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.

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.

Turning 300 in Lincoln Lemington Belmar

https://www.strava.com/activities/4088625359
Route of run number 300

Whoo! My 300th time covering new streets on a run through Pittsburgh! This run was rather adventurous for me, covering streets from North Homewood to Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar. It is a residential area, with a few churches and small businesses. The houses tend to be older, occupied and in decent shape. There are big yards and lots of open spaces. There are also crowded streets, alleys used as dumping grounds, broken staircases and testy drivers.

My intention was to ascend the steps going from Lincoln Avenue to Arbor Street. Unfortunately, they were severely overgrown, so I ended up just running up Arbor Street. It was a steep one and there were several men in the street, cleaning brush and arguing. It was a little uncomfortable running past this group but happily they ignored me. Arbor Street makes a steep, sharp turn to the top of the hill where it becomes Pointview Street. There’s a small square of streets on this hilltop, which I had visited the previous day, working with Allegheny Cleanways, a group that is cleaning up illegal dump sites around the county. Pointview intersects Bower Street, another side of the square. One end of Bower Street are steps leading to Lincoln Avenue.

The other devolves from a decent residential street to a back-alley strewn with trash and cars. I continued along the alley until it started to curve closely around a house, like a driveway. I scooted back the way I came, noticing deer among the derelict cars and trucks.

Making the right onto Hyatt and then Hedge Streets, I noticed a driveway into that alley. Skull-decorated “Do Not Enter” signs adorned the entrance. Glad I didn’t go all the way around that building! While many areas I cover are empty, deserted streets, this area was alive with kids riding bikes, men walking home from the Dollar Store and people putzing around their yards. I got more than one quizzical look, as I suppose old white men don’t run up there too often.

I made my way to the start of Olivant Street, which has a long and meandering path. On one side, glass filled steps made their way from Olivant Street to a rather nice ball field. On the other, houses shouldered up the slopes.

From here, I crossed Paulson Avenue and explored the dead-end remains of Olivant Street on the other side. At the end of Olivant, as far as publicly accessible roads go, was a Duquense Light Power Substation. It’s desert-like gray gravel contrasted sharply with the surrounding lush green woods. Here, too, people were out; weed-whacking and taking in garbage cans. The streets up here are all dead-ends. Some are marked “Private” well before the end of the road. While frustrating to me, I don’t go down those roads.

I did manage to get to the end of Olivant Place, a narrow lane which became more and more grassy. I was awarded by the sight of a flock of wild turkeys, five or six large ones and maybe six smaller chicks. (Of course, turkey ‘chicks’ are rather large as well.) Startled, they abruptly scooted down the slope and flew into the trees. I only caught a fleeting photo of them. Usually the only Wild Turkeys I see are empty bottles. Must say, from the hilltops you get a pretty good view.

From here, I just ran a few more, flatter streets, before completing Paulson Avenue and heading back to my car. Eleven miles in the bank and some new areas covered.

More about the 300 runs

Pittsburgh Streets I’ve Run

I use a couple of methods to estimate how much I have done in Pittsburgh. The “golden standard” is my map of the Pittsburgh, where I color in each run as I do them. When the map is incorrect, I make notes. Streets that don’t connect are stricken through in black, additional streets are marked. In my ‘rules”, I state that doing 1/2 of a dead-end is acceptable. That is a bit weak, though, and generally, I’ll go to the end unless it becomes a private drive. I’ll be done when my “golden standard” is complete and anything I’ve ‘missed’ has an explanation such as “doesn’t go through”, “is a private road”, “not safe for pedestrians”.

Another method is CityStrides, which processes Garmin route data to determine which streets are completed. It uses a concept of “Nodes” to determine if you’ve completed a street. Do all the nodes, you’re done. Miss a node and and you’re not. With that being said, CityStrides has me at 58% of Pittsburgh streets completed. If this were all linear, that would mean another 217 runs. Of course, it is not.

I estimate I’ll need 90-110 more runs to complete the city. It depends greatly on how much I cover per run and how efficient I am at covering streets. Either way, it looks like I’ll be done sometime between New Years and Easter, 2021.