley down to Berthold, backtracked down Berthold a bit to recently-vacated Brother Thornton Way, then caught the alley behind Wise Avenue through to Kingshighway.

I have to say, I would not be happy if I lived on the 4900 blocks of Wise or Berthold. SLUH has closed off Brother Thornton, the connector street between those two residential streets, and owns much of the property toward the back end of both blocks. They had already closed Berthold and Wise several years ago, for their performing arts center and parking expansions. Actually the pavement for Berthold still exists, but it is fenced off with chain link, and all gates are usually locked - no pedestrian or vehicular access allowed.

At that moment I passed there, the gate from the Science Center side, near East Road, was open; but not the side facing the neighborhood. Indeed, behind the mud-caked dead-end of Wise, the SLUH parking lot fence is topped by rings of barbed wire. Very neighbor-friendly.

Once I reached Kingshighway at Manchester, I dashed across Manchester and decided to go under the fancy-looking viaduct. The sidewalks really aren't very wide on the viaduct, so you're always kind of worried a truck mirror could hit you. Going under the viaduct is a surreal experience, but it is pretty much legal. There's even a grade crossing for both sets of railroad tracks; and the added benefit is that you can cross under Kingshighway, too. I did that, coming out somewhere near the northeast corner of Kingshighway and McRee.

I kept going south on Kingshighway, although I suppose I could have turned. From McRee southward, there are no cross-streets until Shaw, because there are no I-44 ramps on the east side of Kingshighway.

Now, that other, lesser-known South Kingshighway viaduct, which passes over a single railroad track between Shaw and Vandeventer, is quite decrepit. The right lanes are too narrow, it's really steep on both sides, and best of all, the walkways are closed. Some enterprising person has removed the boards from some of the access points to the walkways on the east side of the street, I noticed. However, I wasn't adventurous enough to go inside.

After all, they might still be boarded when I get to the top, where cars pass by. And, it looks really creepy in there - there's a really rusty handrail, with similarly rusty chain-link fencing topping it, all the way up to the rusty metal ceilings of these corridors. They are actually not stairways but ramps, rather unusual for the time when they were built. However, they are probably way, way too steep to be considered safe for a wheelchair user.

So, I just crossed those railroad tracks at-grade, on an unofficial but evidently well-used pathway. The sidewalk behind Don Brown Chevrolet is quite overgrown here, but nobody seems to care. I somehow managed to cross Vandeventer, although it's not an easy task given the way the signals are (not) synchronized for pedestrians on this side of the intersection.

I was getting tired of Kingshighway already, so at Tower Grove Place I turned east. This section of the Southwest Garden neighborhood has some simply beautiful homes. While I'm sure they are priced accordingly, it seems like a very quiet, tranquil street in a very central location. I took Tower Grove Place east to Maury, then jogged south to the alley
behind the Place. I think, probably, there used to be a staircase leading to this alley from the dead-end of Heger Court, a bungalow-court private street accessed only via Magnolia Avenue. But it's all fenced off now.

I picked up Alfred for a block, then headed east on Magnolia along the back of the Missouri Botanical Garden. By now the sun had set, so it was incredibly dark, quiet and tranquil along this route. Although Magnolia is something of a major street, there was very little traffic at the time. So, it seemed especially peaceful, passing between the garden and Tower Grove Park.

Somewhere near Tower Grove Avenue (aka Center Cross Drive) I entered Tower Grove Park, for an extended diagonal romp through one of the more appealing public spaces in the city.

Naturally, I cut through the area of the lilly ponds, fountain and Victorian "ruins" near the Piper Palm House - busy, too, because of a wedding reception I suspected. From that vicinity, I headed southeastwardly through the park, getting out my little flashlight (compliments of Metro Transit) to look out for muddy spots and other obstacles. Off the pathways, it can get pretty dark in the park at night.

Gradually, and carefully, I made my way through TGP, crossing Arsenal at the ridge between Gustine and Spring.

When I reached Grand and Arsenal (about 3.8 miles traveled from Oakland at the Science Center to there), I took note of a few things:

MoKaBe's seems to use Earth Circle Recycling. Good for them. I wonder how much business recycling pick-up costs, relative to residential?

KaBloom has closed. I probably shouldn't be excited about this, but I'm not especially upset, either. Not sure why; the signs in the windows were kinda vague. But the displays are clearly all gone. A win for small local businesses like Botanicals on the Park - I hope.

I was hungry. It was already 7:00 or so. Thus, I stopped off at Qdoba. Yeah, I know, it's even more evil than KaBloom. The food was, well, adequate. The ambience - not my thing, really. I don't quite get serving alcohol at a place that's basically fast food. I guess it's a notch above fast food, sort of, but I'll take Chimichanga or Tomatillo over Qdoba any day.

So, I sat down and munched on my cheese quesadilla, then headed out toward home. I routinely walk home from Grand and Arsenal - maybe a mile - so the rest of the trip was no big deal. Just cut across the parking lot behind BreadCo, cut across the ridiculously huge Commerce parking lot, to Juniata. Then down Arkansas, past the side of the Drebes homestead, and over Connecticut by the ridiculously named "Tower Grove Village" 1950s 2-story, 1-bedroom apartments.

I took note of a property on Connecticut for sale that would be a fairly affordable way to get into Tower Grove East: a 2-bedroom bungalow at 3410 Connecticut listed for $85,000 by Vintage Realty. Didn't seem to have major problems, and appeared to be currently occupied.

While it looked pretty small, it probably wouldn't require major rehab. The flyer even claims the house has a 3-season porch and a detached 1-car garage; and "newer roof, windows, plumbing." No dining room, but central air. It's clearly out of my price range at the present time, but might be a good buy for the right person - very easy walk to the restaurants and shops along Grand, as well as bus lines on Grand, Gravois, or Arsenal. Also just a few hundred feet from Roosevelt High School - although that's not much of a selling point, regrettably.

From there, I headed south on Louisiana, to east on Wyoming, dashing across Gravois at the rather hazardous Wyoming/Compton/Gravois confluence, then five more blocks east to Oregon, and then... home!

While this trip was not planned out in advance, and it did take more than twice as long as it would be public transit, I think it was interesting and worthwhile.

It does not, however, even match my own personal record for urban/suburban hiking. I believe my longest trip on foot in St. Louis was on a Saturday afternoon during high school, probably in 1995 or '96. I walked from Crossroads School on DeBaliviere at a Model UN discussion forum led by Arthur Lieber (and ending about 11 am), via the Delmar Loop, Big Bend, Laclede Station, Rock Hill, Tesson Ferry, Grant's Trail, Reavis Barracks, and Telegraph, to my parents' house, ending about 5 pm. I think I stopped for lunch at the White Castle on Big Bend and Manchester in Maplewood. That was probably about a 17 mile hike.


jestjuggle said...

Hi -

Came across this post while searching a few search engines to see if my post on the history of the compass had been posted yet. Looks like you took quite a walk. We are avid geocachers so do a lot of hiking ourselves. Both urban and in the woods. Wonder how many geocaches you walked by on your jaunt? If you want to read about the history of the compass you can go to the jestcaching blog.

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