Since settling down here in State College, PA I haven't yet taken an opportunity for an overnight trip. But I have spent some time examining the territory. It's beautiful country around here for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.
State College is nestled in the Allegheny mountains of central Pennsylvania. Because it's such a small town you really feel close to the woods. Biking around town I notice that it smells like being out in the woods. My house is right near a forested area. In fact I'm surrounded by trees on 3 sides. At the bottom of the hill my house is located on is a creek called Spring Creek where the local kids go to play in the water on warm days. On the other side of Spring Creek rises Mount Nittany, the largest mountain in the area.
Recently we took a little hike up Mount Nittany. The trailhead is just a mile from my house. There are many trails on the mountain and some fine views of the town from the top.
I'm trying to figure out what is different about Pennsylvania as compared with the hardwood forests of the Ozarks. In some ways it is very similar. But there are differences that I can't quite put my finger on yet. Some of it has to do with the plants. The trees seem to grow taller here and the undergrowth is entirely different.
The topography is also different. The hills aren't that much bigger than they are in the Ozarks but they seem bigger. That's because of the way they are shaped. Imagine laying a hand towel flat on a countertop and putting your hands down on the towel about 6 inches apart. Now if you were to slide one hand toward another folds would rise up between your hands. That's how the mountains around here look. They are quite steep on the sides and very long, just like the ground had been folded.
Hikers often talk about how rocky Pennsylvania is and I was curious to see for myself. It certainly is very rocky. There are few places where the trail is smooth. There aren't that many very large boulders or very small stones either. Either would make the hiking a little easier. Most of the rocks you see scattered about are about the size of a typical desktop printer.
I talked to a geologist who told me that we have an inverted topography here. The stones are sandstone from some ancient ocean shore that has been raised up to become the surrounding mountains.
I'll write more soon about some other areas I've explored.