Sports & Outdoors

A Day at the Track

As a kid, Dave Palone played competitively in typical high school sports. That changed when his dad bought a few horses to race at The Meadows, a harness racetrack located near Washington, Pa., 25 miles from Pittsburgh. He fell in love. “I love horses so much I decided I wanted to do them right,” Palone …

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Pitt’s First Great Rivalry: Fordham and the Seven Blocks of Granite

When The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated selected their top ten college football rivalries, their lists featured neighboring state rivalries such as Ohio State-Michigan, Texas-Oklahoma, and Florida-Georgia. The Sporting News list of top rivalries included the Pitt-West Virginia backyard brawl. Traditional rivalries for Pitt began over 100 years ago when they first started playing West …

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The Oven Bird

In 1916 when Robert Frost published “The Oven Bird” in his collection Mountain Interval, he had just returned from three years in England. There, he found his poetic voice in both the vernacular and imagery of New England as well as traditional British forms. “The Oven Bird,” a sonnet like many of Frost’s poems, describes …

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The Pirates’ First Great Rivalry: The Dreyfuss-McGraw Feud

Sports rivalries usually develop between teams that are competing with each other for league championships. For the Pirates, it was the Reds in the 1970s, the Phillies in the 1980s, and the Braves in the 1990s. Once the teams are no longer contenders, the rivalry fades away. The most intense and bitter rivalry for the …

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A Walk in the Northern Woods

About two and a half hours northeast of Pittsburgh is a remote property in Elk and Clearfield counties known as Bennett Branch Forest. The 1,500-acre tract owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy adjoins Moshannon State Forest. Visitors can hike a newly designed 3.6-mile round-trip trail through forests of mixed oak, sugar maple, black birch and …

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Floating on the Shenango River

One wonderful way to see portions of our western Pennsylvania landscape is to paddle a river or stream by canoe or kayak. One place to paddle is the upper Shenango River in western Mercer County, 70 miles north of Pittsburgh. A 23-mile stretch flows unimpeded between the Pymatuning and Shenango reservoirs. The Iroquois name Shenango, …

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The Invincible Elder

“Judas was hang’d on an elder…” —Biron in Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” “What shall we do with it?” Ron Weasley asked Harry Potter and Hermione in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.” “It’s the elder wand. The most powerful wand in the world. With it we’d be invincible.” Who knew that the lowly-looking shrub perched …

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What’s That Song?

Spring brings warblers! It’s that simple. Spring, longed for after the buffeting chill of winter, gives way to warmth and light… and birds. Birds by the millions feel the instinctual pull north every spring, and we who await their passage are rewarded with color and song. One of my favorite species is the black-throated green …

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Ramps

At Greene County’s 29th Annual Ramp Festival on a sunny Saturday last April, a party atmosphere was in full swing with crafters, wood carvers, metal workers and a band. But the main draw were about 15 vendors selling ramp chili, ramp sausage, ramp cookies, ramp mints, ramp butter, ramp wine, ramp hardtack, ramp pancakes, ramp …

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Fallingwater and Bear Run Nature Reserve

Southwestern Pennsylvania now has a world Heritage site. Fallingwater, designed in the 1930s by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufmann family, was inscribed this summer to the UNESCO—United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—World Heritage List. It’s in good company: the few structures in the United States on this list include Independence Hall, the Statue …

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Snow Birds Fly Away—to Pittsburgh

When we hear of snow birds this time of year, the first thing that comes to mind is probably grandparents in Florida. “At least,” we think to ourselves, “they have the good sense to fly somewhere warm.” The same might be said of a bird that I never see except in western Pennsylvania’s coldest months: …

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Bring on the Steeler-less Playoffs

Playoff tickets were punched for 12 teams on Sunday, with a handful of crazy finishes having major implications. For the second consecutive year, the Steelers are on the outside looking in, capped off by perhaps their ugliest loss in either season. Steelers Corner It was an entirely forgettable month for the boys in black and …

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The Dream Fades

The wheels are coming off, but the ride’s not over quite yet. Against a five-win team without postseason aspirations, the Steelers fell one score short for the second consecutive week. It was an afternoon filled with failure after failure to capitalize on golden opportunities. Despite the defense keeping the Jets to within a single score …

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Duck De-Nastied

Winter is just days away, and with it the frigid conditions in a number of NFL cities. The Chiefs and Broncos already know first-hand, playing through six inches of snow in Kansas City’s blowout win. While not quite as imposing at Heinz Field, a brisk 30 degrees awaited the visiting Buffalo Bills at kickoff. Along …

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Trying to Save a Horse

There have been phone calls in my life I wish I’d never received. I was cold and wet from swimming in an Irish lake when I returned to the house to see my husband standing in the driveway. Waiting for me. That wasn’t normal. My father had called. My mother was dead. She was unloading …

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Duck and the Defense Bring Home Another

The fireworks were on full display Sunday. Through the first 13 weeks of the season, teams had scored 40 points or more on 19 occasions. This week alone, five teams accomplished that feat, with a handful of 30+ performances sprinkled in. The Steelers have yet to eclipse the 30-point threshold, but the wins keep on …

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Duck Delivers

Two teams have separated from the pack through 13 weeks; the Saints and the Ravens have established comfortable three-game advantages. The rest is completely up for grabs. With only four weeks to go, five division leaders are separated by a single game. The stakes are a little higher when December rolls around. With New England’s …

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Back to Quack—Steelers Soar in Comeback Win

What a strange year it has been. In a season they’ve been down at halftime to two separate winless opponents, the Steelers currently occupy a playoff spot. Their quarterback is an undrafted rookie, their most valuable player a safety that wasn’t on the opening roster. Sunday’s 16 – 10 victory wasn’t without its struggles. Then …

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Pathway to Pain

I’ve always been enchanted by the idea of a days-long hike—to head off into the woods with nothing but a pack and the possibility of adventure, much like Bill Bryson in my favorite book, “A Walk in the Woods.” But with two kids and crazy soccer schedules, I really can’t afford to take six months …

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The Urban Deerhunter

Every July, along deer trails in pockets of forest in and around the city of Pittsburgh, Dan Krivanek and his buddies hang a bevy of camouflaged infrared LED hunting cameras in the crooks of trees. They also strew cut up apples and feed corn. Then, back in his Bridgeville borough home a few miles away, …

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Where Nature and History Collide

Here are a few state parks in Pennsylvania that offer nature at its most dramatic and some history of what life was like long before barcodes, internet and smart phones. McConnells Mill The park wraps around a restored 19th century gristmill that ground buckwheat, oats and corn with the force of the wild stretch of …

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The Steelers, the Browns and the Uglies

Yeah, that happened. Week 11 had its fair share of quality football, but all eyes were on the helmet swinging fiasco in Cleveland. The Browns took down the Steelers 21 – 7 on Thursday night. Ultimately, it’s hard to see how anyone came away as winners. Steelers Corner By now, it’s been discussed and dissected …

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