Sunset on California

https://www.strava.com/activities/4621577990
RATS #00355

This was a very targeted run after work in mid-January. I started out in Brighton Heights and worked my way down to Ireland Way in Marshall-Shadeland. My first street was Lee Street, which took me past an old-folks home. It also bordered some sort of day-care and ended in the City Growers Community Garden. After a bit of ducking in and out of those streets, I found my way to Kalorama Way. Kalorama Way is a rather long alley and is broken into at least three parts. This part took me past the schoolyard of Morrow Elementary, with its towering smokestack.

This area has a mix of houses and apartment buildings. I liked the archways and balconies of this one on Fleming Avenue. In spite of the dense urban feel of Brighton Heights, there’s always an alley that takes you back to the countryside. I’m wary of such back-alleys, worried that I might trespass on someone’s property, and worried that they’ll take exception to it. Look what happened to the last trespassers here!

Nature is always at work. In a few more years, the straggly vines will cover that shed. Add a couple more years and the shed will be gone. I had already done the Rankin Steps, but they were a great shortcut to the third section of Kalorama Way. They also point to the amazing ups and downs of Pittsburgh. This house, with it’s high turret on a high hill likely has a better view even than I did of the Alcosan Plant far below. Everyone wants a view of the Alcosan plant, right?

Richardson Avenue and its side-streets dumped me out onto California Avenue. From that high bridge over Eckert Street, I caught the setting sun and then made my way down California to Halsey Place, not far from Marshall Avenue.

On the return trip, I scouted out Ireland Way and its two sections of steps. One, along the street, is just overgrown and crumbling. The other, shown on Google Maps as “Pickle Way”, is wildly overgrown and disintegrating. It doesn’t go very far until nature takes over. Hey Red Shed, see what’s in store for you?!

Further on, there was a set of steps which had eluded me on earlier runs. Supposedly, it ran from Toberg Street to Woodland Avenue. Aided by careful pre-run sleuthing, I finally found it. It was masquerading in plan sight as a side-yard. I went up to them, but those wooden steps were completely overgrown.

Side-yard Steps
Steps to Toberg

With this little mystery uncovered, I ran back to my car as the dusk turned into night.

What’s Next to Your Steps?

https://www.strava.com/activities/4338392163
RATS #00327

In this long journey to cover all of Pittsburgh’s streets, I have found it very difficult to completely search out every nook and cranny of a neighborhood on just one run; sometimes it takes two, or three, or even more runs. In the older neighborhoods, especially, there are often small streets, alleys and steps which somehow eluded my attention on the first go rounds. Eventually, however, I have to go back and do them. This was one of those “go-back” runs. I’m also going back in time for this run which happened three weeks ago.

I got started down in Bloomfield, not far from Sonny’s. I like those cats. Before long, I was scaling the Cedarville steps next to Sanchioli’s Bakery.

This first stage, which finished Bloomfield, took me down Juniper Street, while the next stage required me to go over the Bloomfield Bridge. Luckily, the Ella Street steps provided the necessary lift. I’ve done these steps before, but only now did I notice the “Try” messages on the way up. Up there, perched on a corner of the concrete, a tiny chair set took in the afternoon sun.

Crossing over to Polish Hill, I came to the Apollo Street Steps, incongruously placed next to an auto repair shop. I wonder how much business that shop gets, perched as it is underneath a bridge on a small street well off the main road.

Now I was in the midst of Polish Hill. I needed to get to Hancock Street and made my way through this warren of houses built on top of each other, small streets and dead-ends, while avoiding drunk pumpkins and admiring Little Libraries

Eventually, I found it, Hancock Street. I also got more “Boat Theory” evidence along the way (see this blog). Hancock Street steps took me up to busy Bigelow Boulevard and Bethoven Way, a small alley. Now Polish Hill was complete, too.

As you approach Bigelow from the streets all fall away steeply. Bigelow is a busy, rather ugly roadway, but there is a pedestrian walkway under it, decorated with old-school graffiti. Not a place to linger on a dark night.

Continuing up into the Upper Hill, I came across another incarnation of Hancock Street, still going uphill. The corner lot with the flag is also strewn with “Polish Only” parking signs.

As much as I had climbed from Herron Avenue, I still had a way to go to get to stage three, the Upper Hill. I took the Orion Street Steps. It’s a fairly impressive set of steps with a great view on top.

View from Orion Street Steps
Orion Street Steps

I continued around the Upper Hill, surprised to see a cemetery there, “Minersville Cemetery”. It actually has a Facebook page these days and was the subject of an article by Diana Nelson Jones back in 2017. Diana interviewed me for an article earlier this year. On the backside of the cemetery, Shawnee Street comes down in a nice set of sidewalk steps.

I found the World’s Greatest Candy Bar! Across Herron Avenue, Granite Street falls off of Orbin as steps. You can see Pitt’s athletic bubble on the hill rising in the background.

From here, I found my way back to Bloomfield. A solid ten miles done. Bloomfield and Polish Hill completed.

Stepping from Uptown to the Hill

https://www.strava.com/activities/4187229338
RATS #00321 – Uptown and Lower Hill

Starting under the Birmingham Bridge, near the Boat Ramp off of 18th Street, I crossed over the bridge and embarked on some more exploration of the Lower Hill and Uptown. While Forbes Avenue and Fifth Avenue take thousands of people downtown, it is rare for people to venture up the slope for even a street or two. There are reasons, of course. Most of these streets spill out onto Kirkpatrick Street and stop. Further into the Hill District, Centre Avenue is alone in continuing all the way through Oakland. Webster becomes a small residential street after Herron Avenue while Wylie stops entirely there.

It is also generally poor, rundown and is considered dangerous. Nonetheless, I needed to do these streets. Along Fifth Avenue, not far from the Birmingham Bridge, there’s a set of wooden steps (Rising Way) which take you to De Raud Street. One section of De Raud winds along past a couple of abandoned buildings to a little playing field off of Kirkpatrick Street. I was nervous about running there, but had no problem. In fact, the playing field had been used as a garden and several folks were out there in the cool early evening cleaning it up. (Don’t confuse Rising Way with Rising Main. Rising Main is in the Northside and is much longer.)

I actually did the Rising Way steps twice, because I looped around Kirkpatrick Street upon exiting the park. The second time around, I took a left to the corner of DeRaud and Wyandotte. A brief look at Strava indicates that Wyandotte continues on the right for a bit. In a sense, it does, but not for cars. It continues as a long set of steps and walks.

While not shown, when you make a left off of these steps at the end, you’re at the end of Diaz Way. There’s a lone house there with cars parked in front. That’s the only house on Diaz until you get to Wicks Street about a quarter mile away. Unfortunately, Diaz Way has been trashed for years. A fence on the uphill side holds back layers of leaves interspersed with cans, bottles and other debris. Halfway to Wicks Street are the Lombard Street Steps. The lower section takes you to Colwell Street, while the upper side takes you to Lombard Street.

I took the lower section, making a left to the end of Colwell Street, which, I must say, is blocked off and doesn’t actually meet Wyandotte anymore. Turning around, I got that view of the downtown skyline, a mile and millions of dollars away. Returning to Diaz Way took me to the Wicks Street Steps, very similar to Upper Lombard Street. Here, though, the steps don’t plop you out onto a street, but rather a narrow sidewalk. The street is held back by a shoulder-high retaining wall, even in front of a house.

Once up these steps, the small roads curve to Dinwiddie Street, where scores of homes have been reconstructed or built anew. From here, I wandered along Reed Street and Colwell Street but eventually worked my way to the end of Crawford Street. Crawford ends in Cliff Street, aptly named because it sits high above the Veteran’s Bridge and the East Busway. Cliff Street ends at a private walk strewn with leaves.

End of Cliff Street (this section, at least)

Working my way back to the Birmingham Bridge, I came across the construction at Mercy Hospital and some very stoic dogs. You might even say they were wooden.

Rolling on Rolla

https://www.strava.com/activities/4187229338
RATS #00313 – Manchester, California-Kirkbride with a little Perry Hilltop thrown in

This Monday evening run took me through the Northside, into Perry Hilltop and down through California-Kirkbride. The early evening in this area is quite active. There’s still lots of renovations going on in the Mexican War Streets. Kids are playing before dinner and men and women are getting home from work. My route meandered through the Central Northside, with its narrow streets eventually rising up Buena Vista Street.

Buena Vista is flat near West North Avenue, but by the time it passes behind Propel School, it has a 14% slope. It gets as steep as 17% before leveling off in three tenths of a mile. On my way down, I took the picture below, surprised how close Trimont seemed.

Overlook “intersects” Rolla with a nice set of steps. Rolla itself is just a short street from Buena Vista to Yale Street. Yale is blocked off and has been for a number of years, apparently. A cursory internet search didn’t turn up any specific reason, but checking the real estate site revealed that most lots on Yale are owned by the City of Pittsburgh. The other Yale Street in Pittsburgh is in Carrick.

That aside, one end of Rolla Street hits Buena Vista while the other drains down a steep staircase to Irwin Street. Those steps apparently had houses and other steps branching off from it. Towards the bottom, a sidewalk veers off of the steps to the Propel School grounds.

From here, I trotted over to California-Kirkbride. It is not a large area, but has bedeviled me with its grid of streets, for some reason. Ah, I know one reason, some of the “streets” are paper streets, which quickly ruin a planned route. Nonetheless, there’s things going on there recently. Many old houses have been demolished and lots have been landscaped. There are new houses and a little bit of artwork on the lonesome walls. One of the remaining buildings hosts a faded sign for “Clays”, a bar.

At this point, I had done most of my planned route and decided to venture further up California Avenue. I ended up in a land of exits and entries for cars where it intersects Marshall Avenue. Not sure, but do you think I can get to Route 65 or Route 19 from there?

Five signs for Rt 65 and three for Rt19

I finished off exploring by doing Ridgeland Drive. For the day’s final set of steps, I discovered this small set of steps at the end of Ridgeland Place going to Oliver High School and Brighton Road.

From here, I just made my way back to my car. It had been a good run with lots to see.

September 2020 Catch-Up

Summary

September 2020 was a pretty busy month with 124.8 miles run and 12,500 feet of elevation gain, the most since May. I ran often, 23 days with 17 of these covering new streets. I crossed over the 300 run threshold. With any luck, I’ll be done before I hit 400 runs, but that remains to be seen. I can see a flicker of light at the end of this project tunnel!

Unfortunately, my blogging hasn’t kept up with my running, so this catch-up blog will be a veritable book. Oh well, here goes!

RATS #00292

https://www.strava.com/activities/4012388510
RATS #00292 in Squirrel Hill

This was a short run to cover a few errant streets in Squirrel Hill and Schenley Park. I cut through Frick Park, using Iron Gate Trail to vault me over the big hill separating Swisshelm Park and Squirrel Hill. By the time I came back, it was too dark to gallop through the park without a flashlight.

RATS #00293

https://www.strava.com/activities/4016390122
RATS #00293 in Perry Hilltop

This was roughly a 10K to Perry Hilltop from West Park. It got started off with a sparkling sculpture, a yellow-eyed cat and a colorful backyard.

Then, I explored Irwin Avenue, which rises out of Central Northside. Surprisingly, it is blocked off for a few hundred yards and then jumps up to the top of Perry Hilltop on steps.

I zigged-zagged up here a bit, eventually finding my way to North Charles Street. Just before crossing the Swindell Bridge, I cut off to the left on Hazelton, to clear up that dead-end. Further along, up on the hilltop, I got a good view of the Swindell Bridge over I-279 and then wandered down into Fineview. That’s not something you hear much… “DOWN” into Fineview. Everything is steep over here. On one side, you have the ravine down to I-279, on the other the streets fall steeply towards Perrysville Avenue. Tall houses stare down from their perches like vultures.

RATS #00295

https://www.strava.com/activities/4025090610

This was a run cut short by tired knees and mistaken maps. Nonetheless, I made some progress on a few Shadyside alleys and small streets near Ellis School. By the time I got to East Liberty, though, I was done.

RATS #00297

https://www.strava.com/activities/4071163546
RATS #00297 West Liberty and Brookline

This was a gut check run. It was late and I didn’t go far, but I got out there. I did finish off Flatbush Avenue in Brookline, but it was too dark to do much exploring and I didn’t stop long enough to take crisp pictures.

RATS #00298

https://www.strava.com/activities/4075550982
RATS #00298 – Brookline

Another evening run in Brookline. This time, I made a beeline for streets on the left of Whited Street, as you go towards Saw Mill Run Boulevard. I really wasn’t sure what I would find, but found very residential, suburban streets perched on a plateau. There were tweens goofing off in the street, a couple walking their golden retriever and a mom walking up and down the street with a stroller and a chatty three year old; “Mom, why is he running THAT way?”

Coming back along Whited Street is NOT something I would recommend, especially in the darkness. At least, I could see headlights in time to huddle off the road.

RATS #00299

https://www.strava.com/activities/4079580634
RATS #00299

This was a short run in the South Side Flats. Like a vampire, this neighborhood keeps coming back with some little street or alley I’ve missed. I’m really trying to drive a stake through the heart and get this area done. In spite of the short run, there was lots to see. Perhaps my favorite were the pierogie signs around Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church. Downtown Pittsburgh is just across the Monongahela River and the skyscrapers caught the evening sun nicely.

RATS #00301

https://www.strava.com/activities/4094305425
RATS #00301

This was quite an adventure. I checked out one of the lesser known neighborhoods, New Homestead. It is west of West Homestead/Munhall, east of the Glenwood Bridge interchange and south of Sandcastle yet north of Mifflin Road. Looking at the map below, you might notice that there are three disconnected areas of New Homestead. I ran most of the northeast section.

New Homestead

Also looking at the map, you might notice a lack of streets. Okay, a lack of anything. Your observations would be pretty much correct. There’s just a number of long streets dotted with houses and large areas of woods. Deer were everywhere and seemed offended by me disturbing them. I actually parked in West Homestead, above a baseball diamond.

RATS #00302

https://www.strava.com/activities/4103987670
RATS #00302 – Carrick & Overbrook

Run number 302 saw me back in Carrick and Overbrook. Unlike New Homestead, this area is dense with houses and people. Hills, steps, alleys, this run had it all. I don’t remember seeing many deer, though. I was amused by the war memorial in front of Carrick High School. Most memorials of this age have howitzers or bronze soldiers. This one had a bronzed shell. Many lawns were covered in political signs; often with neighbors cheering opposite sides. Just think how fun that block party would be! That cat, however, wasn’t the least ruffled as I run past it, huffing and puffing up the hill.

The Englert Street steps conveniently took me from Saw Mill Run Boulevard up the hill again, while the Dartmore Steps were just a convenience. Unfortunately, the Antenor Way Steps were blocked off, even though they didn’t look too bad.

RATS #00303

https://www.strava.com/activities/4108586048
RATS #00303 – Lawrenceville

Speaking of neighborhoods which keep coming back with uncovered alleys and streets, Lawrenceville takes the cake. This five mile run just went round and round dim back alleys. Interestingly enough, it was busy enough, between restaurants and residents that I felt more comfortable here than in New Homestead.

RATS #00304

https://www.strava.com/activities/4115676785
RATS #00304

This was a nine mile run (not to be confused with the stream of the same name) through Manchester. With this run, I’ve covered all the streets between the railroad and Chateau Street. This is a large, flat area. Mexican War Streets, with their 1890’s row houses gradually transform into sprawling mixed housing, newer three bedroom split levels interspersed with magnificent mansions. Some of the ‘mansions’ have seen better days.

Alleys are where you see the underside of a neighborhood. These show the old warehouse nature of the area. There’s also a major railroad line, below grade, which dominates the eastern fringe of this area.

But there’s a lot going on here. New construction isn’t too surprising given the great location and flat land. People have gardens and little libraries and seem to generally be active. I didn’t expect to see that huge rooster mural or a booming market along Juniata Street, but there it is.

RATS #00306

https://www.strava.com/activities/4125952429
RATS #00306

Once again, I returned to Carrick and Overbrook in the evening. At this point in the month, I was really trying to complete a Strava Challenge (200km), so after doing Yale Street, I just went exploring.

Yale Street is in the same are as RATS #00302. One section has extensive steps leading up into Phillips Park, then it drops precipitously to Dartmore Street. Clawing my way back to Brownsville Road, I needed a couple more miles, so trotted along Carrick Avenue. It was fully dark and I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going. Nontheless, I ‘just needed to bear right’ a couple of times to take me back to Brownsville Road and into Pittsburgh again.

RATS #00307

RATS #00307 – Banksville

Must say, I’m proud of this run. I planned it pretty well and stuck to the plan. It was a little over seven miles in Banksville where it borders Greentree and Mount Lebanon. It is a nice area with long winding streets. However, there weren’t many distinctive things to see. At the start, I did pass a soccer field off of Hillsdale Avenue, where a girl’s soccer game was in progress under the lights. They have a powerful PA system, and for the rest of the run, I could hear the announcers.

That’s All Folks!

So, there you have it. September 2020 in the books. I think this is the longest “Catch-Up” blog I’ve had and I might change things up a bit to avoid this in the future. Maybe a weekly blog?

At any rate, I want to run a bit farther in October and continue to efficiently cover streets. I’ll try to get into Lincoln Place, another outlying neighborhood, as well as continue to finish out the Hill District, Marshall-Shadeland and Carrick.

SugarTop

https://www.strava.com/activities/2954025590
SugarTop RATS #00157

This day’s run was in Sugar Top. My starting point was the edge of a small square park dominated by a blue water tower and fenced water reservoir at the apex of the hill. From the walkway around the reservoir, on a clear day you can see all across the city. However, it was rather foggy, so I concentrated on the nearby streets. Carnak Street is more like an alley and quickly disappears into grassy asphalt. The Alpena Street Stairs allow quick access to Bigelow Blvd. Houses in the area varied from dilapidated row houses to large, nicely kept homes. Lilian McKibbin Steiner wrote the paper “Sugar Top and the Cobblestone Jungle” about redevelopment in the Hill which includes interesting tidbits and maps of this area.

Base of the Water Tower