Downtown, Carrick and Fairywood

A fantastical journey awaits! From the snow strewn, narrow alleys of Downtown to the slick streets of Carrick to the wondrous wilds of Fairywood, I covered lots of ground the first week of February. Grab a hot chocolate, coffee or toddy and enjoy!

RATS #00365 – Downtown and Duquesne

https://www.strava.com/activities/4730557135
Route of RATS #00365

Nothing is more magical than Downtown Pittsburgh on a cold night. While pushed aside, the recent snow wasn’t giving up just yet and lined the route. This run was generally about traversing alleys I had missed, then going up to Duquesne University.

I started off by cutting through the PPG buildings along Delray Street. Delray continues as a small dumpster-lined alley to 5th Avenue Place. Crossing over Liberty took me down Cecil Place, with its lone couch.

From there, I trotted up Barkers Place, then caught McRrea Way with its large Frenchy’s billboard as it heads towards 6th Street. I hope they aren’t paying much for that sign, as it is behind a building. Crossing 6th took me into a small driveway and then out award-winning Mentor Way, which is half the width of a car. The award? “Creepiest Alley in Downtown Pittsburgh”.

Shaking that off, I headed up Third Avenue. Passing PPG was, actually, kind of magical. There was Ketchupsaurus, uniquely found in the Tomato layer of Pittsburgh Seam. (Read more about the dinos here.) Skaters were laughing as they swished along the ice at the PPG Skating Rink.

Leaving such frivolity behind, I crossed over from Third to Fourth Avenue. Now, Downtown is guarded from Duquesne by the Great Wall of Transportation. The electrified tracks of the T, the massive piers for the Crosstown Expressway, the ramps and tunnels act as a barrier between Downtown and points further uphill. The Hill District is up there, as well as Duquesne University. Duquesne occupies “The Bluff” which overlooks the Mon and stretches into Uptown. I was fortunate to find steps leading from the end of Fourth Avenue to Forbes Street.

I climbed up to the bluff along Shingiss Street, which had been closed, presumably because of the snow. The Duquense Rock patiently waited for me to take its picture while I fumbled with gloves.

Winding among the buildings of Duquense took me in and out parking garages and past dining halls. The views were great.

With this, I circled back downtown and hopped in my car, grateful for the quick warmth.

RATS #00366 – Slick Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4746361457
RATS #00366 Carrick

This run took two tries. The first, on a Friday evening, I cut short because my shoes did not have enough traction to handle the ice and snow. The next attempt was done in trail shoes on a warm day; it topped out at 30 degrees.

Headstones in Snow Covered Concord Plot
Headstones in Snow Covered Concord Plot

Here’s the challenge: Myron Way. Slightly shaded and never salted, it was mostly ice. Luckily, I was able to find patches of untrammeled snow to keep going. The East Cherryhill steps were pretty tricky, too.

This was the most challenging section of the run. Afterwards, the alleys, while snow filled, had centers of deep snow, which I could easily tromp through.

I ran up and down the alleys and streets, eventually making it to the border with Mt. Oliver, the Borough, before sliding back to my car. Here are a couple of pictures of the frozen people out that day.

RATS #00367 – Fairywood

Route of RATS #00367
Route of RATS #00367

Here’s the run you all have been waiting for.

“Fairywood? Is that real? Where is that? I’ve lived in Pittsburgh all my life and have never heard of it!”

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Fairywood.”

The large, now abandoned site of Broadhead Manor looks pretty sunny in this 1945 pic on the Historic Pittsburgh site. But, things change and this 2016 blog post by Pittsburgh Orbit captures the modern Fairywood very well. Now, four and a half years later, that blog post still applies. I started my run from Ingram, a bordering neighborhood. The weather had continued to improve and it was Super Bowl Sunday, 2021. Climbing out of the Ingram Bowl, I contended with a set of steps along Creston Street then continued along West Prospect Avenue as it left Ingram and dropped into Fairywood.

Fairywood was quiet and mostly flat. There are a couple of small subdivisions and a a few abandoned properties, notably Broadhead Manor and less well known, a distribution center off of Broadhead Fording Road.

But distribution is the big business around here. In spite of this impressive driveway and gate, apparently this is NOT an actual entrance. You get here by going through the OK Grocery Gate on the other side. Over there, dozens of tractor trailers line up to pick-up and deliver. That area is not built for people, only trucks. Just down Industrial Highway is an Amazon Distribution Center and a ModCloth warehouse.

I was hesitant about running down Industrial Highway. However the alternative was just to retrace my steps or to try out the no-sidewalk, no shoulder Windgap Road. So, I put on some speed and quickly ran on the Industrial Highway shoulder. With only two cars in five minutes, it turned out to be pretty safe.

Summary

So, that was it for the first week of February, 2021. With inclement weather (read extreme cold and ice) on the way, I only ran a couple of times in the next few weeks. Which, my friends, will be the subject of the next blog.

Brought to You by the Letter ‘g’

Strava Route of Run 349
RATS #00349 – Carrick & Overbrook

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.

And that was that! “G” that was a good run!

Finally! A Monthly Wrap-Up for November 2020

Summary

This November, I kept up my streak of 100 mile months and 10k+ elevation gains. I did hit some road blocks. While totally predictable, early darkness wreaked havoc on my running habits. Not so predictable was a week of quarantining due to Covid-19 exposure. Either way, I had sixteen runs in November, of which thirteen of them covered new streets. I am closing in on completing 70% of Pittsburgh’s streets. I wasn’t too good at blogging, though.

RATS #00328

https://www.strava.com/activities/4348197882
RATS #00328 in Brookline

This was a short run starting at Brookline Memorial Park covering Oakridge and Freedom Streets. The brilliant sunset gave way to just the slightest sliver of the moon. I caught the hippo in dusk, but the flag was still up when I returned in the dark. Aren’t flags supposed to be taken down or lit at night?

RATS #00329

https://www.strava.com/activities/4362738815
RATS #00329 in East Liberty

This four mile run also embraced the dark. I started with a few Shadyside streets and then ventured into East Liberty and Larimer. Missing my turn, I went up Lincoln Avenue instead of Lowell Street, seriously disrupting my planned route. Yet, with only 88 feet of elevation, I enjoyed this, the flattest run I had done in awhile. Eventually though, beyond the stores and street lights of East Liberty, the poorly lit streets and unfamiliar area got to me and I skedaddled back to my car, using the steps down to Ellsworth Avenue as a shortcut. It turns out, even those steps are “official” city steps.

RATS #00330

https://www.strava.com/activities/4370938579
RATS #00330 in the West End

Ah, the West End. The overlook has my favorite view of downtown. It also has a little parking lot, so it’s a great place to start. Balloons and candles remained for “KMB”, whomever that is.

I had visited this area several times already, but had missed some streets. The West End is unrelenting in its hills. Streets going toward the river are extremely steep, but even the cross streets bounce up and down. I ran up to St. Martin Cemetery crisscrossing the neighborhood on little streets and alleys. These unofficial steps on Navajo Way were a lucky break. Otherwise I would have had to run around those blocks again.

I headed downhill and ventured out Chartiers Avenue a bit; going up Litchfield Street. This “street” consists of several impressive flights of stairs. The streets are less impressive, generally winding up hills to arrive in someone’s garage. None of those streets are thruways.

RATS #00331

https://www.strava.com/activities/4377247944
RATS #00331 in Highland Park and East Liberty

A portrait of alleys in Highland Park. I amazed that it took nine miles to wander up and down all those alleys. Some were brick, some were asphalt. Mostly they were straight, while a few zigzagged.

Along the alleys were some immense houses and a few apartment buildings.

And, of course, I can’t resist a Little Library.

RATS #00332

https://www.strava.com/activities/4395003449
RATS #00332 – Homewood

This was a Thanksgiving Day run. I started in Swisshelm Park and went up Braddock Avenue to find its northern terminus, passing one of my favorite stores, 3 Rivers Outdoors. It is a small business specializing in outdoor gear. They also sponsor a trail running group and fun community activities. Going south, Braddock Avenue goes to Braddock, of course. ( Actually it veers east, trails past steel mills and winds up in Turtle Creek, if you must know.) On the northern end, it just stops unceremoniously in Homewood at a playground.

My previous run in Highland Park was mainly in alleys. Homewood has its alleys too, a bunch of “f”ing alleys; Formosa Way, Fleury Way, Finance Way, Forrest Way, Fuschia Way, and Fielding Way to name a few. I did a couple of these alleys, then climbed Calway Street. Calway Street struggles up a steep hill for a few houses and then is blocked off as it wanders into the woods. Turning around, I got a neat view of Homewood, its bowl filled with homes as downtown buildings peeked over the ridge. Returning down toward Braddock Avenue, I came across another Little Library, this one in purple. By the time I returned to Swisshelm Park through Frick Park, I had run ten miles.

RATS #00333

https://www.strava.com/activities/4398743439
RATS #00333 – Homewood and Belmar

This run was something of a continuation of the previous run. I pushed further into North Homewood and Belmar. Right off the bat, I roused two deer from their Homewood bed under a stairwell. There’s a confusing mix of streets here, where Pittsburgh collides with Wilkinsburg. The older warehouses and buildings are mainly deserted. After crossing off a number of small streets and alleys off my list, I headed up Brushton Avenue and Stranahan Street.

After crossing several streets and alleys off my list, I headed up Brushton Avenue and Stranahan Street to a small subdivision. Water authority construction workers were busy digging and putting down pipe. Their store of fire hydrants looked like an arsenal of rockets. It was a rather chilly day and no one was playing hoops when I passed by.

Completing the loop around Tilden, I went up Oberlin Street. At the end, a ragged set of steps took me up to Somerset Street. Somerset Street was high and wide, but I was ready to find my way home again so I found the Toga Way steps. Toga Way took me down steps littered with monkey balls. What are monkey balls? Check this Incline article for the full story, but they are the fruit of “Maclura pomifera”, commonly known as the Osage orange tree.

In another confirmation of boat theory, I saw several, nestled in the woods near the steps.

RATS #00334

https://www.strava.com/activities/4409006976
RATS #00334 with Rich

My friend, Rich, came with me on this adventure. Once again, I explored North Homewood and Belmar neighborhoods. We covered lots of ground and Rich made the miles go by easily. Here’s Rich, out standing in his field. He has a good eye for photography and takes nice pics.

A surprisingly sunny day, we made our way to the entrance of the VA Hospital grounds. Unfortunately, it was blocked off with vigorous “No Trespassing Signs”. With that route blocked, though, we found our way to a rusty water tower high above the Allegheny. I convinced Rich to NOT climb it.

From the top there, you could see way up the Allegheny River Valley. There was another water tower, but with its light blue paint and the sunny skies, it was actually hard to see.

In planning this route, I was using Google Street view to verify that streets went through. I was shocked when the street view took me from a rather derelict Ferdinand Alley to a sweeping country vista. Whoops! A glitch in the Matrix.

Ferdinand Way vs Google Street View

This is not the only street in North Homewood that does this.

Nonetheless, we ran by the quickly deteriorating Negro Opera House, took in the Laporte Street Steps and just meandered. Rich is pretty friendly and by the time we were done, he had waved to the black ladies going to church, some guys fixing their cars and just about anyone who showed their face.

It was nice to run with company to end this month.

Pesky Streets, An Old Cemetery and Steps

https://www.strava.com/activities/4302896973
RATS #00325 Carrick

I have sometimes disparaged Carrick as dark and dirty. Well, running there on a sunny Saturday morning will dispel those impressions. Unfortunately, the sunlight doesn’t flatten the hills nor expose all the pesky streets. My main goal was the grid of streets between East Agnew and East Meyers, and constrained by Brownsville Road and the Becks Run ravine.

First, a definition:

“Pesky Street” – a street clearly marked on map, yet consistently missed in spite of running all around it. Like your car keys sitting on the counter when you’re looking for them, a pesky street is not visible by direct observation.

ET May

I actually started on the other side of Brownsville Road to swat a few pesky streets into the “completed” column. Dellrose, Oakhurst and Kleiner Way were some of the most pesky streets around. I got Oakhurst, climbed the hill to Dellrose, confident of finding its intersection with Kleiner Way. But there was no Kleiner Way. I retraced my steps, only to discover the top section was more of a grassy slope than an alley! Damn! Oh, well. Moving on, I made my way back across Brownsville Road.

There, in the midst of the neighborhood was a cemetery with no name plates, and no entrance. It is associated with Concord Presbyterian Church, on its periphery. Digging into this a little, I found this fairly interesting site, Concord Presbyterian Church Cemetery, dedicated to preserving its history. Many of the graves are very old, including some prominent early settlers.

From here, I made my way down the long streets. Plummet Way did just that, ending at a section of Red Rose Avenue with sunken steps. This is not the only section of Red Rose Avenue with steps. The other section drops down to Madeleine Avenue. These steps weren’t as impressive as those. (And neither was my photography.)

After Plummet Way, I made my way across the grid of streets. The weather was great and the rolling hills afforded nice autumn views. There are lots of dogs in the area, each viciously guarding their territory. I liked the house below, with its stained glass and nicely painted dentils.

Eventually, I came across East Cherryhill with its impressive steps and tilting walkway. These steps cross from Concordia to Amanda as steps alone, only to be joined by a driveable section of East Cherryhill Street up to Brownsville Road. Don’t take them if you’ve been drinking, else you might fall over into someone’s yard.

Leolyn Street is one of the few cross streets and ends in these steps up to East Meyers Street. I love this picturesque view.

Of course, once I finished my run, and reviewed the maps, I realized I still had some pesky streets out there. D’oh!

October 2020 Monthly Catch-Up

Summary

October 2020 was a pretty good month. I did not do big long runs on the weekends, but got a good fifteen runs done, with fourteen of them covering new streets. Final stats were 100 running miles with over 12,000 feet of elevation. I’ve made significant progress in north Pittsburgh, with 98% of the streets done from the Northshore to Riverview Park. I’ve also continued to cover southern neighborhoods such as Carrick and Lincoln Place. It’s been a beautiful Fall, with only a couple of cold days. Several runs swept through ‘stairy’ areas; run #319 hit at least half dozen long ones. For better or worse, there are several significant runs in this catch-up, so its rather long.

RATS #00315: Brookline, Overbrook and Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4212640666
RATS #00315

Starting at Brookline Memorial Park, I ventured down Breining to Briggs in that area of long streets. But Briggs turns into Seldon, which took me directly to the Fan Street Steps down to Glenbury. I’m constantly attracted to dead-ends, tunnels and steps. This had it all. I passed through the Glenbury Viaduct to find myself at the busy intersection of Saw Mill Run Boulevard and Library Road.

I noticed a line of steps up the farther hill and waited patiently at the light wondering exactly where they would lead. Those steps turned out to be Horning Street, off of Ivyglen. Horning keeps rising, even after leaving the benefit of the steps behind. At any rate, in keeping with the spirit of the run, Horning dead-ends at a cemetery, Beth Abraham Cemetery. I kept on its perimeter, looking in briefly where Ivyglen enters.

I wandered further into Carrick, eventually getting to Brownsville Road and almost stepping into Brentwood. Thankfully, a sign alerted me, so I curved back. The curvy streets twice concluded in curvy sidewalk steps along Ivyglen, once where Lodge meets Ivyglen and again where Odette hits Ivyglen. For some reason, Odette is not in Bob Regan’s book and not on the City of Pittsburgh’s stair list even though they both include the Lodge Street steps, a block away. They also both include the Sanderson Street Steps which have been closed since at least 2007.

With that I made my way back, peeking in on Pinecastle Street in passing.

RATS #316 Brighton Heights and Marshall Shadeland

https://www.strava.com/activities/4221953319
RATS #00316

This was a five mile run on a chilly misty Autumn evening starting at Legion Memorial Park. I have mixed feelings about this memorial. While I have the utmost respect for those whose names are listed, I find the Disneyesque Mr. Universe sculpture almost ridiculous.

War Memorial Legion Park

From there, it was just down Shadeland Avenue, then up Schimmer.

RATS #00317 Just a bit of East Street

https://www.strava.com/activities/4226476207
RATS #00317

There’s a new run club in town – City of Bridges Run Club. This run was supposed to be with them, but I was running late. No worries, I just took on a small section of East Street, climbed Suffolk and got a Fineview. It was great to hang out afterwards, masks and all.

RATS #00318 Back to Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4230823897
RATS #00318

Another run in Carrick, mainly along Spencer and Kirk avenues. Eventually, I stepped out of bounds, dipping my toe into Baldwin Borough for a bit. It was dark, so I can be forgiven. Speaking of dark, they could use a few lights along Custer Avenue I daresay. I skirted a couple of spooky cemeteries along the way.

RATS #00319 – Marshall-Shadeland and Woods Run

https://www.strava.com/activities/4238684338
RATS #00319

Hold onto your hats and handrails! This was an epic half marathon in Marshall-Shadeland and Woods Run. What made it so epic? The autumn scenery, the crazy number of steps, the half-marathon distance, the 1,768 feet of elevation, and finally the hills and houses! I also took an epic number of pictures, which I pared down to fit here, believe it or not.

First, some Autumn scenery

Now for some steps. Of these, Wing Way was pretty neat because it intersected several streets on the way up and had a little walkway to Courtright Street, which took me under the Shadeland Avenue Bridge. Malden Street Steps were also pretty cool.

Now for some houses and scenes along the run. The neat white house is in Highwood Cemetery, while the multi-level ‘chalet’ at first looks impressive, until you see the boarded up windows. The rather rural looking Courtright Street runs under the very urban Shadeland Avenue Bridge. Deck gargoyles added a little spookiness to the streets, as if they needed it.

Finally, I got a kick out of the intersection of California Street with California Street and I always love seeing the belly of the bridges, like large dragons sprawling across the hollow.

RATS #00320 Sunday Afternoon in Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4242858122
RATS #00320

RATS #00320 took me back to Carrick. In particular, I wanted to finish up on some areas which had been cut short by darkness earlier. Unlike the epic run #00319, this one was fairly tame. A few steps, some deer and lots of suburban houses.