November Skies 2021

Here are three runs to close out November 2021. RATS run #00478 was a little three miler in Arlington, Mt. Oliver and St. Clair, while #00479 was a seven miler in Crafton Heights and Elliott and #00480 was a four miler in Lincoln Place. All were designed to fill in ends of roads and alleys missed.


RATS run #00478 in Arlington and St. Clair

For RATS run #00478, I started high on the hill next to Arlington Playground. There is a small water park here and a ball field. A good batter might be forgiven if they think they could hit the ball downtown, it seems so close. Leaving the dreams of the field behind, I bounded down Mountain Avenue then made a sharp right onto Parkwood Road.

This section of Parkwood Road ascends a steep hill going into Pittsburgh’s Mt. Oliver. The left side has steep lots speckled with houses. The right side, where the sidewalk is, passes medium and small houses whose back yards drop off quickly. Once I got to Otilla, Parkwood had leveled off, 120 feet above its Mountain Avenue intersection.

Making the left onto Otilla Street, I sought out my first goal, Poco Way. This small alley goes behind five houses on St. Joseph Street and ends. Returning to Otilla, I made a left onto Walde Way en route to Farina Way. Like many of these later “streets”, Farina Way looked like a driveway at first. However, I was pleasantly surprised when it hooked up with Ignatious Way behind leaf-strewn yards. Ignatious intersects with Rectanwald Street and I took Rectanwald’s short flight of broad steps back to Walde.

From here, I scampered down to McManus as it travels behind an elementary school. Steps down, steps up and I was back on Mountain. I went up to Henger to complete a section I had missed. A Jersey barrier blocks the road, but residents have sprayed a message for drug dealers: “Go elsewhere…We Are Watching!”

They must have been listening, because there was no one there. I scampered over the barrier and continued on Henger to the fences. The fences enclose what was once St. Clair Village. From what I’ve read, it became a festering spot for crime and drugs and was subsequently torn down. That was years ago. It is still vacant. Some sections are now used by the Urban Hilltop Farm, but none of the housing has been rebuilt.

From here, I returned to Arlington Playground via Mountain Avenue. It was a rather satisfying run, what with the unexpected passage on Ignatious, clarifying Henger and Poco. Henger even gave me some souvenirs; seedlings stuck to my tights.


RATS Run #00479 in Elliott, Crafton Heights and the West End

RATS run #00479 was a romp in the West. I started at Herschel Park, one of my favorites. I think it’s the unexpected view and the easy access, both getting to Herschel Park and running the western neighborhoods from it. Anyway, for this day, I had more dead-ends to explore. My first one was Coey Way off of Arnold. Coey Way is a rather tame alley which goes directly uphill, behind brick suburban houses to a parking spot.

Then it was off to Corso Way, less than a quarter mile away. However Corso Way seems to be in a different world. To get there, I took Obey Street as it steeply falls off toward Noblestown Road. Just past “Grimes Signs”, Magnus Way on the left, snakes uphill past a couple of houses. When it turns, Corso Way begins. Corso Way, goes about 1/4 mile into the woods. I ran down it, splashing through muddy ruts, six inches deep. At the end, a low slung house or trailer stood, with “Beware of dogs” signs, and a couple of cars parked in front.

I was happy to return out of that alley. I worked my way up Obey Street to Albia Way, just off of Steuban. That was an uneventful alley, mainly for garage access. Now, once I made it to Steuban, I made a left and continued down Middletown Road, looking for a cross-street, Woodlow. Alas, I had made a left when I should have gone right and I had to retrace my steps to find Woodlow.

Woodlow cuts from Steuban Street to Crucible Street through a large housing development in Carnegie Heights. It’s hard to tell if it is one big complex, or several smaller apartment complexes adjacent to each other. Now, rather than one house on the end of a muddy alley, like Corso Way, there were twenty or so multi-unit apartment buildings, where hundreds of people live.

I wrapped around Crucible to Dickens then made the right onto Meadowbrook Way. Much like Poco Way in the previous run, this just curved behind some houses and ended. I took a driveway at the back of Pittsburgh Classical Academy which put me out on Chartiers Avenue.

On an earlier run, later at night, I touched on little Elf Street, off of Chartiers. Today, I wanted to do the whole Elf, so again I tromped down Chartiers, past the grimy Marathon Gas, past Inner City Towing’s junk yard and past the muraled retaining wall. The right onto Nittany took me uphill. Large yards from adjacent streets converge on Nittany. They were kids playing and backyard picnic tables along the high-side of Nittany, where it curves and intersects Elf. Elf, itself, is very small; maybe twenty yards. At its end, a nice, large house sits.

Returning to Corliss Street, I now began my ascent of the back-end of the West End. Just before the Corliss Tunnel, Rupp Street on the right takes you to Danley. A two-hundred foot hill climb later and I came out on Mark Way. The road up, Lakewood Street, had nice views across Corliss Street to houses in Sheraden. There were also several house ruins along the way. From Mark Way I could make out the McKees Rocks Bridge through a break in the trees.

Now I kept to the high road; Lakewood to Lorenz to Valonia. I needed to finish off Lander Street. This section of Pittsburgh never ceases to amaze me, with the views and the houses stuck at crazy angles on the hillsides.

Lander Street, itself, is falling off the hillside. Part is blocked off and the hillside is encroaching on the houses.

From Lander Street I went down the Planet Street steps toward the West End. From South Main, you can see Walbridge Street splitting off with sidewalk steps on the right and a cool flight on the left (which takes you to Kerr Street). I took the sidewalk steps.

Almost back at Herschel Park, I just had East Chestnut to do. Once I found it, running the fifty yards to the end wasn’t too hard. And that was that, seven hilly miles and a many alleys done.


RATS Run #00480 in Lincoln Place

In Lincoln Place, RATS Run #00480 took me.

Longer to picture than to run, was Plaport Way, with its non-intersecting ends.

Cooley Way took me coolly beyond the pavement onto a grassy strip behind large yards.

Cooley Way

But I earned it, a grand view of Lincoln Place from Commission Way.

So, in this abbreviated style, you’ll see that I started at McBride Park and did odds and ends of Lincoln Place. Please pray the Krampus doesn’t get me!


That’s all for November, 2021. Ten of my thirteen runs covered new streets on only 65 miles of running. Finishing these “streets” was becoming getting more and more tedious. Mostly, it is running to the ends of alleys or re-running street sections to make sure CityStrides picks it up. Nonetheless, I’m getting there.

I Left Nigh and High for Gazzam

RATS run #00477 – West Oakland, Terrace Village and the Hill

For RATS run #00477, back in November, I started over in Schenley Park, near the swimming pool, closed for the season, or Covid, or lack of lifeguards. ( I can’t keep track of “why”.) As with most of these later runs, I was trying to iron out a few streets I had missed; Craft Place, Oak Hill Square, Crockett Way, Gazzam Street, among others.

Once I finished all 50 yards of Craft Place, I made my way towards Oak Hill Circle. Several more buildings are being added to this development. If you play your cards right, you can run through mud and see big machines here. I exited along Breckenridge Street and was surprised to find that the hillside had been cleared and replanted. I could now see some of Pitt’s white salt-domes from the street.

I crossed Centre and wandered up Wandless Street. That’s one of the unsung hills in Pittsburgh. Straight up. It’s usually a little busy at the bottom, where there’s a bus stop, but further up, ruins dot the hillside, foundations of former homes. There’s not even foundations left along Crockett Way. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this desolate street had been patched, at least for a bit. Beyond it’s intersection with Granite Street, Crockett runs right into a dense patch of very invasive Japanese Knotweed. I do have a picture of the end. If you really want to see it, email me.

Finishing Crockett, I blazed over Herron Avenue, up Milwaukee, and left onto Orion to see the Magnificent Carnak in person. Not quite as entertaining as I remember it on Carson, but luckily short, this end of Carnak Way goes behind houses on Webster. Orion, the connecting street between Milwaukee and Webster, has a large old school on the corner. The facade above the door looks like it has fire damage. There’s no lack of interesting architecture here.

Coming back via Webster, I made my way to another end of Shemp Way. This alley, paved with golden leaves, is even less used than Carnak. I passed a burnt out car on Junilla. Actually I passed it twice, but only noticed it once. It seemed out of place, as the rest of the street was rather wide open and neat. Making a left onto Webster, I continued towards downtown. A little rain had set in and the tall buildings looked so close.

I didn’t go all the way downtown, but crossed over to Burmah Way. This was, perhaps, my third try at this alley. Now I could see why, as it was a grassy path between buildings, not an actual thoroughfare (par for the course, sigh.) The far end came out on Green Street, a pedestrian walkway. Now it was time to return to my car, so I ran up Devilliers Street to Bentley en route to Nigh Way and High Way. You got it, Nigh Way and High Way, which do, indeed, intersect.

I got a little turned around and ended up on Diaz Way, as it dwindles to nothing. Realizing my mistake, I got back on the Bentley to Kirkpatrick Street. Just off to the left, Gazzam Street slipped into view. I ran up the curve as it twisted around the hill and abruptly ended in front of two houses. They have a decent view of the Birmingham Bridge, even though my picture doesn’t do it justice.

That was all the exploring I had in me that November day. Maybe later, steps into the woods!

Revisiting Vista’s

RATS Run #00467 Allegheny West, Allegheny East, Spring Garden

This post-work run was supposed to be a preview for a City of Bridges Run, but turned into an adventure all of its own. I started near West Park and was happy to see that the Ridge Avenue bridge had been completed. Several runs have been extended when I forgot it was closed and had to go the long way around.

Ridge Avenue Bridge Over Norfolk Southern Tracks

From there, I made my way through East Allegheny towards Spring Garden. I took Gerst Way over I-279. At East Street, I made the left and rambled up to Royal Street. I was looking for a small street, allegedly off of Bly Street. I hadn’t seen it on a previous run, and was hoping to find it tonight.

All I found off of Bly was an overgrown hill. Perhaps the “street” had been steps which have since fallen down. Oh well, I turned back to clear up some more mysteries. For instance, the mystery of Radnor Street and Callen Street, known on Google Maps as Vallette Street; did it exist? Was it passable? I returned to East Street, heading back into town, then turned left onto Rostock Street.

A couple of houses up, I came to the end of Radnor. A barrier prevented cars from going further, but I scooted around. I went deeper and deeper into the underbrush. Eventually I found it impenetrable. Perhaps in the dead of winter this would go through. Returning to Rostock, I came across an open manhole. That’s a long drop and I’m happy I didn’t have a misstep into it. Apparently, though, there is a whole world of manhole-lids. For the curious, check out “The Ultimate Manhole Covers” site.

My next target was a spur of Kaiser Street off of Haslage Avenue. Those were high on the hill above me and I approached them via Vista Street. I had heard the Vista Steps had been re-opened after a two-year renovation project. In fact, a September 21, 2021 City of Pittsburgh Facebook post says, in part, “…This $750,000 Department of Mobility & Infrastructure project saw the preservation of the mosaic mural created by Linda Wallen and nearby residents.” I am a bit surprised at the cost of this, but I suppose these steps will last another 100 years. I’d hate to see what it will cost to fix the Troy Hill Steps. Anyway, it has one of those bike runnels, so that if you’re riding your bike up Vista Street, you can scoot it up alongside you on the steps.

Now, if you ARE riding your bike up Vista Street on a regular basis, you are one hell of an athlete. Between the top of the steps and Goehring Street, the grade is between 8% and 17%. While I have run up it a few times, I think it would be harder on a bike.

Elevation on Vista Street

Making the left onto Goehring Street and right onto Kaiser took me higher and higher. I was disappointed that Kaiser became a driveway at Haslage, with a rope across it and a guy fooling around in the yard. So, for now, I skipped it.

I like this area of Spring Garden / City View. The hills are punishing, the houses are surprisingly cool. At my back, Pittsburgh spreads out below.

Hunnel Street is another unbelievably steep road. Those wooden steps are pretty sturdy in spite of their wavy look. Just before the top of Hunnel, Frontier “Street” goes off to the left. In some regions, that would be called a yard. Today, I took a pass on it.

Hunnel turns into Stein and goes abruptly downhill. Stein, the street, continues as steps past this decrepit white house. Can’t drive that way, of course. If it had a bike runnel, too, I suppose you could sail down the steps on a bike. As it is now, you’d just go bump, bump, bump on your bike. Since I was NOT on a bike, I just went clomp, clomp, clomp down the stairs to Homer Street. My time was getting short and after passing the ghosts of Homer, I scurried back to the Allegheny Center.

En route, I passed the Aviary and saw only one big bird was roosting in a tree. I was hoping it was Cody, but couldn’t really tell.

Aviary

Four October Runs Across Pittsburgh

I’m writing this blog on March 12, 2022 and am very depressed by the current state of world affairs. I’m sad for Ukraine, angry at Russia and exasperated by the U.S. response. Nonetheless, here are four runs in October, spread across the city from Belmar to Fairywood. Hopefully recalling better days will brighten my mood, and yours too.


RATS #00463 Belmar

RATS Run #00463 in Belmar was another effort to finish up some small streets and dead-ends in the area. It was just to the northwest of RATS Run #00462. I started on Meade Street and caught Calway Street and Heart Court right off the bat. Then I made a long trek on Upland and Apple past the Negro Opera House. I’ve remarked on this house before. Now, it looks like renovations are underway. Yay! Perhaps these will be completed?

Moving on, my next goal was Mingo Street. Earlier, on a run with Rich, I balked at going past the barriers at the bottom of the hill. Today, though, I wanted to take a closer look. It turns out that Mingo Street does, indeed, continue. It passes two houses which seem ready to fall down. Reflecting on yesterday’s run on Hallam Street, I expect these houses to be gone without a trace in ten years.

I followed Mingo around the hill. It emerges onto Latana Way, where kids still play with trucks and a very red shed hosts basketball tournaments. Turning back onto Grotto Street, I crossed Lemington Avenue and made my way onto Elrod Way. Tucked up the hill was the alley of my destiny, Mayo Way.

I had some Mayo sandwiched between two dead-ends. Along the way, I daresay I surprised an old guy hanging out in his garage, but I made sure not to park it anywhere. To be honest these “No Parking” signs crack me up. I mean, really? Is this a problem? People parking in front of an inaccessible, broken down garage? Or is it that “No Parking” signs are more durable than your regular signs?

Anyway, moving on, I made it to both ends of Ebel Street and, again, verified that I’d be sanctioned heavily if I trespassed onto Highland Drive, a former site of the VA Hospital.

From here, I made my to Easton Way and through the Paulson Playground. On a warm afternoon, this place is swarming with kids. Today was quiet, though. Then it was a short jaunt up Clifford Way. I did not see a Big Red Dog, but he could have been hiding in the dense undergrowth.

From here, I made my Dreary way across the Larimar Avenue Bridge and followed Relic Way to its bitter end. For some reason, the GPS thinks I ran through yards, houses and sheds instead of straight down Relic. And that was it, a solid 8.84 mile run.


RATS #00464 Fairywood

RATS #00464 was on the opposite edge of town; a few Pittsburgh streets off of Ingram Avenue and then into Fairywood. I was a bit surprised to find an historical marker for Pittsburgh way out here. I suppose it’s a border sort of thing.

After running halfway across the Steubanville Pike Bridge, I came back skirted past an old “Sharp Edge” restaurant, with inviting red awnings. However, the windows were dark and the place was deserted. Closed. I have heard, though, that another restaurant will be moving in.

I ducked under the bridge to run along Napor Boulevard. Napor runs along the edge of an light industrial park on the edge of Chartiers Creek. Cellones is a large scale Italian bakery which has facilities here. Chartiers Creek looked peaceful.

Coming back to West Steuban Street, I crossed over Ingram Avenue and onto Woodmere Drive. An Amazon warehouse sits at the end of Woodmere. With a quick left then right, I found myself back on Industrial Highway. While only 3/4 of a mile long, it is built like a full scale highway. I’m always a little scared to run on it and really push the pace. Today was no exception, as my leisurely 10 minute pace increased to a 7 min/mile pace before I got winded and had to drop back to an 8:30. Great place to sprint.

I intended to go to the end of Industrial Highway, or as Strava calls it, “Chartiers Valley Lane”. However, the road went through a gate, marked “No Pedestrian Access”. Hmm, that seems pretty clear. Hey, I went further than the Google Streetview car did! It looks like Maple Grove Aggregates is the only thing down there.

I turned back toward the heart of Fairywood. As I’ve mentioned before, there used to be a housing development here. That one is empty land now. An empty pool is starting life over as a forest, tree by tree. But there is a housing development on the other side of Broadhead Road and one of Pittsburgh’s biggest landowners, the URA is trying to develop this.

I finished up running along Windgap Road. That’s a street in bad need of sidewalks. I did get a peek into the 25 yrd long Medford Street before finishing up in the Ingram Crafton Shopping Center.


RATS #00465 Brookline

RATS Run #00465 was a quick run in Brookline to finish up alleys like Pontoon Way (both sides), Minor Way, Redbird Way, Mossrose Way and Georgette Street among others. However, it was already dark by the time I got going, so I don’t have many pics. I think this neighborhood, nestled between Glenbury Road and Carmalt Field is pretty nice. It is all suburban residential, but the hills and alleys give it a mysterious air. From the end of Wychelm you can see the lights of downtown.

After going up to the end of Wychelm, I went down Parklyn, catching the left and right to get to the end of Mossrose Way. I returned along the long stretch of Mossrose, where it rises above the houses as a lane covered in pine needles. Making two rights, I decided to be bold and go down Georgette Lane. It was not, indeed, a driveway, but rather a respectable, short street with a house at the end.

I finished up Minor Way and went to the end of Redbird. That alley just bailed out at the top of a hill into someone’s backyard. Whoops! A wet, short night run all done.


RATS #00466 Duquesne Heights and Mount Washington

Returning to daylight and hills again, RATS Run #0466 wrapped around Mt. Washington and Duquesne Heights. I spent some time on the Emerald View Trail, which encircles this section of town.

Cielo Lane juts off of Fingal Street to provide some nice views of the Point. I tromped down to Greenleaf, which dives toward the West End Circle. However, about half way down I took the steep right onto Homer Street. There are only a few houses there, perched high on the hill. Homer leads directly into Emerald View Park.

I took Emerald View until I popped up on Grandview. From there I completed Augusta Street, en route to Wyloa Street. I thought I had completed Wyola, but it turns out there is a little spur which remains to be done. However, I got to traverse some of my favorite steps, Greenleaf and Well.

Now, my next target was Chess Street, but that was well on the other side of Woodruff Street. I took a “shortcut” by going up the Mann Street Steps to get me closer to the southern end of Mt Washington Park. I was appalled by the lack of a retaining wall behind condos being built on Grace Street. I can already see the road being undermined.

In the woods I lost my sense of direction and ended up on Norton, instead of Spahrgrove. Chess Street, wasn’t much to see, in spite of the cobblestones.

From here, I ran back to my car on Bigham. Damn, this area is hilly!

The Way it Was

RATS #00462 – East Hills

This run, RATS #00462 in the East Hills, was at a strange time…Friday morning. It turns out I had some vacation to burn, so I took a day off to complete some streets. Now, overall, I had been through this area many times, but I needed to finish up Hill Street, Square Way, Cain Way, Hallam Street and Angoria Way.

On my way to Hill Street, I passed the pink Triceratops near Braddock Avenue. From there, I made my way past a little-used skate park to Hill Avenue as it smacks into the East Busway. It seems someone’s intention is to close that street, so a pile of dirt and bushes cuts it off for cars. However intrepid pedestrians can find a path to the end of Hill Avenue. There’s not a whole lot to see as it curves around to Madeira Street.

Now I kinda did a U-Turn. Madeira runs into Wood Street and I picked up the other side of Hill Avenue. I roughly followed the border of Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg as it undulates up and down Swissvale Avenue and Laketon Road.

My goal was the end of Square Way. It is an alley from Fairlawn Street to past Frankella Avenue. I was thinking this was the only Frankella in the US, but no, there’s another one in Florida. How weird is that? Anyway, Square Way just ended unceremoniously in a grassy area. Now, my next target streets were over on Frankstown Road, so I took the widely curving trip up Robinson Boulevard. At the top there’s a very large vacant area on the left. Well over twenty years ago there was a shopping center here, “East Hills Shopping Center”. Now the best they can do is a U-Pull-And-Pay, an auto salvage business.

Formerly a Shopping Area

That took me to Frankstown Road and back into the city. I picked up Woods Avenue (no relation to Wood Street) and went up the hills onto Dersham Street. Slashing onto the wooded hillsides above, many streets jut off of Dersham. They are mostly dead-end streets with modest houses along them. I went up Cain Way to the last house, to the bumper of the car parked at the end. It didn’t look too promising, so I scurried back down the hill. Dersham ends at Standard Avenue, where I took a right-left combo to climb onto Perchment Street.

Perchment is similar to Dersham, but further up the hill and more isolated. Passing Lawndale, with its steps, I came to Hallam Street. This street always had worried me. Often cars parked up the small street and the corner, dilapidated house scared me. I suppose its silly to be scared of a house, but there it is. This day, however, maybe because it was a Friday, the road was open; no cars parked on it. So I explored.

Rather quickly the smooth pavement becomes a rutted road. A little further, downed trees attempted to block the way. More insidious were the weeds with bristles and thorns. But lingering asphalt showed where the street had been, all the way to a house’s foundation. Google Streetview shows a house there as late as 2011.

I was surprised not more was left of the house. What happened? Was it demolished? Is this a parable for the transitory nature of human existence? Tracking my way back, I noticed a grove littered with monkeyballs. Those have been around since the mastodons. Now, the end of Hallam Street looked very much like civilization and I felt more friendly towards the house on the corner.

Now, I just had one more adventure in store. Angoria Way had a little branch off of Ferndale which I had earlier missed. I went up Blackadore to catch that end but initially missed the turn and ended up in Penn Hills. Realizing my mistake, I more carefully ran back. The reason I missed it was that it looked like a grassy driveway. I should’ve known by now.

Angoria just took me past dilapidated houses and the occasional car. With this, I made my way down Wheeler, through the heart of Homewood. Great way to spend a day, seven miles done.

No Starch and I’m Not Lion

RATS Run #00461

This run was the second RATS run of the day, the earlier one being a little over 3 miles in New Homestead, described in my last post. For this run, my intention was to get to the bottom of Starch Street and the top of William Street.

Of course by “bottom of”, I’m thinking “the bottom of the story”, rather than the lowest elevation. Starch Street is purportedly at the end of Excelsior Street. I had been down Excelsior before, but stopped at the Jersey barriers at the end. Today I wanted to see how far it went “Beyond the Barrier”. I trotted up McClain and then took the quick right, left combo onto the end of Excelsior. At that point, the asphalt gave way to brick. There were a couple of cars parked there and then the barriers. I hopped over them and went a few feet. The road disappeared into a mass of vegetation. I pressed on. Maybe just past these bushes? But no, I just disturbed a deer, who noisily clambered down the slope. Perhaps in the dead of winter there’s a path. Perhaps a pith helmet and machete are required, but I’m considering this one inaccessible.

I turned back up Excelsior and found the Emerald Street Steps, which conveniently led me down to Arlington. I think Arlington is a cool street. It twists and turns, decorated with streetcar tracks and overhead wires. As it slinks down the hill, a few small streets shoot off uphill to the left or downhill to the right.

William Street was one of those going up to the left. In 2018, mudslides caused the street to be closed. They’ve made some major improvements to it, but parts are still eroding off the hillside. Cars can’t drive through anymore. On foot, however, I was able to skirt the falling hillside and emerge onto Bailey Avenue.

From here, I crossed over Mount Washington, taking Boggs down to the end of West Warrington Avenue. (I had missed that intersection in my previous travels.) I came back up the hill on Southern Avenue. Here the houses are all perched on precarious hillsides with guard dogs, and, in this case, a guard lion. Looks like he’s on the tomb of the last trespasser.

I made my way through Emerald View Park back to my car. The views here were outstanding, especially on this sunny Saturday.

Basic Questions

RATS #00460 New Homestead

Does Basic Street REALLY have a spur which connects Revenue with Girder? How far down Chord Street is it feasible to run? Is Mestaland really a street? These questions and more had vexed me for some time. Early on a bright Sunday morning in October, I intended to get some answers. I parked at the West Homestead Community Park and ran back into the city. Even here, an electric scooter was dumped along the road. Niceville leads up to Armorhill, past a little New Homestead sign. Somehow, the last time I was on Armorhill, I had missed the turn for Mestaland.