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.

RATS #00341 – Westwood

https://www.strava.com/activities/4492917551
RATS #00341 – Starting in Westwood

Then a week later, I started a run from the Shop ‘N Save in Westwood. During the week, we had had an impressive snowstorm which plopped nine inches of snow throughout the area. The plow teams were efficient and the temps weren’t too cold, so the roads got cleared pretty quickly. The sidewalks, on the other hand, required some dedicated staff.

This section of Westwood has a a mix of suburban style subdivisions sprinkled with older homes. The snow blended everything into a ski-chalet look. Kearns Avenue was a key point to this run. On several maps, it is shown to be closed off for a section. That’s a pity, because it would be an alternate route for Greentree Road as it comes out of the West End. Anyway, I was curious as to just how “closed” it was, so intended to see how far I could go before it got dark.

Well, Kearns has been closed so long that grasping bushes are beginning to take it over. Passing the Jersey barriers, no foot falls crushed the snow before me, no tracks of dogs or strollers, no ski lanes; just deer tracks and rabbit paws. A little rivulet trickled down the hill with me. Tromping for two tenths of a mile, I finally came to the other side. Here, a pair of tire tracks slithered to the last house on the street. I followed the tire tracks, as they descended another two tenths of a mile.

Bunny Trails To You

Here, the single houses gave way to industrial buildings. Quality Concrete has a fleet of trucks parked beyond their barbed-wire fence. Kearns ends at McCartney Street. I took the left and ran about a quarter mile towards its dead-end. McCartney sits at the bottom of a ravine. Noblestown Road, aka Route 60, is high above on the right. The hills of Westwood were on the left. I would imagine the area is ripe for flooding. Where’s there’s flooding, there are boats. Where there’s boats, there are stairs. No exception here.

McCartney Street intersects Greentree Road in the West End, formerly known as Temperanceville. Boy, that’s a mouthful. There’s a concrete plant there, a glass studio and a couple of other businesses.

I took Greentree Road back up the hill, running in the street when it was clear and jumping into the slush when it wasn’t. The hill wasn’t a picnic either, rising 445 feet in a mile.

But before too long, I was back in Westwood climbing into my car. Cool run!

Finally! A Monthly Wrap-Up for November 2020

Summary

This November, I kept up my streak of 100 mile months and 10k+ elevation gains. I did hit some road blocks. While totally predictable, early darkness wreaked havoc on my running habits. Not so predictable was a week of quarantining due to Covid-19 exposure. Either way, I had sixteen runs in November, of which thirteen of them covered new streets. I am closing in on completing 70% of Pittsburgh’s streets. I wasn’t too good at blogging, though.

RATS #00328

https://www.strava.com/activities/4348197882
RATS #00328 in Brookline

This was a short run starting at Brookline Memorial Park covering Oakridge and Freedom Streets. The brilliant sunset gave way to just the slightest sliver of the moon. I caught the hippo in dusk, but the flag was still up when I returned in the dark. Aren’t flags supposed to be taken down or lit at night?

RATS #00329

https://www.strava.com/activities/4362738815
RATS #00329 in East Liberty

This four mile run also embraced the dark. I started with a few Shadyside streets and then ventured into East Liberty and Larimer. Missing my turn, I went up Lincoln Avenue instead of Lowell Street, seriously disrupting my planned route. Yet, with only 88 feet of elevation, I enjoyed this, the flattest run I had done in awhile. Eventually though, beyond the stores and street lights of East Liberty, the poorly lit streets and unfamiliar area got to me and I skedaddled back to my car, using the steps down to Ellsworth Avenue as a shortcut. It turns out, even those steps are “official” city steps.

RATS #00330

https://www.strava.com/activities/4370938579
RATS #00330 in the West End

Ah, the West End. The overlook has my favorite view of downtown. It also has a little parking lot, so it’s a great place to start. Balloons and candles remained for “KMB”, whomever that is.

I had visited this area several times already, but had missed some streets. The West End is unrelenting in its hills. Streets going toward the river are extremely steep, but even the cross streets bounce up and down. I ran up to St. Martin Cemetery crisscrossing the neighborhood on little streets and alleys. These unofficial steps on Navajo Way were a lucky break. Otherwise I would have had to run around those blocks again.

I headed downhill and ventured out Chartiers Avenue a bit; going up Litchfield Street. This “street” consists of several impressive flights of stairs. The streets are less impressive, generally winding up hills to arrive in someone’s garage. None of those streets are thruways.

RATS #00331

https://www.strava.com/activities/4377247944
RATS #00331 in Highland Park and East Liberty

A portrait of alleys in Highland Park. I amazed that it took nine miles to wander up and down all those alleys. Some were brick, some were asphalt. Mostly they were straight, while a few zigzagged.

Along the alleys were some immense houses and a few apartment buildings.

And, of course, I can’t resist a Little Library.

RATS #00332

https://www.strava.com/activities/4395003449
RATS #00332 – Homewood

This was a Thanksgiving Day run. I started in Swisshelm Park and went up Braddock Avenue to find its northern terminus, passing one of my favorite stores, 3 Rivers Outdoors. It is a small business specializing in outdoor gear. They also sponsor a trail running group and fun community activities. Going south, Braddock Avenue goes to Braddock, of course. ( Actually it veers east, trails past steel mills and winds up in Turtle Creek, if you must know.) On the northern end, it just stops unceremoniously in Homewood at a playground.

My previous run in Highland Park was mainly in alleys. Homewood has its alleys too, a bunch of “f”ing alleys; Formosa Way, Fleury Way, Finance Way, Forrest Way, Fuschia Way, and Fielding Way to name a few. I did a couple of these alleys, then climbed Calway Street. Calway Street struggles up a steep hill for a few houses and then is blocked off as it wanders into the woods. Turning around, I got a neat view of Homewood, its bowl filled with homes as downtown buildings peeked over the ridge. Returning down toward Braddock Avenue, I came across another Little Library, this one in purple. By the time I returned to Swisshelm Park through Frick Park, I had run ten miles.

RATS #00333

https://www.strava.com/activities/4398743439
RATS #00333 – Homewood and Belmar

This run was something of a continuation of the previous run. I pushed further into North Homewood and Belmar. Right off the bat, I roused two deer from their Homewood bed under a stairwell. There’s a confusing mix of streets here, where Pittsburgh collides with Wilkinsburg. The older warehouses and buildings are mainly deserted. After crossing off a number of small streets and alleys off my list, I headed up Brushton Avenue and Stranahan Street.

After crossing several streets and alleys off my list, I headed up Brushton Avenue and Stranahan Street to a small subdivision. Water authority construction workers were busy digging and putting down pipe. Their store of fire hydrants looked like an arsenal of rockets. It was a rather chilly day and no one was playing hoops when I passed by.

Completing the loop around Tilden, I went up Oberlin Street. At the end, a ragged set of steps took me up to Somerset Street. Somerset Street was high and wide, but I was ready to find my way home again so I found the Toga Way steps. Toga Way took me down steps littered with monkey balls. What are monkey balls? Check this Incline article for the full story, but they are the fruit of “Maclura pomifera”, commonly known as the Osage orange tree.

In another confirmation of boat theory, I saw several, nestled in the woods near the steps.

RATS #00334

https://www.strava.com/activities/4409006976
RATS #00334 with Rich

My friend, Rich, came with me on this adventure. Once again, I explored North Homewood and Belmar neighborhoods. We covered lots of ground and Rich made the miles go by easily. Here’s Rich, out standing in his field. He has a good eye for photography and takes nice pics.