I had seen her a few times before; always sitting on the same bench along the bike trail on the Great Allegheny Passage, near the little town of Ohiopyle. She always seemed to be enjoying herself seemingly content to be just watching the coming and going along the trail.
Several years ago I recall having a conversation with her about all the wildlife along the trail. I did think it was a bit odd that she seemed to arrive as a result of a pretty good hike as I never saw a bike beside the bench.
In our conversation we shared stories of the wildlife that would visit her as she sat on the bench. Deer, turkey, squirrels, chipmunks, even a few bear and onetime a big mother bear and her two cubs seemed to be a real treat. People using the trail also made her happy, especially families and the children as they charged ahead of their parents and improved their riding skills.
On another occasion she shared with me the flow of the wildflowers as the sun warmed the ground and the leaf litter and debris would suddenly be shoved aside and the emerging spring wildflowers would appear. First up the yellow Coltsfoot then the white Bloodroot along with lavender and white Spring Beauties and one of her favorites, the purple Hepatica, would add so much grace and color to the woodlands.
Just a few days later the white and red Trillium would begin to color the wooded hillsides with so many blooms that you would think it had snowed. Not long after the purple Wild Geranium would dominate the sides of the trail along with an array of other wildflowers.
When I passed her today she looked sad and after inquiring about her sadness I noticed a bit of a tear in her eye. She just could not understand why there was so much trash on the trail. Masks, bottles and cans along with discarded candy wrappers and napkins littered the beautiful trail and cast a whole different appearance to the beauty of the forest.
I shared with her that on a trip from Uniontown to Pittsburgh over the weekend the roadside was littered with millions of plastic bottles along with cans, take- out food cartons and an assortment of trash that had been discarded.
She looked at me and asked what could be done? I advised her that I write a column each week for the newspaper and would pose this question to our readers. What can we do to stop this madness? She smiled and wished me a good day on my ride.
Just a short distance up the trail, I spotted a blue Covid mask and instead of just riding past, I stopped and got off my bike, found a stick to push the mask off the trail, dig a small hole and covered it with a bit of dirt and leaf litter. In the next few miles I got off my bike a total of eight times to bury masks, bottles and cans. Perhaps I can encourage you to get off your bike and do your part.
On the way back, the woman was gone but a note on the bench said, Thanks, I knew I could count on you, and was signed Mother Nature.