Brighton Road Long Run

RATS #00185 – Fineview, Perry Hilltop, Brighton Road

This was a long weekend run, to cover some streets in the northern neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, and see what’s out there. Short story – there’s hilly streets, stairs, creepy areas with houses falling down and nice areas with magnificent homes. I took more pictures at the start than the finish. The long story is below. Happy reading!

I started out in Allegheny Center and made my way up to Fineview on the James Street Stairs up to Fountain Street. Fountain Street and Henderson Street collide in a sharp angle, both steeply coming down the hill. I made the right onto Henderson Street and realized there was a little cul-de-sac on my left I had previously missed. Sandusky Court was a relatively new development and the condos were shiny, clean and modern. As I started around the cul-de-sac, I noticed a solid set of stairs in the back, leading to the neighborhood uphill. The stairs were nice, but, alas, blocked off at the top. I guess SOMEONE didn’t want foot traffic from Sandusky Court to go to Allegheny Dwellings, or vice versa.

Back down to Henderson, I wrapped around Carrie Street, where a magnificent set of stairs drapes over the hillside. BikePGH’s “The Steps We Take” had a performance on these stairs, which was quite mesmerizing, involving a “live portal” and flowing, multicolored fabric.

Continuing past this city-side of Fineview, I pushed even higher, where large houses sat high on the hills. Some sidewalks were raised ten feet above the street, with towering residences above. There’s a Pittsburgh Water Reservoir up here, a radio tower and crazy steps and alleys. This area was exciting and I was somewhat familiar with it from previous jaunts.

Now, my rough plan was to do a long part of North Charles Avenue and also head up Brighton Road. I went up Osgood, which starts where the steps go wild and terminates on East McIntyre Avenue. I did the little residential loop which sits about 225 feet above the Parkway North and East Street. This area has potential, big houses, large trees, a cool view, but lots of dumping, with mattresses, tires and other debris just strewn everywhere. It was sad to see and a bit creepy. From there, Kenwood Avenue starts inauspiciously as a parking spot next to steps. The steps gently go down toward Maple Avenue, then become an ugly asphalt path all the way down to Perrysville Highway. The last time I was here, we saw a mewing cat in the window of a neglected house, were accosted by the local neighborhood watch van and had to dash to the car as a summer storm let loose. This time, I was undisturbed in my journey, except for memories.

Wrapping around Perrysville to North Charles to Maple again, I was surprised to see that North Charles went under Maple with a cool viaduct.

I finished off Maple and then found my way to Brighton Road, along many winding roads. Brighton is a long way uphill, with dusty, dirty sidewalks nearly all the two and a half miles out of the city. When I saw the “Ross Township” signs, I rejoiced, took a bathroom break at a Giant Eagle and headed back towards downtown. I took the Winhurst Street stairs up into Brighton Heights, wandered a bit and followed McClure towards the city. This area was a marked improvement from Kenwood Street. McClure gradually descends to meet Woods Run Avenue. Shortly after that intersection, punctuated by a corner bar, I took the Malden Street Stairs to Geyer Avenue.

Geyer wound down to Eckert Street, giving up all the elevation I had just gained. I was tired and ready to be done. But up Eckert I trudged and made my way back to the Northside as the weak winter sun set. By the time I got to my car, it was dark.

But, overall, cool run with over 2000′ of elevation…

Does this route work? Part 3

https://www.strava.com/activities/3080725206
RATS #00180 – Windom Street Warren

In this latest installment of “Does this route work?”, I was interested in exploring a couple of staircases I had never been on. This was in a small warren of streets between PJ McCardle Roadway and Arlington Avenue. The pedestrian gateway to this neighborhood are the 10th Street Stairs. On the lower side, these stairs rise in five landings from dead end flat streets just to clear the railroad tracks. The landings provide respite from the stairs and some nice views. On the other side, though, the stairs rise again.

At the top of these stairs, the city seems to have fallen away and I was in an enchanted forest. Felt like I was Edmund first stumbling into Narnia. On the left, the untouched snowy street curved around into the Knoxville Incline Greenway. I disturbed four deer in their evening ramblings. They were not pleased to see me and only grudgingly gave way, staring me down like truculent teens as I jogged by.

Just past the herd, stairways to Hartford Street rose on my right. Despite the four inches of fluffy snow, the going was good. The stairs were solid and the snow crunched, packing as I went up. Hartford Street is narrow, but with cute houses. Squeezing past a resident who had parked in the street unloading groceries, I came all the way up to Arlington Avenue, but not before I got a good glimpse of the top of the German Square Stairs. I’d be back for those.

Making a right onto Arlington, I kept a lookout for my next set of stairs, Lauer Way. No, not Behring Street, whose steps were a vertical cul-de-sac. Behring Street is one of the few named stair streets which dead-ends. Ceasar Way in Southside Slopes declines into a grassy path but doesn’t really dead-end. Behring Street just traipses in front of a house and stops. Maybe it went through in years gone by.

At any rate, Lauer Way has an impressive stack of snowy steps. It traverses the slope from Arlington Avenue to Windom Street, two blocks below. Again, in spite of the snow, the stairs were solid, both in treads and handrails.

I meandered a little, and found myself trotting past little houses on Newton, which became another wooded glade of snowy stairs, Owl Way. These have a right-angle turn and landed me on Windom again. I took the German Square Steps all the way up the hill again.

German Square and Lauer Way are part of the “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k route. I couldn’t fit them into the 25k, but it is a beautiful little section of stairs and hills pretty close in to the Southside Flats. This part of the route looks solid.

Field of Dreams

https://www.strava.com/activities/3065914065
RATS #00178 – Oakland

If you build it, he will come…

Field of Dreams, 1989 Kevin Costner

Who is he? Sunday, “he” was me. I was running in Oakland and decided to pay the remnants of Forbes Field a visit. The first remnant was the outfield wall, 457 feet from home plate. The second was home plate itself, preserved under plexiglass in the floor of Posvar Hall. Sleepy studying students looked askance at a bundled up runner traipsing in, taking a picture and running out.

But, as Pitt has built up Oakland, “he” could also be every student, parent and professor drawn to its burgeoning educational, medical and research center. Here is Pitt’s research page, where you can see for yourself how large it has gotten. I’m a graduate of Pitt myself. But this day, I was just a runner, trying to capture a few more streets. Old Oakland is hard to see here, but there are glimpses.

After a few miles I stopped by the Cathedral for a few trips up the stairs.

Cathedral of Learning Up Close and Personal

A Little Lincoln Lemington in My Life

https://www.strava.com/activities/3062467825
RATS #00177 – Start with PBR and then off on my own

This run started with the Pro Bike & Run’s Saturday morning group. As the calendar turns from January to February, training intensity picks up. This was PBR’s “Pittsburgh Half-Marathon Training Kickoff!”. As such, the group was pretty big, maybe 150 runners or more. I went out with the 9:30 min/mile pace group. That’s a comfortable pace for me, and these pace groups often go faster than advertised. I did ten with them, chatting with various people and letting the miles fly by. Kudos to the route maker for including some areas that groups usually avoid – big hills and poorer neighborhoods. From the top of North Aiken in Garfield, you can see the Cathedral of Learning, faithfully serving as a beacon of knowledge across Pittsburgh.

Cathedral of Learning from Garfield

After the ten miles, I had a loose plan to do a four more in Lincoln-Lemington. Pittsburgh seems to be the city of alliteration. This is the “L” section of the city. Larimar, Lincoln and Lemington are the major streets. Needless to say, after ten miles, I got them a little confused. I went out on Larimar Avenue from East Liberty, intending to catch Lincoln Avenue high on the hills and come down Brushton Avenue.

Christian Fellowship Church

Staring out near East Liberty, this area is broadly open and flat. Many of the houses and buildings are in disrepair. Newer houses exist and there are clusters of everyday Pittsburgh brick houses with decent yards, gardens and fences. Larimar ends in a gravel driveway, the fate of many Pittsburgh streets. The streets started to get steeper. Clifford, Nelson and Missouri took me through residential blocks higher and higher. I saw Lemington and took a left. This took me down a steep hill towards Highland Drive. Taking another left, I went down the equally steep Highland Drive and came out on Washington Boulevard. A fellow runner, Alison, later told me it looked like I popped out of the bushes. Washington Blvd is busy and has no sidewalks. What is does have are many pet care places, auto care businesses and random, semi-industrial companies; a marble company, an oil company. Their buildings and warehouses crowd the narrow spit of flat land between the road and the towering hills.

Speaking of towering hills, Washington Blvd is criss-crossed by several amazing arched bridges. These bridges carry the L-streets above across this steep ravine.

After taking that last picture on the right, I turned and saw a pathway up the hill. These derelict stairs eventually led me up to Lincoln Avenue again.

That was actually something of a scramble. Some treads were missing and I balanced on the side supports to get by.

Adventure and mileage complete, I trundled back to the car with 14.9 miles done.

Does this route work? Part 2

https://www.strava.com/activities/3057870998
RATS #00176

For those who missed it, I’m organizing a run around Pittsburgh, focusing on taking public stairs where ever possible. In my previous “Does this route work?”, I verified a section of the route in Oakland. It was a good thing I did, because some of the stairs indicated on my maps were not, in fact, there. This run was meant to check out part of the route, circled in yellow above, in Fineview, Perry South and California-Kirkbride. Fittingly enough, only half of this involves the 25K, but all you 50k people, pay attention!

Going out of the Northside toward Fineview, I took James Street all the way up the hill. As the roads plows into the hillside, a pretty solid set of stairs, with only a few shaky treads, rises to Fountain Street. Good thing, too, since it is high on concrete pillars.

Once on Fountain Street, signs for the Fineview Fitness Trail lead to the next stairs. The 50k’ers will be going up these. The 25k folks will be coming down them, almost done. At any rate, the next sets of stairs take you to Graib Street and then onto Henderson Street. The pictures really don’t do this view justice.

The 50k follows along Henderson, crossing Federal and landing at the end of Arch Street. There’s an angled set of steps going up to Perrysville Avenue. A few years ago I saw “Steps In Motion: A Northside Animation”, at the Carnegie Library in Oakland. It is an animation about community project which cleaned up the Arch Street stairs. As you start up these, you can see the fading paint from that project.

The top of the Arch Street Stairs is Perrysville Avenue. You stay on that for a short section, then charge down the O’Hern’s ruts and uneven steps. I remembered it as all overgrown, but it looks like someone actually uses this road, despite the wavy asphalt. A little later, going up North Charles street, I made a left at the bold mural on Ferris Street. Stairs are at the far end of that small street and there’s a rather intimidating house and rambling porch besides them. I would advise moving past this place quickly. In fact, I waited until I had clambered over the fallen tree and up the stairs before I took a pic.

Staying on the 50k route, I made the left onto Island Avenue. Where did they get that name? This couldn’t be a more land-locked street. At any rate, making the left on Hyena Way was promising, but the entrance to the stairs off of Success Street looked more like a walkway between houses.

The Hyena Street Stairs are in reasonable shape, but don’t seem to get much use. Dried vegetation was strewn across the treads as it dropped in on Marvista Street. This lower section of Marvista Street still has a few occupied houses but also a few houses on the brink of failure. The 50k route continues down Hyena. Hyena and Ferris stairs were the ones I wanted to verify. Whoo! This part of the route works.

Now that that was settled, I started to work my way back my car. It wasn’t the easiest way, but Sunday Street was a pretty straightforward way back. It also happened to include an incredible set of brightly painted stairs. At the top was an amazing house set on the top of the hill. At one point, perhaps most of the houses here looked like that? I don’t know.

That’s a wrap. Hyena Way does indeed lead to viable steps.

Northside Grid

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Run Around Northside – RATS #00175

I squeezed this run between work and a performance at Alphabet City. I had loosely mapped it out the night beforehand. It went pretty close to plan, with one annoying exception.

Anyway, by the time my GPS had locked in, I was, once again, near the Children’s Museum. I crossed West Commons and made my way up Arch Street. The main features of this run were the narrow alleys and streets of the Northside, along with the surprising amount of art and decorations among the old, tight houses.

This is still an area in transition. Even among the row-houses, there is often a gorgeously refurbished house next to a dilapidated one. The streets range from small two-way streets to very narrow one way streets and even smaller alleys paved with bricks. The grid of streets between West North Avenue and Jacksonia Street is flat. Past Jacksonia Street, the land abruptly rises. Arch St unceremoniously ends in a pile of brush, but there’s a long flight of stairs providing egress to the streets above. Tonight, I skipped the stairs.

One of the most flamboyant houses in all of Pittsburgh is here – Randyland. Clicking its picture below will take you to Randy’s website. Incredibly detailed painting brings out the architectural details of the building. Randy also uses the building as a canvas, with larger-than life insects crawling and flying up the walls.

Randyland

Finishing up my explorations, I took a final pic of the city skyline looming over the neighborhoods and jogged back to my car. The annoyance? I had forgotten my running shoes and ran the whole thing in boots.

Does this route work? Part 1

A few years back, before I starting this “Run All The Streets” project; before I did a stairs tour; before all of that, Lamar, a local runner and urban explorer organized a “Take The Stairs Fatass” event. A Fatass in the running community is an unsupported, no frills run. No fees, no bling, just a run for the fun and adventure of it. So, one morning in March 2018, I found myself under the Birmingham Bridge with about 20 other running nuts, ready to do a big loop around Pittsburgh, taking city stairs whenever possible. I was running with Monica and Amy.

At that point, I had run a few Pittsburgh Marathons and even a few trail ultras, but otherwise had run mainly in the East End of the city; Regent Square, Squirrel Hill, Frick Park, Edgewood. Well, that 50k was an eye-opener for me. Polish Hill, City View, West End, Duquense Heights were some of the areas we went through. Despite examining the map in detail the night before, we spent a lot of time just finding the stairs. One of us had the directions, one of us had Google Maps on the phone and another tried to take in the big picture and keep us moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, after 20 miles, we got turned around coming out of Emerald View Park and couldn’t find our way anymore. We bailed and ran back to our cars, a mere 22 mile day. Ever since then, Amy and I have been chatting about finishing it.

Now I’m over a year in to my project of fastidiously running every street, alley and stairway in Pittsburgh. I’ve run on thousands of streets. I’ve run hundreds of miles and dozens of stairways. I’ve seen many stairs and nooks of the city with mis.steps, as the muses of the stairs speak to her and inspire her stories. I’ve covered many areas on my own, up hills unbelievably steep, seeing deer everywhere, finding surprisingly cute homes everywhere. I always find a house at the end of those long dead-end’s.

So I’m re-creating this “Take The Stairs 50K Fatass”. It will be on March 29. This time, I’m starting at Threadbare Cider instead of underneath a bridge. I’m relying heavily on Lamar’s original map, but I have changed it slightly to include a few more stairs. This run was about verifying some of the route. My friend and fellow runner, Naomi, was feeling adventurous and came with me to explore the route in Oakland.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3046440149
RATS #00174 – Hodges St

We started in the South Side and crossed the Hot Metal Bridge. Just past Parkway overpass on Bates is a little side street – Hodges. Only a dozen houses populate this neighborhood in the holler. Stairs rise on either side. I was interested in the ones going up to Bates, so we took those. Sunday morning traffic was light, so we were able to scamper across Bates to catch the Frazier Street Stairs. This is part of the upcoming 50k.

Frazier Street is a long street at the edge of South Oakland. This area is generally overrun by students, but there are still some single-family homes holding out down here. Unfortunately, some people have given up the ghost, even though their houses look good. If you can’t read it, that sign says “Sorry, We’re Dead”.

Haunted House?

From there, we traversed on Dawson to hit Diulius Way. Years ago, when I was a student at Pitt, I found this route from Schenley Park to South Oakland. This is also on the new race route.

Diulius Way – takes you from Dawson to Boundary

Now, once down at Boundary Street, Naomi wanted to just run for a bit, so we ran about a mile or so to the train trestle. Coming back, I wanted to verify a couple of stairways I saw on maps which would take me up again to South Bouquet Street. Unfortunately, development in Oakland has taken over some of the stairs I hoped to find.

Eventually I did find a path, albeit between two apartment buildings. So, I’m glad I did this run. I verified that the route through Hodges Street works, yet found some paths just didn’t exist anymore. The route will also include the newly refurbished Joincare Street Stairs, gleaming on the next hill. Just one more section to verify before springing the updated route on the world. Stay tuned!

Greenleaf

https://www.strava.com/activities/3042263741
RATS #00173 – Going Rogue After 3 with PBR

This was my favorite type of run – start with friends and then grab some new streets on the way back. Actually, my FAVORITE run would have been to have all these folks come with me, but a 300′ hill is a hard sell.

Pre-run Groupfie with Pro Bike

It was a cool, humid and cloudy morning. Temps held steady in the low 40’s with intermittent drizzle. We started at Ascend, nestled as it is between old multi-story brick buildings. We made our way to the Liberty Bridge, accessing the sidewalk via a muddy walk-way under the bridge and a short set of stairs to the deck. Once on the deck, the downtown skyline spread out before us.

Once in downtown, we zigged and zagged toward a water stop near the Wyndham. This was three miles in. The planned route took the group in a cloverleaf around downtown, coming back to this water stop several times. I decided to branch out on my own. I had various choices – explore more of Brighton Heights; criss-cross my way through Manchester; climb Greenleaf onto Mount Washington. Eventually, I decided on Greenleaf, in part because it was going to be closed for construction soon. After some tearful goodbyes (just kidding, a couple of people waved bye), I started out.

Now getting to Greenleaf is not straightforward. It is a small residential street which falls off of Mt. Washington into the West End Circle. To get to the West End Circle, I had to cross the West End Bridge and find my way to the other side of the Circle. The West End Bridge has approach ramps and stairs for pedestrians. The pedestrian ramps are notoriously flexible and you can feel it bucking up and down when a group runs across.

After crossing the bridge, I was able to cut across the circle, passing the end of Sawmill Run (notorious for flooding). Finally, I got to the base of Greenleaf Street.

Elevation Profile. Marker is at base of Greenleaf St

From here it was up. On one hand there’s no sidewalks, on the other hand, there’s not much traffic. Even though you’re supposed to run facing traffic, on hills like this, I find running on the uphill side better. Cars aren’t going to be zipping by. Pretty quickly, Greenleaf climbed high enough to start showing off views.

At the top, Greenleaf wraps around into the modest residential neighborhood of Duquesne Heights. George and Guy Trail hugs the cliff below Skookum Field, where a baseball hit 190′ would tumble far down the cliff.

The views are spectacular and several snazzy houses vie for space along the cliff with the WBZZ radio tower. Small lanes between the newer houses had the best security. I felt watched.

Greenleaf Street continued through Duquesne Heights. This is an interesting area. Tall narrow houses are literally under large view-hogging condos. Street stairs and connecting stairs abounded. Greenleaf Street transformed into a stairway before transforming again into an alley. Sioux Way was part-stair, part brick.

Typical Duquense Heights View, with various types of houses and stairs

Finally, I made my way to Grandview Avenue, that popular promenade overlooking Pittsburgh. At the eastern end of Grandview, Vinecliff Street, a weathered set of stairs and asphalt, struggles down the hill. I took that en route to finishing back at Ascend.

Greenleaf Street Stairs, Sioux Way Stairs, Vinecliff, up and down.

Polish Towns

https://www.strava.com/activities/3029416056
Bloomfield Run: RATS #00172

Pro-Bike had a group run from Caliente’s Pizza at 6:30. While the days are noticeably longer, its quite dark by 6:30. It’s even darker at 6:40, when I got there. I looked into Caliente and didn’t see anybody, so I took off to chart some new streets. This section of Bloomfield is adjacent to the Bloomfield Bridge, a half-mile bridge which soars 185 feet over the ravine below. My first turn, down Panama Way, directly dead-ended into a ramp wall leading to the bridge. It wasn’t an auspicious start, but then I noticed something.

In between flaking white paint were dozens of neatly painted coats of arms, presumably of Polish towns. WTF! I had always considered Bloomfield to be an Italian neighborhood. They stretched all along the curving ramp. A little post-run research turned up this article from the Pittsburgh Orbit about the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. My impression is that the owners painted those coats of arms. Impressive. This also cheered me up a bit. This is why running ALL the streets is worthwhile. You just don’t know what cool little nuggets you’ll find.

This area still gave me the creeps, and I heard some shouting and screaming, so I moved on. Turning left, as the bridge rose up, the area was fenced in with ten-foot high black chain link-fence, Bloomfield Park. It has a Dek Hockey rink, a basketball court, a swimming pool, all nestled under the bridge. But those loud shouts were disconcerting. Sounded like a few teens haranguing each other. I needed to get going. This area has small streets, smaller alleys and tightly packed houses.

Bloomfield

I crisscrossed some alleys. I saw the entrance to some stairs, but decided not to venture down in the dark. Finally I got to the other side of the park. The group of “teens” I had been so worried about was just a toddler testing his lungs while riding a tricycle and his Mom trying to corral him. They weren’t so intimidating after all.

From here, I just ran in and out of the small streets and alleys from Liberty Avenue up to Penn. Finishing in front of Caliente’s Pizza, the Pro-Bike group was just finishing too. Time for a beer.

Alleys in East Allegheny

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RATS #00168 – East Allegheny Alleys

If the Southside Slopes are renown for their stairs, East Allegheny should be renown for its alleys. This unfortunate little neighborhood was eviscerated by the I-279 highway built between 1985 and 1989. I’m unclear as to what was here beforehand, but I understand it to have been an area of small neighborhoods. I do know that the construction was delayed due to the finding of a cemetery. This article from the Post-Gazette sheds some light on it.

At any rate, the section I was running through is a small warren of tiny streets and alleys. Drivers mostly go through here to access highways, or find their way into the Strip District over the 16th Street Bridge. I was trying to catch all these streets in one short run.

Some of the housing is newer town homes, some are rather old row houses and tall, narrow brick houses. There are sparks of fun and grass-roots improvements. There’s a homemade playground on one corner, there’s a community garden on another. There’s a first class German Club, Teutonia Mannerchor. There’s some dilapidation.

A section of Chestnut St and the narrow Lovitt Way escaped my attention, but otherwise, I completed surprisingly interesting little area.