Sports & Outdoors

King of the Woodpeckers

The pileated woodpecker burst out of nowhere just as I thought my students’ field exam was over. As soon as we were aware of it materializing from the canopy of a tree on a green at the Pittsburgh Field Club, it flew like a black bolt into denser woods and disappeared again. A great last …

King of the Woodpeckers Read More »

Catching Critters

The second floor office window of my home looks out over a lovely rural valley 25 miles east of Pittsburgh. Immediately below my window is a field that slopes away to a line of trees about 50 yards away. From my perch, fauna appear intermittently and behave as if I’m not there, as if I’m …

Catching Critters Read More »

The Fly Fisherman’s Workout

Big-woods trout fishing takes the fisherman to spectacular natural places. Wild brook trout, in particular, demand we hike deep into the forest, improving our physical and mental health by walking long distances, relaxing our minds and feasting our eyes on one beautiful vision after another. The sun’s morning rays angling down through dark green hemlock …

The Fly Fisherman’s Workout Read More »

Beavers Don’t Get Headaches

“A beaver sits on the riverbank watching all of this unfold.” —from “Cairo” by Sara Miller In my small and random survey, people know, at the very least, that beavers chew wood, build dams, have big teeth and large tails. That’s about all I knew, until beavers moved into our farm pond. Turns out North …

Beavers Don’t Get Headaches Read More »

The Joshua C. Whetzel, Jr., Trail

There is a beautiful new trail to hike, just outside Confluence, a quaint town in the Laurel Highlands situated at the confluence of the Casselman River, Laurel Hill Creek and the Youghiogheny River, in Somerset County. Confluence is a popular area for hiking, paddling and fishing, and it is one of the notable stops for …

The Joshua C. Whetzel, Jr., Trail Read More »

Best Stadium in Baseball

It was a bone chilling January afternoon when Kevin McClatchy climbed to the top of Three Rivers Stadium in 1996. McClatchy, the new owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, posed for some magazine photographs with the cavernous soup-bowl-shaped stadium that within two years would become rubble. He smiled frequently, shivering in the cold wind as he …

Best Stadium in Baseball Read More »

Is It Okay for My Growing Son to Lift Weights?

Question: “My son will be entering his freshman year of high school in September. He plays sports and is interested in getting stronger. What are your thoughts on lifting weights for a teenage child who is still growing? I’ve heard it is dangerous. Should he simply wait until he is older?” A controversial issue among …

Is It Okay for My Growing Son to Lift Weights? Read More »

The Cicadas Are Back

“I think they’ll miss the party,” said John Wenzel, director of Powdermill Nature Reserve when I sent him these photographs of a cicada nymph shedding its skin. The nymph hatched too early, he told me, and will have difficulty finding a mate. No doubt my photos were commonplace to an entomologist, but I had never …

The Cicadas Are Back Read More »

Crown Jewels of the Commonwealth

A stand of old-growth hemlocks with trunks nearly four feet in diameter towers over a trail cut along a creek shrouded in mountain laurel that ripples through Laurel Hill State Park, part of one of the largest state park systems in the nation. It rose from a Depression-era work program that employed young men desperate …

Crown Jewels of the Commonwealth Read More »

Hiking in Laurel Hill State Park

Second only to Alaska, Pennsylvania hosts more than 86,000 miles of streams and rivers. Our state also provides hundreds of hiking trails covering elevations from near sea level to the highest point in the state, Mount Davis. While ridgeline treks often offer sweeping vistas, Pennsylvania’s best hikes also include forested trails along our beautiful streams. …

Hiking in Laurel Hill State Park Read More »

Cigars With Wings

“But one day the swifts are back. Face to the sun like a child You shout, ‘The swifts are back!’ ” —from “Swifts,” by Anne Stevenson At first I thought they were bats, and I was thrilled because bats are nearly nonexistent on our farm now. But something wasn’t quite right. How high they flew. …

Cigars With Wings Read More »

Look for the Canada Warbler

Imagine you’ve somehow found yourself in Ecuador. You desperately want to get to Pittsburgh. You weigh a third of an ounce. You can fly. You’re a Canada Warbler. Starting north on a spring night to avoid daytime predators and take advantage of cooler temperatures, you set out across the isthmus of Panama, over Costa Rica, …

Look for the Canada Warbler Read More »

Against the Grain: The Tale of a Fallen Maple

Just after dawn on the beginning of a humid day, the copse below my hilltop home appeared out of order—something just not right. I crunched about 100 yards down my gravel driveway to investigate. The large maple, one of the bigger trees on my property, had toppled over, pulling up its roots when it fell. …

Against the Grain: The Tale of a Fallen Maple Read More »

Be Alert for a Fast and Active Winter Visitor

I was walking where the paved road turns to dirt at Hartwood Acres one winter day. The trees were creaking with cold. Dry leaves were tinged with a dusting of snow. The sky, all gray. Suddenly, there was a bird, small, moving fast. It landed on a sapling no more than 10 feet away and …

Be Alert for a Fast and Active Winter Visitor Read More »

The Tionesta Natural Areas

The largest remaining uncut forest in Pennsylvania is the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. This remote 4,000-acre area is almost equally divided between the Tionesta Research Natural Area and adjoining Tionesta Scenic Natural Area, which are managed for science and aesthetic values. Situated along creeks at the top of the 2,000-foot-high Allegheny High Plateau, …

The Tionesta Natural Areas Read More »

Death in the Back Yard

I had been an outdoors guy all my life, until Donna Rae found “our dream house” in the city of Sharon in 2006. The compromise was that, for a place in town, this property had a bit of wild land and some wildlife: dozens of squirrels, occasional deer, raccoons, skunks, and—some years—hawks roosting in the …

Death in the Back Yard Read More »

Wild Bones

My daughter brings home bones and piles them on the driveway: femur, rib, jawbone with a few flat teeth attached, dozens of thin arced parts. —from “My Daughter Brings Home Bones” by Jennifer Richter The American photographer Sally Mann, controversial in the 1990s for the photos she took of her naked children, has a fascination …

Wild Bones Read More »

Patterns at the Reservoir

With winter’s storms and frigid temperatures come delicate specimens of nature’s beauty, for those attentive enough to notice. Over several years, photographer David Aschkenas captured the natural art of ice patterns on the surface of the Highland Park Reservoir. Enjoy the beauty of freezing temperatures—without needing to bundle up—in this photo collection by Aschkenas. View …

Patterns at the Reservoir Read More »

The Flying Dutchman Once More

It all began when my car caught fire. I smelled something burning as I approached the intersection of Penn and North Negley Avenue. I scanned my surroundings to see which building was ablaze. Nothing. Just then, it dawned on me the smoke was inside my car while all the windows were closed. A few days …

The Flying Dutchman Once More Read More »

Painting Pittsburgh’s Ice

This is how it all begins: a man, a stencil, a crayon, and of course a bed of ice. Total time for the crew to paint the ice: about 8 hours. Follow the mesmerizing process of decorating the ice of the Pittsburgh Penguins in this photo collection by David Aschkenas. View more of David Aschkenas’s …

Painting Pittsburgh’s Ice Read More »

Highland Park: When Ordinary Becomes Dramatic

Photographer David Aschkenas has been walking through East End’s Highland Park for many years. When visiting the same area on a daily basis, you begin to see dramatic changes in the same landscape due to the changing of the seasons and weather changes. As Aschkenas shows in this hauntingly beautiful photo collection, something that looks …

Highland Park: When Ordinary Becomes Dramatic Read More »

A Century of Protecting Birds

My great-grandfather Samuel Feins emigrated from the Old Country, in his case, Russia, in 1899. He came through Ellis Island and then quickly made his way to Massachusetts. Fifteen years later he was firmly established as the proprietor of the New Hat Frame Company of 55-63 Summer Street, Boston. He was a milliner, a hat …

A Century of Protecting Birds Read More »

Top