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.

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.)

Spring in the Almost Suburbs

Here are two runs from early April, 2021. The first, RATS #00391, winds through Brookline (again), while the next, RATS #00392, finishes a cool section of Lincoln Place. That’s a little bit of a cartographer’s joke, but I’ll let you figure it out.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5082128211
Route of RATS #00391

This was an evening run in the alleys of Brookline again. They seem to be never-ending. One curiosity was that I happened to revisit Dorchester Street only to realize that the building on the end of Castlegate was gone. In an earlier post I caught ongoing demolition of The Bradley Place/ DePaul Center. Time flies. There’s only wide open land there now, slated for new development.

Early twilight left sunshine on the houses of Brookline and Overbrook. The first two pictures below are from the top of Castlegate Avenue and the end of Viaduct Way, respectively. The bottom shows just how steep Queensboro Avenue is. All ye runners, do your hill repeats here!!

With the fading sun I saw some fading glory, too. This speedster could’ve been a contender, I daresay. The blossoms, come back year after year, though.

And that was it, a bit over three miles in the ambience of a Brookline Spring evening.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5103612150
Route of Strava run #00392 in Lincoln Place

Here, I revisted Lincoln Place, that sprawling section of Pittsurgh which some mistake for Munhall or West Mifflin. It certainly has a suburban feel, even though from the hilltops you can see downtown.

I thought the white house below was pretty cool. When looking at the picture again, I realized that the neighboring house is nearly identical. Further on, the little brick house has a veritable gravy train of wagons in front of it. Cox Place, a cul-de-sac no less, is prototypical suburbia.

One feature of Lincoln Place is the number of high-voltage power lines running through it. It does help with navigation, though. Just follow the buzzing.

Power, power, power!

Here and there were a few sparks of the unusual. For instance, I don’t think I’ve seen a car quite like this blue one before and I’m sure some small child grieved when their exuberant bouncing exploded the bouncy house. All those balls, needing a new home. Lastly, its always nice to see a little library along the way. With snacks, too!

And that was all. There are a couple of streets I’ve missed here, but by and large, I’ve completed Lincoln Place. It took me a long time to get out here, but I’m glad I did.

Lincoln Place and the Hill

Synopsis

Here are a couple of runs done in mid-February. A “polar vortex” and the threat of it kept me inside for a bit. So, no didn’t do a 20-20, (twenty miler at twenty degrees). Perhaps the late January fall encouraged me to be more careful or I’m just tired of running in the dark and cold. At any rate, the Lincoln Place run covered a large section of that neighborhood while the Hill run just about completed it.

RATS #00368 Over the Hill

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RATS #00368 – Finishing up the Hill

Prior to coming out, I used a popular hack for making ‘ice shoes’. You simply put small machine screws into the bottom of your shoes. Once started, they go into the dense rubber easily. With 15 screws on the bottom of each shoe, I was very confident, even on ice.

I started this Saturday afternoon’s run in North Oakland. The recent spate of snow had been cleared enough so that driving was tolerable, but dirty snow, pushed aside, lined most walks and gutters. University Drive in Oakland is still under construction, so I had to take a detour around that. Then I ran down Centre, crossing Herron and heading into the Hill. My target area was a number of small streets in the Middle Hill. Many of the streets were still undisturbed and had ankle deep snow in them.

Hallet, Horton, Humber, I must have stumbled into the “H” section of Pittsburgh, in the Hill District, no less. I have often pondered the easy alliteration of adjoining streets. Homewood has many “F” alleys, Brookline has its “B” streets. It’s kinda cute, unless you’re trying to remember where to turn by just the first letter. Oh, no!

At any rate, the alleys were deep in snow, but mainly passable. The ice-shoes were doing great and I wasn’t even too cold. Periodically, snow squalls blew through, diminishing my vision. Normally, you can see the UPMC building from the Somers’ steps.

I came across a couple of sets of steps. One, Chauncy Street, I was familiar with. It’s a pretty impressive thoroughfare taking you down to Centre Avenue. The other, Caramel Way, was a bit of a surprise. On the map, it just looked like another alley. Blocked off at the top, it wasn’t from the bottom. Following some frozen footsteps up the mildly broken steps it was clear where treads were missing. I did have to duck under a downed tree, but it wasn’t too extreme.

As usual, there were buildings ready to fall down and some historic markers. This plaque is dedicated to jazz great Art Blakey. Presumably he lived in the house? A rather oversized, chilly bass player was still out practicing in the snow.

I had fun on this run, in spite of the conditions. The shoes worked out well.

RATS #00369 – Lincoln Place

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Route of RATS #00369 in Lincoln Place

And, now, to one of the southernmost neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. A week after that last run, the snow was still around, and it was a beautiful, sunny day. Snow really looks good on Pittsburgh.

My first order of business was to track down a staircase between Glenhurst and Lougean. I had missed it on an earlier run. So, I tromped down Mifflin Road, dodging cars until I got to Glenhurst. The wooden stairs were snuggled between two very suburban houses.

Steps from Glenhurst to Lougean
Steps from Glenhurst to Lougean

From there, it was an adventure on back alleys which went much further than I expected. “F” Way, “D” Way and “C” Way took me way back to country sheds. Overall, this was a nice area to run in. It was lacking in sidewalks, but also lacked in traffic.

Eventually I found myself on Mooney Road, heading towards Mifflin Road. After Beechland Street, Mooney Road, itself, becomes a country road. This narrow street dives down a steep hill to Mifflin Road. Along this section, there are only three or four houses, each precariously perched on a hillside. As I approached Mifflin Road, I noticed a large house across the ravine. Strangely enough, no road or driveway was visible. I still wonder how those folks get home.

By the time I had gone down Mooney and back to Beechland, the sun was sliding over the hillsides. I finished out a few more streets and cruised back to McBride Park, my favorite place to park.

Orthotics Soft-Serve

https://www.strava.com/activities/4309522598
Map of running route through Lincoln Place – RATS #00326

Run number 326 took me out to Lincoln Place again. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and I explored some of the nooks and crannies off of Interboro Avenue. But first, I started at McBride Park, with an easy downhill start.

My first alley, K Way, took me behind houses underneath high-voltage power lines. These lines march across Lincoln Place, towers stomping down every few hundred feet or so. The hilltops of this residential area are quite high. In a previous post, I had described being able to see downtown buildings from out here. The view from Diller Place went on forever even though it didn’t have the angle to see Pittsburgh’s tall buildings.

Eventually, I ran out of Pittsburgh and into Munhall for a few blocks. Coming back in, I was happy, as always, to see the “Welcome To Pittsburgh” signs. There aren’t as many steps out here as in the city, but there are a few. I came across these steps from the lower part of Oakleaf Street to its upper section past Leaside Drive. Apparently I missed a couple of stairs, which I’ll have to come back for. I did see a few little libraries, most notably this very pink one. I also got a kick out of the ice-cream cone protruding from the Walk-Rite sign.

On a more nerve-wracking note, I got a call in the middle of this run. It was a contact tracer and I had come into contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid. Without any symptoms, I wasn’t super-worried, but it was upsetting, and the start of another round of quarantining. That was several weeks ago and I did not, indeed, get sick. Unfortunately, as of this writing, I’m again quarantining due to Covid contact. I can’t wait for this to end, but still healthy.

You Can See Forever From Lincoln Place

https://www.strava.com/activities/4273084037
RATS #00322 – in Lincoln Place

This run took me back to Lincoln Place – that southernmost of all Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. I had prepared for a cold, wet run but was treated to a stunningly beautiful Fall day.

Starting at the Shop ‘n Save down by Brown’s Mobile Home Park, I quickly made it to quiet suburban streets off of Mifflin Road. The trees were in their full glory.

Here and there were small shops, like Velma’s Place. I did run into a group of ultra runners, discussing their latest 500 mile run.

Overall, though, there wasn’t a whole lot to see here. However, Muldowney Road rises high off of Mifflin Road and affords views of the UPMC Building and the Oxford Building, over six miles away as the crow flies.

High-voltage power lines were a constant presence along the route. Also came across a huge Penn-American water tower.

That was about it. I had struggled to get myself out the door, but was truly rewarded with fine, sunny weather and neat views.

Halloween’s Alive in Lincoln Place

https://www.strava.com/activities/4177544599
Run #00311 in Lincoln Place

Lincoln Place is the southernmost neighborhood in the City of Pittsburgh. If you take the Glenwood Bridge out of the city and keep going along Mifflin Road, you’ll come to it. There are three Pittsburgh neighborhoods down here, Hays and New Homestead being the others. Lincoln Place is, by far, the most populous.

Lincoln Place

I parked at McBride Park