Sports & Outdoors

Troutward Bound

Since 1926, when Zane Grey published “Tales of the Angler’s Eldorado,” fishermen have trekked to New Zealand—the other side of the world— to stalk the monstrously huge and famously wary rainbow and brown trout. If only they’d known about Spruce Creek, Pa. If only I’d known… I knew Spruce Creek was famous for fly fishing—that …

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The Clarion River

One of the best rivers in western Pennsylvania for paddling and nature watching is the Clarion River, starting about 70 miles north of Pittsburgh. The Clarion River corridor between the towns of Ridgway and Clarion is remote, rich in public lands and hosts large expanses of uninterrupted forest. Today’s Clarion belies its history. About a …

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Season of the Killdeer

One early summer day, I was walking the paved loops of Hartwood Acres in the North Hills. Off in the distance, a band was doing a sound check on the stage and bass notes were booming through the trees. As I headed west toward Middle Road, I passed some extended patches of gravel. It was …

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Golf’s Gold Standard

The U.S. Open, the toughest golf championship to win and generally considered the most coveted, will be played for a record ninth time across 89 years at Oakmont Country Club June 13-16, 2016. And the Open perhaps owes its existence to a big man with a big mustache who, more than 100 years ago, kept …

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Forever In Bloom

Gardens are fleeting, as anyone with a green thumb will attest. Within two weeks of neglect, weeds invade; within two years, shrubs perish and pathways disappear; within two decades, the garden is but a memory. Fast forward two centuries, when everyone who even remembers the garden is gone…   The Garden Club of America, founded …

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American Redstart

Are we separate from nature or part of it? Superior to all creatures, the apex of creation, or simply one species among millions? Does self awareness make us unique? What about our sense of past, present and future? These are some of the questions I’ve mulled since The Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Powdermill Avian …

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Great Allegheny Passage

One of the most wonderful trail additions in western Pennsylvania has been the Great Allegheny Passage which runs 150 miles between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md., where it joins the C&O Canal Towpath and continues to Washington, D.C. Some of the most remote and scenic parts of the trail are the portions along the Casselman River …

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The Holmes Precedent

Time was when yogi Berra had to work off- season as a restaurant greeter. Richie Hebner dug graves. Nolan Ryan pumped gas. When Pirate slugger Ralph Kiner asked for a raise, scripture-quoting general manager Branch Rickey told him: “We finished last with you and we can finish last without you.” During this winter’s off-season, perhaps …

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Sports town bragging rights

Go to any city with a professional baseball, football, basketball or hockey franchise and chances are you’ll find at least one guy in a bar who’ll argue his is the best sports town in America. It’s likely there’s even one in Charlotte after a Hornets victory and a few too many beers. The guy in …

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The Eastern Bluebird

Sometimes winter brings surprises. Some are massive, like a burying storm; and some are almost unnoticed, like an unexpected bird on a branch. Now is the season to look for the Eastern Bluebird, whose flash of color can be as brilliant as a winter sky after a big snow or as delightful as an early …

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Helen B. Katz Natural Area

Although colder temperatures and snow are upon us, there are still many things to do and places to see in our beautiful western Pennsylvania landscape. One is the 284-acre Helen B. Katz Natural Area near Meadville in Crawford County. Part of protecting our region’s rivers and streams is conserving the surrounding land in key locations. …

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Beautiful and bold

It is often the voice of the Blue Jay that initially attracts our notice. With a vocal range like its cousins the crows and ravens, the Blue Jay produces loud, strident calls, bounding whistling notes, as well as imitations of the scratchy shrieks of hawks and other birds. More than once, I’ve heard calls at …

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The Miller Esker

About 23,000 years ago, a massive sheet of ice, likely a mile high, extended down from the Arctic. It travelled as far south as present-day Moraine State Park in Butler County before melting and shrinking back to the north. It left behind a rare and subtle geological formation known as an esker. As the glacier …

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Breaking the chain

With the approach of autumn, we come to yet another era in Pitt football. Meaning another new coach. Over recent decades, this means that you barely get to your seat with your beer and pompon before there’s another one. It may be a strain, but coaching at Pitt seems something like Sisyphus, of Greek mythology, …

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Moneyball?

The morning after flying in from Texas in March, Greg Harris and his mother downed an oatmeal breakfast and coffee before heading to the basketball game they’d traveled more than 1,000 miles to see. They came to Pittsburgh to watch their favorite team, the University of Texas, play Butler University in the opening round of …

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In a class of her own

Just behind the first tee of the legendary Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland, looms a brooding stone edifice of baffling architectural lineage. Call it Ponderous Nondescript. This is the clubhouse of the famous and historic Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, hulking guardian of golf. A big brass telescope sits on the …

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Elk on the Alleghenies

Benezette, Pennsylvania is not a place you happen upon en route to somewhere else. There are easier ways across the Allegheny Plateau than to snake eastward in Elk County from Weedville along Rte. 555, with the Bennett Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek gnawing at the south berm while pine-studded Allegheny crests soar across the windshield. Benezette, …

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Start Your Engines

Pittsburgh’s Vintage Grand Prix is celebrating its 33rd year, making it the longest-continually-running vintage road race in America. The 10-day event attracts some 250,000 visitors to Schenley Park, and, since it began in 1983, the Grand Prix has donated more than $3.5 million to the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Valley School. From …

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Enlow Fork

Tucked away 40 miles southwest of Pittsburgh is a stream called Enlow Fork, a tributary of Wheeling Creek, on the circuitous border of Washington and Greene counties. Enlow Fork flows nearly 20 miles east to west, before entering West Virginia’s northern panhandle to later join the Ohio River at Wheeling. This corner of Pennsylvania is …

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A Flash of Blue

A ratchety, staccato rattle announces the arrival of a Belted Kingfisher along one of Pittsburgh’s riverbanks, over a stream, or across a pond. I love the sound of the bird, so distinctive, as I scan for it in the sky. And I’m not alone. The great English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote of this dashing …

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Arnold Palmer

Arnie Palmer was at home in Latrobe that September afternoon having a quiet birthday when the doorbell rang. There, wearing a warm grin, stood a kindly old gentleman, gray where he wasn’t bald, who was just five years out of the White House and who, some two decades earlier, had saved the world. “Any chance …

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A little yellow friend

The potato chip bird. that’s how my students remember it. At first, they think it’s a canary. I show them pictures on the opening day of class, and they see yellow and call out “Big Bird?” “No,” then, “Canary?” “Wrong continent.” That’s before they’ve learned to use their eyes and ears again to recognize what’s …

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