Crazy Uncle

I am far more than just my persona as a Father of Five.  Today (for the sake of this post) I am going to take off my “father” hat, and put my “uncle” hat.  .

This year my sister her husband and their twin sons came home for Easter.

We took advantage of their time here and got our families together several times.  There was the obvious Easter celebration.  In addition to Easter, my parents had us all over for dinner a couple of times.  We also had a wonderful opportunity to celebrate #2 of 5’s Confirmation send-off mass together (more on that later).  But the ABSOLUTE HIGHLIGHT of their trip (for me) was the day that that I spent with my nephews!

It was my day off from work, but the Mother of Five had to work and the rest of our kids were in school – So I decided to give my sister, her husband, and my parents the “day off” and told them that I wanted to spend the day with my nephews.  The Mother of Five and I put our heads together and came up with great plan for our day.

First thing that morning, I broke out MY GPS and began loading up a number of GeoCaches located in the vicinity of our destination.  There are some unique elevation changes in the area, so I wanted to load up the Topographical data for the area.  I had a data transfer failure, so I tried loading it again.  This time I got a “success message” – So I disconnected my GPS and headed out.  

First stop – Pick up the nephews!  I was running a little behind and since lunch was going to be “on the trail” I called ahead and asked my sister to make a couple of sandwiches the boys like to eat.  I picked up the boys (and the sandwiches) and we made our second stop… Cub Foods for some “junk food”.  (What are sandwiches without chips, right?)

We ran to the chip isle and I told them to pick something out.  One of the boys motioned finding something they both like.  Nope, I said… That will NEVER do…  I told them they could each pick out their OWN junk food!  One of them picked Munchies, and the other picked Funyuns.  I picked up a bag of salted in the shell peanuts, and we headed to the check out.  From there, we headed to our third stop – beverages!  (What are sandwiches and chips without soda, right?)         

I decided to head to Super America (a nearby convenience store / gas station).  We ran to the WALL of beverage coolers.  There, I also told the boys to go wild… They looked at me with saucer like eyes… ANYTHING they asked?  I did draw the line at energy drinks, (my sister would have skinned me alive) but I told them anything else was fair game.  They contemplated several flavors of Mountain Dew High Voltage, and various other drinks, and one of the boys even said they could not make up their mind because there were too many choices… (Can you have too many beverage choices??)  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, they chose Gatorades.  I grabbed a Half & Half.   We checked out and headed to our fourth stop – the Light Rail Station!

Waiting at the Light Rail Platform



True, I could have driven to our destination in my car, but where is the fun with that when instead, you can RIDE THE RAILS!!  The boys had never been on the light rail, so we headed to the 28th Ave Park & Ride station and jumped the Hiawatha Line until we reached our fifth and final destinationMinnehaha Park!



Minnehaha Park is a city park located in Minneapolis.  Minnehaha Creek cuts through the park – and as a centerpiece of the park – the creek plunges over Minnehaha Falls before continuning it’s journey to the Mississippi River. 

We jumped the train and headed into the park where we took advantage of a few photo ops and snapped some pictures.

Top of Minnehaha Falls The boys at the top of Minnehaha Falls  Butt Griding down the handrail! Butt Griding down the handrail!

Above left:  The view (from an observatoin bridge) over the edge of the falls.

Above right:  “Double Trouble” – my nephews posing from the same location.

Minnehaha Falls senic overlook Minnehaha Falls senic overlook 

Above left:  photo from the opposite end of the plunge pool.  As you can see, the spring drought had the falls performing at a “less than magnificent” rate.

Above Right:  Me with the camera at arms length “trying” to get a photo of the three of us. 

Hiawatha, Minnehaha, and the boys!


Another feature in the park is the Bronze statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha. 

The life-size statue depicts Hiawatha and Minnehaha, who are characters from the epic poem “Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

At the base of the statue the following inscription appears…

Over wide and rushing rivers
In his arms he bore the maiden.

The sculpture (which is located on a small island in the creek, can be viewed from the water’s edge a short way above the falls) was originally on exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.  The sculpture was then purchased with pennies donated by school children in Minnesota.


Note:  It an also be climbed upon if you are willing to cross the creek and explore the island!


It was time for nourishment.  We decided to eat our picnic of sandwiches junk food and Gatorades in the park.  We located a picnic table and started digging in.  We spent some time visiting and discussing the “flavors” of our favorite colors… We tried to feed the squirrels and a hawk we saw in one of the trees with some Munchies, Funyuns, and peanut shells – but they wanted no part of it.  As lunch died down, it was time to break out the GPS for some GeoCaching.

I turned it on and just as it powered up, the GPS turned itself off.  I did this a number of times, always resulting in the same thing.  Suspecting the batteries, I swapped out the batteries from the camera, and the same thing happened.  Turn on, start up and then just as the GPS switches to the “finding satellites” screen the GPS turns itself off.  Then, it occurred to me  I had the data connection failure when trying to upload the topo maps of the area earlier that morning.

This is not the first time this has happened.  The first time (several years ago) I did an internet search and found many references to this problem.  All the references resulted in the same solution – Send the GPS back with a check for $75.00 for repair.  Then, I stumbled upon an obscure website that someone posted their own “remedy” for the problem.  In a nutshell – You download a copy of the latest firmware, erase the existing (corrupt) firmware, then reinstall the new (uncorrupt) firmware.  The first time I tried it, it took me three hours to figure it all out – but in the end it worked perfectly.  This time it took me about 10 minutes and I had the GPS up and running again.  You lose all your unsaved data (tracks, waypoints, settings, etc) when you do this, but it’s better than a bricked GPS!

Without the GPS to guide us to the GeoCaches – We decided to simply hike the trail from the plunge pool to the mouth of Minnehaha Creek where it meets up with the Mighty Mississippi

Until the age of eight our family lived a few miles from Minnehaha Park (and spent a lot of time there).  Despite this fact – I do not recall having ever actually walked that trail.

Once we descended into the area of the plunge pool and reached the base of the falls, we took a few more photos.

Base of the Minnehaha Falls plunge pool from the LEGAL vantage point! Base of the Minnehaha Falls plunge pool from the LEGAL vantage point!

Base of the Minnehaha Falls plunge pool from the LEGAL vantage point!

The first two photos were attempts at using the self timer.  After seeing us fail miserably, another park-goer offered to take our picture.

Now, it was time for some HIGH ADVENTURE!!  Time to show these boys what fun is all about! 

We crossed the creek (via a bridge) and the (looking both ways for people watching) we ignored the No Trespassing, Caution, and Danger signs and made our way past the fenced area and headed in for a better look! 

Well, not before ONE of the boys stopped me (the other one was already over the fence and making his way towards the falls).  The nephew that stopped me said he didn’t think we should go past the fence, pointing at the signs… 

I commended him for being so observant, and reminded him that he is too young for County Jail – and that I would be the one headed for lockup if we got caught!     

Base of the Minnehaha Falls plunge pool from the ILLEGAL vantage point! Base of the Minnehaha Falls plunge pool from the ILLEGAL vantage point! One ugly mug photo - taken from the Base of the Minnehaha Falls plunge pool from the ILLEGAL vantage point!

Not wanting to press our luck (or face jail time at HCADC) we headed back to LEGAL park exploration area. 

By the way – see that ledge behind the falls – the one that almost looks like a smile?  It is a bit of a legendary “civil disobedience” area – one I have ALWAYS wanted to go see (even as a young child) but as of yet have not.

We noticed a very large carp trapped in the low water of the creek between some rocky areas.  It looked quite dead until the boys decided to toss a few small rocks at it to see if it was still alive.  Sure enough, it was!

We made our down the creek, crossing over and back by bridges, rock hopping, tree climbing, and whatever other means we could find.  There was a lot to see down there!

Following the creek.  Notice in the left center of the photo - one of the boys crossing the creek.  See how there is NO TRAIL on that side.  Time for a little "OFF TRAIL EXPORING" for the boys!   Monkey see, monkey do.    AAAAGHHH!!  The Bear broke free!!     Why take a bridge when you can rock hop accross the creek?

In the left photo, one of my nephews got ahead of me, and then doubled back in the woods above the trail waiting for us to pass.  About the time I started wondering where he went, I heard my name being called from the woods above me… There he was – hiding behind some sort of fenced area.  It’s all good though – I got him back by telling him that he was hiding in the “Bear cage” area, and that if the gate is open like that, it must mean the bear is out on the loose…

He did not believe me…  I must be loosing my touch. 

So, we continued on.  (Hover your mouse over each picture for a “floating” description…)

LOOK!!  I found a crayfish!!    One lucky crayfish got away from the two!   

The Mouth of Minnehaha Creek!  Dumping into the Mississippi River.  Another photo of The Mouth of Minnehaha Creek!  Dumping into the Mississippi River.  This one was taken frmo the vantage point of the wooden bridge in the photo below.

We finally made it!  The Mouth of Minnehaha Creek!  The creek has traveled 22 miles through the Twin Cities until reaching the falls, and then downstream – emptying out into the Mississippi River (seen here) as it now starts to make it’s way to the Gulf of Mexico! 

Expolring the mouth of the Minnehaha Creek  The boys found this sandstone cave.  

Why cross the bridge (and stay dry) when you can rock hop (and fall in soaking one of your shoes)?  Shhh!!  Don’t tell your mom – The shoe will be dry by the time we get home, and she may never trust me with you guys again!!  (wink

On the other side of the bridge, the boys located this “cave” carved out of the sandstone.  One of the boys decided to explore the cave while the other was more interested in the sandbar and mouth of the creek.  I let them each have their own version of fun for a bit!

Sifting through the fine sand of the cave.  Whoops, just got my shoe wet!

The beauty of Urban Nature.  This does not quite fit with the "nature" portion of this Urban Park.  It does fit with the Urban theme though!  I don't know - I kind of think that skull and crossbones were pretty cool!




The time came to head back…  One last photo opportunity was when the boys located some really “cool” graffiti under a road bridge. 










It was time to hop the train and head back home.  By this time, the boys were tired out, full of junk food and Gatorade (quite proud of the fact that they each finished of a GIANT jug of the stuff). 

Tired out and headed home on the LRT Tired out and headed home on the LRT

Finally!  We got our front seats!!


Now experts at riding the train, they decided they wanted to be in the front car and sit in the front seats of the front car.  Originally the front seats were filled, but as soon as they emptied the boys eyed me and I gave them the “wink and nod”. 


They were up in the front seats of the front car! 




I am so grateful for having had the chance to spend the day with these two hooligans!  It was so much fun introducing them to things they have not seen or experienced before!  They are both such good sports and willing to try anything their “Crazy Uncle” is willing to let them get into (even if it means a little “civil disobedience and / or breaking a “little” law or two).

Hey guys – I’m already planning our outing for NEXT TIME!!  Hey sister of mine – be sure to bring enough BAIL MONEY for all three of us!!!   BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!


  1. Looks like a really fun day with the nephews and a fun park! Too bad about the GPS (but that gives me more time to catch up with your find score!)

    One of my college friends and I practiced many simialar (and some that were really stupid, stupid, stupid) acts of civil disobedience in exploring "forbidden" places. He is now an attorney and father of three... we have toned down considerably! We never hurt/damaged anything, mind you, just explored and satisfied our own curiosity, while taking "calculated risks"! I can't blog about some of those adventures, because I don't want my kids to know about the train tunnel... and the high-level bridge catwalk... and...

  2. Oh yeah, one other thing... love salted peanuts in the shell with campfires!

  3. Okay so after reading this post, I have two small requests: ummmmm, 1)can you be my kids crazy uncle? 2)can you be MY crazy uncle??? lol, seems like you showed them a great time and had a great time yourself as well. Always a good combination!!!

  4. What an awesome day! I'm sure they loved the adventure and will be telling their friends about their Crazy Uncle for months!

  5. David,
    So, if I read this correctly, you are turning your nephews into overweight diabetics, and disregard the law (posted off-limits areas) I would hope you PAID for the train ride, but, at this point, I can't be sure. Well, at least I know what you are getting them for Christmas . . . Knives and cigarettes.

  6. Being the HUGE Vikings fan that you are, I cannot believe you allowed them to wear those Dallas Cowboys sweatshirts.


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