Chasing Deer and Climbing Steps

RATS #00269

Getting out of my isolation bubble for a bit, I ran Friday night with George, exploring the streets of Perry South. It was good to have the company and George got a taste of winding in and out of streets like true RATS. Hanging out before the run, I noticed this marker buried deep in the ground. It was a hot evening but we quickly made it to the Norwood Avenue steps, a harbinger of the remainder of the run.

Norwood Avenue plunges from Marshall Avenue to North Charles Street. Unfortunately, we had to keep going up and down that hill. The neighborhood was active, with people out on most of the porches, a few Friday gatherings, dog walkers and kids on bikes. Along one alley, we surprised a doe and a fawn out for an evening walk.

Along another street, an older woman swept the sidewalk as a little boy played with rocks, while across the street, large butterflies had been caught in a chain-link net.

And then, there were steps. It started slowly, with the gradual steps at the bottom of Norwood. Then it picked up a bit Delger Street. Those wooden steps were in pretty good shape, except one missing tread. It also was a convenient shortcut to the Delger Street, really an alley. Mayfield Avenue had a long series of street steps as it bucked up the hill like a horse.

Finally, as we rounded out one Quartz Way, we came to the Hawkins Street steps. They rose, block after block, from the ravine floor at Leland Street to their apex at Veteran Street, crossing Shelton Street, Ellis Street, and Perrysville Avenue.

Scooting down Veteran Street, we made our way back to the park. It was a solid run on a hot Friday evening.

No Shortcuts in Westwood

https://www.strava.com/activities/3656397341
RATS #00258 in Westwood

There it was! My Goal! I could see the Shop ‘N Save through the trees. It was RIGHT there! I checked Google Maps to make sure, for, to paraphrase Dean Karnazes “It doesn’t matter how fast you go if you’re going in the wrong direction.” Yes! Just go on Manley and cross Noblestown Road. My rather jolting evening run would be done!

But no, nada, zip; it was not meant to be. Even if my rule following self could manage to ignore “Road Closed”, “Construction Zone Ahead”, “DANGER, DO NOT ENTER”, “!! DANGER !! NO PEDESTRIANS” and “Street Closed Ahead” signs, the orange mesh construction fence drove the point home. No doubt there were land mines and sinkholes on the other side, too.

Road Closed? Are You Sure?

So, why the rush? Honestly it wasn’t too urgent, I was just trying to keep my mileage down. The evening’s run through Westwood was very productive, but a bit longer than planned. I have extolled the virtues of Westwood before. It is convenient, the area is well maintained and there’s a variety of houses. Unlike the east side of Noblestown Road, this area isn’t extremely hilly; except for Barr Avenue, and Mueller Avenue, and Brett Avenue, and…

But at least there weren’t many stairs. Just a couple from Clearview Avenue to Crafton Boulevard and that overgrown set of street stairs on Mueller.

Overall, the neighborhood was fun to run in. Mileage piles up quickly on the gently winding streets. At times, it’s quite the puzzler to figure out if you’re in the Borough of Crafton or the City of Pittsburgh. Sometimes a telltale diagonal line across a street indicates a change of jurisdiction. Otherwise, it is the blue City of Pittsburgh street signs which, once again, show the way. There are some very impressive homes and there are housing projects. The housing project I went through was teeming with children of all ages, from toddlers trying to kick soccer balls half their height to bicycle-riding tween girls zipping between the parked cars. Families were taking neighborhood walks; whole caravans of mothers, fathers, grandmothers, strollers and kids.

I also saw this box of magic, a brightly lettered Little Library.

Eventually, I found my way around the construction detour, finishing with over five miles. It was the longest run in ten days and portends good things for the rest of the summer.

Noble way to Crafton Heights

https://www.strava.com/activities/3447167472
RATS #00238 – Into Crafton Heights from Noblestown Road

This was a pretty well-planned run in Crafton Heights. Instead of approaching Crafton Heights from Steuben Street, I approached it from Noblestown Road. Honestly, a big draw was the availability of parking at the Shop ‘N Save on Noblestown Road. I wasn’t familiar with the area and didn’t know what to expect. I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised and look forward to running more in this area.

To get to my designated parking spot at the Shop N Save, I actually went out of the city on the Parkway West, exiting at Greentree. A few minutes and a few turns later, there I was, pulling into a rather empty parking lot. Social distancing and Covid19 fears has certainly made traffic lighter!

Noblestown Road, at this point, is a broad avenue crossing street after street of modest two and three bedroom houses built in the 1950’s. It sweeps down to Crafton Boulevard, where I took a left and caught Stratmore Street as it climbed steeply. I turned around at Steuben Street, which is the border between Pittsburgh and Ingram. From there, I went back and forth on the grid of streets between Stratmore and Arnold. Much of the area resembled Hollywood Street shown above.

Round Top Street dives down a particularly steep hill. It also has one of the newest set of steps I’ve seen in the city.

Round Top Street Steps

Eventually, I got to Clairhaven Street. For cars, that’s where you have to turn left onto Norwalk Street, but people can take steps from Clairhaven Street to Arnold Street. These stairs are a little wonky. The wooden top section is a work-around. Older concrete stairs, having fallen into disrepair, were simply bypassed. There are two “orphan houses” here. An “orphan house” only has entrances on the stairs.

Crossing Crafton Boulevard again, I came across this, the busiest front yard in the ‘Burgh. They had at least a dozen shiny mannequin heads on stakes.

How many lawn decorations can you count?

Making my way back to the car, I was happy with this nice run in the sun in a pleasant part of Pittsburgh. I’ll be back.

Sheraden Grid to Windgap

https://www.strava.com/activities/3351885713
Taking RATS #00225 to Windgap

“Sheradenia est omnis divisa in partes tres” – to loosely copy Julius Ceasar. (No worries, legions of Romans aren’t set to invade it.) There is the generally flat plateau overlooking the Ohio River; the flat grid between Sheraden Park and Chartiers Avenue; and the hilly section south and west of Chartiers Avenue. Most of today’s run was in the second section, between Sheraden Park and Chartiers Avenue.

Division of Sheraden into three parts

I parked near McGonigle Park and started the crisscrossing streets. Almost every yard had a dog. And every dog had something to say, starting with the large old black and brown dog who “woofed” at me vigorously, but didn’t bother to get up. Finishing up Universal Street, a young brown dog had lots to say as he breathlessly barked and leaped against his fence, trying to take a bite of a me. At least we both got our heart rates up.

Typical Sheraden Street.

But the people were nice, greeting me as they worked on their houses. Near the parks, the streets are pleasantly sheltered by tall trees. There’s supposed to be a set of steps which go from Moyer to Chartiers Avenue but the top is blocked by fencing. On the other end of the grid, Jean Street dissolves into broken steps descending to Adon Street.

The grid of streets, with a little duplication, covered six miles. Then I crossed Chartiers Avenue, planning to go up the Universal Street steps into the hillier section of Sheraden. However, the lower section of Universal is overgrown, so I went up the very steep Emporia Street. The top section of steps was OK, and I went all the way to Chetopas Street, where I got this broad view.

This hillier section Sheraden is riddled with steps, as streets cross Chartiers Avenue and run into a bluff. Huxley Street and Adon Street, for example, continue across Chartiers and meet as a step intersection.

Huxley and Adon Intersection

Then I made my way to Middletown Avenue. I had done portions of Middletown before. This time, however, I was intent on following it to its bitter end. Turns out, it lands in a flat, wide-open suburban area.

I crossed the Windgap Bridge which briefly took me into McKees Rocks. That is out of the City of Pittsburgh, so I returned to explore more of the Windgap neighborhood.

Traversing the big wide open streets of Windgap, I found the end of Chartiers Avenue. It just stops at the intersection with Mayfair Street, a residential, suburban street. I made my way back to Sheraden along Chartiers Avenue. I was a little short of my intended fifteen miles, so I wandered a bit in the center of Sheraden, where I saw this bold butterfly mural.

Criss-Crossing the Hill

RATS #00217 – Hill District

Recently I have been traveling to different areas of Pittsburgh to find new streets and run them. Today’s run was closer to home, in the Hill District. The Hill District has several long parallel streets which roughly go from the hilltop above the University of Pittsburgh to Downtown Pittsburgh. These streets, Bedford, Webster, Wylie and Centre are the main thoroughfares which people take through the Hill District and I’ve already run them. Today’s run was about the smaller streets crisscrossing those major roads.

I had parked in West Oakland, so from this perspective, the small streets begin at a low elevation along Centre and rise to the cliffs off of Bedford Avenue. This is properly called the Middle Hill. Over the years, many of the structures in this area have been torn down, so now, there are plenty wide open grassy blocks.

I started with Junilla Street Steps, which come off of Centre Avenue. It continues, sometimes as a street and sometimes as steps, all the way to Bedford Avenue. Along one stretch of Junilla Street, I saw a few turkeys and heard their gobbles. Groundhogs were freely roaming in the vacant lots.

Morgan Street starts rather wide-open and then closes in as you reach Elba Street. From previous adventures, I call the flight of steps from Morgan to Centre the “Who’s You!” steps.

Briefly put, I had been accompanying a friend along these steps when she decided to go down to Centre Avenue to take pics. For some reason (perhaps because I had run a long way), I just hung out on the sidewalk in front of the porch in my black hoodie and woolen Army beanie. Turns out, a tall dude in a black hoodie and a woolen Army beanie hanging out in front of your porch in the Hill District can be a concern. After a few minutes, I heard some shouting. From the street above, a big black guy in a brown jacket was yelling:

“Who’s You? Who’s You?”

I had just realized he was yelling at me when my companion sprightly sprang up the steps, gave some big smiles and whisked me away. Whew! Even now I muse, “What was the proper response?… I am me?”

But I digress.

Francis Street was interesting. Starting from Centre, it is a rather broad avenue heading up the hill. Then, as I crossed Wylie Avenue, it became a cul-de-sac of newer, rather suburban housing. I did the big circle and went out the way I had come. Later, as I started down Francis Street from the other direction I spied some steps, took them, and again landed in the suburban cul-de-sac. Surprise, surprise.

Coming down the Watt Street steps provided a nice view of Christian Tabernacle Church. I gradually made my way towards the Upper Hill, aka Sugar Top, where the big blue water tower lives. I finished off Milwaukee Street and a few little streets before heading down Herron Avenue and headed back to my car. No one shouting at me today. Thank goodness for social distancing.

Take the Stairs Fatass 50k – DNF

https://www.strava.com/activities/3255634085
RATS #00213: Take the Stairs Fatass 50k (DNF) Got 17 miles in

Last Saturday I decided to take a shot at the 50k “Take the Stairs Fatass” route. The weather was pretty good, but I got a late start (it was close to noon) by the time I got out. Now, treating this more seriously than I did the 25k route, I suited up like I was doing Hyner. I dug into my ultra gear box where I found treasures such as TP and hand wipes.

Much of the route I’ve documented already, but I did hit a number of new streets and stairs. I also had the good fortune to meet up with Sherpes Hasher, who was doing the route in the opposite direction. There were a couple of snafus – Vista Street steps are under construction, which I had forgotten. Early on, I added in the steps from Howard St to Compromise Street, an effort which likely contributed to an overall DNF. But, I’m not too sad about this DNF, I covered seventeen miles with over 3,500 feet of elevation and traversed at least 37 sets of city stairs before calling it a day on Wyoming Ave.

Here are the pics. Take Dramamine now if you have vertigo…

Spring Hill City View Area

Rising Main and Fineview

Perry South/Marshall/California-Kirkbride

West End & Elliot

Duquesne Heights & Mount Washington

That’s all, folks! One day, I will persist!

elliot

RATS #00203 – Elliot and West End

A day after running around the city and taking every stair I could, I was ready for the flat lands; no hills, no steps, no views. I just wanted the horizon to disappear in front of me, an unreachable challenge. Then I woke up and remembered that I was living in Pittsburgh!

For today’s run, I decided to check out the neighborhood around West End Park. Last Fall, I had attended an outdoor fashion show in the West End, off of South Main Street on Sanctus Street. That area seemed flat and I figured this area would be similar, I mean how much can things change in a mile?

Turns out, a lot. I parked near West End Park and ran down Kerr Street. Immediately, I came upon a very impressive set of steps leading far down. Their siren’s song drew me in and shortly, I found myself at the bottom, looking way up. I would have to ascend that eventually, and for now, went up Walbridge Street.

This twisting, steep street has some remarkable houses perched on its edge. Branching off of Walbridge, several small streets transform you from an urban runner in Pittsburgh to a wandering soul in the back roads of West Virginia.

My run planning had just set general boundaries – don’t go past Steuban Street or Route 60; leaving the exact route up to life’s realities. So, I just went back and forth on small streets and alleys. As it was a nice Sunday morning, people were out and about. Many were working in their yards and houses. Others were walking their dogs.

I was surprised at a few things I found. First was the back street full of boats. Next was the amazing view of the Ohio River near the Casino. Then, there were some really large and beautiful houses up here.

Of course, there were more stairs. The Hassler St Stairs off of Wymore are marked on my OpenStreetsMaps but not on Google. Usually Google is more accurate. I’d have to check again, but I at first glance didn’t see them in Bob Regan’s book, either. Also of note are the Lorenz Avenue stairs, which start slowly, just one step every ten yards before plunging down the hillside like proper steps. Elbon Street was surprisingly long. At one section, it bordered on an artifact of urban redevelopment – former Mayor Tom Murphy’s “Project Picket Fence”.

All in all, this was a cool area to run in. On a sunny Sunday morning, it couldn’t have been better.

St. Patrick’s Day Run – 200th Run Milestone

Today, I’ll combine a couple of runs, done on consecutive days in roughly the same area. Of course, they conquered separate streets, but otherwise were very similar. These were both run in that wedge of the city between Butler Street and Liberty Avenue, as they diverge from 34th Street.

In addition, my run on St. Patrick’s Day was my 200th RATS run! Soon, I’ll update my official map and databases. I’ve made a lot of progress recently. CityStrides claims I’ve run 33% of the city. It’s not 100% accurate but pretty close. Does that mean 600 runs? Ha! I think it’ll be closer to 350.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3189927969
RATS #00199
https://www.strava.com/activities/3192894025
St. Patrick’s Day Run – Also RATS Run #00200!

Monday’s run, RATS #00199, started on Liberty Avenue, with a specific goal of covering Saint James Place and Mintwood Street. This area is a tight grid of small streets and packed alleys. But the grid is haphazard at times, with alleys stopping and small streets only going a couple of blocks.

On Monday, my run continued as dusk settled into night. Kids, off of school and still energetic, giggled and laughed as they wandered the streets in small groups. I came across some cool doors, even on the darkest alleys. In the dark, the slightest glimmer of light is artistic and wonderful.

On Tuesday, I ran by flaming entrance complementing the dark trees of the back exit. It was St. Patrick’s Day, so I donned festive green regalia. Clanging green beads set off dogs throughout Lawrenceville, reminding me of the “Twilight Bark” in 101 Dalmations.

“Arf! Arf! Woof! Woof! Yip,yip, yip!”

I got a kick out of this “Kiln -N- Time” studio and was struck by this impressive cross on a back-alley. But all, in all, the big orange alley cat was my favorite.

All in all, a good run, helping deal with the ongoing cyclone of upheaval. There’s lots of good out there.

Climbing Crumbling Stairs

https://www.strava.com/activities/3186942297
RATS #00198

This sunny run took me from the flats of Upper Lawrenceville to the heights of Stanton Heights along several precarious paths. As the reality sets in of Covid-19 social distancing, it was solo run without any stops at cute little coffee shops. I mainly was focused on a couple of streets with staircases, 56th Street and 57th Street.

I warmed up on the flats between Butler Street and the Allegheny River. This area is seeing new residential development, but still hosts large warehouses such as A-1 Cold Storage, the impressive buildings of McKamish, a mechanical contractor and a Sunoco facility. As for Sunoco, it was founded in Pittsburgh, apparently:

Joseph Newton Pew and Edward O. Emerson were partners at Peoples Natural Gas Company in Pittsburgh, PA, when they decided to expand their gas business to oil. It proved to be a success. Within a few years, the oil company had acquired pipelines, leases and storage tanks – emerging as one of the area’s leading suppliers of crude oil. On March 17, 1890, they made it official with a new name. The Sun Oil Company was producing, transporting, and storing oil as well as refining, shipping, and marketing petroleum.

https://www.sunoco.com/about-us

Who knew?

Now warmed up, I began to tackle the first objective, the 57th Street stairs and a small set of streets perched mid-way on the hillside. The stairs begin where the paved 57th Street turns left and becomes Christopher Street. The first section is very solid. Getting a breather at Duncan Street, stairs continued, ostensibly to Camelia Street for an official total of 345 steps according to Bob Regan’s book.

I had done streets on the top earlier and knew there might be a “connection issue” but, from a distance, I saw an individual climbing the second set of stairs. They disappeared as I went up this next flight. After three or four houses on the right, the stairs became challenging. Treads were sometimes missing. Railings were sometimes missing. Hell, at points, even landings were missing. However, not all at once, so was able to I scrambled up. Near the top, vegetation took over and I could not proceed.

I did the little circuit of streets, Duncan, Wickliff, a section of 56th Street and made my way down to Butler Street. This time I would ascend the 56th Street Stairs from the bottom. Now, just as 56th Street turns into the Shop & Save parking lot, stairs rise majestically up the hill. I must say, they are “officially closed” here, but I slipped through. Same story as 57th Street Stairs – missing treads, missing landings, but actually passable for the nimble.

The first section was the only one which was closed. After that, they become street stairs along the section of 56th Street I had already done. There is another section which ascends to Celadine Street, all in good shape.

Once at the top, I did some streets in Stanton Height and made my way down Kendall Street – a very steep, cobblestone street which masquerades as a country road. That brought me out to Kent Street, taking me back to the flats.

Kendall Street

‘Sno Way! A Trek through Morningside and Stanton Heights

https://www.strava.com/activities/3183121606
RATS #00197

Much has happened since my last post. Most notably, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has become rampant across the world and has started to make real, day-to-day impacts on the lives of Americans in general and Pittsburgh in particular. There’s lots of ‘news’, some of it suspect and some of it very solid. Johns Hopkins’ site is pretty informative. In general, the genie is out of the bottle and ‘social distancing’ is being stressed in order to mitigate the effects of the virus. Hopefully, this effort to quash large groups will decrease the total number of cases of covid-19, and spread out the number of cases, so people who are severely sick can get the care they will need. Enough about that.

For the time being, I’ll be avoiding large group runs, but my Spring marathon hasn’t been moved or cancelled and I still have hundreds of Pittsburgh streets to run. Today I started out with Cathy, running from Point Breeze. Cathy wanted some company on the back-half of the Pittsburgh Marathon course, so we ran together for about five miles.

Then I headed over to Morningside to finish some streets in that area, notably Snow Way and pop up into Stanton Heights. So, running up Stanton, I expected to see an alley on the right, with a four letter name starting with “S”. There it was, Swan Way? Hmm, cool house on the corner, a long alley, this must be it. Swan Way continued deep into Morningside, nearly a mile. As I progressed, I dutifully went up and down many of the cross streets. When I got to Martha Street, I finally noticed street signs for Snow Way and realized I had made a mistake. Well, as they say “nothing to it but to do it“, so I made my way back to Stanton in order to pick up the start of Snow Way. Turns out, that’s nigh impossible since Snow Way, while getting really, really close to Stanton Ave, actually dead-ends in a retaining wall holding that street up. To make matters worse, it progresses only a couple of blocks before becoming a grassy track behind houses.. Thanks for the stop sign, neighbor. It does pick up on the far side, though and parallels Swan Way up the hill.

Morningside is a rather nice neighborhood. The well-maintained houses are pretty tight with each other, but each has a yard and often a garage off the alley. At the high end of Morningside, the Baker Street overlooks the Allegheny while on Jancey Street, the old elementary school, Morningside Public School, is now apartments.

From the top end of Morningside, there are three ways to quickly reach Stanton Heights, two sets of staircases without streets (Martha and Adelphia) and a steep street with sidewalk steps (Greenwood).

Going up Greenwood, I was pleasantly surprised at this piece of Stanton Heights. It was similar to Morningside with bigger houses, large shade trees and quiet streets. Since I had gone up Adelphia’s wooden stairs where pieces of asphalt roofing shingles were thoughtfully nailed down for traction, I actually went down Martha concrete steps, all 105 of them. At the bottom, I was vigorously chased by a freedom loving tiny weiner dog, no more than six inches high. Man, those tiny legs can move!

Stanton Heights

Heading to Stanton Heights once more, I was greeted by the official Stanton Heights welcome sign. My hands were still shaking from the weiner dog incident, so the pic is blurry. I covered more streets behind Sunnyside Elementary School then followed Camelia Street, Christopher Street and 57th Street to Upper Lawrenceville. On that steep route down into Lawrenceville, I saw several immense sets of stairs off to the left, which I will have to cover later. I stopped at Caffe d’Amore Coffeeshop, over sixteen miles done and many new streets covered.