Hellloo 2021! Looking good! No subzero temps, no ice. You’ve not looked this good in years! Maybe you could be a little brighter, but seeing how 2020 was, what’s a few clouds?
Starting off the new year right, I went out on a run on this rainy, chilly day. Between Covid restrictions, rainy weather and the holiday, the Strip was deserted. It actually made the route easier, not having to dodge all that traffic and those slow moving shoppers. With this run, I’ve finished the Strip District. Sorry about the blurry pics, but it was a blurry day anyway.
Through the misty fog, I came across strange glowing sticks planted along the Allegheny. Standing out in the gloom, they shelter newly planted trees.
Crossing over the 16th Street Bridge, I dodged in and out alleys behind restaurants and bars. A couple of store workers were closing up and a few displaced souls roamed the slippery streets. Lights from the new Terminal Building were enticing, but everything was closed.
Along with the new Terminal Building, many buildings, I assume condos, are going up. The old buildings held up by vines will soon be vanishing into the mists themselves.
December 2020 wasn’t too bad in the running sense. Early on, I had missed some days due to quarantining for Covid, but I finished strong and had some long, street eating runs late in the month. The mileage, 79, wasn’t great, but with 8,878 feet of elevation, I once again, gained over 100 feet of elevation per mile. More importantly, for this project, 13 of 15 runs covered new streets and I’ve 99% covered East Hills, completely finished Arlington and continue to make significant progress in Hazelwood, Glenwood, Woods Run, and Brighton Heights neighborhoods.
Without further ado, here are the four remaining runs of December.
Down Mountain Avenue from Arlington lie two mostly forgotten neighborhoods. On the right is the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Mt. Oliver, not to be confused with the Borough of Mt. Oliver, which is adjacent. On the left is the neighborhood of Saint Clair.
Before getting to either of those, I ran down Parkwood Road. From the maps, I understood it to be one of these Pittsburgh roads which fade into the wilderness, probably for landslide reasons. It did become smaller and smaller, and finally was blocked by jersey barriers. However, there was much more traffic than I expected with large dump trucks, a UHaul driver and at least one Lyft ride roaring by.
Moving up to Mt. Oliver, on the other side of Mountain Avenue, I straddled the border between Pittsburgh and Mt. Oliver (the Borough) along Otilla Street. The houses were mainly on the larger size, typical Pittsburgh four-squares. I was surprised at the number of staircases. My favorite was the Como Street steps, between St. Joseph Street and Ormsby Street. It wasn’t on my map at all. The little set from Otilla to Gorgas were also a nice short-cut.
On the other side of Mountain Avenue, Ormsby Street dies off, but not before serious “No Trespassing” and “Private” signs were displayed. Reminds me a lot of the streets on the other side of the ravine, where I had seen similar signs.
St. Clair still has a few streets and houses. However, the large housing development known as St. Clair Village, has been torn down and mostly fenced off. St. Clair Village, was perched on a plateau is isolated from the rest of Pittsburgh by steep ravines on three sides. Unsurprisingly, this site was chosen for housing projects. Regardless of the reason, lots of people lived here, until the housing authority decided to close it down, in 2009. Here’s an article which gives some insight into Saint Clair as well as a blog by Ninetyhoods.
These days part of it is dedicated to urban farming. I have mixed feelings on this. I love gardening, plants and nature and understand that lack of accessibility to healthy food is a large issue. However, sustenance farming is not a ladder to wealth. Education, home ownership and skills applicable to today’s economy are. With its focus on building farming skills and partnering with local schools, perhaps Urban Hilltop Farm will have a outsized impact. I still wonder where the residents moved and whether this large tract of level land in the city could be put to a better use. Finally, this neighborhood has still more stairs, at least one Little Library and lingering decorations.
On a rainy Christmas Eve, I decided to finish out the East Hills. I nearly did it, too, just missing the end of Angora Way. On Strava, there’s a ghost street, Roth Way. After my run, I looked at my route and was deflated to see I had completely missed that alley. Taking a closer look with streetview and satellite pictures shows that the alley doesn’t really exist after all. Grr!
Anyway, there were the normal yard decorations, as well as a REAL snowman who has been melting away. Perhaps the highlight of the run was seeing a group of wild turkeys. They were very clever. As soon as they saw me, they angled away, keeping bushes between me and them. They are large birds. Each one was about twice the size of a house cat.
Toward the end of this half-marathon distance, I came upon another border between Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg. Ridiculously enough, the roads changed names as they crossed the border. At least each municipality thought it was important enough to put up their own street signs.
Turning my attention to Hazelwood’s southern neighbor, Glenwood, I ran from Hazelwood Green to the Glenwood Bridge. It was a cold Sunday afternoon, a couple days after Christmas. Most of the run was on flat streets between Second Avenue and the Monongahela River. Glenwood Railyard spreads out down there. Dyke Avenue is shockingly close to the live tracks, with houses being no more than 50 yards from railcars.
Continuing the theme, I made it to the entrance to the yards. It remineded me a bit of Thomas the Tank Engine, a show my kids loved. For those unfamiliar with Pittsburgh, it is worth noting that surrounding hills are across a river from here.
From here, I climbed the hills a little, making my way back to the car.
RATS #00347 – Downtown
After all these far-flung adventures, I realized I still had streets and alleys Downtown to do. Garmin doesn’t do too well among the downtown buildings, so it looks like I had had too much holiday cheer. It was another run in rain, this time in darkness as well. Not one to take post-card shots, here you’ll see some of the darker areas of town.
I parked near Firstside Park. A couple years ago (just kidding, it was over 20 years ago), I remember seeing the B&O Railway Terminal being dismantled. The hot white flash of cutting torches blazing through the steel beams flashed like sparkling stars even at midday. That demolition was soon replaced by Firstside, which, I understand, houses much of PNC’s computer systems.
Literally overshadowing the end of First Avenue is the Liberty Bridge. The maze of steel beams throws a spidery shadow on the barron slopes below. Not far away, Fourth Avenue ends under the approach ramps to the bridge, providing parking, restricted as it is.
Continuing deeper into Downtown, I was dismayed to find that Strawberry Way was blocked by construction equipment. That threw me off my planned route a bit. Nonetheless, I made my way over towards the Convention Center.
There’s is still some holiday cheer down there, from stars shining on tall buildings to bubbles of “Covid safe” outdoor dining. I’m not sure how safe enclosed outdoor dining is, but I got to hand it to the restaurants being creative and trying to stay afloat. Youth cannot be denied and under the Garrison Place lights a couple was frolicking, even in the rain.
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.
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
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.
RATS #00343 – Arlington
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.
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
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
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.
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!
It was a chilly and wet Friday night. I hadn’t run since Tuesday. I had to get out and cover some streets if I was ever going to finish this project. So, I decided on a short jaunt in Hazelwood. There’s convenient parking, it isn’t too far away and super runner Alyssa’s recent posts about Chance Way motivated me to find it. Actually, I “knew” where it was, a little alley off of Tulleymet Street, but somehow kept missing it. I swear there are micro “Bermuda Triangles” all over Pittsburgh. Small areas which keep obfuscating themselves whenever I try to find them. Chance Way is in one of them.
I started at Hazelwood Green, formerly a coke plant and now undergoing a transformation into a research manufacturing facility. The plan was to go up to Sylvan Street, skip down the Tullymet steps and run Chance Way. Alas, there is another set of steps, Berwick Street, which I mistook for Tulleymet. I was confused not to see Chance Way, but figured it was just too dark. Along Irvine Street, I caught a glimpse of interesting flowers made of glass and rebar. Osprey Way and Finn Way were rather creepy, but music playing from one building gave some semblance of normalcy. It wasn’t until further on, looking down Chaplain Way was that I got the heebie-jeebies and called it a night.
After Friday’s missed attempt at running Chance Way, I enlisted Naomi’s help and took another shot at finding Chance Way. It’s amazing what running in the daylight, with a friend, will do. We passed a veritable garden of flowers made from glass and rebar. I also espied a real garden, all buttoned up for the winter.
Further on, we went up Berwick Street and found the bottom end of Chance Way. It is actually blocked off by jersey barriers, but was passable. That brought us to Tulleymet and the lower section of its three tiers of steps.
From there, we went down Sylvan Avenue, passing the Berwick steps and this old church structure. It looks to be in use as a church or community center, now accepting mask donations.
Continuing on to Tecumseh Street, Champlain Street didn’t look as bad in the noon daylight. It’s still not an area you might go to for a picnic, but it is filled with small houses now broadcasting Christmas music through the streets.
So, while running, I had noticed the mural for Tonee Turner, and took the picture, but didn’t think too much more about it. Only now, as I’m writing, did I realize that she has been missing only since December 30, 2019. Just a week earlier, her sister and friends had had a walk to remind Pittsburgh she has never been found. This news story on KDKA tells more about it. It is worth noting that, while the mural was here in ragged Hazelwood, she was last seen in splendid Squirrel Hill. It is rather disconcerting that this happened at all, much less in places I’m very familiar with.
Moving on from the flats, we charged up the West Elizabeth Street railroad overpass. Need any tires? This wooden warehouse is full of them. At least they haven’t been dumped on a hillside yet. On the horizon were hillier parts of Hazelwood, past St. Stephen’s.
Up the hills we went. Found the sun on Rose Way and chatted with the owner of this overwhelmingly decorated house. Shortly afterwards, we made it to the top of Ashton Avenue, where it meets Mansion Street. Mansion Street has a nice set of steps down to Johnston Avenue.
Now we made our way down Johnston Avenue to Second Avenue. There are a couple of interesting places along Second Avenue, such as the French bakery, La Gourmandine and the Hungarian restaurant, Jozsa Corner.
Finally, we made it back to Hazelwood Green. I stopped to read about its future while Naomi rounded out her mileage. In spite of the 550′ of elevation she was still smiling.
This blog will cover two runs I did earlier in December. RATS #00335 covered yet more little streets in Mount Washington. It seems that every time I look at my maps, I discover another missed street there. The second, RATS #00336, was a foray into East Carnegie, a small (Western) neighborhood jutting into Carnegie, a borough separate from Pittsburgh.
RATS #00335 – Niggly Alleys in Mount Washington
By this point, if you’ve read anything about Pittsburgh or followed this blog at all, you’ll know that Mount Washington has iconic views of Pittsburgh, overlooking the Point, where the Ohio is formed at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. Inevitably, I got a couple of such views.
However, I really planned this run to cover Beam Way, Laura Way (aka Thorpe Way on Google Maps) and Dill Way. I also had my eye on Volk Street, but I was unsure about it since it was marked as a “private drive”. Sometimes, a “private drive” is gated and guarded against the common folk. Perhaps that was their vision, but going up Volk’s street steps, I gather that maybe the rest of Mount Washington should be guarded from Volk Street. Laura Way is more of a service driveway between a couple of eateries.
That is it. Any run in December is a good run. And, it looks like I just have one more super-niggly alley to do in Mount Washington before finishing that whole damn area.
RATS #00336 – East Carnegie
East Carnegie is a small neighborhood in the western fringe of Pittsburgh; beyond Westwood and beyond Oakwood. It is generally bounded by Noblestown Road, Chartiers Cemetery and Chartiers Creek. This was my first foray into East Carnegie and I actually parked in Carnegie’s business district to trot over.
I’m always happy to see the “Welcome to Pittsburgh” signs on a run. However, East Carnegie is rather dominated by warehouses and mills along Chartiers Creek, and there’s not too much to see there. It was one of the flattest areas I’ve seen around here.
In Pittsburgh, ‘flat and near creeks‘ often spells “F L O O D I N G”. A cursory search revealed a few instances of flash flooding in East Carnegie, but not too much in the last decade. Mine run-off, seems to be a more persistent problem. This small creek, “Whiskey Run” is on the border with Carnegie and has the tell-tale orange look of an iron-laden stream. It doesn’t seem to impact Chartiers Creek much, but it does flow there.
In spite of the quiet and out-of-the-way nature of this neighborhood, while I was running, a car went off the road on Idlewood Road, so I avoided that area. I’ll be back, to get, all those, niggly streets.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.