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.

Noble way to Crafton Heights

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RATS #00238 – Into Crafton Heights from Noblestown Road

This was a pretty well-planned run in Crafton Heights. Instead of approaching Crafton Heights from Steuben Street, I approached it from Noblestown Road. Honestly, a big draw was the availability of parking at the Shop ‘N Save on Noblestown Road. I wasn’t familiar with the area and didn’t know what to expect. I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised and look forward to running more in this area.

To get to my designated parking spot at the Shop N Save, I actually went out of the city on the Parkway West, exiting at Greentree. A few minutes and a few turns later, there I was, pulling into a rather empty parking lot. Social distancing and Covid19 fears has certainly made traffic lighter!

Noblestown Road, at this point, is a broad avenue crossing street after street of modest two and three bedroom houses built in the 1950’s. It sweeps down to Crafton Boulevard, where I took a left and caught Stratmore Street as it climbed steeply. I turned around at Steuben Street, which is the border between Pittsburgh and Ingram. From there, I went back and forth on the grid of streets between Stratmore and Arnold. Much of the area resembled Hollywood Street shown above.

Round Top Street dives down a particularly steep hill. It also has one of the newest set of steps I’ve seen in the city.

Round Top Street Steps

Eventually, I got to Clairhaven Street. For cars, that’s where you have to turn left onto Norwalk Street, but people can take steps from Clairhaven Street to Arnold Street. These stairs are a little wonky. The wooden top section is a work-around. Older concrete stairs, having fallen into disrepair, were simply bypassed. There are two “orphan houses” here. An “orphan house” only has entrances on the stairs.

Crossing Crafton Boulevard again, I came across this, the busiest front yard in the ‘Burgh. They had at least a dozen shiny mannequin heads on stakes.

How many lawn decorations can you count?

Making my way back to the car, I was happy with this nice run in the sun in a pleasant part of Pittsburgh. I’ll be back.

Upper Lawrenceville – Mission Accomplished? Not quite.

RATS #00236

Today’s run embodied a simple plan; start in Lower Lawrenceville, struggle up the steep streets into Stanton Heights and come back around on Butler Street. It went pretty well and I covered a few holes in my map.

My rough approach to Stanton Heights was to ascend 54th Street, pick my way over the steps from Leydon Street to Kendall Street and go from there. In the top corner of Lawrenceville, it was interesting to see the differing housing type. That simple small house is on Kendall. The larger traditional house is on Duncan and the new modern condos are perched on the top of 54th Street, before it becomes a stairway. These are all within a couple of blocks from one another.

In an earlier blog I documented the stairs down to Upview Terrace and Woodbine Street. Today, I continued on Woodbine as it re-crossed Stanton Avenue into another section of suburban-in-the-city living. This is quite a contrast to the densely packed houses of Lawrenceville. Off to the left, down Oglethorpe Street, Garage Way and Drive Way (yes, that’s a real street name, “Drive Way”), the streets take you to the edge of bluffs where wildlife abound.

I would like to come here some quiet morning and just watch the birds. Continuing down to Morningside, I made my way to Baker Street with its nice view of the Allegheny. The road steeply falls toward Butler Street, where the sidewalk ends and the steps begin. From here, it was a flat fast run back to my car.

I’m now a half-block away from completing the streets between Butler and Stanton Avenue and have only a half-dozen streets in Stanton Heights itself. Once I get One Wild Place done and a couple of streets jutting off of Butler done, I will have run every street from Butler Avenue to North Negley Avenue.

Esplen Revisited

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RATS #00235 – Revisiting Esplen and Sheraden

On this chilly, snowy day (yes, in May!), I revisited Esplen, where I first “officially” started this Run All The Streets project. That was in December of 2018. (blog “Esplen in Winter“). Now, 234 streets later, I came back to Esplen, with a little more direction and method. This time, Esplen was just a side-bar. My main objectives were in Sheraden: to run the corner where Stadium Street becomes Menges Street; cross Boulder Way off my list and run the length of Merwyn Avenue.

But, for old time’s sake, here are some pics from Esplen. Oregon Street is pretty typical. Radcliffe Street here is crossing railroad tracks on its way climbing the hill into Sheraden. Isolated from the rest of the community, at the corner of West Carson Street and Stanhope Street, is the Veteran’s Memorial.

Shortly after the Radcliffe Street Steps, I turned right and climbed Stadium Street. The middle section of Stadium Street is blocked off. I had been wondering why, then realized that someone had thrown out a piece of garbage and the street was sliding off the hill. Of course, it is only because the street is sliding off the hill that it is closed. But I wonder, what would happen if we closed streets because people threw garbage out? I suppose all the streets would be closed. Or would people learn to NOT throw garbage out of their car? Hmm… Honestly, this isn’t too bad compared to some areas I’ve seen.

Stadium Street. The top is blocked off by Jersey Barriers.

In my journey across the Sheraden plateau, I always like to go over to Brunot Avenue, with its sweeping views of the Ohio River and Brunot Island.

Coming off of Stafford, I saw a stairway rise to my right. It was Ashlyn Street. For a good bit, the stairs were solid, then the platform gave out, making little red stick figure dude scream for help. He only fell two feet and then was able to clamber out to Brevet Way, on the far side. I did learn from his mistake and just made the left onto Merwyn Street. While there’s usually an obstacle, some dynamic thinking and flexibility allows one to continue.

Merwyn wound its way into some verdant pastures where I saw turkeys and deer. It crossed Wyckoff Avenue on the way. In spite of the “Avenue” in its name, Wyckoff Avenue is primarily a stairway. Brooch Way wasn’t very sparkly either. I demand ACCURATE NAMING, damn it!

Brooch Way did take me back towards Boulder Way. This steep alleyway changes into a steep, two-block set of stairs down to Stafford Street. I love the arching old tree trunk which creates a portal for these steps.

With my main goals achieved, I circled around to West Carson Street. Earlier I had run Glenmawr Avenue, but didn’t have a camera. I ran up it a bit and got some pics this time. I feel that the railroad trestle is smaller than normal. It is certainly exciting to go under it when there is a train overhead, rattling small pieces of gravel as it rumbles past.

High in the streets of Sheraden, I found more evidence to support my “Pittsburgh Boat Theory”, while down on a small street off of West Carson, I found this old brick building. It looks like an abandoned old factory now, but nothing gave evidence as to its former use.

So that was it. I’ve covered much territory in these last 235 runs, but will have to revisit Esplen again before this project is all done.

Gardening in Garfield

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Rare morning run – RATS #00233

Ah, mornings, that time when I like to slowly awaken, shake off vivid dreams, think about the upcoming day and blink myself into consciousness. This morning, however, I popped out of bed, shoved my contacts in and darted out the door for a pre-work run. It was rather cold for early May, in the 30’s, but I think I overdressed. I headed for Garfield, just off of Penn Avenue. It wasn’t too far away and I had many streets to run there. I pressed the like button on a bold mural on North Evaline.

Then there were the steps. North Evaline begins as an average residential street but then continues to Hillcrest on two sets of stairs, becoming more and more overgrown.

Thankfully, Garfield is only really steep on the road coming off Penn Avenue. The cross streets, like Hillcrest, Kincaid, and Broad, are wavy, but not too extreme. Hillcrest is crisscrossed by other small streets and alleys. While some areas are tightly knitted with houses, there are also many wide open spaces. Presumably, there used to be houses on all the lots, but they were torn down as the houses fell into neglect. On Garfield’s hilltop the result is space for gardens and urban farms. Garfield residents seem to also have an artistic flair.

Of course, there are lots of steps as well. In addition to North Evaline, I did the steps on Fannell Street and Ardary Street. The Ardary steps come up from Columbo Street and widen into a full-fledged street. I’m had not been on that street before, so its always suspenseful to see what’s at the top of a set of stairs.

Warmed up by the run and the rising sun, I descended once again to the flat lands of Friendship. Nice way to start a morning, I must admit.

Steps to Singer Place

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Point Breeze to East Hills RATS #00230

This was a long Sunday run. In the normal course of life, this would have been Marathon Sunday for both the Pittsburgh Marathon and the Cincinnati Marathon. As it was, I did a half marathon, concentrating on completing the streets near Singer Place, high on a hill in Homewood. I parked in Point Breeze, along Frick Park Bowling Greens, another unique feature of Pittsburgh. You can play lawn bowling there. The “bowls”, not balls, are not sphere’s but rather two half-sphere’s of different radii joined together along their equator.

Frick Park Lawn Bowling Greens

From there, I crossed Penn Avenue and completed a short section of Thomas Street. Quite the contrast, I must say, from the bowling greens. This area is actually showing signs of development. Had I pointed the camera the opposite direction, I would have captured construction scaffolding along an adjacent warehouse.

I continued into Homewood proper, working my way over to Oakwood Street. Oakwood Street plunges into Wilkinsburg, where its name changes to Wood Street. The hill rising above Oakwood was my main target this morning.

A memorial, either to a shooting or a car accident, has sprung up along Oakwood.

There’s one main street, but three sets of stairs you can take to get up to Singer Place. Here are the steps.

Once in the warren of streets on top of the hill, the pavement mostly flattened out. Large, multi-story houses stood sentinel on the overlooking slopes. At one point, I was surprised to find an entirely different structure, more like a farmhouse than a brick, four-square house.

I made my way down to Oakwood again, then finished up Frankstown Road, coming up East Hills Drive to complete the circuit. Again, I found a boat at the top of a hill, providing further confirmation of my “Pittsburgh Boat Theory”.

On the way back to my car, I passed another Pittsburgh feature, Clayton Mansion, the former home of Henry Clay Frick, a pivotal figure in the area’s steel industry.

Clayton

Getting back to my car, I was just shy of a half-marathon, so I ran a few more blocks to finish that out.

Gilded in Highland Park

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RATS #00229 in Highland Park
Typical Highland Park Street

Last Saturday was a stunningly beautiful day in Pittsburgh. Bright sun, deep blue skies and mild temperatures. I took this opportunity to run some stunningly beautiful miles around Highland Park. I started at Wellesley and Farragut, catching sections of hilly Bryant Street earlier missed. Then I snaked along the alleys behind Bryant Street business area enjoying surprisingly bold colors.

Gallery Alma was cute, but closed. As a city that loves itself, perhaps it was no surprise to see a naive mural of Pittsburgh. Its happy and mischievous honeybees look a lot like the Steelers’ throwback uniform.

Moving on, I hit another goal, to run down Elgin Street. At the end of Elgin is Baywood, aka the Alexander King Estate. If you’re looking for completely renovated example of Gilded Age houses, check out this real estate listing. The tribune review has an nice article about it as well.

King Estate in Highland Park

I did a circle around the driveway, I must admit. But then it was on to the only stairs of the day, a small affair going down to King Avenue.

After this, I went back and forth in alleys and streets of Highland Park as it flattens out between Stanton Avenue and Black Avenue. Got another picture of a cat and a few dogs along the route.

This relatively ‘short’ run ended up over seven miles. I crossed paths with a few other runners along the way, though with face masks and social distancing, I wasn’t actually sure who they were.

Thursday Brookline Miles

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RATS #00228

This run, nine miles through Brookline on a Thursday evening, actually belonged in my “April Catch-Up”, but I overlooked it. Why nine miles? Why Thursday? Well, it came down to completing my Stava challenge to run 200 km in April. I was about nine miles short and Thursday was the last day in April. I chose Brookline because the route was easy to plan. Every street was a new street.

Brookline Neighborhood, courtesy of Tom Murphy VII

Brookline is a large neighborhood and densely packed with houses and streets. The “Brookline History Homepage” has an outline of its history, which seems to have been a series of housing booms as access to the area improved, first trolley lines and then cars. It is a very car friendly area, with most houses having a little driveway or an alley garage available. Most of it is also pedestrian friendly. However, bikes might have a tough time on some of the streets and I only noticed bike lanes on Brookline Boulevard.

I started out on Brookline Boulevard, but when it veered off I stayed straight onto Chelton Avenue. The pictures above are fairly typical of the area. Moderate two and three bedroom brick houses stand shoulder to shoulder up and down the hills. There’s a lot of yard pride here, with neatly cut lawns and front yard decorations. My favorite was the row of miniature houses along Sussex Street. My next favorite was Boots the Friendly Cat.

The streets which are roughly parallel to Brookline Boulevard have big sweeping hills, while the cross-streets are crazy steep. Stebbins Avenue is a cross-street and is stair-studded. There were more steps as well. As dusk settled in, I found myself at the end of Hobson Street, which descends in steps to Breining Street.

There’s much to explore in Brookline, and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

April 2020 Catch-Up

April 2020 was the month of Covid19 quarantining. All group runs, all races and all gatherings of any size were officially prohibited. Stay-at-home orders were issued. Luckily, exercise was permitted. Under these dire circumstances, I continued to run and cover new streets. I have generally been planning runs more carefully and as a result, all seventeen runs I recorded this month hit new streets. I have also shifted my attitude. A few months ago, I might have been happy to cover one or two new streets in a run. These days, if the run doesn’t cover 90% new streets, I’m disgruntled. In spite of progress on the project, it’s been a tough month with motivation and lack of camaraderie.

Now for some stats: I did 124.3 miles of running with 15,441 feet of elevation and at least seventy sets of steps climbed.

RATS #00214 Hazelwood

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RATS #00214 Hazelwood

This was a little run in the grid of streets between Second Avenue and the Monongahela River. The area has busy train tracks on both side of it and is adjacent to the Glenwood Train Yards. It is flat, but the small grid of streets is packed with small houses and row houses. On the far end, a pedestrian walkway carries you over one set of tracks. Lots of dogs in the area, including a few pit bulls, well trained, but not on leashes. It’s not a pretty area.

RATS #00215

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RATS #00215

A quick run in Perry North. No phone, so no pics. Pleasant enough, but will have to go back to finish streets, do stairs and get some visuals.

RATS #00224

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RATS #00224

A short run in Bloomfield and Friendship on a gray mild evening.

RATS #00226

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RATS #00226

This route looks like a bull to me. Again, no phone, but I covered a number of streets in the Elliott and Crafton Heights section of Pittsburgh. Some things of interest included the fact that Zahniser Street, while looking like a reasonable street on the map, actually has a “lower” and “upper” part, not connected by pavement but rather by a footpath.

At the end of one dead-end, there were turkeys prowling, while two doors down people gathered and chatted. Ringgold Street and Lessing Street are long. The houses there have large yards; large enough for pitching cages, kids play towers and other cool things.

Small Street is justly named and also has steps down to Crucible, which weren’t indicated on either Google or OpenStreetMap. Of course, it had the blue City of Pittsburgh street sign.

Meandering Thru Homewood and Point Breeze

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RATS #00227

Sometimes I’m full of vim and vigor and have a great experience with amazing views. Then there was last night. As the sunny day descended into a cloudy evening, I was only nudged out by the goal of hitting my Strava April Running Distance Challenge.

My first happy surprise was coming upon a Burgh Bees Community Apiary. One of my friends raises bees and it is something I would (eventually) like to do. But for now, I’ll just buzz by.

I made it to the end of North Murtland Avenue, which was my one and only streets goal. But then figured I would do a few more streets. Of course, one can’t go far in Pittsburgh without hitting steps, and I came to these at the end of Sterret Street under the threatening sky.

On Apple Street, I passed this formerly grand building.

National Negro Opera Company

I always get a bit confused where Apple Street intersects Lincoln Avenue and ended up going down Lincoln for a little. On my return to Point Breeze, I caught this mural above a yard of junky cars. Again, the my long arms allowed an “over the fence” pic. Do you notice the boats? Just supports my theory.

Now inspired with a spirit of exploration, I decided to find the elusive Edgerton Street steps. I’ve run up South Dallas hundreds of times, but never realized where they were until today. Apparently these are part of the setting for “An American Childhood” by Annie Dilliard.

Between the endorphins kicking in, the various discoveries I had made and the blooming Spring flowers, I was pretty happy by the end of this run.