“Living in Pittsburgh means learning to love the steps.”

That’s the quote Mt. Lebanon resident Stephen Brookes entered in a contest organized by Steppin Stanzas, a poetry project celebrating city steps, at the 18th Annual Pittsburgh StepTrek recently.

Steppin Stanzas gathered quotes and awarded prizes as part of its ongoing project to reach out into the community and draw attention to Pittsburgh’s public stairways.

Tanna Crabtree, of Bradford Woods, captured her experience of discovering stunning views along the self-guided hike: “Following the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ of steps.”

Other quotes were philosophical: “The first step out the door is the hardest,” wrote trekker Lori Randolph on her entry form.

“The truth is you can always take the stairs. And sometimes the truth hurts,” wrote trekker Janet Kromer.

Despite the bouts of rain, trekkers kept a sense of humor. Annette Serino, of Brighton Heights, noted Shamokin Street along the route when she expressed her enthusiasm for StepTrek: “It’s Shamokin Hot,” she wrote.

“If I walk with other women, we’ll be Step Sisters,” wrote Ginny Dietrich, of Mount Washington.

Trekker Mason Kromer was happy with the choice of vendors who provided food and drink throughout the day. “Steps are where the doughnuts are!”

The youngest trekker to create a quote was 8-year-old Maeve Indovina, who wrote about steps in her Fineview neighborhood: “Going down Rising Main Stairs is like riding a roller coaster. It’s slow but steep. Down. Down. Down.”

Old-timers Ray Wesolowski and Paul Fest, who grew up in the South Side Slopes, recalled schlepping up and down the stairs numerous times every day—to school, to play ball, to see friends and relatives, to the corner market, you name it.

Mr. Wesolowski had this to say about the popular Pittsburgh StepTrek, which attracts hundreds of participants from across the city and state each year: “We climbed the stairs before they were cool.”

Winning quotes and raffle winners received a Steppin Stanzas bookmark with a step photo on the front and a step quote on the back from literary figures such as Mark Twain, civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and comic actor Danny DeVito.

“Now we have local quotes from trekkers who climb our public stairways,” says Paola Corso, who co-founded Steppin Stanzas with poet Andrew Edwards. “We’re going to keep gathering them and make new bookmarks.”

Perhaps the wisest quote came from Pittsburgh StepTrek chair and South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association board member Brian Oswald: “Steps are the destination. Not the route.”

Mr. Edwards, Ms. Corso, and Steppin Stanzas guest artists Christine Telfer and Maria Laranginho were contest judges.

This is the third year Steppin Stanzas appeared at StepTrek. In 2016, Ms. Corso and Mr. Edwards launched their poetry project with the help of a Sprout Fund grant.

Last year, they performed a special program, “On the Way Up: City Steps, City Immigrants,” a tribute to early immigrants who built public stairways, those who care for them, and new immigrants to the Pittsburgh area.

For more info on Steppin Stanzas’ Step Quote Project, email [email protected].

Tom Smith is the former Managing Editor of the South Pittsburgh Reporter from 2000 until 2023. Following in his mother's footsteps, he delivered news that changed our world.