Pittsburgh StepTrek provides a different view of city
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Up a few dozen steps, from Eola Way to the quiet intersection of Sterling and Gomer streets, and participants in the 12th annual Pittsburgh StepTrek on Saturday had their first reward: Stunning skyline views above trees tinged with fall colors and an up-close look at the South Side's St. Josaphat Church.
The trekkers panted and marveled and moved on. There were, after all, hundreds of steps, many pleasant vistas and countless deep breaths to go.
"I'm sure there will be more stops," Kimberly Bailey of Imperial said after lingering at Sterling and Gomer. Her daughter, Meagan, shrugged off a hoodie after climbing the steps. But as a stiff breeze swept the hilltop, she put it back on.
The weather, event chairman Brian Oswald said, was perfect this year.
About 800 people registered in advance for the event, sponsored by South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. With in-person registration Saturday, the event was likely to top 1,000 participants. Many come back year after year.
"I get to see things in the city I'd never seen before that I never even knew existed. It's different than driving around the city," said Becky Cibulka, of West Mifflin, who participated last year and returned Saturday.
Unlike the Great Race more than a week ago, the StepTrek has no shotgun start. Trekkers come and go as they please.
Organizers developed two routes, one with about 1,200 steps and one with about 1,800, Some participants were expected to complete one route and have lunch on East Carson Street before tackling the other.
"It's an inexpensive way to enjoy the city on an afternoon," said Casey Mahaven, an event planner hired by the neighborhood association.
Proceeds from registration fees over the years have benefited the neighborhood association and other nonprofits.
Each spring, after identifying the routes, organizers begin clearing brush from the steps and notifying the city of other problems.
"The city has fixed every single problem I sent to them this year," Mr. Oswald said.
The StepTrek's annual T-shirt has become a must-have item. Designed by Kathryn Carr of Go Carr Go Art Studio, this year's shirt was a paper cut featuring a set of steps leading through a tunnel of trees to the Monongahela River, with the Downtown skyline beyond.
"Of course, the steps were mandatory," Ms. Carr said.
Once elementary-school classmates in Glenshaw, Diane Schmitt McElvery, Marian Nadybal and Kathy Holland now live in Boston, Atlanta and Butler, respectively. They try to get together annually and went to Cape Cod last year.
When Ms. McElvery read about the StepTrek in Pittsburgh Magazine, she asked her friends if they wanted to return to the cape or hit Pittsburgh this year.
"We all said Pittsburgh and the step-a-thon," Ms. Holland said.
First Published October 7, 2012 12:00 am