Unique Streets: 29
Miles Walked: 6.52
Street Names (italicized have been walked on another day): Baytree Street, Eula Street, East Street, Gould Avenue, Perrysville Avenue, Richey Avenue, Ruggles Street, Dunlap Street, Dunfield Way, Cherryfield Street, Venture Street, Groyne Street, Oklahoma Street, Evergreen Road, Gribble Street, Dewey Street, Staver Street, Waldorf Street, Grizella Street, Radium Street, Montana Street, Swanson Street, Garvin Street, Amos Way, Santiago Street, Franklin Road, Bluebelle Street, Peacock Way, Phipps Street, Ivory Avenue, Rodenbaugh Avenue, Oval Way, Highridge Street, Van Buren Street, Adna Street, Montville Street, Pond Way, Port Way, Cleveland Avenue, Morefield Street, Peachtree Way, Nelson Run Road, McKnight Road.
Sometimes I just don’t want to walk. Maybe I had too many beers the night before. Maybe George kicked me in the face all night long and I got no sleep. Maybe it’s really cold or pouring buckets. The walks I force myself to take usually end up being the best ones.
I sat in my car on Baytree Street for 30 minutes looking at my phone. My inertia created by the sun warming the car and the contrasting temperature outside tempted me to turn on the car and drive away. I sat there procrastinating on Facebook and Pokemon Go. I even went deep into folders to try and find something to do instead of walk. I’m a procrastinator extraordinaire but eventually, I ran out of trivial distractions.
I stepped out of my car and into the bright frigid morning. Man, it’s cold! I decided the best antidote for the miserable chill and my slight hangover was hills. Sweat it out, but not too much. Sweat is how you freeze. Sharp right up Gould to Perrysville. I turned left on Richey and fell in love with the houses. Massive Victorians on both sides. This block has something Tim Burrtonesque about it. Blue tentacles reached out from beneath a brown lawn in search of sea birds or unsuspecting strays.
The next house had ghouls hanging from the porch ceiling below a strand of white Christmas lights. A skeleton basked in the sun near a bough of green garland.
Continuing down the block, I get closer to a man walking his dog. I said hello and he asked me if I’m the new neighbor.
“No, but I really like this block. These houses are huge! How many bedrooms do they typically have? Four? Five?”
He tells me his house has eight full bedrooms and a mother-in-law suite in the basement. Mouth agape I ask him how much they go for. He tells me the sale histories of nearly every house and what so-and-so has done in terms of updates. I ask him about the schools and if there are a lot of kids on the block. Ten minutes later and he convinces me that I should buy a house on Richey Avenue in Perry North.
I say goodbye to my new stranger friend (I never got his name) and continue on my walk. On Dunlap I see two men talking just out of reach of a barking dog. I chat with them for a bit about dog breeds and keep going. Venture Street’s icy walled curves take me all the way back down to the 279 valley. I can tell I would get along with the people who live on Venture Street. Signs on the tight curve read “Slow down, this is a neighborhood, not a racetrack.”
A horned Pegasus skeleton guards the front door of a normal looking house. The sign hanging from his horns tells me his name is Holy Knight.
Down on East Street, I decide I’m going to go under 279 to Summer Hill but I am stopped dead in my tracks when I see the Gribble Street Stairs going up the weedy hillside.
I can’t resist massive sets of stairs so I start up. At the top on Waldorf Street I see the house of my dreams. A large brick Victorian decked with stained glass in small round windows is perched on the hill overlooking 279. I quickly look it up on Zillow and see the interior pictures from when it last sold in 2015. The house was built in 1890 but its condition reveals nothing about its 130+ years. It makes you wonder if there’s a gnarly decomposing picture in its attic.
I find myself on a street lined with more massive Victorians. I’ve walked here before, but I keep going up. I never like to double back unless absolutely necessary. I also know that I am approaching the highest elevation in Pittsburgh which is at the Brashear Reservoir. You can tell which hill it is from most vantage points in the city because of the massive antennae that sit on top.
Near the KDKA antennae, I see a dead squirrel hanging from a tree.
It appears dried out like leather and I wonder if a hawk dropped it there. Or maybe curious antennae climbing squirrel + electricity = Kentucky fried varmint. I continue walking and soon find a short trail through the woods that leads up to the Brashear Parklet and baseball field.
I see that there is a higher part of this hill but, it’s surrounded by chain link fence. Even so, the views from the small parking lot show downtown, the Cathedral of Learning, the Observatory, and the tall apartment buildings on Mt. Washington.
I really want to be the on the highest point, so I get back on streets to try and find a way up via a back road. On my way, I see an old Catholic School and Rectory on Franklin Road. On the side entrance of the old school building, a graffiti style sign reads “FIASCO.”
I walk around the side of the school and see that the basement classroom still has student desks lined up for a lesson. I am officially nebby. In the stairwell going up from the basement classroom I can see a large beehive hanging on the inside of the window.
In the front of the building I peer up through the 3rd story window to see hanging plants that if real, are watered often. On the window in blue dry erase marker I can make out backward lines of vocabulary words:
I consider that maybe school is still in session, so I look harder. On the windowsill under the words, I see a half empty bottle of Beefeater. What is going on at this school?
I spy a mailman and trot up to him as he is grabbing his next load of deliveries.
“Excuse me. Do you know if someone lives at this school? It doesn’t look like it’s still in session, but I can see signs that this building is used for something.”
“I’ve wondered the same thing. I don’t deliver mail to the school, but a man gets mail at the old rectory building. I think he owns the school too.”
After I got home, I researched the school and found out that it is now home to the FIASCO Art Studio. Mystery solved!
Back on my mission to get as high possible (and higher off endorphins) I find a trail off of Peacock Way which appears to lead to the backside of the reservoir. I walk through the quiet woods making sure to break the ice of every snow-covered puddle I see. There’s something about this childish behavior that fills my soul with joy and gratitude to be alive. I am here, in this place, right now. Who knew I could find this feeling in a forgotten part of Pittsburgh?
I get to the top and realize that the view I am seeking is blocked by the reservoir itself. The only way to see it is to climb atop the massive structure or to scale one of the antennas. Remembering the squirrel, I turn back. I don’t want to end up fried or worse, in jail.
I make my way back onto the streets via the Bluebelle Street Stairs and I find myself crossing OVER 279 instead of my original plan to go under. I am now officially in Summer Hill and I manage to knock off most of the residential streets in this neighborhood. My tiny hangover is now completely gone but I am starving and thirsty. I spy salvation in the form of a BP gas station near the WPXI News Building. This BP might as well be an oasis in the desert because it has a tiny to go restaurant inside. The fried chicken sandwich with pickles calls to me with its salty goodness. I grab a large bottle of water and devour the sandwich as I walk. It could have been squirrel and I wouldn’t have cared. Pickles make everything better.
Back at the car and I recall the person who three hours earlier, could barely peel herself off of a warm seat. That couldn’t have been me! These high hills have healing powers. Climb one and you may find a better version of yourself at the top. Just don’t climb any antenna. You don’t want to end up like that poor squirrel.
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