Sports & Outdoors

Bentley Run Wetlands

A beautiful place to hike and explore in the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania is the Bentley Run Wetlands, two miles northeast of Union City in Erie County. This 350-acre property is protected by a permanent conservation easement held by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which protects the property from development and allows public access and recreation. …

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Chanterelles

We bought a small section of woods some years ago that came with treasures not spelled out in the purchase agreement: chanterelles. We had no idea the prized orange mushroom would fruit the following summer. I wasn’t even positive what type of mushroom it was — I’d never foraged for chanterelles before — but after …

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The American League’s Jackie Robinson

Black History Month recognizes and honors the greatness of African-Americans who triumphed over prejudice and hatred and brought about major changes in American culture and society.   In baseball, the player most honored during Black History Month is Jackie Robinson, who integrated the Major Leagues when he jogged onto the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers on …

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Pie Traynor and Dale Dodrill: Lest We Forget

When Pittsburgh sportswriters go back into the past, they tend to focus on the glory years of Roberto Clemente and Willis Stargell and of the Super Bowl dynasty, but there are players from earlier eras that richly deserve our remembrance of the glory of their times. There are four statues at PNC Park honoring Pirate …

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Fond and Friendly

If any bird qualifies as the neighbor we’ve known our whole lives, it has to be the chickadee. Gregarious, sprightly, and fearless, chickadees can become so habituated to people and the offer of birdseed that they’ll literally eat out of your hand. They’re at our windows wherever a feeder goes up, finding the food within …

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Spring Blooming Plants Blooming in Fall

It’s the holiday season and my rural Pennsylvania town is bursting with the signs of Christmas: wreaths hung on doors, trees strung with colorful lights, a creche erected in the town square — and spring-flowering plants in bloom.  My forsythia is blooming a bright yellow. White lilac flowers are just dying back. Pink magnolia buds …

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What Would Rachel Carson Say?

On a Tuesday morning late last August, I turned out of my driveway onto Route 711 to drive into Ligonier. Route 711 is a two-lane state road, a main north-south corridor, designated as the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway. I passed, heading in the other direction, two large white trucks, one of which had a long …

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From Basket Ball to the NBA

While the debate over Pittsburgh’s status as a basketball town continues on barstools and radio waves across the region, what’s been settled by Claude Johnson, Carnegie Mellon University grad and author of The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball’s Forgotten Era, is the important role that a black player from Homestead, once a “basket …

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A Victim of the Life He Led

Pittsburgh is unquestionably one of the great fighting cities in the United States. The city and its surrounding boroughs have produced world champions Billy Conn, Michael Moorer, Paul Spadafora, and a whole host of other world-class pugilists. Experts in the fight business place two-time world champion Harry Greb on top of Pittsburgh’s pugilistic slag pile. …

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Roaring Run Natural Area

A beautiful place for hiking and exploring is the Roaring Run Natural Area within Forbes State Forest in the Laurel Highlands. Roaring Run is a 3,600-acre wild and rugged expanse of forest on the western slope of Laurel Ridge in southern Westmoreland County. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy protected this land in 1970 and transferred it …

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The Common Snapping Turtle

Each spring before my first real swim, I stand at the house and gaze downhill to the pond. (I have dipped every month of the year, but that doesn’t count as a real swim.) I scan the water’s surface, looking for snapping turtles. I see them when they come up for air — their little …

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The Peak Before Migration

I appreciate the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. There are seasons of want and seasons of plenty, seasons of abundance and seasons of scarcity. That’s true for both people and birds. With all this year’s hatchlings taking to the wing, fall marks the annual peak for avian populations before the rigors of migration, predation, and the other …

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One Lone Bat

I never noticed so many ash trees in the forest until hundreds toppled over. The drumming of the ruffed grouse is dearer to me now because of its absence. But of all the things on the farm that have revealed themselves by passing away, none is more striking than the decline of bats. Thirty-five years …

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Forever Chemicals

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever national drinking water standard to limit six chemicals whose potential health effects are raising red flags. They are part of a family of about 9,000 per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds — collectively known as PFAS — that are used to impart water-, oil-, grease-, stain-, and heat-resistant …

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Listen for the Song of the Wood Thrush

The wood thrush sings a haunting song, “Ee-oh-lay.” Just three syllables, it’s a brief, ethereal mix of bouncing notes and plaintive, romantic flutings. I have heard the males sing from brushy patches of suburban scrub in the late spring and from deep in the summer woods. Their notes are almost elven, with something beckoning and …

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Have a Duke: Baseball and Beer

While baseball fans are happy with the pitch clock because it has, on average, cut 30 minutes off this season’s games, there has been an unanticipated problem.  If fans are spending less time at the ballpark, they’re consuming less food and drink. Major league teams have been particularly concerned about the declining consumption of beer.  …

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Touring Pittsburgh’s Community Flower Gardens

This column usually focuses on remote places to hike around Western Pennsylvania, but there are beautiful outdoor destinations to see in the heart of Pittsburgh. A biking tour of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s community flower gardens is one way to simultaneously enjoy nature and explore the uniqueness of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. Each May and June, the …

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Giving Thanks to Mosses

We hardly notice them. we trod all over them. Most mosses don’t even have universal common names. Moss experts are few. Yet mosses are among the most ancient of plants — the first to crawl out of the ocean and inhabit land 450 million years ago.I wonder if that’s why I feel as if I’m …

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The School of Social Work Basketball Dynasty

When people think of University of Pittsburgh athletes, the first person to come to mind is probably Kenny Pickett. Some may recall Aaron Donald, or Larry Fitzgerald. But Michael Whitelock?   It may be hard to believe, but the School of Social Work once produced a basketball dynasty. Not only that, but there have been several …

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The PA Wilds

Several hours from Pittsburgh, in the north-central counties of Pennsylvania, is the beautiful area referred to as the PA Wilds. It’s a region of deep forests, dramatic hilly terrain, and wild streams. Two wonderful places to explore there are Susquehannock State Forest in Potter County and Elk State Forest in Cameron County. A drive through …

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Pittsburgh’s Golden Era of Slow-Pitch Softball

Pittsburgh’s slow-pitch softball home-run king, Paul Tomasovich passed away March 5 at the age of 89.  Described in his obituary as “the man, the myth, the legend,” he was fabled in the 1960s for his tape-measure home runs. His obituary mentions two of the most remembered Herculean home runs hit by Tomasovich.  In a game …

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A Couple of Rare Birds

The couple walked briskly down the road, binoculars around their necks. Spring had come to western Pennsylvania and with it migratory birds, but they were only interested in one species, the cerulean warbler, and the check mark they could add to their life list once they saw it. Bird watchers come in many varieties. At …

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