Sometimes I’m full of vim and vigor and have a great experience with amazing views. Then there was last night. As the sunny day descended into a cloudy evening, I was only nudged out by the goal of hitting my Strava April Running Distance Challenge.
My first happy surprise was coming upon a Burgh Bees Community Apiary. One of my friends raises bees and it is something I would (eventually) like to do. But for now, I’ll just buzz by.
I made it to the end of North Murtland Avenue, which was my one and only streets goal. But then figured I would do a few more streets. Of course, one can’t go far in Pittsburgh without hitting steps, and I came to these at the end of Sterret Street under the threatening sky.
On Apple Street, I passed this formerly grand building.
I always get a bit confused where Apple Street intersects Lincoln Avenue and ended up going down Lincoln for a little. On my return to Point Breeze, I caught this mural above a yard of junky cars. Again, the my long arms allowed an “over the fence” pic. Do you notice the boats? Just supports my theory.
Now inspired with a spirit of exploration, I decided to find the elusive Edgerton Street steps. I’ve run up South Dallas hundreds of times, but never realized where they were until today. Apparently these are part of the setting for “An American Childhood” by Annie Dilliard.
Between the endorphins kicking in, the various discoveries I had made and the blooming Spring flowers, I was pretty happy by the end of this run.
“Sheradenia est omnis divisa in partes tres” – to loosely copy Julius Ceasar. (No worries, legions of Romans aren’t set to invade it.) There is the generally flat plateau overlooking the Ohio River; the flat grid between Sheraden Park and Chartiers Avenue; and the hilly section south and west of Chartiers Avenue. Most of today’s run was in the second section, between Sheraden Park and Chartiers Avenue.
I parked near McGonigle Park and started the crisscrossing streets. Almost every yard had a dog. And every dog had something to say, starting with the large old black and brown dog who “woofed” at me vigorously, but didn’t bother to get up. Finishing up Universal Street, a young brown dog had lots to say as he breathlessly barked and leaped against his fence, trying to take a bite of a me. At least we both got our heart rates up.
But the people were nice, greeting me as they worked on their houses. Near the parks, the streets are pleasantly sheltered by tall trees. There’s supposed to be a set of steps which go from Moyer to Chartiers Avenue but the top is blocked by fencing. On the other end of the grid, Jean Street dissolves into broken steps descending to Adon Street.
The grid of streets, with a little duplication, covered six miles. Then I crossed Chartiers Avenue, planning to go up the Universal Street steps into the hillier section of Sheraden. However, the lower section of Universal is overgrown, so I went up the very steep Emporia Street. The top section of steps was OK, and I went all the way to Chetopas Street, where I got this broad view.
This hillier section Sheraden is riddled with steps, as streets cross Chartiers Avenue and run into a bluff. Huxley Street and Adon Street, for example, continue across Chartiers and meet as a step intersection.
Then I made my way to Middletown Avenue. I had done portions of Middletown before. This time, however, I was intent on following it to its bitter end. Turns out, it lands in a flat, wide-open suburban area.
I crossed the Windgap Bridge which briefly took me into McKees Rocks. That is out of the City of Pittsburgh, so I returned to explore more of the Windgap neighborhood.
Traversing the big wide open streets of Windgap, I found the end of Chartiers Avenue. It just stops at the intersection with Mayfair Street, a residential, suburban street. I made my way back to Sheraden along Chartiers Avenue. I was a little short of my intended fifteen miles, so I wandered a bit in the center of Sheraden, where I saw this bold butterfly mural.
This was a little run through Highland Park on Earth Day; a perfect neighborhood for Earth Day, given the number of gardens and blooming trees I saw. It didn’t start out so nice, though. The small street behind Sacred Heart’s gym has a graffiti covered end. However, the new pedestrian walkway over the East Busway is a sleek, modern improvement. It’s also good to see that project finished.
Getting into Highland Park proper brought me back to the wide streets, huge houses and verdant area which is so appealing. It’s also rather large, compared with some neighborhoods I’ve been running in lately.
It was also cool to come across a few of these little libraries. Since this one has a charter number (5363), you can look it up at Little Free Library . It could be interesting to do a mapping of Little Libraries “wild” in Pittsburgh. I’ve definitely seen more around than I see on their website. When I’m not running, I often browse the books and take or leave one.
Coming back to Shadyside I came across the site of the East Liberty Farmer’s Market. Between Covid19, the season and the time of day, it was closed, but I do like their murals.
That was it. More than seven miles on a cool spring day.
Nestled between the hills of Allegheny Cemetery and Stanton Avenue is a rather suburban section of Stanton Heights. I grew up in neighborhoods like this, albeit in Alabama.
To get there, I parked near McCandless and Wickliff in Upper Lawrenceville. I scooted down the stairs to Upland Terrace, a one street suburb built in the 1950’s. Crossing Stanton Avenue on Woodbine brought me into this cul-de-sac heaven.
Three and four bedroom houses built in the 1970’s sit back on their green lawns from the wide, winding, tree-lined streets. The stately trees soared into the bright blue sky. Compared to some areas of Pittsburgh, this is amazing. While hills rule Pittsburgh, the idea of large lawns, wide and clean streets with decent housing has yet to catch on everywhere.
Of course, with such wide and winding streets, the mileage added up quickly. Just looping through most of these avenues took me over seven miles, two miles further than circumnavigating all of Riverview Park, as I did earlier this week. It also wasn’t a mecca for street art, or fascinating steps, or unique architecture. But that’s OK; what are kids going to complain about if there aren’t some boring parts of town to grow up in?
I planned this run thoroughly. Conveniently starting at Riverview Park, I would run around the park on the streets in the ravines. As usual, I had “runtime” surprises, including mapping inaccuracies with OpenStreetMap. If you haven’t looked carefully, you might not realize that maps from Strava and Google Maps are different. Strava uses OpenStreetMap, which relies on individuals to make corrections, whereas Google has their streets view cars and other tools. I suppose I need to contribute to OpenStreetMap myself, to make corrections.
OpenStreetsMap had an error about Doak Way. It placed it further down Dornestic than it actually is. On the other hand, I knew there was a set of steps from Dornestic to Dalton. I wasn’t sure if it this was in addition to Doak Way or not. While investigating this, a rather beefy bulldog mix decided to investigate me. He barked a little and sniffed, and was uncomfortably close to my calves. I was relieved when a man came quickly off of his porch and, in coaxing tones, said “Come on back! He doesn’t want to play with you!” Maybe if I had had a ball. Now I was a little unnerved, but no worse for wear, so I waved off the dog and went down the steps.
I uncovered a tiny blue church with mossy steps. Following Glenside Street as it becomes Oakdale Street, I was once again struck by the rural character of this nook of Pittsburgh. Oakdale Street eventually becomes dotted with houses, still very rural in feeling. Festoria Street is a dead-end dog-leg off of Oakdale. As I was about to make the turn to the dead-end, a woman came out of a house and asked me what I was doing. She was less than enthusiastic about me running up to the dead-end, so I turned around and went out on Oakdale. She was friendly enough, I suppose, but the first person to challenge me running on a public street, dead-end or not. When I checked later, Google Streetview had not gotten further, so they must have gotten the same message.
After that, the houses went downhill. I did come across the a house which looked like it dropped out of tornado in Oz. What is this anyway? A deluxe outhouse? Further on Oakdale, there are hulks of old cars and industrial debris just off the road.
Continuing on Woods Run I explored the small streets above Woods Run near Central Avenue. Here there were more OpenStreetsMap snafus and another loose dog nipping at my heels. This time, I only heard bottles clinking; no one called the dog back. At this point, I decided to cut short the run. That area, near Sorento and Smithton, quickly becomes very inner city, with houses tightly packed on each other. Honestly, while some houses are a mess, many are fine. There’s at least a half-dozen sets of stairs.
Smithton, Rothpletz and Grand Avenue all converge into Kilbuck Road at the bottom of Riverview Park. I came across the stables for the Pittsburgh Police and eventually ran into Riverview Park while getting a close-up view of a salt-dome.
So, I was a bit disappointed with this run. While there were some nice areas, the threat of loose dogs, auto wreckage and a greying sky dimmed the early promise. Nonetheless, got a good five miles in.
In local online running communities, I sometimes hear that people get bored on “hill” day, because they are tired of running the same hill week in and week out. Maybe they’ve chosen a specific hill in North Park or Schenley Park, or somewhere in their neighborhood and keep at it. Let me tell you, Pittsburgh has no lack of hills and there’s no need to run the same one all the time.
Take this run, for example. Beechview is about five minutes out of downtown, either through the Liberty Tubes to West Liberty Avenue or using the Fort Pitt Tunnels to Banksville Road. Park along on one of the broad residential streets, say Fallowfield Avenue. Within a mile, you’re likely to get a 100′ change of elevation. Do that a few times, and I think you’ll be set.
Of course, if that doesn’t get your heart rate going, try a few staircases. There are plenty of them around here, too. Just don’t try the ones coming down to Goldstrom Avenue, unless you bring a rope. If the Rutherford steps or Belasco steps don’t tickle your fancy, cross West Liberty Avenue and go up Stetson Avenue or Ray Avenue.
That’s about it. I’ve become fond of Beechview in spite of its ridiculous hills. Whittling down the streets, I only have about a dozen left there, maybe two or three miles and perhaps a half-dozen sets of stairs.
This was an interesting and surprising run in the Riverview Park area. According to Google maps, it was partially in Perry North and partially in Brighton Heights. After you see the pictures, though, you might think I teleported to West Virginia too.
From a favorite parking spot on the entrance to Riverview Park, I traipsed over to a small subdivision near Perry Traditional Academy bounded by Semicir Street. Those city planners were clever… Guess what shape “Semicir Street” makes? However, the house builders weren’t so clever it seems.
That’s not actually fair, I suppose, but seeing this collapsed house was shocking. Upon further research, it seems the rains of 2019 weakened the foundation. The residents were forced to move out and shortly after, the house slipped into the ravine. This happened about a year ago and the slope apparently hasn’t stabilized enough to remove the debris. Either that, or it is low on the priority list.
SemiCir Street is rather narrow, but finishes its short span as a driveway between two buildings of Perry Traditional Academy. On the other side of the Academy, Hemphill Street’s cobblestones crest a steep hill.
I finished this little warren of streets and moved on to the next section. This took me past the high school and down Mairdale Avenue. A few weeks ago, I ran down here, past the high school’s football field and noticed houses high on the right. Today I was exploring that neighborhood.
If hill repeats are your game, go to Portman Avenue. It’s not long, but damn it’s steep. The houses are a hybrid between the ostentatious mansions on Perrysville Avenue houses and the tall, narrow structures you see in Spring Garden. I followed Portman back to Perrysville Avenue then started down Vinceton Street, where the corner store is festooned with bold, colorful murals.
Now things began to diverge from the urban setting I was expecting. Menlo Street, the featured image, looks more like a Virginia horse farm lane rather than an inner city street. I made the next left onto Dornestic Street (that’s right “Dornestic” not “Domestic“). That street became a winding lane along the hillside, with houses haphazardly spaced here and there. The right onto Stolz Street completed the transformation with ponies grazing behind a fence.
Jogging along in West Virginia now, I was jolted back to Pittsburgh by stairs which led me down to Oakdale Street, where the ravine widens up to a pleasant glade surrounded by towering oak trees.
At this point, I clambered back up the hill, took note of the streets and stairs I had missed and ran back to my car. This four mile run had transported me from turn of the century mansions to a collapsed house to a pasture. Where would I go next?
This run was planned carefully. I would park on Washington’s Landing under the 31st Street Bridge. I would warm up on the flat Waterfront Drive then ascend Rialto Street. At the top, I would take a hard right and finish off Ley Street and Lowrie Street, the section of Troy Hill which stretches all the way to Reserve Township. On my first attempt, late last week, the depression of a cold rain and Covid19 meant I never got out of my car. Monday, I parked in the same spot, IMMEDIATELY got out of the car and began.
Washington’s Landing is a cute island in the Allegheny River just off of River Road. The 31st Street Bridge roars high above. It’s history includes an early visit by none other than George Washington, as well as uses as a rendering plant and a rail yard. It has since been redeveloped and currently contains a little park, a street of condos, some hiking paths and a restaurant. It also has these little pergolas overlooking the water on both sides of the narrow island.
Now that the warmup was over, I headed for Troy Hill, going up the Rialto Street Steps. Troy Hill houses are only about 100 years older than those condos, and honestly, don’t look too bad. Perhaps a bit closer together.
While going up Rialto, whether by foot or by car, is not for the faint of heart, once there, it’s pretty flat. It was stoop time and folks were out on their porches. I ran back and forth on the streets and alleys, inciting all the dogs to bark, from tiny white puff balls with their high yips to large black and brown hounds with their deep woofs. I came across several community gardens, perched on the cliffs over the Allegheny. There was a hint of a staircase which was clearly closed. Nothing below it but Route 28, far below. Voegtly Cemetery was bigger than I expected and a number of streets dead-ended into it.
I’m finished with most of Troy Hill. There’s only a section of Troy Hill Road, as it borders Reserve Township, which remains. This was a nice run and I was glad I did it finally.
Recently I have been traveling to different areas of Pittsburgh to find new streets and run them. Today’s run was closer to home, in the Hill District. The Hill District has several long parallel streets which roughly go from the hilltop above the University of Pittsburgh to Downtown Pittsburgh. These streets, Bedford, Webster, Wylie and Centre are the main thoroughfares which people take through the Hill District and I’ve already run them. Today’s run was about the smaller streets crisscrossing those major roads.
I had parked in West Oakland, so from this perspective, the small streets begin at a low elevation along Centre and rise to the cliffs off of Bedford Avenue. This is properly called the Middle Hill. Over the years, many of the structures in this area have been torn down, so now, there are plenty wide open grassy blocks.
I started with Junilla Street Steps, which come off of Centre Avenue. It continues, sometimes as a street and sometimes as steps, all the way to Bedford Avenue. Along one stretch of Junilla Street, I saw a few turkeys and heard their gobbles. Groundhogs were freely roaming in the vacant lots.
Morgan Street starts rather wide-open and then closes in as you reach Elba Street. From previous adventures, I call the flight of steps from Morgan to Centre the “Who’s You!” steps.
Briefly put, I had been accompanying a friend along these steps when she decided to go down to Centre Avenue to take pics. For some reason (perhaps because I had run a long way), I just hung out on the sidewalk in front of the porch in my black hoodie and woolen Army beanie. Turns out, a tall dude in a black hoodie and a woolen Army beanie hanging out in front of your porch in the Hill District can be a concern. After a few minutes, I heard some shouting. From the street above, a big black guy in a brown jacket was yelling:
“Who’s You? Who’s You?”
I had just realized he was yelling at me when my companion sprightly sprang up the steps, gave some big smiles and whisked me away. Whew! Even now I muse, “What was the proper response?…I am me?”
But I digress.
Francis Street was interesting. Starting from Centre, it is a rather broad avenue heading up the hill. Then, as I crossed Wylie Avenue, it became a cul-de-sac of newer, rather suburban housing. I did the big circle and went out the way I had come. Later, as I started down Francis Street from the other direction I spied some steps, took them, and again landed in the suburban cul-de-sac. Surprise, surprise.
Coming down the Watt Street steps provided a nice view of Christian Tabernacle Church. I gradually made my way towards the Upper Hill, aka Sugar Top, where the big blue water tower lives. I finished off Milwaukee Street and a few little streets before heading down Herron Avenue and headed back to my car. No one shouting at me today. Thank goodness for social distancing.
Happy Easter! Normally, I would be finishing up a brunch with family and friends this morning. However, in the current state of things, I figured I’d blog a little and later try to find a chocolate egg around the house. Happy to have all the good in my life as it is.
So, I ran this route last week on a brilliant evening in Beechview. If you’ve followed my blog for anytime, you’ll know that Beechview is a friendly neighborhood with broad streets and booming hills. What you may not have known, is that in the last ice-age, Beechview was actually beachfront property. (How do you think they got the name?) In those days, everyone got around by boat, paddling from hilltop to hilltop. I came across a relic of the old days here, not far from a spanking new gas grill.
Continuing the fiction, it then happened that the seas began to recede. In those days, it wasn’t too convenient to lug your boat up to the house, so everyone made steps to get down to the water. You can see these steps all over.
Security was a concern, so residents bred vicious animals which required pets before passing. Most of them are pretty quick and shy these days, but every now and then an alpha guardian still stands his ground.
But the seas indeed, have receded, leaving Beechview high and dry. The only waves you see are the undulating hills frothed with houses.