And its not very often that you see a desire path while walking around St Paul. The city, like most cities of its late 19th century vintage, is pretty well sidewalk’d. In most places, there’s not much call to do it yourself.
Except by the train tracks. St Paul is split East-West down the middle by a pair of well used train tracks, and so for pedestrians and cyclists, getting from the South to the North sides of the city can be a tricky pickle. Not a lot of streets go over the tracks, and the ones that do (like Snelling or Dale or Lexington) are filled with fast moving cars and leave little space for either bicycles or people walking on their feet.
So people make do with what they have. Hamline Avenue is a great example of this. Technically speaking, Hamline Avenue does not “go through” over the railroad tracks. It stops at one end at a pedestrian bridge by a busy quasi-freeway called the Pierce Butler Route, and at the other end by a little-used street called Jessamine. In between are two sets of busy double railroad tracks and Bandana Square, a cul-de-sac filled suburban style housing development in and around an old railroad station.
But, if you desire it strongly enough, Hamline Avenue does continue over the railroad tracks. You have to squint, clutch your hands into tight fists, and wish with all your heart, and voilà! Hamline Avenue will appear before your eyes.
[The end of Hamline Avenue looking South from the caged pedestrian bridge that takes you over the railroad tracks.]
[The strange almost weed garden area where Hamline Avenue turns into a pedestrian bridge leading North.]
[The Hamline Avenue pedestrian bridge turns into a very long and ugly switchback ramp that crosses over itself no less than three times at the North end.]
[At this point, Hamline Avenue turns into a sidewalk running between the train tracks and a fenced-in parking lot for a light industrial building.]
[Hamline Avenue now leads you along a series of parking lots over pavement painted arrows pointing pointlessly.]
[After walking through the parking lots, Hamline Avenue continues invisibly over the Energy Park Drive. The only sign of Hamline here are these two or three little depressions in the boulevard curb. It's like being almost lost in the woods, but finding just the hint of a trail before you.]
[Hamline continues through a labyrinthine series of sidewalks, buildings, garages, culs-de-sac, and parking lots. It's easy to lose your way in this maze. Remember to use the sun and stars as your guide, and to always head North.]
[Eventually, those that desire Hamline Avenue will find this parking lot. It looks just like all the others, but it contains the keys to a lost civilization, a lost sidewalk, a lost Avenue running through the palimpsest of tracks and tree.]
[This fence marks Hamline Avenue. A neat hole has been cut into the fence. It opens wide and leads you onward, offering you shelter and protection as you find your way forward.]
[The secret passageway.]
[Though you cannot see it, Hamline Avenue is here, winding its way over the twin steel tracks for trains.]
[On the North side of the tracks, Hamline Avenue appears again, taking you out of the safe South side of St Paul into the mysterious North.]
[The view of (desire) Hamline Avenue from its Northernmost edge. To the trained eye, the street appears almost like magic.]