Folks in the know here speak of summer as the Pocono Mountains’ high season. That may be; however, this corner of Pennsylvania is totally resplendent when it’s covered in pristine snow and its many rivers and creeks appear frozen solid or in the process of freezing.
Understand that the Pocono Mountains are vast—2,400 square miles encompassing four counties—Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne. I had the opportunity to spend three days in Pike County—taking in the area’s natural beauty and invigorating winter activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, scouting for eagles and dining that ranged from fine to fast and filling. Overall, it was an experience I can’t wait to repeat.
Accommodations to suit all tastes
One doesn’t have to spend extravagantly on a place to bed down here. Hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, cottages and inns are easily found throughout the area, and in winter one can take advantage of the lowest rates of the year. In Hawley, Pa., for example, East Shore Lodging, located across the street from Lake Wallenpaupack—the second largest man-made lake in the state—offers 12 spacious and individually decorated rooms for $69 – $130 during winter. Ehrhardt’s Waterfront Resort (also on Lake Wallenpaupack) has motel and inn rooms, apartments and cottages with rates in winter starting at $72 a night. Woodloch Resort, which has a mix of rooms, suites and homes, offers winter ski and stay packages and girlfriend getaway packages. And at the Lodge at Woodloch, an upscale resort and spa where serenity and relaxation are priority one, winter rates for its 58 rooms begin at $249 a night. These sister Woodloch properties are also located in Hawley.
An interesting aside is that many of this area’s properties are family owned and operated. Ehrhardt’s has been family run for more than 60 years. East Shore Lodging is currently operated by Bridget and Steve Gelderman. Bridget’s parents, Skip and Marlene Regenski, ran it for 10 years prior and remain involved. And the Kiesendahl siblings (John, Steve and Nancy) run the family-oriented and activity-filled Woodloch Resort and the Lodge at Woodloch, which promotes healthful cuisine and mind and body activities. Their family is celebrating its 50th year in the business. Family members at all four accommodations are on the properties just about every day, taking a hands-on approach to administrative matters, guest relations and upkeep.
Work up a sweat or chill out
It’s not surprising that Woodloch Resort was named among the top 10 winter resorts by Parents Magazine last winter. Outdoor adventurers can take on snow tubing, ice skating, snowshoeing and snowmobiling (on an oval snow-covered outdoor track). Inside there are organized games and activities, an arcade, climbing wall, indoor pool, shuffleboard—in fact its Web site lists 30 daily activities. At the Lodge at Woodloch, guests can choose from chef demonstrations, mediation, yoga, dance, pilates and cardio classes, to name a few; as well as a full range of spa treatments.
Ski Big Bear at Masthope Mountain in nearby Lackawaxen, Pa., (15 miles from Hawley) provides boarders and skiers access to 18 trails. The 650-foot vertical mountain is covered annually with approximately 50 inches of snow.
Good eats round out the day
One burns a load of calories engaging in activities such as skiing and snowshoeing, and wimpy meals just won’t do. Not only did I enjoy filling fare in Pike County but really enjoyable meals as well.
I started the day with a stop on Route 6 in Hawley at a rather cool coffee shop appropriately named Cocoon. It’s housed inside a small building that once housed silk worm cocoons, adjacent to an old silk mill. Now fresh roasted, custom-blended coffees are served along with pastries, quiches, salads and sandwiches.
Lunch one day was had at the Scramble inside the lodge at Ski Big Bear. Pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled items are the fare. No complaints there, and I was properly fueled for hitting the slope afterward.
The next day at The Lodge at Woodloch I enjoyed a fresh, organic gourmet lunch at their restaurant Tree. While portions are small, they come packed with flavor. My 5-ounce bison burger with balsamic onions and cheddar cheese was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. And I so enjoyed a green tea/ginger drink that I purchased some to take home.
Dinner at Ehrhardt’s Restaurant did not disappoint. The menu includes fish, ribs, chicken and house specialties such as the Veal Jaegerschnitzel ($18.95). I was more than pleased with my filet mignon with red wine shallot demi glace ($24.95).
And if wine tasting is more one’s style, take a moment to stop by the Antler Ridge Winery in Lake Wallenpaupack to sample some of its 17 wines. Most are priced $8.99 to $10.99. I loved their gold medal winner Red Vixen.
For more information on destinations in Pike County, visit www.800poconos.com and www.discoverpikepa.com.