Early on a Sunday afternoon, I got out and ran to catch some streets in Mount Washington. These were not the touristy streets near Grandview, but rather small residential streets and alleys on the backside of Mount Washington as it slides toward the Saw Mill Run ravine. Between the lunchtime start and an early breakfast, my stomach was grumbling right from the beginning.
Stairs are as ubiquitous here as Steeler’s flag. Here’s a quick collage of some of the steps I did.
The area is filled with houses on impossible slopes packed right next to each other. The foliage was beautiful and I got a kick out of the fun Halloween decorations. Many of the houses were apparently built from the same plan, with slight variations.
Not every street was gorgeous. Some of the alleys in the hollow are lined with worn houses and old cars. I didn’t get a good pic of the car on blocks, but its age was notable. Just how long has it been on blocks?
Wrapping up on Sandwich Way and Dillworth Street, I glanced over and did a double-take. There were two live chickens peacefully pecking around the grass. If only I had had some buns and mayo! Speaking of double-takes, just up the street, Dillworth Street intersects Dillworth Street.
Now with my empty stomach was making louder noises, I scooted back to the car and headed off to lunch. Hmm, chicken sandwich anyone?
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.
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.
I did get to do Brightside after all, but finished with ten miles, roughly double my original plan.
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.
After checking I had my Garmin, the phone, a flashlight and two alternate sources of light I emerged from my auto-cocoon and pressed the button to initiate satellite linking. While waiting there…
I had heard through the grapevine populated with cats that certain steps in this area had been redone and I was encouraged to go out and be the first one to run on them.
That, my friends, is the genesis of this run. It didn’t hurt that I had a couple of lingering streets to cover here (looking at YOU, Crooked Way). So, as October 1st was coming to a close, I found myself parking along Shaler Street in the early evening.
After checking I had my Garmin, the phone, a flashlight and two alternate sources of light I emerged from my auto-cocoon and pressed the button to initiate satellite linking. While waiting there, cooling my heels, I noticed an urban deer emerge across the grassy lot on the hill above. Now, being an urban deer, it knew to cautiously wait at the stop sign for a chance to cross.
Then, all of a sudden several things happened at once. A woman driving up Shaler slowed and stopped; asking me if I thought she would hit the deer by continuing. Glancing at the deer and the other traffic, I figured she could proceed slowly. About the same time, a couple in their mid-20’s approached the intersection from the other direction. They were walking a white, terrier-like dog on a long leash.
All of this time, the deer stood waiting for everyone to clear out.
Then, Mr. Scotty, the dog in his red plaid sweater, spied the deer.
“Yip, yip, yap!” he pulled the leash taunt.
At that, the young man, six feet tall with a long stride, started racing the dog towards Mr. Urbane Deer, now sipping some chai and nibbling grass. Startled that such small slow animals would be chasing him, Mr. Urbane spilled his tea and galloped across the field. Flash Gordan and Mr. Scotty actually started to gain on him, blurring in the twilight. But as the field narrowed toward two houses, Urbane elegantly leaped over a tall fence and disappeared.
Agog at this display of speed and agility, I turned back to the woman and suggested that it was clear to go now. Shocked as I had been, she just nodded.
In the interim, I had finally acquired satellite and proceeded up Rutledge.
Unfortunately, the steps weren’t complete. However, they look like they’re doing a thorough job, so these should be here another hundred years.
Crooked Way wasn’t the only street here I needed, but several, like Wyola, led into Emerald View Park trails in the dusky light.
From here, I bounced over to Woodruff Street as it fell towards Saw Mill Run Boulevard. It only had sidewalks about a quarter way and from there it was gutter running. At the end, though, the Wabash Tunnel emerged from underground like a fiery oven. Shortly after, Saw Mill Run goes under an overpass. It probably wasn’t meant for pedestrians, but there I was. A bit on the spooky side, I must say.
With this, I made my way up Wabash and back to Shaler Street. All the excitement was gone, no deer, no dogs, just a couple of other runners in the cool night.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Whoo! My 300th time covering new streets on a run through Pittsburgh! This run was rather adventurous for me, covering streets from North Homewood to Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar. It is a residential area, with a few churches and small businesses. The houses tend to be older, occupied and in decent shape. There are big yards and lots of open spaces. There are also crowded streets, alleys used as dumping grounds, broken staircases and testy drivers.
My intention was to ascend the steps going from Lincoln Avenue to Arbor Street. Unfortunately, they were severely overgrown, so I ended up just running up Arbor Street. It was a steep one and there were several men in the street, cleaning brush and arguing. It was a little uncomfortable running past this group but happily they ignored me. Arbor Street makes a steep, sharp turn to the top of the hill where it becomes Pointview Street. There’s a small square of streets on this hilltop, which I had visited the previous day, working with Allegheny Cleanways, a group that is cleaning up illegal dump sites around the county. Pointview intersects Bower Street, another side of the square. One end of Bower Street are steps leading to Lincoln Avenue.
The other devolves from a decent residential street to a back-alley strewn with trash and cars. I continued along the alley until it started to curve closely around a house, like a driveway. I scooted back the way I came, noticing deer among the derelict cars and trucks.
Making the right onto Hyatt and then Hedge Streets, I noticed a driveway into that alley. Skull-decorated “Do Not Enter” signs adorned the entrance. Glad I didn’t go all the way around that building! While many areas I cover are empty, deserted streets, this area was alive with kids riding bikes, men walking home from the Dollar Store and people putzing around their yards. I got more than one quizzical look, as I suppose old white men don’t run up there too often.
I made my way to the start of Olivant Street, which has a long and meandering path. On one side, glass filled steps made their way from Olivant Street to a rather nice ball field. On the other, houses shouldered up the slopes.
From here, I crossed Paulson Avenue and explored the dead-end remains of Olivant Street on the other side. At the end of Olivant, as far as publicly accessible roads go, was a Duquense Light Power Substation. It’s desert-like gray gravel contrasted sharply with the surrounding lush green woods. Here, too, people were out; weed-whacking and taking in garbage cans. The streets up here are all dead-ends. Some are marked “Private” well before the end of the road. While frustrating to me, I don’t go down those roads.
I did manage to get to the end of Olivant Place, a narrow lane which became more and more grassy. I was awarded by the sight of a flock of wild turkeys, five or six large ones and maybe six smaller chicks. (Of course, turkey ‘chicks’ are rather large as well.) Startled, they abruptly scooted down the slope and flew into the trees. I only caught a fleeting photo of them. Usually the only Wild Turkeys I see are empty bottles. Must say, from the hilltops you get a pretty good view.
From here, I just ran a few more, flatter streets, before completing Paulson Avenue and heading back to my car. Eleven miles in the bank and some new areas covered.
More about the 300 runs
I use a couple of methods to estimate how much I have done in Pittsburgh. The “golden standard” is my map of the Pittsburgh, where I color in each run as I do them. When the map is incorrect, I make notes. Streets that don’t connect are stricken through in black, additional streets are marked. In my ‘rules”, I state that doing 1/2 of a dead-end is acceptable. That is a bit weak, though, and generally, I’ll go to the end unless it becomes a private drive. I’ll be done when my “golden standard” is complete and anything I’ve ‘missed’ has an explanation such as “doesn’t go through”, “is a private road”, “not safe for pedestrians”.
Another method is CityStrides, which processes Garmin route data to determine which streets are completed. It uses a concept of “Nodes” to determine if you’ve completed a street. Do all the nodes, you’re done. Miss a node and and you’re not. With that being said, CityStrides has me at 58% of Pittsburgh streets completed. If this were all linear, that would mean another 217 runs. Of course, it is not.
I estimate I’ll need 90-110 more runs to complete the city. It depends greatly on how much I cover per run and how efficient I am at covering streets. Either way, it looks like I’ll be done sometime between New Years and Easter, 2021.
The sun is setting earlier. I’m not getting out earlier. The result? Lots of sunset and dusky runs. This short, steep run was in the Carrick area. Lucky for me, I wasn’t going up and down the hills, just across. Even so, I had over 100 feet of elevation per mile.
I started overlooking St. Adelbert Cemetery along Brownsville Road, then sauntered past backyards and into the cemetery itself. Just putzing around for information about it, I came across this “Pittsburgh Cemeteries” blog, which is pretty interesting. In an older section, trees have re-asserted themselves around the plots, making for a spooky evening scene.
I made my way down West Meyers Street. It actually dead-ends, for cars, but a little wooden staircase leads to the end of Mt Joseph Street. It was rather small, but is actually an official City of Pittsburgh stairway. From there the streets generally went “parallel” to Brownsville Road. “Pittsburgh Parallel”, that is; they followed the same contours and did not intersect. As is typical for the area, it is densely packed with two and three story houses. This one caught my eye, with it’s red and teal trim.
I worked my way back up the hill towards Brownsville Road, crossing Newitt Street from time to time. At the top, where it meets Bownsville Road, it has street steps. The picture of the parked car parked gives some scale for that slope.
The night came on fast and I didn’t get anymore pictures. But, it was a worthwhile run, covering some streets and chipping away at the vast network that is Carrick.
Good morning! Last Sunday I mapped out a little run in Brookline and left some room for exploration. Explore I did, crossing over into Banksville as far as Greentree, then coming back through Mount Lebanon and Dormont.
Many of my “goal” streets were in Brookline, where Brookline Boulevard curves down to West Liberty Avenue. It is the site of the “Brookline” sign and has several small streets crammed together. The Boulevard circles a small section of lower ground packed with small houses. A few sets of stairs, such as Bodkin Steps and Kenilworth Steps rise out of the bowl. After the run, I feasted on strudel from DeLuca’s.
Wenzell and Louisiana
When Brookline Boulevard crosses West Liberty Avenue, it changes name to Wenzell Avenue. Wenzell Avenue has spotty sidewalks and rather steeply drops through Beechview to its terminus at Banksville Road. Some sections of Wenzell border the Borough of Dormont. Given this topography, it is no surprise this section is riddled with steps. Neeld Way, dropping out of Beechview streets, is a rather long set of steps going from Candace Street to Wenzell. Wenzell, itself, has a long section of street steps as it drops to Banksville Road.
However, the most impressive and interesting sets of steps is Louisiana Street. Just after the Neeld Way steps dropped me unceremoniously onto a shoulder of Wenzell Avenue, I looked up and saw the sign for Louisiana Street. In the summer, it looks like one of the many street signs to nowhere, swallowed up in knotweed. However, brushing aside the branches, I found myself in a long shady step tunnel. Along the way, a house arose on the right. It’s common to find ruins along stairs, but this large cream colored house looked pretty nice. Continuing as the stairs become a causeway, I came across the house’s mailbox and garbage cans. A living, breathing orphan house! Shortly after, it rises again to a streets blending into Dormont. Taking Ordinance Avenue steps out, I circled around to see it again.
Now, when I came down to Banksville Road, I was blocked by construction from crossing into Banksville itself. Not to be denied, I followed small streets to Potomac Avenue, whereupon I crossed over and ventured, for the first time, into Banksville.
Banksville is roughly bounded by Banksville Road, Greentree Road, the Parkway West and McMonagle Avenue. I was not familiar with the area at all. I crossed at Potomac Avenue, took the flat Banksville Avenue to steps and found myself in a curious area. On one hand, it looked very suburban with a range of houses from smaller 1950’s ranches to new McMansions. On the other, The Log Church was a rather hidden church complex near mobile home parks. Most of the roads did not have sidewalks. The steps from Banksville Avenue to Carnahan Road were impressive in length and the Anise Steps ended in the shadow of construction along Banksville Avenue.