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As sweet as any Homecoming victory at Beaver Stadium may be, even sweeter for many students, alumni, and friends is a Penn State Homecoming hike on Mount Nittany.
Penn State Homecoming, in its own words, exists to “celebrate tradition and instill pride in all members of the Penn State family through active engagement of students, alumni, faculty and staff across the community.” Tens of thousands of Penn Staters and friends return to Happy Valley for Homecoming, and hundreds make the special journey into Lemont and up to the Mount Nittany Trailhead, either to the Mike Lynch Overlook or to Mount Nittany’s other overlooks across its miles of trails.
The journey to Happy Valley for Homecoming is a special tradition in itself, as one recalls the highs and lows of days gone by, but the journey from Penn State’s crimson-hued campus to the top of the Mountain stirs in the heart not only the memories of the past but a clarity and recognition of the sweetness of our presently-unfolding lives. Our loyalty to Penn State, and our love for Mount Nittany, bear witness to a deeper reality: as a people who share common loves, we also share a common future.
We hope that Mount Nittany remains forever a treasure for Penn Staters, Central Pennsylvanians, and friends, and that these scenes from Penn State Homecoming 2023 and a hike to the Mike Lynch Overlook remind you of a place you will always be able to call home.
Consider making a one-time or recurring financial gift to the Mount Nittany Conservancy to support our perennial work of conservation. Together, we will ensure Mount Nittany remains accessible and for the public benefit for the future.
On Sunday, October 8th I led the Mount Nittany Conservancy’s latest “Mount Nittany Hikers” expedition for ten hikers. Our approximately 3.5-mile hike up and around the crest of Mount Nittany started at the Mount Nittany Trailhead. We proceeded to trail markers 1, 10, 6, 5, 3 (Mike Lynch Overlook), 2, and then back down to 1 and the trailhead parking area.
If you’ve had the pleasure of hiking Mount Nittany, you’ll know that the ascent and the descent are each quite rocky and steep, with difficult footing, for about half a mile. The trail segments atop the Mountain crest, in contrast, are mostly level or undulating, with generally good footing and some rocky patches.
A highlight of the hike was observing more American chestnuts than I ever have before, especially along the segment of trail between markers 5 and 3. I’m sure they’ve been there all along, but this time I was more observant. Here’s a nice shot of one of our hikers holding three American chestnut leaves in different color phases as autumn proceeds:
Our Mount Nittany Hikers group is now up to 147 members! If you have an interest in joining us for a future hike, please consider joining the group for notifications.
Leon Kolankiewicz, Mount Nittany Conservancy board member and organizer of the Mount Nittany Hikers Meetup group, led a natural history hike up Mount Nitany on Sunday, May 28th.
The hike was led on behalf of Centred Outdoors, a project of the ClearWater Conservancy and drew more than 30 participants. Leon led about a 3-mile loop hike, up to and along the crest, and stopped frequently to talk about such topics as Mount Nittany’s geology and ecology as well as trees, forests, Lyme disease, birds, plate tectonics, a host of relevant topics, and of course, the history of the Mount Nittany Conservancy.
Leon has shared these photos with the Mount Nittany Hikers Meetup group as well as the Centre Day Hikers Meetup group.
Thanks to the generous donation of time and resources from Mount Nittany Conservancy board member Brian Stouffer and his company TurnKey Logistics, all of Mount Nittany’s public trails are now captured on Google Street View.
Whether you are a regular hiker or haven’t made it up the Mountain in many years, you can explore all of Mount Nittany’s trails using the street view feature, navigating images up and down the trails.
Simply go to Google Maps and drag the yellow person onto the trial, or click the white arrow below to explore this new feature.
Here are some of our favorite views, including the Mike Lynch Overlook, the Tom Smyth Overlook and the square inch marker section:
Thanks again to Brian and TurnKey Logistics for this new feature.
The Mount Nittany Conservancy recently formed a group on Meetup.com — a platform designed for members of local communities to meet new people and pursue their mutual passions together. The group, called Mount Nittany Hikers, hopes to organize all who love the Mountain and the outdoors. The service will coordinate group hikes for those who want to get to know Penn State’s picturesque Mount Nittany and Her trees, trails, and views.
We recently held our first group hike, led by our board member Leon Kolankiewicz. Check out some photos of this inaugural effort and click here to join Mount Nittany Hikers and to be notified of the next adventure.
Thank you to all who contributed to the Mount Nittany Conservancy’s 2022 Centre Gives campaign! We were grateful to surpass our $10,000 fundraising goal thanks to the support of 55 donors.
Although our total number of 55 donors was down this year compared to 2021’s 70 donors, our total raised this year of $10,330 marked an increase over 2021’s $9,777 raised. In 2020, by comparison, we raised $5,625 from 62 donors.
Centre Gives is a unique online giving event in Central Pennsylvania designed to encourage community giving and to support the great work of Centre County nonprofits. The Mount Nittany Conservancy is one of some 200 nonprofits that participates in this giving event. Our goal this year was to reach $10,000 in gifts from at least 100 donors.
Donors to Centre Gives join a community of thousands who support worthy causes across all our communities that lie near Mount Nittany’s gentle shadow.
Ars Technica reports on a recent study on “rewilding” released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. What is “rewilding”? The International Union for the Conservation of Nature defines rewilding this way:
Rewilding: the process of rebuilding, following major human disturbance, a natural ecosystem by restoring natural processes and the complete or near complete food-web at all trophic levels as a self-sustaining and resilient ecosystem using biota that would have been present had the disturbance not occurred. This will involve a paradigm shift in the relationship between humans and nature. The ultimate goal of rewilding is the restoration of functioning native ecosystems complete with fully occupied trophic levels that are nature-led across a range of landscape scales. Rewilded ecosystems should – where possible – be self-sustaining requiring no or minimum-intervention management (i.e. natura naturans or “nature doing what nature does”), recognising that ecosystems are dynamic and not static.
Ars Technica describes what rewilding can look like in practice, while noting that the reintroduction of certain predators may not be advisable:
In essence, rewilding involves giving more space and time to nature. Instead of managing ecosystems to preserve particular species, rewilding is intended to reverse environmental decline by letting nature become more self-willed. That means allowing wildlife the freedom to flourish and habitats to regenerate naturally. …
The objective of rewilding is boosting the health of an ecosystem by increasing the number of species and how much they can all interact. A fully restored ecosystem would have top predators, but there are a lot of missing parts—the plants, prey animals, fungi—that should be put back first to ensure that larger species have an appropriate food source and habitat to support them.
It might not be appropriate for lots of other reasons to reintroduce wolves to a particular place at the moment, but in the meantime, bringing back beavers, lizards, and butterflies is brilliant too. …
Rewilding involves reducing harmful human pressures and promoting natural processes in ecosystems. This shouldn’t mean excluding people though. Rewilding should actually help people develop a more positive relationship with the natural world that involves compassion for all species and a spirit of learning from nature rather than seeking to dominate it. …
By enabling species to move through reconnected habitats and traverse entire landscapes, wildlife populations can be rebuilt. This would ensure the healthy functioning of an ecosystem isn’t dependent on a few isolated creatures, and it’s a practical way to help nature adapt to threats like climate change and new diseases, as species will have more freedom to move if pressures in one place escalate.
Mount Nittany is loved precisely because it is a natural symbol of Penn State and the Nittany Valley. Although Penn State’s success and the growth of State College have had the effect of reshaping the ecology, landscapes, and environment of Happy Valley, Mount Nittany remains in its natural state. We intentionally conserve the Mountain in an “unimproved” way—simply maintaining trails and encouraging hikers to abide by the “leave no trace” principle.
Our aspiration is for Mount Nittany to forever remain the natural heart of Happy Valley, where Penn Staters, Central Pennsylvanians, and visitors can experience time outside of time in a place that would be as recognizably Mount Nittany as it was for Evan and Rebecca Pugh or George Atherton as it would be for us, or as it will be for generations yet unborn. In this way, Mount Nittany can be sacred—literally a place set apart.
Mount Nittany, like too many natural places, was clear cut in the early 20th century. The natural ecosystem of the Mountain has come back in a rich way since that tragic event, but it will still be many decades—centuries—before the Mountain regains the age and dignity of a genuinely ancient forest. For these reasons, rewilding of Mount Nittany has been an implicit part of the work of the Mount Nittany Conservancy since its founding in the 1980s and has been a guiding principle for the Mountain’s conservation since at least the 1940s.
Although we have no plans to reintroduce the Pennsylvania mountain lion to Mount Nittany—if only it could safely be so, especially for the people of Lemont!—the rewilding of the Mountain is the work of generations.
We founded the Mount Nittany Conservancy with the conviction that Mount Nittany should be preserved from deforestation, development, and defacement forever. We believe that Mount Nittany should always be a proud symbol of Penn State and the Nittany Valley for every generation.
It’s why we work to conserve the Mountain in its natural state. We know that no manmade “improvements” to Mount Nittany can improve on its natural beauty.
Since 1981, thanks to the support of friends like you, we’ve permanently conserved more than 800 acres of Mount Nittany and we have blazed and maintained 8+ miles of natural trails for all to discover.
We envision conserving even more of Mount Nittany! But we cannot do this without your support. We’re asking for your gift today (before 9pm!) through our Centre Gives page. We’re aiming to raise at least $10,000 before our deadline tonight! We are grateful for every dollar you chip in.
Centre Gives is a unique online giving event in Central Pennsylvania designed to encourage community giving and to support the great work of Centre County nonprofits. We’re one of nearly 200 nonprofits participating in this giving event. By giving today, you’ll be joining thousands who are supporting worthy causes across every home and community the lies near Mount Nittany’s gentle shadow.
Make your secure gift to Mount Nittany now. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Centre Gives 2021 Campaign Results
We were able to raise $9,777 from the gifts of 70 generous donors! We came very close to our $10,000 goal and are honored by your support.
Thanks to these many generous gifts, we smashed our record Centre Gives giving totals from last year, of $5,625 from 62 unique donors.
Penn Stater Magazine memorialized the late Tom Smyth in its July/August 2020 issue with this profile. Mount Nittany’s Tom Smyth Overlook is named in his honor.
Even into his late 70s, Thomas Smyth would hike up Mount Nittany, chainsaw on his back, and clear the trails up and down Happy Valley’s landmark peak. “It was unreal what that man could do,” says Bill Jaffe ’60 Com, former president of the Mount Nittany Conservancy. “We called him Mr. Mountain Man.”
Smyth joined the Penn State faculty in 1955 as a professor of etymology and bio physics. He also served as a longtime adviser to the Penn State Outing Club, leading students on hikes and other trips. “When he retired, he started volunteering for the Mount Nittany Conservancy in the early 2000s and later joined the board. A world-class mountaineer who scaled the Himalayas and Mount Kilimanjaro, he maintained trails on Mount Nittany and raised awareness of issues such as drain age and a gypsy moth infestation. Smyth received the conservancy’s Friend of the Mountain Award in 1991, and an outlook atop Mount Nittany is named in his honor. The Lion’s Paw Alumni Association honored him with its Lion’s Paw Medal in 2012.
His framed photos from outdoor adventures covered the walls and were stacked up on the floor. “He had so many he had run out of places to hang them,” says Mike Day ’73 Lib, past president of the Lion’s Paw Alumni Association. “He was quite a character.” Smyth died on Dec. 5, 2019, at age 92. He is survived by two sisters.
Scenes from the trail during the Mount Nittany Conservancy volunteer work parties in October 2019. The first photo features nine women from Penn State Gamma Sigma Sigma, and the second photo features members of the Penn State Circle K chapter:
Scenes from the trail during the Mount Nittany Conservancy volunteer work party with Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy.
Saint Joe’s did a great job helping clear downed trees along the outer trail loop (until we ran out of oil for the chainsaw). They also did an amazing job clearing a few of the overlooks—specifically the Boalsburg, Rockview, and Nittany Mall Overlooks. They also put a huge dent in clearing away debris and reorganizing logs at the Deeded Square Inches space.
Anyone traveling to Mount Nittany’s trailhead for a scenic hike will have passed through a little Pennsylvania village named Lemont. Lemont is the community at the base of Mount Nittany. Or, perhaps another way of thinking of it is that Lemont is something like Mount Nittany’s base camp and is, in fact, the true start of a Mount Nittany hike.
John Blair Linn (1831-1899)’s the History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania, which was published in 1883, explains (pp. 274-275) how “Lemont” received its name:
William Thompson, a brother of Moses, is a justice of the peace, active in township affairs, and alive to its interests. He lives near where Robert Moore, the “ex press- rider” of early days, began his little “clearing.” John I. Thompson, son of Moses, and who gave the name to “Lemont,” resides in the little village he named.
Besides his business interests he has taken a great interest in the mineral wealth of the county, and is a practical chemist. He has a fine chemical laboratory in the stone bank building, where he analyzes ores, etc., for parties who desire it. Dr. J. Y. Dale, of Lemont, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, of the “class of ’67,” and has been secretary of the “Medical Society of Centre County.” The doctor has a beautiful residence in Lemont and a large practice. D. F. Taylor keeps the only drug-store in the town. He is married to a descendant of David Whitehill, the original settler of the place. Lemont was the home of “old Dr. Berry,” one of the most widely-known physicians in the county, a genial old gentleman, who gave less medicine and more common sense to his patients than some of his contemporaries.
Dr. Benjamin Jones Berry was a graduate of the University of New York. He practiced thirty-four years at Lemont, and died in 1864. The Berry mansion is still standing. Like “Gil Bias’” system of medicine, blood- letting was necessary, sick or well, and the writer has a vivid recollection of the doctor’s power as a “blood- letter,” and “a successful operation” it was. Dr. Berry was one of the vice-presidents of the first County Medical Society, which was organized in 1847. J. Green Irvin is a prominent man in the town- ship, and is a relative of Gen. Irvin, who built the mill and stone mansion at Oak Hall. He has a very handsome residence a short distance from Dr. Hamil’s, between Boalsburg and Oak Hall. James Glenn, a sterling old Presbyterian, and father of Dr. J. P. Glenn, of Snow Shoe, is another of the prominent citizens of the township. Hon. Samuel Gilliland, before mentioned as having been once a representative in the Pennsylvania Legislature, lives beyond Oak Hall a short distance. He is the owner of an elegant farm, which from its high state of cultivation shows that theory united with practical farming will produce great results.
Daniel O’Brien’s log school-house, with its slab benches and big open fireplace, has given place to the elegant little school-house at Lemont (which stands less than a quarter of a mile from where stood its unpretentious predecessor), and to the magnificent pile of buildings known as the “Pennsylvania State College.”
“The End of the Mountain” has given place to the shorter but more euphonious name of “Le Mont.” …
Lemont, a pretty little village, situated at the ” end of the mountain,” is the largest town in the township. It is built on land owned and cleared by David Whitehill, Esq. After passing through two or three hands it was purchased by Moses Thompson, Esq. In 1870, Mr. Thompson laid out the present village. Among the first buildings erected were the store and dwelling-house of J. H. Hahn, now owned by Thompson & Co., the elegant residences of J. J. Thompson and Dr. J. Y. Dale, the former built of stone. The Presbyterian Church, a building of the Gothic style of architecture, is one of the handsomest church edifices in the county. The cost, including furniture, was about fourteen thousand dollars. Lemont, or, as our fathers called it, ” the end of the mountain,” was an important point in the early days of the country, being on the trail leading from the settlements on the West Branch and Bald Eagle to those in Penn’s valley, and being at the junction of the two valleys. The village contains a church, school-house, drug-store, dry-goods store, tin-shop, blacksmith-shop, etc. It is on the line of the Lewisburg and Tyrone Railroad, and will be the terminus of a proposed railroad from Bellefonte. They have recently organized a brass band, which, though very young, promises to be one of the best in the county.
Tom Shakely spoke to the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) on February 14, 2018 on Mount Nittany’s significance and historical conservation efforts. As part of his presentation, Tom presented Penn State’s undergraduate student government with the gift of a Mount Nittany Square Inch Marker:
Consider a “square inch” gift for any Penn Stater as a symbol of lifelong affection and commitment.
As part of the 2017 Centred Outdoors program, groups were given guided hikes to the Mike Lynch Overlook on Sunday, August 3 and Wednesday August 6, 2017. Escorted by Mt. Nittany Conservancy members, 115 hikers learned about the mountain as they climbed to the recently improved Mike Lynch Overlook. The weather both days was fantastic.
Thanks to everyone that came out for event!
Centred Outdoors was made possible by funding from the 2016 Centre Inspires grant which was awarded to ClearWater Conservancy by the Centre Foundation.