Heart of Beechview

https://www.strava.com/activities/3122913950
RATS #00188 – Beechview

This run was all about Beechview, catching its northernmost subdivision as well as exploring the southern edge. I parked at my go-to spot next to the Andick Way playground and set out. I was using the RunGo app to guide my turns. There were a few glitches, but overall it worked pretty well. Beechview is incredibly hilly and is home to Canton Avenue, reportedly the steepest street in the US. But Canton Avenue, for all its steepness, is short, not more than one-tenth of a mile. Many of Beechview’s streets are over 10% grade, with a few more approaching 20%, and much longer.

The Shadycrest subdivision in northern Beechview sticks out on a plateau above Banksville Road and Saw Mill Run Boulevard. From the end of one long street, Tropical Avenue, you can see the tops of the tallest Downtown buildings. As the crow flies, they are less than two miles away. Here, the yards are large, the houses have a 50’s and 60’s feel.

Crossing over Crane got me back into the main section of Beechview. Like many of its parallel brethren, Fallowfield undulates into the distance. I took Beechview Avenue into the heart of Beechview, where the T-Line makes quick work of the commute downtown.

I followed Beechview until it became Broadway Avenue and then turned onto Wenzell Avenue. By this time, my hydration was catching up with me and I desperately needed a pit stop. Luckily I made it to the McDonalds on West Liberty Avenue before I had to take drastic measures. Fully refreshed, I charged up Saranac Avenue. At this point, RunGo started acting up. It may have never recovered from being in McDonalds. At any rate, I carefully did the grid of streets around Saranac, charging up less and struggling up more.

Finishing that section, I crossed over Broadway to see those streets. Bad mistake. The roads just plunged off of Broadway and coming back up was very challenging, even with the few staircases I came across.

While much of the area was very residential, I was able to spot the illusive bottle plant during its bottle blooming phase. Its always interesting what pets people keep on their porches, too.

And that was it! About twelve miles and over 1,700 feet of elevation. My knees are mad at me now! Nice area, too.

Brighton Road Long Run

RATS #00185 – Fineview, Perry Hilltop, Brighton Road

This was a long weekend run, to cover some streets in the northern neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, and see what’s out there. Short story – there’s hilly streets, stairs, creepy areas with houses falling down and nice areas with magnificent homes. I took more pictures at the start than the finish. The long story is below. Happy reading!

I started out in Allegheny Center and made my way up to Fineview on the James Street Stairs up to Fountain Street. Fountain Street and Henderson Street collide in a sharp angle, both steeply coming down the hill. I made the right onto Henderson Street and realized there was a little cul-de-sac on my left I had previously missed. Sandusky Court was a relatively new development and the condos were shiny, clean and modern. As I started around the cul-de-sac, I noticed a solid set of stairs in the back, leading to the neighborhood uphill. The stairs were nice, but, alas, blocked off at the top. I guess SOMEONE didn’t want foot traffic from Sandusky Court to go to Allegheny Dwellings, or vice versa.

Back down to Henderson, I wrapped around Carrie Street, where a magnificent set of stairs drapes over the hillside. BikePGH’s “The Steps We Take” had a performance on these stairs, which was quite mesmerizing, involving a “live portal” and flowing, multicolored fabric.

Continuing past this city-side of Fineview, I pushed even higher, where large houses sat high on the hills. Some sidewalks were raised ten feet above the street, with towering residences above. There’s a Pittsburgh Water Reservoir up here, a radio tower and crazy steps and alleys. This area was exciting and I was somewhat familiar with it from previous jaunts.

Now, my rough plan was to do a long part of North Charles Avenue and also head up Brighton Road. I went up Osgood, which starts where the steps go wild and terminates on East McIntyre Avenue. I did the little residential loop which sits about 225 feet above the Parkway North and East Street. This area has potential, big houses, large trees, a cool view, but lots of dumping, with mattresses, tires and other debris just strewn everywhere. It was sad to see and a bit creepy. From there, Kenwood Avenue starts inauspiciously as a parking spot next to steps. The steps gently go down toward Maple Avenue, then become an ugly asphalt path all the way down to Perrysville Highway. The last time I was here, we saw a mewing cat in the window of a neglected house, were accosted by the local neighborhood watch van and had to dash to the car as a summer storm let loose. This time, I was undisturbed in my journey, except for memories.

Wrapping around Perrysville to North Charles to Maple again, I was surprised to see that North Charles went under Maple with a cool viaduct.

I finished off Maple and then found my way to Brighton Road, along many winding roads. Brighton is a long way uphill, with dusty, dirty sidewalks nearly all the two and a half miles out of the city. When I saw the “Ross Township” signs, I rejoiced, took a bathroom break at a Giant Eagle and headed back towards downtown. I took the Winhurst Street stairs up into Brighton Heights, wandered a bit and followed McClure towards the city. This area was a marked improvement from Kenwood Street. McClure gradually descends to meet Woods Run Avenue. Shortly after that intersection, punctuated by a corner bar, I took the Malden Street Stairs to Geyer Avenue.

Geyer wound down to Eckert Street, giving up all the elevation I had just gained. I was tired and ready to be done. But up Eckert I trudged and made my way back to the Northside as the weak winter sun set. By the time I got to my car, it was dark.

But, overall, cool run with over 2000′ of elevation…

Hill District

https://www.strava.com/activities/3086233868
RATS #00182 – Terrace and the Hill

For this run I was joined by my friend Dayana. We met at Dippy the Diplodicus on a chilly, but sunny Sunday.

Dippy in the Snow

The first order of business was to cover a few streets off of Terrace Street, high on the Oakland Hill. About a year ago I had blogged about Terrace Village and today I was finishing it up. After a flat warm-up along Forbes, we went up Darragh, down Chesterfield, with its really rugged cobblestones then up Robinson. Regrouping at Allequippa Street, we found a nice view at the end. Branching off of Terrace Village, we made our way to Breckenridge St. It is a short street high off of Centre Avenue and well below the Pitt athletic facilities above it. I was looking for two sets of stairs, but only found the one.

We took Centre Avenue all the way downtown. The approach from the hill gave us more striking views. Here the roads really widen out and there’s a residential, downtown merge. We didn’t dally and soon were heading back up Bedford Avenue.

Huffing and puffing with the continual climb, we were treated to a mural of a family. In front of that building was a historic marker. Turns out this was the birthplace of August Wilson, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. Tres cool!

Unfortunately, the hill didn’t end there. As we trudged up it we were treated to some Gospel music as we passed the Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh. Well-dressed church goers were still streaming in and cheered us on as we ran by. Continuing, we came across this gentlemen, tall and sparse in his Sunday hat.

Iron Mesh Man

We made it to Sugartop, dominated by the blue water tower and then skedadled down the other side into Oakland to our cars.

Does this route work? Part 3

https://www.strava.com/activities/3080725206
RATS #00180 – Windom Street Warren

In this latest installment of “Does this route work?”, I was interested in exploring a couple of staircases I had never been on. This was in a small warren of streets between PJ McCardle Roadway and Arlington Avenue. The pedestrian gateway to this neighborhood are the 10th Street Stairs. On the lower side, these stairs rise in five landings from dead end flat streets just to clear the railroad tracks. The landings provide respite from the stairs and some nice views. On the other side, though, the stairs rise again.

At the top of these stairs, the city seems to have fallen away and I was in an enchanted forest. Felt like I was Edmund first stumbling into Narnia. On the left, the untouched snowy street curved around into the Knoxville Incline Greenway. I disturbed four deer in their evening ramblings. They were not pleased to see me and only grudgingly gave way, staring me down like truculent teens as I jogged by.

Just past the herd, stairways to Hartford Street rose on my right. Despite the four inches of fluffy snow, the going was good. The stairs were solid and the snow crunched, packing as I went up. Hartford Street is narrow, but with cute houses. Squeezing past a resident who had parked in the street unloading groceries, I came all the way up to Arlington Avenue, but not before I got a good glimpse of the top of the German Square Stairs. I’d be back for those.

Making a right onto Arlington, I kept a lookout for my next set of stairs, Lauer Way. No, not Behring Street, whose steps were a vertical cul-de-sac. Behring Street is one of the few named stair streets which dead-ends. Ceasar Way in Southside Slopes declines into a grassy path but doesn’t really dead-end. Behring Street just traipses in front of a house and stops. Maybe it went through in years gone by.

At any rate, Lauer Way has an impressive stack of snowy steps. It traverses the slope from Arlington Avenue to Windom Street, two blocks below. Again, in spite of the snow, the stairs were solid, both in treads and handrails.

I meandered a little, and found myself trotting past little houses on Newton, which became another wooded glade of snowy stairs, Owl Way. These have a right-angle turn and landed me on Windom again. I took the German Square Steps all the way up the hill again.

German Square and Lauer Way are part of the “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k route. I couldn’t fit them into the 25k, but it is a beautiful little section of stairs and hills pretty close in to the Southside Flats. This part of the route looks solid.

A Little Lincoln Lemington in My Life

https://www.strava.com/activities/3062467825
RATS #00177 – Start with PBR and then off on my own

This run started with the Pro Bike & Run’s Saturday morning group. As the calendar turns from January to February, training intensity picks up. This was PBR’s “Pittsburgh Half-Marathon Training Kickoff!”. As such, the group was pretty big, maybe 150 runners or more. I went out with the 9:30 min/mile pace group. That’s a comfortable pace for me, and these pace groups often go faster than advertised. I did ten with them, chatting with various people and letting the miles fly by. Kudos to the route maker for including some areas that groups usually avoid – big hills and poorer neighborhoods. From the top of North Aiken in Garfield, you can see the Cathedral of Learning, faithfully serving as a beacon of knowledge across Pittsburgh.

Cathedral of Learning from Garfield

After the ten miles, I had a loose plan to do a four more in Lincoln-Lemington. Pittsburgh seems to be the city of alliteration. This is the “L” section of the city. Larimar, Lincoln and Lemington are the major streets. Needless to say, after ten miles, I got them a little confused. I went out on Larimar Avenue from East Liberty, intending to catch Lincoln Avenue high on the hills and come down Brushton Avenue.

Christian Fellowship Church

Staring out near East Liberty, this area is broadly open and flat. Many of the houses and buildings are in disrepair. Newer houses exist and there are clusters of everyday Pittsburgh brick houses with decent yards, gardens and fences. Larimar ends in a gravel driveway, the fate of many Pittsburgh streets. The streets started to get steeper. Clifford, Nelson and Missouri took me through residential blocks higher and higher. I saw Lemington and took a left. This took me down a steep hill towards Highland Drive. Taking another left, I went down the equally steep Highland Drive and came out on Washington Boulevard. A fellow runner, Alison, later told me it looked like I popped out of the bushes. Washington Blvd is busy and has no sidewalks. What is does have are many pet care places, auto care businesses and random, semi-industrial companies; a marble company, an oil company. Their buildings and warehouses crowd the narrow spit of flat land between the road and the towering hills.

Speaking of towering hills, Washington Blvd is criss-crossed by several amazing arched bridges. These bridges carry the L-streets above across this steep ravine.

After taking that last picture on the right, I turned and saw a pathway up the hill. These derelict stairs eventually led me up to Lincoln Avenue again.

That was actually something of a scramble. Some treads were missing and I balanced on the side supports to get by.

Adventure and mileage complete, I trundled back to the car with 14.9 miles done.

Does this route work? Part 2

https://www.strava.com/activities/3057870998
RATS #00176

For those who missed it, I’m organizing a run around Pittsburgh, focusing on taking public stairs where ever possible. In my previous “Does this route work?”, I verified a section of the route in Oakland. It was a good thing I did, because some of the stairs indicated on my maps were not, in fact, there. This run was meant to check out part of the route, circled in yellow above, in Fineview, Perry South and California-Kirkbride. Fittingly enough, only half of this involves the 25K, but all you 50k people, pay attention!

Going out of the Northside toward Fineview, I took James Street all the way up the hill. As the roads plows into the hillside, a pretty solid set of stairs, with only a few shaky treads, rises to Fountain Street. Good thing, too, since it is high on concrete pillars.

Once on Fountain Street, signs for the Fineview Fitness Trail lead to the next stairs. The 50k’ers will be going up these. The 25k folks will be coming down them, almost done. At any rate, the next sets of stairs take you to Graib Street and then onto Henderson Street. The pictures really don’t do this view justice.

The 50k follows along Henderson, crossing Federal and landing at the end of Arch Street. There’s an angled set of steps going up to Perrysville Avenue. A few years ago I saw “Steps In Motion: A Northside Animation”, at the Carnegie Library in Oakland. It is an animation about community project which cleaned up the Arch Street stairs. As you start up these, you can see the fading paint from that project.

The top of the Arch Street Stairs is Perrysville Avenue. You stay on that for a short section, then charge down the O’Hern’s ruts and uneven steps. I remembered it as all overgrown, but it looks like someone actually uses this road, despite the wavy asphalt. A little later, going up North Charles street, I made a left at the bold mural on Ferris Street. Stairs are at the far end of that small street and there’s a rather intimidating house and rambling porch besides them. I would advise moving past this place quickly. In fact, I waited until I had clambered over the fallen tree and up the stairs before I took a pic.

Staying on the 50k route, I made the left onto Island Avenue. Where did they get that name? This couldn’t be a more land-locked street. At any rate, making the left on Hyena Way was promising, but the entrance to the stairs off of Success Street looked more like a walkway between houses.

The Hyena Street Stairs are in reasonable shape, but don’t seem to get much use. Dried vegetation was strewn across the treads as it dropped in on Marvista Street. This lower section of Marvista Street still has a few occupied houses but also a few houses on the brink of failure. The 50k route continues down Hyena. Hyena and Ferris stairs were the ones I wanted to verify. Whoo! This part of the route works.

Now that that was settled, I started to work my way back my car. It wasn’t the easiest way, but Sunday Street was a pretty straightforward way back. It also happened to include an incredible set of brightly painted stairs. At the top was an amazing house set on the top of the hill. At one point, perhaps most of the houses here looked like that? I don’t know.

That’s a wrap. Hyena Way does indeed lead to viable steps.

Northside Grid

https://www.strava.com/activities/3049276898
Run Around Northside – RATS #00175

I squeezed this run between work and a performance at Alphabet City. I had loosely mapped it out the night beforehand. It went pretty close to plan, with one annoying exception.

Anyway, by the time my GPS had locked in, I was, once again, near the Children’s Museum. I crossed West Commons and made my way up Arch Street. The main features of this run were the narrow alleys and streets of the Northside, along with the surprising amount of art and decorations among the old, tight houses.

This is still an area in transition. Even among the row-houses, there is often a gorgeously refurbished house next to a dilapidated one. The streets range from small two-way streets to very narrow one way streets and even smaller alleys paved with bricks. The grid of streets between West North Avenue and Jacksonia Street is flat. Past Jacksonia Street, the land abruptly rises. Arch St unceremoniously ends in a pile of brush, but there’s a long flight of stairs providing egress to the streets above. Tonight, I skipped the stairs.

One of the most flamboyant houses in all of Pittsburgh is here – Randyland. Clicking its picture below will take you to Randy’s website. Incredibly detailed painting brings out the architectural details of the building. Randy also uses the building as a canvas, with larger-than life insects crawling and flying up the walls.

Randyland

Finishing up my explorations, I took a final pic of the city skyline looming over the neighborhoods and jogged back to my car. The annoyance? I had forgotten my running shoes and ran the whole thing in boots.

Greenleaf

https://www.strava.com/activities/3042263741
RATS #00173 – Going Rogue After 3 with PBR

This was my favorite type of run – start with friends and then grab some new streets on the way back. Actually, my FAVORITE run would have been to have all these folks come with me, but a 300′ hill is a hard sell.

Pre-run Groupfie with Pro Bike

It was a cool, humid and cloudy morning. Temps held steady in the low 40’s with intermittent drizzle. We started at Ascend, nestled as it is between old multi-story brick buildings. We made our way to the Liberty Bridge, accessing the sidewalk via a muddy walk-way under the bridge and a short set of stairs to the deck. Once on the deck, the downtown skyline spread out before us.

Once in downtown, we zigged and zagged toward a water stop near the Wyndham. This was three miles in. The planned route took the group in a cloverleaf around downtown, coming back to this water stop several times. I decided to branch out on my own. I had various choices – explore more of Brighton Heights; criss-cross my way through Manchester; climb Greenleaf onto Mount Washington. Eventually, I decided on Greenleaf, in part because it was going to be closed for construction soon. After some tearful goodbyes (just kidding, a couple of people waved bye), I started out.

Now getting to Greenleaf is not straightforward. It is a small residential street which falls off of Mt. Washington into the West End Circle. To get to the West End Circle, I had to cross the West End Bridge and find my way to the other side of the Circle. The West End Bridge has approach ramps and stairs for pedestrians. The pedestrian ramps are notoriously flexible and you can feel it bucking up and down when a group runs across.

After crossing the bridge, I was able to cut across the circle, passing the end of Sawmill Run (notorious for flooding). Finally, I got to the base of Greenleaf Street.

Elevation Profile. Marker is at base of Greenleaf St

From here it was up. On one hand there’s no sidewalks, on the other hand, there’s not much traffic. Even though you’re supposed to run facing traffic, on hills like this, I find running on the uphill side better. Cars aren’t going to be zipping by. Pretty quickly, Greenleaf climbed high enough to start showing off views.

At the top, Greenleaf wraps around into the modest residential neighborhood of Duquesne Heights. George and Guy Trail hugs the cliff below Skookum Field, where a baseball hit 190′ would tumble far down the cliff.

The views are spectacular and several snazzy houses vie for space along the cliff with the WBZZ radio tower. Small lanes between the newer houses had the best security. I felt watched.

Greenleaf Street continued through Duquesne Heights. This is an interesting area. Tall narrow houses are literally under large view-hogging condos. Street stairs and connecting stairs abounded. Greenleaf Street transformed into a stairway before transforming again into an alley. Sioux Way was part-stair, part brick.

Typical Duquense Heights View, with various types of houses and stairs

Finally, I made my way to Grandview Avenue, that popular promenade overlooking Pittsburgh. At the eastern end of Grandview, Vinecliff Street, a weathered set of stairs and asphalt, struggles down the hill. I took that en route to finishing back at Ascend.

Greenleaf Street Stairs, Sioux Way Stairs, Vinecliff, up and down.

Off the map

RATS #00170

“Hey there. Are you planning to run tonight? I am due for six easy…”

“I do need to run tonight, so yes, I could. Pro-Bike is running from Caps at 6:30. Meet there?”

“No, that’s too late. Meet at my place? 5:30?”

“Sure”

“Great, I’ll make a route.”

And THAT’s when it all began. I like Alisa, I like running with Alisa. But Alisa is a bad-ass fast runner and her “easy” six miles usually leave me gasping for air like a fish out of water. Tonight was no different. Additionally, that “I’ll make the route” would prove challenging.

I expected a rather flat quick circuit around Shadyside and East Liberty. But no, we went Penn to Fifth to Frankstown to Brushton. That’s where the sun went down and the run went from pleasurably fast to an intense hill workout. Finally on top, we came to a water tower in the fading light. Modest brick houses dotted the rather sparse landscape up here.

Water tower where Brushton becomes Cushing.

Finally on top, the route curved around into Penn Hills, a sprawling suburb east of the city. We passed a Penn Hills fire station and then plunged down the hill again towards Frankstown Road. Winding roads had smallish green street-signs indicating we were still not in Pittsburgh. Thoroughly disoriented we finally made it back into the city, flying down Frankstown Road. Whoops! We were going out of the city again! As Dean Karnazes remarks in his book “Run!”,

“It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going if you’re moving in the wrong direction.”

Dean Karnazes, “Run!”

We weren’t in a race, but the night was getting deep and cold. We turned around and sped back to our cars in North Point Breeze. Ending up with over seven miles, this run had been quite the adventure.

Finishing Up The Slopes

https://www.strava.com/activities/2999787740
RATS #00167 – Slopes on a Friday Night

Friday Night! Southside! To most people, that brings up to mind something like the Birmingham Bridge Tavern. To me, it meant another stab at finishing the streets and numerous stairs in the Southside Slopes. I started on Steve Seventy Street. That is such an unusual name, I had to look it up. Luckily, I’m not the only one curious about it and found this article which summarizes Steve Seventy’s life. Essentially, he was a local politician who pushed to get that street reopened. At any rate, Steve Seventy Street takes you under the hulking train trestle and directly to the 30th St Stairs as they travel, first up to Jospehine Street and then, alongside Monongahela Park to Northview Street. In and out, along Orkney, Stromberg and Flynn I went. This area almost feels like a small country hamlet, with large yards and an isolated feel. Running to the end of Flynn, I thought it would devolve into a driveway, but it actually continues, becoming Berg Street.

Then the sky opened up and the light faded. So, too, did my plans of finishing this area that night. By the time I got to Clover Street, nighttime had fallen and those omnipresent creatures of the night, deer, were out in full force. I had better come back in the daylight.

Clover Street

So, I came back Sunday. Just a couple miles of streets and stairs. The Oakley Street Stair Mural is quite interesting. From a couple of blocks away, it looks like a narrow, bright mural painted on a wall, but up close you see that it is a mosaic on each step.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3005331775
RATS #00169 Sunday Morning

Most of the elevation was stairs. As always, cool views of the city.