The Daily Bongo

The Eliza Furnace Trail

The sun woke me up this morning with its warmth and brightness infringing on my sleep. The day was promising to be a gorgeous one, the perfect day for some sort of outdoor activity. My usual form of outdoor activity is walking. I don't know how to ride a bike, and my sense of balance is so skewed that inline-skating means that I spend more time flailing my arms and bruising my tailbone. Walking is fine with me. However, my boyfriend has an interest in inline-skating so we looked for a location where we could both find happiness. We decided on the Eliza Furnace Trail.

We drove to Second Ave., parked, and began our expedition. The Eliza Furnace Trail is commonly referred to as the Jail Trail locally because it goes past the Allegheny County Jail. The trail is flat and a round trip would be a smidge over five miles. The trail begins in Oakland off of Second Avenue and goes down to First Avenue in the Downtown area. Winding between the two halves of the Parkway East, the trail is flat. My problem with it is that the City of Pittsburgh has done little maintenance there. Weeds grow along the side of the trail, and the trees there are small and afford little if any shade. Because the trail runs between highways, the noise level can be unbearable. My iPod sound setting that is so easy to hear with city traffic was far too low for the roar of traffic. The most interesting thing, which I will photograph the next time I go to the trail, is the graffiti that covers the wall and mountain side on one side of the trail.

I haven't had a chance to go on the Jail Trail for almost two years. Last year my foot was sore with the bunion problem, and then I had the bunion surgery. I thought that the trail would have been improved in that time, but no, but no. Some of the same graffiti that covered the walls years ago is still there. New graffiti has filled in around it to the point that as high as the arm can reach, the walls are covered with graffiti. There are names, misspelled words, swear words, commentary on Bush and the Iraq War, and pictures. In an attempt to pretty the location, the City of Pittsburgh added its own graffiti, a painted picture of a group of people walking on the trail. This particular piece of art was at a higher level than the other graffiti preventing it from being easily defaced.

I wondered as I scanned the graffiti what future generations would think of this graffiti. Imagine if you will that the print and digital materials from today have turned to dust and stray blips. All that is left are the walls of buildings, sides of roadways, and hillsides. What will the future generation know of us? Looking back at ancient Egypt and how Ramses II put his name all over objects whether he was responsible for their creation or just removed the original pharaoh's name from the monument, most will think that some of the most prolific graffiti artists were important or powerful people as opposed to a kid with just enough money to buy a can of spray paint. Some of the graffiti is interesting, with drawings of soulless people shooting up with drugs. I would think, however, that the people from the future would wonder why we decorated our buildings and highway architecture with such stuff. I would imagine that their opinion of us would be lowered, and that they would think that our artist ability was juvenile at best.

In the past, the Jail Trail would be crowded with bikers, skaters, walkers, runners, families with children and dogs. The trail was lonely today. There were people on it, but not in the numbers of the past. There are competing areas with a much nicer trail on the other side of the river on the South Side that winds its way to the Waterfront. Baking in the sun on a noisy stretch of trail just doesn't hold any attraction for the exercise enthusiast when better options are available.

April 30, 2006