Mount Nittany Memories

By Chris Buchignani, July 20, 2013

Each time The Nittany Valley Society publishes a new book, the latest offering seems to supplant its predecessor as my favorite, and fellow board member Tom Shakely‘s “Conserving Mount Nittany” does not buck that trend. Tom pairs original interviews and analysis with a wealth of previously-published content to create a definitive history of our community’s preservation of the mountain in its natural state. Rather brilliantly, I think, he contrasts this great success with the comparatively underwhelming “preservation” of Hort Woods, the once-sprawling sylvan refuge on Penn State’s campus that today is but a shade of its former self.

While Tom plans to do some more personal promotion of the book this Fall, its launch was covered by Onward State and Tom wrote about it for his personal website, offering a free copy of the book to the first 10 readers who posted stories or memories of Mount Nittany in the comments section. The book presents the story of Mount Nittany’s conservation as “dynamic environmentalism,” Shakely’s notion that natural preservation efforts are most effective when understood within a community/cultural context. I think this comes out in the comments left on his personal blog post. Part of what makes the spirit of the Valley so special is that, although it feels timeless and immutable, we also each experience it in our own individual ways. While Mount Nittany means something different to each of us, it means something to all of us.

You’ll see this at work in the comments excerpted below. I hope you will enjoy reading them and that they may stir some of your own memories of the Mountain (or inspire a first journey, if you’ve never been). You can extend the experience by owning Tom’s book and learning more about the Mount Nittany Conservancy.

“My favorite memories of the mountain are climbing it with the Blue Band… 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.”

“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!”

“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.”

“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.”

“We had the perfect afternoon a few days after a snowfall in February… 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!”

“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.”