Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Holiday

Well, it's the 29th of December and the Holiday week is going by way to quickly!
Here is just a little of it....
The lights were hung and lit
Christmas Eve Dinner

AMB, me and Chelsey, after eating...
Lambros Lounge, soon to be just a memory
AMB and I took a hike around the city on the 27th, on our way there, we stopped on Rt. 28 and looked at some of the houses and businesses that were soon to be torn down.
Stairway, a paint scrappers dream
A house, hidden on the hillside
Behind some of the remaining buildings
It looks kinda like tenements....
These ruins have been here for decades, at the end of the 31st St. Bridge
The Creche at the Steel Building
After our exploring the buildings on Rt. 28, we headed over to Pittsburgh. We parked on Strawberry Way and walked up to the Steel Plaza. There we looked at the Manger before heading up 6th Street to Forbes where we took an elevator up to the Duquesne University Campus.
View of Pittsburgh from Duquesne University
Since it was just after Christmas, the place was deserted. We saw only 2 people exercising on the football field. We continued on to the stairs that lead down to the 10th Street Bridge.

View of the South Side from Duquesne University

It was a long set of steps from the Bluff!
Restaurant in the South Side
Poster on the side of The Beehive Coffee house
(It's your option to believe it or not...)
After stopping for some coffee and to warm up, we started back towards the city. We dropped down a block closer to the river, (just to avoid backtracking) and eventually ended up on the bike trail that follows the river bank and the railroad tracks.
The Moon from under the 10th street Bridge
The Moon and the Smithfield Street Bridge
Once we arrived at Station square, we crossed the Smithfield Street bridge and followed the street to our car. In all, we walked about 4 miles.

AMB takes aim
On the 29th, Ann Marie and I went to the range at the State Gamelands off of Rt. 910.
Ann Marie had never shot a pistol, this was her first time. Like her Dad...she was right on! I'll have to watch my P's and Q's!
AMB shooting the 38
Me shooting the 9MM
Well, that is some of the fun we've had and there is lots more to come before the new year!
we have another trip to Dunbar on the calendar. If we are lucky...it will snow!




















Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

The year is almost over, for that matter, the decade is almost done and the holidays are upon us. House cleaning and decorating has been done, shopping for Christmas dinner supplies has been taken care of, and once the work day is finished.......the fun begins!
Here are a couple things that we've done since the last post. The rotunda in the Union Trust Building
This is always a nice place to visit, they used to decorate the balconies, but it wasn't done last week when I took the picture....budget cuts???

Saturday morning (12/19/09)

Finally, a big snow!
Ann Marie and I headed out early to get a hike in before the roads got plowed and the snow turned brown. We were some of the first people out and it was great. Not too cold, the snow was still falling and we were making our own trail.....what a great way to start the day!

AMB heading into the winter wonderland

Can you guess where we hiked to?
This is the water tower on North Ridge Road. Rather than walk up the road the way normal people would, we chose the slightly tougher route, straight up the hillside. The snow made the climb a bit more fun. Those sticks and logs hidden under the snow can get you....believe me, I know!
After we returned, covered in snow, we started the baking.
The only thing better than the smell of fresh cookies...is the taste of them!
The smell of baking stayed in the house for a couple days, until the tree was set up. Then the smell of pine took over.
Just a few of the many different cookies we baked

Tonight will be our Christmas Eve dinner with Chelsey and Ann Marie. We will finish decorating the tree and spend some nice quality time together! Tomorrow, after an early Mass, AMB and I will be heading over to spend the day with Ann Marie's family.
All I have left to say is....
until the next posting...
"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!"
(and be safe!)






Monday, December 14, 2009

Exploring Blawnox

Who: AMB and I

What: Exploring the site of the Allegheny Co. Workhouse

When: December 12, 2009


Map of Blawnox (Hoboken in those days) in the 1800's


Ann Marie and I decided to stay a little closer to home this weekend and ventured over to the little community of Blawnox. This town was founded way back in the late 1700's and went by the name of Hoboken. They ran into a little bit of flack with that other town in New Jersey and changed their name in 1925. The name Blawnox comes from a major employer of the townsfolk, the Blaw-Knox Steel Manufacturing Company. The company is gone now, but the town is thriving.


In the late 1800's, the county of Allegheny opened a Workhouse on the edge of town. Officially called the Allegheny County Workhouse and Inebriate Asylum, its first inmates were jailed in 1869, two years before the buildings were completed!


It encompassed 900 acres of which 700 were farmland. The County Poor House was situated beside it.


The prison closed in 1971, eight years after the county sold the majority of the farm to RIDC. The buildings were razed in 1974. Not much remains of the workhouse, unless you know where to look. The farmland is now an industrial park, all the barns and reservoirs are gone, even the graveyard and hospital.

Aerial view of Blawnox in the 1970's
We visited the area around the workhouse, viewing what remains of the walls (A), finding some of the remaining roads (C) and the main staircase and sidewalk (B)



Along Freeport Rd. (A)



The view along Freeport Rd. gives the best idea of the size of the workhouse. A wall is situated beside the road. It is cracked and looks pretty ugly. At one time, there were guard towers an top of it along with walkways for access. I can remember seeing the towers and the guards when I was a kid, I always thought it was a cool place. Little did I know what exactly it was!

The curved sidewalks are covered with dirt and leaves. (C)
By scrapping with my foot, I could reach the pavement. There was also an obvious path through the trees. If I hadn't known there was a sidewalk there, I would've never seen it.
Entrance view from RR tracks (B)
Down along the railroad tracks was an old wall. It was made out of thick, heavy stones and capped with a nice top piece. In the center of the property waswhat appeared to be a high mounument. We cleared off the weeds and the ivy and found the entrance of the main sidewalk. One of the entrance pieces had fallen over and in the process, knocked the second piece a bit off center. The weeds had taken over,making it difficult to clear it off.
Behind them were the remains of the steps and sidewalk that led up to the main office building of the workhouse.


Same view after a little clean-up
It is a shame that this was covered over, hidden from view. It is something that the county should preserve, if not the owners of the industrial park. This is part of the county's past, a bit of history. Something that should be preserved.
Design on Pediment
We continued on and visited another structure in the park, what looks like an old chimney. It wasn't connected to anything and as most of everything else we saw, it was a bit overgrown with weeds. We will have to return to see if we can figure out what it was....
Not far from the chimney was what remains of an old reservoir and another nice wall. A pathway that was once a road is also near-by. More things to explore...
History in the neighborhood! That's cool!







Saturday, December 5, 2009

Back to "The Congo"

Who: AMB and Myself
What: A hike in State Gameland # 51
When: December 4th, 2009
Ann Marie and I left the Shaler area early on Friday to return to the Dunbar region, where we had met defeat a few weeks ago. We had been searching for a geocache and had to give it up due to the oncoming darkness. We swore we would return, this was our day....

Map of our hike: 5 miles and 3 hills. (BIG Hills)

We arrived around 8:30 and started or search by going STRAIGHT up the hill at the parking lot. This was a climb of about 500 feet. The car sure looked small by the time we got to the top!

Ann Marie found the first cache and we then continued on, this time using a compass rather than the GPS. We were aiming for a dirt road that cut up the hillside. I'm happy to say that the "old School" techniques worked just fine! We located the road and used it to get down off the hillside.

We climbed 2 more hillsides in our quest and we found all the caches that we were looking for. 100%, that's a good feeling! By the time we returned to the car, we were beat and ready for food and rest.

On the way down to Dunbar, we found this cache

AMB found this clever cache...if you need to be told where it is in the picture...you have to keep working on your "geoskills"! Sometimes, being right out in the open is the best place to hide something!

Working our way up the first hill
View of the parking lot from the top

We found the cache at the top of the first hill and then headed back down into the valley. Crossing a couple streams, we soon came to the next uphill portion of our journey. This wasn't quite as steep or as high as the first one, but it was a work out never the less!
At the top was the spot that we had been searching for a cache before. With-in 10 minutes we had located it, actually, AMB saw it....right beside my head, in a narrow passageway. We had been with-in 10 feet of it when we were here last time!
We had some lunch (a bagel and some coffee) and discovered my glucometer was missing.
We started searching the area. Retracing our steps. No luck, it wasn't there.
We headed back down the mountain, following our path in the leaves. It was rather easy to see where we had stepped on our way up. Half way down the hill, I saw it...laying on the path where we had to bend over to get under a tree. Whew, that was a load off of my mind!

AMB at the Lost Crag

Our next cache was on top of the neighboring hill, so we had to go back down into the valley and then back up to the top again. There was a road we could follow to the top this time, instead of paths and bushwacking! The road was steep though! This is not the type of road you would want to bring your car to!
At the top, after a bit of a search, we found the grave of a civil war soldier. Mr Bryner's farm used to be located here. We looked for foundations of the house or barn, but nature had done a good job of hiding things from us.
After finding the cache and signing the log, we continued on to the top, where there were more rocks and our last geocache.William T Byner's grave site
AMB walking through the rocks above the Bryner farm

The find at the top of this hill was quick and happy. We were ready to call it a day! We still had another mile and a half to go to get back to the car. It was all downhill! That was a bit of a relief!
Once back at the car, we changed our shoes and took a couple ibuprofen and headed back to civilization. A stop at The Italian Oven satiated our stomachs and when we got home...a shower soothed our muscles.

A great sunset to end the day





Thursday, December 3, 2009

On To Life Again....


Well, it is done, I've pulled the plug!
I am now off line at the house.
it is time to start finding my life again!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rants on the Internet



Well, my computer has been bitten once again by a virus. This could be the one that puts me over the edge.



A day or two ago, when I fired up my machine, it couldn't find something needed to start the virus detection programs. "OH-OH", I thought, could be problems... Everything seemed to go OK (?) until yesterday, 1 month since the computer had been professionally cleaned out. The virus's were back, warnings were popping up telling me I had to download their software to protect my computer. Warnings that I had 32 virus's in my machine, update now!! As soon as I would close these, another would pop up.


I seriously think the time has come for me to go off-line!
It is costing me money to stay on-line.
It is taking away valuable time from my day.
It is sucking my life away......




Friday, November 20, 2009

Sucess and Failure in "The Congo" of SW PA

Who: AMB and Myself
Where: The Mountains near Dunbar
When:November 20, 2009
(clicking on pictures will enlarge them for you, sometimes you can click them again to show you the actual size photo)

Ann Marie and I got off to a late start today, we left home around 9:00 and didn't get down to the Dunbar area until after 10:30. We started our quest on the western side of the valley, driving up a long road which eventually turned into dirt and potholes. Coming to a gate(?) we parked the car and headed into the woods by foot.

The area around here is called "the Congo" by the natives. Perhaps it is because of all the thick jagger bushes, or the steep hills and valleys or perhaps, just the difficulty getting around in it. What ever the reason was, we have always enjoyed coming down into this area and exploring it. There seems to be no end to the cool places you find.

We were about a 1/4 mile away from ground zero. Before we left, we put on our orange vests. This is a gameland and we didn't want to have any unfortunate meetings with hunters.
(At days end, we hadn't seen any!)

Heading towards the "hidden" passageway

Our path...into the hole through the rhododendrons
Getting close, entering the "groove"

Nearing the cache, we came to a group of rocks that were level with the ground. Looking down into the grooves we could see passageways below. All we needed to do was figure out how to get down into them. They opened up into the woods a sort distance away and we were soon closing in on the hide.
The next cache on our list was only a mile away from here, but to walk there would involve a bushwack of about.....a mile! It would also involve a hike down a steep hillside and another one up the opposite side of the valley before our return trip. We opted for the car.
Old ruins near the quarry, normally hidden by the foliage

On our way, we noticed some ruins that we hadn't seen before in our travels in this area. We visited some structures like these a few weeks ago but never saw these because of the leaves on the trees. They had some use for the quarry that is situated near-by, what it might have been...we have no idea.
AMB
Me, trying to get to the cache inside the tree

Parking near a firing range, we stopped and watched the hunters sight in their guns before we headed up the near-by trail. The sounds of gunfire soon faded away as we worked our way up the dirt road. We parked about a half mile away from the cache, we didn't know what it was or what it looked like. We came to where the GPS said was ground zero and started our search. Searching for about 15 minutes with no luck, we increased our search area and soon located the hide.
So, 2 for 2...not bad. Things were looking good. Now, on to the next hide.
An uphill hike of about a mile

The next cache involved another hike, uphill once again. We had 2 caches in the GPS, both started from the same spot. One was about a half mile away, the other a mile. We decided on going for the shorter one. The trail didn't go straight to it though and soon we were at a spot where both caches were the same distance away. We changed our goal and headed for the one that we thought would be the most fun. Turns out, we were right!
Waterfall along the way
Things soon turned STEEP

Before long, we came across some cairns and since they seemed to be going the same direction, we started following them. We had to cross through a large pile of cut trees. The path was fairly obvious and we made it through without any problems. The trail afterwards took a real steep rise. The jackets we were wearing were starting to get real hot...it was getting a little hard to breath...the air was getting thinner...well, not really, but it was steep!

Nearing the top of the mountain, we started seeing gray stones, large gray stones with dark openings in them. Approaching them, we were amazed at how high they were and how far they stretched to the sides. Not knowing where to start, we put our packs on the ground and just roamed around for a bit. We found caves and hidden passageways. There were also lots of bolted rock climbs on the rocks. Lots of hand holds and tight crevasses. This was a fun spot! We were amazed and had a blast working our way around and through the rocks.
Opening to some of the passageways of the Lost Crag
More openings
Inside the formations, paths and caves everywhere
Nice high passage inside the rocks
Cave
Outside the rocks

After we explored the rocks, we got down to business. We had a cache to find! Unfortunately, I had left the paperwork in the car. We had the co-ordinates, but we didn't have a description or any clues or any idea how difficult the hide was. It would up to us and our geosense.
The GPS told us that it must be inside the rocks somewhere, or else perhaps on top of them..or maybe behind them...
We worked our way around and figured it had to be inside one of the passageways. AMB got into a position where we could get satellite reception and directed me. I roamed around looking in caves, under piles of leaves, on shelves and behind rocks, all to no avail. Even using a headlamp to illuminate the shadows didn't help. After awhile we had to give up because the sun would be setting soon. We didn't want to walk back down the hill in the dark! We had to except the defeat! (this time) I have to say this...
WE WILL BE BACK !
Me and AMB close to the cache
Working our way back down again
The Map (too bad we didn't have it with us!)

Back at home, I came across a map of the rocks and also some more clues to the location of the hide. By reading the logs written by past finders, you can often get clues to where caches are hidden. It was real tempting to head back the next day, but it will have to wait for another weekend. There is another cache near-by and we can probably get them both on the same day. It will require a hike of about 2 miles in and a couple steep hills. In the mean time, we will be on the look out for a couple gullible....or I mean willing friends to come along with us.

Are you up for the challenge? Give me a call!

Dinner in Dunbar before the ride home

Back in civilization, we stopped at Stefanick's Restaurant for a dinner of fish and macaroni and cheese. It wasn't 5 star food but it sure tasted good and stuck to our ribs. Coming outside after dinner, it was pitch dark. The drive back home went quickly.

The day was another good time in the Dunbar area, it was a tease, that will be bringing us back for more!