Age of Discovery in Mount Washington

https://www.strava.com/activities/3679982962
RATS #00260 – Mount Washington Above Liberty Tunnels

Ah, history, it explains a lot. I had no intention of doing a historic run last Saturday, but I came across a couple of historic artifacts, some in use and some not. It all started with a rough plan to complete the Haberman Avenue between Bailey Avenue and Kingsboro Street. After that, I wanted to drift west to cover a series of streets off of Boggs Avenue in Mount Washington.

Not far down Haberman, I encountered Eureka Street where it transforms into steps leading to LaClede Street. While LaClede and Haberman are essentially parallel, and, at one point connected by a 50 yard span of asphalt, they ‘feel’ different. At this point, Habermann seems more spacious and open compared to LaClede. Perhaps it is because the yards off of Habermann have backyards sloping down and away, whereas the lots on LaClede are steeply sloped up, seeming closed in. Perhaps it is because Haberman continues across East Warrington, whereas LaClede dead-ends into Secane.

At any rate, the streets west of LaClede are in a regular grid. One street, Harwood, goes straight downhill. After Secane, it becomes Harwood Way, an increasingly steep set of steps. The steps descend all the way to the South Hills’ trolley line; the “T” as it is known. Coming back up those steps, I noticed that the last house on the steps, with all its gargoyles, actually faces away from the road. I also noticed immense brick towers rising out of the earth.

Running around them, I saw “Liberty Tunnels” emblazoned on the lintel. They were vents for the Tubes. A little digging revealed that these are the original ones, built 96 years ago after a traffic jam on May 10, 1924 caused motorists to get sick from carbon monoxide fumes. The Pittsburgh Quarterly has a great article about it. They had been planned anyway, but the May incident hurried those plans along.

Now my journey took me to Paur Street; that’s right “Paur” not “Paul”. At the end of Paur Street are a set of stairs with the touch of death – bar across them indicating they were closed. It was easy to get over. The steps were generally in great shape, except a couple of places where the concrete treads were totally missing. They were also fairly wide and took me to an asphalt path under the spreading trees.

One section, presumably going down to the South Hill’s trolley lines, was seriously closed; blocked by a chain link fence and missing platform. Apparently, in the ‘good ole days’, Brookline kids used these steps to get to school, as told in Brookline Connections.

On the right, the asphalt path continued. I dodged fallen trees and passed an old metal cabinet. Its slightly ajar door revealed a new, bright orange bag of Reese’s Pieces. Just then, I was startled by a man coming down steps towards me. In his short sleeve, light blue dress shirt and black pants he quickly bore left and went down another section of steps, ignoring me completely. The smell of his cigarette lingered, though, as I went down those steps far behind him. At the bottom, I looked up and saw a “No Trespassing Sign”. Whoops! I returned up the steps, retracing the man’s steps which led me to the intersection of Westwood Street and Albert Street.

Further down Westwood Street, I eventually came the Walden Street steps. Here, they are narrow, wooden and very overgrown. Cutting down an alley, I came upon Tuscola Street, with disintegrating sidewalk steps, also overgrown. Several streets off of Westwood, such as Kramer head straight up to Boggs Avenue. A high section of Albert Street near Boggs Avenue yields more distant views of the venting towers.

As you go south, the streets off of Boggs Avenue get shorter and shorter and more steeply fall on the end. Several of them have steps to South Hills Junction, where the South Busway and South Hills T line intersect.

For a moment, I ventured past Boggs, catching the Soffet Steps. However, my secret hope that they went all the way to Warrington Avenue was dashed and I had to backtrack. Along the way, I did come across this yard, complete with red table, Triceratops skeleton and Christmas lights strung along the fence.

Finishing up, I was tired, but pleased with this eight mile jaunt. The run was more interesting than I expected and I got to see those venting towers up close and personal.

Stairs In the Knotweed

https://www.strava.com/activities/3585301254
RATS #00253 – One Wild Place… and more!

This run took me around Highland Park, the park not the neighborhood, to the rear of the Pittsburgh Zoo and down Butler Street to Lawrenceville. I also was planning to hit three small areas that had short streets and steps. It turns out, one set of steps was just wildly overgrown, one was broken and one didn’t exist anymore.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Starting in Highland Park, my troublesome hamstring reared its ugly head as I went up Farmhouse Road. From there on out I only managed a mostly slow trot. However, Highland Park, in the brightly sunny, blue-sky day was magnificent. Lush green trees towered over plush green lawns.

I made my way on Lake Drive to Carnegie Lake. This little man-made pond has wooden boardwalks out into the water. Earnest young men were trying to fish while excited little girls were throwing bread to the fish. The large swimming pool is still unfilled, but several beach volleyball games were underway on the sand courts. The players had gone all out, playing in bikinis and swim trunks. Past this beach scene, pavilions disappeared into the deep groves and a flight of stairs led to trails.

Lake Drive winds around the back of the zoo as it ascends to One Wild Place. This two lane road is split between a lower ascending lane and an upper descending lane. Along the wall between the two are cute mosaics fancifully depicting animal antics.

From there I went out on Butler Street then went up Baker Street. It is a fairly steep street going right up into Morningside.

Past the “Welcome to Morningside” sign was one of the little side streets I had targeted. It was shaped like an upside down “V” with a set of stairs crossing the open part of the “V”. Alas, the brilliant sun and ample rain caused everything to be overgrown on steps known as Dressing Way. I ventured up for a bit, crunching the Japanese Knotweed underfoot. Finally, it looked too dense to continue, so I backed down the crunchy steps and instead ran up Marietta Street. Marietta ends at the apex of the “V” and intersects Premo Street. As Premo dissoved into a driveway, I saw the top of the Dressing Way steps and thought “That looks doable!” So I went all the way down them through the forest of knotweed again. Whew! I hope I’m not allergic.

Along Butler Street again, I winded my way to Osborne Street, hoping to find a stairway down to Butler. No dice. No sign of those steps.

Back on Butler, I encountered a friend biking home. I don’t think I had seen Antonella since the Covid19 lockdown and we got to chat for a couple of minutes. I love it when I’m in a random spot in Pittsburgh and come across a fellow runner.

My next step encounter looked much better. This was a short flight up to Sawyer Street. Unfortunately, tree damage prevented a full traverse of those steps. The top conveniently doubled as a staging area for some brick work.

From there, I ran to Stanton and Holmes. I had one section of Holmes to complete and did it, crossing Holmes off my list for good. By the time I got to Kendall Street, though. my hammies had had enough and I walked back to the car. Over six miles in with a great evening, so can’t complain.

Noble way to Crafton Heights

https://www.strava.com/activities/3447167472
RATS #00238 – Into Crafton Heights from Noblestown Road

This was a pretty well-planned run in Crafton Heights. Instead of approaching Crafton Heights from Steuben Street, I approached it from Noblestown Road. Honestly, a big draw was the availability of parking at the Shop ‘N Save on Noblestown Road. I wasn’t familiar with the area and didn’t know what to expect. I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised and look forward to running more in this area.

To get to my designated parking spot at the Shop N Save, I actually went out of the city on the Parkway West, exiting at Greentree. A few minutes and a few turns later, there I was, pulling into a rather empty parking lot. Social distancing and Covid19 fears has certainly made traffic lighter!

Noblestown Road, at this point, is a broad avenue crossing street after street of modest two and three bedroom houses built in the 1950’s. It sweeps down to Crafton Boulevard, where I took a left and caught Stratmore Street as it climbed steeply. I turned around at Steuben Street, which is the border between Pittsburgh and Ingram. From there, I went back and forth on the grid of streets between Stratmore and Arnold. Much of the area resembled Hollywood Street shown above.

Round Top Street dives down a particularly steep hill. It also has one of the newest set of steps I’ve seen in the city.

Round Top Street Steps

Eventually, I got to Clairhaven Street. For cars, that’s where you have to turn left onto Norwalk Street, but people can take steps from Clairhaven Street to Arnold Street. These stairs are a little wonky. The wooden top section is a work-around. Older concrete stairs, having fallen into disrepair, were simply bypassed. There are two “orphan houses” here. An “orphan house” only has entrances on the stairs.

Crossing Crafton Boulevard again, I came across this, the busiest front yard in the ‘Burgh. They had at least a dozen shiny mannequin heads on stakes.

How many lawn decorations can you count?

Making my way back to the car, I was happy with this nice run in the sun in a pleasant part of Pittsburgh. I’ll be back.

Upper Lawrenceville – Mission Accomplished? Not quite.

RATS #00236

Today’s run embodied a simple plan; start in Lower Lawrenceville, struggle up the steep streets into Stanton Heights and come back around on Butler Street. It went pretty well and I covered a few holes in my map.

My rough approach to Stanton Heights was to ascend 54th Street, pick my way over the steps from Leydon Street to Kendall Street and go from there. In the top corner of Lawrenceville, it was interesting to see the differing housing type. That simple small house is on Kendall. The larger traditional house is on Duncan and the new modern condos are perched on the top of 54th Street, before it becomes a stairway. These are all within a couple of blocks from one another.

In an earlier blog I documented the stairs down to Upview Terrace and Woodbine Street. Today, I continued on Woodbine as it re-crossed Stanton Avenue into another section of suburban-in-the-city living. This is quite a contrast to the densely packed houses of Lawrenceville. Off to the left, down Oglethorpe Street, Garage Way and Drive Way (yes, that’s a real street name, “Drive Way”), the streets take you to the edge of bluffs where wildlife abound.

I would like to come here some quiet morning and just watch the birds. Continuing down to Morningside, I made my way to Baker Street with its nice view of the Allegheny. The road steeply falls toward Butler Street, where the sidewalk ends and the steps begin. From here, it was a flat fast run back to my car.

I’m now a half-block away from completing the streets between Butler and Stanton Avenue and have only a half-dozen streets in Stanton Heights itself. Once I get One Wild Place done and a couple of streets jutting off of Butler done, I will have run every street from Butler Avenue to North Negley Avenue.

Sheraden Grid to Windgap

https://www.strava.com/activities/3351885713
Taking RATS #00225 to Windgap

“Sheradenia est omnis divisa in partes tres” – to loosely copy Julius Ceasar. (No worries, legions of Romans aren’t set to invade it.) There is the generally flat plateau overlooking the Ohio River; the flat grid between Sheraden Park and Chartiers Avenue; and the hilly section south and west of Chartiers Avenue. Most of today’s run was in the second section, between Sheraden Park and Chartiers Avenue.

Division of Sheraden into three parts

I parked near McGonigle Park and started the crisscrossing streets. Almost every yard had a dog. And every dog had something to say, starting with the large old black and brown dog who “woofed” at me vigorously, but didn’t bother to get up. Finishing up Universal Street, a young brown dog had lots to say as he breathlessly barked and leaped against his fence, trying to take a bite of a me. At least we both got our heart rates up.

Typical Sheraden Street.

But the people were nice, greeting me as they worked on their houses. Near the parks, the streets are pleasantly sheltered by tall trees. There’s supposed to be a set of steps which go from Moyer to Chartiers Avenue but the top is blocked by fencing. On the other end of the grid, Jean Street dissolves into broken steps descending to Adon Street.

The grid of streets, with a little duplication, covered six miles. Then I crossed Chartiers Avenue, planning to go up the Universal Street steps into the hillier section of Sheraden. However, the lower section of Universal is overgrown, so I went up the very steep Emporia Street. The top section of steps was OK, and I went all the way to Chetopas Street, where I got this broad view.

This hillier section Sheraden is riddled with steps, as streets cross Chartiers Avenue and run into a bluff. Huxley Street and Adon Street, for example, continue across Chartiers and meet as a step intersection.

Huxley and Adon Intersection

Then I made my way to Middletown Avenue. I had done portions of Middletown before. This time, however, I was intent on following it to its bitter end. Turns out, it lands in a flat, wide-open suburban area.

I crossed the Windgap Bridge which briefly took me into McKees Rocks. That is out of the City of Pittsburgh, so I returned to explore more of the Windgap neighborhood.

Traversing the big wide open streets of Windgap, I found the end of Chartiers Avenue. It just stops at the intersection with Mayfair Street, a residential, suburban street. I made my way back to Sheraden along Chartiers Avenue. I was a little short of my intended fifteen miles, so I wandered a bit in the center of Sheraden, where I saw this bold butterfly mural.

Ragged Ravine Run

“So, you want to be chased by dogs?”

https://www.strava.com/activities/3323445019
RATS #00221 – In the Ravines

I planned this run thoroughly. Conveniently starting at Riverview Park, I would run around the park on the streets in the ravines. As usual, I had “runtime” surprises, including mapping inaccuracies with OpenStreetMap. If you haven’t looked carefully, you might not realize that maps from Strava and Google Maps are different. Strava uses OpenStreetMap, which relies on individuals to make corrections, whereas Google has their streets view cars and other tools. I suppose I need to contribute to OpenStreetMap myself, to make corrections.

OpenStreetsMap had an error about Doak Way. It placed it further down Dornestic than it actually is. On the other hand, I knew there was a set of steps from Dornestic to Dalton. I wasn’t sure if it this was in addition to Doak Way or not. While investigating this, a rather beefy bulldog mix decided to investigate me. He barked a little and sniffed, and was uncomfortably close to my calves. I was relieved when a man came quickly off of his porch and, in coaxing tones, said “Come on back! He doesn’t want to play with you!” Maybe if I had had a ball. Now I was a little unnerved, but no worse for wear, so I waved off the dog and went down the steps.

I uncovered a tiny blue church with mossy steps. Following Glenside Street as it becomes Oakdale Street, I was once again struck by the rural character of this nook of Pittsburgh. Oakdale Street eventually becomes dotted with houses, still very rural in feeling. Festoria Street is a dead-end dog-leg off of Oakdale. As I was about to make the turn to the dead-end, a woman came out of a house and asked me what I was doing. She was less than enthusiastic about me running up to the dead-end, so I turned around and went out on Oakdale. She was friendly enough, I suppose, but the first person to challenge me running on a public street, dead-end or not. When I checked later, Google Streetview had not gotten further, so they must have gotten the same message.

After that, the houses went downhill. I did come across the a house which looked like it dropped out of tornado in Oz. What is this anyway? A deluxe outhouse? Further on Oakdale, there are hulks of old cars and industrial debris just off the road.

Continuing on Woods Run I explored the small streets above Woods Run near Central Avenue. Here there were more OpenStreetsMap snafus and another loose dog nipping at my heels. This time, I only heard bottles clinking; no one called the dog back. At this point, I decided to cut short the run. That area, near Sorento and Smithton, quickly becomes very inner city, with houses tightly packed on each other. Honestly, while some houses are a mess, many are fine. There’s at least a half-dozen sets of stairs.

Smithton, Rothpletz and Grand Avenue all converge into Kilbuck Road at the bottom of Riverview Park. I came across the stables for the Pittsburgh Police and eventually ran into Riverview Park while getting a close-up view of a salt-dome.

So, I was a bit disappointed with this run. While there were some nice areas, the threat of loose dogs, auto wreckage and a greying sky dimmed the early promise. Nonetheless, got a good five miles in.

Hightide in Beechview

RATS #00216 – Beechview

Happy Easter! Normally, I would be finishing up a brunch with family and friends this morning. However, in the current state of things, I figured I’d blog a little and later try to find a chocolate egg around the house. Happy to have all the good in my life as it is.

So, I ran this route last week on a brilliant evening in Beechview. If you’ve followed my blog for anytime, you’ll know that Beechview is a friendly neighborhood with broad streets and booming hills. What you may not have known, is that in the last ice-age, Beechview was actually beachfront property. (How do you think they got the name?) In those days, everyone got around by boat, paddling from hilltop to hilltop. I came across a relic of the old days here, not far from a spanking new gas grill.

Continuing the fiction, it then happened that the seas began to recede. In those days, it wasn’t too convenient to lug your boat up to the house, so everyone made steps to get down to the water. You can see these steps all over.

Security was a concern, so residents bred vicious animals which required pets before passing. Most of them are pretty quick and shy these days, but every now and then an alpha guardian still stands his ground.

Beechview Guardian

But the seas indeed, have receded, leaving Beechview high and dry. The only waves you see are the undulating hills frothed with houses.

Take the Stairs Fatass 50k – DNF

https://www.strava.com/activities/3255634085
RATS #00213: Take the Stairs Fatass 50k (DNF) Got 17 miles in

Last Saturday I decided to take a shot at the 50k “Take the Stairs Fatass” route. The weather was pretty good, but I got a late start (it was close to noon) by the time I got out. Now, treating this more seriously than I did the 25k route, I suited up like I was doing Hyner. I dug into my ultra gear box where I found treasures such as TP and hand wipes.

Much of the route I’ve documented already, but I did hit a number of new streets and stairs. I also had the good fortune to meet up with Sherpes Hasher, who was doing the route in the opposite direction. There were a couple of snafus – Vista Street steps are under construction, which I had forgotten. Early on, I added in the steps from Howard St to Compromise Street, an effort which likely contributed to an overall DNF. But, I’m not too sad about this DNF, I covered seventeen miles with over 3,500 feet of elevation and traversed at least 37 sets of city stairs before calling it a day on Wyoming Ave.

Here are the pics. Take Dramamine now if you have vertigo…

Spring Hill City View Area

Rising Main and Fineview

Perry South/Marshall/California-Kirkbride

West End & Elliot

Duquesne Heights & Mount Washington

That’s all, folks! One day, I will persist!

Warning: Bridge Closed Ahead

https://www.strava.com/activities/3218505142
RATS #00206 – Termon Avenue and Brighton Heights
https://www.strava.com/activities/3236598779
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.