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A Celebration of Mount Nitttany

by on June 04, 2019 5:00 AM


This past Saturday was the most important date of the year. Bigger than all the other holidays and special events of 2019.

It was, of course, my wife’s birthday.

Luckily, I’m married to a wonderful woman for whom “things” are not the end-all and be-all. It makes buying presents a lot easier. She is much more about experiences – and the one experience she loves more than about any other is hiking in the woods.

Traditionally we use her birthday as an opportunity to go on the most popular hike in all of the Centre Region: hiking Mt. Nittany, something we’ve done most every year since relocating back to Happy Valley almost 15 years ago. Except, courtesy of a wayward neighborhood sidewalk expansion joint, she tripped and messed up her hamstring and sacroiliac joint many months ago. Although she’s long since put away the crutches, she re-injured herself recently and did not want to engage in hiking steep elevations just yet.

So we went looking for a hike with a little less elevation change and spent Saturday afternoon walking the trails around Greenwood Furnace State Park. It’s a short 25-minute drive from the west side of State College, has a visitor’s center staffed by extremely helpful park rangers, a very nice campground with wooded sites, a little lake and beach, and a snack bar with cheeseburgers and fries that taste just like state park food should taste – grilled, fried and delicious.

After a few hours on the trails, a stop at the snack bar, and a quick sunlight check for ticks (we only found one – on me, of course) we headed home to pick up our son from camp.

But just because we hadn’t hiked Mt. Nittany doesn’t mean we weren’t thinking about Mt. Nittany. When we got home I was reminded to put in our reservation for the Eighth Annual Mount Nittany Night to support the efforts of the Mount Nittany Conservancy. (Full disclosure: I am the immediate past president of the Mount Nittany Conservancy.)

And you should too!

The Mount Nittany Conservancy was formed in 1981 to conserve the land on and around Nittany Mountain. It is a 501(c)(3) public charity that is led by an all-volunteer board who care about this great symbol of the Centre Region and are dedicated to protecting it as a scenic and environmental resource for the benefit of everyone.

The largest part of the organization’s time is spent maintaining a network of 9 miles of trails that go up and around the top of the mountain and are hiked daily. During the beautiful spring, summer and fall days in central Pennsylvania there are always dozens of people on the mountain, but, as I can attest from the cars I’ve seen at the trailhead, it’s also hiked in rain, snow, sleet and freezing cold. We estimate more than 50,000 people a year hike at least part of the mountain, making it the most popular hiking spot in the region.

As a graduation “bucket list” item for Penn State students, it sees several thousand students ascend to the 1,940 feet elevation of the Lynch Overlook to get photos of the iconic shot of the east side of the University Park campus. The bird’s-eye view, which includes Beaver Stadium and the Bryce Jordan Center, provides the classic backdrop for soon-to-be grads, local residents, tourists and returning alumni. And of course Penn State’s athletic teams are nicknamed the Nittany Lions. Not just any old run-of-the-mill lion. No, the stately Nittany Lion, the symbol of our best.

For almost 40 years the volunteers of the Mount Nittany Conservancy have practiced respected and ecologically sound maintenance to keep these trails available for everyone. Staving off erosion, rerouting trails, using downed trees and other found materials to create water bars, and planting native species are all part of the work the conservancy’s enthusiastic volunteers do.

Once a year those volunteers get together and take a Friday evening to relax. And you are invited to join them.

Many local nonprofit organizations hold annual gala dinners and balls that require formal dress, provide a seated dinner and often include numerous speeches. These are fabulous events and well worth the donation to attend. But if you are looking for a change of pace, an event that supports a great cause, where you can dress just as you are, come and go as you please, mingle all you want, drink wine and nibble on hors d’oeuvres, with no speeches, just a few comments, than this is the event for you.

Next Friday night, June 14, is Mount Nittany Night at Mountain View Country Club. It’s a casual evening of noshing and mingling from 6 to 9 p.m., and it’s a great opportunity to get out and support the Mount Nittany Conservancy. Bring a friend and meet the individuals who give of their time and energy to keep Mt. Nittany the way we know and love it. The details are below.

When you show up, make sure to look for me and I’ll be glad to shake your hand and thank you for your support!

Mount Nittany Night

A joyful celebration of the Mountain. Serving a selection of wines, non-alcoholic beverages, light refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. A cash bar is available for additional selections. All proceeds benefit the Mount Nittany Conservancy so bring your friends!

$42.63 per person

Friday, June 14, 2019
6-9 p.m.

Mountain View Country Club
100 Elks Club Road
Boalsburg, PA 16827

Purchase tickets here.


John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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