Summer Hill Evening

https://www.strava.com/activities/3840941171
RATS #00274

Ah, it was a struggle to get out for this run. There were lots of fits and starts in my plans. Eventually, though I found myself in Oakland running along Burrows Street towards the Hill. As usual, once I was underway, my motivation increased as well as my overall enjoyment of the evening.

Burrows Street starts on Terrace Street. As I’ve discussed an earlier blog , Terrace Village is much improved from years ago. The redevelopment continues, as Caterpillars eat away the hillside, flattening it for future development. We’ve had caterpillars in the garden, but these will take out your entire house.

Caterpillars eating the hillside
Creatures of Metal Chomping on the Hillside

Borrows curves around Terrace Village, but I made a left onto Bentley Street. Here it is empty and deserted as it swirls toward Kirkpatrick Street. Before there, though, a closed stairway descends mysteriously on the left.

Steps from Bentley to Alequippa are blocked off with chain link fence

Crossing Kirkpatrick, Bentley winds through modern apartment buildings. These are in rather stark comparison to the older Hill houses. Coming out of Bentley Drive, a green Conex box almost blended perfectly with the voracious vines and overhanging trees.

Now coming out into the Middle Hill, the UPMC and Mellon buildings downtown dominate the skyline on the left. This area is older, with many small streets and tiny alleys. It is a mix of newer development and older, two-three story buildings. Mostly they were all attached originally, but have become separated into islands are house after house has been demolished.

I went up Dinwiddle to Bedford, where I made my way to Kirkpatrick and back down Dinwiddle. (It was a short run, afterall). Along Centre, murals, old and new, liven the area.

At the end of Dinwiddle, I made a left onto Fifth and headed back to Oakland. I came across another colony of penguins, far from their Igloo home. I wonder if they are related to the Allentown penguins? Entering Oakland, I got a good glimpse of the historic St. Agnes Church.

That just about did it. Another run over four miles. I didn’t even have to tape my knee. Now, I can’t wait to run more!

Shadyside Evening

https://www.strava.com/activities/3824300083
Map of route taken for run #00273

This was a short run to cover some streets I had inexplicably missed in Shadyside. I think my original reason for not covering them in a solo run was to cover them in running with friends. That was clearly a pre-Covid plan.

At any rate, I was tired and sluggish, but the thought of crossing these off my list provided enough motivation to get out and run. It was a a summery evening. Thunderstorms had just passed through and there were lingering displays of lightning and sprinkles. Walnut Street was empty, courtesy of Covid19. Usually it would be packed with people shopping, walking dogs and spilling out of bars.

This section of Shadyside is typified by narrow Queen Anne houses squeezed together with front yard flowers. Most of these structures are not the mansions found a couple of blocks away. Additionally, there are many large, old apartment buildings and row houses, mostly well kept.

Alleys are a bit of an exception. As my Mom used to say “Queen Anne in front and Mary Ann in back”. Here is where you find the unpainted porches and a few garages in need of paint jobs.

There are also some very cute houses. The Inn at Negley, for instance, is now a luxury bed and breakfast. It also has a Little Library in front of it, for you bibliophiles.

Murals are not common here, but in a brick seating area off Walnut is the Building Bridges mural while the William Penn Tavern watering hole has some humorous ones.

This wasn’t a long run and I was happy to catch as glimpse of the Cambell’s Soup Can on Holden Street before it got too dark. I believe those are carved from a tree trunk.

That was about it. A little over three flat miles through Shadyside, dodging raindrops.

At the corner of Carrot and Celtic

https://www.strava.com/activities/3816294982
RATS #00272 – Oakwood

What will you find at the corner of Carrot Way and Celtic Way? This afternoon, you would have found a rather burnt, sweaty runner, amazed that the playground driveway became a true-blue alley.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Today’s run was all about Oakwood. It’s a small neighborhood squashed between the suburban communities of Crafton and Greentree. It connects to the rest of Pittsburgh via Noblestown Road to Westwood, and, in turn, throws a lifeline to East Carnegie, connecting it to the rest of Pittsburgh.

I started in Westwood, where there is a bit of shopping and a lot of concrete. It makes me hot just looking at the desert of stark asphalt shopping strips. But going up Poplar for a bit I came across Hall Street, which was much more inviting.

Hall Avenue took me slightly out of the city into Crafton and then to Crafton Boulevard. Taking a left along Crafton Boulevard quickly brought me to Oakwood. Coming this direction, Crafton Borough was on my right and the City of Pittsburgh on my left. I caught Oakwood Road, which is immediately a bridge with steps on the left. Ha! Steps. I had to go. It dawned on me that Pennsdale doesn’t actually intersect Oakwood, it goes under it. Maps do have their limitations.

Pennsdale was another world. In a very green hollow, with a stream nearby, there are a few dilapidated houses, a burned out house and a couple of nicer ones at the end. Deer abound, and from the number of fawns I’ve seen, this year has been especially fruitful.

Pennsdale eventually becomes Steen Street and intersects Baldwick Road, a narrow winding road with cars parked all over the cracked sidewalks. Looping back to Oakwood Road, I actually crossed the bridge this time and found steps. leading behind some houses. It seems just to be a shortcut to Balver Avenue.

Quite in contrast to the creepy, burnt-out houses of Pennsdale, Balver Avenue is a ring of modest two and three bedroom houses built in the 1950’s and 60’s. There is an interesting mailbox there, which looks like a tall pink guy with a sailor hat on. Sorry, no pic.

From here, I just tried to hit all the little streets and alleys. Going down Grasmere Street, I knew it was a dead-end and wasn’t looking forward to coming all the way back. As it took a little turn, I noticed that the dead-end “barrier” was a few logs in the street. Continuing, I hoped it would lead to Oakwood Park. Alas, I was disappointed and just came to a wood pile. However, immediately to the right was a set of stairs which took me to very end of Oakwood Road. Yay!

From here, I wandered through the alleys and streets of Oakwood. It is rather small, but has some character, especially in the older streets.

Finally, I made it to Oakwood Park. A lone shirtless teenager shooting hoops was on pace to getting a nice sunburn as well. The old elementary school’s bell has been patriotically painted red, white and blue. The strangest thing, to me, were the tennis courts inside a high, circular, stone wall. Upon further research, it turns out this used to be a reservoir.

Continuing down Carrot Way, I didn’t even see one rabbit, but came out to Craftmont Avenue. At this, I returned along Noblestown Road to my starting point. Turns out, I got seven solid mile in, one of my longer runs this July.

Ahh! Pittsburgh streets, you drive me CRAZY!

https://www.strava.com/activities/3798163893
RATS #00271

I had a good game plan going into this run. However, after spinning my shoes on some of those tiny, hilly streets, I got a bit disoriented and managed to run out of my way, covering more miles and fewer streets than I hoped. Oh, well, another Pittsburgh Bermuda Triangle!

Highlighted area of Perry South with many map mistakes
Bulk of run was just in this small area, dominated by steep hills and disconnected streets

Most of my effort was to cover the streets circled in red in the map above. The black marks indicate streets that don’t connect like the map implies. Last week’s run with George gave me an inkling the area would be hilly, but otherwise I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be a pleasant run in the park? Or a stressful run with snarling dogs?

I was pleasantly surprised at first. I turned onto East Marshall, took the next sharp left on Sonora and figured it would lead me down Pelham Street, a long dead-end. That’s what OpenStreetMap shows. That’s what Google Maps show. On an old Pittsburgh map, Pelham even intersects Perrysville Avenue. However, it is just not there anymore. The Allegheny County Real Estate page actually lists five parcels on Pelham. All are owned by the city and now Sonora Street just dead-ends into a funeral home.

Following East Marshall past the deceptively flat part, it plunges down a hill, ending high above I-279. Only overgrown bushes stop a basketball from bouncing all the way down. I imagine there’s a veritable treasure trove of balls captured by the devouring vines.

I made my way down Leroy Way. After it turned into Goshen Street, I found myself looking up a steep Kennedy Avenue slope. As I criss-crossed the streets, I found some very overgrown street steps along Daisey; the top of the Hawkins Street steps and a nice view from the top of Veterans Street. You can actually make out the Trimont Towers if you look closely. As the healthy crow flies, that’s over two miles away. A hot, thirsty crow might want to take a dip in the Ohio River along the way.

Coming off the steep hills there, I made my way to North Charles Street. Of course, nothing is simple and here, Maple Avenue crosses North Charles on a bridge.

Maple Street Crossing North Charles.
North Charles passing under Maple.

North Charles sweeps downhill, passing Fowler Park and Allegheny Cleanways; a great organization committed to cleaning up the region’s rivers. I think everyone should volunteer with them at least once. You may never use another plastic bottle again. I took a short detour and hit a little set of steps leading to Kenn Avenue and past its tiny little subdivision. What goes down must come up, so I trundled up Marshall Avenue slowly. It passes between two large cemeteries, Union Dale and Highwood.

Pushing past five miles, with a rock in my shoe and a hot sun on my head, I explored no more and returned to my starting point. It was a good run and now I’m THIS close to finishing this section of town!

Chasing Deer and Climbing Steps

RATS #00269

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fawning Over Perry Hilltop

https://www.strava.com/activities/3768623876
RATS #00268 – Perry Hilltop

Planning for this run, I was a bit anxious. I had done Perrysville Avenue and Watson Avenue, on the east. I’ve also been on North Charles Street, slightly further south. I have found this area a mixed bag. I’ll come across magnificent, well-kept houses on one street and garbage-filled, falling down dumps on the next. My “target” was a few streets tucked into the bends of Riverview Park to the west of Perrysville Avenue. I wasn’t sure what I would find.

My first find, along Perrysville Avenue was this house, circa 1900, in slight need of upkeep. The large chimney peeking up behind the decorated roof crest suggested a magnificent history. I hesitated to take pictures, but then saw the deer and two fawns ambling around, so figured folks weren’t hanging out on the porch or anything.

The turn onto on Marshall Road wasn’t too inspiring, but showed promise. Just past this stark red garage, the neighborhood took a sharp upward turn.

Old Garage

From here, I was in a delightful slice of Pittsburgh with large houses perched on hilltops with unique and detailed landscaping. Looking at the map later, I realized that this section of Pittsburgh abuts against a large greenspace. Some of that is the hills of Riverview Park, while some is Highwood Cemetery. Either way, the effect is a lot of greenery and deer.

It is a bit of a curvy maze here, but I think I found gold with this cool garden, complete with bowling ball. Where else do balls go when the lanes close? Or maybe, just maybe, this is where they grow!

Wooden picket fence outlines a front yard garden with pink flowers, spent roses and lawn decorations

Eventually I was done with these alleys and streets. I crossed Marshall Avenue (not road) and embarked on the Norwood Avenue stairs. At the top, a large patch of sunflowers are almost ready to bloom. Going down to Kennedy Avenue, I saw an old friend at a corner. Elmo!

Once done with Kennedy Avenue, I headed back to my car. I even put on a small burst of speed, huffing and puffing with my mask on. Whew!

Park often?

RATS #00266

This was a loosely planned run in Homewood on a Sunday morning which took me from the flats near the East Busway to the towering hills above Frankstown Avenue. Along the way, saw lots of cats, some turkeys, some cats chasing turkeys and lot of greenery. There were steps and urban decay balanced by murals and a few cute houses.

I crossed the East Busway on the North Lang Pedestrian Bridge and started east. This area is very tight with tiny alleys between small streets. There are newer houses, older homes, a few nice places and many decrepit ones. It is the height of summer and weeds are taking over any undisturbed lot. Mulberry trees were so low along one alley, I had to duck to run under them.

Toward the end of Tioga Street, the narrow street was lined with large trucks. On one side, a large dump truck had driven onto a soft meadow months ago. On the other, big rigs were parked all over. I got as close as ever to a shiny Mack cab, while a “Fast-Unlock” dump truck body sheltered Long Haul Kitty. His orange coat looked sleek and a water dish had been even left out.

Now heading north to my real target, I climbed streets splaying out like fingers up the hills above Frankstown Avenue. At the split of Mohler Street and Willing Street a small set of steps lead you up Mohler (yes, they are documented in Bob Regan’s book, all six of them.) Willing was a long, desolate street with mattresses and garbage near a condemned house. That white house looked like it was falling off the hillside. Passing that, and coming closer to a better maintained house, I spied a turkey and three grey chicks clucking across the street. As I approached the adult turkey rushed back across the street and chicks disappeared into the undergrowth.

I wound my way down one finger, and then up the next, Wheeler Street. Pittsburgh has a penchant for alliteratively naming neighboring streets. At the corner of Wheeler and Mohler, I saw another flock of wild turkeys. Here, though, a wily, skinny, white and orange cat was creeping up on them, eye’s as big as saucers. I ruined his cover, and the turkeys went gobbling off into the woods. I’m thinking I did the kitty a favor, as those turkeys would have beaten him up.

Wheeler took me up to an impressive set of stairs at the end of Ferndale. They have several twists and turns, but were too overgrown to completely traverse. On Willing Street, I did not notice their upper landing.

Ferndale Steps – Left is the bottom, middle is looking up them and the left picture are the steps disappearing into the woods.

Running out of Pittsburgh for a moment into Penn Hills, I came to my senses and went up Ferndale. Whew! That is certainly a steep street, making it into the “Filthy Five”. Ferndale intersects Lawndale Street at the top. On the left, Lawndale is partially blocked by Jersey barriers, but I trekked down it a bit anyway. However, once I saw an RV down the dead-end road, I figured I had gone far enough and turned around. That’s probably in Penn Hills anyway.

Lawnsdale careens straight down the hill. As it reaches Perchment Street, it spills down to Frankstown Road as a set of steps.

Back to the flatlands, I made my way back to my car. As I skittered down Durango Way, a colorful wall peeked through a slightly open steel door. I peeked in and was rewarded with a garden of murals.

I finished with six and a half miles – slightly more than a 10k. Most of the run covered new streets and I got to see turkeys and murals along the route. The steps were interesting, too. Nice run!

Large houses on little streets in Shadyside

RATS #00265

Running late in the evening in Shadyside took me down streets with million dollar homes and large porches filled with dinner guests. This section of Shadyside, bounded by Forbes Avenue and Ellsworth Avenue, extending from Neville Street to South Aiken Avenue is one of the most opulent sections of Pittsburgh. Nearby are a number of landmark Pittsburgh institutions; WQED, Central Catholic, CMU, Pitt, and Rodef Shalom, to name a few.

Like sumo wrestlers straining to push each other off the mat, these institutions are constantly pushing and shoving each other to build on precious Oakland real-estate. The wrecking ball awaits any building the sumo can replace.

wrecking ball and giant metal hook

While that sounds ominous, the new buildings are pretty nice, I must admit.

CMU Tepper Quad
CMU’s New Tepper Quad

WQED has a prominent history and was home to Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood. I suppose that means I was actually running in Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood! Or maybe the Land of Make Believe!

I tell you what, these houses were unbelievable. The short dead-end streets are lined with ones like the seven bedroom jewel below. I’d be surprised if anyone can guess how much it last “sold” for. Just for perspective, it is neither the largest nor smallest home I saw.

Nice starter home in a quiet neighborhood

Devon Road becomes a “Private Road” at some point, although it really looks like the same crews are maintaining the public road and the private road. There are even steps here, from Fifth Avenue to Warwick Terrace, but the steps are closed. What a shame. Perhaps the folks living here don’t want vagrants, runners, and broke students traipsing through.

Beyond Devon Road, I wove my way up and down the little streets. It was cool to hear the clink of glasses and chatter of conversation as so many people were sitting on their verandas enjoying the slightly cooler night. The evening drew on to full night by the time I finished four miles.

Hot Damn, It’s Hot in Beltzhoover!

https://www.strava.com/activities/3718029970
RATS #00263 – A Cat in High Heels?

This headline “Hot Damn, It’s Hot in…” will be used extensively the next few days. It could possibly be superseded by “Running on the Surface of the Sun…” or “All of Pittburgh is Lava”. Three cheers for July running!

I explored another of Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods, Beltzhoover. If you don’t understand how Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods are cordoned off from one another, Beltzhoover is a great example. The northern border is Warrington Avenue. From Warrington Avenue, a few streets climb sharply into the heart of Beltzhoover. On the west, the T-line and South Busway separate it from Mount Washington. On the east, Beltzhoover Avenue is a less distinct border with Knoxville and Allentown. On the south, a large ravine, a park (McGinley Park) and the busy Bausman Street completely seal it off from Bon Avon. It’s an interesting name and there’s a very short paragraph in this old Post-Gazette article attributing the name to Melchior Beltzhoover.

I approached Beltzhoover from the beginning of Beltzhoover Avenue at Grandview Park. It quickly rolls off the hill and after a few blocks dissipates into small shady streets. However, at the corner of Beltzhoover and East Warrington, a few penguins were getting a suntan. I think they would have been happier staying at the zoo.

This area has wide, long streets and tiny alleys. Michigan Street crosses nearly all of Beltzhoover, as do a number of other streets, such as Sylvania Street and Climax Street.

I did not traverse all of Climax Street, but one of the climaxes of today’s run was finding the Beltzhoover Community Perennial Nursery on it. In a cursory internet search, I didn’t find much information, but there it was, on a bright hillside, a slope filled with carefully tended flowering perennials buzzing with bees. I also got a kick out of the white lions at the top of some private stairs.

There were a few other steps, too. The most significant was along Bernd Street. It’s several flights took me to a back alley where the remains of yesterday’s fireworks were strewn across the ground. A phone booth, sans handset, adorned those steps. On the other hand, the only thing adorning the Delmont Street steps were weeds. Perhaps in wintertime, I could use the crumbling steps.

In spite of the gardens and wide, brick streets, much of this area has a neglected look. The wide streets are dusty and street sweeping doesn’t seem to be a regular event.

I cut out after six miles due to the heat, primarily. Also, while my knee is better, I didn’t want to push it too much. It was the right choice. Besides, the route turned out to look like a cat in heels, as my friend Cathy commented. Ha! I couldn’t have done that if I tried.

Hot Damn, It’s Hot in Larimer

https://www.strava.com/activities/3708218189
RATS #00261 – Larimer

Hot and humid, Hot and humid,Hot and humid…

Like the banging refrain to a bad punk song, “hot and humid” pounded into my head as I explored the streets of Larimer this afternoon. I had, honestly, been avoiding this area for a bit. It seems like a no-man’s land, squished between Negley Run Road, Washington Road and East Liberty Boulevard. But, other than the heat, there wasn’t much to worry about on a sunny mid-morning.

Not more than a mile from Google’s Pittsburgh offices in Bakery Square, deserted and overgrown Paulson Avenue whimpers to a dead end above Washington Road.

En route, I saw these oft-photographed murals across from Jeremiah’s Place on Paulson Avenue. Mac Miller, I believe?

As I ran further from the busy streets such as East Liberty Avenue and Frankstown Road, the neighborhood becomes pancake flat and very quiet. Perhaps it was the heat, but except for the occasional dog barking or child playing, there wasn’t much activity out there. Many of the smaller streets and alleys are overgrown. Many lots are empty, presumably where houses had been demolished.

For Pittsburgh, this is an incredibly flat area. I managed to find one small set of stairs off of Finley Avenue. The residents of here, as throughout Pittsburgh, seem determined to make their homes as quirky as they can.

Along one alley, old parking spaces had been transformed into an art gallery.

But overall, there is no doubt of the poverty and neglect of this neighborhood. Across from a decent playground, complete with slides and with a water wall, stand two abandoned houses stamped for demolition.

This area is pretty large, too. I covered only about a quarter of the streets here, but easily racked up the miles. As I approached five miles, I headed back to my car. I ended up with a 10k. Good run!