Four October Runs Across Pittsburgh

I’m writing this blog on March 12, 2022 and am very depressed by the current state of world affairs. I’m sad for Ukraine, angry at Russia and exasperated by the U.S. response. Nonetheless, here are four runs in October, spread across the city from Belmar to Fairywood. Hopefully recalling better days will brighten my mood, and yours too.


RATS #00463 Belmar

RATS Run #00463 in Belmar was another effort to finish up some small streets and dead-ends in the area. It was just to the northwest of RATS Run #00462. I started on Meade Street and caught Calway Street and Heart Court right off the bat. Then I made a long trek on Upland and Apple past the Negro Opera House. I’ve remarked on this house before. Now, it looks like renovations are underway. Yay! Perhaps these will be completed?

Moving on, my next goal was Mingo Street. Earlier, on a run with Rich, I balked at going past the barriers at the bottom of the hill. Today, though, I wanted to take a closer look. It turns out that Mingo Street does, indeed, continue. It passes two houses which seem ready to fall down. Reflecting on yesterday’s run on Hallam Street, I expect these houses to be gone without a trace in ten years.

I followed Mingo around the hill. It emerges onto Latana Way, where kids still play with trucks and a very red shed hosts basketball tournaments. Turning back onto Grotto Street, I crossed Lemington Avenue and made my way onto Elrod Way. Tucked up the hill was the alley of my destiny, Mayo Way.

I had some Mayo sandwiched between two dead-ends. Along the way, I daresay I surprised an old guy hanging out in his garage, but I made sure not to park it anywhere. To be honest these “No Parking” signs crack me up. I mean, really? Is this a problem? People parking in front of an inaccessible, broken down garage? Or is it that “No Parking” signs are more durable than your regular signs?

Anyway, moving on, I made it to both ends of Ebel Street and, again, verified that I’d be sanctioned heavily if I trespassed onto Highland Drive, a former site of the VA Hospital.

From here, I made my to Easton Way and through the Paulson Playground. On a warm afternoon, this place is swarming with kids. Today was quiet, though. Then it was a short jaunt up Clifford Way. I did not see a Big Red Dog, but he could have been hiding in the dense undergrowth.

From here, I made my Dreary way across the Larimar Avenue Bridge and followed Relic Way to its bitter end. For some reason, the GPS thinks I ran through yards, houses and sheds instead of straight down Relic. And that was it, a solid 8.84 mile run.


RATS #00464 Fairywood

RATS #00464 was on the opposite edge of town; a few Pittsburgh streets off of Ingram Avenue and then into Fairywood. I was a bit surprised to find an historical marker for Pittsburgh way out here. I suppose it’s a border sort of thing.

After running halfway across the Steubanville Pike Bridge, I came back skirted past an old “Sharp Edge” restaurant, with inviting red awnings. However, the windows were dark and the place was deserted. Closed. I have heard, though, that another restaurant will be moving in.

I ducked under the bridge to run along Napor Boulevard. Napor runs along the edge of an light industrial park on the edge of Chartiers Creek. Cellones is a large scale Italian bakery which has facilities here. Chartiers Creek looked peaceful.

Coming back to West Steuban Street, I crossed over Ingram Avenue and onto Woodmere Drive. An Amazon warehouse sits at the end of Woodmere. With a quick left then right, I found myself back on Industrial Highway. While only 3/4 of a mile long, it is built like a full scale highway. I’m always a little scared to run on it and really push the pace. Today was no exception, as my leisurely 10 minute pace increased to a 7 min/mile pace before I got winded and had to drop back to an 8:30. Great place to sprint.

I intended to go to the end of Industrial Highway, or as Strava calls it, “Chartiers Valley Lane”. However, the road went through a gate, marked “No Pedestrian Access”. Hmm, that seems pretty clear. Hey, I went further than the Google Streetview car did! It looks like Maple Grove Aggregates is the only thing down there.

I turned back toward the heart of Fairywood. As I’ve mentioned before, there used to be a housing development here. That one is empty land now. An empty pool is starting life over as a forest, tree by tree. But there is a housing development on the other side of Broadhead Road and one of Pittsburgh’s biggest landowners, the URA is trying to develop this.

I finished up running along Windgap Road. That’s a street in bad need of sidewalks. I did get a peek into the 25 yrd long Medford Street before finishing up in the Ingram Crafton Shopping Center.


RATS #00465 Brookline

RATS Run #00465 was a quick run in Brookline to finish up alleys like Pontoon Way (both sides), Minor Way, Redbird Way, Mossrose Way and Georgette Street among others. However, it was already dark by the time I got going, so I don’t have many pics. I think this neighborhood, nestled between Glenbury Road and Carmalt Field is pretty nice. It is all suburban residential, but the hills and alleys give it a mysterious air. From the end of Wychelm you can see the lights of downtown.

After going up to the end of Wychelm, I went down Parklyn, catching the left and right to get to the end of Mossrose Way. I returned along the long stretch of Mossrose, where it rises above the houses as a lane covered in pine needles. Making two rights, I decided to be bold and go down Georgette Lane. It was not, indeed, a driveway, but rather a respectable, short street with a house at the end.

I finished up Minor Way and went to the end of Redbird. That alley just bailed out at the top of a hill into someone’s backyard. Whoops! A wet, short night run all done.


RATS #00466 Duquesne Heights and Mount Washington

Returning to daylight and hills again, RATS Run #0466 wrapped around Mt. Washington and Duquesne Heights. I spent some time on the Emerald View Trail, which encircles this section of town.

Cielo Lane juts off of Fingal Street to provide some nice views of the Point. I tromped down to Greenleaf, which dives toward the West End Circle. However, about half way down I took the steep right onto Homer Street. There are only a few houses there, perched high on the hill. Homer leads directly into Emerald View Park.

I took Emerald View until I popped up on Grandview. From there I completed Augusta Street, en route to Wyloa Street. I thought I had completed Wyola, but it turns out there is a little spur which remains to be done. However, I got to traverse some of my favorite steps, Greenleaf and Well.

Now, my next target was Chess Street, but that was well on the other side of Woodruff Street. I took a “shortcut” by going up the Mann Street Steps to get me closer to the southern end of Mt Washington Park. I was appalled by the lack of a retaining wall behind condos being built on Grace Street. I can already see the road being undermined.

In the woods I lost my sense of direction and ended up on Norton, instead of Spahrgrove. Chess Street, wasn’t much to see, in spite of the cobblestones.

From here, I ran back to my car on Bigham. Damn, this area is hilly!

April Catch-Up

and a little hint of May

Summary

April 2021 was a busy month in the running department. I ran 133 miles and completed the Hyner 50k, a challenging, rocky trail race. Group runs had returned and at least once a week I ran with City of Bridges run club. As for neighborhoods, checking my April maps, it looks like I was really hitting the edges – Lincoln Place, Hays, Belmar, East Carnegie and Summer Hill. Blogging in April took such a hit that I spent most of the month talking about March. That trend has gotten worse, as it is early June and I’m just now finishing up these April runs. Oh well, I’ll get to them all eventually. For this catch-up I’ll be running you through six gorgeous routes, ending with RATS run #00399.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5139011420
RATS run #00394 in Carrick

I love a little quickie in the dusky evening. Here, I did a couple of miles circumnavigating Phillips Park. Nice two-mile run!


https://www.strava.com/activities/5143854725
RATS run #00395

RATS run #00395 was a long hard run from Point Breeze, to East Liberty, through Larimar and into Lincon-Lemington. It was mid-morning on Saturday and I was surprised to find a crowd along Paulson Avenue. It seems that Mt. Ararat Baptist Church was having a mass vaccination event. I felt a bit odd running down dead-end Tyler Way with dozens of people milling about. At the end of Tyler Way, this odd structure stands. I have no idea what it is, but UFO has to be a choice.

Graffiti and artwork adorn many of the neighborhood’s walls. Raymer did a Mac Miller tribute, while a lesser known artist renders bold angles and a someone remembers a friend. Artful graffiti is slowly outpacing the simple spray job; graffiti gentrification.

Moving deeper into Larimar, there’s a lot going on. Houses with the deadly blue ‘condemned’ sign are getting renovated. The “Know Thyself” school is surrounded by bulldozers and fences. Just remember to report to the office when you get there and ask “What ARE you doing?”

Elmer Williams Square has some cute houses while the Freedom Temple Church looks like it’s seen better days. Those painters didn’t spend much time accentuating the detail of that building, did they? Further into Lincoln-Lemington, the land rises enough to provide a decent view all the way to Oakland’s Cathedral of Learning.

Way up on Lemington Avenue, I saw an interesting school facade and took a closer look. Earthy, bold, colors and Mayanish tiles contrasted with the “young Queen Victoria” face staring out. And perhaps it is a theme, but make sure you report to the office here, too. Now it is called “Catalyst Academy” and I wonder if chemistry is the core curriculum.

Above this school several streets dead-end into St. Peters’ Cemetery. Some dead-ends you can go right up to, like this wall, while others are guarded by downed trees and old home foundations.

Speaking of St. Peters Cemetery, they spared no expense with the sign. The front declares it is “Historic”, while the back lists which wars the vets fought in. All the way back to the Revolutionary War, I see. That’s impressive.

From here, I trundled down Highland Avenue to Washington Boulevard. The greenspace on the left is actually part of Highland Park. I didn’t see any cat tails, neither mammals nor plants.

Lastly, the arched bridges along Washington Boulevard are quite impressive. Several carry the streets above, such as Lincoln Avenue and Larimer Avenue. One, though, carries an old railroad. Apparently this railroad spur crosses the nearby Allegheny River and is being considered for a rail-to-trails project. At the moment, though, the Brilliant Bridge just crosses Silver Lake Drive, home to storage warehouses and a car wash. It used to actually be a lake, then a drive-in movie theater.

From here, I trotted back to my car with fourteen miles in the running bank.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5151213965
RATS Run #00396 in the West End and Elliot

RATS run #00396 was a short run in the West End and Elliott. This was one of those frantic days, where just getting out for a run was an effort. Par for the course, I ended up in the wrong lane driving to the West End and just decided to park in Allegheny West, near Modern Cafe. It was OK, as I wanted a little more mileage than my planned route.

Crossing the West End Bridge has become an adventure these days. There are a couple of fenced-in walkways suspended above the street and below the bridge, taking you from the street to the bridge deck. I’ve run across it without a problem for years, but recently people have been sleeping on the walkways well into the day, leaving their bags and things strewn about. Covid or not, it is much closer to people and personal items than I’m comfortable with.

At any rate, I crossed the Ohio on the West End Bridge and made my way up to Elliot, Janewood Way in particular.

Marking that one off, I visited Herndon Street, high on the opposing hill. I had previously taken it for a driveway and did not realize how long it was. A few houses clung to the hillsides there. I used the Attica Street Steps to come back down to the quaint business district of the West End.

The West End Business district is a small grid of street off of Steuban. Motorists trying to avoid tunnel backups often zip through this alternate route. On the far side from Steuban, a mere two or three blocks, streets generally end at the Saw Mill Run (creek), while cars on Saw Mill Run Boulevard scream by. Mount Washington rises above in steep cliffs.

There are some cute parts of town. It even has a gazebo. However, trudging on Violet Way I looked up and became concerned. There seemed to be a police incident in progress, as several officers were milling around. Indeed, as I passed, it turned out maybe a dozen officers, in full gear were there behind a building.

They were chatting and joking. Shift change, I suppose. In 25 feet or so, it was a dead-end and I felt a little sheepish going back through the police crowd. With that I crossed the West End Bridge again, this time seeing two dudes rummaging through the homeless guys’ debris. I thought about the police a half-mile away as I whizzed past.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5163712017
RATS run #00397 in Banksville

Not a whole lot to say here. This was a short evening run in Banksville. Banksville Park was quite active this time through. The last time, it was a rather cold evening. Now, guys were playing cricket in a ballfield, while scads of people lined a dek-hockey game in progress. Further on, it looked like a Little League baseball game was starting.

The surrounding neighborhoods are quite residential, with big lawns and big garages. Oakville Drive, though, is a mass of apartments. There could be as many as 1,000 garden apartments there. It looked pretty nice, honestly. Just know that you can’t actually drive the way I came. The northern section of the apartment complex overlooks the Parkway West as it bends toward the Fort Pitt Tunnels.

A cell tower dominated the end of the playground. Lots of satellite dishes are clustered around that thing. Who knows how many antennae are on the tower? 50? 100? It’s hard to say.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5196544757
Route of RATS #00398 in Northview Heights

Northview Heights is an area I had been avoiding. There are security gates on Mt Pleasant Road and Penfort Street, which I found intimidating. However, I had taken some time off work to recovery from Hyner 50k, so had the chance to run here on a sunny weekday morning. I had no problems, other than a little soreness in the legs. People were out, waiting for buses or picking up kids. Maintenance workers were vigorously mowing lawns and doing repairs.

Chicago Street branches out of the housing development and stops at a cliff above I-279. I wonder if it ever went across. A lone turkey sauntered into the woods as I passed. Eventually I made my way out of the development, down to Spring Garden Avenue and back to Essen Street.

Crossing the Swindell Bridge again, there’s a neat glimpse of Downtown through the fence links.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5204801111
RATS run #00399 in Squirrel Hill

Last but not least, RATS run #00399 was a 5K run in Squirrel Hill North, land of the big houses. But I’ll start out on an alley and end on the public golf course.

Now, Robin Road is private, but since I’m not immune to doing private roads, I intended to go down it. However, it really felt more like a private driveway, so I bailed. This section of Squirrel Hill, “Murdoch Farms” has immense, imposing homes beautifully kept. Not so far away, little developments off of Schenley Park Golf Course include various “modern” style houses. Oh, so modern, they were built in the 1960’s.

The sun was setting across the golf course as I finished up, just past 5K distance.


That’s a Wrap!

(May was a busy month, too, but only 106 miles. I’ll start blogging about those soon. Thanks for reading.)

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!

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.