South Dallas End to End

South Point BreezeNorth Point Breeze

From one goofy intersection to another, that’s South Dallas/North Dallas Avenue. The southern end of South Dallas Avenue springs from Beechwood Boulevard, going a mere 100 feet before it hits a red light (mostly) at the intersection of Forbes Avenue. Quiet as a cemetery, this is an attractive neighborhood with impressive, large houses in the $660,000+ price range. From a runner’s perspective, it is also roughly the start of the Great Race, a popular 10K in September. Tall oaks spread their branches and rain down acorns on the houses. Driveways curve up behind the houses.

Running here was a bit hilly, and South Dallas goes up briefly again as it runs past cemeteries and forms a boundary between Point Breeze and Squirrel Hill. You pass between Homewood Cemetery on the right and Smithfield East End Cemetery on the left. Just now looking up Smithfield Cemetery, I am duly impressed with its heritage.

“It began as a church grave yard to the oldest organized church in the City of Pittsburgh—the first German Evangelical Protestant Church—which was founded in Pittsburgh in 1782 ”

Once you get past the cemeteries, South Dallas becomes nicely straight and slightly downhill. A breeze to run! Continuing on South Dallas Avenue, you’ll notice the houses perhaps getting marginally smaller, but the neighborhood is still pricey, and you’d pay at least $250k for houses all the way to Penn Avenue. The area is still aesthetically pleasing with rather large yards and mature trees.

Continuing past Penn Avenue, South Dallas becomes North Dallas. The houses are still impressive, but the area is not as well maintained. A couple of blocks past Penn Avenue, North Dallas takes a plunge, dropping 100′ in a few blocks. The neighborhood takes a similar plunge as North Dallas passes under railroad tracks and eventually peters out at the weird intersection where Bennett Street peels off from Frankstown Road. Houses in this neck of the woods are much smaller and go for around $50k.

So, I’ve done Dallas, South and North, and wind my way back through Homewood. This area has a bad reputation in my mind and I am pretty cautious. A week after running this route, a rather spectacular crime was committed in suburban Monroeville area and the perpetrators used Homewood as staging area. Vigilant police ended up breaking into a home of an 80 year-old grandmother in their search for a victim. That is still in the courts, I believe.

So, there’s reason to be cautious, but looking around, while I do see run-down row houses, I also see typical three-story Pittsburgh brick foursquare houses neatly maintained with a decent yards. What would those folks in Southside Slopes give for a flat driveway? Not much, I suppose. Alleys straight as an arrow, disappear into the distance. Again, it’s amazing what a mile will do. My trek back to the start was just a long climb out of the valley. Long gradual hills that my warped Pittsburgh vision calls “flat”.

Strava Run All The Streets 0026

Fireflies in the Dark

Squirrel Hill North

Another Wednesday in January. Running well after sunset. Running in Squirrel Hill, away from the bright lights of the Murray Avenue shopping district. This hadn’t been a bad January yet, but tonight’s run featured patchy ice and snow on the sidewalks. I was in no hurry to fall, so I fell back to run with one of my favorite groups of runners; Amy, Kristen, Dayana, Denise, Haley, and Nicole. Honestly, I’m not sure if everyone made it that night. Did I mention it was dark? Somehow, when the weather is damp all lights seem weak. Blackness seemed to spill out of every crevice and crack. We ran away from Dunkin Donuts, away from all that fat, sugary deliciousness. We ran toward Homewood Cemetery. Great.

Homewood Cemetery in Pittsburgh's East End on a sunny Fall afternoon. Large trees overhang old graves and a young deer standing next to an American flag stops to look up.
Homewood Cemetery

Now, on a day like that in the picture, Homewood Cemetery is quite interesting. Deer, turkey, rabbits and other wildlife scamper along the endless paths bordered by full spreading trees. Visions of past lives rise from the ornate mausoleums, old headstones, and fresh graves. On the other hand, on a cold, wet January night, the half-mile, uphill, run along the blackened stone cemetery wall is dull drudgery. You try NOT to think about past lives rising up. In fact, you only try to keep the fireflies of light; the pulsing ankle lights of Dayana and the Tracer target of Kristen in sight as you scurry by.

And scurry by we did. No one fell, the warmth from running and friendship pushed back the darkness. We returned to the lights of Highland Avenue and back to the runners cove of goodies called Pro Bike and Run. It was a good night after all. Five miles in the books. Fireflies put away until the next dark run.

Run All The Streets 0008: Squirrel Hill North and Shadyside