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.)

Two Border Runs

These two runs in early April skirted the Pittsburgh border. RATS run #00389 tickled the Munhall boundary, while run #00390 hopped into Penn Hills briefly.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5063866562
Route of Run #00389

I started this one in Munhall, along Main Street. I suppose I could have parked closer, but I just wasn’t sure. Apparently Pittsburgh hasn’t cornered the market on steep hills, as Munhall has a few of its own. Right off the bat, I climbed a long hill and then coasted down to West Run Road. With cars zipping by and no sidewalk, West Run Road terrifies me. This slightly recolored photo sums up my impression of that road.

Busy small road with no sidewalks
Argh! Hell for Road Runners

Once I entered Gates Drive, a pleasant residential road with sweeping curves and large trees, the running was less heart-pounding. In a block or so, I was welcomed into Pittsburgh and only had to contend with dodging the Amazon delivery truck. These days, I see more delivery drivers than residents.

Gates Drive and Mapledale Drive were very similar. However, once I got onto Marina Drive, the character of the houses changed. Where Gates Drive had houses built in the 1960’s or 1970’s, the houses on Marina and Cassabill are much newer, built since 2009 or so. Also, while the houses on Gates Drive were decent size, the houses on Cassabill were extraordinarily large. With large houses comes large dogs, or at least one. He did an excellent job of casually woofing at me casually as I passed.

Behind these houses is a large undeveloped area, but not for long. It looks like plans are in place to keep expanding this subdivision. One thing I’ve noticed is that there is more new development in Pittsburgh than you might think.

Signs of further development

So, while maybe this road will eventually connect with Mifflin Road, or East Circle Avenue in New Homestead, for now the only way back was to return through Gates Drive and tempt fate on West Run Road again.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5076462706
RATS run #00390 in Lincoln-Lemington and Belmar

RATS run #00390 was a quick excursion into Lincoln-Lemington along the border with Penn Hills. In contrast to the previous run, there are dozens of ways to reach this area, mostly with sidewalks. However, parking can still be an issue. As a visitor, I’m hesitant to park on sidewalks, like many people do along Lincoln Avenue. Just a bit into Penn Hills, I noticed a nice large lot, but when I got there, stern “No Parking” signs warned me off. Eventually I parked on Paulson Avenue, near the playground, which was buzzing with kids and parents.

The goal of this run was a little section of Verona Boulevard and a few streets which stick into Penn Hills. Again, Munhall and Pittsburgh haven’t cornered the market on steep hills, either, because Penn Hills apparently got a good stock, too. They even put “Hills” into the name!

Methinks they over-use “boulevard” here, as both Travalla Boulevard and Verona Boulevard are rather modest streets. By the way, Verona Road is a different thoroughfare, as confusing as that is. Anyway, the housing stock on Travalla is good-old Pittsburgh four-square, circa 1900-1920.

Crossing over Lincoln Avenue, I continued on Verona Boulevard, which quickly dwindles to a driveway. Off of Verona is a small subdivision, Broadcrest Drive, of modest homes, 1960’s vintage.

I did venture a bit up Lincoln Avenue into Penn Hills. PAT buses zoomed past and made a grand u-turn in the gravel lot I was eyeing earlier. Good thing I didn’t park there, as I would have been towed immediately. With that I made my way back to Paulson Playground, still buzzing with kids.

Stone Age

https://www.strava.com/activities/4902223367
RATS #00376 – East Liberty, Belmar, Highland Park

This early March, Saturday run took me from alleys of Highland Park into the heights of Belmar and took care of some intervening areas in Larimer. I was also stretching out the distance, aiming for more than ten miles.

I started out on a few dead-end alleys in Highland Park, remarkable for their Stone-Age Era wall paintings. Then, I ran into typical streets trouble; colonized streets. This time, it was Glenview Place. I recognize that residents want to make the most of their living space, and a small, dead-end road is an ideal choice for extending your space, for parking, for car washing, for cookouts, for putting greens. However, it is a bit annoying to find public roads plastered with “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs a quarter mile before the end. Grrr!

Nonetheless, the pleasant morning made up for the irritation and returned the way I came, this time scaling down Violin Way until it wrapped around St. Marie Street and Chinn Way. Shaking off the dust from Highland Park, I entered the meat of my course in Larimer. I had laid out a route to do all of Indiana Way, finish a section between Larimer Avenue and Negley Run Road, then zig-zag across Larimer to Lincoln.

It isn’t actually that far. Indiana Way starts out well, makes it past the autobody shop and then disintegrates into a sidewalk along a playground. Orange Street, however, doesn’t really didn’t go through, I had to bushwhack through tall weeds and under broken trees to do it. That, of course, roused the local dogs, and by the time I stopped to take a picture of Orange Street, their howls were unnerving. It was also disappointing to see that a house with newly installed windows had already had its new windows broken. Then, a faded blue and white full sized van crept past me, going not more than 15 mph. Fine, residential area, old guys go slow. Continuing down Lenora, I passed this van as the driver slowly parked. Lenora ends, aptly, at Orphan Street which is high above Negley Run Road. This whole area seemed rather orphaned, honestly.

Now on a mission to complete the remaining little streets, what should slowly drive by, but the blue and white van. There was a veritable traffic jam as I tried to cross the street, while the van slowly made a right and sporty car quickly came up behind it. At this point I had just about had enough. Why was this guy driving so slowly? At any rate, I figured I could do this section later and zipped onto the other side of the street. I came up Victor Way as it squeezed past two houses en route to Rapidan Way, but two cars up on blocks for repairs impeded my progress to Renfrew Street, so I adjusted my route and crossed over to Lowell. Coming down Lowell, what should I see but the blue and white van slowly coming down the street! Ugh, three times a charm, so I bolted over to Lincoln Avenue, where I caught a picture of the faded glory of the Elks Club.

Lincoln crosses high above Washington Boulevard, but below a set of train tracks. I was surprised to still see icicles below the rusty trestle. The far side of Washington Boulevard is fairly spread out with long alleys and steeply rising hills. It seems I always find cemeteries on hilltops, and this was no exception. There’s also a juvenile detention center, a defunct veteran’s complex and Job Corp, which seems to be a campus tech school of some sort. Their website is pretty flowery, but the grounds were thoroughly fenced in.

At this point, I made my way back to Highland Park via Negley Run Road. Under the Meadow Street Bridge, soaring high above, defunct steps stood out against the brown winter leaves.

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.

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.