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Some groups explore via the legal route

Sunday, September 07, 2003

By Bob Batz Jr., Post-Gazette Staff Writer

If you'd like to do some urban exploring with a group and without risking arrest, there are legal alternatives. One is Urban Hike.


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For more information, go to or e-mail


This loose group, run by a half-dozen local 20-somethings, started this summer. They invite people to explore a different city neighborhood or nearby town one Saturday morning a month.

Last month, about 50 folks converged on Homestead, starting at its grand Carnegie Library. They also toured a home being rehabbed on South 13th Street. Afterward, several of the hikers stopped at Chiodo's Tavern.

Leader Steve Mahoney says he and five other organizers meet at least three times before each hike, creating a map and then driving the route beforehand.

"But when we go on the hike that Saturday, it's still impromptu. If we see something cool we didn't see, it's, 'Hey, look at that!' We're almost like a bunch of little kids, looking at something for the first time."

The 27-year-old project manager for Tedco Construction Corp. now lives in Friendship, but he grew up in the North Hills suburbs. He says one of his reasons for organizing these hikes is selfish. "I don't know much about the neighborhoods and I want to know more."

He thinks the interest -- about 30 people came to each of the first two hikes in the North Side and Morningside/Highland Park -- shows that "maybe we're filling a void, that people want to get out and explore."

This month's hike, yet to be scheduled, may visit different neighborhoods around Frick Park.

Next month, the group plans two. One will be tied to an event on the city steps on the South Side Slopes. Then, on Oct. 25, they'll run a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt around Allegheny Cemetery in the Lawrenceville and Bloomfield area.

The group, which sprang out of the Ground Zero Action Network, plans to launch its own Web site. Meanwhile, you can get more information by e-mailing or calling him at 412-512-5135.

Another adventurous group, the Keystone Ramblers, does all kinds of outings, but on its "Path of Progress Hikes," they "explore Pennsylvania's industrial past, such as the lumber, mining, oil, iron, and glass industries."

For the most recent one, last month, they visited the Seldom Seen Mine, a coal mine turned tourist attraction, near Patton, Cambria County.

Most of their hikes, from "relaxed" to "hardcore," tend to be more natural, says John Arrigo, who started the group three years ago by inviting like-minded folks to join him on his regular jaunts.

It's still pretty informal. The 45-year-old Bechtel mechanical engineer, who lives in Monroeville, posts hikes on a Web site,, and sends out e-mail notices. Whoever shows up, shows up.

This month, Arrigo will lead a weekend of hiking -- Friday, Sept. 19, through Sunday, Sept. 21 -- in Allegheny National Forest. Next month, it's another full weekend in Huntingdon County, the highlight of which will be Saturday's "1,000 Steps Hike" up a giant 1936 stone staircase leading to quarries above the Juniata River.

"We have people who come for the exploration, and people who come just for the exercise," he says. "And people who come because after every hike, we go out to dinner."

Bob Batz Jr. can be reached at or 412-263-1930.

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