Before Snow After Snow

Snow livens up Pittsburgh in Winter. Without snow, Pittsburgh looks a little dreary and drab. Snow is like a fresh coat of paint. Here are two runs, a week apart in mid-December. They are in similar, rather suburban, parts of Pittsburgh. Before the snow, the streets are drab and faded, while afterwards, every hilly subdivision looks like a ski resort.

RATS #00340 – Brookline

Run in Brookline
RATS #00340 – Brookline

My 340th run for this project was on a chilly Sunday in Brookline. I started at Brookline Memorial Park and headed north to clear up a couple of alleys. Then I scooted across Fitch Way to Edgebrook Avenue on my way to a large block of streets off of Glenbury. In more social times, I’d expect the Boulevard Lounge to be hopping on a Steeler Sunday. As it was, it was empty and quiet. I only caught a block of Edgebrook Avenue, but it included steps. I was very good when I passed Santa Street. No use getting on the naughty list now. Very impressive weather station, I must say. It must have come in handy later in the week when the winter storm rolled in.

RATS #00341 – Westwood

https://www.strava.com/activities/4492917551
RATS #00341 – Starting in Westwood

Then a week later, I started a run from the Shop ‘N Save in Westwood. During the week, we had had an impressive snowstorm which plopped nine inches of snow throughout the area. The plow teams were efficient and the temps weren’t too cold, so the roads got cleared pretty quickly. The sidewalks, on the other hand, required some dedicated staff.

This section of Westwood has a a mix of suburban style subdivisions sprinkled with older homes. The snow blended everything into a ski-chalet look. Kearns Avenue was a key point to this run. On several maps, it is shown to be closed off for a section. That’s a pity, because it would be an alternate route for Greentree Road as it comes out of the West End. Anyway, I was curious as to just how “closed” it was, so intended to see how far I could go before it got dark.

Well, Kearns has been closed so long that grasping bushes are beginning to take it over. Passing the Jersey barriers, no foot falls crushed the snow before me, no tracks of dogs or strollers, no ski lanes; just deer tracks and rabbit paws. A little rivulet trickled down the hill with me. Tromping for two tenths of a mile, I finally came to the other side. Here, a pair of tire tracks slithered to the last house on the street. I followed the tire tracks, as they descended another two tenths of a mile.

Bunny Trails To You

Here, the single houses gave way to industrial buildings. Quality Concrete has a fleet of trucks parked beyond their barbed-wire fence. Kearns ends at McCartney Street. I took the left and ran about a quarter mile towards its dead-end. McCartney sits at the bottom of a ravine. Noblestown Road, aka Route 60, is high above on the right. The hills of Westwood were on the left. I would imagine the area is ripe for flooding. Where’s there’s flooding, there are boats. Where there’s boats, there are stairs. No exception here.

McCartney Street intersects Greentree Road in the West End, formerly known as Temperanceville. Boy, that’s a mouthful. There’s a concrete plant there, a glass studio and a couple of other businesses.

I took Greentree Road back up the hill, running in the street when it was clear and jumping into the slush when it wasn’t. The hill wasn’t a picnic either, rising 445 feet in a mile.

But before too long, I was back in Westwood climbing into my car. Cool run!

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.

It was nice to run with company to end this month.