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.

Finishers From Stanton Heights to Windgap

Here are a couple of runs I did in early March, 2021. The first, a short evening run in Stanton Heights, finished up that area. The second, an epic wandering run through Corliss, Chartiers and Windgap was in the blinding sunlight and pretty much finished those areas as well.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4921240664
Route of Run #00379 in Stanton Heights

Starting in Upper Lawrenceville, I clambered up Stanton and finished off a few streets and alleys for run #00379. Previously I’ve pictured this pleasant, residential area. This evening, dog walkers were out and kids played in the streets. The end of Downlook Street has an unexpected view of Sharpsburg across the Allegheny River. I finished up in Dinian Park, skirting a baseball field overlooking Morningside. It was cool to see the sparkling lights through the bare trees.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4941383592
Route of RATS #00380 through Corliss, Windgap and Chartiers

At the start of most every run, I have some anxiety about part of my route. For this run, I was worried about the area near Hollywood Cemetery as well as Alora Way and a confusing section of streets Windgap. I was also worried about how safe it would be to run on Windgap Avenue. Let’s see how my worries played out.

Off the bat, I screwed up my route coming out of Ingram. Instead of going on West Prospect, I went on East Prospect and ended up coming into Pittsburgh along Steuban Street instead of Berry Street. This turned out OK, as I made sure to complete Charlton Street coming into Berry right at Jenkins Street. I’m not sure if you recall, but in an earlier run, I came across the Jenkins Street steps and through internet sleuthing, found that they go nowhere. Today, emboldened by the bright sun, I battled the scrubby brush and went to the top of the stairs. Nothing, nada, zilch. And, on the way down, I stepped on a nail protruding from an overturned plank. Luckily, it missed my foot and toes. But it was a hassle stepping into the street with a three foot piece of wood attached to my shoe. Once on Berry, I was able to remove it.

The next stop was a little cul-de-sac, Kathy Drive. Looks like a nice residential street. From there I made my way to Evanston Road, winding around Harrisburg Road to Clearfield. Clearfield went right into Hollywood Cemetery. The map show Clearfield continuing through the cemetery to Windgap on the other side. The road does not clearly go through. At the far end, though, I was treated to a neat view of Windgap and the Windgap Bridge.

I traced my way through the streets and alleys here off of Middletown Road then took Middletown Road’s curvy dive down to Chartiers. The far side of Chartiers Avenue has a number of small residential blocks and with some roads leading right up to an active railroad. Down here, power lines towered above the houses.

Now, I had to face my fears and venture to the steps on the end of Alora Way. The first time I saw the steps from Chartiers Avenue to Alora Way, a large dog was yelping at me from the bottom of the stairs. I was concerned he would still be there. But I was in luck! No dog. The steps were an adventure to get to, but led straight up to Chartiers, as expected. Flushed with this success, I decided to see, one last time, if I could find the steps which were supposed to come off of Moyer Street in Sheridan. From the end of Moyer, last summer, all I could see was gardening debris at the end of the street. This time, though, on this sunny, leafless day, I found them! Shallow red brick steps climbed alongside a Jewish cemetery until they were buried under branches near the top.

Now I needed to face some more uncertainty. Alora Way also has steps which rise on the other side, towards Oltman Street. I had run on Oltman before, and only saw a rundown house at the end, no steps. From this direction, though, the Oltman steps looked good. Well, they looked good until I came across a fairly large broken section. Sometimes, I stop when I see steps like these, but not today. I made my way on the edges and fought my way through the new growth to the other side, on Oltman Street. While there was a lot of trash and dumped appliances, there really wasn’t much to be afraid of.

From here, I wandered around the streets and alleys of Windgap. I found an amazing scene, ferocious deer cornering a wild T-Rex. Poor T-Rex, he looked scared to death.

With this, my exploring was done. I decided to run straight up Windgap Avenue. It wasn’t pretty or particularly safe, but I made it without a problem. I was so close to a half-marathon, I ran an extra block just to get in that last tenth of a mile.

High on Herschel

https://www.strava.com/activities/4594264949
RATS #00352

Ah, a sunny Saturday in January! I took this opportunity to finish off some small streets near Herschel Park and then make my way over to Crafton Heights and Corliss to tackle that conundrum.

If you’ve never been to Herschel Park, get out the door and GO! It’ll take a few twists and turns and maybe some back-tracking, but once you’re there, sitting high on a hill, the tremendous views of Heinz Field at the confluence of the Mon and Allegheny are amazing. The trek out there seems so arduous, I didn’t realize that it’s less than a mile away, as the crow flies. Damn crow.

View from Herschel Field
View from Herschel Field

From this starting point, I trotted down toward Noblestown Road, winking in and out of small alleys perched on the cliffs. For some reason, even after several forays here, I had not completed Weston Way. This time I made sure I ran it from end-to-end. Now I understood. Where Weston is supposed to intersect Steuben Street there are houses. Weston Way ends in a path which takes you down front steps to Steuben. Argh, so much for a public path!

With my first little goal accomplished, I hit a secondary goal; the three-street Whitehead Drive subdivision between Steuben and Arnold. Nothing much too see there, as split level fifties houses curved along the concrete streets.

Now to my number one goal, a mysterious section of Pittsburgh off of Middletown Road. What makes that area “mysterious”? Well, for one, I’m not familiar with it, so I don’t have a “mental map” of it. Secondly, while it can be approached from several directions, it is high above each of them (Chartiers Avenue, Berry Street and Middletown Road). Thirdly, there is a curious mix of streets, paths and steps. I wasn’t sure which would be truly passable and which sections were just lines on the map.

I shouldn’t have been worried. It is a beautiful neighborhood. The tree lined streets are broad. The houses are generally large and well maintained. Folks were walking dogs, chatting with neighbors and enjoying the day. The streets do tend to dead-end on the top of what I’ll call “Chartier’s Hill”. However, unlike some sections of Pittsburgh, where run down houses mar the view, these semi-country estates added to it.

In planning this run, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to understand Straka Street. In an overgrown summer, the Straka sign on Berry seems to be another misplaced Pittsburgh street sign. From Google maps, it looks like a walk-way, or a long driveway. Finally the Pittsburgh’s step website indicated that Straka way was a reality. So, I tentatively planned to do it.

Again, nothing to be worried about. A driveway lead to a walkway and then a long series of shallow steps from Sanborn Street to Berry. The collage below takes it all in. These must be super convenient, as Chartiers and Berry are busy with buses and this leads to the heart of this hillside neighborhood.

Straka Way Steps
Straka Way Steps

With this, I made my way back to Herschel Park. I skipped part four of this run as that would have pushed me to nearly fifteen miles.