Nature

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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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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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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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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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 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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Less Lawn, More Native Plants

When my mother-in-law was ill 28 years ago, my husband began to build a stone wall on our front lawn. Each rock he handled three, maybe four times: plucked from the woods, thrown into the back of a pickup, dropped onto the grass to decide placement, or set directly atop a dry wall. One stone …

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Whites Creek Valley Natural Area

South of confluence in southern Somerset County is a beautiful and remote destination known as the Whites Creek Valley Natural Area. The Whites Creek watershed drains part of the southern slope of Mount Davis, and the creek flows northwest to the Casselman River. Preserved by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the 85-acre parcel is one mile …

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Riding the GAP Trail

Rob and Nikki Fleming came with friends from Tarpon Springs, Florida.  Tom and Carolyn Cassell made the trip from Tucson.  And Jeremy Cline travelled from Connecticut.  Each year, bicyclists come to Pittsburgh from across the country and beyond to ride the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage (GAP).  Last year, that number reached 1.4 million, according to …

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Streaming Views

Surviving Summit Mountain

Snowbound residents of Pittsburgh’s hilly neighborhoods may not share this view, but part of the appeal of being a Western Pennsylvanian is that our natural geography still imposes influence on daily life. Not all regions enjoy, or endure, that dash of topographic spice, but it’s inescapable on my travels over and atop Summit Mountain, looming …

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Enjoy Hiking the Improved Trails in the Laurel Highlands

People in Western Pennsylvania are fortunate to have the beautiful Laurel Highlands nearby as a destination for hiking, fishing, hunting, boating and all kinds of exploring. One of the many great places in the Laurel Highlands to escape and explore is Bear Run Nature Reserve, a 5,100-acre natural area owned and managed by the Western …

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Stewards of the Stream

Monty Murty casts a tiny fly — a Parachute Adams — from his bamboo rod to the surface of a stream in Linn Run State Park, instantly tempting a wild brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) to bite. He brings the feisty fish to hand, pausing to admire its vibrant, speckled skin before removing the barbless hook …

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Exploring the Islands

One way to see Pennsylvania’s natural landscapes is to paddle a canoe or kayak down its rivers and streams. Many of our regional lakes, creeks and rivers provide scenic views, wildlife habitat and remote experiences along their forested banks. Quietly passing closely along a stream shoreline and depending on the time of year, paddlers may …

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The Perch

I have found a perch. It’s at the top of a rocky, rutted trail that shoots up a 70-degree angle from terra firma. Today’s destination: closer to the clouds. I have a book, The Genius of Birds, an old, wooden folding chair that functions as a plant stand in our living room, and a bottle …

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Making the Cut

I need to get the chains from our chainsaws resharpened, but there’s a line at Lloyd’s counter. June is standing in front of me, a gas-powered, STIHL MS 251 CB-E with the 20” bar in her hand. June is 80 years old. Thin as a rail. Her back curves like an S, she kinda leans …

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Pittsburgh’s Urban Forests

Pittsburgh is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world ­— a beautiful skyline, stunning geography, a city set at the confluence of two rivers that form a third. And this is reinforced by its being such a green city — a city of large parks and of wonderful green spaces …

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