Short March Runs

Here are three short runs I did in mid-March. These were “squeeze-them-in-runs”, where I had only a short time and planned out a very limited route. Though perhaps not as epic as some runs, they still took me to interesting places.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4947105503
Route of RATS run #00381 in West Liberty

This run started at Moore Park along Pioneer Avenue. I had mapped out a shorter, “nearly flat”, route for my girlfriend to run while I tackled the longer hill on Dunster Street.

Dunster is pretty much suburbia up near Pioneer Avenue, with a long straight stretch rolling east. After reaching the sunrise, it drops precipitously. Large lawns spread out and the bottom cross-street, Timberland, ends in trails. (The trails, incidentally, go back up to Moore Park.)

Following Timberland away from its trail end brought me to Edgebrook Avenue. At this point, Ballinger Street ascends as a staircase. This area was a bit more junky. I did spy what must have been an elf playhouse off the stairs. Also, I garnered more evidence for “Boat Theory”, as a speedboat was right next to the stairs.

I continued all the way to Whited Street before turning back. It is a neat area, off the beaten path but literally a quarter mile to Saw Mill Run Boulevard and overlooking the South Busway.

Returning to Moore Park, I had the pleasure of running up Dunster. Turns out that is a Strava Segment (“What a Dunster Fire”) and for the moment, I’m 4th overall! I also had the pleasure of getting some feedback for the “flat” run I had planned for Naomi. Ha! Perhaps it wasn’t as flat as I remembered.


Brook Street Route
RATS #00382, Brook Street in Carrick

Nestled between South Side Cemetery and Saint Georges Cemetery, a handful of streets and an amazing number of houses cling to steep slopes. This run, #00382, was a rare morning run and I just had enough time to do a couple of miles. I parked along Brownsville Road and ran north on that dusty road to Cedricton Street. Between the houses on the left, it was a long way down.

Once at the end of Cedricton, I jigsawed my way over to Brook Street, which flowed downhill, an amazingly far way downhill. There was actually a turn-around at the bottom, where all the views were up, up along fallen vine covered trees. A brook did emerge at the bottom.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4965153998
RATS #00383 in California-Kirkbride

This was a short run I tried to squeeze in before my regular City of Bridges Wednesday night run. I managed to catch Sigel Street, which has recently been repaved then ascended the Hyena Street Steps. No pictures, I suppose I forgot my phone.

Turns out I misjudged my timing as well, for by the time I got back, the COB runners had already left. Whoops! I had the map and tracked after them. However, with a ten minute head start, I only caught up with a couple. At least Modern Cafe was open and I got to enjoy some post-run libations with them.

Ivory Avenue

https://www.strava.com/activities/4909505912
RATS #00377 Ivory Avenue

Nearly a month ago, March 7, to be exact, I explored the Ivory Avenue section of Pittsburgh. This little ‘Burger slice is isolated from the rest of Pittsburgh by I-279 and Ross Township. It is closer to Ross Park Mall than to Downtown, but retains a neighborhood feel, once you get off the busy feeder roads to the interstate.

I started, as I often do, from Riverview Park, winding down Venture Street and up East Street. “Up” being very literal here. That brought me to wide, sunny streets in this northern hinterland. The houses and yards here tend to be large. With that theme, someone is really serious about staking their garden. Is it for “Godzilla Big Boy” tomatoes, or hops plants? I’m not sure.

Grizella Street (yes, that’s the actual name) sports little dead-end spurs, Radium, Rutland and Montana. They are pleasant enough to run on, but after a short flat section, they fall off the hill, and the climb back up is very steep. Montana continues as steps from Grizella to Swanson, where a KDKA transmitter sits. The tower is contained behind a rusty fence and old antenna shells litter the ground below, like petals falling off a flower.

From here, I continued toward Ivory Avenue, passing Fiasco Art Center en route. Eventually I came to I-279 as it passes under Perrysville Avenue. The city border is pretty jagged here, I had to run out of the city on Connie Drive to get the section of Connie Drive which was in the city. While that was a bit of a pain in the butt, at least I found the murder weapon. It was Colonel Mustard on Connie Drive with the Crowbar, right?

This area wasn’t very runner friendly. While there was a sidewalk on one side of the bridge, it dropped me off on a wide and somewhat busy Ivory Avenue with no sidewalks. Luckily the far neighborhood was much more cozy, perched on a hill and full of three and four bedroom homes.

Ross Township cuts in and out of the neighborhood but I could keep my bearings by glancing up at the Channel 11 TV Tower. The far side of the hill dropped me onto West View Avenue as it intersects McKnight Road. This was another pedestrian-unfriendly area. Nonetheless, traffic wasn’t too bad and I dodged in and out the shady streets like Zane Way, Valley View Street and Cherryland Street. Darting into Summer Hill briefly, I made my way back to Evergreen Road, pleasantly surprised to find a sidewalk through the rock garden under the interstate bridges.

Evergreen Road
Evergreen Road Passing Under the Interstate

Returning by going up Venture Street, I finished up with 15 miles and a nice 1,700 feet of elevation.

Starting March Like a Lamb, Three Shorties

With February gladly behind me, I started into March with several short runs. The weather had moderated and I was just getting out.

RATS #00373 Overbrook

https://www.strava.com/activities/4880520786
RATS #00373

The main point of this run was the triangle of streets between Jacob Street, Groveland Street and Aaron Avenue. It was already dusk by the time I parked at Brookline Memorial Park, donned my safety vest, powered up my flashlight and took off. I shot down Brookline Boulevard to Jacob Street. Cars all have to make a left, but pedestrian runners like me have the option to make a right onto steps descend steps. At the bottom, there is a walkway to a South Busway Station, but tonight I went straight through the soggy area, lifting up on steps rising on the far side, emerging onto another section of Jacob’s Street. I apologize for the photo quality, but it does illustrate my mobile night vision, or lack thereof.

Jacob's Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder Steps

There are just a few streets down here, all going up to Aaron Avenue. The houses mostly sit on decent sized lots and over the years, residents have really made them their own.

My ambition was to finish off Aaron, crossing Glenbury, then do more alleys in the far neighborhood. However, my back twinged at the end of Aaron, and I just limped back to my car.

RATS #00374 Shadyside

https://www.strava.com/activities/4886437737
RATS #00374 – Shadyside

Cutting the previous night’s run was probably a good idea, but I was still taking it easy, so I did another easy run, in Shadyside. Shadyside is full of cul-de-sacs and this run was mainly about touching on several of them off of Ellsworth Avenue.

I did come across a spectacular mansion of modern style along an alley. One side purports to be a driveway, but it is actually a through street. This was a pleasant, short and flat run.

RATS #00375 Greenfield

https://www.strava.com/activities/4896854497
RATS #00375 in Greenfield

This was a cool run, again in the evening. I started along Greenfield Avenue and powered up Winterburn Avenue. Sun Way lived up to its name, with a grand vista of downtown bathing in pumpkin light, as river mists started rising.

Sun Way Looking Downtown from Greenfield
Sun Way Looking Downtown from Greenfield

Besides the incredible hills, Greenfield has incredible views. The Cathedral of Learning prominently punches to the sky. It was no surprise that I came across steps; these continuing Noah Avenue, from Tasso Street to Tasso Street (yes, the upper and lower sections have the same name).

On Lower Tasso, I had great views of the South Side lights and downtown framed by the last sunlight. That was about it. This run, while only 3.73 miles had a healthy 581 foot elevation gain, over 150 feet per mile.

High on Herschel

https://www.strava.com/activities/4594264949
RATS #00352

Ah, a sunny Saturday in January! I took this opportunity to finish off some small streets near Herschel Park and then make my way over to Crafton Heights and Corliss to tackle that conundrum.

If you’ve never been to Herschel Park, get out the door and GO! It’ll take a few twists and turns and maybe some back-tracking, but once you’re there, sitting high on a hill, the tremendous views of Heinz Field at the confluence of the Mon and Allegheny are amazing. The trek out there seems so arduous, I didn’t realize that it’s less than a mile away, as the crow flies. Damn crow.

View from Herschel Field
View from Herschel Field

From this starting point, I trotted down toward Noblestown Road, winking in and out of small alleys perched on the cliffs. For some reason, even after several forays here, I had not completed Weston Way. This time I made sure I ran it from end-to-end. Now I understood. Where Weston is supposed to intersect Steuben Street there are houses. Weston Way ends in a path which takes you down front steps to Steuben. Argh, so much for a public path!

With my first little goal accomplished, I hit a secondary goal; the three-street Whitehead Drive subdivision between Steuben and Arnold. Nothing much too see there, as split level fifties houses curved along the concrete streets.

Now to my number one goal, a mysterious section of Pittsburgh off of Middletown Road. What makes that area “mysterious”? Well, for one, I’m not familiar with it, so I don’t have a “mental map” of it. Secondly, while it can be approached from several directions, it is high above each of them (Chartiers Avenue, Berry Street and Middletown Road). Thirdly, there is a curious mix of streets, paths and steps. I wasn’t sure which would be truly passable and which sections were just lines on the map.

I shouldn’t have been worried. It is a beautiful neighborhood. The tree lined streets are broad. The houses are generally large and well maintained. Folks were walking dogs, chatting with neighbors and enjoying the day. The streets do tend to dead-end on the top of what I’ll call “Chartier’s Hill”. However, unlike some sections of Pittsburgh, where run down houses mar the view, these semi-country estates added to it.

In planning this run, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to understand Straka Street. In an overgrown summer, the Straka sign on Berry seems to be another misplaced Pittsburgh street sign. From Google maps, it looks like a walk-way, or a long driveway. Finally the Pittsburgh’s step website indicated that Straka way was a reality. So, I tentatively planned to do it.

Again, nothing to be worried about. A driveway lead to a walkway and then a long series of shallow steps from Sanborn Street to Berry. The collage below takes it all in. These must be super convenient, as Chartiers and Berry are busy with buses and this leads to the heart of this hillside neighborhood.

Straka Way Steps
Straka Way Steps

With this, I made my way back to Herschel Park. I skipped part four of this run as that would have pushed me to nearly fifteen miles.

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.