Hail to Pitt!

RATS #00437 from Swisshelm Park to West Oakland

So, this was a rather ambitious run from Swisshelm Park, aka “The Land Beyond Frick Park” to the high reaches of the University of Pittsburgh. Going through Frick, one of my favorite routes is along Nine-Mile Run. It has been significantly cleaned up, but I still wouldn’t splash around in it. In a heavy rain, the upstream sewage systems in sections of Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg, Edgewood and other communities tends to overflow into the drainage system, which, of course, flows through here.

Nine-Mile Run in Lower Frick

From there, I continued through Squirrel Hill into the Land of the Universities. CMU continues to build like a beaver. It is a place of learning, though, so good advice is everywhere. This wouldn’t be the last crane I saw.

Flossie Way was one of my target “streets”. It’s actually just a little alley in Oakland. ROTC students were gathered in the parking lot, doing drills. Beyond the asphalt was a green drainage swale, to slow runoff before it hits places like Frick Park. (Though that water would never go through that park, it’s already downstream.)

Coming into Pitt’s Upper Campus, I needed to complete “Benedum Square”. It’s a cozy little courtyard in which the engineering students can decompress. One, apparently had worked too hard for so long that he was just a shell of his former self. In seven years or so, I might see his offspring.

Moving up, I got a glimpse of the deconstruction of the Learning Research and Development Building. It’s not often that a building is taken down piece by piece. Further up the hill, I got some close-up views of WQED’s tower. More chances to look up!

I spent some time running in and out of the streets at the top of the hill. The Veteran’s Administration has a big shiny building there. Beyond Pitt’s sparkling athletic fields you can see downtown.

After dodging students moving in, I made my way past the Peterson Event Center. The steps provide a shortcut from the winding roads.

With that I made my way back to Frick Park. This was the first run in awhile and, by the time I got to Frick with 13 miles done, I was pretty beat.

Pears in the Pittsburgh Jungle

RATS #00436 in Oakland, South and West

RATS #00436 was a Saturday morning run in late July. I was aiming to capture Juno Street and a few streets in the Middle Hill. Juno Street starts down in Panther Hollow, but I had seen some steps just off the Boulevard of Allies that I thought might be a short-cut. I was on the right track, but the wonky wooden steps had been hit by trees. Trunks snapped by recent storms had broken the railings and lay across the steps. I’ve found that, sometimes, a path is clearer from the opposite direction, so I went around, hoping to come up Juno from Panther Hollow. However, after weaving through the Pittsburgh jungle, I came to the end of Juno Street as private drive replete with “No Trespassing” signs and (alleged) dogs.

Somewhat defeated, I trotted back down into Panther Hollow to take the Dawson Street Steps back into Oakland. Those, at least, were well maintained. I made my way down Bates Street to Technology Drive at the bottom. It looks so modern compared to the streets a half mile away.

Having enough of modernity, I re-crossed Second Avenue and traipsed up Hodges and Mackey Street. Here I went back at least 75 years. Hodges Street, as small as it is, has a couple of branches. I went up the left branch, assuming I’d find steps up to Lawn Street, but all I found were pears. They looked good, too, but I didn’t eat any. Keeping the slim figure, ya know.

Mackey Street, for its part, was much more overgrown. Steps sprouted from the end of the asphalt and clung to life as they ascended to Love Street. These steps weren’t in very good condition either, with stray tires and missing treads.

Nonetheless, I made it up to Craft Avenue and continued onto Fifth Avenue. Moving towards the Middle Hill, I took Brenham Street off of Fifth. It is a spit of asphalt splitting into the a jungle after 25 yards. Nothing there, so it was back to Fifth Avenue. A few yards further, the Mohawk Street steps gave me a shortcut Beelen Street. On the right, Beelen, has it’s own dead-end into a verdant Pittsburgh hillside while the left leads to Kirkpatrick Street. I took a sharp right onto Gazzam Avenue which was longer than I expected. No surprise, it dead-ended into a steep hillside covered with vines. There was a house back there, which I gave a wide berth.

From here, I just wound my way up Bentley Drive to Terrace Village (aka Oak Hill). I finished off Waring Court, an undeveloped street loping toward…you guessed it, a jungle.

This run complemented my earlier run into the Middle Hill from Downtown (run #00435). It turns out this was the last run in July and the last run in Pittsburgh until the middle of August. July was a big running month for me, with 134 miles, including 38 miles at Hell Hath No Hurry.

Roads Les Travld

RATS #00435 Middle Hill and Oakland

After work on a Friday, what to do? Head home and battle traffic? Naw

Happy Hour? Naw, a couple a beers and THEN battle traffic; no thanks.

Run? Of course!

Ironically enough, one of my cardinal rules has been to NOT run on hot Friday afternoons through sketchy areas. But there I was, on a sunny, hot summer Friday evening running through the Hill District . Spoiler alert, I survived, just slightly dehydrated.

At any rate, I ran across the Andy Warhol Bridge, through downtown and up Centre Avenue. First on my list were McClarren Street and Midtown Square. I was a little puzzled why I hadn’t hit these earlier. Then I got there and realized, they were just off of Wylie Avenue using the ole “street which looks like a driveway” ruse. Midtown Square was a cute little street at the top of a hill. McClarren was just a bit of asphalt disappearing into the greenery.

From here, I had a tour of lesser-user roads. Verdant Way, Upton Road, Jacobus Way were all deserted and blocked with debris. Oh yeah, Upton Road needs to be mowed.

Now I was intent on finding Whitney Terrace, allegedly across Centre Avenue and up past Brackenridge. The Watt Street steps shortened my journey.

So, I’m not sure if I found Whitney Terrace or not. The spot which the map indicated as Whitney Terrace was just a hillside of greenery. However, just twenty yards further on Brackenridge, I found steps up the hillside. Its likely those were just steps to a house. Nonetheless, I took them anyway.

After some bushwhacking I came to the top, where white tarps shaded precious salt for Pitt’s campus. I wandered into the Oak Hill complex and finally found my way out along Allequippa Street. Dodging into Wyandotte Street, I made it to the garden-end as a UPS tried to come down the street and got stuck.

With that, I made it out to Robinson Street, browsed a Little Library and trotted back to the Northside via Centre Avenue. Is there still time for the beer?

Summer Runs and The Flags Are Waving

Here are three short runs from July. I’m not exploring new neighborhoods much, but filling in the lines for small streets I’ve missed. But, I must say, there are usually photo ops, because Pittsburgh is such a photogenic city.


RATS Run #00429 – Oakland

“The shortest distance between two points is…UNDER CONSTRUCTION!” That’s how this run started, for sure. I intended to take Robert’s Drive from Frew Street down to Panther Hollow, but was sorely disappointed. For a moment there, I hoped to scoot around the barrier, thinking it was just the intersection that was blocked. But no, the whole damn hillside is being remodeled. This road used to wind through several CMU engineering buildings.

Oh well, time to be flexible and use the alternate route. This one took me past a cloaked Columbus and behind Phipps. For awhile, I thought that street was just a driveway, but it does lead to a back entrance to Phipps, high over Panther Hollow. Looking across, I could see lower Oakland and Pitt rising high on the hill. Does anyone else ‘see’ a figure in the clouds? A figure with a ragged hat squashing lots of hair with his arm up?

From here I ran past the Cathedral of Learning and through that South Oakland scene. My target was Dawson Court. It was easy to find, complete with a street sign. However, CityStrides contends that there’s another Dawson Court, down the street from the one I found. I suppose the OpenStreetsMap needs to be updated.

Dawson Court, from Google Maps (left) and CityStrides (right)

Nonetheless, the Cathedral looked great in the twilight. Dimling Way, was, you guessed it, dimly lit. It’s more of a path between apartments these days rather than a real street. I also touched on a little end of an alley off of Frazier Street, right before the long steps to Bates. From there, I trundled back to Frew Street, a few miles down and a few streets covered.


RATS Run #00430 with City of Bridges through Shadyside and Bloomfield

RATS run #00430 was originally my regular Wednesday run with the City of Bridges run club. I stuck with them for a couple of miles, but then wandered off course to catch a bit of Lima Way. After that, I couldn’t catch up again and so just picked up Canterbury Way, re-did Aiken Place and the wooden street, Roslyn Place. My GPS hadn’t registered them correctly the FIRST time I did them.

My five mile reward was a beer, Mexican food and good company.


RATS Run #00431 through Downtown to Flag Plaza

Here was a little run across Downtown to capture the flag, well Flag Plaza. Flag Plaza is a small parking lot and building high on a bluff overlooking Cross Town Boulevard. It houses Pittsburgh offices of the Boy Scouts of America. There are five flags flown in front. They are changed periodically, perhaps weekly, maybe even daily. BTW, GPS and downtown buildings don’t get along too well. I believe the buildings beat up the signal and left it staggering across town. I assure you, I did not run in and out of buildings to get that route!

The back of Flag Plaza overlooks the Crosstown Boulevard. It is amazing to see those seven lanes of traffic, all on different levels. Or is it eight?

After capturing the flag, I made my way back to the lowlands, a couple miles complete.

Alleys in Oakland

https://www.strava.com/activities/4915176085
Route of run #00378 in Oakland

As I’ve covered more and more of Pittsburgh, my runs are increasingly on smaller streets and alleys. This early March run into Oakland definitely fits that description. I started in Dinosaur Playground, as my kids used to call it. It’s a great little playground and field at the tip of Schenley Park. Pre-Covid, parking in Oakland was so expensive and scarce that many people would park here and walk to Pitt on a daily basis.

But let’s get things started with shoes and sunsets. Shoes on the wires and a nice sunset across the “Charles Anderson Memorial Bridge” carrying Panther Hollow Road out of the Park, where it mysteriously renames itself to Boulevard of the Allies.

Continuing into Oakland I made my way down Coltart Street to Iroquois Way. For some reason, it isn’t on most visitors’ “must-see” list! Coltart Street is very typical of Central Oakland. Low houses, duplexes and apartments struggle for space under the rising tide of Pitt development.

Students and medical professionals flow through Oakland, going to work, going home, going to classes, laundromats, restaurants, and bars. I think the colorful mural is along Bates Street, but Gene’s Place is harder to find, well hidden off of Atwood Street. It does not serve food, so with the strange restaurant laws in Pennsylvania, it still allows indoor smoking.

Rounding out the neighborhood tour, I came back to Dinosaur Playground via the Panther Hollow Bridge passing in front of Phipps. A short run, a short blog!

Dusky Hill Run

RATS #00290 across Upper Hill to Lawrenceville

This day’s run was more about distance than making sure every street was new. I did, however, have a few target streets on my mind and covered most of them.

I started in Oakland. While it was moderately busy, it was nowhere as crowded as normal. The city has closed a number of streets so that restaurants can spill out into the street.

Forbes Avenue in Oakland
Forbes Avenue in Oakland with Cathy in the distance

I progressed up to Centre Avenue, doing the steps which go from Centre Avenue to Ewarts Street. Saw some attractive butternut squash along the way, as well as mysterious gates and doors.

Ewart Street brought me to Iowa Street. From there, I did a few cross streets. These were long residential streets, very typical of the Hill District.

From this point, as dusk settled in, I found myself on dim steps and small roads. From Webster Avenue down to Ridgeway and then to Bigelow Blvd, the steps are a very direct way down. The roads were quiet and empty.

Finally I crossed over Bigelow Boulevard on the pedestrian walkway. While it looks a bit threatening, it was well used and much better than dodging cars. I crossed over the Bloomfield Bridge and sailed down 42nd Street.

The return up Fisk was easier than I expected. Actually, with all the hills I’ve come across, I didn’t feel it was too bad. I finished out by returning to Oakland. A nice eight mile run! It’s been awhile since I just popped out a longish run on a weeknight. Yay!