Brighton Road Long Run

RATS #00185 – Fineview, Perry Hilltop, Brighton Road

This was a long weekend run, to cover some streets in the northern neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, and see what’s out there. Short story – there’s hilly streets, stairs, creepy areas with houses falling down and nice areas with magnificent homes. I took more pictures at the start than the finish. The long story is below. Happy reading!

I started out in Allegheny Center and made my way up to Fineview on the James Street Stairs up to Fountain Street. Fountain Street and Henderson Street collide in a sharp angle, both steeply coming down the hill. I made the right onto Henderson Street and realized there was a little cul-de-sac on my left I had previously missed. Sandusky Court was a relatively new development and the condos were shiny, clean and modern. As I started around the cul-de-sac, I noticed a solid set of stairs in the back, leading to the neighborhood uphill. The stairs were nice, but, alas, blocked off at the top. I guess SOMEONE didn’t want foot traffic from Sandusky Court to go to Allegheny Dwellings, or vice versa.

Back down to Henderson, I wrapped around Carrie Street, where a magnificent set of stairs drapes over the hillside. BikePGH’s “The Steps We Take” had a performance on these stairs, which was quite mesmerizing, involving a “live portal” and flowing, multicolored fabric.

Continuing past this city-side of Fineview, I pushed even higher, where large houses sat high on the hills. Some sidewalks were raised ten feet above the street, with towering residences above. There’s a Pittsburgh Water Reservoir up here, a radio tower and crazy steps and alleys. This area was exciting and I was somewhat familiar with it from previous jaunts.

Now, my rough plan was to do a long part of North Charles Avenue and also head up Brighton Road. I went up Osgood, which starts where the steps go wild and terminates on East McIntyre Avenue. I did the little residential loop which sits about 225 feet above the Parkway North and East Street. This area has potential, big houses, large trees, a cool view, but lots of dumping, with mattresses, tires and other debris just strewn everywhere. It was sad to see and a bit creepy. From there, Kenwood Avenue starts inauspiciously as a parking spot next to steps. The steps gently go down toward Maple Avenue, then become an ugly asphalt path all the way down to Perrysville Highway. The last time I was here, we saw a mewing cat in the window of a neglected house, were accosted by the local neighborhood watch van and had to dash to the car as a summer storm let loose. This time, I was undisturbed in my journey, except for memories.

Wrapping around Perrysville to North Charles to Maple again, I was surprised to see that North Charles went under Maple with a cool viaduct.

I finished off Maple and then found my way to Brighton Road, along many winding roads. Brighton is a long way uphill, with dusty, dirty sidewalks nearly all the two and a half miles out of the city. When I saw the “Ross Township” signs, I rejoiced, took a bathroom break at a Giant Eagle and headed back towards downtown. I took the Winhurst Street stairs up into Brighton Heights, wandered a bit and followed McClure towards the city. This area was a marked improvement from Kenwood Street. McClure gradually descends to meet Woods Run Avenue. Shortly after that intersection, punctuated by a corner bar, I took the Malden Street Stairs to Geyer Avenue.

Geyer wound down to Eckert Street, giving up all the elevation I had just gained. I was tired and ready to be done. But up Eckert I trudged and made my way back to the Northside as the weak winter sun set. By the time I got to my car, it was dark.

But, overall, cool run with over 2000′ of elevation…

Does this route work? Part 3

https://www.strava.com/activities/3080725206
RATS #00180 – Windom Street Warren

In this latest installment of “Does this route work?”, I was interested in exploring a couple of staircases I had never been on. This was in a small warren of streets between PJ McCardle Roadway and Arlington Avenue. The pedestrian gateway to this neighborhood are the 10th Street Stairs. On the lower side, these stairs rise in five landings from dead end flat streets just to clear the railroad tracks. The landings provide respite from the stairs and some nice views. On the other side, though, the stairs rise again.

At the top of these stairs, the city seems to have fallen away and I was in an enchanted forest. Felt like I was Edmund first stumbling into Narnia. On the left, the untouched snowy street curved around into the Knoxville Incline Greenway. I disturbed four deer in their evening ramblings. They were not pleased to see me and only grudgingly gave way, staring me down like truculent teens as I jogged by.

Just past the herd, stairways to Hartford Street rose on my right. Despite the four inches of fluffy snow, the going was good. The stairs were solid and the snow crunched, packing as I went up. Hartford Street is narrow, but with cute houses. Squeezing past a resident who had parked in the street unloading groceries, I came all the way up to Arlington Avenue, but not before I got a good glimpse of the top of the German Square Stairs. I’d be back for those.

Making a right onto Arlington, I kept a lookout for my next set of stairs, Lauer Way. No, not Behring Street, whose steps were a vertical cul-de-sac. Behring Street is one of the few named stair streets which dead-ends. Ceasar Way in Southside Slopes declines into a grassy path but doesn’t really dead-end. Behring Street just traipses in front of a house and stops. Maybe it went through in years gone by.

At any rate, Lauer Way has an impressive stack of snowy steps. It traverses the slope from Arlington Avenue to Windom Street, two blocks below. Again, in spite of the snow, the stairs were solid, both in treads and handrails.

I meandered a little, and found myself trotting past little houses on Newton, which became another wooded glade of snowy stairs, Owl Way. These have a right-angle turn and landed me on Windom again. I took the German Square Steps all the way up the hill again.

German Square and Lauer Way are part of the “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k route. I couldn’t fit them into the 25k, but it is a beautiful little section of stairs and hills pretty close in to the Southside Flats. This part of the route looks solid.

A Little Lincoln Lemington in My Life

https://www.strava.com/activities/3062467825
RATS #00177 – Start with PBR and then off on my own

This run started with the Pro Bike & Run’s Saturday morning group. As the calendar turns from January to February, training intensity picks up. This was PBR’s “Pittsburgh Half-Marathon Training Kickoff!”. As such, the group was pretty big, maybe 150 runners or more. I went out with the 9:30 min/mile pace group. That’s a comfortable pace for me, and these pace groups often go faster than advertised. I did ten with them, chatting with various people and letting the miles fly by. Kudos to the route maker for including some areas that groups usually avoid – big hills and poorer neighborhoods. From the top of North Aiken in Garfield, you can see the Cathedral of Learning, faithfully serving as a beacon of knowledge across Pittsburgh.

Cathedral of Learning from Garfield

After the ten miles, I had a loose plan to do a four more in Lincoln-Lemington. Pittsburgh seems to be the city of alliteration. This is the “L” section of the city. Larimar, Lincoln and Lemington are the major streets. Needless to say, after ten miles, I got them a little confused. I went out on Larimar Avenue from East Liberty, intending to catch Lincoln Avenue high on the hills and come down Brushton Avenue.

Christian Fellowship Church

Staring out near East Liberty, this area is broadly open and flat. Many of the houses and buildings are in disrepair. Newer houses exist and there are clusters of everyday Pittsburgh brick houses with decent yards, gardens and fences. Larimar ends in a gravel driveway, the fate of many Pittsburgh streets. The streets started to get steeper. Clifford, Nelson and Missouri took me through residential blocks higher and higher. I saw Lemington and took a left. This took me down a steep hill towards Highland Drive. Taking another left, I went down the equally steep Highland Drive and came out on Washington Boulevard. A fellow runner, Alison, later told me it looked like I popped out of the bushes. Washington Blvd is busy and has no sidewalks. What is does have are many pet care places, auto care businesses and random, semi-industrial companies; a marble company, an oil company. Their buildings and warehouses crowd the narrow spit of flat land between the road and the towering hills.

Speaking of towering hills, Washington Blvd is criss-crossed by several amazing arched bridges. These bridges carry the L-streets above across this steep ravine.

After taking that last picture on the right, I turned and saw a pathway up the hill. These derelict stairs eventually led me up to Lincoln Avenue again.

That was actually something of a scramble. Some treads were missing and I balanced on the side supports to get by.

Adventure and mileage complete, I trundled back to the car with 14.9 miles done.

Does this route work? Part 2

https://www.strava.com/activities/3057870998
RATS #00176

For those who missed it, I’m organizing a run around Pittsburgh, focusing on taking public stairs where ever possible. In my previous “Does this route work?”, I verified a section of the route in Oakland. It was a good thing I did, because some of the stairs indicated on my maps were not, in fact, there. This run was meant to check out part of the route, circled in yellow above, in Fineview, Perry South and California-Kirkbride. Fittingly enough, only half of this involves the 25K, but all you 50k people, pay attention!

Going out of the Northside toward Fineview, I took James Street all the way up the hill. As the roads plows into the hillside, a pretty solid set of stairs, with only a few shaky treads, rises to Fountain Street. Good thing, too, since it is high on concrete pillars.

Once on Fountain Street, signs for the Fineview Fitness Trail lead to the next stairs. The 50k’ers will be going up these. The 25k folks will be coming down them, almost done. At any rate, the next sets of stairs take you to Graib Street and then onto Henderson Street. The pictures really don’t do this view justice.

The 50k follows along Henderson, crossing Federal and landing at the end of Arch Street. There’s an angled set of steps going up to Perrysville Avenue. A few years ago I saw “Steps In Motion: A Northside Animation”, at the Carnegie Library in Oakland. It is an animation about community project which cleaned up the Arch Street stairs. As you start up these, you can see the fading paint from that project.

The top of the Arch Street Stairs is Perrysville Avenue. You stay on that for a short section, then charge down the O’Hern’s ruts and uneven steps. I remembered it as all overgrown, but it looks like someone actually uses this road, despite the wavy asphalt. A little later, going up North Charles street, I made a left at the bold mural on Ferris Street. Stairs are at the far end of that small street and there’s a rather intimidating house and rambling porch besides them. I would advise moving past this place quickly. In fact, I waited until I had clambered over the fallen tree and up the stairs before I took a pic.

Staying on the 50k route, I made the left onto Island Avenue. Where did they get that name? This couldn’t be a more land-locked street. At any rate, making the left on Hyena Way was promising, but the entrance to the stairs off of Success Street looked more like a walkway between houses.

The Hyena Street Stairs are in reasonable shape, but don’t seem to get much use. Dried vegetation was strewn across the treads as it dropped in on Marvista Street. This lower section of Marvista Street still has a few occupied houses but also a few houses on the brink of failure. The 50k route continues down Hyena. Hyena and Ferris stairs were the ones I wanted to verify. Whoo! This part of the route works.

Now that that was settled, I started to work my way back my car. It wasn’t the easiest way, but Sunday Street was a pretty straightforward way back. It also happened to include an incredible set of brightly painted stairs. At the top was an amazing house set on the top of the hill. At one point, perhaps most of the houses here looked like that? I don’t know.

That’s a wrap. Hyena Way does indeed lead to viable steps.

Northside Grid

https://www.strava.com/activities/3049276898
Run Around Northside – RATS #00175

I squeezed this run between work and a performance at Alphabet City. I had loosely mapped it out the night beforehand. It went pretty close to plan, with one annoying exception.

Anyway, by the time my GPS had locked in, I was, once again, near the Children’s Museum. I crossed West Commons and made my way up Arch Street. The main features of this run were the narrow alleys and streets of the Northside, along with the surprising amount of art and decorations among the old, tight houses.

This is still an area in transition. Even among the row-houses, there is often a gorgeously refurbished house next to a dilapidated one. The streets range from small two-way streets to very narrow one way streets and even smaller alleys paved with bricks. The grid of streets between West North Avenue and Jacksonia Street is flat. Past Jacksonia Street, the land abruptly rises. Arch St unceremoniously ends in a pile of brush, but there’s a long flight of stairs providing egress to the streets above. Tonight, I skipped the stairs.

One of the most flamboyant houses in all of Pittsburgh is here – Randyland. Clicking its picture below will take you to Randy’s website. Incredibly detailed painting brings out the architectural details of the building. Randy also uses the building as a canvas, with larger-than life insects crawling and flying up the walls.

Randyland

Finishing up my explorations, I took a final pic of the city skyline looming over the neighborhoods and jogged back to my car. The annoyance? I had forgotten my running shoes and ran the whole thing in boots.

Polish Towns

https://www.strava.com/activities/3029416056
Bloomfield Run: RATS #00172

Pro-Bike had a group run from Caliente’s Pizza at 6:30. While the days are noticeably longer, its quite dark by 6:30. It’s even darker at 6:40, when I got there. I looked into Caliente and didn’t see anybody, so I took off to chart some new streets. This section of Bloomfield is adjacent to the Bloomfield Bridge, a half-mile bridge which soars 185 feet over the ravine below. My first turn, down Panama Way, directly dead-ended into a ramp wall leading to the bridge. It wasn’t an auspicious start, but then I noticed something.

In between flaking white paint were dozens of neatly painted coats of arms, presumably of Polish towns. WTF! I had always considered Bloomfield to be an Italian neighborhood. They stretched all along the curving ramp. A little post-run research turned up this article from the Pittsburgh Orbit about the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. My impression is that the owners painted those coats of arms. Impressive. This also cheered me up a bit. This is why running ALL the streets is worthwhile. You just don’t know what cool little nuggets you’ll find.

This area still gave me the creeps, and I heard some shouting and screaming, so I moved on. Turning left, as the bridge rose up, the area was fenced in with ten-foot high black chain link-fence, Bloomfield Park. It has a Dek Hockey rink, a basketball court, a swimming pool, all nestled under the bridge. But those loud shouts were disconcerting. Sounded like a few teens haranguing each other. I needed to get going. This area has small streets, smaller alleys and tightly packed houses.

Bloomfield

I crisscrossed some alleys. I saw the entrance to some stairs, but decided not to venture down in the dark. Finally I got to the other side of the park. The group of “teens” I had been so worried about was just a toddler testing his lungs while riding a tricycle and his Mom trying to corral him. They weren’t so intimidating after all.

From here, I just ran in and out of the small streets and alleys from Liberty Avenue up to Penn. Finishing in front of Caliente’s Pizza, the Pro-Bike group was just finishing too. Time for a beer.

Dead-Ends, No Trespassing

https://www.strava.com/activities/3025297356
RATS #00171

Sunday dawned cold, windy and cloudy. I wasn’t thrilled to run in the cold, but since I had skipped Saturday’s run, blaming the ice, I felt compelled to run at least a few miles. Besides, I had a run all mapped out and waiting in RunGo

This was a run born in a warm house. A run mapped with forethought and precision. A route maximizing the number of new streets run while minimizing the distance. I had carefully looked at my tracking map and plotted a route on RunGo to take in all of the little missing streets in Arlington. Now parking on Fernleaf Street, I got out of my warm car ready to run! Damn, now I had to wait in the freezing wind to get my GPS signal. Once the Garmin locked in, I started down Fernleaf, dutifully taking the left on Elsie St. Water seeping across the road had frozen in place, making shiny stripes of slipperyness. As I slowed to take a picture, I heard a beep. Argh, I had never actually started the Garmin.

Looking out from Elsie Street in Arlington

Now concentrating on getting this route done, I listened intently for further directions from RunGo.

“In 10 yards, make a right”

Done!

“In 35 feet, turn around”

Done! (Ugh, now I had to go UPHILL)

“Make a left”

Done.

“Make a right”

Whoa! No street there. Maybe a driveway. Keep going!

“You are off course. You are off course”

“#%@#%2!*!@%$%*”

my conversation with RunGo

And so it began. The good intentions and planning went by the wayside. I looped around a bit and then decided to finish Zaruba Street, leaving the rest of the route for another day. When I had been in this area a few days ago, I remember seeing the Zaruba Street sign quite distinctly. Today, however, I ran right by it. I turned off on Devlin Street, which dead-ends into a playground. My picture of the cemetery must have done it, because dead-ends were mainly what I saw for the rest of the run.

On the Strava map, it looks like there is a long flight of stairs at the end of Castle Street. Actually, Castle Street was blocked off with Jersey barriers and had a condemned house standing on its corner. All I found at the end was dirt, bull-dozed into trees. I did find that Syrian Street becomes a stair case going down to Arlington Avenue. Azul Street looked promising, but halfway up the hill, it too, was blocked off.

Making my way back to the car, I stayed on Spring Street until it hit Arlington, where I took the Marengo Street Stairs towards the purple-topped Congregation of Yahshua. A right, a left and viola, I was back at the car. This did not go as planned, but it wasn’t a bad run. I could have actually gotten back on route with RunGo if I had had more time. In Pittsburgh, at least, the difference between online maps and reality is often striking.

Marengo Street Stairs

Finishing Up The Slopes

https://www.strava.com/activities/2999787740
RATS #00167 – Slopes on a Friday Night

Friday Night! Southside! To most people, that brings up to mind something like the Birmingham Bridge Tavern. To me, it meant another stab at finishing the streets and numerous stairs in the Southside Slopes. I started on Steve Seventy Street. That is such an unusual name, I had to look it up. Luckily, I’m not the only one curious about it and found this article which summarizes Steve Seventy’s life. Essentially, he was a local politician who pushed to get that street reopened. At any rate, Steve Seventy Street takes you under the hulking train trestle and directly to the 30th St Stairs as they travel, first up to Jospehine Street and then, alongside Monongahela Park to Northview Street. In and out, along Orkney, Stromberg and Flynn I went. This area almost feels like a small country hamlet, with large yards and an isolated feel. Running to the end of Flynn, I thought it would devolve into a driveway, but it actually continues, becoming Berg Street.

Then the sky opened up and the light faded. So, too, did my plans of finishing this area that night. By the time I got to Clover Street, nighttime had fallen and those omnipresent creatures of the night, deer, were out in full force. I had better come back in the daylight.

Clover Street

So, I came back Sunday. Just a couple miles of streets and stairs. The Oakley Street Stair Mural is quite interesting. From a couple of blocks away, it looks like a narrow, bright mural painted on a wall, but up close you see that it is a mosaic on each step.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3005331775
RATS #00169 Sunday Morning

Most of the elevation was stairs. As always, cool views of the city.

Sterling Run in the Slopes

https://www.strava.com/activities/2988536370
RATS #00166 Southside Slopes

This was an evening run in the Southside Slopes, focusing on Sterling Avenue. Starting in the flats along Mary St, I crossed under the railroad trestle and made my way up. Very quickly Sterling Street acquires a “stair sidewalk” – that is, stairs alongside the street, interspersed with flat, sidewalk, landings. Many of the public stairs in Pittsburgh are of this variety. This is as opposed to the street-free stairs which zip up a hillside, where no street has been laid. There’s also the “alley stairs”, like Caesar Way, a disappointing little flight which ended in a grassy goat path.

Finally getting out of these dizzying streets, I explored the streets below Spring Street, then took Spring Street all the way through Arlington Heights. At this point, the scenery became surreal. Tall chain link fences protected acres and acres of flat, empty land. I dubbed it the “Arlington Heights Serengeti” as the stark trees and grassy flat land looked like a nature preserve.

I made my back via Josephine Street. The cool thing about running up here is that you’re always treated to great city views.

California, Here I Come!

https://www.strava.com/activities/2981649916
RATS #00164 – California Avenue

This was a fairly long run, over half-marathon distance, on a cool, cloudy Saturday morning. I started at Nova Place, on Pittsburgh’s Northside. It is literally around the corner from the Children’s Museum, a place where I spent many hours with my children. It was quite an adventure land for them, with so many activities, from a multi-story maze to painting and screen printing.

Running out of the Northside along Chateau Street, the neighborhood becomes less stately and more forlorn. Old architecture still shows its fine bones, even in decay.

Crossing under the Route 65 highway took me to an industrial area. It features wide flat streets and is lined with large yards for the Port Authority, Duquesne Light, Mascaro Construction and others. Railroads coming out of the city make a large curve here and cross the Ohio River on massive bridges.

Knowing these flat streets wouldn’t last forever, I made a turn onto Eckert Street. Strangely enough, a group of runners passed by, coming down Eckert Street. I was curious as to which running group they represented, so asked the last one ” Who are you running with?” She just smiled, threw up her hands and said “I’m in my own pace group!” She was only 50 yards behind the other five, but it must have seemed like a mile.

Now, I was truly exploring. Like all good explorers, people had actually been there before, but it was new to me.

With all the bridges, hills and houses on the hills above, I knew there would be stairs somewhere. Sure enough, just past Don’s Diner, in the shade of the California Avenue bridge, I found a set of stairs. Coming off the stairs on top, I landed in a cove of fences and backyards with a narrow sidewalk leading to the bridge. Once on the bridge, I headed north, away from downtown. I was officially in the Brighton Heights neighborhood. Rising slowly, California Avenue goes past a mix of houses, mostly on the larger, older side where dinosaurs peaked out from the bushes.

Eventually, on Wilksboro Avenue, I ignored another “No Outlet” sign, and ran to the end, hoping to find another set of stairs. I didn’t, but what I DID find was amazing! There was a long pedestrian bridge rising high off the ravine floor. It had the structure of a full size bridge, but only the width of a sidewalk. Unfortunately, it was closed. I haven’t seen another structure like this in Pittsburgh. As I later discovered, this is the “Wilksboro Avenue Footbridge”.

My detour around the closed bridge brought me to another typically Pittsburgh scene, a small neighborhood park with a lively game going on. In an earlier run through the Hill District, it was football. Here it was Deck Hockey.

Deck Hockey

Crossing into Bellevue briefly, I turned around and made my way back toward downtown. I kept a block off of California, on Massachusetts. There were some cool houses; the blue portal house, the rambling wooden wreck with a rounded porch. I found myself going down Richardson Street, nearly to Eckert St again, but took the stairs up to Bainton Street instead. That was a long flight!

I ran through the upper section of California-Kirkbride, where Success is a two-block street. It is better than Fineview, where Compromise is a dead-end. Finally, I got to Marvista street and its long flight of stairs. This one is not for the faint of heart. Many of the railings are missing and there’s a section of broken stairway as well. At the low end, Marvista is a sad street rising up from California Avenue. But some people still live here beside the houses emblazoned with the city’s blue “condemned” badge. Missing from my pictures are the set of stairs on Hyena Way that come down at right angles to Marvista St.

From here, I just ran back to Nova Place, catching a few more streets on the Northside. Nova Place was busy when I got there, full of runners and families recovering from the Children’s Museum.