Butterfly to Bridge

https://www.strava.com/activities/4169627708
RATS #00310 – All over northern Pittsburgh

Run after work! Yay!

Well mapped to start! Yay!

Steps here, steps there! Yay!

A slight detour and no easy path to the Swindell Bridge. Boo!

And that, my friends, was this run in a nutshell. Starting out near work, I made it to the same area I had run; Perry Hilltop. This time, I hit a few small streets, University and Langley, from the Perrysville Avenue side of the hilltop. Turning onto University, these neat mosaics jumped out at me, hidden though they were, on the back side of nondescript brick building.

University is a short dead-end and my next street was Langley. It goes steeply half a block and then says “Oh shit, this is too steep” becoming steps to the next, flatter section. These weren’t the only steps I encountered. One wooden set of steps, named either McKee’s Lane (according to the city’s step website) or Cheese Street (according to Google Maps) took me from Perrysville Avenue to Burgess Street. Burgess Street, itself, has sidewalk steps as you power your way up to Osgood Street.

From here, high on the hill overlooking I-279, I made a fateful decision. If I turned now, I could finish off Brightside Avenue and have a nice 5-6 mile run. If I took Suffolk Street, I could hopefully take the Swindell Bridge back and have perhaps a 7-8 mile run. It was sunny, cool and I was feeling good, so I decided on the later and turned onto Hazelton Street.

Hazelton Street is a curious pocket of houses. As I started down it, a traffic jam was emerging. The large white truck was having a hard time making the sharp left turn as the smaller cars zipped around it. Eventually, the driver got it right and made its way down Suffolk Street. It took me a little longer, as I went to the end of Hazelton, where the TV tower pricks the sky.

I did make it to Suffolk, which is notable because from I-279 coming into Pittsburgh, you can see it on your right; steps rising into the hillside.

Running, and more generally exploring on foot, changes the scale. At my pace, I got to examine the steel beams of the highway as they slowly came into view. Very impressive, I must say. At any rate, Suffolk plopped me onto East Street. This is the point in the run where my planning stops and I’m exploring, with only general goals in mind. At this point, I was looking for a street or steps to take me up the hill to the Swindell Bridge, high above.

Swindell Bridge

Unfortunately, I didn’t see anything. So I just continued up East Street and came down Perrysville Avenue. It is familiar to me now that I’ve run all these streets here. But there’s always something to see.

Little Free Library

I did get to do Brightside after all, but finished with ten miles, roughly double my original plan.

Bright afternoon in Perry Hilltop

https://www.strava.com/activities/4165506902
RATS #00309 – Fineview and Perry Hilltop

Running directly after work took me up past the marque Fineview destinations to some of the less spectacular streets, in the Notsofineview area. Nonetheless, it was a gorgeous afternoon, just right for running.

Nestled in the East Allegheny neighborhood, at the foot of the bluffs going up to Fineview are small cobblestone streets marked by spectacularly renovated row houses. In contrast, houses on Lafayette Street, on the ‘backside’ of Fineview, are twice the size and half the price.

Driving into Fineview requires navigating steep twisting roads. As a pedestrian, I had an easier time, just going up the James Street steps. Up and up, my path took me to Edenvale Street, and Fineview Avenue. In spite of its bold name, Fineview Avenue is only two blocks long and dead-ends into a wooded hillside. Lanark Avenue has a typical view. There’s a TV tower stretching into the sky at the top of the hill and, on the other side, in what I call ‘the backside’ of Fineview, Lafayette Street is dominated by huge old houses high off the street.

From here, the neighborhood descends literally and figuratively. Tiny alleys with 15% grades drop down to parallel streets tilting off the hill. The area was busy, with men working on houses and washing cars, kids playing on their porches and in the streets. Trotting down Olive Street, a cloud passed over the sun and I was dismayed with a trifecta of bad signs. First: a small dead-end with rapidly declining houses, second: a robust dog vigorously barking and testing the structural integrity of its porch gate, and third: two shiny cars parked in the middle of the street. As I approached, though, a teenager came onto the porch. I asked whether there were steps at the end of the street. He shushed the dog and proudly assured me that the steps were there. The sun came out and I was treated to this amazing set of wooden steps.

From here, I ventured up onto Perry Hilltop, on the other side of the ravine now carrying Federal Street. Encircled by Perrysville Avenue and Federal Street, there are only a few streets there. However, in spite of the views and convenience, this section of town looks forgotten. There are offices for Allegheny County, and Triangle Tech has a campus up here. However, it has the look of a dusty shopping area no one goes to anymore. The backstreets are lined with derelict houses. Kenyon Way must have been an impressive set of steps in its heyday, but now, its a jungle. From Clayton Avenue, the top of the steps’ railing is visible through the knotweed. That house is the same as in the “Lithgow Avenue” picture and the houses in the far hill are where I came from.

From here I traipsed down to North Park along West North Avenue. Last year, they restored one of its fountains, which, I must admit, looks great.

September 2020 Catch-Up

Summary

September 2020 was a pretty busy month with 124.8 miles run and 12,500 feet of elevation gain, the most since May. I ran often, 23 days with 17 of these covering new streets. I crossed over the 300 run threshold. With any luck, I’ll be done before I hit 400 runs, but that remains to be seen. I can see a flicker of light at the end of this project tunnel!

Unfortunately, my blogging hasn’t kept up with my running, so this catch-up blog will be a veritable book. Oh well, here goes!

RATS #00292

https://www.strava.com/activities/4012388510
RATS #00292 in Squirrel Hill

This was a short run to cover a few errant streets in Squirrel Hill and Schenley Park. I cut through Frick Park, using Iron Gate Trail to vault me over the big hill separating Swisshelm Park and Squirrel Hill. By the time I came back, it was too dark to gallop through the park without a flashlight.

RATS #00293

https://www.strava.com/activities/4016390122
RATS #00293 in Perry Hilltop

This was roughly a 10K to Perry Hilltop from West Park. It got started off with a sparkling sculpture, a yellow-eyed cat and a colorful backyard.

Then, I explored Irwin Avenue, which rises out of Central Northside. Surprisingly, it is blocked off for a few hundred yards and then jumps up to the top of Perry Hilltop on steps.

I zigged-zagged up here a bit, eventually finding my way to North Charles Street. Just before crossing the Swindell Bridge, I cut off to the left on Hazelton, to clear up that dead-end. Further along, up on the hilltop, I got a good view of the Swindell Bridge over I-279 and then wandered down into Fineview. That’s not something you hear much… “DOWN” into Fineview. Everything is steep over here. On one side, you have the ravine down to I-279, on the other the streets fall steeply towards Perrysville Avenue. Tall houses stare down from their perches like vultures.

RATS #00295

https://www.strava.com/activities/4025090610

This was a run cut short by tired knees and mistaken maps. Nonetheless, I made some progress on a few Shadyside alleys and small streets near Ellis School. By the time I got to East Liberty, though, I was done.

RATS #00297

https://www.strava.com/activities/4071163546
RATS #00297 West Liberty and Brookline

This was a gut check run. It was late and I didn’t go far, but I got out there. I did finish off Flatbush Avenue in Brookline, but it was too dark to do much exploring and I didn’t stop long enough to take crisp pictures.

RATS #00298

https://www.strava.com/activities/4075550982
RATS #00298 – Brookline

Another evening run in Brookline. This time, I made a beeline for streets on the left of Whited Street, as you go towards Saw Mill Run Boulevard. I really wasn’t sure what I would find, but found very residential, suburban streets perched on a plateau. There were tweens goofing off in the street, a couple walking their golden retriever and a mom walking up and down the street with a stroller and a chatty three year old; “Mom, why is he running THAT way?”

Coming back along Whited Street is NOT something I would recommend, especially in the darkness. At least, I could see headlights in time to huddle off the road.

RATS #00299

https://www.strava.com/activities/4079580634
RATS #00299

This was a short run in the South Side Flats. Like a vampire, this neighborhood keeps coming back with some little street or alley I’ve missed. I’m really trying to drive a stake through the heart and get this area done. In spite of the short run, there was lots to see. Perhaps my favorite were the pierogie signs around Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church. Downtown Pittsburgh is just across the Monongahela River and the skyscrapers caught the evening sun nicely.

RATS #00301

https://www.strava.com/activities/4094305425
RATS #00301

This was quite an adventure. I checked out one of the lesser known neighborhoods, New Homestead. It is west of West Homestead/Munhall, east of the Glenwood Bridge interchange and south of Sandcastle yet north of Mifflin Road. Looking at the map below, you might notice that there are three disconnected areas of New Homestead. I ran most of the northeast section.

New Homestead

Also looking at the map, you might notice a lack of streets. Okay, a lack of anything. Your observations would be pretty much correct. There’s just a number of long streets dotted with houses and large areas of woods. Deer were everywhere and seemed offended by me disturbing them. I actually parked in West Homestead, above a baseball diamond.

RATS #00302

https://www.strava.com/activities/4103987670
RATS #00302 – Carrick & Overbrook

Run number 302 saw me back in Carrick and Overbrook. Unlike New Homestead, this area is dense with houses and people. Hills, steps, alleys, this run had it all. I don’t remember seeing many deer, though. I was amused by the war memorial in front of Carrick High School. Most memorials of this age have howitzers or bronze soldiers. This one had a bronzed shell. Many lawns were covered in political signs; often with neighbors cheering opposite sides. Just think how fun that block party would be! That cat, however, wasn’t the least ruffled as I run past it, huffing and puffing up the hill.

The Englert Street steps conveniently took me from Saw Mill Run Boulevard up the hill again, while the Dartmore Steps were just a convenience. Unfortunately, the Antenor Way Steps were blocked off, even though they didn’t look too bad.

RATS #00303

https://www.strava.com/activities/4108586048
RATS #00303 – Lawrenceville

Speaking of neighborhoods which keep coming back with uncovered alleys and streets, Lawrenceville takes the cake. This five mile run just went round and round dim back alleys. Interestingly enough, it was busy enough, between restaurants and residents that I felt more comfortable here than in New Homestead.

RATS #00304

https://www.strava.com/activities/4115676785
RATS #00304

This was a nine mile run (not to be confused with the stream of the same name) through Manchester. With this run, I’ve covered all the streets between the railroad and Chateau Street. This is a large, flat area. Mexican War Streets, with their 1890’s row houses gradually transform into sprawling mixed housing, newer three bedroom split levels interspersed with magnificent mansions. Some of the ‘mansions’ have seen better days.

Alleys are where you see the underside of a neighborhood. These show the old warehouse nature of the area. There’s also a major railroad line, below grade, which dominates the eastern fringe of this area.

But there’s a lot going on here. New construction isn’t too surprising given the great location and flat land. People have gardens and little libraries and seem to generally be active. I didn’t expect to see that huge rooster mural or a booming market along Juniata Street, but there it is.

RATS #00306

https://www.strava.com/activities/4125952429
RATS #00306

Once again, I returned to Carrick and Overbrook in the evening. At this point in the month, I was really trying to complete a Strava Challenge (200km), so after doing Yale Street, I just went exploring.

Yale Street is in the same are as RATS #00302. One section has extensive steps leading up into Phillips Park, then it drops precipitously to Dartmore Street. Clawing my way back to Brownsville Road, I needed a couple more miles, so trotted along Carrick Avenue. It was fully dark and I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going. Nontheless, I ‘just needed to bear right’ a couple of times to take me back to Brownsville Road and into Pittsburgh again.

RATS #00307

RATS #00307 – Banksville

Must say, I’m proud of this run. I planned it pretty well and stuck to the plan. It was a little over seven miles in Banksville where it borders Greentree and Mount Lebanon. It is a nice area with long winding streets. However, there weren’t many distinctive things to see. At the start, I did pass a soccer field off of Hillsdale Avenue, where a girl’s soccer game was in progress under the lights. They have a powerful PA system, and for the rest of the run, I could hear the announcers.

That’s All Folks!

So, there you have it. September 2020 in the books. I think this is the longest “Catch-Up” blog I’ve had and I might change things up a bit to avoid this in the future. Maybe a weekly blog?

At any rate, I want to run a bit farther in October and continue to efficiently cover streets. I’ll try to get into Lincoln Place, another outlying neighborhood, as well as continue to finish out the Hill District, Marshall-Shadeland and Carrick.

Sunday in Perry Hilltop

https://www.strava.com/activities/4121209044
RATS #00305 in Perry Hilltop

Today’s run was carefully scripted and went off pretty well, with only a couple of surprises. Honestly, I wasn’t too motivated for this run, but figured I’d knock out a few streets I had missed while running with George a few months ago.

This area is Perry South, sometimes called Perry Hilltop. Most of the houses are variations of brick Pittsburgh four-square, mostly built between 1900 and 1925. Many are in disrepair and the “Condemned” blue sign of death is not uncommon. To be fair, there are a few brilliantly restored turreted houses. I lived in an old, 1900-era house for many years and can attest that maintenance and upkeep is very costly. As for restoration, that’s another tax bracket. There’s also the occasional high-rise apartment building.

It was a quiet morning, but the neighborhood was already perking up, with folks washing cars, waiting for the bus and going to church. At Wilson and Drum, singing burst through the walls of an otherwise nondescript building; it was a church. The lead vocalist was as good as any female jazz singer I’ve heard. One day, I’ll just sit outside and listen.

Not far away is a curious memorial to Negro League Baseball. It is a corner lot with a semi-circle of panels, like super-sized trading cards.

Corner Lot Baseball Cards

And, it wouldn’t be Pittsburgh without some Belgian block streets and steps. Looking at the map, I wondered why I never had been on Cutler Street. Then I saw it, a steep culmination of cobblestones and steps. Wouldn’t be surprised if they close this off after the first snow.

There were some steps off of East McIntyre which seemed to go nowhere. Then, I saw that the bottom steps had merited a “No Trespassing” sign. These hillside garages were cute, but I couldn’t decide whether they were somehow attached to the houses on the hill above or for the houses across the street. Russell Avenue looks absolutely manorial in this picture, in spite of being a long, rather deserted dead-end.

That’s about it for now. There are still many streets in this area I need to cover, so expect more runs from Perry Hilltop. Who knows what else I’ll find?

Ahh! Pittsburgh streets, you drive me CRAZY!

https://www.strava.com/activities/3798163893
RATS #00271

I had a good game plan going into this run. However, after spinning my shoes on some of those tiny, hilly streets, I got a bit disoriented and managed to run out of my way, covering more miles and fewer streets than I hoped. Oh, well, another Pittsburgh Bermuda Triangle!

Highlighted area of Perry South with many map mistakes
Bulk of run was just in this small area, dominated by steep hills and disconnected streets

Most of my effort was to cover the streets circled in red in the map above. The black marks indicate streets that don’t connect like the map implies. Last week’s run with George gave me an inkling the area would be hilly, but otherwise I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be a pleasant run in the park? Or a stressful run with snarling dogs?

I was pleasantly surprised at first. I turned onto East Marshall, took the next sharp left on Sonora and figured it would lead me down Pelham Street, a long dead-end. That’s what OpenStreetMap shows. That’s what Google Maps show. On an old Pittsburgh map, Pelham even intersects Perrysville Avenue. However, it is just not there anymore. The Allegheny County Real Estate page actually lists five parcels on Pelham. All are owned by the city and now Sonora Street just dead-ends into a funeral home.

Following East Marshall past the deceptively flat part, it plunges down a hill, ending high above I-279. Only overgrown bushes stop a basketball from bouncing all the way down. I imagine there’s a veritable treasure trove of balls captured by the devouring vines.

I made my way down Leroy Way. After it turned into Goshen Street, I found myself looking up a steep Kennedy Avenue slope. As I criss-crossed the streets, I found some very overgrown street steps along Daisey; the top of the Hawkins Street steps and a nice view from the top of Veterans Street. You can actually make out the Trimont Towers if you look closely. As the healthy crow flies, that’s over two miles away. A hot, thirsty crow might want to take a dip in the Ohio River along the way.

Coming off the steep hills there, I made my way to North Charles Street. Of course, nothing is simple and here, Maple Avenue crosses North Charles on a bridge.

Maple Street Crossing North Charles.
North Charles passing under Maple.

North Charles sweeps downhill, passing Fowler Park and Allegheny Cleanways; a great organization committed to cleaning up the region’s rivers. I think everyone should volunteer with them at least once. You may never use another plastic bottle again. I took a short detour and hit a little set of steps leading to Kenn Avenue and past its tiny little subdivision. What goes down must come up, so I trundled up Marshall Avenue slowly. It passes between two large cemeteries, Union Dale and Highwood.

Pushing past five miles, with a rock in my shoe and a hot sun on my head, I explored no more and returned to my starting point. It was a good run and now I’m THIS close to finishing this section of town!

Chasing Deer and Climbing Steps

RATS #00269

Getting out of my isolation bubble for a bit, I ran Friday night with George, exploring the streets of Perry South. It was good to have the company and George got a taste of winding in and out of streets like true RATS. Hanging out before the run, I noticed this marker buried deep in the ground. It was a hot evening but we quickly made it to the Norwood Avenue steps, a harbinger of the remainder of the run.

Norwood Avenue plunges from Marshall Avenue to North Charles Street. Unfortunately, we had to keep going up and down that hill. The neighborhood was active, with people out on most of the porches, a few Friday gatherings, dog walkers and kids on bikes. Along one alley, we surprised a doe and a fawn out for an evening walk.

Along another street, an older woman swept the sidewalk as a little boy played with rocks, while across the street, large butterflies had been caught in a chain-link net.

And then, there were steps. It started slowly, with the gradual steps at the bottom of Norwood. Then it picked up a bit Delger Street. Those wooden steps were in pretty good shape, except one missing tread. It also was a convenient shortcut to the Delger Street, really an alley. Mayfield Avenue had a long series of street steps as it bucked up the hill like a horse.

Finally, as we rounded out one Quartz Way, we came to the Hawkins Street steps. They rose, block after block, from the ravine floor at Leland Street to their apex at Veteran Street, crossing Shelton Street, Ellis Street, and Perrysville Avenue.

Scooting down Veteran Street, we made our way back to the park. It was a solid run on a hot Friday evening.