Downtown, Carrick and Fairywood

A fantastical journey awaits! From the snow strewn, narrow alleys of Downtown to the slick streets of Carrick to the wondrous wilds of Fairywood, I covered lots of ground the first week of February. Grab a hot chocolate, coffee or toddy and enjoy!

RATS #00365 – Downtown and Duquesne

https://www.strava.com/activities/4730557135
Route of RATS #00365

Nothing is more magical than Downtown Pittsburgh on a cold night. While pushed aside, the recent snow wasn’t giving up just yet and lined the route. This run was generally about traversing alleys I had missed, then going up to Duquesne University.

I started off by cutting through the PPG buildings along Delray Street. Delray continues as a small dumpster-lined alley to 5th Avenue Place. Crossing over Liberty took me down Cecil Place, with its lone couch.

From there, I trotted up Barkers Place, then caught McRrea Way with its large Frenchy’s billboard as it heads towards 6th Street. I hope they aren’t paying much for that sign, as it is behind a building. Crossing 6th took me into a small driveway and then out award-winning Mentor Way, which is half the width of a car. The award? “Creepiest Alley in Downtown Pittsburgh”.

Shaking that off, I headed up Third Avenue. Passing PPG was, actually, kind of magical. There was Ketchupsaurus, uniquely found in the Tomato layer of Pittsburgh Seam. (Read more about the dinos here.) Skaters were laughing as they swished along the ice at the PPG Skating Rink.

Leaving such frivolity behind, I crossed over from Third to Fourth Avenue. Now, Downtown is guarded from Duquesne by the Great Wall of Transportation. The electrified tracks of the T, the massive piers for the Crosstown Expressway, the ramps and tunnels act as a barrier between Downtown and points further uphill. The Hill District is up there, as well as Duquesne University. Duquesne occupies “The Bluff” which overlooks the Mon and stretches into Uptown. I was fortunate to find steps leading from the end of Fourth Avenue to Forbes Street.

I climbed up to the bluff along Shingiss Street, which had been closed, presumably because of the snow. The Duquense Rock patiently waited for me to take its picture while I fumbled with gloves.

Winding among the buildings of Duquense took me in and out parking garages and past dining halls. The views were great.

With this, I circled back downtown and hopped in my car, grateful for the quick warmth.

RATS #00366 – Slick Carrick

https://www.strava.com/activities/4746361457
RATS #00366 Carrick

This run took two tries. The first, on a Friday evening, I cut short because my shoes did not have enough traction to handle the ice and snow. The next attempt was done in trail shoes on a warm day; it topped out at 30 degrees.

Headstones in Snow Covered Concord Plot
Headstones in Snow Covered Concord Plot

Here’s the challenge: Myron Way. Slightly shaded and never salted, it was mostly ice. Luckily, I was able to find patches of untrammeled snow to keep going. The East Cherryhill steps were pretty tricky, too.

This was the most challenging section of the run. Afterwards, the alleys, while snow filled, had centers of deep snow, which I could easily tromp through.

I ran up and down the alleys and streets, eventually making it to the border with Mt. Oliver, the Borough, before sliding back to my car. Here are a couple of pictures of the frozen people out that day.

RATS #00367 – Fairywood

Route of RATS #00367
Route of RATS #00367

Here’s the run you all have been waiting for.

“Fairywood? Is that real? Where is that? I’ve lived in Pittsburgh all my life and have never heard of it!”

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Fairywood.”

The large, now abandoned site of Broadhead Manor looks pretty sunny in this 1945 pic on the Historic Pittsburgh site. But, things change and this 2016 blog post by Pittsburgh Orbit captures the modern Fairywood very well. Now, four and a half years later, that blog post still applies. I started my run from Ingram, a bordering neighborhood. The weather had continued to improve and it was Super Bowl Sunday, 2021. Climbing out of the Ingram Bowl, I contended with a set of steps along Creston Street then continued along West Prospect Avenue as it left Ingram and dropped into Fairywood.

Fairywood was quiet and mostly flat. There are a couple of small subdivisions and a a few abandoned properties, notably Broadhead Manor and less well known, a distribution center off of Broadhead Fording Road.

But distribution is the big business around here. In spite of this impressive driveway and gate, apparently this is NOT an actual entrance. You get here by going through the OK Grocery Gate on the other side. Over there, dozens of tractor trailers line up to pick-up and deliver. That area is not built for people, only trucks. Just down Industrial Highway is an Amazon Distribution Center and a ModCloth warehouse.

I was hesitant about running down Industrial Highway. However the alternative was just to retrace my steps or to try out the no-sidewalk, no shoulder Windgap Road. So, I put on some speed and quickly ran on the Industrial Highway shoulder. With only two cars in five minutes, it turned out to be pretty safe.

Summary

So, that was it for the first week of February, 2021. With inclement weather (read extreme cold and ice) on the way, I only ran a couple of times in the next few weeks. Which, my friends, will be the subject of the next blog.

You Can See Forever From Lincoln Place

https://www.strava.com/activities/4273084037
RATS #00322 – in Lincoln Place

This run took me back to Lincoln Place – that southernmost of all Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. I had prepared for a cold, wet run but was treated to a stunningly beautiful Fall day.

Starting at the Shop ‘n Save down by Brown’s Mobile Home Park, I quickly made it to quiet suburban streets off of Mifflin Road. The trees were in their full glory.

Here and there were small shops, like Velma’s Place. I did run into a group of ultra runners, discussing their latest 500 mile run.

Overall, though, there wasn’t a whole lot to see here. However, Muldowney Road rises high off of Mifflin Road and affords views of the UPMC Building and the Oxford Building, over six miles away as the crow flies.

High-voltage power lines were a constant presence along the route. Also came across a huge Penn-American water tower.

That was about it. I had struggled to get myself out the door, but was truly rewarded with fine, sunny weather and neat views.

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.

Rambling in Manchester

RATS #00278 in Manchester
RATS #00278 in Manchester

This evening I came back from the outer limits of Pittsburgh to run closer to its core, the Manchester neighborhood. Reading a little about it, I was surprised that the Manchester Historical District is Pittsburgh’s largest historical district, known for its Victorian homes. In spite of this historic designation, the area is bounded by the lifeblood of commerce; highways and railroads. Southern Manchester is close to CCAC and there’s a semblance of off-campus college life in that area.

I started along Brighton Road with its tree-lined street and community gardens. Going down Beech Avenue, a group spilled out down the street; which concerned me. A protest? A street party? No, it was a scene filming. While not a big production, with Haddad trucks, it still had a dozen people working the set, sound and lighting.

Continuing past the Victorian row houses, I meandered through the streets and alleys, including rather forbidding looking Buttercup Way.

Even along alleys there was lots to see here, from impressive doors to curious door-knockers.

Moving along, I came to one of traffic borders, with its high brick walls. This half-house with a high-rise a a backdrop really captures the ups and downs of this area.

Finally, I couldn’t pass up this car, quietly snuggled in a grassy lot.

SUV Painted with "Amplify"
Quiet times for loud car

I finished up as the evening grew old and shadows lengthened with a good five miles and several new streets under my belt.

Rambling Run

https://www.strava.com/activities/3146562623
RATS #00192

This was a rambling run across the Northside from East Allegheny to Elliot in the West End. It included densely residential areas such as Central Northside as well as the wide open warehouse district between Route 65 and the Ohio River. I crossed bridges, went up stairs and finished with seventeen miles on this sunny, but chilly Sunday.

Starting out on the Northshore, I specifically wanted to finish off Virgin Way and Tripoli Street. In spite of the brilliant sun and crystal clear skies, Virgin Way was very threatening. Circling back to Tripoli Street, I noticed the Neu Kirche building, built, if the stones do not lie, in 1859. Originally a German Church, perhaps Lutheran, it has been repurposed as a center for arts.

This took me to Vista Street. I had hopes of trotting a little up the hill and taking the Vista Street steps down to Itin Street. Alas that was a navigational mistake, as these stairs were closed.

Turning my attention to the Central Northside, I did the grid of Sandusky, Lorraine and Boyle Streets. Unlike the other two, Boyle doesn’t have an outlet at the top of its steep rise from North Avenue. As I was running up Boyle, two women, likely in their mid-to-late thirty’s were chatting at the top. I drew closer and closer, hoping to find an alley or staircase to Fountain Street. A few yards before the retaining wall, the women looked more and anxious as I approached. Finally realizing there was no way out here, I said something lame like:

“Oh, I thought this street went through”.

“Nope, doesn’t go through”, the dark-haired woman with brown knee high boots stated flatly. Her companion, with a black and white checkered coat tried to be positive, commenting “At least you’re getting some good exercise!”

If she only knew, I thought, reversing direction. Somewhere along the way, I also saw an outdoor beehive oven. Again, I was glad for the brightness of the day as I zig-zagged through the streets and alleys. But then, I noticed something following me. On one street, there it was. The next block over, I saw it again. Whew, just a true alley cat.

Now I went up Chateau Street. My left knee started to twinge a little, but I decided to run through it. This took me to Warehouse Land. Large warehouses and garages were separated by large, wide streets. While some of the buildings were in disrepair, just about everything was occupied with some business or another. There’s one section, an “Industrial Park” with high fences and a big gate. Just inside is “Get Hip Records”. Around the corner is the whimsically painted “Bicycle Heaven”.

I finally made my way across the West End Bridge. Coming onto Steuben Street, I took the first staircase I saw. A couple of years ago, these stairs went all the way up to Lander Street. Today, however, they only made it to Elliot Street. The second flight was closed. I had to detour a bit down the street, taking the Planet Avenue steps instead.

Thus began my ascent into the West End Overlook area. Huffing and puffing my way to the top of Valonia, I came to Saint Martin Cemetery. Apparently all the tallest hills have cemeteries on them.

At this point, my knee was truly complaining, so I started back towards the Northside. Gamely trying to hit new streets wherever I could, I ran down Crucible Street. Sure enough, there were some stairs! But, no. They were closed. I was a bit bummed and just went to Steuben Street via Amherst Street. On the lower end, I could see why those steps were closed. A lower section of the stairs and railing had completely collapsed.

Crucible Stairs Top and Bottom

Steuben Street is a main road and the sides are littered with trash, most likely thrown from cars. I took the stairs from Steuben to South Main Street, where I surprised four deer. Just for fun, I highlighted one of them in red below.

Steuben Street to South Main Street

That was about it. It was another two and a half miles back to the car, which felt like it took forever. Getting into the car, I greedily drank water and gobbled pita chips.