Introducing ‘Conserving Mount Nittany: A Dynamic Environmentalism’

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of conservation. I’ve been fascinated by the idea that there are certain things we can preserve through time, keeping safe from change, passing along from generation to generation—and yet keep them as living parts of our lives, rather than mere artifacts. In families, heirlooms serve this role. They’re not untouchable things kept behind museum glass. They’re objects that acquire new significance with each passing year. A grandfather’s gun or war uniform, fine china, or a simple photo album.

Entire communities have their own heirlooms, so to speak. They conserve certain things as a benefit for all, and for the future. Nationally we do this with places like Yosemite or Yellowstone. In Central Pennsylvania, the people of the Nittany Valley have done it for nearly a century now with Mount Nittany. The Mountain, owned and maintained by the people through voluntary association, is a “public good, privately owned,” as The Mount Nittany Conservancy thinks of it.

Conserving Mount Nittany: A Dynamic EnvironmentalismIt’s Central Pennsylvania’s most famous mountain, and a symbol of Penn State University and the Nittany Valley. Yet the story of Mount Nittany’s conservation hasn’t really been told except in bits and pieces. I wanted to tell that story, which is why I wrote “Conserving Mount Nittany: A Dynamic Environmentalism.”

“Conserving Mount Nittany,” published by The Nittany Valley Society and available in paperback as well as on Kindle, iBooks, and Nook, tells the story of the conservation of the mountain through original research and conversation with Dr. Ben Novak, the founder of the Mount Nittany Conservancy. It’s an easy, invigorating read at 180 pages—perfect for a slow summer afternoon. While the book is available now, I’m treating summer as a sort of “soft launch” period, meaning I won’t be promoting the book heavily or doing any speaking engagements until autumn—but it’s yours to enjoy now if you’re ready.

In writing and assembling the book, I purposely sought to craft a comfortable, conversational narrative tone. It’s my hope that after reading it, you’ll be able to put it down feeling like we’ve just sat together reminiscing and reflecting over a lager at The Tavern, or maybe a coffee at The Cheese Shop. I didn’t want this to be a boring, distant history, but instead a lively and human one.

Roger L. Williams, Executive Director of the Penn State Alumni Association, praises “Conserving Mount Nittany” as a “meta-story of pride, determination, and action born of love … to preserve the largest natural physical symbol of our alma mater.”

The story of Mount Nittany, as I seek to convey in the book, is that of a remarkable and dynamic sort of environmentalism—because its story is just as much a story of the people of the Nittany Valley as it is any dry effort to preserve some land tract. Mount Nittany provides a chance for anyone who hikes her or simply admires her to learn a bit about themselves. As Terry Dunkle has put it so well, it’s chance to stop and listen to the “whisperings of the heart” that can get drowned out in the noise of everyday life. It’s a chance to recover oneself amidst an evergreen nature.

We are part of Mount Nittany’s continuing story, in other words, which is why I’d like to hear a story of your own about the Mountain. The first ten people to offer a reflection or share an experience of Mount Nittany in the comments will get a complimentary copy of “Conserving Mount Nittany” in their format of choice. Share a great short story, and let me know what sort of copy you’d like.

It was a really very fun book to assemble. It’s gratifying to see it in print, and I hope it can be a worthwhile and exciting guidebook for Penn Staters everywhere and especially the special people of the Nittany Valley, who every morning get to wake, live, and love in Mount Nittany’s gentle shadow.


Add yours →

  1. This is great! I’ve always loved Mt. Nittany and what it means to Penn State. My favorite memories of the mountain are climbing it with the Blue Band. Finding things to do with such a large group are hard, but this was one of the easiest to get people involved. It was a great time becoming closer with different people in the 300+ band and having fun enjoying the wonderful views the mountain gives with everyone. It is one thing that never gets old doing.

  2. Kieran Carlisle

    July 8, 2013 — 9:14 am

    I’ll always remember the first time I climbed Mount Nittany, the summer before my freshman year. I was a bit uneasy preparing for the ‘college experience’ but ultimately very excited. The view from the top of Mt. Nittany at dusk, the setting sun covering State College in a hue of sunset orange, is an incredible sight It left me feeling secure and calm. Any incoming student who is a little anxious or worried about the years ahead should take the time to hike up to the top of Mt. Nittany at dusk and enjoy the tranquil experience. It can really make a difference and calm any concerns.

  3. We had the perfect afternoon a few days after a snowfall in February. The skies had cleared up, it was sunny and a warm 45 degrees. The ice on the trail made it an adventure to get to the top! The view was incredible that day. Snow blanketed the valley and it was calm and quiet. We will never forget that day and what led to many more hikes/races to the top!

  4. Scott Barbara

    July 8, 2013 — 1:50 pm

    I climbed Mt. Nittany many years ago as a child. I don’t really remember getting to the spot where we could look out over State College, but I do vividly remember the view. One of these days, I’m going to have to climb it again with my kids so they can remember the view too. Several years ago, just after Mt. Nittany Middle School was built, I drove up to road next to the school and took a photo of the mountain. That single picture has served as quite a few backdrops on various things I’ve created over the years. It’s such an icon.

  5. I hiked mt nittany for the first time just before my junior year began. New to UP and with CCSG central staff some of my fondest PSU memories took place on that mountain and it will always hold a special place to me. That day on that mountain I made lifelong friends.

  6. Most non-Penn Staters ask me what’s a “nittany lion?” I’m so proud to tell them every time the story of how the famous Nittany Lion nickname came about. I’ve only climbed Mount Nittany once but if you’re going to do it, try doing it while also carrying a wooden pallet up with you for a small campfire cookout with friends. In the fall of 2009, myself and 34 other THON Rules & Regulations Captains made climbing Mt. Nittany one of our team building exercises. On a nice weekend morning, we helped each other climb to the top with the wooden pallet, some hot dogs, marshmallows, and all of our cameras or camera phones for that picture every Penn Stater should take at the top with the Happiest Valley in the world in the background! It was a fun day and I’m hoping to do it again soon as an alum! WE ARE….

    Brian Martin

    Class of 2010

  7. I finally made it up to Mount Nittany for a hike this year during the spring semester of my sophomore year. I had always heard that it was a must for the Penn State graduation bucket list. As it turned out, it was definitely a highlight of my sophomore year. The mountain is so beautiful and it was great to be able to connect with nature. I love being outside and I think I found my new favorite spot in town. I love how in just a few short miles from campus you can be completely separated from college life and engulfed in the outdoors. The winding trails through the mountain top are an awesome experience. The views from the trails are amazing and you can look over the entire valley. The best view is definitely the overlook that looks over downtown and the campus. I would recommend all my friends to make it to Mount Nittany as soon as possible. I know I will be back many times before I graduate.

    Chris Guyan
    Class of 2015

  8. Jackie Dunfee

    July 8, 2013 — 6:34 pm

    My first trip up Mt. Nittany was in the spring of my junior year. After hearing so much about the awesome views at Mt Nittany and experiencing a few other trails in the area, namely Shaver’s Creek and Whipple Dam I knew it was time to climb Mt. Nittany. Being a newcomer to the trail, I ended up taking the long way around to the look-out point of Happy Valley. Hiking the entire trail wasn’t disappointing at all (not that I expected it to be) and I found it to be quite refreshing to get a different view of the area surrounding our beloved Happy Valley. So many times you hear 45,000 students, small mountain town, etc– but to see it from the top of Mt. Nittany really showed me how big our community was. I loved looking through my binoculars and pointing out Beaver Stadium, Old Main, west campus (where I lived at the time). These were all of the Penn State staples and for the first time I really got to put into perspective how immense our campus is and thought about how so many diverse activities could fit into such a relatively small area. I had always heard our campus referred to as the “Penn State bubble”, but from this view it didn’t necessarily seem like a bad thing.

  9. My all time favorite Mt. Nittany memory was climbing at dusk and camping overnight with a bunch of my best friends I had met my Junior year. We stayed up all night, and our Patience paid off – the sun rose from the east, and as it passed the crest of Mt. Nittany, we witnessed the sun soak campus in the valley – I’ll never forget that moment, and the awe we were all in.

  10. In additition to standing watch over the residents of Happy Valley, this silent sentinel has inspired, consoled, and motivated generations of Penn Staters and, in so many ways, represents the best of Nittany nation. Climbing Mt. Nittany is a rite of passage for all Penn Staters who, upon making the journey, have their eyes opened and their vision enhanced to the world beyond and the possibilities that lie over the next horizon.
    I personally remember many such climbs including those undertaken as an NROTC midshipman. They served as a reminder of what we protect and why we were called to do so.