Bright in Brighton Heights

RATS Run #00350

https://www.strava.com/activities/4563278250
RATS #00350

This was a late afternoon run one January Sunday. I started from Riverview Park and made my way through Woods Run to Brighton Heights. A now familiar path, I cut through the park’s trails to Kilbuck Avenue. The dead-end at Kilbuck is always much more active than I expect. This time, someone was dropping off refuse at the Department of Public Works’ Kilbuck collection point. It seems out of place, this drop-off point. Picture the bottom of a ravine surrounded by steep hillsides of oak, maple and pine; very scenic until you come across a battered chain link fence, a twenty-foot concrete salt dome and muddy yellow front loaders. Last time, motor-cross bikes were zooming up and down the trail.

At any rate, I continued down Kilbuck and finally ran the length of Central Avenue, coming out at the Woods Run branch of the Carnegie Library. Just a little further I passed under the towering Shadeland Avenue Bridge and worked my way out of the valley.

Up top was an intricate lace of streets and alleys. Unfortunately, they weren’t all implemented as planned. Stokes Way, for instance, isn’t paved beyond Gass Avenue. Crossing Brighton Road, I touched on some dead-ends at the end of Davis Avenue. Harbison Road not only leads onto a trail, but also has this twin set of Little Libraries. Very cool.

Further on, I explored the end of Wapello Street. It is a classic, alternating between a residential throughway to stairs and back. It was also my “shortcut” when I realized that dusk was quickly gathering. Of course, by the time I had returned to the bottom of Riverview Park, there was a new group down there…having an evening of signing around the campfire.

RATS Run #00351

https://www.strava.com/activities/4568317810
RATS #00351

This run, on a Monday after work, was in the northern part of Brighton Heights. I must apologize now for the grainy pictures; with the later start, it was full on dark by the time I saw something new and noteworthy. I ran along flat Brighton Heights, with the large houses and ample yards, for a bit before climbing to the edge of Pittsburgh along Cliffview Road.

I putzed along Benton Avenue and took a stab at Lapish Street. Lapish appears to be an older road. The houses along it were large and haphazard. Thank goodness for steps, or else I would have gone far out of my way to reach Flora Street. I would like to go back in the daylight, as they had some spectacular views over the whole northern Pittsburgh area. I was surprised to hit upon some steps in the dark; but was guided home by a red-nosed reindeer and 50 of his brightest friends.

New Year’s Day 2021

Hellloo 2021! Looking good! No subzero temps, no ice. You’ve not looked this good in years! Maybe you could be a little brighter, but seeing how 2020 was, what’s a few clouds?

https://www.strava.com/activities/4551162529
RATS #00348 – New Year’s Day Run

Starting off the new year right, I went out on a run on this rainy, chilly day. Between Covid restrictions, rainy weather and the holiday, the Strip was deserted. It actually made the route easier, not having to dodge all that traffic and those slow moving shoppers. With this run, I’ve finished the Strip District. Sorry about the blurry pics, but it was a blurry day anyway.

Through the misty fog, I came across strange glowing sticks planted along the Allegheny. Standing out in the gloom, they shelter newly planted trees.

Crossing over the 16th Street Bridge, I dodged in and out alleys behind restaurants and bars. A couple of store workers were closing up and a few displaced souls roamed the slippery streets. Lights from the new Terminal Building were enticing, but everything was closed.

Along with the new Terminal Building, many buildings, I assume condos, are going up. The old buildings held up by vines will soon be vanishing into the mists themselves.

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.

October 2020 Monthly Catch-Up

Summary

October 2020 was a pretty good month. I did not do big long runs on the weekends, but got a good fifteen runs done, with fourteen of them covering new streets. Final stats were 100 running miles with over 12,000 feet of elevation. I’ve made significant progress in north Pittsburgh, with 98% of the streets done from the Northshore to Riverview Park. I’ve also continued to cover southern neighborhoods such as Carrick and Lincoln Place. It’s been a beautiful Fall, with only a couple of cold days. Several runs swept through ‘stairy’ areas; run #319 hit at least half dozen long ones. For better or worse, there are several significant runs in this catch-up, so its rather long.

RATS #00315: Brookline, Overbrook and Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4212640666
RATS #00315

Starting at Brookline Memorial Park, I ventured down Breining to Briggs in that area of long streets. But Briggs turns into Seldon, which took me directly to the Fan Street Steps down to Glenbury. I’m constantly attracted to dead-ends, tunnels and steps. This had it all. I passed through the Glenbury Viaduct to find myself at the busy intersection of Saw Mill Run Boulevard and Library Road.

I noticed a line of steps up the farther hill and waited patiently at the light wondering exactly where they would lead. Those steps turned out to be Horning Street, off of Ivyglen. Horning keeps rising, even after leaving the benefit of the steps behind. At any rate, in keeping with the spirit of the run, Horning dead-ends at a cemetery, Beth Abraham Cemetery. I kept on its perimeter, looking in briefly where Ivyglen enters.

I wandered further into Carrick, eventually getting to Brownsville Road and almost stepping into Brentwood. Thankfully, a sign alerted me, so I curved back. The curvy streets twice concluded in curvy sidewalk steps along Ivyglen, once where Lodge meets Ivyglen and again where Odette hits Ivyglen. For some reason, Odette is not in Bob Regan’s book and not on the City of Pittsburgh’s stair list even though they both include the Lodge Street steps, a block away. They also both include the Sanderson Street Steps which have been closed since at least 2007.

With that I made my way back, peeking in on Pinecastle Street in passing.

RATS #316 Brighton Heights and Marshall Shadeland

https://www.strava.com/activities/4221953319
RATS #00316

This was a five mile run on a chilly misty Autumn evening starting at Legion Memorial Park. I have mixed feelings about this memorial. While I have the utmost respect for those whose names are listed, I find the Disneyesque Mr. Universe sculpture almost ridiculous.

War Memorial Legion Park

From there, it was just down Shadeland Avenue, then up Schimmer.

RATS #00317 Just a bit of East Street

https://www.strava.com/activities/4226476207
RATS #00317

There’s a new run club in town – City of Bridges Run Club. This run was supposed to be with them, but I was running late. No worries, I just took on a small section of East Street, climbed Suffolk and got a Fineview. It was great to hang out afterwards, masks and all.

RATS #00318 Back to Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4230823897
RATS #00318

Another run in Carrick, mainly along Spencer and Kirk avenues. Eventually, I stepped out of bounds, dipping my toe into Baldwin Borough for a bit. It was dark, so I can be forgiven. Speaking of dark, they could use a few lights along Custer Avenue I daresay. I skirted a couple of spooky cemeteries along the way.

RATS #00319 – Marshall-Shadeland and Woods Run

https://www.strava.com/activities/4238684338
RATS #00319

Hold onto your hats and handrails! This was an epic half marathon in Marshall-Shadeland and Woods Run. What made it so epic? The autumn scenery, the crazy number of steps, the half-marathon distance, the 1,768 feet of elevation, and finally the hills and houses! I also took an epic number of pictures, which I pared down to fit here, believe it or not.

First, some Autumn scenery

Now for some steps. Of these, Wing Way was pretty neat because it intersected several streets on the way up and had a little walkway to Courtright Street, which took me under the Shadeland Avenue Bridge. Malden Street Steps were also pretty cool.

Now for some houses and scenes along the run. The neat white house is in Highwood Cemetery, while the multi-level ‘chalet’ at first looks impressive, until you see the boarded up windows. The rather rural looking Courtright Street runs under the very urban Shadeland Avenue Bridge. Deck gargoyles added a little spookiness to the streets, as if they needed it.

Finally, I got a kick out of the intersection of California Street with California Street and I always love seeing the belly of the bridges, like large dragons sprawling across the hollow.

RATS #00320 Sunday Afternoon in Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4242858122
RATS #00320

RATS #00320 took me back to Carrick. In particular, I wanted to finish up on some areas which had been cut short by darkness earlier. Unlike the epic run #00319, this one was fairly tame. A few steps, some deer and lots of suburban houses.

At the end, though, I got quite a scare. I had stepped out of the city again.

And that’s about it. November, with early darkness and poor weather was a struggle for me last year. Hopefully I can do better this year.

Chickens on Sandwich With Dill

https://www.strava.com/activities/4182507915
RATS #00312

Early on a Sunday afternoon, I got out and ran to catch some streets in Mount Washington. These were not the touristy streets near Grandview, but rather small residential streets and alleys on the backside of Mount Washington as it slides toward the Saw Mill Run ravine. Between the lunchtime start and an early breakfast, my stomach was grumbling right from the beginning.

Starting Point

Stairs are as ubiquitous here as Steeler’s flag. Here’s a quick collage of some of the steps I did.

The area is filled with houses on impossible slopes packed right next to each other. The foliage was beautiful and I got a kick out of the fun Halloween decorations. Many of the houses were apparently built from the same plan, with slight variations.

Not every street was gorgeous. Some of the alleys in the hollow are lined with worn houses and old cars. I didn’t get a good pic of the car on blocks, but its age was notable. Just how long has it been on blocks?

Wrapping up on Sandwich Way and Dillworth Street, I glanced over and did a double-take. There were two live chickens peacefully pecking around the grass. If only I had had some buns and mayo! Speaking of double-takes, just up the street, Dillworth Street intersects Dillworth Street.

Now with my empty stomach was making louder noises, I scooted back to the car and headed off to lunch. Hmm, chicken sandwich anyone?

Bright afternoon in Perry Hilltop

https://www.strava.com/activities/4165506902
RATS #00309 – Fineview and Perry Hilltop

Running directly after work took me up past the marque Fineview destinations to some of the less spectacular streets, in the Notsofineview area. Nonetheless, it was a gorgeous afternoon, just right for running.

Nestled in the East Allegheny neighborhood, at the foot of the bluffs going up to Fineview are small cobblestone streets marked by spectacularly renovated row houses. In contrast, houses on Lafayette Street, on the ‘backside’ of Fineview, are twice the size and half the price.

Driving into Fineview requires navigating steep twisting roads. As a pedestrian, I had an easier time, just going up the James Street steps. Up and up, my path took me to Edenvale Street, and Fineview Avenue. In spite of its bold name, Fineview Avenue is only two blocks long and dead-ends into a wooded hillside. Lanark Avenue has a typical view. There’s a TV tower stretching into the sky at the top of the hill and, on the other side, in what I call ‘the backside’ of Fineview, Lafayette Street is dominated by huge old houses high off the street.

From here, the neighborhood descends literally and figuratively. Tiny alleys with 15% grades drop down to parallel streets tilting off the hill. The area was busy, with men working on houses and washing cars, kids playing on their porches and in the streets. Trotting down Olive Street, a cloud passed over the sun and I was dismayed with a trifecta of bad signs. First: a small dead-end with rapidly declining houses, second: a robust dog vigorously barking and testing the structural integrity of its porch gate, and third: two shiny cars parked in the middle of the street. As I approached, though, a teenager came onto the porch. I asked whether there were steps at the end of the street. He shushed the dog and proudly assured me that the steps were there. The sun came out and I was treated to this amazing set of wooden steps.

From here, I ventured up onto Perry Hilltop, on the other side of the ravine now carrying Federal Street. Encircled by Perrysville Avenue and Federal Street, there are only a few streets there. However, in spite of the views and convenience, this section of town looks forgotten. There are offices for Allegheny County, and Triangle Tech has a campus up here. However, it has the look of a dusty shopping area no one goes to anymore. The backstreets are lined with derelict houses. Kenyon Way must have been an impressive set of steps in its heyday, but now, its a jungle. From Clayton Avenue, the top of the steps’ railing is visible through the knotweed. That house is the same as in the “Lithgow Avenue” picture and the houses in the far hill are where I came from.

From here I traipsed down to North Park along West North Avenue. Last year, they restored one of its fountains, which, I must admit, looks great.

New Steps and Wabash Tunnel

After checking I had my Garmin, the phone, a flashlight and two alternate sources of light I emerged from my auto-cocoon and pressed the button to initiate satellite linking. While waiting there…

https://www.strava.com/activities/4139483554
RATS #00308 – Duquesne Heights

I had heard through the grapevine populated with cats that certain steps in this area had been redone and I was encouraged to go out and be the first one to run on them.

That, my friends, is the genesis of this run. It didn’t hurt that I had a couple of lingering streets to cover here (looking at YOU, Crooked Way). So, as October 1st was coming to a close, I found myself parking along Shaler Street in the early evening.

After checking I had my Garmin, the phone, a flashlight and two alternate sources of light I emerged from my auto-cocoon and pressed the button to initiate satellite linking. While waiting there, cooling my heels, I noticed an urban deer emerge across the grassy lot on the hill above. Now, being an urban deer, it knew to cautiously wait at the stop sign for a chance to cross.

Urban Deer
Urban Deer

Then, all of a sudden several things happened at once. A woman driving up Shaler slowed and stopped; asking me if I thought she would hit the deer by continuing. Glancing at the deer and the other traffic, I figured she could proceed slowly. About the same time, a couple in their mid-20’s approached the intersection from the other direction. They were walking a white, terrier-like dog on a long leash.

All of this time, the deer stood waiting for everyone to clear out.

Then, Mr. Scotty, the dog in his red plaid sweater, spied the deer.

“Yip, yip, yap!” he pulled the leash taunt.

At that, the young man, six feet tall with a long stride, started racing the dog towards Mr. Urbane Deer, now sipping some chai and nibbling grass. Startled that such small slow animals would be chasing him, Mr. Urbane spilled his tea and galloped across the field. Flash Gordan and Mr. Scotty actually started to gain on him, blurring in the twilight. But as the field narrowed toward two houses, Urbane elegantly leaped over a tall fence and disappeared.

Agog at this display of speed and agility, I turned back to the woman and suggested that it was clear to go now. Shocked as I had been, she just nodded.

In the interim, I had finally acquired satellite and proceeded up Rutledge.

Unfortunately, the steps weren’t complete. However, they look like they’re doing a thorough job, so these should be here another hundred years.

Crooked Way wasn’t the only street here I needed, but several, like Wyola, led into Emerald View Park trails in the dusky light.

Wyola Street going into trails

From here, I bounced over to Woodruff Street as it fell towards Saw Mill Run Boulevard. It only had sidewalks about a quarter way and from there it was gutter running. At the end, though, the Wabash Tunnel emerged from underground like a fiery oven. Shortly after, Saw Mill Run goes under an overpass. It probably wasn’t meant for pedestrians, but there I was. A bit on the spooky side, I must say.

With this, I made my way up Wabash and back to Shaler Street. All the excitement was gone, no deer, no dogs, just a couple of other runners in the cool night.

Cemetery Sunset

https://www.strava.com/activities/4041859021
Route of RATS #00296

The sun is setting earlier. I’m not getting out earlier. The result? Lots of sunset and dusky runs. This short, steep run was in the Carrick area. Lucky for me, I wasn’t going up and down the hills, just across. Even so, I had over 100 feet of elevation per mile.

I started overlooking St. Adelbert Cemetery along Brownsville Road, then sauntered past backyards and into the cemetery itself. Just putzing around for information about it, I came across this “Pittsburgh Cemeteries” blog, which is pretty interesting. In an older section, trees have re-asserted themselves around the plots, making for a spooky evening scene.

I made my way down West Meyers Street. It actually dead-ends, for cars, but a little wooden staircase leads to the end of Mt Joseph Street. It was rather small, but is actually an official City of Pittsburgh stairway. From there the streets generally went “parallel” to Brownsville Road. “Pittsburgh Parallel”, that is; they followed the same contours and did not intersect. As is typical for the area, it is densely packed with two and three story houses. This one caught my eye, with it’s red and teal trim.

I worked my way back up the hill towards Brownsville Road, crossing Newitt Street from time to time. At the top, where it meets Bownsville Road, it has street steps. The picture of the parked car parked gives some scale for that slope.

The night came on fast and I didn’t get anymore pictures. But, it was a worthwhile run, covering some streets and chipping away at the vast network that is Carrick.

Carrick Buck and Bon Air Rooster

https://www.strava.com/activities/3949650172
Route for RATS #00285

First blog in a few days. Sorry, I’ve been running. Going back to last Sunday, me and a friend, Erin, tackled Bon Air and more of Carrick. I’ve known Erin for a few years and she has progressed from a beginning runner to quite the endurance athlete. Just the week before she had done a multi-day run/hike in the Laurel Highlands covering over forty miles. Last Sunday, she agreed to tag along in my all the streets adventure.

We started at the tip of McKinley Park and immediately went uphill on Bausman. Before we got into Bon Air, I had to cover some streets in Carrick. Aside from Brownsville Road, there are only a few small streets which continue into this area. Romeyn was one of them. It is impressive how high the houses are off the ravine floor.

This part of Carrick is densely populated and filled with Pittsburgh four-squares on small, hilly lots. There are few steps, notably Georgia Avenue, which go two blocks uphill. Also, as streets come off of Brownsville Road, there are often steps such as these Moore Street Steps.

Deeper into the neighborhood, away from Brownsville Road, vegetation starts to take over again, both controlled gardens and the lush mix of trees, wild grape vines and invasive Japanese Knotweed which is so prevalent in Pittsburgh. The green hillsides host a surprising amount of wildlife. We saw this buck nibbling grass along the top of Georgia Avenue Steps.

Moving up into Bon Air, we noticed a striking difference. While there were still some large Pittsburgh four-squares perched high on hills, there were many small two and three bedroom ranch houses and split-levels. These looked like houses built in the 1950’s. The yards were larger.

The streets were also long and straight. As I’ve mentioned previously, straight streets are attempts by planners to ignore the region’s topography. They are invariably very steep. At the bottom of one section, along Drycove Street, we saw not only another of Tom Murphy’s “Project Picket Fence” fences, but also a curious block of grass with steps into it. A lawn pool? I’m sure there’s a better explanation.

Bon Air was pleasant, in spite of the hills. We saw the largest lawn Rooster I’ve ever seen, ironically watched over by sunning cats. Lawn decorations were everywhere. I was impressed by this patio garden.

There are several flights of stairs in Bon Air. If you’re adventurous and go down a long asphalt alley, you’ll get to the Bon Air T-Station. I’m not sure why, but if you scour Bob Regan’s book on Pittsburgh Steps, you won’t find “Caperton”, but you will find a set of steps listed between Fodyce and Conniston, which are the steps on Caperton Street.

After rambling through Bon Air awhile, we went back to Carrick. Here, brightly colored yard decorations and a exquisitely planted pool awaited.

At the end of Amanda Street, we only had about 7 1/2 miles in, so we explored some more. We took streets which plunged down to Route 51. One woman on her porch suggested it would be easier to roll down than run down. I think she was right. Not wanted to dodge cars along Route 51, we made our way along Noble Street, encountering a number of flights of steps. These were fairly long.

We finally made it back with about ten miles under our belts. I was happy that Erin came along. We explored an area of the city neither of us had been in before. After such an exploratory run, I start to mentally connect different parts of the city together.

Winding Thru Windgap

https://www.strava.com/activities/3890197520
RATS #00277 in the Windgap neighborhood of Pittsburgh

Whew, another hot summer run! This time I sought out Windgap and Chartiers for a rather flat run in Pittsburgh’s western neighborhoods. I started from Chartiers Playground. As I waited there for my Garmin to synch to a satellite, I noticed an elderly man slowly walking a little fluffy white and brown dog up the street. I figured I would be long gone before he passed. As the satellites blinked overhead, refusing to connect, the man passed, chatting away on his cell phone, significantly younger than I had thought. While I stood there, getting old myself, he turned up the street and continued on. The effect was, that once Garmin did actually tune into the mothership, he was on the street I had originally intended to run. I felt awkward running by him now, so I decided to go around the block.

On this, my two-hundred and seventy-seventh run in Pittsburgh, I should have known you can’t just “go around the block” here. I dabbled a little on the other side of Chartiers Avenue, then found myself in the far end of Windgap, where large yards contain sprawling ranch houses or small two story homes. It’s rather remarkable how wide open this area is and I think it is on the Chartiers Creek floodplain.

At the upper edge of this plain, long streets such as Summerdale and Isolene provided some shade from the withering sun. Isolene has the distinction of being the first street you come to when hurtling down Middletown Road, which has about a quarter mile of nasty turns before hitting this flat area.