Sports & Outdoors

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. …

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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. …

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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, …

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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. …

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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 …

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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, …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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The Brush Hog: Thoughts on a Fall Field Cutting

Twice a year, in June and October, I cut the long grass and other species of plants, named derisively as weeds, in my fields. It’s a bit like cutting grass with a huge lawnmower. I use a Kubota tractor with a twin-bladed brush hog attached. The cutter is about eight feet wide. For most, no …

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Ageless Wisdom: Dick Groat, 87

Dick Groat, 87, shares his path to becoming a professional athlete, golf course operator and broadcaster. My family made me whatever I might be. I had great parents and two sisters that were school teachers and two brothers who were athletes at Pitt. I was a very fortunate person to have grown up, as the …

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Saving Bats and Great Fishing Along Spruce Creek

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has recently acquired a unique property in northern Huntingdon County that does two unusual things—provides public access for world-class trout fishing on Spruce Creek and helps save struggling bats with desperately needed habitat. In addition to the exceptional fishing, this 13-acre property includes a major limestone cave network that may provide …

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Know when to hold ’em: Le’Veon Bell stares down the Steelers

In poker, a player holding cards that he or she knows cannot be beaten is deemed to have “the nuts.” It’s the best possible position—without question, you cannot lose. You can, however, not win—an opponent may be holding equivalent cards to yours. Both the Steelers’ front office and their star running back Le’Veon Bell find …

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The Mysteries of Feral Bees

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee, And revery, The revery alone will do, If bees are few. —Emily Dickinson I am a failed beekeeper. I had two hives. One died the first year and the other lasted about five, from which I got beautiful honey, …

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Hits and Hugs: The Evolution of Roller Derby

Cheswick, May 12, 2018: It happens about 10 minutes into the first half of the game between the Steel Hurtin’—the A-team of the Steel City Roller Derby—and the Chattanooga Roller Girls. Three big Chattanooga blockers, arms locked firmly together, are just about to smack Zorra, the tall jammer for the Steel Hurtin’, when she makes …

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Tryon-Weber Woods Natural Area

There are many forests to enjoy in Penn’s Woods, but one of the best examples of a mature beech-maple forest can be found in Tryon-Weber Woods, in western Crawford County about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh. This 100-acre property was originally protected by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1976, and was just expanded last year. …

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Steelers Start Your Engines

As summer moves along, the big NFL machine quietly starts its engine. Training camps kick off across the league this week, with the Steelers setting up shop for their 53rd season at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. Most starting positions on the offense are set, but there are a few intriguing competitions worth monitoring. Planning …

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Getaway to the Pennsylvania Wilds

Sometimes a person just needs to get away—from work, from people, from everything in the city. For me that means heading up to the hills and waters of upstate Pennsylvania. On one particular occasion, however, not even my hunting/fishing cabin would do. So I packed a one-man tent and planned to sleep out under the …

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