A lush and scenic river valley. Miles of diverse trails. Extraordinary vistas. Enjoy all this and more within an hourís drive from Penn College.
by Heidi Mack, supervisor of design and publishing.
Author Edward Abbey wrote, “It is not enough to fight for the environment; it is equally as important to enjoy it.”
There’s a reason the adjective “great” is frequently teamed up with the word “outdoors.” Even those who may be more comfortable in front of a computer would not dispute the rewards of getting out and getting active.
Exercising in a gym is good. Exercising outside is better. The outdoors offers the additional benefits of sunlight and mood-boosting, bone-strengthening vitamin D; fresh air; increased mental stimulation from changing scenery; and the enhanced challenge of real-life activities versus virtual programs on equipment.
All without membership fees.
If venturing outside to simply watch the sun set and listen to the birds is your idea of outdoor adventure, the positive effects are still significant. In a study commissioned by Mind, a leading British mental health charity, researchers compared the benefits of hiking a trail through the woods and around a lake in a nature park to walking in an indoor shopping center. Eighty-eight percent of people studied reported improved mood after hiking, while 44.5 percent reported feeling in a worse mood after the shopping-center walk.
The Penn College campus is ideally situated in one of the most impressive natural areas of the state, on the West Branch of the Susquehanna, the longest river in the northeastern United States. Lycoming County lies at the base of Bald Eagle Mountain. The Allegheny and Appalachian mountains surround the valley, and five beautiful streams flow into the river, which meanders down through the state and empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
This unique geographical setting provides an extensive variety of outdoor destinations and opportunities for leisure activities or recreational adventures. Outings can range from a relaxing streamside hike in a hardwood forest to a rugged trail climb through ferns and mountain laurel. Dramatic waterfalls and majestic ridge views that stretch for miles top the list of natural attractions. Wildlife sightings are often a rewarding extra.
Seven state forests are located near enough to allow for perfect day-trip excursions. Numerous state parks operate within each of them, offering activities such as hiking, mountain biking, swimming, picnicking, cross-country skiing, boating, fishing and more.
"After a day's walk, everything has twice its usual value."
George Macaulay Trevelyan
Several smaller parks are located 10 minutes or less from campus. Susquehanna State Park sits on the shore of the river and is the launch site for the Hiawatha, a paddle wheel riverboat available for public cruises. Riverfront Park, also with river frontage, has walking trails on what was once the site of the Native American village of Ostonwakin. Memorial Park, only a few blocks from campus, is a community park and very convenient green space. It is home to Bowman Field, where the college’s baseball team plays.
The Pine Creek Rail Trail, a converted railroad bed that winds along the floor of the canyon next to the creek, was named one of the world’s 10 great places to take a bike tour in a 2001 USA Today article.
The canyon and gorge are part of roughly 2 million acres of state forests and game lands known as the Pennsylvania Wilds. Hundreds of miles of backpacking trails and streams wind through 12 counties of northcentral Pennsylvania. Though much of the Pennsylvania Wilds is more than an hour’s drive from Penn College, it might be worth the trip to see free-roaming elk or do some serious stargazing at Cherry Springs State Park – a remote wild area known for having some of the darkest night skies on the East Coast.
So, get out and enjoy a change of pace. Turn off your phone, share some quality time with your family and friends, inhale some fresh air, get your body in motion, your brain in gear, lift your mood, and connect to the many invigorating sights and adventures within easy reach. ■