Warning: Bridge Closed Ahead

https://www.strava.com/activities/3218505142
RATS #00206 – Termon Avenue and Brighton Heights
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RATS #00210 – Riverview Park to Gass Ave and back

Last Wednesday, I decided to run in Brighton Heights, centering on Termon Avenue and catching a few additional streets. Yesterday, I had very much the same thought about Riverview Park and its environs. Turns out that these were complementary adventures, each one reaching opposing piers of the former Davis Avenue Bridge. Both runs also traversed Woods Run Road and found pink houses along the way.

On a brilliant evening I started on Terman Avenue , which stretches from an Ohio River overlook to Brighton Heights Park. Overall, this was a great area for running with wide streets and a vibrant neighborhood. It was relatively flat for awhile, then ended in steps and ravines as often always happens in Pittsburgh. I went up Wapello Street stairs to Cornell Street and did Harvard Circle, which was a bit disappointing. Instead of a level green lawn with libraries and philosophers discussing the meaning of life, it was a narrow street ringed by modest houses enclosing a hill of wild trees.

Zig-zagging along Aqua Way, I hit another section of the Wapello Street Stairs, adorned with these Spring=like tree murals.

Going up and down the streets, I noticed a rather old detour sign saying the Davis Avenue Bridge was closed. Being who I am, I had to see just how closed it was. I was hoping for maybe a pedestrian path across a little bridge, or a sidewalk available next to some construction. In fact, the pier was substantial, but the bridge itself was gone. The Davis Avenue Bridge had been closed for YEARS, eleven to be exact.

Now, I’ll fast forward to yesterday’s run starting in Riverview Park. I parked along the grand promenade into the park. The apex of the park is Allegheny Observatory.

Running around and around the park roads eventually took me to Woods Run. Roughly my target was to go up Gass Street, and circle back around. Along the way, I got a call from work, so for a few confusing blocks, I was doing phone support for an ERP while finding my way around small streets and stairs above Woods Run Road. I suppose I could have just stopped.

Finally getting off the call, I found myself under Shadeland Avenue Bridge. I got an up-close look at the big church under the California Avenue Bridge. Apparently it is historic and seems to still have services. Unfortunately, it is a big building and in disrepair, so I hope that congregation can keep it maintained.

Finally, I found the Gass Avenue Steps, which lead to a very steep Gass Street, but high on the other side of Woods Run. I took the long way around and came back to Riverview Park via Bascom Avenue, passing Perry Traditional Academy.

So, it the neighborhoods in Northern Pittsburgh are divided by the great Woods Run chasm. The only bridge to span that ravine is gone and getting from one side to the other is quite the chore now.

Nautical Miles

RATS #00204 Crossing the Equator – South Pacific to North Pacific

For this excursion, I did a few nautical miles, going from South Pacific to North Pacific, crossing over a land bridge and coming back down the North Atlantic and South Atlantic.

Along the way I saw what I took to be the Customs House, in its official red.

I had to walk the plank up these North Pacific Stairs.

North Pacific becomes steps

Slithered past a great green sea monster.

Sea Serpent Mural along North Pacific

Made it to island houses perched on the mountain top.

And finally came to the lighthouse, doubling as a water tower.

(It kinda looks like a spaceship frozen in place during take-off. )

The return trip was swathed in misty, swirling clouds and intermittent rain, as the North Atlantic often is. Approaching my car Captain John Parker hailed me in Friendship and I saluted back. Social distancing even on the oceans.

Polishing Off Polish Hill

https://www.strava.com/activities/3151937253
RATS #00194

This was a five miler through Polish Hill, trying to finish this tight neighborhood of narrow streets, impossible hills and stairs. I ran right after work, as a chilly evening rainstorm swept past. That storm was not fun, as the wind tried to tear my jacket off and the steep streets turned into rivers. Luckily, it didn’t last long.

Polish Hill is now an eclectic mix of the narrow old houses perched on cliffs, spectacular, renovated, $450k homes and small businesses. The WORLD HEADQUARTERS of Pepper’s – which sells polarized sports sunglasses, is unceremoniously perched on Pulaski Way, atop a cliff overlooking Liberty Avenue. Herron Ave winds steeply from Bigelow Boulevard to Liberty Avenue, cutting Polish Hill in two.

Back on the narrow, winding streets off of Herron, homeowners stake out extra space, from making dead-end stubs of streets their personal parking spots to reclaiming a bit of the hillside. I love this “Kenny’s Woods” sign, looking just like the ubiquitous “Kennywood” signs you see all over town. Of course there are stairs. Jewel Street stairs intersects Flavian steps on a landing.

Now starting to dry out, I made my way down Herron Avenue and onto Sassafrass Street on the other side of the East Busway. This valley road becomes Neville Street, then Lorigan Street as it passes far under the Bloomfield Bridge. Car dealerships keep excess inventory down hill, behind barbed wire fences. There is a cool place down here, Iron Eden, which makes ornamental ironwork and looks like some bizarre hovel in a medieval tale. Continuing on Lorigan took me to the Ella Street Stairs. These climb the high hill with a few turns, eventually leading to Ella Street (if you go straight), or Wertz Way (if you make the right turn at the last landing).

I saw a toy truck on one of the landings. I can just imagine a six year old boy playing with his truck there, only to be called away by his Mom, accidentally leaving the truck. He was probably forbidden to go on those stairs anymore, and after a few years moved away. I can’t imagine he forgot about it. I hope that one day, as an old man with grandchildren, he takes them back to visit his old neighborhood and finds his truck still there.

Toy Truck

Coming back through Bloomfield and Lower Lawrenceville, I crossed the Herron Avenue Bridge again. Immediately after crossing the bridge, there is an impressive set of stairs on the right. These Downing Street Stairs, took me back into Polish Hill, where I finished up. Now, except for three sets of stairs and a small alley, I’ve run all the streets of Polish Hill!

Forty-Third and a Half

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RATS #00184 – Lawrenceville

This was a short little run in the narrow, flat streets near 43 1/2 Street in Lawrenceville. This area is choked with traffic during rush hour and on Friday and Saturday nights. Just off the 40th Street Bridge and Butler Avenue, this maze of streets is in transition. The two pictures below were taken from the same spot. New, shiny development stares across the street, literally, at older row houses.

The alleys here are slightly smaller than the streets, but are important access points. They are populated by garages, backs of restaurants, front stoops and aliens.

With the resurgence of investment in the area, some older buildings have taken on a new shine, like the one below.

Pittsburgh Sandwich Society

And just like that, the run was over. Just over three miles with less elevation than some single hills I’ve done.

Does this route work? Part 3

https://www.strava.com/activities/3080725206
RATS #00180 – Windom Street Warren

In this latest installment of “Does this route work?”, I was interested in exploring a couple of staircases I had never been on. This was in a small warren of streets between PJ McCardle Roadway and Arlington Avenue. The pedestrian gateway to this neighborhood are the 10th Street Stairs. On the lower side, these stairs rise in five landings from dead end flat streets just to clear the railroad tracks. The landings provide respite from the stairs and some nice views. On the other side, though, the stairs rise again.

At the top of these stairs, the city seems to have fallen away and I was in an enchanted forest. Felt like I was Edmund first stumbling into Narnia. On the left, the untouched snowy street curved around into the Knoxville Incline Greenway. I disturbed four deer in their evening ramblings. They were not pleased to see me and only grudgingly gave way, staring me down like truculent teens as I jogged by.

Just past the herd, stairways to Hartford Street rose on my right. Despite the four inches of fluffy snow, the going was good. The stairs were solid and the snow crunched, packing as I went up. Hartford Street is narrow, but with cute houses. Squeezing past a resident who had parked in the street unloading groceries, I came all the way up to Arlington Avenue, but not before I got a good glimpse of the top of the German Square Stairs. I’d be back for those.

Making a right onto Arlington, I kept a lookout for my next set of stairs, Lauer Way. No, not Behring Street, whose steps were a vertical cul-de-sac. Behring Street is one of the few named stair streets which dead-ends. Ceasar Way in Southside Slopes declines into a grassy path but doesn’t really dead-end. Behring Street just traipses in front of a house and stops. Maybe it went through in years gone by.

At any rate, Lauer Way has an impressive stack of snowy steps. It traverses the slope from Arlington Avenue to Windom Street, two blocks below. Again, in spite of the snow, the stairs were solid, both in treads and handrails.

I meandered a little, and found myself trotting past little houses on Newton, which became another wooded glade of snowy stairs, Owl Way. These have a right-angle turn and landed me on Windom again. I took the German Square Steps all the way up the hill again.

German Square and Lauer Way are part of the “Take the Stairs Fatass” 50k route. I couldn’t fit them into the 25k, but it is a beautiful little section of stairs and hills pretty close in to the Southside Flats. This part of the route looks solid.