Unique Streets: 26
Miles Walked: 6.26
Street Names (italicized have been walked on another day): Gladefield Street, Mingo Street, Oberlin Street, Short Street, Brushton Avenue, Heart Court, Ferris Court, Mohler Street, Nolan Court, Albertice Street, Monticello Street, Snowden Street, Calway Street, Baxter Street, Tyson Street, Frankstown Avenue, Wheeler Street, Ferndale Street, Angora Way, Blackadore Avenue, Ozan Way, Lawndale Street, Perchment Street, Silverdale Street, Canada Way, Stoneville Street, Purkess Way, Standard Avenue, Jadwin Way, Granby Way, Dersam Street, Cain Way, Hansell Avenue, Pershing Street, Park Way, Oakdene Street.
Google Maps has lied to me so many times it’s a wonder I refer to it at all. In Late July 2020 I relied on Google to plan out a walk in Homewood North. I thought I’d make a loop from Chadwick Playground, through the East Hills, and then back via Mt. Carmel Road in Penn Hills. Supposedly, Pershing Street became pedestrian only between the city and the suburbs. Right away I should have known that trusting Google Maps would be disastrous. Hey, Google says this street is called Myrtle Avenue but the street sign says Short Street. I reported the problem to Google and kept walking. I should have gotten back in my car.
As I walked down Brushton, I scanned the hilly horizon. Notable landmarks popped up from the green leafy sea: the spires of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church in the foreground, the Cathedral of Learning in the middle, and bringing up the rear, the UPMC building.
Streets I somehow missed last time popped up on my left as I descended: Heart Court, Ferris Court, Nolan Court. All of them mere parking lots for housing developments. I walked up Monticello street with the intent of turning around at the top of the hill when I saw surprise stairs that disappeared into the trash-filled woods. Google didn’t know these stairs existed.
I started down the stairs checking each step with a timid toe.
The palunk-clunk of the wobbling cement in the empty woods sent shivers down my spine. Is someone watching me just out of sight? In my mind’s eye I saw a hooded figure crouching behind leaves. The precarious stairs precluded me from rushing, so I walked slowly, drenched in my own fear. Snowden was next and one of the reasons I came to walk in this area. At the top of the steep street sits another, wholly in the woods.
Calway Street belongs to the birds and type of people who drink in the woods and throw Magnum condom wrappers on the pocked asphalt. At the top, I found a clearing surrounded by large truck tires. A bug flew in my eye and I took it as a sign to leave. An uneasy breeze practically blew me back down the hill.
On Angora Street I definitely I walked through a sketchy situation. Even the stray cats dining alongside groundhogs seemed on edge.
The road was covered in dirt and lined with abandoned cars. One of them up ahead on blocks flashed its lights at me. I walked closer to it and noticed a man with a frizzy white halo of hair and a cigarette in his mouth. I nodded and said hello, he nodded and continued to look ahead. At the corner, a woman with bleach blonde hair smoked a cigarette. I said hello and she said good morning. Cries from a young animal came from a decaying wooden shed across the street. I kept my cool and got back onto the main street.
I realized I was no longer in the city and did a u-turn using Ozan Way to get back into Pittsburgh. A rottweiler on a short chain barked at me from the spare shade in his tiny yard. I heard a woman talking and could barely make out her head from over the porch railing. She was ancient, seeming to predate the Edwardian era house she inhabited. Her house was on the high side of a wooded hill and neighboring houses remained hidden by the trees until I was directly in front of them. Reality was bent in this part of the city.
I turned on Ferndale and swore at the tremendous sight of a hill so steep I could almost reach straight out and touch the surface while standing. I started up the steep incline and took my time while googling the steepest streets in Pittsburgh. At that time, I didn’t see any mention of it, and I was flummoxed. Later, I would use different search terms “ferndale street pittsburgh steep” and I found many unofficial mentions of Ferndale being steeper than the record holder, Canton Avenue. Ferndale is not only probably steeper, but it is much longer. A Reddit user posted a video of JBroms cycling up the hill.
My calves hurt just watching it. Along the side of the video, they post stats of the ride including grade. At one point, Ferndale lists a 46% grade. Canton Avenue is listed at a max of 37%.
Finally, at the top I caught my breath by wandering down the closed off Lawndale. Blue speckles of paint on trees and the gravel made me question taking a single step further.
I kept going on my journey to Pershing Street. The layout of the streets had me go down and then up, on repeat, ad nauseum. I was getting tired and annoyed by the cynical stares from the alley cats.
On Standard Avenue, I found another Google Maps mistake. Jadwin Way was missing from the app.
I continued on Dersam Street and found an empty stone house surrounded by refuse. In the side yard, a stone fountain poked out from two foot tall weeds.
Having walked all of the streets in this tiny, high section of the East Hills, I made my way up Pershing. I wanted to cry when I got to the top. The pedestrian way that Google had promised me, was a garbage-filled hole in a privacy fence.
At this point I had walked over 5 miles and was faced with the prospect of walking all the way back the way I came. I went straight down to Frankstown in search of a bodega that sold ice cold drinks since my bottle was completely out.
After I got a refill, I trudged straight up Brushton. As always, when backtracking, I saw things I hadn’t seen on the way down. I had walked right by the Homewood North Parklet numerous times and had never noticed it, now overcome with weeds.
A water fountain was the only clue that this area was a former public recreation area.
As I was observing the blue cement tower, I noticed a shiny speck of blue in the weeds at my feet: a blue jay feather.
Nearing the top I found a humorous placement of a pedestrian sign. The yellow square showed a person walking in between two lines to indicate to drivers that they were approaching a crosswalk. The bottom bolt affixing the sign to the telephone had come out and now the sign was turned 45 degrees. The result made the person in the crosswalk look like they were walking straight up a mountain. That looked familiar.