November Skies 2021

Here are three runs to close out November 2021. RATS run #00478 was a little three miler in Arlington, Mt. Oliver and St. Clair, while #00479 was a seven miler in Crafton Heights and Elliott and #00480 was a four miler in Lincoln Place. All were designed to fill in ends of roads and alleys missed.


RATS run #00478 in Arlington and St. Clair

For RATS run #00478, I started high on the hill next to Arlington Playground. There is a small water park here and a ball field. A good batter might be forgiven if they think they could hit the ball downtown, it seems so close. Leaving the dreams of the field behind, I bounded down Mountain Avenue then made a sharp right onto Parkwood Road.

This section of Parkwood Road ascends a steep hill going into Pittsburgh’s Mt. Oliver. The left side has steep lots speckled with houses. The right side, where the sidewalk is, passes medium and small houses whose back yards drop off quickly. Once I got to Otilla, Parkwood had leveled off, 120 feet above its Mountain Avenue intersection.

Making the left onto Otilla Street, I sought out my first goal, Poco Way. This small alley goes behind five houses on St. Joseph Street and ends. Returning to Otilla, I made a left onto Walde Way en route to Farina Way. Like many of these later “streets”, Farina Way looked like a driveway at first. However, I was pleasantly surprised when it hooked up with Ignatious Way behind leaf-strewn yards. Ignatious intersects with Rectanwald Street and I took Rectanwald’s short flight of broad steps back to Walde.

From here, I scampered down to McManus as it travels behind an elementary school. Steps down, steps up and I was back on Mountain. I went up to Henger to complete a section I had missed. A Jersey barrier blocks the road, but residents have sprayed a message for drug dealers: “Go elsewhere…We Are Watching!”

They must have been listening, because there was no one there. I scampered over the barrier and continued on Henger to the fences. The fences enclose what was once St. Clair Village. From what I’ve read, it became a festering spot for crime and drugs and was subsequently torn down. That was years ago. It is still vacant. Some sections are now used by the Urban Hilltop Farm, but none of the housing has been rebuilt.

From here, I returned to Arlington Playground via Mountain Avenue. It was a rather satisfying run, what with the unexpected passage on Ignatious, clarifying Henger and Poco. Henger even gave me some souvenirs; seedlings stuck to my tights.


RATS Run #00479 in Elliott, Crafton Heights and the West End

RATS run #00479 was a romp in the West. I started at Herschel Park, one of my favorites. I think it’s the unexpected view and the easy access, both getting to Herschel Park and running the western neighborhoods from it. Anyway, for this day, I had more dead-ends to explore. My first one was Coey Way off of Arnold. Coey Way is a rather tame alley which goes directly uphill, behind brick suburban houses to a parking spot.

Then it was off to Corso Way, less than a quarter mile away. However Corso Way seems to be in a different world. To get there, I took Obey Street as it steeply falls off toward Noblestown Road. Just past “Grimes Signs”, Magnus Way on the left, snakes uphill past a couple of houses. When it turns, Corso Way begins. Corso Way, goes about 1/4 mile into the woods. I ran down it, splashing through muddy ruts, six inches deep. At the end, a low slung house or trailer stood, with “Beware of dogs” signs, and a couple of cars parked in front.

I was happy to return out of that alley. I worked my way up Obey Street to Albia Way, just off of Steuban. That was an uneventful alley, mainly for garage access. Now, once I made it to Steuban, I made a left and continued down Middletown Road, looking for a cross-street, Woodlow. Alas, I had made a left when I should have gone right and I had to retrace my steps to find Woodlow.

Woodlow cuts from Steuban Street to Crucible Street through a large housing development in Carnegie Heights. It’s hard to tell if it is one big complex, or several smaller apartment complexes adjacent to each other. Now, rather than one house on the end of a muddy alley, like Corso Way, there were twenty or so multi-unit apartment buildings, where hundreds of people live.

I wrapped around Crucible to Dickens then made the right onto Meadowbrook Way. Much like Poco Way in the previous run, this just curved behind some houses and ended. I took a driveway at the back of Pittsburgh Classical Academy which put me out on Chartiers Avenue.

On an earlier run, later at night, I touched on little Elf Street, off of Chartiers. Today, I wanted to do the whole Elf, so again I tromped down Chartiers, past the grimy Marathon Gas, past Inner City Towing’s junk yard and past the muraled retaining wall. The right onto Nittany took me uphill. Large yards from adjacent streets converge on Nittany. They were kids playing and backyard picnic tables along the high-side of Nittany, where it curves and intersects Elf. Elf, itself, is very small; maybe twenty yards. At its end, a nice, large house sits.

Returning to Corliss Street, I now began my ascent of the back-end of the West End. Just before the Corliss Tunnel, Rupp Street on the right takes you to Danley. A two-hundred foot hill climb later and I came out on Mark Way. The road up, Lakewood Street, had nice views across Corliss Street to houses in Sheraden. There were also several house ruins along the way. From Mark Way I could make out the McKees Rocks Bridge through a break in the trees.

Now I kept to the high road; Lakewood to Lorenz to Valonia. I needed to finish off Lander Street. This section of Pittsburgh never ceases to amaze me, with the views and the houses stuck at crazy angles on the hillsides.

Lander Street, itself, is falling off the hillside. Part is blocked off and the hillside is encroaching on the houses.

From Lander Street I went down the Planet Street steps toward the West End. From South Main, you can see Walbridge Street splitting off with sidewalk steps on the right and a cool flight on the left (which takes you to Kerr Street). I took the sidewalk steps.

Almost back at Herschel Park, I just had East Chestnut to do. Once I found it, running the fifty yards to the end wasn’t too hard. And that was that, seven hilly miles and a many alleys done.


RATS Run #00480 in Lincoln Place

In Lincoln Place, RATS Run #00480 took me.

Longer to picture than to run, was Plaport Way, with its non-intersecting ends.

Cooley Way took me coolly beyond the pavement onto a grassy strip behind large yards.

Cooley Way

But I earned it, a grand view of Lincoln Place from Commission Way.

So, in this abbreviated style, you’ll see that I started at McBride Park and did odds and ends of Lincoln Place. Please pray the Krampus doesn’t get me!


That’s all for November, 2021. Ten of my thirteen runs covered new streets on only 65 miles of running. Finishing these “streets” was becoming getting more and more tedious. Mostly, it is running to the ends of alleys or re-running street sections to make sure CityStrides picks it up. Nonetheless, I’m getting there.

No Starch and I’m Not Lion

RATS Run #00461

This run was the second RATS run of the day, the earlier one being a little over 3 miles in New Homestead, described in my last post. For this run, my intention was to get to the bottom of Starch Street and the top of William Street.

Of course by “bottom of”, I’m thinking “the bottom of the story”, rather than the lowest elevation. Starch Street is purportedly at the end of Excelsior Street. I had been down Excelsior before, but stopped at the Jersey barriers at the end. Today I wanted to see how far it went “Beyond the Barrier”. I trotted up McClain and then took the quick right, left combo onto the end of Excelsior. At that point, the asphalt gave way to brick. There were a couple of cars parked there and then the barriers. I hopped over them and went a few feet. The road disappeared into a mass of vegetation. I pressed on. Maybe just past these bushes? But no, I just disturbed a deer, who noisily clambered down the slope. Perhaps in the dead of winter there’s a path. Perhaps a pith helmet and machete are required, but I’m considering this one inaccessible.

I turned back up Excelsior and found the Emerald Street Steps, which conveniently led me down to Arlington. I think Arlington is a cool street. It twists and turns, decorated with streetcar tracks and overhead wires. As it slinks down the hill, a few small streets shoot off uphill to the left or downhill to the right.

William Street was one of those going up to the left. In 2018, mudslides caused the street to be closed. They’ve made some major improvements to it, but parts are still eroding off the hillside. Cars can’t drive through anymore. On foot, however, I was able to skirt the falling hillside and emerge onto Bailey Avenue.

From here, I crossed over Mount Washington, taking Boggs down to the end of West Warrington Avenue. (I had missed that intersection in my previous travels.) I came back up the hill on Southern Avenue. Here the houses are all perched on precarious hillsides with guard dogs, and, in this case, a guard lion. Looks like he’s on the tomb of the last trespasser.

I made my way through Emerald View Park back to my car. The views here were outstanding, especially on this sunny Saturday.

Around the South Slopes


RATS #00455 Around South Side Slopes

I started on the flats, parked under the railroad trestle on 26th Street. I warmed up by going downhill and circling Sidney Court, a small plaza of townhouses in the heart of the South Side. They look new and relatively modern.

Now I reversed course and clambered up the 30th Street Steps to Josephine Street. My targets were a few streets off the beaten path in Arlington. Going up Northview Street, Cobden and Cologne were just a “short-cut”. One more set of steps, the Syrian Street Steps powered me over to Devlin Street, which is unexpectedly broad and flat. (It was, the first time I came over here.)

My target street, Castel, had two portions; an obvious one which quickly dead-ended and a section which curved towards and old playing field. This was the section I had missed. Some light bush-whacking was involved and got me to the end as it unceremoniously dissolved into weeds. Returning, I scurried up the steps of a building. It still must be an active garage.

Next, I ventured to the very end of Roman Way. I’d been on the street long before and was not surprised by the flat street with modest houses spaced neatly along it. Sometimes, I feel like I’m going back in time in the neighborhoods. I wouldn’t have been too surprised if Rip-Van Winkle himself had emerged from an old RV.

I did run down to Orin Street, but was thoroughly dismayed at the mass of cars parked on that dead-end. From there, I went up to Dial Way, off of Jonquil Way. Dial Way doesn’t appear on Google Maps, but there it is, street sign and all. It just goes a hundred yards or so downhill between faltering houses.

From here, I popped over to Spring Street on my way to Waite, where it sticks into St. Michael’s Cemetery. That cemetery is high on the hill and the houses across the way look like they are in the sky.

I made my way behind the yellow house onto Quarry Street. It was the day of the South Side Step Trek and I could hear the crowds down in Quarry Field. While later in the day, I did part of the Step Trek with some friends, now I was destined to find the back of St. Paul’s Monastery before climbing down the steps on St. Joseph Way. The views up here never disappoint.

Long Way to Traverse

RATS run #00414 From South Side to Traverse Field

On this bright Saturday morning, a group of friends, led by Bob and Nancy, were doing the South Side Slopes piece of the “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k. That route draws a jagged circle around Pittsburgh, starting in Spring Garden. An unsupported event (e.g. a ‘fatass’), it uses over 70 flights of city steps to bring the participants to some of the best views highlighting the city.

Anyway, I was NOT doing it, but figured I could meet up them. Sure enough, shortly after I parked in the South Side, I ran into them huffing and puffing up Eleanor Street. It has great views, and everyone in Pittsburgh should do them.

Breaking off after a few blocks, I continued through Arlington and to Amanda Street as it cuts down to Carrick. I needed to complete Charlock Way and Dove Way.

This area of the city; Knoxville, Mount Oliver, Mount Oliver Borough and Beltzhoover, are tightly packed. In some lucky areas, trees throw some shade, while in others, it is just sun, concrete and houses. Dove Way sounds pleasant enough, like the gentle cooing of mourning doves as the sun comes up over a green yard edged by flowers. The reality is different. It goes behind narrow towering houses leaning on each other for support. Grimes Avenue, while aptly named, at least has some trees.

Continuing the bird theme, I cut down through Partridge Way and a little unnamed alley off of Hawk Way.

Finally, I went back to Brownsville Road, passing the flower vendor en route to Borough Way. Borough Way straddles the southern border of the Borough of Mt Oliver and the City of Pittsburgh. At the end of Borough Way sits Traverse Field, which has little league baseball games. I finished up a little alley there and made my way back over the big hill, back to the South Side. It was a hilly seven miler. I was beat at the end.

Post Run

February Roundup

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

https://www.strava.com/activities/4850441556
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

https://www.strava.com/activities/4861319000
RATS #00371 in Garfield, East Liberty and 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

https://www.strava.com/activities/4868729046
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!

December 2020 Catch-Up

Summary

December 2020 wasn’t too bad in the running sense. Early on, I had missed some days due to quarantining for Covid, but I finished strong and had some long, street eating runs late in the month. The mileage, 79, wasn’t great, but with 8,878 feet of elevation, I once again, gained over 100 feet of elevation per mile. More importantly, for this project, 13 of 15 runs covered new streets and I’ve 99% covered East Hills, completely finished Arlington and continue to make significant progress in Hazelwood, Glenwood, Woods Run, and Brighton Heights neighborhoods.

Without further ado, here are the four remaining runs of December.

RATS #00344

https://www.strava.com/activities/4505906772
RATS #00344 Saint Clair and the Pittsburgh Neighborhood of Mt. Oliver

Down Mountain Avenue from Arlington lie two mostly forgotten neighborhoods. On the right is the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Mt. Oliver, not to be confused with the Borough of Mt. Oliver, which is adjacent. On the left is the neighborhood of Saint Clair.

Before getting to either of those, I ran down Parkwood Road. From the maps, I understood it to be one of these Pittsburgh roads which fade into the wilderness, probably for landslide reasons. It did become smaller and smaller, and finally was blocked by jersey barriers. However, there was much more traffic than I expected with large dump trucks, a UHaul driver and at least one Lyft ride roaring by.

Moving up to Mt. Oliver, on the other side of Mountain Avenue, I straddled the border between Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver (the Borough) along Otilla Street. The houses were mainly on the larger size, typical Pittsburgh four-squares. I was surprised at the number of staircases. My favorite was the Como Street steps, between St. Joseph Street and Ormsby Street. It wasn’t on my map at all. The little set from Otilla to Gorgas were also a nice short-cut.

On the other side of Mountain Avenue, Ormsby Street dies off, but not before serious “No Trespassing” and “Private” signs were displayed. Reminds me a lot of the streets on the other side of the ravine, where I had seen similar signs.

St. Clair still has a few streets and houses. However, the large housing development known as St. Clair Village, has been torn down and mostly fenced off. St. Clair Village, was perched on a plateau is isolated from the rest of Pittsburgh by steep ravines on three sides. Unsurprisingly, this site was chosen for housing projects. Regardless of the reason, lots of people lived here, until the housing authority decided to close it down, in 2009. Here’s an article which gives some insight into Saint Clair as well as a blog by Ninetyhoods.

These days part of it is dedicated to urban farming. I have mixed feelings on this. I love gardening, plants and nature and understand that lack of accessibility to healthy food is a large issue. However, sustenance farming is not a ladder to wealth. Education, home ownership and skills applicable to today’s economy are. With its focus on building farming skills and partnering with local schools, perhaps Urban Hilltop Farm will have a outsized impact. I still wonder where the residents moved and whether this large tract of level land in the city could be put to a better use. Finally, this neighborhood has still more stairs, at least one Little Library and lingering decorations.

RATS #00345

https://www.strava.com/activities/4513239274
RATS #00345

On a rainy Christmas Eve, I decided to finish out the East Hills. I nearly did it, too, just missing the end of Angora Way. On Strava, there’s a ghost street, Roth Way. After my run, I looked at my route and was deflated to see I had completely missed that alley. Taking a closer look with streetview and satellite pictures shows that the alley doesn’t really exist after all. Grr!

Anyway, there were the normal yard decorations, as well as a REAL snowman who has been melting away. Perhaps the highlight of the run was seeing a group of wild turkeys. They were very clever. As soon as they saw me, they angled away, keeping bushes between me and them. They are large birds. Each one was about twice the size of a house cat.

Toward the end of this half-marathon distance, I came upon another border between Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg. Ridiculously enough, the roads changed names as they crossed the border. At least each municipality thought it was important enough to put up their own street signs.

border between Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh
Wilkinsburg, Pittsburgh border

RATS #00346

https://www.strava.com/activities/4526875256
RATS #00346 in Glenwood

Turning my attention to Hazelwood’s southern neighbor, Glenwood, I ran from Hazelwood Green to the Glenwood Bridge. It was a cold Sunday afternoon, a couple days after Christmas. Most of the run was on flat streets between Second Avenue and the Monongahela River. Glenwood Railyard spreads out down there. Dyke Avenue is shockingly close to the live tracks, with houses being no more than 50 yards from railcars.

Continuing the theme, I made it to the entrance to the yards. It remineded me a bit of Thomas the Tank Engine, a show my kids loved. For those unfamiliar with Pittsburgh, it is worth noting that surrounding hills are across a river from here.

From here, I climbed the hills a little, making my way back to the car.

RATS #00347 – Downtown

After all these far-flung adventures, I realized I still had streets and alleys Downtown to do. Garmin doesn’t do too well among the downtown buildings, so it looks like I had had too much holiday cheer. It was another run in rain, this time in darkness as well. Not one to take post-card shots, here you’ll see some of the darker areas of town.

https://www.strava.com/activities/4541744978
RATS #00347 – Downtown

I parked near Firstside Park. A couple years ago (just kidding, it was over 20 years ago), I remember seeing the B&O Railway Terminal being dismantled. The hot white flash of cutting torches blazing through the steel beams flashed like sparkling stars even at midday. That demolition was soon replaced by Firstside, which, I understand, houses much of PNC’s computer systems.

Literally overshadowing the end of First Avenue is the Liberty Bridge. The maze of steel beams throws a spidery shadow on the barron slopes below. Not far away, Fourth Avenue ends under the approach ramps to the bridge, providing parking, restricted as it is.

Continuing deeper into Downtown, I was dismayed to find that Strawberry Way was blocked by construction equipment. That threw me off my planned route a bit. Nonetheless, I made my way over towards the Convention Center.

There’s is still some holiday cheer down there, from stars shining on tall buildings to bubbles of “Covid safe” outdoor dining. I’m not sure how safe enclosed outdoor dining is, but I got to hand it to the restaurants being creative and trying to stay afloat. Youth cannot be denied and under the Garrison Place lights a couple was frolicking, even in the rain.

Three December Runs

I had a pretty good December this year. So good, in fact, that I’m STILL blogging about it, a week into the new year! I had many significant runs towards the end of the month, so that whole “catch-up” thing will have to wait. My running tends to be done when the opportunity arrives, while my writing is more of a record than an instantaneous news feed.

RATS #00337

RATS #00337

It was a dark and stormy night…

Actually, it wasn’t stormy, just cold. I’m pretty comfortable running through the alleys of the Strip District and Lawrenceville at night. While they look creepy, they are typically deserted. Darkness and narrow streets are harmless without people. OK, upon recent news (fork-lift getting caught in a sinkhole), I guess I should be more worried about sinkholes. Those would, indeed, be a problem in the dark.

This run covered some alleys and streets I had missed in my previous jaunts. Outside of the quickly gentrifying areas marked by condos and bars, old Lawrenceville still exists. It’s an area of warehouses filled with products that people need. Above is a picture of A.R. Chambers, a construction supply company. There are tire stores, wholesale food warehouses and many more. The wide streets and flat land