As I’ve covered more and more of Pittsburgh, my runs are increasingly on smaller streets and alleys. This early March run into Oakland definitely fits that description. I started in Dinosaur Playground, as my kids used to call it. It’s a great little playground and field at the tip of Schenley Park. Pre-Covid, parking in Oakland was so expensive and scarce that many people would park here and walk to Pitt on a daily basis.
But let’s get things started with shoes and sunsets. Shoes on the wires and a nice sunset across the “Charles Anderson Memorial Bridge” carrying Panther Hollow Road out of the Park, where it mysteriously renames itself to Boulevard of the Allies.
Continuing into Oakland I made my way down Coltart Street to Iroquois Way. For some reason, it isn’t on most visitors’ “must-see” list! Coltart Street is very typical of Central Oakland. Low houses, duplexes and apartments struggle for space under the rising tide of Pitt development.
Students and medical professionals flow through Oakland, going to work, going home, going to classes, laundromats, restaurants, and bars. I think the colorful mural is along Bates Street, but Gene’s Place is harder to find, well hidden off of Atwood Street. It does not serve food, so with the strange restaurant laws in Pennsylvania, it still allows indoor smoking.
Rounding out the neighborhood tour, I came back to Dinosaur Playground via the Panther Hollow Bridge passing in front of Phipps. A short run, a short blog!
Nearly a month ago, March 7, to be exact, I explored the Ivory Avenue section of Pittsburgh. This little ‘Burger slice is isolated from the rest of Pittsburgh by I-279 and Ross Township. It is closer to Ross Park Mall than to Downtown, but retains a neighborhood feel, once you get off the busy feeder roads to the interstate.
I started, as I often do, from Riverview Park, winding down Venture Street and up East Street. “Up” being very literal here. That brought me to wide, sunny streets in this northern hinterland. The houses and yards here tend to be large. With that theme, someone is really serious about staking their garden. Is it for “Godzilla Big Boy” tomatoes, or hops plants? I’m not sure.
Grizella Street (yes, that’s the actual name) sports little dead-end spurs, Radium, Rutland and Montana. They are pleasant enough to run on, but after a short flat section, they fall off the hill, and the climb back up is very steep. Montana continues as steps from Grizella to Swanson, where a KDKA transmitter sits. The tower is contained behind a rusty fence and old antenna shells litter the ground below, like petals falling off a flower.
From here, I continued toward Ivory Avenue, passing Fiasco Art Center en route. Eventually I came to I-279 as it passes under Perrysville Avenue. The city border is pretty jagged here, I had to run out of the city on Connie Drive to get the section of Connie Drive which was in the city. While that was a bit of a pain in the butt, at least I found the murder weapon. It was Colonel Mustard on Connie Drive with the Crowbar, right?
This area wasn’t very runner friendly. While there was a sidewalk on one side of the bridge, it dropped me off on a wide and somewhat busy Ivory Avenue with no sidewalks. Luckily the far neighborhood was much more cozy, perched on a hill and full of three and four bedroom homes.
Ross Township cuts in and out of the neighborhood but I could keep my bearings by glancing up at the Channel 11 TV Tower. The far side of the hill dropped me onto West View Avenue as it intersects McKnight Road. This was another pedestrian-unfriendly area. Nonetheless, traffic wasn’t too bad and I dodged in and out the shady streets like Zane Way, Valley View Street and Cherryland Street. Darting into Summer Hill briefly, I made my way back to Evergreen Road, pleasantly surprised to find a sidewalk through the rock garden under the interstate bridges.
Returning by going up Venture Street, I finished up with 15 miles and a nice 1,700 feet of elevation.
February was a bit of a slowdown. I only ran 75 miles strewn across eleven runs. Only eight of them earned the coveted RATS badge. However, February was pretty cold, snowy and icy, so any miles were good miles. I’m up to about 80% of the Pittsburgh streets done. Here are this month’s last three routes.
RATS #00370 in Garfield
This was on the periphery of Garfield along Mossfield Street, with a foray onto Brown Way as the sun set. It is a surprisingly rural route, given the dense housing all around.
I made my way to Mora Way. It looks a lot better now that Dumpbusters got a whack at it last year, carting away truckloads of trash and tires. We didn’t get rid of the hill, though!
Once up on Schenley Avenue (which is totally out of place from all the other “Schenley” named parts of the city), I circled back towards the Garfield Hill. I found steps at the end of Breesport. They go up to Fort Pitt playground, though they were crumbling, snow covered and fenced off at the top. Further down North Mathilda, there are some steps falling off the hill near Reno Way. Those seem to be the remnants of a house, as there are no handrails, posts or map evidence of a street there.
I cruised down Brown Way, taking in the evening views.
This neighborhood in undergoing a rapid transformation. Old houses are falling down next to new ones and construction proliferates.
And that was it, three and a half miles done, with a friendly reminder to “Call Your Mom!”, if you are fortunate enough to have her still around.
RATS #00371 – East Liberty, Garfield, Larimer
As the weather improved, my runs lengthened. I also have an upcoming 50K, so I need to get more miles in. Today’s run was mainly about East Liberty, although I ventured briefly into Shadyside, Garfield and Larimer to cross off more streets.
East Liberty is also going through construction and destruction. At the site of former housing project, a Whole Foods is going up. On the back streets, you can still see hand-painted business signs.
This jaunt was over eleven miles.
RATS #00372 Beltzhoover
This was my fifth run in a row, so I was a bit tired and unmotivated. Nonetheless, it turned out well. Now Beltzhoover is less than pristine. Nearly every street has several “eyesore” houses. The steps are typically crumbling. However, it is a busy area, full of people walking their dogs, going to the store and working on their houses. It is also rather big.
I started along Eat Warrington Avenue, passing the metal vegan place and turning at the wild cat-snake mural next to the beer store. Of course the mural has a Steelers logo on it!
Then it was up and down alleys.
Finishing up, I caught a glimpse of South Hills Junction, where the T-Line goes into the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel.
And that’s it! Looking forward to a warmer and sunnier month!
Here are a couple of runs done in mid-February. A “polar vortex” and the threat of it kept me inside for a bit. So, no didn’t do a 20-20, (twenty miler at twenty degrees). Perhaps the late January fall encouraged me to be more careful or I’m just tired of running in the dark and cold. At any rate, the Lincoln Place run covered a large section of that neighborhood while the Hill run just about completed it.
RATS #00368 Over the Hill
Prior to coming out, I used a popular hack for making ‘ice shoes’. You simply put small machine screws into the bottom of your shoes. Once started, they go into the dense rubber easily. With 15 screws on the bottom of each shoe, I was very confident, even on ice.
I started this Saturday afternoon’s run in North Oakland. The recent spate of snow had been cleared enough so that driving was tolerable, but dirty snow, pushed aside, lined most walks and gutters. University Drive in Oakland is still under construction, so I had to take a detour around that. Then I ran down Centre, crossing Herron and heading into the Hill. My target area was a number of small streets in the Middle Hill. Many of the streets were still undisturbed and had ankle deep snow in them.
Hallet, Horton, Humber, I must have stumbled into the “H” section of Pittsburgh, in the Hill District, no less. I have often pondered the easy alliteration of adjoining streets. Homewood has many “F” alleys, Brookline has its “B” streets. It’s kinda cute, unless you’re trying to remember where to turn by just the first letter. Oh, no!
At any rate, the alleys were deep in snow, but mainly passable. The ice-shoes were doing great and I wasn’t even too cold. Periodically, snow squalls blew through, diminishing my vision. Normally, you can see the UPMC building from the Somers’ steps.
I came across a couple of sets of steps. One, Chauncy Street, I was familiar with. It’s a pretty impressive thoroughfare taking you down to Centre Avenue. The other, Caramel Way, was a bit of a surprise. On the map, it just looked like another alley. Blocked off at the top, it wasn’t from the bottom. Following some frozen footsteps up the mildly broken steps it was clear where treads were missing. I did have to duck under a downed tree, but it wasn’t too extreme.
As usual, there were buildings ready to fall down and some historic markers. This plaque is dedicated to jazz great Art Blakey. Presumably he lived in the house? A rather oversized, chilly bass player was still out practicing in the snow.
I had fun on this run, in spite of the conditions. The shoes worked out well.
RATS #00369 – Lincoln Place
And, now, to one of the southernmost neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. A week after that last run, the snow was still around, and it was a beautiful, sunny day. Snow really looks good on Pittsburgh.
My first order of business was to track down a staircase between Glenhurst and Lougean. I had missed it on an earlier run. So, I tromped down Mifflin Road, dodging cars until I got to Glenhurst. The wooden stairs were snuggled between two very suburban houses.
From there, it was an adventure on back alleys which went much further than I expected. “F” Way, “D” Way and “C” Way took me way back to country sheds. Overall, this was a nice area to run in. It was lacking in sidewalks, but also lacked in traffic.
Eventually I found myself on Mooney Road, heading towards Mifflin Road. After Beechland Street, Mooney Road, itself, becomes a country road. This narrow street dives down a steep hill to Mifflin Road. Along this section, there are only three or four houses, each precariously perched on a hillside. As I approached Mifflin Road, I noticed a large house across the ravine. Strangely enough, no road or driveway was visible. I still wonder how those folks get home.
By the time I had gone down Mooney and back to Beechland, the sun was sliding over the hillsides. I finished out a few more streets and cruised back to McBride Park, my favorite place to park.
Three of my runs in January completed 99% of the streets in Westwood and Ridgemont. These two western neighborhoods perch atop hillsides on either side of Greentree Road. I’ve run extensively in Westwood, but Ridgemont was a whole new area.
Run #00358 in Westwood was a “just get out there and do it” run. My intention was to complete Rydal Street and a couple of neighboring streets. In the darkness, I missed Sedley Way, but was otherwise successful. Nothing beats snowy steps at night!
Continuing with the evening running, my next run took me behind the Giant Eagle in the former Parkway Center Mall. Merely minutes outside the Fort Pitt Tunnels, Parkway Center Mall is torn down. Shadowy parking lots with feeble fences lead toward the bright Giant Eagle. The ubiquitous asphalt undulates, as if the land itself is trying to throw off the abomination of acres of paving.
I took a quick shaky selfie and headed on down Greentree Road and up Hamburg Street. The blue ice filter captured the temps appropriately. This, I must say, is the first the skull-decorated, smoking-moon outhouse I’ve found. I stayed on the hilltops, where the sun’s light lingered until the dazzling city lights came out.
It was a short, exploratory run in a new neighborhood.
RATS #00363, a daytime run, pretty much completed the last two runs. I finished up lower sections of Ridgemont and in the end, even covered Sedley Way in Westwood.
With the knowledge from the previous run, I started right into Ridgemont along Springfield Street. This time, though, I made my way down New York Street to the dead-ends of Junius and Journal Streets. On the map they look like fork tines sticking into the hillside.
In real life, Junius and Journal are narrow streets clinging to the steep hill. A set of derelict steps gave me access to Journal without backtracking too much. On the farther side of Journal, the steps, now truly overgrown, fall off the hill. According to maps, they look like they go down to a railroad track. I’m not sure if they originally went further, for there’s a set of steps off of China Street below which look like they should meet. It’s all a rather moot point, though, because the steps are in bad shape and go nowhere. In the bottom picture, you can barely make out the steps and a few green rail posts still standing.
Just as a footnote, Junius continues on the map to Greentree Road. However, from the Ridgemont side, Junius ends in a veritable graveyard of cars in front of a narrow house. Journal Street, has a renovated house on the end, but also has ruins of houses along its course.
With Junius and Journal out of the way, I went to find the other side of Junius, off of Greentree Road. Junius does go up a bit, but Verna, a smaller road, is just blocked off from the street. While the bareness of winter allowed me to see everything, there’s not much to see. Steps, all twelve of them, took me from Ridgemont to Greentree. This rusty truck is hidden away at the end of an office park.
Now I explored the higher side of Westwood. Like Ridgemont, it has sweeping views. I daresay I can see the smokestacks from the Cheswick Power Plant! That’s about 14 miles away, as the indefatigable crow flies. I’m pretty sure that blue water tower on stilts is in the Upper Hill. That’s closer, only five miles away.
After such heights, I returned to lower Westwood; once again made my way up Milnor steps and finally ran Sedley Way.
Finally making my way back towards my car, I had to wait for a moment to cross Warriors Road. Looking down, I noticed gravestones at my feet. I think they must have originally been in Mt. Pisgah’s graveyard, across the street. Usually roads aren’t built across cemeteries. The picture below is a composite picture of two of the graves I saw.
With these three runs, I’ve covered most of Westwood and Ridgemont. I know there are a couple of alley’s I’ve missed, so one day I’ll be back.
Once again, I’m reaching back into last month’s runs. There were so many of them! Several of my posts delightedly spoke of ice-free streets and sunny days. This day, however, looked more like January. The wind was howling, the snow was blowing, the skies were gray. (Much like today, the February day I’m writing this.)
At any rate, I ran in the Corliss section of Sheraden; a sub-neighborhood, if you will. This is roughly between Chartiers Avenue and Middletown Road. Chartiers Avenue is rather urban. Middletown Road, on the other hand, has a wide-open, suburban feel. Like tectonic plates colliding, these two visions collide in Corliss, yielding steep streets and tortured steps; a land of broken steps.
Getting started right off the bat, I noticed these steps for “Jenkins Street”. I was surprised because Jenkins Street did not appear on my map. Turns out, Jenkins hasn’t been a real street for decades. Most of the “lots” along that papery street are owned by the City of Pittsburgh. I took a screenshot of the Allegheny County Real Estate Portal and added the red arrows where Jenkins is supposed to be. The steps there are in surprisingly good shape and the street sign for this nonexistent street is top-notch.
Moving on, I crossed Middletown and slogged up a long alley. The recent snowfall made everything more picturesque. It went all the way to Chartiers Avenue, where you can see the West End houses rising high towards the overlook.
This high-side of Chartiers has many nooks and crannies. Tybee Steps look pretty official, but when you get to the other side, you’re trekking on a grassy slope between houses. Those steps with the nice white picket fence could be part of Newcomer Street, or they could just be a poorly maintained walkway to someone’s house. Newcomer Street is another street destined to exist only on paper. The one section is a little used section off of Emporia. The other section is now a personal driveway, all fifty yards of it.
While most of my pics are of steps here, there are a few houses. These two, in particular, struck me. The 1920’s red brick house, in particular, is very impressive. That balcony! That wrap-around porch! The octagonal tower! The creamy yellow house is more modest, but is a bright spot on a dead end below Fadette Street.
Speaking of Fadette, Fadette is split into several sections and shape-shifts into stairs for a bit. Unfortunately, the Fadette Steps are tattered and torn. I’m always critical of closed stairs. Are they closed for reason, or just because someone got annoyed with them? These are closed for good reason with missing treads and wonky wooden handrails. Hopefully they will get repaired before nature reduces them to urban artifacts.
These broken steps seriously messed with my planned route. I had to detour along Faronia Street to get to the bottom. Along the way, I came across another impressive, and closed, set of steps; Jeffers Steps. I went up a bit, but could not make it to the top in the swirling snow. Later, Fire Way, above, afforded me the view of the top. It was getting chilly and a fire didn’t sound bad.
I suppose there were enough steps to keep me warm. Pritchard Street and Mutual Street had step-assisted paths from Chartiers Avenue. There were steps down to Tuxedo Street, with its skate park, but they, too, were broken.
Not far from these last steps, I turned back toward my parking spot in Ingram, running back along Ladoga, continually looking for the other end of Jenkins Street.
Water slides in winter are silent reminders of summer. Sandcastle, on the edge of the Mon, is a bubbling madhouse on hot August days, where lines of sparkling wet bodies, lathered with sunscreen, wait to speedily spill down the slides. Now, running past in early January, not a soul was to be found. Like Kennywood, an amusement park a few miles upriver, Sandcastle reminds me how work and play are so closely intertwined here, with an active railroad, a biking path and a water park within fifty yards of each other.
At the far end of Sandcastle is the Glenwood Bridge. I’ve never run across that bridge and wasn’t sure how to make it to the sidewalk across. It’s a large bridge, with ample room for floods. (Sandcastle, on the other hand, periodically gets flooded.) Fortunately, I came across several staircases which got me to the bridge. I’m thankful that the designers of these roads took pedestrians into account.
Once past Sandcastle, metal recycling facilities dominate the scene, a far cry from the steel factories which once were here. The Glenwood Bridge crosses the Mon and is a major roadway for South Hills commuters. On the far side of the bridge is Glenwood. Prior to poring over maps of Pittsburgh, I would have called that area “Hazelwood”. It is actually Glenwood, Glen Hazel and Hazelwood. Some do consider it “Greater Hazelwood” and it is encouraging to see community involvement as a part of recent urban planning. For a PDF of their recent neighborhood plan, click HERE.
I’ve recently done many runs in Glenwood and its companion, Hazelwood. With this run, I pretty much have completed the area. It has stunning views of the Mon Valley and a mix of houses, from hard-knock alleys to large houses wrapped with porches. Recently a fire gutted this house on Cust Street. The adjoining house was also damaged by the heat. It is likely that this house will just sit here for years, slowly falling apart.
Of course, there are stairs. Cust Street steps take you from Second Avenue all the way up the hill on two flights. Off the second flight are orphan houses – houses which front the steps and do not have direct road access. The Sunnyside steps take you from Glenwood Avenue up to Sunnyside Avenue. Further on, tiny Steelview Avenue steps took me down to Brownsville Road right above the Homestead Highland Bridge.
Finishing up in Glenwood, I made my way through Glen Hazel to the Homestead Highland Bridge. Glen Hazel’s Kane Living Center is a senior care home and had scary Covid numbers this past year. Generally, Glen Hazel has newer houses than Glenwood and Hazelwood, probably built in the 1960’s or 70’s and is largely subsidized, I believe. However, there’s lots of unused land and a few blocked-off streets. It seems typical for publicly owned land in Pittsburgh for housing – it’s mainly vacant (see also Arlington Heights and Saint Clair). Nonetheless, changes are in the works here as developers start work on the area. What will they build? I don’t think anybody knows.
At any rate, in times past there was a set of steps from Johnston Avenue to Broadview Street. Right now, they are hidden behind a bus stop and blocked off by debris. However, I found them. As they are built into the hillside, rather than soaring above it, I was willing to go up them.
Looking down from the top, I noticed the tops of the handrail posts were shimmering with light. At first I thought someone had put crushed beer cans on top of the posts, or someone had put LED lights there. The real reason was much cooler. These were ice caps. The recent snows and fluctuations of temperature left little hockey-pucks of ice in the slightly recessed pipe-ends. These icy pucks caught the fading sunlight and shone like beacons.
After this off-road and otherworldly experience, I made my way to the Homestead High Level Bridge. Formerly the site of Homestead Steel Works, it is now a shopping center.
There are still a few reminders of the days when 10,000 workers crossed the bridges and worked in mills, like these smokestacks.
This was a late afternoon run one January Sunday. I started from Riverview Park and made my way through Woods Run to Brighton Heights. A now familiar path, I cut through the park’s trails to Kilbuck Avenue. The dead-end at Kilbuck is always much more active than I expect. This time, someone was dropping off refuse at the Department of Public Works’ Kilbuck collection point. It seems out of place, this drop-off point. Picture the bottom of a ravine surrounded by steep hillsides of oak, maple and pine; very scenic until you come across a battered chain link fence, a twenty-foot concrete salt dome and muddy yellow front loaders. Last time, motor-cross bikes were zooming up and down the trail.
At any rate, I continued down Kilbuck and finally ran the length of Central Avenue, coming out at the Woods Run branch of the Carnegie Library. Just a little further I passed under the towering Shadeland Avenue Bridge and worked my way out of the valley.
Up top was an intricate lace of streets and alleys. Unfortunately, they weren’t all implemented as planned. Stokes Way, for instance, isn’t paved beyond Gass Avenue. Crossing Brighton Road, I touched on some dead-ends at the end of Davis Avenue. Harbison Road not only leads onto a trail, but also has this twin set of Little Libraries. Very cool.
Further on, I explored the end of Wapello Street. It is a classic, alternating between a residential throughway to stairs and back. It was also my “shortcut” when I realized that dusk was quickly gathering. Of course, by the time I had returned to the bottom of Riverview Park, there was a new group down there…having an evening of signing around the campfire.
RATS Run #00351
This run, on a Monday after work, was in the northern part of Brighton Heights. I must apologize now for the grainy pictures; with the later start, it was full on dark by the time I saw something new and noteworthy. I ran along flat Brighton Heights, with the large houses and ample yards, for a bit before climbing to the edge of Pittsburgh along Cliffview Road.
I putzed along Benton Avenue and took a stab at Lapish Street. Lapish appears to be an older road. The houses along it were large and haphazard. Thank goodness for steps, or else I would have gone far out of my way to reach Flora Street. I would like to go back in the daylight, as they had some spectacular views over the whole northern Pittsburgh area. I was surprised to hit upon some steps in the dark; but was guided home by a red-nosed reindeer and 50 of his brightest friends.
Continuing the seize the day with ‘warm’ January temps, I got out and ran in the Carrick and Overbrook neigborhoods. I had planned it out fairly meticulously and was rewarded at the end.
I started out on Brownsville Road and headed for the streets south of Maytide. Here Pittsburgh borders Brentwood. You would be hard-pressed to tell the difference from the look and feel of the neighborhoods, with the biggest evidence being different colored street signs and paving lines across the road.
Once up from Maytide Avenue, the houses have decent sized yards as the streets undulate over the hills. After laboring up a steep hill, I got a kick out of seeing the houses across the street sitting far below street level. I did cross over and look. Those back porches stretching nearly the width of the house have a great view of the retaining wall.
I also saw a couple of Pittsburgh chairs, ‘working’ to keep parking spots safe from intruders. Now, when there is a heavy snowfall, and you have to shovel snow for hours, putting a chair out is a time-honored tradition to make sure no one pulls into your spot when you leave for work. Woe be unto those who steal spots! However, there was no heavy snowfall, so I think this chair was working overtime.
I came across a back-alley garage around here, emblazoned with a “g”, like on Sesame Street. Finishing the grid of streets around Stewart Avenue, I continued along Stewart as it plunged 200 feet down the hill toward Saw Mill Run Boulevard. It’s a wild road leaving behind the orderly neighborhood above and going back in time as it approaches a “cemetery zone”. The houses tell the tale.
As Stewart twists and turns before hitting Saw Mill Run, it passes Saint George Serbian Orthodox Cemetery on the right and Shaare Torah on the left and eventually Shaare Zedeck.
I touched my toes outside Pittsburgh where Stewart hits Saw Mill Run Boulevard. Then I clambered back up to Horning Avenue, where I took the Horning Steps past the St. Norbert Church building, now for sale.
Rounding out my run, I started up Overbrook Boulevard, but decided to catch just one little alley I had previously missed. Tyro Way leaves Overbrook and hits the Antenor Way Steps. In an earlier, dark run, I had stopped at the top of the Antenor Steps, warned off by a barricade. This time, starting in the middle, I was pleased to note that the steps were actually pretty good, all the way from Maytide to Antenor. Oh, there may have been a missing tread or two, but nothing horribly wrong. Strangely enough, barricades at each end had been knocked over. I’m now including Antenor Steps as a very doable section, preferably in daylight.