Christmas Eve, 7:23 pm, I’m doing last minute Christmas shopping. This is so late that the stores are emptying out. Decorations are already 45% off. Buzz, buzz, my phone rings.
“Hey Ed, how about a run tomorrow? 7 am? Before I have to go to my parents”
“Uh, yeah, sure”, I answer. “Can we make it 7:30? ” A brisk run to kickoff the day, before my kids come over for brunch.
So, here I am on a chilly, foggy Christmas morning, meeting Rich for a run. He had talked about running up McCardle, a favorite “hill” route which rises from the Liberty Tubes to Mount Washington. I suggested we start at Armstrong Field for ease of parking and so we could include the entirety of McCardle.
Rising from the low end of McCardle, the route took us above Cupples Field, where we could hear the bells at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church echoing through the fog. Dodging the one car coming out of the Liberty Tubes, we stormed up the McCardle escarpment. Usually, that 3/4 mile hill deserves high-fives and skyline selfies at the top. However, it was so foggy today that none of that could be seen, not even the high-fives.
We made our way to Virginia Ave, whereupon I introduced Rich to the “real” Mount Washington. Big rolling hills, stairs, more hills and alleys. There’s a variety of housing in Mount Washington, mostly in decent shape.
At the end of Virginia Ave, stairs continued down to Pyle Way and Sweetbriar Street. With temps hovering around freezing, the long wooden stairs were very slippery. Luckily, the handrails were sturdy.
As Rich commented, there’s nothing sweet about Sweetbriar St. It is a long, steep, uphill slog which takes you directly to the “Point of View” Monument. Here, Seneca leader Guyasuta and George Washington are engaged in an eternal staring contest, while the City of Pittsburgh changes below them.
From the Point of View to our cars was a fast downhill run. Rich was nice enough to bring doughnuts. Thanks Rich!
Today’s run is brought to you by the question: “Can I get there from here?” More specifically, I was curious how to run from Mt. Washington over to the South Side Slopes. I’m also hoping to find a “Great Southwest Passage” – a running route that will get me from the South Side Flats to the big southern neighborhoods such as Beechview and Brookline.
I began in the South Side Flats, concentrating on Larkin Way. Larkin Way starts at a ten foot wall enclosing an electrical substation. It feels rather odd, because there are also house entrances right there too. Another in a series of long alleyways, Larkin Way goes from that wall near 28th St all the way to S 17th St, where it basically morphs into Sarah St in the heart of residential South Side Flats.
Catching PJ McCardle at its lower terminus, I chug up the gradual slope as it rises past Cupples Stadium. All along here, McCardle is pedestrian friendly. OK, “friendly” might not be the right word. It has a crumbling sidewalk and wet branches swat you in the face as you’re running by, but at least there is a sidewalk. As you approach the Liberty Bridge intersection, its another story. Here there’s nothing for pedestrians but a high curb and the graciousness of Pittsburgh drivers. Crossing the entrance to the Liberty Bridge, begins the long ‘classic’ McCardle climb. This takes me over Sycamore St, under the Mon Incline, under the round viewing platforms on Grandview Ave and up to Grandview itself. Normally when I’m running classic McCardle, I’ll either stop here to take pics or run down to the Liberty Bridge and back for hill repeats. This time I ran through the intersection and onto Merrimac St, taking a left onto Virginia Ave. Behind the views and tourists of Grandview Ave is the Mt. Washington neighborhood. Modest three bedroom Pittsburgh brick houses with small yards are interlaced with $900K condos. The rather wide streets wind up and down steep rolling hills.
My route took me down Boggs Ave and up Southern Ave, making a loop down and up. These are densely populated streets with houses separated only by hedges or narrow walkways. As I finished the loop, where Southern Ave meets Virginia Ave and Wyoming St, I heard a rustle behind me. A deer leapt from the wall on my left, skittered across the intersection and bounded up a twelve foot retaining wall across the street. Urban wildlife strikes again!
I made a left onto Boggs this time and as it became Baily, the street flattened out. Baily was shockingly wide and straight. Larger houses, mostly brick four-squares with nice lawns lined the road. Across the street, you could see views of downtown. Then Baily made a sweeping curve past Emerald View Park and started a literal and figurative downhill into Beltzhoover. I’m always surprised what a mile will do, and this street was no exception. In Beltzhoover, the houses became narrower, weeds grew between the sidewalk blocks and it was just dirtier. I made the turn onto East Warrington Road, along the business district with its Family Dollar, barber shops with their old-style barber poles, bars, and a beer distributor. Onion Maiden is there, a vegan restaurant with a heavy-metal/punk playlist. I turned right onto Arlington Ave, past the police station and Black Forge Coffee House. At this stage of my Pittsburgh explorations, Arlington Ave is a well-known street for me. I know that if I continue, I will eventually cross streets that plunge down to the South Side Flats, often as stairs.
I did just that. Unfortunately Arlington was a long, hot run, but eventually I rounded onto Jospehine for a little and branched off onto Eccles St. Eccles St is a cross between an alley and a country road. Then I made the right onto Cologne St, with its unreal hills and stairs for sidewalks. I wound down to Oakley Street and took the extensive stairs from Oakley to Shelly and Stella streets and from there down to Josephine. Shelly St and Stella St would normally be one street, but the street is so steep that Stella goes one way and ten feet below Stella goes the other.
That was an amazing shortcut. In spite of all the tremendous hills I felt I had done, it turned out to be just about the same elevation as the previous day’s run though Stanton Heights. Now I know how to get from Mount Washington to the South Side Slopes. Next goal is to wind my way over to Beechview.