Last Wednesday, I decided to run in Brighton Heights, centering on Termon Avenue and catching a few additional streets. Yesterday, I had very much the same thought about Riverview Park and its environs. Turns out that these were complementary adventures, each one reaching opposing piers of the former Davis Avenue Bridge. Both runs also traversed Woods Run Road and found pink houses along the way.
On a brilliant evening I started on Terman Avenue , which stretches from an Ohio River overlook to Brighton Heights Park. Overall, this was a great area for running with wide streets and a vibrant neighborhood. It was relatively flat for awhile, then ended in steps and ravines as often always happens in Pittsburgh. I went up Wapello Street stairs to Cornell Street and did Harvard Circle, which was a bit disappointing. Instead of a level green lawn with libraries and philosophers discussing the meaning of life, it was a narrow street ringed by modest houses enclosing a hill of wild trees.
Zig-zagging along Aqua Way, I hit another section of the Wapello Street Stairs, adorned with these Spring=like tree murals.
Going up and down the streets, I noticed a rather old detour sign saying the Davis Avenue Bridge was closed. Being who I am, I had to see just how closed it was. I was hoping for maybe a pedestrian path across a little bridge, or a sidewalk available next to some construction. In fact, the pier was substantial, but the bridge itself was gone. The Davis Avenue Bridge had been closed for YEARS, eleven to be exact.
Now, I’ll fast forward to yesterday’s run starting in Riverview Park. I parked along the grand promenade into the park. The apex of the park is Allegheny Observatory.
Running around and around the park roads eventually took me to Woods Run. Roughly my target was to go up Gass Street, and circle back around. Along the way, I got a call from work, so for a few confusing blocks, I was doing phone support for an ERP while finding my way around small streets and stairs above Woods Run Road. I suppose I could have just stopped.
Finally getting off the call, I found myself under Shadeland Avenue Bridge. I got an up-close look at the big church under the California Avenue Bridge. Apparently it is historic and seems to still have services. Unfortunately, it is a big building and in disrepair, so I hope that congregation can keep it maintained.
Finally, I found the Gass Avenue Steps, which lead to a very steep Gass Street, but high on the other side of Woods Run. I took the long way around and came back to Riverview Park via Bascom Avenue, passing Perry Traditional Academy.
So, it the neighborhoods in Northern Pittsburgh are divided by the great Woods Run chasm. The only bridge to span that ravine is gone and getting from one side to the other is quite the chore now.
For this excursion, I did a few nautical miles, going from South Pacific to North Pacific, crossing over a land bridge and coming back down the North Atlantic and South Atlantic.
Along the way I saw what I took to be the Customs House, in its official red.
I had to walk the plank up these North Pacific Stairs.
Slithered past a great green sea monster.
Made it to island houses perched on the mountain top.
And finally came to the lighthouse, doubling as a water tower.
(It kinda looks like a spaceship frozen in place during take-off. )
The return trip was swathed in misty, swirling clouds and intermittent rain, as the North Atlantic often is. Approaching my car Captain John Parker hailed me in Friendship and I saluted back. Social distancing even on the oceans.
A day after running around the city and taking every stair I could, I was ready for the flat lands; no hills, no steps, no views. I just wanted the horizon to disappear in front of me, an unreachable challenge. Then I woke up and remembered that I was living in Pittsburgh!
For today’s run, I decided to check out the neighborhood around West End Park. Last Fall, I had attended an outdoor fashion show in the West End, off of South Main Street on Sanctus Street. That area seemed flat and I figured this area would be similar, I mean how much can things change in a mile?
Turns out, a lot. I parked near West End Park and ran down Kerr Street. Immediately, I came upon a very impressive set of steps leading far down. Their siren’s song drew me in and shortly, I found myself at the bottom, looking way up. I would have to ascend that eventually, and for now, went up Walbridge Street.
This twisting, steep street has some remarkable houses perched on its edge. Branching off of Walbridge, several small streets transform you from an urban runner in Pittsburgh to a wandering soul in the back roads of West Virginia.
My run planning had just set general boundaries – don’t go past Steuban Street or Route 60; leaving the exact route up to life’s realities. So, I just went back and forth on small streets and alleys. As it was a nice Sunday morning, people were out and about. Many were working in their yards and houses. Others were walking their dogs.
I was surprised at a few things I found. First was the back street full of boats. Next was the amazing view of the Ohio River near the Casino. Then, there were some really large and beautiful houses up here.
Of course, there were more stairs. The Hassler St Stairs off of Wymore are marked on my OpenStreetsMaps but not on Google. Usually Google is more accurate. I’d have to check again, but I at first glance didn’t see them in Bob Regan’s book, either. Also of note are the Lorenz Avenue stairs, which start slowly, just one step every ten yards before plunging down the hillside like proper steps. Elbon Street was surprisingly long. At one section, it bordered on an artifact of urban redevelopment – former Mayor Tom Murphy’s “Project Picket Fence”.
All in all, this was a cool area to run in. On a sunny Sunday morning, it couldn’t have been better.
I went ahead and did the whole route of the planned “Take The Stairs Fatass 25k” last Sunday. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know that I had organized an event for March 29, for unsupported (Fatass) runs of 25K and 50k around Pittsburgh, focusing on using Pittsburgh’s public stairs. There were over 125 people signed up and another 50-60 on the wait list. I have t-shirts which will be arriving soon (for a small price of $15). However, with the Covid19 pandemic, this event has been canceled. Restaurants, especially Threadbare, our starting point, will be closed except for take-out. We’re supposed to stay at home, except to get exercise and aren’t supposed to gather in groups.
So, this turned out to be a solo run. While I used RunGo to guide me along the route, there were a couple of glitches. Apparently it doesn’t understand that there are steps through the concrete pier of the 31st Street train trestle. Can you believe that? Sometimes it told me to make a right or left turn when there weren’t any turns to make. Then, it kept telling me to make a turn off of a perfectly good road onto a cliff. Actually, that was OK, it was just directing me to steps.
And steps I did. I counted thirty bona fide flights of stairs. I started with the Basin Streets steps, which took me from Spring Garden up and across Troy Hill. One thing about Rungo; if it doesn’t say anything you’re supposed to continue straight.
The roller coaster ride took me down the steps to Vinial Street, near Penn Brewery. My amazing route brilliantly directed me up Troy Hill Road, only to plunge off the cliff on the Troy Hill steps, those multi-level, swirling steps leading to the bike path along Route 28. I had a bit of a breather as I crossed the 31st Street Bridge and ran along Spring Way in the Strip District.
Here, Rungo wanted me to keep going to the next street, but I knew better and went through the silly little stair case through the pier. Now I got into serious step country, Polish Hill. Throw a rock in any direction and you’re likely to hit a set of stairs. Jewel Street, Harding Way, they were all on this route.
With just about a 5K done, I had covered over 900′ of elevation with a half dozen flights of stairs. The fun was just beginning. Next was the climb into the Hill District. Finland Street, which starts in Polish Hill, doesn’t let slopes break it up, it just transforms, as a shape-shifter, from road to stairs as needed. Here, we see it intersecting Bismark. I must admit, I ran up and down Bismark because I hadn’t done it before. It’s not really on the route.
Moving on up Ridgeway to Monroe, I got to the long Orion flight. Those pop out right next to a distressed house, which can be unnerving. But, no worries, I continued down Webster, making sure to take a right there. From this point, there weren’t anymore stairs until the Southside. That was just a lack of imagination on my part, as I suppose I could have gone down Chauncy Street Stairs. But then I would have missed a great musical mural.
I had another breather as I crossed the Birmingham Bridge and made a left on East Carson Street. Before heading into the maze of steps known as the Southside Slopes, I came across this mural on the Birmingham Bridge Tavern.
Now, Southside Slopes is the Mecca for city stairs. With sixty-eight sets of stairs, it has, far and away, more steps than any other section of Pittsburgh. Many of them provide sweeping views.
There is more to see than just steps, of course. I do like these murals on Old Arlington Avenue Streetcar Loop.
The slopes are somewhat divided by a large greenway and South Side Slopes Park. The steps above are on the East side. On the West Side of that greenspace are long stairways like the S 18th Street steps, Yard Way, and St. Thomas Street. Eventually a set of winding stairs on South 15th Street took me down to the flats. Here I had another breather as I crossed the 10th Street Bridge.
The official route takes one through the Armstrong Tunnels in a rush to get across downtown. However, sitting at the light at 10th and Second Avenue, I noticed a rather long flight of steps up. I decided to take it instead of the tunnel.
Rejoining the route at outflow of the Armstrong tunnels, I continued across Downtown and the Northside. I ascended James Street, up the stairs past Henderson and on up. This is Fineview, and indeed, has a fine view of the city. Between detours, intentional and accidental, I was already at 15 miles coming to Rising Main. From the top, it just looks like another step off the cliff, but then you see it spread out before you. Hope you don’t have vertigo!
After crossing 279 on Gerst Way, a pedestrian bridge, you come to East Street. The next set of stairs should really be closed, but they’re not. Watch out for a landing that has fallen through as you go up to Radner Street and make a left. Do not go up the next set of stairs on your right. It leads to a blocked-off street which is overgrown and has at least one manhole without a cover. Of course, that’s what I did. @@
Coming back on course to Radner and Rostock, I caught the modest set of stairs up to Solar Street. At this point, you’re less than a mile from Thredbare, using the impressive Lappe Lane stairways to get there. My phone battery was very low, so I didn’t get a picture of them. Whew, that was it! Back at Threadbare, I jumped into my car and sped home, about 17 miles in the bank and 3,200 feet of elevation.
It’s been rough, this social distancing. I decided I needed something. I was a bit ashamed at the overwhelming nature of this urge, a bit cautious lest my friends found out that I had broken the rules, but it was too much to resist. I went up the Blanton Street steps, quiet as a mouse. Then, I skulked up and down a few streets and alleys in Greenfield on a cool evening, kissed with mist.
Then I saw her! Wow, what a beauty! She’s proud and prominent, a little hard to get close to, but, OMG! I love you, Cathy.
Is was exhausting, yet exhilarating. And just like that it was over. I snuck down the Yoder Street Stairs and quietly jogged to my car. Whew, what a night! Just don’t tell my girlfriend. 😉
Today, I’ll combine a couple of runs, done on consecutive days in roughly the same area. Of course, they conquered separate streets, but otherwise were very similar. These were both run in that wedge of the city between Butler Street and Liberty Avenue, as they diverge from 34th Street.
In addition, my run on St. Patrick’s Day was my 200th RATS run! Soon, I’ll update my official map and databases. I’ve made a lot of progress recently. CityStrides claims I’ve run 33% of the city. It’s not 100% accurate but pretty close. Does that mean 600 runs? Ha! I think it’ll be closer to 350.
Monday’s run, RATS #00199, started on Liberty Avenue, with a specific goal of covering Saint James Place and Mintwood Street. This area is a tight grid of small streets and packed alleys. But the grid is haphazard at times, with alleys stopping and small streets only going a couple of blocks.
On Monday, my run continued as dusk settled into night. Kids, off of school and still energetic, giggled and laughed as they wandered the streets in small groups. I came across some cool doors, even on the darkest alleys. In the dark, the slightest glimmer of light is artistic and wonderful.
On Tuesday, I ran by flaming entrance complementing the dark trees of the back exit. It was St. Patrick’s Day, so I donned festive green regalia. Clanging green beads set off dogs throughout Lawrenceville, reminding me of the “Twilight Bark” in 101 Dalmations.
“Arf! Arf! Woof! Woof! Yip,yip, yip!”
I got a kick out of this “Kiln -N- Time” studio and was struck by this impressive cross on a back-alley. But all, in all, the big orange alley cat was my favorite.
All in all, a good run, helping deal with the ongoing cyclone of upheaval. There’s lots of good out there.
This sunny run took me from the flats of Upper Lawrenceville to the heights of Stanton Heights along several precarious paths. As the reality sets in of Covid-19 social distancing, it was solo run without any stops at cute little coffee shops. I mainly was focused on a couple of streets with staircases, 56th Street and 57th Street.
I warmed up on the flats between Butler Street and the Allegheny River. This area is seeing new residential development, but still hosts large warehouses such as A-1 Cold Storage, the impressive buildings of McKamish, a mechanical contractor and a Sunoco facility. As for Sunoco, it was founded in Pittsburgh, apparently:
Joseph Newton Pew and Edward O. Emerson were partners at Peoples Natural Gas Company in Pittsburgh, PA, when they decided to expand their gas business to oil. It proved to be a success. Within a few years, the oil company had acquired pipelines, leases and storage tanks – emerging as one of the area’s leading suppliers of crude oil. On March 17, 1890, they made it official with a new name. The Sun Oil Company was producing, transporting, and storing oil as well as refining, shipping, and marketing petroleum.
Now warmed up, I began to tackle the first objective, the 57th Street stairs and a small set of streets perched mid-way on the hillside. The stairs begin where the paved 57th Street turns left and becomes Christopher Street. The first section is very solid. Getting a breather at Duncan Street, stairs continued, ostensibly to Camelia Street for an official total of 345 steps according to Bob Regan’s book.
I had done streets on the top earlier and knew there might be a “connection issue” but, from a distance, I saw an individual climbing the second set of stairs. They disappeared as I went up this next flight. After three or four houses on the right, the stairs became challenging. Treads were sometimes missing. Railings were sometimes missing. Hell, at points, even landings were missing. However, not all at once, so was able to I scrambled up. Near the top, vegetation took over and I could not proceed.
I did the little circuit of streets, Duncan, Wickliff, a section of 56th Street and made my way down to Butler Street. This time I would ascend the 56th Street Stairs from the bottom. Now, just as 56th Street turns into the Shop & Save parking lot, stairs rise majestically up the hill. I must say, they are “officially closed” here, but I slipped through. Same story as 57th Street Stairs – missing treads, missing landings, but actually passable for the nimble.
The first section was the only one which was closed. After that, they become street stairs along the section of 56th Street I had already done. There is another section which ascends to Celadine Street, all in good shape.
Once at the top, I did some streets in Stanton Height and made my way down Kendall Street – a very steep, cobblestone street which masquerades as a country road. That brought me out to Kent Street, taking me back to the flats.
Much has happened since my last post. Most notably, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has become rampant across the world and has started to make real, day-to-day impacts on the lives of Americans in general and Pittsburgh in particular. There’s lots of ‘news’, some of it suspect and some of it very solid. Johns Hopkins’ site is pretty informative. In general, the genie is out of the bottle and ‘social distancing’ is being stressed in order to mitigate the effects of the virus. Hopefully, this effort to quash large groups will decrease the total number of cases of covid-19, and spread out the number of cases, so people who are severely sick can get the care they will need. Enough about that.
For the time being, I’ll be avoiding large group runs, but my Spring marathon hasn’t been moved or cancelled and I still have hundreds of Pittsburgh streets to run. Today I started out with Cathy, running from Point Breeze. Cathy wanted some company on the back-half of the Pittsburgh Marathon course, so we ran together for about five miles.
Then I headed over to Morningside to finish some streets in that area, notably Snow Way and pop up into Stanton Heights. So, running up Stanton, I expected to see an alley on the right, with a four letter name starting with “S”. There it was, Swan Way? Hmm, cool house on the corner, a long alley, this must be it. Swan Way continued deep into Morningside, nearly a mile. As I progressed, I dutifully went up and down many of the cross streets. When I got to Martha Street, I finally noticed street signs for Snow Way and realized I had made a mistake. Well, as they say “nothing to it but to do it“, so I made my way back to Stanton in order to pick up the start of Snow Way. Turns out, that’s nigh impossible since Snow Way, while getting really, really close to Stanton Ave, actually dead-ends in a retaining wall holding that street up. To make matters worse, it progresses only a couple of blocks before becoming a grassy track behind houses.. Thanks for the stop sign, neighbor. It does pick up on the far side, though and parallels Swan Way up the hill.
Morningside is a rather nice neighborhood. The well-maintained houses are pretty tight with each other, but each has a yard and often a garage off the alley. At the high end of Morningside, the Baker Street overlooks the Allegheny while on Jancey Street, the old elementary school, Morningside Public School, is now apartments.
From the top end of Morningside, there are three ways to quickly reach Stanton Heights, two sets of staircases without streets (Martha and Adelphia) and a steep street with sidewalk steps (Greenwood).
Going up Greenwood, I was pleasantly surprised at this piece of Stanton Heights. It was similar to Morningside with bigger houses, large shade trees and quiet streets. Since I had gone up Adelphia’s wooden stairs where pieces of asphalt roofing shingles were thoughtfully nailed down for traction, I actually went down Martha concrete steps, all 105 of them. At the bottom, I was vigorously chased by a freedom loving tiny weiner dog, no more than six inches high. Man, those tiny legs can move!
Heading to Stanton Heights once more, I was greeted by the official Stanton Heights welcome sign. My hands were still shaking from the weiner dog incident, so the pic is blurry. I covered more streets behind Sunnyside Elementary School then followed Camelia Street, Christopher Street and 57th Street to Upper Lawrenceville. On that steep route down into Lawrenceville, I saw several immense sets of stairs off to the left, which I will have to cover later. I stopped at Caffe d’Amore Coffeeshop, over sixteen miles done and many new streets covered.
For this run, I met with Steel City folks at the start, but decided to run in Troy Hill instead of following the officially christened route. Turns out, that was a wise decision. At any rate, it was good to mingle with Steel City runners afterwards in the cozy confines of Penn Brewery.
As with any run which starts down low and goes high, stairs are involved. I started out trying to find the steps up to Troy Hill, passing an old guy who just seemed to be a shadow of his old self, before turning up the 177 steps to Province Street.
Once my heart rate settled down a bit, I was able to enjoy the sunset as it painted the city of Pittsburgh across the Allegheny. The area is marked by narrow streets, surprisingly flat. Just stay off the edges, where steep streets and steps plunge off the Troy Hill plateau to either Route 28 or Spring Garden Avenue.
In the past, I had traversed Troy Hill on steps tours with @mis.steps, exploring the many stairways in this area. There are at least eleven sets of them trickling down the hillsides. Tonight, though, I generally kept to the narrow streets, passing landmarks, such as this old building in the sky’s last glow.
As I pushed further into Troy Hill, away from Vinial Street, I found the houses increase in size and yards become larger. It was still a maze, with many dead-ends and many opportunities to take fall into Spring Garden. Eventually, I went down Wicklines Street to Spring Garden Avenue, briefly running up Lager Street with the idea of taking the stairs there. However, they looked spooky, so decided to continue on the flats back to Penn Brewery.
As Steel City runners returned, they were all abuzz and chattering about blocked off roads, a policeman getting shot and a continued search for the gunman. It turns out, that indeed happened. Their route was now a police investigation zone. It is frightening to just come across that; sad that the policeman was injured and the shooter, himself, was shot and died.
This was a five miler through Polish Hill, trying to finish this tight neighborhood of narrow streets, impossible hills and stairs. I ran right after work, as a chilly evening rainstorm swept past. That storm was not fun, as the wind tried to tear my jacket off and the steep streets turned into rivers. Luckily, it didn’t last long.
Polish Hill is now an eclectic mix of the narrow old houses perched on cliffs, spectacular, renovated, $450k homes and small businesses. The WORLD HEADQUARTERS of Pepper’s – which sells polarized sports sunglasses, is unceremoniously perched on Pulaski Way, atop a cliff overlooking Liberty Avenue. Herron Ave winds steeply from Bigelow Boulevard to Liberty Avenue, cutting Polish Hill in two.
Back on the narrow, winding streets off of Herron, homeowners stake out extra space, from making dead-end stubs of streets their personal parking spots to reclaiming a bit of the hillside. I love this “Kenny’s Woods” sign, looking just like the ubiquitous “Kennywood” signs you see all over town. Of course there are stairs. Jewel Street stairs intersects Flavian steps on a landing.
Now starting to dry out, I made my way down Herron Avenue and onto Sassafrass Street on the other side of the East Busway. This valley road becomes Neville Street, then Lorigan Street as it passes far under the Bloomfield Bridge. Car dealerships keep excess inventory down hill, behind barbed wire fences. There is a cool place down here, Iron Eden, which makes ornamental ironwork and looks like some bizarre hovel in a medieval tale. Continuing on Lorigan took me to the Ella Street Stairs. These climb the high hill with a few turns, eventually leading to Ella Street (if you go straight), or Wertz Way (if you make the right turn at the last landing).
I saw a toy truck on one of the landings. I can just imagine a six year old boy playing with his truck there, only to be called away by his Mom, accidentally leaving the truck. He was probably forbidden to go on those stairs anymore, and after a few years moved away. I can’t imagine he forgot about it. I hope that one day, as an old man with grandchildren, he takes them back to visit his old neighborhood and finds his truck still there.
Coming back through Bloomfield and Lower Lawrenceville, I crossed the Herron Avenue Bridge again. Immediately after crossing the bridge, there is an impressive set of stairs on the right. These Downing Street Stairs, took me back into Polish Hill, where I finished up. Now, except for three sets of stairs and a small alley, I’ve run all the streets of Polish Hill!