Perhaps the most practical place to hike (especially in winter!) is right out your front door. Tom and I frequently take a quick walk around our little neighborhood and find that there is a comfort in the familiar day to day sights and sounds of Gibsonia (or, as our kids prefer, Gibsomnia). I know we watch too much Sherlock but it’s amazing what you notice if you look. If there are newspapers in the driveway and the Christmas decorations are still up, they’re probably on a cruise. Old carpet on the curb means they got new flooring, a strange car means a son or daughter has moved back home, …oh, the drama! And we love to conjure up nicknames for the people we see. Stick Man, the Bag People (avid poop scoopers), Mustafa (an older Irish looking man who always walks 10 paces ahead of his wife), and the Hollywood Squares. I shudder to think…do they have a nickname for us? Probably Barbie and Ken.
We were out to dinner with some true Urban Hikers the other night. They eagerly shared their passion for exploring the city on foot. And Pittsburgh hiking is not for the faint of heart. Even though the downtown area of Pittsburgh is truly a “walking city,” let’s face it, we’ve got a hill problem here. In the one mile from Panther Hollow to the Peterson Event Center, you’ve got a nosebleed. Undaunted, this couple shares an intimacy with the city they love. They choose the road less travelled, walking the back streets and neighborhood routes. While most of us are crawling along on the parkway, they embrace the people, the Churches, ethnic enclaves, corner markets, ruins of Pittsburgh’s past, cobblestone, trolley tracks, spectacular views, and hundreds of bridges. We listened in while they hatched a cunning plan for their next 10 miler: From North Oakland, across the HotMetalBridge, down the River Trail to Homestead, cross the bridge, up Brownshill, through Squirrel Hill to SchenleyPark and home again. You could see how excited they were about the plan. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. “But will you stop to see the eagles?” says Tom. On the River Trail between Hot Metal and Sandcastle, there is an eagles nest. Last Spring, Mr. and Mrs. Bald Eagle hatched the first chick to be born in Pittsburgh in 200 years. We’ve visited often on foot and on bikes. It’s a relatively short walk 2-3 miles from the Hot Metal Bridge along the Monongahela River. Bring your binoculars and plan on the Hofbrauhaus for dinner.