April Catch-Up

and a little hint of May

Summary

April 2021 was a busy month in the running department. I ran 133 miles and completed the Hyner 50k, a challenging, rocky trail race. Group runs had returned and at least once a week I ran with City of Bridges run club. As for neighborhoods, checking my April maps, it looks like I was really hitting the edges – Lincoln Place, Hays, Belmar, East Carnegie and Summer Hill. Blogging in April took such a hit that I spent most of the month talking about March. That trend has gotten worse, as it is early June and I’m just now finishing up these April runs. Oh well, I’ll get to them all eventually. For this catch-up I’ll be running you through six gorgeous routes, ending with RATS run #00399.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5139011420
RATS run #00394 in Carrick

I love a little quickie in the dusky evening. Here, I did a couple of miles circumnavigating Phillips Park. Nice two-mile run!


https://www.strava.com/activities/5143854725
RATS run #00395

RATS run #00395 was a long hard run from Point Breeze, to East Liberty, through Larimar and into Lincon-Lemington. It was mid-morning on Saturday and I was surprised to find a crowd along Paulson Avenue. It seems that Mt. Ararat Baptist Church was having a mass vaccination event. I felt a bit odd running down dead-end Tyler Way with dozens of people milling about. At the end of Tyler Way, this odd structure stands. I have no idea what it is, but UFO has to be a choice.

Graffiti and artwork adorn many of the neighborhood’s walls. Raymer did a Mac Miller tribute, while a lesser known artist renders bold angles and a someone remembers a friend. Artful graffiti is slowly outpacing the simple spray job; graffiti gentrification.

Moving deeper into Larimar, there’s a lot going on. Houses with the deadly blue ‘condemned’ sign are getting renovated. The “Know Thyself” school is surrounded by bulldozers and fences. Just remember to report to the office when you get there and ask “What ARE you doing?”

Elmer Williams Square has some cute houses while the Freedom Temple Church looks like it’s seen better days. Those painters didn’t spend much time accentuating the detail of that building, did they? Further into Lincoln-Lemington, the land rises enough to provide a decent view all the way to Oakland’s Cathedral of Learning.

Way up on Lemington Avenue, I saw an interesting school facade and took a closer look. Earthy, bold, colors and Mayanish tiles contrasted with the “young Queen Victoria” face staring out. And perhaps it is a theme, but make sure you report to the office here, too. Now it is called “Catalyst Academy” and I wonder if chemistry is the core curriculum.

Above this school several streets dead-end into St. Peters’ Cemetery. Some dead-ends you can go right up to, like this wall, while others are guarded by downed trees and old home foundations.

Speaking of St. Peters Cemetery, they spared no expense with the sign. The front declares it is “Historic”, while the back lists which wars the vets fought in. All the way back to the Revolutionary War, I see. That’s impressive.

From here, I trundled down Highland Avenue to Washington Boulevard. The greenspace on the left is actually part of Highland Park. I didn’t see any cat tails, neither mammals nor plants.

Lastly, the arched bridges along Washington Boulevard are quite impressive. Several carry the streets above, such as Lincoln Avenue and Larimer Avenue. One, though, carries an old railroad. Apparently this railroad spur crosses the nearby Allegheny River and is being considered for a rail-to-trails project. At the moment, though, the Brilliant Bridge just crosses Silver Lake Drive, home to storage warehouses and a car wash. It used to actually be a lake, then a drive-in movie theater.

From here, I trotted back to my car with fourteen miles in the running bank.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5151213965
RATS Run #00396 in the West End and Elliot

RATS run #00396 was a short run in the West End and Elliott. This was one of those frantic days, where just getting out for a run was an effort. Par for the course, I ended up in the wrong lane driving to the West End and just decided to park in Allegheny West, near Modern Cafe. It was OK, as I wanted a little more mileage than my planned route.

Crossing the West End Bridge has become an adventure these days. There are a couple of fenced-in walkways suspended above the street and below the bridge, taking you from the street to the bridge deck. I’ve run across it without a problem for years, but recently people have been sleeping on the walkways well into the day, leaving their bags and things strewn about. Covid or not, it is much closer to people and personal items than I’m comfortable with.

At any rate, I crossed the Ohio on the West End Bridge and made my way up to Elliot, Janewood Way in particular.

Marking that one off, I visited Herndon Street, high on the opposing hill. I had previously taken it for a driveway and did not realize how long it was. A few houses clung to the hillsides there. I used the Attica Street Steps to come back down to the quaint business district of the West End.

The West End Business district is a small grid of street off of Steuban. Motorists trying to avoid tunnel backups often zip through this alternate route. On the far side from Steuban, a mere two or three blocks, streets generally end at the Saw Mill Run (creek), while cars on Saw Mill Run Boulevard scream by. Mount Washington rises above in steep cliffs.

There are some cute parts of town. It even has a gazebo. However, trudging on Violet Way I looked up and became concerned. There seemed to be a police incident in progress, as several officers were milling around. Indeed, as I passed, it turned out maybe a dozen officers, in full gear were there behind a building.

They were chatting and joking. Shift change, I suppose. In 25 feet or so, it was a dead-end and I felt a little sheepish going back through the police crowd. With that I crossed the West End Bridge again, this time seeing two dudes rummaging through the homeless guys’ debris. I thought about the police a half-mile away as I whizzed past.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5163712017
RATS run #00397 in Banksville

Not a whole lot to say here. This was a short evening run in Banksville. Banksville Park was quite active this time through. The last time, it was a rather cold evening. Now, guys were playing cricket in a ballfield, while scads of people lined a dek-hockey game in progress. Further on, it looked like a Little League baseball game was starting.

The surrounding neighborhoods are quite residential, with big lawns and big garages. Oakville Drive, though, is a mass of apartments. There could be as many as 1,000 garden apartments there. It looked pretty nice, honestly. Just know that you can’t actually drive the way I came. The northern section of the apartment complex overlooks the Parkway West as it bends toward the Fort Pitt Tunnels.

A cell tower dominated the end of the playground. Lots of satellite dishes are clustered around that thing. Who knows how many antennae are on the tower? 50? 100? It’s hard to say.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5196544757
Route of RATS #00398 in Northview Heights

Northview Heights is an area I had been avoiding. There are security gates on Mt Pleasant Road and Penfort Street, which I found intimidating. However, I had taken some time off work to recovery from Hyner 50k, so had the chance to run here on a sunny weekday morning. I had no problems, other than a little soreness in the legs. People were out, waiting for buses or picking up kids. Maintenance workers were vigorously mowing lawns and doing repairs.

Chicago Street branches out of the housing development and stops at a cliff above I-279. I wonder if it ever went across. A lone turkey sauntered into the woods as I passed. Eventually I made my way out of the development, down to Spring Garden Avenue and back to Essen Street.

Crossing the Swindell Bridge again, there’s a neat glimpse of Downtown through the fence links.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5204801111
RATS run #00399 in Squirrel Hill

Last but not least, RATS run #00399 was a 5K run in Squirrel Hill North, land of the big houses. But I’ll start out on an alley and end on the public golf course.

Now, Robin Road is private, but since I’m not immune to doing private roads, I intended to go down it. However, it really felt more like a private driveway, so I bailed. This section of Squirrel Hill, “Murdoch Farms” has immense, imposing homes beautifully kept. Not so far away, little developments off of Schenley Park Golf Course include various “modern” style houses. Oh, so modern, they were built in the 1960’s.

The sun was setting across the golf course as I finished up, just past 5K distance.


That’s a Wrap!

(May was a busy month, too, but only 106 miles. I’ll start blogging about those soon. Thanks for reading.)

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.

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.