A Great Sand Dune

It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.
–Robert W. Service

One of my favorite things to do as a child was play in the sandbox on a summer day.  I did many other things, like ride bikes and tromp around on the nearby railroad tracks and even turned a refrigerator box into a mini-house.  However, my green plastic, turtle-shaped sandbox was always sitting on the back patio baking in the summer sun.  I would pluck ants from the lawn every so often and watch them struggle in a funnel of sand I made.  Then I would go back to get some more and that ant would be gone.  A few years ago–on a cross-country road trip with two good friends–I had a chance to play in the sand box again, but this time I was the little ant in the sandbox.
Continue reading “A Great Sand Dune”

Winter Thaw


[The turkey] is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.

     – Benjamin Franklin

February 2, 2014.  A midwinter thaw allows temperatures to rise to just above freezing. I lace up my leather boots, throw on a coat, and bring the family dog, Laila, along for a walk.

Many of the walks I take near Pittsburgh–where I was born and raised–are in South Park, a local park on the south side.  A long wedge of hills with a stream following through the middle and pockets of forest opening to grassy hillsides, the park’s terrain has plenty of good walking trails.  The park also offers a golf course, a game preserve–with American bison and a duck pond, red-roofed picnic pavilions, a skate park and BMX track, the old county fairgrounds, and a wave pool, among other things.  The western edge of the park features the most hills and largest expanses of forest.

Our walk starts on a stretch of road that is closed in the winter.  The snow-covered road is a winter highway for runners and dog walkers–and white-tailed deer. A path leads off the road.  I stop at its entrance and begin to plan my course for the day.  What do I want to see?  The first thing that comes to mind is turkeys.  And I think I know where to find them. Continue reading “Winter Thaw”

Feral America


The cat is a wild animal that inhabits the homes of humans.
-Konrad Lorenz, Man Meets Dog

Fresh snow lies on every surface and the nighttime temperature dips to around 20°F.  As I do nearly every night, I strap a leash on my dog and we head out the door for a short walk around the neighborhood.  Depending on what time we leave, we see a surprising amount of wildlife just within the suburbs.

The usual group of eight white-tailed deer or the smaller family of three can be found browsing at night in the football field of the local middle school.  Raccoons and opossums are denizens of the bushes and strips of forest around railroad tracks.  I’ve seen screech owls waiting near lampposts for moths or rodents to scuttle by.  I’ve even heard of coyote sightings in the neighborhood–which is not unlikely for the elusive canid to hunt suburbs for food.  Every now and then, I have seen a red fox take to hunting in the nooks where shrews, voles, mice, or nesting young rabbits may be found.  Though, nowadays, I see the fox less and less. Continue reading “Feral America”

Slice of Wilderness


Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.
– Edward Abbey

As a naturalist, I love doing anything in nature. Camping, hiking, backpacking, bird-watching, even just being in a suburban wooded lot is thrilling to me. So when a couple of friends I made in the Florida Keys invited me to go to northern Idaho with them, I jumped right along. Continue reading “Slice of Wilderness”



When we try to pick out anything by itself,
we find it hitched to 
everything else in the Universe.
     – John Muir

Cabin fever is setting in during this record-breaking cold winter.  I’ve ventured outside a few times, but for the most part, I’ve been staying indoors.  After years of winters of considering writing a blog, I’ve finally set myself to it.

For the reader that does not know me, I’m Aaron.  I’m currently an Associate of Science in Liberal Arts and Sciences from Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I’ve traveled across country, spending significant time in the Florida Keys and the Pacific Northwest. I worked more than a decade’s worth of summers at a Boy Scout camp in Appalachian Southwestern Pennsylvania, where I truly learned to love and appreciate the grand beauty of the natural world and the intricate way in which it all comes together. Continue reading “Introduction”

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