Sunset Run To City Views

https://www.strava.com/activities/4287269570

A run after work, this run quickly went from a jaunt through leaf-covered streets to picking my way through the dark on a closed road. Closed for good reason, it turns out.

I started near Heinz Lofts, apartments where once ketchup oozed. Who knows, perhaps ketchup is still oozing somewhere up there. I made my way through the Northside, eventually turning right onto Marshall Avenue, as it ramps up to the top of cemetery hill. I’ve sometimes wondered if the two huge cemeteries, Highland and Union Dale, has killed off normal urban development in the area. The sun was setting as I got to the small streets at the top of the hill. After snapping that pic, I crisscrossed the few small streets back there, then popped out onto North Charles, via Crispin Street.

North Charles rises like a ramp then jumps over I-279 on the Swindell Bridge. From the bridge, I glimpsed glowing towers downtown. With all the hills and ravines, effective darkness falls at strikingly different times.

Shortly after crossing the Swindell Bridge, I had planned to come down Gershon Street. I found it blocked, but decided to venture down it anyway. Sometimes, it is only bad for cars and pedestrians have free rein. That was the case here and a short internet search revealed some answers. It turns out that Gershon has been closed since February 2018, when landslides made the road unstable. Apparently the no-nonsense Jersey barriers were installed a few months later, after a driver drove past the police sawhorses and subsequently had to be rescued. I can see why it’s still closed. Yawning gaps on the right side disappear down the hill.

Gershon Street

I wasn’t the only one on the street. A middle-aged man walking his dog waved as I ran by. Actually he challenged me to run up it! Maybe another day.

It was now fully dark and I simply ran along East Street, following the faint residual ketchup smell back to Heinz.

Halsey Place n@

https://www.strava.com/activities/4200222449
RATS #00314

So, I’m jumping around in my blog posts. This run, #00314, was almost two weeks prior to run #00321 in my last post. However, it had too many interesting tidbits just to shove it into October’s cleanup post. My main goal was the Halsey Street Steps off of California Avenue. However, to get there, I ambled a bit more in California-Kirkbride.

I started in “Lower” California-KirkBride where a few residential streets struggle between Brighton Road and the USPS facility on California Avenue. I like the mural on the scrap yard door, only realizing later it was Warhola’s Scrap Metals. The Mero Way mural is impressive, as is the massive postal service facility which dominates the area. Up from California Avenue, streets A and B climb up the hill, sometimes with the aid of steps. A Street is shown on my map as climbing all the way up the hill. In reality it ends at Kirkbride Street. B Street has more luck, climbing to Lamont and then as steps to Morrison.

Lamont and Morrison both dead-end into a wooded slope where they used to be connected by A Street. Most of the houses in the area have been demolished, but there a few a still standing and being renovated. In fact, on my way up Morrison, a young guy impatiently waited for me to go by before continuing to clean in front of his house.

From here, I sauntered down to California Avenue, crossing Marshall Avenue, looking for Halsey Place on my right. Shortly I found it, a short street up a steep hill. It quickly became a set of stairs.

So, I was pleasantly surprised by the little streets around Halsey Place. It’s no Fox Chapel, that’s granted, but it was a decent little neighborhood. Kids were riding bikes, moms were chatting on the stoop, families were coming home from school.

From here, I completed Colorado Avenue, as it parallels California. This ended on Superior Avenue. I squiggled my way up Superior, to Stayton and eventually to North Charles. Off of North Charles were a few streets I’ve repeatedly missed, Strauss and Cross. I’ve been mystified why I never have been on Harlan Avenue either, then I realized it had been blocked off. The steps going to it are intact, but overgrown.

I ended by going up the cobblestone street, Melrose, then circling back down Buena Vista again. It was a rather long run for a weekday evening, but pretty invigorating. I’m thinking perhaps a run on blocked off streets is in order; Harlan, Metcalf, Irwin and Yale. Hmm.

Back to Spring Hill

https://www.strava.com/activities/3933510095
Route for RATS #00282

Early on in my journey to run all the streets of Pittsburgh, I ran several times in Spring Hill, including a pre-dawn, rainy run described in “Running Before the Storm”. Since then, I’ve spread my wings and run all over Pittsburgh. But still, Spring Hill, with its weave of steps and hills is a charming, challenging place to run and there are streets I haven’t completed. This night’s run was to fill in some of those streets.

Right off the bat, I crossed Roethlein Way, half stairs, half pavement. Then I explored High Street, which isn’t the highest. I truthfully ran on “Old Honesty Street” (love that name), as it took me from Spring Garden Avenue to Firth Street. Can you imagine being in 1st grade and having to answer in front of the class where you live?

While most of the houses here are small, narrow affairs, this larger house near the Arcola Way steps is pretty impressive, in spite of needing a paint job. Speaking of Arcola Way steps, they are long and steep, rising to Itin Street, about 100 feet up.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. After running to both dead-ends of Firth Street (hmm), I started up Holmes Street, then made a quick turn onto Diana Street. As in so many places in Spring Hill, this is a stairs to pavement intersection. A few years back the end of Diana Street was literally sliding into a ravine. The city did a good job and shored that up. Great views from the end of Diana Street.

It is cool to run up here. There is so much to see. Each street seems to be its own world, hidden from above and below. A number of houses have either fallen down or been demolished, with the only reminders ghost steps and old retaining walls. The small streets are not for the faint of heart, like that sharp intersection of Diana and Itin.

These murals caught my eye. The driver looks cool, but must be English, driving on that side of the car. It’s really tucked away, on Haslage, I believe.

Cats abound here, taking full advantage of nooks and crannies to live and friendly folks who feed them.

And then, the stairs. I’ve already talked about Roethlein and Arcola Way. Hunnel Street is sometimes a paved road and sometimes a cattywumpus flight of wooden steps. Stein Street is also a step, street combo, but straightened out a bit.

This throwback run was fun. It might not be the most ‘runnable’ section of town, but it certainly has plenty of views and character.

July 2020 Monthly Catch-Up

Summary

July 2020 has been rather a dud when it comes to running. I had the lowest miles since last November, at 64.1 miles and a very modest 5,528 feet in elevation. Knee problems were the most significant issue holding me back, though the heat didn’t help, either.

Nonetheless, nearly all my runs have covered new streets and I’ve made significant strides in filling in the map. I did some interesting runs in Perry Hilltop, North and South. I covered 95% of Oakwood and have continued exploring Beltzhoover, Allentown, Carrick, Brookline and Homewood. Pittsburgh City Paper also included me on their list of Instagram accounts to follow “when you miss exploring the city”.

One benefit of running less is that I’m nearly all caught up. In fact, there’s only one more run I need to tell you about.

RATS #00270 – Brookline Evening

Brookline – RATS #00270

This was a simple three miler in Brookline covering some a few blocks bordering Mount Lebanon. It was a late run, as the sun was setting. It is funny, I have become more cautious about running in alleys at night this summer. Of course, when it is the dead of winter, and its dark at 4:30 pm, I’m sure I’ll run them in the dark.

These were just residential streets. A hot evening, many folks were out on their porches and decks eating, drinking and chatting. The building below is at the end of Castlegate Avenue. It looked eerie and foreboding in the setting sun.

Onward to August!

And with that, I’m done with July 2020! I plan to run more in August, concentrating on Carrick and the other large swathes of south Pittsburgh which I’ve missed.

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!

Little Library and Big Steps in Hazelwood

RATS #00239 – Hazelwood and Glenwood

So, I’ll have to share a secret…. sometimes, just every once in a while, planning a run is a pain in the butt. I inevitably go down the “Oh, I can do THAT” mode of thought. Ten miles and a hundred turns in, the route looks awesome on my 32″ monitor. However, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

  • The first is that OpenStreetMap is not always 100% accurate in the fine details, small things like, “Do these streets intersect?
  • The second is that a logical rectangular grid in Pittsburgh means incredibly steep streets.
  • The third is that temporary obstacles, such as loose dogs, tree-trimming closures or police scenes, upset carefully laid plans.

Lastly, the longer I’m out there running, the less likely I am to remember where I need to turn, which is a direct consequence of the first and third things I’ve learned. Just use a route-funder, you say. Well, I have used the RunGo app several times. Once it is off course, you either have to turn it off or accept hearing “You are off-course” in a disapproving voice for the rest of the run.

Today’s run was meticulously laid out to cover a few small streets off of Tesla Street and the grid of streets east of Glenwood Avenue. In spite of its electrical name, Tesla Street looks rural. It is one of the steepest streets in Pittsburgh. Luckily, I was going down it this time.

There are a few small streets off of Tesla, which look like they were the beginnings of housing subdivisions that never quite took off. Nonetheless, they are lined with neat brick houses carefully maintained. Crossing Clarion Street, the last of those small streets, I descended Dido Way, a stairway, to Flowers. Once on Kilbourne, I spied the bottom section of the Eddington Street Steps. I know, from a previous jaunt, they are closed on top. They’re closed at the bottom, too, but I went up them a bit anyway. For awhile, the steps are decent, but then the jungle closes in and there’s no way to continue.

I did feel a little guilty clambering over the “Steps Closed” sign, while across the street small children chattered and played. I hoped they didn’t get any ideas from me.

At any rate, my plan was to go down Kilbourne and Odin then take an extensive flight of steps from Nordica Street to Steele Court. Alas, these steps are either very well hidden or gone. Checking Google Street view, they haven’t been visible for a number of years either. Perhaps on a cold winter’s day, when the foliage has died away, they would be visible. I must say that Odin has lost some of his thunder to only have such a small street named after him.

That left me on another powerful street, Ampere Street. Ampere Street abuts the Hazelwood Greenway. This large undeveloped tract is generally overgrown, but is home to several radio towers. The effect is that people have large yards which back into the woods. In spite of this, during this early evening run, there were more people out than I expected.

I wound my way to Steele Court. This would be the bottom of the expected steps. I did see several flights, but not the ones I was looking for. An aggressive dog barking between the porch railings on Steele Court didn’t encourage me to explore too closely.

This type of neighborhood specializes in micro-decoration. No HOA here, with rules about paint color and height of grass. Here, there are vistas of lawn ornaments, Steeler flags, and other personalizations. High on Glenwood Avenue, a blocky school building sports an avant garde sparrow clutching an iron gear. Perhaps it is a jayhawk, but it looks like a sparrow to me.

Finishing the whole of Glenwood Avenue, I noted a few stairs rising off of it, but figured I would save them for a later run. There’s no easy way back, so I picked my way to closed Nansen Street in Owl Hollow. Nonetheless, they have a nice little library at the bottom, emblazoned with their owl emblem.

Nansen Street is slipping off the hill, sidewalk steps first. Below are pics of the bottom, middle and top sections of those sidewalk steps.

Nansen Street Steps – bottom, middle and top, left to right

Nansen Street is so steep that I was happy to get to the more gradual Hazelwood Avenue and jog back to my car.

Slip sliding away

RATS #00219

This was an interesting and surprising run in the Riverview Park area. According to Google maps, it was partially in Perry North and partially in Brighton Heights. After you see the pictures, though, you might think I teleported to West Virginia too.

Large houses along Perrysville Avenue
Perry North Neighborhood is characterized by very large houses

From a favorite parking spot on the entrance to Riverview Park, I traipsed over to a small subdivision near Perry Traditional Academy bounded by Semicir Street. Those city planners were clever… Guess what shape “Semicir Street” makes? However, the house builders weren’t so clever it seems.

Collapsed House

That’s not actually fair, I suppose, but seeing this collapsed house was shocking. Upon further research, it seems the rains of 2019 weakened the foundation. The residents were forced to move out and shortly after, the house slipped into the ravine. This happened about a year ago and the slope apparently hasn’t stabilized enough to remove the debris. Either that, or it is low on the priority list.

SemiCir Street is rather narrow, but finishes its short span as a driveway between two buildings of Perry Traditional Academy. On the other side of the Academy, Hemphill Street’s cobblestones crest a steep hill.

I finished this little warren of streets and moved on to the next section. This took me past the high school and down Mairdale Avenue. A few weeks ago, I ran down here, past the high school’s football field and noticed houses high on the right. Today I was exploring that neighborhood.

If hill repeats are your game, go to Portman Avenue. It’s not long, but damn it’s steep. The houses are a hybrid between the ostentatious mansions on Perrysville Avenue houses and the tall, narrow structures you see in Spring Garden. I followed Portman back to Perrysville Avenue then started down Vinceton Street, where the corner store is festooned with bold, colorful murals.

Now things began to diverge from the urban setting I was expecting. Menlo Street, the featured image, looks more like a Virginia horse farm lane rather than an inner city street. I made the next left onto Dornestic Street (that’s right “Dornestic” not “Domestic“). That street became a winding lane along the hillside, with houses haphazardly spaced here and there. The right onto Stolz Street completed the transformation with ponies grazing behind a fence.

Ponies
Ponies!

Jogging along in West Virginia now, I was jolted back to Pittsburgh by stairs which led me down to Oakdale Street, where the ravine widens up to a pleasant glade surrounded by towering oak trees.

At this point, I clambered back up the hill, took note of the streets and stairs I had missed and ran back to my car. This four mile run had transported me from turn of the century mansions to a collapsed house to a pasture. Where would I go next?

Criss-Crossing the Hill

RATS #00217 – Hill District

Recently I have been traveling to different areas of Pittsburgh to find new streets and run them. Today’s run was closer to home, in the Hill District. The Hill District has several long parallel streets which roughly go from the hilltop above the University of Pittsburgh to Downtown Pittsburgh. These streets, Bedford, Webster, Wylie and Centre are the main thoroughfares which people take through the Hill District and I’ve already run them. Today’s run was about the smaller streets crisscrossing those major roads.

I had parked in West Oakland, so from this perspective, the small streets begin at a low elevation along Centre and rise to the cliffs off of Bedford Avenue. This is properly called the Middle Hill. Over the years, many of the structures in this area have been torn down, so now, there are plenty wide open grassy blocks.

I started with Junilla Street Steps, which come off of Centre Avenue. It continues, sometimes as a street and sometimes as steps, all the way to Bedford Avenue. Along one stretch of Junilla Street, I saw a few turkeys and heard their gobbles. Groundhogs were freely roaming in the vacant lots.

Morgan Street starts rather wide-open and then closes in as you reach Elba Street. From previous adventures, I call the flight of steps from Morgan to Centre the “Who’s You!” steps.

Briefly put, I had been accompanying a friend along these steps when she decided to go down to Centre Avenue to take pics. For some reason (perhaps because I had run a long way), I just hung out on the sidewalk in front of the porch in my black hoodie and woolen Army beanie. Turns out, a tall dude in a black hoodie and a woolen Army beanie hanging out in front of your porch in the Hill District can be a concern. After a few minutes, I heard some shouting. From the street above, a big black guy in a brown jacket was yelling:

“Who’s You? Who’s You?”

I had just realized he was yelling at me when my companion sprightly sprang up the steps, gave some big smiles and whisked me away. Whew! Even now I muse, “What was the proper response?… I am me?”

But I digress.

Francis Street was interesting. Starting from Centre, it is a rather broad avenue heading up the hill. Then, as I crossed Wylie Avenue, it became a cul-de-sac of newer, rather suburban housing. I did the big circle and went out the way I had come. Later, as I started down Francis Street from the other direction I spied some steps, took them, and again landed in the suburban cul-de-sac. Surprise, surprise.

Coming down the Watt Street steps provided a nice view of Christian Tabernacle Church. I gradually made my way towards the Upper Hill, aka Sugar Top, where the big blue water tower lives. I finished off Milwaukee Street and a few little streets before heading down Herron Avenue and headed back to my car. No one shouting at me today. Thank goodness for social distancing.

Wells of Steps

https://www.strava.com/activities/3248165617
RATS #00212 – Duquesne Heights

This was a few miles around Duquesne Heights – the stepchild of Mount Washington. While my main purpose was to completely traverse Well Street, I made it from the great views of Grandview Avenue to the industrial bottom of Shaler Street.

I started out on Grandview Avenue. The view never gets old, especially on a clear sunny evening.

The grid of streets below Grandview are lined with modest houses with small yards. The alleys here mainly give access to garages and garden gates. They are also ideal playgrounds. Nice to see hopscotch markings and some gratitude for the garbage workers, but watch out for crouching panthers.

Shaler Street is a back-way off of Mt. Washington. It falls steeply through the Duquense Heights greenway and emerges between the pink buildings of the Minnotte Manufacturing Company. I ran around the block before heading back up the hill.

Finally, I started on Well Street, my target. From Shaler Street, it jumps up, hill after hill, stair after stair, until it reaches Oneida Street.

Well Street steps – some of them at least

Completing Well Street, I made my way back to the car. Another cool run in a super hilly section of Pittsburgh.

Rainy Day in Sheraden

RATS #00208 – Sheraden

This run took me back to my first “RunalltheStreets” run, which started in Esplen and went up the hill to Brunot Avenue and Glasgow Street. Today I started on Allendale Circle. Allendale Circle is a newer development of townhouses. Just past the circle, the small streets and alleys are filled with typical Pittsburgh foursquares. Most everyone has at least a little yard and there are lots of dogs behind fences. The hillier area near Hammond Street and Narcissus Avenue features overlooks of the Ohio River and McKee’s Rocks Bridge.

In this last picture, the street falls away sharply. Notice the blue arches of the bridges in the center of the picture and the beginnings of a stairway on the right. That stairs takes you up Glasgow Street.

But not all stairs are as solid as the Glasgow Street Stairs. Off of Adon Street, which is actually blocked off to cars, there’s a significant set of stairs up to Fairdale St. They looked promising, but fall away unexpectedly.

There is a nice flight down to Sheraden Park, with a chalk square emblazoned between the raindrops.

The rain started again in earnest and I scooted back to my car, a little over six miles done.