Crossing the River and through Homewood

Here are two runs from the end of May.

RATS #00411 in Homewood

Homewood! Homewood! Homewood!

I’ve written about you often and been through your maze of streets and alleys more than once. However, there’s always a little more of you. This was a Sunday afternoon run to tie up loose ends. El Court, for instance. On my first run past, I thought it was a sketchy driveway. Going around the block and back, I decided it was just sketchy, not a driveway. It has the style of row houses facing each other. Of course, a car was parked at the end facing outward. Why not?

I’ve found that this style of housing, with its row houses enclosing some sort of walkway or driveway, is found occasionally across the city, typically in older neighborhoods, Lawrenceville, Oakland and Perry Hilltop for instance. El Court, however, takes the cake for disrepair.

Another street I needed was Annan Way. It intersects North Braddock and parallels the busway as it heads toward North Homewood Avenue. Cinnibar Way is a similar-looking alley but isn’t nearly as long. It does have that typical red-brick paving of most of Homewood’s alleys.

Prior to getting here, though, I traipsed up Inglenook Place. I had done that area earlier, with its long flight of stairs up to Sickle Street. However, I had missed a tree-lined alley, Hackett Way, earlier. Actually, earlier I didn’t think it was even a street. But it is, and there I was, running it down. I didn’t get a good picture of it, but it’s right under those trees at the top of the steps.

In spite of rampant dumping in alleys, deer frequent the open grassy lots. Cuddy’s looks like a store from the 50’s.

Murals adorn many brick buildings. As I was discussing with a friend recently, these are ‘paid’ art; I call it graffiti gentrification. Most of it is pretty cool with real design and artistic talent. Of course, it’s just not the same as the midnight taggers marking their territory.

And that’s about it.


RATS Run #00412

I started this run, run #00412, across the Allegheny River. It is “officially” in the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar neighborhood. Mostly, though, is a an Aspinwall, Fox Chapel shopping area.

After getting all the way to Fox Chapel Road, I retraced my steps and crossed the Highland Park Bridge. It crosses the Allegheny just upriver from “Lock and Dam 2”. It is a fairly simple lock and dam, maybe nine or ten feet high.

I ran past scads of cars slowly making their way into the Pittsburgh Zoo. It was a beautiful Memorial Day and the zoo looked packed. Just beyond One Wild Place, I took a detour off of Butler Street to do Ballard Way, Gallatin Street and the Jancey Street Steps.

Moving on down Butler Street, I noticed what seems to be large amounts of dumping down near railroad tracks. Turns out, this is an auto-salvage business and the mountain of metal will, I assume, be recycled. I stumbled upon a few streets which took me under the 62nd Street Bridge.

Apparently, the authorities frown on people dismantling their cars down here. What the heck?! In this land of the free, why can’t I just dismantle my car wherever I feel like it? Sheez! That sign made me so mad, I think I’ll just keep my car intact. Take THAT!

Silly rant aside, it was another world, down there under the bridge. Much more active than I thought it would be.

Moving on, I went up onto the bridge and ran across. Halfway across I was officially out of Pittsburgh and into Shaler. It does have some cools views of the city, must say. Of course, as I approached the northern end of the bridge, I crossed the ubiquitous railroad tracks again.

Another eight miles in the books.


So, that is it for May 2021. In spite of a week of travel, I ran over 100 miles. I’m slowly chipping away at the streets.

Glorious Esplen Morning

https://www.strava.com/activities/5301358810
RATS run #00408 in Esplen and Sheraden

On this glorious Saturday morning, I ventured out to Esplen and Sheraden again. Nearly the site of my first run! I had no idea what I was getting myself in for! But now, I had to revisit to track down Bagdad Way in Esplen as well as several alleys up in Sheraden as well.

“Bagdad” conjures up visions of a sprawling, dusty strange city. Bagdad Way was nothing like that. Maybe the car wash at the end of the alley helps keep things clean? At any rate, its a short hop from the big bend of Rt 51 as it cruises out of Pittsburgh, crosses Chartiers Creek and hits the big city lights of McKees Rocks.

Drumming down Tabor Street from Rt 51 to Radcliffe Street, I took the left over railroad tracks down below. Right thereafter took me up Stadium Street. It rises sharply, quickly towering above the tracks filled with a waiting train full of tanker cars. Stadium Street is blocked off halfway up. It seems that the road is sliding off the hill, as it has been for at least a year. At the top of Stadium, I found myself in a rather pleasant, rather flat neighborhood. Fronona Way did an excellent job trying to hide, but eventually I found it.

Now, I have done much of this area before, but since I’m doing streets end-to-end, a missed block here or there means I need to revisit it. Ironically enough, CityStrides will call it complete if I just hit all their nodes (intersections). Speaking of which, take Wyckoff Avenue, part stairs, part alley and all hill, I had done most of Wyckoff earlier, but was determined to finish it end-to-end. I get a kick out of the “Avenue” moniker. It is slightly better than an alley for the most part.

At any rate, a short jaunt up Narcissus Avenue took me high above the Ohio. Properly taking a selfie, as everyone should, I took some time out from admiring myself to admiring the sweeping views. The Glasgow Steps took me even higher.

Coming back down to earth, I followed Stafford Street to the little dead-end of Adena Street. On my original (OpenStreets) map, Adena meets up with Joslyn Street, which connects with Strickler Street. However on Google Maps, Adena dead-ends, Joslyn doesn’t exist and Strickler dead-ends after a sharp elbow. Running to the end of Adena these days, I saw some hints an ongoing street, but houses and fences blocked the way. I cut over to “lower” Adena street, which meets Stadium. Curious about the view, I progressed on Stadium towards the Ohio River. The street is blocked-off on this end, too. There was some pavement on the other side of the jersey barrier, so I continued. The pavement disappeared into underbrush but not before a little switchback. I wonder if this is the remains of Joslyn Street? Or of the mysterious Saratoga Street and Gilroy Street?

I retraced my steps and again crossed Chartier Creek, happy with this adventure.

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.

Gaslights and a Wooden Street

Ah, take me back to the days of gaslights and wooden streets! Eh, not really. These curious and nostalgic scenes are delightful yet do not reflect the dismal quality of life in Pittsburgh in the early 1900’s. I much prefer the current cleaner Pittsburgh. As they say “The good ‘ole days weren’t so good.”


https://www.strava.com/activities/5243296842
Route of RATS run #00403 in Shadyside and Point Breeze

I started this run, number 403, in Frick Park even though the object of the run was the curious winding avenues of Chatham University. But first, a photo of the elusive groundhog, cousin to Phil. I’ve seen groundhogs everywhere in the city, from Uptown parking lots to Lincoln Place. They scurry into holes under porches. They dive into garden bunkers. There’s one that lives in my neighbor’s yard. It must have an agreement with their dog, as it boldly traipses across their yard and into my garden. It loves to sample tomatoes, preferable almost ripe and generously leaves the half eaten fruits for birds to gorge on.

Groundhog
Grr, a groundhog

Nonetheless, back to the roads through Chatham University. These ‘private’ roads are often used by pedestrians and patient short-cut seekers to cross from Fifth Avenue to Wilkins Avenue. They are also some of the most gorgeous streets in Pittsburgh, with large mansions (now college buildings) on small winding lanes flanked by flowering dogwoods and towering oaks.

After wandering the winding lanes of Chatham, I traveled up Shady Avenue as the evening became drizzly. There are many small dead-ends off of Shady, as well as a few private drives. I ended up by following Mellon Park Road from Shady to Beechwood. I’m not sure what’s going on with the green lights, but I can assure you they are not from photo-editing.

I simply ran up and down and up and down Beechwood to my starting point. No groundhog out now.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5248910773
Strava route of RATS run #00404

This run was in Shadyside as well, though in the busier sections near Walnut Street and Ellsworth Avenue. I was on a mission to snag a number of dead-ends and alley-ways I had previously overlooked. The south side of the busway is quite residential, though crowded. A large percentage of the huge ostentatious houses have been carved into apartments, condos and town homes. There are still a few mansions along Fifth Avenue, though. The north side of the busway is more inner-city urban, with six-story apartment buildings and parking garages.

Getting there, though, I ran to Canterbury Lane, a dead-end; Aiken Place, another dead-end and Roslyn Place, an historic street off of Ellsworth. What makes Roslyn so historic? Well, the street is ‘paved’ with wood. And it isn’t wooden planks, it is more like the ends of 4×8’s. Very odd, but here, take a look.

As I say, very odd. How do they plow in the winter? Anyway, from here, I scurried down the alleys off of South Graham Street. One side goes to a Boys and Girls Club and the other dead-ends into a beautiful wall of ivy.

Crossing over the busway on the Graham Street walkway took me to Centre Avenue. It is a hopping place, with a Whole Foods, a Giant Eagle and lots of construction. Commerce Street, little more than an alley, parallels Centre and yet is much quieter. I made my way to Motor Square Garden and came back on Dapper Way.

So, I must say, my GPS wasn’t super accurate on this run. Sections of the GPS’ route are ‘translated’ off my actual route by 75 yards or so. Unfortunately, this misses the ‘nodes’ on CityStrides and doesn’t ‘complete’ the street. Argh. I’m uncertain as to whether I’ll run them again, which is easy enough, or just mark them as complete. Hmm, decisions, decisions.

Love, Peace, and Joy and Those Beechview Hills

Here are two little five milers. One in the South Side Slopes and one in Beechview. One had twice the elevation gain as the other. Any guess which one? Read on to find out.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5233037880
Route of RATS run #00401

This run started in my favorite spot in Beechview, Vanucci Park. I can park there without worrying if the car is going to roll down the hill. At any rate, I wanted to cover a couple of streets I had neglected near Coast Avenue as well as to explore Crane Avenue a bit. My impression had been that Crane was not safely runnable and wanted to verify that.

Immediately out of the park, I made a right up the Andick Way Steps. They took me past a basketball court. The squeak of shoes, ball clanging off the rim and trash talking spoke of games being played, even though the retaining wall was too high to see over.

The next turn was a left onto Kenberma Avenue. Kenberma falls rapidly under the electric trolley line known as “The T”. From the bottom, I wrapped around Hampshire Avenue to the Boulevard and the Fallowfield T-Station, a hundred feet above.

The next stop on my tour was Alverado Street. At the north end of Alverado, a set of crazily tilted steps drunkenly fall down the hillside. I followed, only to realize they went to a house, not through to another street, and backed out.

To wrap up this area, I decided to run up Canton Avenue; the tenth of a mile street which is the steepest in the US. At the top, I explored the stairs off to the left which took me back to Coast Street, with only a 13% grade.

With this section done, I headed up Fallowfield to Crane Avenue. Crane is no bigger than the residential streets I had just been on, but has more traffic and fewer sidewalks. I feel like city planners intentionally said “we don’t want anyone walking here!” I crept down to Shadycrest, which, unfortunately is deemed government property and is awash with “No Trespassing” signs. From there, Crane Avenue makes a steep descent to Banksville Road; blind turn, no shoulder, no sidewalk, maybe another time.

I ventured the other direction on Crane, diving into Lowenhill Street behind Brashear High School. The basketball courts there were eerily silent while quiet dog-walkers ignored the signs and traipsed their canine cares around the field.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5238283756
Route of RATS run #00402

The evening was heavy with humidity when I started this run in the South Side flats. Going into the slopes by way of Quarry Street I passed under the Mission Street bridge and skirted the edge of South Side Park. The houses are tall and thin. All the houses in this row have three floors, a basement and attic.

Further on, as I criss crossed Freeland Street the skies opened up. A pedestrian shouted out “Great running weather!” and dodged into a house. The steps became gushing rivers.

Thoroughly soaked, I came back down Brosville Street and was awarded with some neat views of the retreating storm. Thank goodness for the towels I had in my car.


So, what was your guess? More elevation in Beechview or the South Side Slopes? If you guessed Beechview, you were correct! 1,034′ vs 596′

Spring in the Almost Suburbs

Here are two runs from early April, 2021. The first, RATS #00391, winds through Brookline (again), while the next, RATS #00392, finishes a cool section of Lincoln Place. That’s a little bit of a cartographer’s joke, but I’ll let you figure it out.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5082128211
Route of RATS #00391

This was an evening run in the alleys of Brookline again. They seem to be never-ending. One curiosity was that I happened to revisit Dorchester Street only to realize that the building on the end of Castlegate was gone. In an earlier post I caught ongoing demolition of The Bradley Place/ DePaul Center. Time flies. There’s only wide open land there now, slated for new development.

Early twilight left sunshine on the houses of Brookline and Overbrook. The first two pictures below are from the top of Castlegate Avenue and the end of Viaduct Way, respectively. The bottom shows just how steep Queensboro Avenue is. All ye runners, do your hill repeats here!!

With the fading sun I saw some fading glory, too. This speedster could’ve been a contender, I daresay. The blossoms, come back year after year, though.

And that was it, a bit over three miles in the ambience of a Brookline Spring evening.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5103612150
Route of Strava run #00392 in Lincoln Place

Here, I revisted Lincoln Place, that sprawling section of Pittsurgh which some mistake for Munhall or West Mifflin. It certainly has a suburban feel, even though from the hilltops you can see downtown.

I thought the white house below was pretty cool. When looking at the picture again, I realized that the neighboring house is nearly identical. Further on, the little brick house has a veritable gravy train of wagons in front of it. Cox Place, a cul-de-sac no less, is prototypical suburbia.