Pears in the Pittsburgh Jungle

RATS #00436 in Oakland, South and West

RATS #00436 was a Saturday morning run in late July. I was aiming to capture Juno Street and a few streets in the Middle Hill. Juno Street starts down in Panther Hollow, but I had seen some steps just off the Boulevard of Allies that I thought might be a short-cut. I was on the right track, but the wonky wooden steps had been hit by trees. Trunks snapped by recent storms had broken the railings and lay across the steps. I’ve found that, sometimes, a path is clearer from the opposite direction, so I went around, hoping to come up Juno from Panther Hollow. However, after weaving through the Pittsburgh jungle, I came to the end of Juno Street as private drive replete with “No Trespassing” signs and (alleged) dogs.

Somewhat defeated, I trotted back down into Panther Hollow to take the Dawson Street Steps back into Oakland. Those, at least, were well maintained. I made my way down Bates Street to Technology Drive at the bottom. It looks so modern compared to the streets a half mile away.

Having enough of modernity, I re-crossed Second Avenue and traipsed up Hodges and Mackey Street. Here I went back at least 75 years. Hodges Street, as small as it is, has a couple of branches. I went up the left branch, assuming I’d find steps up to Lawn Street, but all I found were pears. They looked good, too, but I didn’t eat any. Keeping the slim figure, ya know.

Mackey Street, for its part, was much more overgrown. Steps sprouted from the end of the asphalt and clung to life as they ascended to Love Street. These steps weren’t in very good condition either, with stray tires and missing treads.

Nonetheless, I made it up to Craft Avenue and continued onto Fifth Avenue. Moving towards the Middle Hill, I took Brenham Street off of Fifth. It is a spit of asphalt splitting into the a jungle after 25 yards. Nothing there, so it was back to Fifth Avenue. A few yards further, the Mohawk Street steps gave me a shortcut Beelen Street. On the right, Beelen, has it’s own dead-end into a verdant Pittsburgh hillside while the left leads to Kirkpatrick Street. I took a sharp right onto Gazzam Avenue which was longer than I expected. No surprise, it dead-ended into a steep hillside covered with vines. There was a house back there, which I gave a wide berth.

From here, I just wound my way up Bentley Drive to Terrace Village (aka Oak Hill). I finished off Waring Court, an undeveloped street loping toward…you guessed it, a jungle.

This run complemented my earlier run into the Middle Hill from Downtown (run #00435). It turns out this was the last run in July and the last run in Pittsburgh until the middle of August. July was a big running month for me, with 134 miles, including 38 miles at Hell Hath No Hurry.

Roads Les Travld

RATS #00435 Middle Hill and Oakland

After work on a Friday, what to do? Head home and battle traffic? Naw

Happy Hour? Naw, a couple a beers and THEN battle traffic; no thanks.

Run? Of course!

Ironically enough, one of my cardinal rules has been to NOT run on hot Friday afternoons through sketchy areas. But there I was, on a sunny, hot summer Friday evening running through the Hill District . Spoiler alert, I survived, just slightly dehydrated.

At any rate, I ran across the Andy Warhol Bridge, through downtown and up Centre Avenue. First on my list were McClarren Street and Midtown Square. I was a little puzzled why I hadn’t hit these earlier. Then I got there and realized, they were just off of Wylie Avenue using the ole “street which looks like a driveway” ruse. Midtown Square was a cute little street at the top of a hill. McClarren was just a bit of asphalt disappearing into the greenery.

From here, I had a tour of lesser-user roads. Verdant Way, Upton Road, Jacobus Way were all deserted and blocked with debris. Oh yeah, Upton Road needs to be mowed.

Now I was intent on finding Whitney Terrace, allegedly across Centre Avenue and up past Brackenridge. The Watt Street steps shortened my journey.

So, I’m not sure if I found Whitney Terrace or not. The spot which the map indicated as Whitney Terrace was just a hillside of greenery. However, just twenty yards further on Brackenridge, I found steps up the hillside. Its likely those were just steps to a house. Nonetheless, I took them anyway.

After some bushwhacking I came to the top, where white tarps shaded precious salt for Pitt’s campus. I wandered into the Oak Hill complex and finally found my way out along Allequippa Street. Dodging into Wyandotte Street, I made it to the garden-end as a UPS tried to come down the street and got stuck.

With that, I made it out to Robinson Street, browsed a Little Library and trotted back to the Northside via Centre Avenue. Is there still time for the beer?

North Shore, Carrick and Belthoover Finishing June 2021

RATS #00421

RATS #00421 was a quick six miler after work. My main targets were alleys near PNC Park and Heinz Field as well as re-doing Children’s Way near Allegheny Center. As it turns out, there had been a Pirates baseball game that day, so my alley running included spectator dodging.

Once I had put some distance between me and PNC Park, I ran along Reedsdale Street, as it goes under the T, which carries hopeful gamblers to the Casino. It was rather precarious to walk along but I did see a number of “Marcher Arrant” stickers plastered on poles and guard rails. He blew through town earlier this summer and walked much of it. This section of town is not meant for pedestrians. It is meant to funnel people to the stadiums and back out.

Finishing Reedsdale, I decided to circle back to North Canal Street by way of the Children’s Museum. I always forget that West Park has a train track running through it, and, that the West Ohio Bridge is under construction. Whoops! I couldn’t get through, and had to detour via take West North Avenue. Isn’t it against some rule to put “West” and “North” in the same street name? It should be!

Anyway, upon emerging from the other end of West Park, I passed Allegheny Traditional Academy, which I believe is a charter school, before going through a section of Children’s Way. There’s some cool stuff there, including the sculpture reCARstruction. The link has a video of its creation.

Moving on, I trotted up North Canal Street. It starts as a ramp off of East Ohio Street and cars zip down it, perhaps expecting to get on the interstate. However, as it sweeps past the railroad and a high-rise building, it becomes just another way to get to Giant Eagle. I found out later that there is another section of North Canal, even more obscure. I ended near my start on Goodrich Street, a cobblestone relic of the past, interrupted by ramps.


RATS #00422 in Beltzhoover and Carrick

RATS run #00422 was all about alleys. Alleys in Beltzhoover and alleys in Carrick. Those aren’t exactly adjacent neighborhoods, so this ended up being a long run. But, let’s start with Beltzhoover Alleys. They are generally gravel and overgrown. Some are nearly footpaths.

Here along the alleys, you see garages falling down, with weeds on their falling roofs, but for the most part they are free of garbage and dumping (unlike Homewood). Heck, you see houses falling down on the main streets, so there’s no surprise the garages on the alleys would be in disrepair as well. I do have to say that Belzhoover is an active community. There’s always someone walking their dogs, riding bikes, doing lawn work or otherwise out and about.

Buffington Road, sits at the bottom of a steep hill lined with ominous houses. It was gated off. I really hate that. The maps show a public street, but the owners apparently think its a private drive.

Anyway, I shook the Beltzhoover dust off my feet and crossed over to Borough Way, forming the border of Pittsburgh and Mount Oliver. From here, I zigged and zagged my way to several alleys in lower Carrick, ending in Sinton Way. Sinton is a staircase from Dartmore (near Saw Mill Run) to Lucina, where it flattens into a paved street. The steps in the picture below, however, are just in Phillips Park. My heart rate exploded going up those.


That’s about it, both for this run and for June. I finished June with a respectable 112 miles, which included another “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k.

All Along The Watchtower

https://www.strava.com/activities/5281115695
Route of RATS run #00407 in Chateau and Marshall-Shadeland

This was six miles after work one Tuesday evening to catch streets in the warehouse district between Route 65 and the Ohio River. The thought that crosses my mind in this area is “this is not meant for humans”, well, pedestrian humans, at least. For the most part, the streets are wide and long to accommodate large trucks coming and going. On some Pittsburgh streets, a PAT bus takes up the whole block, while here, it is just a speck in the distance.

As for my specific route, I traversed Westmar Way and Catrill Street. I wondered why I had missed them earlier, but, upon seeing them, realized they are so nondescript as to be easily missed. Nice and flat, though.

Some of the buildings here are old, but with this large, flat space, newer businesses have moved in, too. Duquense Light has a large space with dozens of their trucks; the Port Authority has a large bus servicing area along with here, too.

Further down Beaver, there’s a defunct prison. As Beaver Avenue becomes Preble I passed the rear of a large Sherwin-Williams plant and dead-ended at the Alsocan gates. Alongside the Alcosan plant, a tiled smokestack rises high, while blue duct-work snakes along exterior walls.

Then I trotted past the former prison. It was quite an impressive site, a tall stone wall topped by barbed-wire and watch towers. Westfall Street goes down one side and the Three Rivers Heritage Trail goes along the back.

Along the rear of the prison, a wrought-iron spiked fenced keeps folks out of the great hall, broken windows and all.

There are several entrances, one along Beaver Avenue and gates on the side and back.

Running along, the creepy prison was not the only thing to see. Some sort of large steam fittings sat, ready for use. A hawk drifting overhead and luxurious cat condos under the trees, with sparkling views of the Ohio, completed the scene.

Further down the bike path, I caught a glimpse of beached boats and several boats still in dry-dock. They look so much bigger out of the water.

With this, I finished up. Good run for a workday evening!

Old Upper Lawrenceville and Spring Garden Sidestreets

Once again, you get two May runs in this blog. The first, RATS run #00405, was on a gray day in Upper Lawrenceville. The second, RATS run #00406, was on a cool, but sunny, day in Spring Garden.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5254142747
RATS run #00405 in Upper Lawrenceville

51st Street, Berlin Way and Harrison Street were the objects of my footfalls on this Thursday evening. It was relatively flat, except the jaunt up to Bissel Way, with its little surprise.

Cavacini Landscaping was bursting with flowers and shrubs ready for planting. I’ve rarely been on this section of 51st Street in daylight, so this was a surprise for me. (Spirit, up the street, is a popular nighttime music venue.) Further towards the Allegheny, 51st Street crosses old railroad tracks and ends at a power line tower.

From here I scuttled past the Goodwill Building and onto Berlin Way. It is only a block from Butler Street and you can see murals on the back walls of Butler Street businesses.

But Berlin Way isn’t free end-to-end. Portions of it run afoul of chain link fences and nondescript buildings. However, Adelman’s Lumber looks cool, as did the sun setting way down a 55th Street alley.

Finally caught the end of Bissel Way and found this rusted monolith stretching to the next hillside. What is it? A lost railroad spur? A preemptive retaining wall with nothing to retain? I don’t know.

That was it. Three miles on a Thursday evening.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5263913969
RATS Run #00406 in Spring Garden

RATS run #00406 was my Saturday long run. I mainly focused on side-streets off of Spring Garden Avenue and then touched a couple of other missed streets as I rounded out the run in Perry Hilltop, California-Kirkbride and Allegheny West.

I started with a little detour up some steps to Salter Way. It looked like the yellow handrail has gotten hit by a car. Nonetheless, Salter Way is a short alley dead-ending into the hillside. Several houses are boarded up, and they even have guards. Cat guards, that it is. This no-nonsense kitty strode right up to me and, after shout-meowing at me, escorted me off the street.

The Welcome to Spring Garden sign is a bit of a ruse, I think. I don’t find it a very welcoming area, but perhaps it is just claustrophobia from the towering hills and overwhelming vegetation. I do get a kick out of the clock at the back wall there. Don’t stay too long!

Further on Spring Garden Avenue, I kept branching off onto the little streets, which tiredly run out of asphalt and just end. Some spots have several little streets with houses huddled together.

St. Peters United Church of Christ was pretty cool looking. About that point in the run, two little girls, bundled against the cold, decided to race me up Spring Garden Avenue. I was able to dodge into Giddy Way before they could catch up. Must say, I find Spring Garden Avenue dangerous to run on, much less ride a bike.

The turn onto Baun looked promising, but a half-dozen “No Trespassing” signs and “Beware of Dogs” signs later, I decided to cut it short.

So, away I went. Up towering Willams Road into Spring View/City View. I was lucky enough to find a shortcut to the top of Donora and was rewarded with a sweeping view.

Donora Street

From here, I wandered to the end of Hazlett Street and the curious little cul-de-sac, Boyer Street. Par for the course, Boyer actually is continuous, but someone keeps their car parked in the middle. Remnants of previous businesses still stand. Eventually I made it all the way down to Vista Street steps. There is a nice mosaic at the bottom, but the $600,000 step reconstruction is still not open. Is it just that the handrail is missing?

I used Milroy Street to cut through to Perry Hilltop. Those are some astounding steps which remain open, in spite of their flaws. As I approached several turkeys clucked their way out of sight while an old sad house came in sight. “Condemned”, said the blue sign of death.

Continuing my circuitous route, I caught the end of Hawkins Street, as it plunges toward Highwood Cemetery. Luckily there are steps there, too, so going back up wasn’t too bad. Eventually I made it to Riversea Road, a little inlet off of Brighton. By now, I was eager to finish up but got caught in the narrowing trap of West Park’s construction. Luckily, a little pedestrian bridge was available to cross.

Traipsing through Children’s Way and Allegheny Center, I found my way back to my starting point, a good 14 miles done.

Lincoln Place and the Hill

Synopsis

Here are a couple of runs done in mid-February. A “polar vortex” and the threat of it kept me inside for a bit. So, no didn’t do a 20-20, (twenty miler at twenty degrees). Perhaps the late January fall encouraged me to be more careful or I’m just tired of running in the dark and cold. At any rate, the Lincoln Place run covered a large section of that neighborhood while the Hill run just about completed it.

RATS #00368 Over the Hill

StravaRATS00368
RATS #00368 – Finishing up the Hill

Prior to coming out, I used a popular hack for making ‘ice shoes’. You simply put small machine screws into the bottom of your shoes. Once started, they go into the dense rubber easily. With 15 screws on the bottom of each shoe, I was very confident, even on ice.

I started this Saturday afternoon’s run in North Oakland. The recent spate of snow had been cleared enough so that driving was tolerable, but dirty snow, pushed aside, lined most walks and gutters. University Drive in Oakland is still under construction, so I had to take a detour around that. Then I ran down Centre, crossing Herron and heading into the Hill. My target area was a number of small streets in the Middle Hill. Many of the streets were still undisturbed and had ankle deep snow in them.

Hallet, Horton, Humber, I must have stumbled into the “H” section of Pittsburgh, in the Hill District, no less. I have often pondered the easy alliteration of adjoining streets. Homewood has many “F” alleys, Brookline has its “B” streets. It’s kinda cute, unless you’re trying to remember where to turn by just the first letter. Oh, no!

At any rate, the alleys were deep in snow, but mainly passable. The ice-shoes were doing great and I wasn’t even too cold. Periodically, snow squalls blew through, diminishing my vision. Normally, you can see the UPMC building from the Somers’ steps.

I came across a couple of sets of steps. One, Chauncy Street, I was familiar with. It’s a pretty impressive thoroughfare taking you down to Centre Avenue. The other, Caramel Way, was a bit of a surprise. On the map, it just looked like another alley. Blocked off at the top, it wasn’t from the bottom. Following some frozen footsteps up the mildly broken steps it was clear where treads were missing. I did have to duck under a downed tree, but it wasn’t too extreme.

As usual, there were buildings ready to fall down and some historic markers. This plaque is dedicated to jazz great Art Blakey. Presumably he lived in the house? A rather oversized, chilly bass player was still out practicing in the snow.

I had fun on this run, in spite of the conditions. The shoes worked out well.

RATS #00369 – Lincoln Place

StravaRATS00369
Route of RATS #00369 in Lincoln Place

And, now, to one of the southernmost neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. A week after that last run, the snow was still around, and it was a beautiful, sunny day. Snow really looks good on Pittsburgh.

My first order of business was to track down a staircase between Glenhurst and Lougean. I had missed it on an earlier run. So, I tromped down Mifflin Road, dodging cars until I got to Glenhurst. The wooden stairs were snuggled between two very suburban houses.

Steps from Glenhurst to Lougean
Steps from Glenhurst to Lougean

From there, it was an adventure on back alleys which went much further than I expected. “F” Way, “D” Way and “C” Way took me way back to country sheds. Overall, this was a nice area to run in. It was lacking in sidewalks, but also lacked in traffic.

Eventually I found myself on Mooney Road, heading towards Mifflin Road. After Beechland Street, Mooney Road, itself, becomes a country road. This narrow street dives down a steep hill to Mifflin Road. Along this section, there are only three or four houses, each precariously perched on a hillside. As I approached Mifflin Road, I noticed a large house across the ravine. Strangely enough, no road or driveway was visible. I still wonder how those folks get home.

By the time I had gone down Mooney and back to Beechland, the sun was sliding over the hillsides. I finished out a few more streets and cruised back to McBride Park, my favorite place to park.

Three December Runs

I had a pretty good December this year. So good, in fact, that I’m STILL blogging about it, a week into the new year! I had many significant runs towards the end of the month, so that whole “catch-up” thing will have to wait. My running tends to be done when the opportunity arrives, while my writing is more of a record than an instantaneous news feed.

RATS #00337

RATS #00337

It was a dark and stormy night…

Actually, it wasn’t stormy, just cold. I’m pretty comfortable running through the alleys of the Strip District and Lawrenceville at night. While they look creepy, they are typically deserted. Darkness and narrow streets are harmless without people. OK, upon recent news (fork-lift getting caught in a sinkhole), I guess I should be more worried about sinkholes. Those would, indeed, be a problem in the dark.

This run covered some alleys and streets I had missed in my previous jaunts. Outside of the quickly gentrifying areas marked by condos and bars, old Lawrenceville still exists. It’s an area of warehouses filled with products that people need. Above is a picture of A.R. Chambers, a construction supply company. There are tire stores, wholesale food warehouses and many more. The wide streets and flat land are rare in Pittsburgh and are perfect for these businesses.

RATS #00342 – With South Park Trail Runners:

Filthy Five Plus One Minus One

Filthy Five with SPTR
Filthy Five with SPTR – RATS #00342

The South Park Trail Runners is a local, down to earth, trail running group in Pittsburgh. Friendly and energetic, they run all over the area. For this day, they, meaning Suzanne, organized a run on the “Filthy Five” course – five of the steepest and toughest hills in Pittsburgh. Actually one of them was in Wilkinsburg, but it was really, really close to being in Pittsburgh.

At any rate, I joined this lively group of runners as we made our way from Frick Park to the East Hills, where most of these hills were.

Most of these roads I had already done, but taking a detour on Cassina Way made it a RATS run. Narcissus used to have a better place, I think; more like that Point Breeze mansion.

As is often the case on group runs, I got separated from the pack. I had raced several runners up the wrong hill and then completed the street. By the time I got back, the other runners were off on their merry way, voices echoing across the empty, snowy East Hills landscape. Luckily one of the residents told me “those marathoners went down the hill”. I pulled out the phone, found the maps and navigated to Ferndale Street, Dornbush Street and then to Hill Street, now in Wilkinsburg.

At this point I had finished Hill Four, and made my way back my car in Frick Park. I had forgotten all about the Fifth Hill, in the park itself. Oh well, counting the wrong hill, I ended up with five hills after all.

Big snowfall still hanging around

RATS #00343 – Arlington

RATS #00343

The day after the Filthy Five Plus One Minus One, I embarked on an efficient RATS run in Arlington. I had carefully mapped out the route and was pretty happy how it turned out. I saw the Cathedral of Learning from the high hills, as well as Santa nestled between two cattywampus houses. Were they wishing for a level lot?

Arlington is on the “back-side” of the South Side Slopes. It undulates wildly, with streets dead-ending at a steep ravine. It has it’s share of steps. The Dengler Steps are set back from the street and, it was only after seeing the boat that I thought, “there MUST be steps nearby”!

Speaking of dead-ends, I’m always disappointed when they are blocked off. However, I can read and don’t really want to see any dogs up close.

So that’s it for these three runs. I still have more of December 2020 to write about, but it’s almost done.

Before Snow After Snow

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

RATS #00340 – Brookline

Run in Brookline
RATS #00340 – Brookline

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