Michael Hermann’s job title is “Mapmaker, Department of Adventure,” which sounds like I’m being introduced to the character in a Tolkien book. While Mike is not a cartographer for magical Middle Earth, it’s pretty close. He started Purple Lizard Maps in Happy Valley in 1997 by creating the Rockrock State Forest Lizard Map as a way for the outdoor community to find adventure with the most detailed, accurate and beautifully designed outdoor recreation map available. Today, people can choose from 14 different Purple Lizard Maps in three states and Puerto Rico to find their best fun on foot, bike, horse, motor and water.
We asked Mike what makes Happy Valley so unique, his favorite off-the-beaten path spot, and what every visitor should experience. Read on!
HVAB: What brought you to Happy Valley?
MH: I moved here as a teenager. I graduated high school from the Delta Program and then spent a decade working in the local outdoor industry and eventually graduating from Penn State Geography.
HVAB: What brought you back to the area after graduation?
MH: I returned in 1997 to start Purple Lizard Maps because I knew there was a tremendous asset in the surrounding State Forest and public lands. The outdoor community was growing and I knew that by designing high quality trail maps, I would help to get more people outdoors, I’d get to do what I loved for a living – which is to make really great maps.
I left for a while to do academic cartography at the University of Maine to create the Historic Atlas of Maine but returned in 2009 and decided to build Purple Lizard into a leading recreational map company. There is so much outstanding public land in the Mid-Atlantic Region, all within driving distance of here, so our location works well for the business.
HVAB: How does Purple Lizard Maps enhance the Happy Valley experience?
MH: Purple Lizard Maps has been a big driver of recreational tourism and recreation economies in every community we develop a Lizard Map. People trust our maps to unlock new adventures in new places for them and communities benefit when outdoor recreation drives sustainable forms of economic development. Of course, our maps benefit the local outdoor recreation community too! When outdoor enthusiasts discover Purple Lizard, our maps open up endless opportunities for exploration.
HVAB: What is your favorite thing about Centre County?
MH: We live within minutes of the state forest. The immediate access to a vast network of trail systems and public land is what has kept us here.
HVAB: In your opinion, what makes the place so special?
MH: The true gift of Central Pennsylvania is in the areas that surround the more developed sections of the community. Having three different State Forests in one county within 30 minutes is truly an invaluable resource.
HVAB: What’s one off-the-beaten path you love about Happy Valley?
MH: That’s a funny question to ask a map maker. All the off-the-beaten paths around here are pretty sweet.
HVAB: What's something every visitor should see (or eat, or experience) while they are here?
MH: Experience the serenity of escaping to the forest. There are so many special places outdoors that are an easy escape from the busyness of downtown.
This article is part of our ‘Live, Work, Play in Happy Valley’ series. Each month, we will be sitting down with people from around Centre County to talk to them about what they love about Happy Valley and their tips for exploring the area.