Long July 4th Weekend Running

Here are three streets runs which I sandwiched around my attempt at the Hell Hath No Hurry 50 Miler. Unfortunately, that race was on trails in Settler’s Cabin Park and so added nothing to my street total. I also only got in 38 miles, so DNFed. But I digress.


RATS Run #00423 in Squirrel Hill

This was such a short run I didn’t even bring my camera, or maybe it was that I ran before 7AM and wasn’t really awake. At any rate, I just took in Victory Way (top circle), Timberline Court (bottom circle) and the bottom piece of Forward Avenue (you have to find that by yourself.)


Hell Hath No Hurry

HHNH 38 miles, 6ish loops

RATS #00425 – West End and Elliott

Monday, July 5th, was a day off work with no big plans. So, of course, I explored the city some more. My “A” goal was a few snickering little streets in the West End. Every time I drove my them, I could hear them, snickering, “He hasn’t found US yet. Ha Ha!” Well, today, with candy bar in hand and a patriotic shirt on for good luck, I set out to end that snickering once and for all.

The first little snickerdoodle to go down was Plank Street. It is pretty much a driveway from the bottom of a cliff, across Wabash Street and into Saw Mill Run (the creek). The next peanut in the gallery was China Street. There’s no wonder I had missed it before, because little is there. A few cobblestones near the billboard at the bottom of Greentree Road traced where the street had been. Pushing through the undergrowth I could feel remains of a street, but everything else was overgrown. Some time ago, I think there were steps from China Street to the train line above. On maps it appears they would have almost connected with Journal Street steps in Ridgemont, but I don’t know if that actually was the case. At any rate, I didn’t see evidence of steps. Perhaps in the winter I would have.

From there, I crisscrossed under railroad trestles off of McKnight Street, as it plays jump-rope with Saw Mill Run. Several businesses still hang on down there, from Johnny’s Diner to TMT Services. I would not want to be here in a flash flood, with water crashing down off the hills.

From here I ventured up Noblestown Road. I’ve used it for many years as an alternate route when the Fort Pitt Tunnel is backed up. As a driver, I appreciate its curvy efficiency. As a pedestrian, I’m traumatized its lack of sidewalks. At least there is a small shoulder, and, if I would rather risk falling down a slope than getting hit by a car, I have the option of trotting on the far side of a guide rail. On a normal day, this would be pretty dangerous. However, with little going on and no traffic, it was OK. I feel bad for folks who use that bus stop on a regular basis, though.

Around the curve, I was rewarded by thundering applause from dozens of Kennywood prize animals watching my progress. (Or maybe it was just my thundering heartbeat!) Continuing, I came across the Old Stone Tavern, in operation nearly continually from the 1780’s well into the 2000’s. There is a group, “Pittsburgh’s Old Stone Tavern Friends Trust Inc.” which is trying to keep the tavern from falling into disrepair. I hope they succeed.

Old Stone Tavern

Another building, more of a garage, struck me. “Mike Mannella” is proudly emblazoned across the lintel. I didn’t get as much information about that building and am curious if anyone knows the story there.

Mike’s parking spot?

I returned a different way, down the Kerr Street steps, one of my favorite flights in the city.

Kerr Street Steps

RATS #00425 in Squirrel Hill

Less adventurous than my last run, this one took me around the “North of Forbes” section of Squirrel Hill. Large single family houses are intermixed with condos on the shady streets.

Off of the major streets like Wilkins, Negley and Fifth, little dead-end streets curve up the hill providing privacy for unique houses.

Down near CMU, I took a little street off of Morewood behind frat houses. It’s off-season and a deer family quietly watched me run by. Robin Way is listed on CityStrides as a street, but in fact it is a private drive. With that, I was done on this lazy summer evening.

Squirrel Hill to New Homestead

https://www.strava.com/activities/5471340806
RATS Run #00417 Summerset and New Homestead

For this run, I started in the upper reaches of South Squirrel Hill then made my way across the Monongahela to New Homestead. I parked near Forward and Beechwood and trotted down the hill to Summerset. It’s a nice development of newer houses built atop a slag heap. There’s a tree-lined entrance and sweeping views of the Mon. More importantly, it’s a shortcut to Dunkin Donuts and Bruster’s Ice Cream! Mark down THIS route.

Below Summerset, the Jewish Association on Aging has several housing facilities from apartments to assisted living. In addition to a high-rise, college-like buildings dot the well-maintained grounds. This little bird seemed out of place, hopping around on the sidewalk, chirping.

This leads to Browns Hill Road. Take the right and you’re at Brusters, with Dunkin Donuts at the next light. Alas, my trek took me down Browns Hill Road, where the sidewalks are iffy. Sometime you have them, sometimes you don’t. I crossed the street at an inopportune spot and got a gutter. Finally out on the Homestead High Level Bridge, I was treated with views of the Mon and a laden train far below.

Between the still-standing smokestacks and the ever-present railroads, reminders of the steel heritage of Homestead remain. This is roughly the site of the famous “Homestead Strike“. Just off the end of the bridge to the left is a bar, Blue Dust, named for the blue dust which covered steelworkers’ clothes after a shift.

But Homestead is not within the city limits of Pittsburgh, I was just passing through. Heading toward New Homestead I found a short-cut; steps leading from 8th Avenue to Basic Street. At the top of the steps, there is a view of the old smokestacks.

Turning again, I slogged up the steep hill which would take me back into the City of Pittsburgh. Beyond the impressive retaining wall, I found a little grotto. Perhaps it isn’t the safest place, what with rocks tumbling about, but the “Park Here” sign was certainly welcoming.

Rounding the corner, Basic Street enters New Homestead and becomes a paper street, disappearing for a half-mile. It is an area of half-acre yards and modest homes. According to CityStrides, Benezet and Bench Way continue, making a circle. Well, not really. They are more like street stubs with new construction going on.

New Construction

And that was about it. I retraced my steps out of New Homestead, passing the Bulgarian-Macedonian National Economic and Cultural Center (BMNECC, for short). Last time I checked, it operated as an event venue, for dances and parties, while its bulletin board had flyers for lessons in Bulgarian. Eventually I crossed the Homestead High-Level Bridge again, this time getting an evening view of Duck Hollow.

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.)