On this bright Saturday morning, a group of friends, led by Bob and Nancy, were doing the South Side Slopes piece of the “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k. That route draws a jagged circle around Pittsburgh, starting in Spring Garden. An unsupported event (e.g. a ‘fatass’), it uses over 70 flights of city steps to bring the participants to some of the best views highlighting the city.
Anyway, I was NOT doing it, but figured I could meet up them. Sure enough, shortly after I parked in the South Side, I ran into them huffing and puffing up Eleanor Street. It has great views, and everyone in Pittsburgh should do them.
Breaking off after a few blocks, I continued through Arlington and to Amanda Street as it cuts down to Carrick. I needed to complete Charlock Way and Dove Way.
This area of the city; Knoxville, Mount Oliver, Mount Oliver Borough and Beltzhoover, are tightly packed. In some lucky areas, trees throw some shade, while in others, it is just sun, concrete and houses. Dove Way sounds pleasant enough, like the gentle cooing of mourning doves as the sun comes up over a green yard edged by flowers. The reality is different. It goes behind narrow towering houses leaning on each other for support. Grimes Avenue, while aptly named, at least has some trees.
Continuing the bird theme, I cut down through Partridge Way and a little unnamed alley off of Hawk Way.
Finally, I went back to Brownsville Road, passing the flower vendor en route to Borough Way. Borough Way straddles the southern border of the Borough of Mt Oliver and the City of Pittsburgh. At the end of Borough Way sits Traverse Field, which has little league baseball games. I finished up a little alley there and made my way back over the big hill, back to the South Side. It was a hilly seven miler. I was beat at the end.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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′
April 2021 was a busy month in the running department. I ran 133 miles and completed the Hyner 50k, a challenging, rocky trail race. Group runs had returned and at least once a week I ran with City of Bridges run club. As for neighborhoods, checking my April maps, it looks like I was really hitting the edges – Lincoln Place, Hays, Belmar, East Carnegie and Summer Hill. Blogging in April took such a hit that I spent most of the month talking about March. That trend has gotten worse, as it is early June and I’m just now finishing up these April runs. Oh well, I’ll get to them all eventually. For this catch-up I’ll be running you through six gorgeous routes, ending with RATS run #00399.
I love a little quickie in the dusky evening. Here, I did a couple of miles circumnavigating Phillips Park. Nice two-mile run!
RATS run #00395 was a long hard run from Point Breeze, to East Liberty, through Larimar and into Lincon-Lemington. It was mid-morning on Saturday and I was surprised to find a crowd along Paulson Avenue. It seems that Mt. Ararat Baptist Church was having a mass vaccination event. I felt a bit odd running down dead-end Tyler Way with dozens of people milling about. At the end of Tyler Way, this odd structure stands. I have no idea what it is, but UFO has to be a choice.
Graffiti and artwork adorn many of the neighborhood’s walls. Raymer did a Mac Miller tribute, while a lesser known artist renders bold angles and a someone remembers a friend. Artful graffiti is slowly outpacing the simple spray job; graffiti gentrification.
Moving deeper into Larimar, there’s a lot going on. Houses with the deadly blue ‘condemned’ sign are getting renovated. The “Know Thyself” school is surrounded by bulldozers and fences. Just remember to report to the office when you get there and ask “What ARE you doing?”
Elmer Williams Square has some cute houses while the Freedom Temple Church looks like it’s seen better days. Those painters didn’t spend much time accentuating the detail of that building, did they? Further into Lincoln-Lemington, the land rises enough to provide a decent view all the way to Oakland’s Cathedral of Learning.
Way up on Lemington Avenue, I saw an interesting school facade and took a closer look. Earthy, bold, colors and Mayanish tiles contrasted with the “young Queen Victoria” face staring out. And perhaps it is a theme, but make sure you report to the office here, too. Now it is called “Catalyst Academy” and I wonder if chemistry is the core curriculum.
Above this school several streets dead-end into St. Peters’ Cemetery. Some dead-ends you can go right up to, like this wall, while others are guarded by downed trees and old home foundations.
Speaking of St. Peters Cemetery, they spared no expense with the sign. The front declares it is “Historic”, while the back lists which wars the vets fought in. All the way back to the Revolutionary War, I see. That’s impressive.
From here, I trundled down Highland Avenue to Washington Boulevard. The greenspace on the left is actually part of Highland Park. I didn’t see any cat tails, neither mammals nor plants.
Lastly, the arched bridges along Washington Boulevard are quite impressive. Several carry the streets above, such as Lincoln Avenue and Larimer Avenue. One, though, carries an old railroad. Apparently this railroad spur crosses the nearby Allegheny River and is being considered for a rail-to-trails project. At the moment, though, the Brilliant Bridge just crosses Silver Lake Drive, home to storage warehouses and a car wash. It used to actually be a lake, then a drive-in movie theater.
From here, I trotted back to my car with fourteen miles in the running bank.
RATS run #00396 was a short run in the West End and Elliott. This was one of those frantic days, where just getting out for a run was an effort. Par for the course, I ended up in the wrong lane driving to the West End and just decided to park in Allegheny West, near Modern Cafe. It was OK, as I wanted a little more mileage than my planned route.
Crossing the West End Bridge has become an adventure these days. There are a couple of fenced-in walkways suspended above the street and below the bridge, taking you from the street to the bridge deck. I’ve run across it without a problem for years, but recently people have been sleeping on the walkways well into the day, leaving their bags and things strewn about. Covid or not, it is much closer to people and personal items than I’m comfortable with.
At any rate, I crossed the Ohio on the West End Bridge and made my way up to Elliot, Janewood Way in particular.
Marking that one off, I visited Herndon Street, high on the opposing hill. I had previously taken it for a driveway and did not realize how long it was. A few houses clung to the hillsides there. I used the Attica Street Steps to come back down to the quaint business district of the West End.
The West End Business district is a small grid of street off of Steuban. Motorists trying to avoid tunnel backups often zip through this alternate route. On the far side from Steuban, a mere two or three blocks, streets generally end at the Saw Mill Run (creek), while cars on Saw Mill Run Boulevard scream by. Mount Washington rises above in steep cliffs.
There are some cute parts of town. It even has a gazebo. However, trudging on Violet Way I looked up and became concerned. There seemed to be a police incident in progress, as several officers were milling around. Indeed, as I passed, it turned out maybe a dozen officers, in full gear were there behind a building.
They were chatting and joking. Shift change, I suppose. In 25 feet or so, it was a dead-end and I felt a little sheepish going back through the police crowd. With that I crossed the West End Bridge again, this time seeing two dudes rummaging through the homeless guys’ debris. I thought about the police a half-mile away as I whizzed past.
Not a whole lot to say here. This was a short evening run in Banksville. Banksville Park was quite active this time through. The last time, it was a rather cold evening. Now, guys were playing cricket in a ballfield, while scads of people lined a dek-hockey game in progress. Further on, it looked like a Little League baseball game was starting.
The surrounding neighborhoods are quite residential, with big lawns and big garages. Oakville Drive, though, is a mass of apartments. There could be as many as 1,000 garden apartments there. It looked pretty nice, honestly. Just know that you can’t actually drive the way I came. The northern section of the apartment complex overlooks the Parkway West as it bends toward the Fort Pitt Tunnels.
A cell tower dominated the end of the playground. Lots of satellite dishes are clustered around that thing. Who knows how many antennae are on the tower? 50? 100? It’s hard to say.
Northview Heights is an area I had been avoiding. There are security gates on Mt Pleasant Road and Penfort Street, which I found intimidating. However, I had taken some time off work to recovery from Hyner 50k, so had the chance to run here on a sunny weekday morning. I had no problems, other than a little soreness in the legs. People were out, waiting for buses or picking up kids. Maintenance workers were vigorously mowing lawns and doing repairs.
Chicago Street branches out of the housing development and stops at a cliff above I-279. I wonder if it ever went across. A lone turkey sauntered into the woods as I passed. Eventually I made my way out of the development, down to Spring Garden Avenue and back to Essen Street.
Crossing the Swindell Bridge again, there’s a neat glimpse of Downtown through the fence links.
Last but not least, RATS run #00399 was a 5K run in Squirrel Hill North, land of the big houses. But I’ll start out on an alley and end on the public golf course.
Now, Robin Road is private, but since I’m not immune to doing private roads, I intended to go down it. However, it really felt more like a private driveway, so I bailed. This section of Squirrel Hill, “Murdoch Farms” has immense, imposing homes beautifully kept. Not so far away, little developments off of Schenley Park Golf Course include various “modern” style houses. Oh, so modern, they were built in the 1960’s.
The sun was setting across the golf course as I finished up, just past 5K distance.
That’s a Wrap!
(May was a busy month, too, but only 106 miles. I’ll start blogging about those soon. Thanks for reading.)
On a bright Sunday morning in March, I undertook one of my longest RATS runs ever. I had a couple of goals. First, see how much of Beck’s Run Road I could traverse without getting run over and second, explore Fairhaven, nestled in the corner of Library Road and Saw Mill Run Boulevard, without getting run over. I was ramping up mileage in preparation for an April 50k.
First off, I decided to climb into the South Side Slopes in order to catch Parkwood Road, which I could take to Beck’s Run Road. While using East Carson is the fastest way by car, that whole ‘without getting run over’ idea convinced me the steps were a better idea. And of course, I would get to enjoy the great views.
Oakley Street has an impressive step-mosaic where it begins on Josephine Street. It does continue, however, for several more flights. I wonder about that handicap parking, though. It must be difficult for anyone with mobility issues to live in a spot surrounded by steps.
At any rate, now on the crest of the South Side Slope, the views were amazing. on breaks between houses, you could see across the Mon to Oakland, with the Cathedral of Learning prominently displayed. On the far side of the crest, the neighborhood forms a steep bowl, with steps on each side.
Once past Arlington Avenue, I made my way to Mountain Avenue and the long, one lane road known as Parkwood Road. On the left side of Parkwood, a ravine deepens and water drips down the cracking rock on its way to becoming a creek. Parkwood is blocked off about a tenth of a mile above Beck’s Run Road, due to erosion. Just before this, two small streets on the left are lined with houses. The creek has grown to a significant size by now and the city, I suppose, has built quite an impressive retaining wall to keep one house from falling in. It is very isolated, but the ten houses are all nicely maintained.
Once at Beck’s Run Road, I ran toward Paige’s Dairy Mart and then up towards Carrick. Even though it was a 40 degree day, people were lined up to get ice-cream goodies from that venerable establishment under a bridge. Beck’s Run is the name of the small creek alongside the road. The road is a major thoroughfare, but doesn’t have many buildings along it. The hills coming down are too steep to build on. The flat areas probably flood.
So, I made my way up Beck’s Run Road, then explored a little along Agnew Road. Not far from its intersection with Beck’s Run, there’s a heavily fortified water filtration plant.
I found one section of Beck’s run a bit too tight for running and went up Madeline Street instead. Crossing over Brownsville Road, I took Maytide to Saw Mill Run Boulevard. This is car heaven. Car dealerships of all shapes and sizes line the road. Luckily there is some thought to pedestrians, as there are walk signals. You just have to be willing to wait a long time. At least I could recover a bit.
Finally making it across, I came to the Fairhaven neighborhood. It is wedged between Saw Mill Run and Library Road. From this intersection, one lonely road and a set of steps lead you there. Once there, I was, actually, pleasantly surprised. Medium and large houses stood on large lots. The subdivision backs onto “Fairhaven Greenway”.
Hillview Street is steps in two sections, the one coming up from Saw Mill Run and another one, just slicing up the hillside between yards.
The far side of Fairhaven abuts Castle Shannon and Whitehall. I came down Elwyn Street and made my way along Transport Street, a half block behind Library Road. Transport Street had much more character than I expected.
At this point, I started heading back to the South Side. I went along Saw Mill Run until I could go no further. Luckily, a tiny section of steps became Dartmore Street and led me up into Carrick. From there, I just plodded along Brownsville Road and cut-through Mt Oliver along Amanda Street. I was surprised to find Amanda actually stopped and was separated from Hay’s Street by a barrier. It turns out Hays, at that point, is so steep, it is hard to even walk down. Still, those hilltops can see the downtown buildings peeking over.
With this, I made my way down South 18th, Mission Street and back to my car on the South Side. Whew, that was a long run!
Here are three short runs I did in mid-March. These were “squeeze-them-in-runs”, where I had only a short time and planned out a very limited route. Though perhaps not as epic as some runs, they still took me to interesting places.
This run started at Moore Park along Pioneer Avenue. I had mapped out a shorter, “nearly flat”, route for my girlfriend to run while I tackled the longer hill on Dunster Street.
Dunster is pretty much suburbia up near Pioneer Avenue, with a long straight stretch rolling east. After reaching the sunrise, it drops precipitously. Large lawns spread out and the bottom cross-street, Timberland, ends in trails. (The trails, incidentally, go back up to Moore Park.)
Following Timberland away from its trail end brought me to Edgebrook Avenue. At this point, Ballinger Street ascends as a staircase. This area was a bit more junky. I did spy what must have been an elf playhouse off the stairs. Also, I garnered more evidence for “Boat Theory”, as a speedboat was right next to the stairs.
I continued all the way to Whited Street before turning back. It is a neat area, off the beaten path but literally a quarter mile to Saw Mill Run Boulevard and overlooking the South Busway.
Returning to Moore Park, I had the pleasure of running up Dunster. Turns out that is a Strava Segment (“What a Dunster Fire”) and for the moment, I’m 4th overall! I also had the pleasure of getting some feedback for the “flat” run I had planned for Naomi. Ha! Perhaps it wasn’t as flat as I remembered.
Nestled between South Side Cemetery and Saint Georges Cemetery, a handful of streets and an amazing number of houses cling to steep slopes. This run, #00382, was a rare morning run and I just had enough time to do a couple of miles. I parked along Brownsville Road and ran north on that dusty road to Cedricton Street. Between the houses on the left, it was a long way down.
Once at the end of Cedricton, I jigsawed my way over to Brook Street, which flowed downhill, an amazingly far way downhill. There was actually a turn-around at the bottom, where all the views were up, up along fallen vine covered trees. A brook did emerge at the bottom.
This was a short run I tried to squeeze in before my regular City of Bridges Wednesday night run. I managed to catch Sigel Street, which has recently been repaved then ascended the Hyena Street Steps. No pictures, I suppose I forgot my phone.
Turns out I misjudged my timing as well, for by the time I got back, the COB runners had already left. Whoops! I had the map and tracked after them. However, with a ten minute head start, I only caught up with a couple. At least Modern Cafe was open and I got to enjoy some post-run libations with them.
Here are a couple of runs I did in early March, 2021. The first, a short evening run in Stanton Heights, finished up that area. The second, an epic wandering run through Corliss, Chartiers and Windgap was in the blinding sunlight and pretty much finished those areas as well.
Starting in Upper Lawrenceville, I clambered up Stanton and finished off a few streets and alleys for run #00379. Previously I’ve pictured this pleasant, residential area. This evening, dog walkers were out and kids played in the streets. The end of Downlook Street has an unexpected view of Sharpsburg across the Allegheny River. I finished up in Dinian Park, skirting a baseball field overlooking Morningside. It was cool to see the sparkling lights through the bare trees.
At the start of most every run, I have some anxiety about part of my route. For this run, I was worried about the area near Hollywood Cemetery as well as Alora Way and a confusing section of streets Windgap. I was also worried about how safe it would be to run on Windgap Avenue. Let’s see how my worries played out.
Off the bat, I screwed up my route coming out of Ingram. Instead of going on West Prospect, I went on East Prospect and ended up coming into Pittsburgh along Steuban Street instead of Berry Street. This turned out OK, as I made sure to complete Charlton Street coming into Berry right at Jenkins Street. I’m not sure if you recall, but in an earlier run, I came across the Jenkins Street steps and through internet sleuthing, found that they go nowhere. Today, emboldened by the bright sun, I battled the scrubby brush and went to the top of the stairs. Nothing, nada, zilch. And, on the way down, I stepped on a nail protruding from an overturned plank. Luckily, it missed my foot and toes. But it was a hassle stepping into the street with a three foot piece of wood attached to my shoe. Once on Berry, I was able to remove it.
The next stop was a little cul-de-sac, Kathy Drive. Looks like a nice residential street. From there I made my way to Evanston Road, winding around Harrisburg Road to Clearfield. Clearfield went right into Hollywood Cemetery. The map show Clearfield continuing through the cemetery to Windgap on the other side. The road does not clearly go through. At the far end, though, I was treated to a neat view of Windgap and the Windgap Bridge.
I traced my way through the streets and alleys here off of Middletown Road then took Middletown Road’s curvy dive down to Chartiers. The far side of Chartiers Avenue has a number of small residential blocks and with some roads leading right up to an active railroad. Down here, power lines towered above the houses.
Now, I had to face my fears and venture to the steps on the end of Alora Way. The first time I saw the steps from Chartiers Avenue to Alora Way, a large dog was yelping at me from the bottom of the stairs. I was concerned he would still be there. But I was in luck! No dog. The steps were an adventure to get to, but led straight up to Chartiers, as expected. Flushed with this success, I decided to see, one last time, if I could find the steps which were supposed to come off of Moyer Street in Sheridan. From the end of Moyer, last summer, all I could see was gardening debris at the end of the street. This time, though, on this sunny, leafless day, I found them! Shallow red brick steps climbed alongside a Jewish cemetery until they were buried under branches near the top.
Now I needed to face some more uncertainty. Alora Way also has steps which rise on the other side, towards Oltman Street. I had run on Oltman before, and only saw a rundown house at the end, no steps. From this direction, though, the Oltman steps looked good. Well, they looked good until I came across a fairly large broken section. Sometimes, I stop when I see steps like these, but not today. I made my way on the edges and fought my way through the new growth to the other side, on Oltman Street. While there was a lot of trash and dumped appliances, there really wasn’t much to be afraid of.
From here, I wandered around the streets and alleys of Windgap. I found an amazing scene, ferocious deer cornering a wild T-Rex. Poor T-Rex, he looked scared to death.
With this, my exploring was done. I decided to run straight up Windgap Avenue. It wasn’t pretty or particularly safe, but I made it without a problem. I was so close to a half-marathon, I ran an extra block just to get in that last tenth of a mile.
Here are a couple of runs done in mid-February. A “polar vortex” and the threat of it kept me inside for a bit. So, no didn’t do a 20-20, (twenty miler at twenty degrees). Perhaps the late January fall encouraged me to be more careful or I’m just tired of running in the dark and cold. At any rate, the Lincoln Place run covered a large section of that neighborhood while the Hill run just about completed it.
RATS #00368 Over the Hill
Prior to coming out, I used a popular hack for making ‘ice shoes’. You simply put small machine screws into the bottom of your shoes. Once started, they go into the dense rubber easily. With 15 screws on the bottom of each shoe, I was very confident, even on ice.
I started this Saturday afternoon’s run in North Oakland. The recent spate of snow had been cleared enough so that driving was tolerable, but dirty snow, pushed aside, lined most walks and gutters. University Drive in Oakland is still under construction, so I had to take a detour around that. Then I ran down Centre, crossing Herron and heading into the Hill. My target area was a number of small streets in the Middle Hill. Many of the streets were still undisturbed and had ankle deep snow in them.
Hallet, Horton, Humber, I must have stumbled into the “H” section of Pittsburgh, in the Hill District, no less. I have often pondered the easy alliteration of adjoining streets. Homewood has many “F” alleys, Brookline has its “B” streets. It’s kinda cute, unless you’re trying to remember where to turn by just the first letter. Oh, no!
At any rate, the alleys were deep in snow, but mainly passable. The ice-shoes were doing great and I wasn’t even too cold. Periodically, snow squalls blew through, diminishing my vision. Normally, you can see the UPMC building from the Somers’ steps.
I came across a couple of sets of steps. One, Chauncy Street, I was familiar with. It’s a pretty impressive thoroughfare taking you down to Centre Avenue. The other, Caramel Way, was a bit of a surprise. On the map, it just looked like another alley. Blocked off at the top, it wasn’t from the bottom. Following some frozen footsteps up the mildly broken steps it was clear where treads were missing. I did have to duck under a downed tree, but it wasn’t too extreme.
As usual, there were buildings ready to fall down and some historic markers. This plaque is dedicated to jazz great Art Blakey. Presumably he lived in the house? A rather oversized, chilly bass player was still out practicing in the snow.
I had fun on this run, in spite of the conditions. The shoes worked out well.
RATS #00369 – Lincoln Place
And, now, to one of the southernmost neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. A week after that last run, the snow was still around, and it was a beautiful, sunny day. Snow really looks good on Pittsburgh.
My first order of business was to track down a staircase between Glenhurst and Lougean. I had missed it on an earlier run. So, I tromped down Mifflin Road, dodging cars until I got to Glenhurst. The wooden stairs were snuggled between two very suburban houses.
From there, it was an adventure on back alleys which went much further than I expected. “F” Way, “D” Way and “C” Way took me way back to country sheds. Overall, this was a nice area to run in. It was lacking in sidewalks, but also lacked in traffic.
Eventually I found myself on Mooney Road, heading towards Mifflin Road. After Beechland Street, Mooney Road, itself, becomes a country road. This narrow street dives down a steep hill to Mifflin Road. Along this section, there are only three or four houses, each precariously perched on a hillside. As I approached Mifflin Road, I noticed a large house across the ravine. Strangely enough, no road or driveway was visible. I still wonder how those folks get home.
By the time I had gone down Mooney and back to Beechland, the sun was sliding over the hillsides. I finished out a few more streets and cruised back to McBride Park, my favorite place to park.
A fantastical journey awaits! From the snow strewn, narrow alleys of Downtown to the slick streets of Carrick to the wondrous wilds of Fairywood, I covered lots of ground the first week of February. Grab a hot chocolate, coffee or toddy and enjoy!
RATS #00365 – Downtown and Duquesne
Nothing is more magical than Downtown Pittsburgh on a cold night. While pushed aside, the recent snow wasn’t giving up just yet and lined the route. This run was generally about traversing alleys I had missed, then going up to Duquesne University.
I started off by cutting through the PPG buildings along Delray Street. Delray continues as a small dumpster-lined alley to 5th Avenue Place. Crossing over Liberty took me down Cecil Place, with its lone couch.
From there, I trotted up Barkers Place, then caught McRrea Way with its large Frenchy’s billboard as it heads towards 6th Street. I hope they aren’t paying much for that sign, as it is behind a building. Crossing 6th took me into a small driveway and then out award-winning Mentor Way, which is half the width of a car. The award? “Creepiest Alley in Downtown Pittsburgh”.
Shaking that off, I headed up Third Avenue. Passing PPG was, actually, kind of magical. There was Ketchupsaurus, uniquely found in the Tomato layer of Pittsburgh Seam. (Read more about the dinos here.) Skaters were laughing as they swished along the ice at the PPG Skating Rink.
Leaving such frivolity behind, I crossed over from Third to Fourth Avenue. Now, Downtown is guarded from Duquesne by the Great Wall of Transportation. The electrified tracks of the T, the massive piers for the Crosstown Expressway, the ramps and tunnels act as a barrier between Downtown and points further uphill. The Hill District is up there, as well as Duquesne University. Duquesne occupies “The Bluff” which overlooks the Mon and stretches into Uptown. I was fortunate to find steps leading from the end of Fourth Avenue to Forbes Street.
I climbed up to the bluff along Shingiss Street, which had been closed, presumably because of the snow. The Duquense Rock patiently waited for me to take its picture while I fumbled with gloves.
Winding among the buildings of Duquense took me in and out parking garages and past dining halls. The views were great.
With this, I circled back downtown and hopped in my car, grateful for the quick warmth.
RATS #00366 – Slick Carrick
This run took two tries. The first, on a Friday evening, I cut short because my shoes did not have enough traction to handle the ice and snow. The next attempt was done in trail shoes on a warm day; it topped out at 30 degrees.
Here’s the challenge: Myron Way. Slightly shaded and never salted, it was mostly ice. Luckily, I was able to find patches of untrammeled snow to keep going. The East Cherryhill steps were pretty tricky, too.
This was the most challenging section of the run. Afterwards, the alleys, while snow filled, had centers of deep snow, which I could easily tromp through.
I ran up and down the alleys and streets, eventually making it to the border with Mt. Oliver, the Borough, before sliding back to my car. Here are a couple of pictures of the frozen people out that day.
RATS #00367 – Fairywood
Here’s the run you all have been waiting for.
“Fairywood? Is that real? Where is that? I’ve lived in Pittsburgh all my life and have never heard of it!”
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Fairywood.”
The large, now abandoned site of Broadhead Manor looks pretty sunny in this 1945 pic on the Historic Pittsburgh site. But, things change and this 2016 blog post by Pittsburgh Orbit captures the modern Fairywood very well. Now, four and a half years later, that blog post still applies. I started my run from Ingram, a bordering neighborhood. The weather had continued to improve and it was Super Bowl Sunday, 2021. Climbing out of the Ingram Bowl, I contended with a set of steps along Creston Street then continued along West Prospect Avenue as it left Ingram and dropped into Fairywood.
Fairywood was quiet and mostly flat. There are a couple of small subdivisions and a a few abandoned properties, notably Broadhead Manor and less well known, a distribution center off of Broadhead Fording Road.
But distribution is the big business around here. In spite of this impressive driveway and gate, apparently this is NOT an actual entrance. You get here by going through the OK Grocery Gate on the other side. Over there, dozens of tractor trailers line up to pick-up and deliver. That area is not built for people, only trucks. Just down Industrial Highway is an Amazon Distribution Center and a ModCloth warehouse.
I was hesitant about running down Industrial Highway. However the alternative was just to retrace my steps or to try out the no-sidewalk, no shoulder Windgap Road. So, I put on some speed and quickly ran on the Industrial Highway shoulder. With only two cars in five minutes, it turned out to be pretty safe.
So, that was it for the first week of February, 2021. With inclement weather (read extreme cold and ice) on the way, I only ran a couple of times in the next few weeks. Which, my friends, will be the subject of the next blog.