Wells of Steps

https://www.strava.com/activities/3248165617
RATS #00212 – Duquesne Heights

This was a few miles around Duquesne Heights – the stepchild of Mount Washington. While my main purpose was to completely traverse Well Street, I made it from the great views of Grandview Avenue to the industrial bottom of Shaler Street.

I started out on Grandview Avenue. The view never gets old, especially on a clear sunny evening.

The grid of streets below Grandview are lined with modest houses with small yards. The alleys here mainly give access to garages and garden gates. They are also ideal playgrounds. Nice to see hopscotch markings and some gratitude for the garbage workers, but watch out for crouching panthers.

Shaler Street is a back-way off of Mt. Washington. It falls steeply through the Duquense Heights greenway and emerges between the pink buildings of the Minnotte Manufacturing Company. I ran around the block before heading back up the hill.

Finally, I started on Well Street, my target. From Shaler Street, it jumps up, hill after hill, stair after stair, until it reaches Oneida Street.

Well Street steps – some of them at least

Completing Well Street, I made my way back to the car. Another cool run in a super hilly section of Pittsburgh.

Warning: Bridge Closed Ahead

https://www.strava.com/activities/3218505142
RATS #00206 – Termon Avenue and Brighton Heights
https://www.strava.com/activities/3236598779
RATS #00210 – Riverview Park to Gass Ave and back

Last Wednesday, I decided to run in Brighton Heights, centering on Termon Avenue and catching a few additional streets. Yesterday, I had very much the same thought about Riverview Park and its environs. Turns out that these were complementary adventures, each one reaching opposing piers of the former Davis Avenue Bridge. Both runs also traversed Woods Run Road and found pink houses along the way.

On a brilliant evening I started on Terman Avenue , which stretches from an Ohio River overlook to Brighton Heights Park. Overall, this was a great area for running with wide streets and a vibrant neighborhood. It was relatively flat for awhile, then ended in steps and ravines as often always happens in Pittsburgh. I went up Wapello Street stairs to Cornell Street and did Harvard Circle, which was a bit disappointing. Instead of a level green lawn with libraries and philosophers discussing the meaning of life, it was a narrow street ringed by modest houses enclosing a hill of wild trees.

Zig-zagging along Aqua Way, I hit another section of the Wapello Street Stairs, adorned with these Spring=like tree murals.

Going up and down the streets, I noticed a rather old detour sign saying the Davis Avenue Bridge was closed. Being who I am, I had to see just how closed it was. I was hoping for maybe a pedestrian path across a little bridge, or a sidewalk available next to some construction. In fact, the pier was substantial, but the bridge itself was gone. The Davis Avenue Bridge had been closed for YEARS, eleven to be exact.

Now, I’ll fast forward to yesterday’s run starting in Riverview Park. I parked along the grand promenade into the park. The apex of the park is Allegheny Observatory.

Running around and around the park roads eventually took me to Woods Run. Roughly my target was to go up Gass Street, and circle back around. Along the way, I got a call from work, so for a few confusing blocks, I was doing phone support for an ERP while finding my way around small streets and stairs above Woods Run Road. I suppose I could have just stopped.

Finally getting off the call, I found myself under Shadeland Avenue Bridge. I got an up-close look at the big church under the California Avenue Bridge. Apparently it is historic and seems to still have services. Unfortunately, it is a big building and in disrepair, so I hope that congregation can keep it maintained.

Finally, I found the Gass Avenue Steps, which lead to a very steep Gass Street, but high on the other side of Woods Run. I took the long way around and came back to Riverview Park via Bascom Avenue, passing Perry Traditional Academy.

So, it the neighborhoods in Northern Pittsburgh are divided by the great Woods Run chasm. The only bridge to span that ravine is gone and getting from one side to the other is quite the chore now.

Nautical Miles

RATS #00204 Crossing the Equator – South Pacific to North Pacific

For this excursion, I did a few nautical miles, going from South Pacific to North Pacific, crossing over a land bridge and coming back down the North Atlantic and South Atlantic.

Along the way I saw what I took to be the Customs House, in its official red.

I had to walk the plank up these North Pacific Stairs.

North Pacific becomes steps

Slithered past a great green sea monster.

Sea Serpent Mural along North Pacific

Made it to island houses perched on the mountain top.

And finally came to the lighthouse, doubling as a water tower.

(It kinda looks like a spaceship frozen in place during take-off. )

The return trip was swathed in misty, swirling clouds and intermittent rain, as the North Atlantic often is. Approaching my car Captain John Parker hailed me in Friendship and I saluted back. Social distancing even on the oceans.

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.

Take The Stairs 25K

https://www.strava.com/activities/3211259821
RATS #00202 – Take The Stairs Fatass 25K

I went ahead and did the whole route of the planned “Take The Stairs Fatass 25k” last Sunday. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know that I had organized an event for March 29, for unsupported (Fatass) runs of 25K and 50k around Pittsburgh, focusing on using Pittsburgh’s public stairs. There were over 125 people signed up and another 50-60 on the wait list. I have t-shirts which will be arriving soon (for a small price of $15). However, with the Covid19 pandemic, this event has been canceled. Restaurants, especially Threadbare, our starting point, will be closed except for take-out. We’re supposed to stay at home, except to get exercise and aren’t supposed to gather in groups.

So, this turned out to be a solo run. While I used RunGo to guide me along the route, there were a couple of glitches. Apparently it doesn’t understand that there are steps through the concrete pier of the 31st Street train trestle. Can you believe that? Sometimes it told me to make a right or left turn when there weren’t any turns to make. Then, it kept telling me to make a turn off of a perfectly good road onto a cliff. Actually, that was OK, it was just directing me to steps.

And steps I did. I counted thirty bona fide flights of stairs. I started with the Basin Streets steps, which took me from Spring Garden up and across Troy Hill. One thing about Rungo; if it doesn’t say anything you’re supposed to continue straight.

The roller coaster ride took me down the steps to Vinial Street, near Penn Brewery. My amazing route brilliantly directed me up Troy Hill Road, only to plunge off the cliff on the Troy Hill steps, those multi-level, swirling steps leading to the bike path along Route 28. I had a bit of a breather as I crossed the 31st Street Bridge and ran along Spring Way in the Strip District.

Here, Rungo wanted me to keep going to the next street, but I knew better and went through the silly little stair case through the pier. Now I got into serious step country, Polish Hill. Throw a rock in any direction and you’re likely to hit a set of stairs. Jewel Street, Harding Way, they were all on this route.

With just about a 5K done, I had covered over 900′ of elevation with a half dozen flights of stairs. The fun was just beginning. Next was the climb into the Hill District. Finland Street, which starts in Polish Hill, doesn’t let slopes break it up, it just transforms, as a shape-shifter, from road to stairs as needed. Here, we see it intersecting Bismark. I must admit, I ran up and down Bismark because I hadn’t done it before. It’s not really on the route.

Moving on up Ridgeway to Monroe, I got to the long Orion flight. Those pop out right next to a distressed house, which can be unnerving. But, no worries, I continued down Webster, making sure to take a right there. From this point, there weren’t anymore stairs until the Southside. That was just a lack of imagination on my part, as I suppose I could have gone down Chauncy Street Stairs. But then I would have missed a great musical mural.

Wylie Avenue and Kirkpatrick Street.

I had another breather as I crossed the Birmingham Bridge and made a left on East Carson Street. Before heading into the maze of steps known as the Southside Slopes, I came across this mural on the Birmingham Bridge Tavern.

Birmingham Bridge Tavern

Now, Southside Slopes is the Mecca for city stairs. With sixty-eight sets of stairs, it has, far and away, more steps than any other section of Pittsburgh. Many of them provide sweeping views.

There is more to see than just steps, of course. I do like these murals on Old Arlington Avenue Streetcar Loop.

The slopes are somewhat divided by a large greenway and South Side Slopes Park. The steps above are on the East side. On the West Side of that greenspace are long stairways like the S 18th Street steps, Yard Way, and St. Thomas Street. Eventually a set of winding stairs on South 15th Street took me down to the flats. Here I had another breather as I crossed the 10th Street Bridge.

The official route takes one through the Armstrong Tunnels in a rush to get across downtown. However, sitting at the light at 10th and Second Avenue, I noticed a rather long flight of steps up. I decided to take it instead of the tunnel.

Rejoining the route at outflow of the Armstrong tunnels, I continued across Downtown and the Northside. I ascended James Street, up the stairs past Henderson and on up. This is Fineview, and indeed, has a fine view of the city. Between detours, intentional and accidental, I was already at 15 miles coming to Rising Main. From the top, it just looks like another step off the cliff, but then you see it spread out before you. Hope you don’t have vertigo!

After crossing 279 on Gerst Way, a pedestrian bridge, you come to East Street. The next set of stairs should really be closed, but they’re not. Watch out for a landing that has fallen through as you go up to Radner Street and make a left. Do not go up the next set of stairs on your right. It leads to a blocked-off street which is overgrown and has at least one manhole without a cover. Of course, that’s what I did. @@

Coming back on course to Radner and Rostock, I caught the modest set of stairs up to Solar Street. At this point, you’re less than a mile from Thredbare, using the impressive Lappe Lane stairways to get there. My phone battery was very low, so I didn’t get a picture of them. Whew, that was it! Back at Threadbare, I jumped into my car and sped home, about 17 miles in the bank and 3,200 feet of elevation.

Seeing Cathy in Greenfield

https://www.strava.com/activities/3198970525
RATS #00201

It’s been rough, this social distancing. I decided I needed something. I was a bit ashamed at the overwhelming nature of this urge, a bit cautious lest my friends found out that I had broken the rules, but it was too much to resist. I went up the Blanton Street steps, quiet as a mouse. Then, I skulked up and down a few streets and alleys in Greenfield on a cool evening, kissed with mist.

Then I saw her! Wow, what a beauty! She’s proud and prominent, a little hard to get close to, but, OMG! I love you, Cathy.

Is was exhausting, yet exhilarating. And just like that it was over. I snuck down the Yoder Street Stairs and quietly jogged to my car. Whew, what a night! Just don’t tell my girlfriend. 😉

Twilight in Troy Hill

https://www.strava.com/activities/3157829193
RATS #00195 – Troy Hill

For this run, I met with Steel City folks at the start, but decided to run in Troy Hill instead of following the officially christened route. Turns out, that was a wise decision. At any rate, it was good to mingle with Steel City runners afterwards in the cozy confines of Penn Brewery.

As with any run which starts down low and goes high, stairs are involved. I started out trying to find the steps up to Troy Hill, passing an old guy who just seemed to be a shadow of his old self, before turning up the 177 steps to Province Street.

Once my heart rate settled down a bit, I was able to enjoy the sunset as it painted the city of Pittsburgh across the Allegheny. The area is marked by narrow streets, surprisingly flat. Just stay off the edges, where steep streets and steps plunge off the Troy Hill plateau to either Route 28 or Spring Garden Avenue.

In the past, I had traversed Troy Hill on steps tours with @mis.steps, exploring the many stairways in this area. There are at least eleven sets of them trickling down the hillsides. Tonight, though, I generally kept to the narrow streets, passing landmarks, such as this old building in the sky’s last glow.

As I pushed further into Troy Hill, away from Vinial Street, I found the houses increase in size and yards become larger. It was still a maze, with many dead-ends and many opportunities to take fall into Spring Garden. Eventually, I went down Wicklines Street to Spring Garden Avenue, briefly running up Lager Street with the idea of taking the stairs there. However, they looked spooky, so decided to continue on the flats back to Penn Brewery.

Harpster Street Stairs

As Steel City runners returned, they were all abuzz and chattering about blocked off roads, a policeman getting shot and a continued search for the gunman. It turns out, that indeed happened. Their route was now a police investigation zone. It is frightening to just come across that; sad that the policeman was injured and the shooter, himself, was shot and died.

Polishing Off Polish Hill

https://www.strava.com/activities/3151937253
RATS #00194

This was a five miler through Polish Hill, trying to finish this tight neighborhood of narrow streets, impossible hills and stairs. I ran right after work, as a chilly evening rainstorm swept past. That storm was not fun, as the wind tried to tear my jacket off and the steep streets turned into rivers. Luckily, it didn’t last long.

Polish Hill is now an eclectic mix of the narrow old houses perched on cliffs, spectacular, renovated, $450k homes and small businesses. The WORLD HEADQUARTERS of Pepper’s – which sells polarized sports sunglasses, is unceremoniously perched on Pulaski Way, atop a cliff overlooking Liberty Avenue. Herron Ave winds steeply from Bigelow Boulevard to Liberty Avenue, cutting Polish Hill in two.

Back on the narrow, winding streets off of Herron, homeowners stake out extra space, from making dead-end stubs of streets their personal parking spots to reclaiming a bit of the hillside. I love this “Kenny’s Woods” sign, looking just like the ubiquitous “Kennywood” signs you see all over town. Of course there are stairs. Jewel Street stairs intersects Flavian steps on a landing.

Now starting to dry out, I made my way down Herron Avenue and onto Sassafrass Street on the other side of the East Busway. This valley road becomes Neville Street, then Lorigan Street as it passes far under the Bloomfield Bridge. Car dealerships keep excess inventory down hill, behind barbed wire fences. There is a cool place down here, Iron Eden, which makes ornamental ironwork and looks like some bizarre hovel in a medieval tale. Continuing on Lorigan took me to the Ella Street Stairs. These climb the high hill with a few turns, eventually leading to Ella Street (if you go straight), or Wertz Way (if you make the right turn at the last landing).

I saw a toy truck on one of the landings. I can just imagine a six year old boy playing with his truck there, only to be called away by his Mom, accidentally leaving the truck. He was probably forbidden to go on those stairs anymore, and after a few years moved away. I can’t imagine he forgot about it. I hope that one day, as an old man with grandchildren, he takes them back to visit his old neighborhood and finds his truck still there.

Toy Truck

Coming back through Bloomfield and Lower Lawrenceville, I crossed the Herron Avenue Bridge again. Immediately after crossing the bridge, there is an impressive set of stairs on the right. These Downing Street Stairs, took me back into Polish Hill, where I finished up. Now, except for three sets of stairs and a small alley, I’ve run all the streets of Polish Hill!

Rambling Run

https://www.strava.com/activities/3146562623
RATS #00192

This was a rambling run across the Northside from East Allegheny to Elliot in the West End. It included densely residential areas such as Central Northside as well as the wide open warehouse district between Route 65 and the Ohio River. I crossed bridges, went up stairs and finished with seventeen miles on this sunny, but chilly Sunday.

Starting out on the Northshore, I specifically wanted to finish off Virgin Way and Tripoli Street. In spite of the brilliant sun and crystal clear skies, Virgin Way was very threatening. Circling back to Tripoli Street, I noticed the Neu Kirche building, built, if the stones do not lie, in 1859. Originally a German Church, perhaps Lutheran, it has been repurposed as a center for arts.

This took me to Vista Street. I had hopes of trotting a little up the hill and taking the Vista Street steps down to Itin Street. Alas that was a navigational mistake, as these stairs were closed.

Turning my attention to the Central Northside, I did the grid of Sandusky, Lorraine and Boyle Streets. Unlike the other two, Boyle doesn’t have an outlet at the top of its steep rise from North Avenue. As I was running up Boyle, two women, likely in their mid-to-late thirty’s were chatting at the top. I drew closer and closer, hoping to find an alley or staircase to Fountain Street. A few yards before the retaining wall, the women looked more and anxious as I approached. Finally realizing there was no way out here, I said something lame like:

“Oh, I thought this street went through”.

“Nope, doesn’t go through”, the dark-haired woman with brown knee high boots stated flatly. Her companion, with a black and white checkered coat tried to be positive, commenting “At least you’re getting some good exercise!”

If she only knew, I thought, reversing direction. Somewhere along the way, I also saw an outdoor beehive oven. Again, I was glad for the brightness of the day as I zig-zagged through the streets and alleys. But then, I noticed something following me. On one street, there it was. The next block over, I saw it again. Whew, just a true alley cat.

Now I went up Chateau Street. My left knee started to twinge a little, but I decided to run through it. This took me to Warehouse Land. Large warehouses and garages were separated by large, wide streets. While some of the buildings were in disrepair, just about everything was occupied with some business or another. There’s one section, an “Industrial Park” with high fences and a big gate. Just inside is “Get Hip Records”. Around the corner is the whimsically painted “Bicycle Heaven”.

I finally made my way across the West End Bridge. Coming onto Steuben Street, I took the first staircase I saw. A couple of years ago, these stairs went all the way up to Lander Street. Today, however, they only made it to Elliot Street. The second flight was closed. I had to detour a bit down the street, taking the Planet Avenue steps instead.

Thus began my ascent into the West End Overlook area. Huffing and puffing my way to the top of Valonia, I came to Saint Martin Cemetery. Apparently all the tallest hills have cemeteries on them.

At this point, my knee was truly complaining, so I started back towards the Northside. Gamely trying to hit new streets wherever I could, I ran down Crucible Street. Sure enough, there were some stairs! But, no. They were closed. I was a bit bummed and just went to Steuben Street via Amherst Street. On the lower end, I could see why those steps were closed. A lower section of the stairs and railing had completely collapsed.

Crucible Stairs Top and Bottom

Steuben Street is a main road and the sides are littered with trash, most likely thrown from cars. I took the stairs from Steuben to South Main Street, where I surprised four deer. Just for fun, I highlighted one of them in red below.

Steuben Street to South Main Street

That was about it. It was another two and a half miles back to the car, which felt like it took forever. Getting into the car, I greedily drank water and gobbled pita chips.

February Wrap-Up

February was a busy month for running all the streets of Pittsburgh. Of the twenty runs I recorded to Strava, fifteen of them covered new territory. I was also pretty good about posting, so there are only five runs in this wrap-up. Overall, I feel I’m making good progress, with an increasing number of runs in new areas, such as Homewood and Larimar in the East; Brighton Heights and Marshall-Shadeland in the North, as well another foray in Beechview. By the end of February I had completed 191 “Run All The Streets” runs, so that 200th one is coming up soon!

It’s also been an exciting month planning an event, “Take the Stairs FatAss” – a 50K and 25k fatass (unsupported run) around the city, using many of the Pittsburgh city steps along the way.

Run #00179

Run #00179 was a group run with PBR, from Cinderlands, a bar-restaurant. Towards the end of the run, I caught a few new blocks in Lawrenceville.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3069678216
RATS #00179

Run #00181

RATS run #00181 was a Saturday group run organized by PBR. It also featured a pierogie and pie fundraiser for Team NDSS, organized by Gina. I ambled along the snowy streets of the Strip District, taking pics and trying to stay upright in those slippery conditions.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3082820904
RATS #00181

It ran past 31st Street Studios Stage doors and under Iron City Brewing’s tall smokestack. I ran past old four-story warehouses and gleaming new condos.

Some of the shortest stairs on the 50K route are here, as well as the 28th Street Bridge and a forlorn hopper, towering over silent tracks.

RATS Run #00186

Again, this was a PBR run, onto which I tacked on a couple of streets in Bloomfield, Garnet Way in particular.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3109296696
RATS #00186

RATS Run #00187 – so Dark!

A run through the tiny streets of Park Place. Very nice houses crowded together in dark alleys, camouflaging many speed bumps, one of which tripped me up. Torn tights and a bruised hand were the result, but nothing serious.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3117951204
RATS #00187

RATS Run #00191

This was a short run in the West End Overlook area with stunning views and merciless hills. Like some runs beforehand, a planned route with RunGo was interrupted by the reality that not all alleys on paper survive IRL.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3143137398
RATS #00191

The West End neighborhood wraps around the hillside and spits you out on dirt roads ending on a cliff. Usually there’s a “No Outlet” sign, but not here.

With Spring almost upon us, the threat of cold weather is nearly gone and I’m looking forward to many miles in March.