The Great Allegheny Passage is known for many kinds of exotic wildlife – peacocks, black bear, timber rattlers, recumbent cyclists – but few creatures were as fearsome as Nola.

Just when this ferocious feline began patrolling the trail just past the Deal trailhead isn’t known, but I tangled with her on a hot morning in August 2008. Her approach to me was classic cat. She knew I’d slow on seeing her, and so she took her time approaching me. I wasn’t going anywhere. As I stopped, she turned towards me and rolled onto her side. I dismounted the bike, as she expected. She looked at me with her feline eyes, as if to say “I have a soft white belly, and I’d like you to rub it.”  Then she purred. I was foolish and lured in. I extended my hand towards her belly, and as I got close the trap was sprung. Her claws came out and sprang at my hand. Fortunately I was slightly faster than Nola, and got my hand away in time to avoid scratches. She then rolled back onto her side, and purred again to get my attention. Having had one near miss with Nola, I had no wish  try again. I remounted the bike and continued on to Cumberland.

This was my only meeting with Nola. When I rode through the Deal trailhead in 2009 and 2010 she wan’t at her post. In 2011 I’d heard she’d disappeared and was presumed dead. If so, the GAP is missing a mascot and greeter. Nola, wherever you are, I hope the mice are slow and fat, and you have an unending stream of cyclists to greet.