- - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Any time of year is a good time to visit the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.  Located within a few hours driving distance of most East Coast cities, the Pocono region is home to rolling mountains, beautiful waterfalls, thriving woodlands, 170 miles of winding rivers and 163 ski trails.

Winters offer one of the best opportunities to ski downhill and cross country, snowboard, snowshoe and take delightful sleigh rides in the woods. Summer and fall offer 35 golf courses, swimming, hiking, biking, spas, white water rafting, boating and fishing.

After a 4½-hour drive from Washington, D.C., I arrived early at The Inn at Pocono Manor and was ready to explore. I decided to take a leisurely horseback ride on trails through the woods and enjoy the picturesque scenery and colorful leaves. Weather was perfect!

Returning from the ride, there was time for a quick indoor swim before meeting my tour group. A welcome glass of local wine was served to us around a roaring fireplace once the rest of the group arrived.

The Inn was originally established by a group of Philadelphia Quakers seeking a place of natural beauty in an environment conducive to the Quaker spirit of peacefulness. It has evolved through a 100 years into a multifaceted recreational resort serving numerous contemporary leisure-time interests. The golf courses have challenged many legends, including Arnold Palmer, Tommy Bolt and Sam Snead, among others. 

Fall is a perfect time to visit with the colorful foliage that bursts upon view, crisp cool evenings and lovely sunny days. Our subsequent stay in the surrounding rustic inns and quaint towns offered additional fine dining, interesting historical tours and numerous outdoor recreational activities. Hiking and biking are especially popular.

Our tour that day began with a visit to the town of Jim Thorpe, nestled in the picturesque mountains and named after the famous Olympic track star. 

Although he was an Oklahoma native, Thorpe’s hometown declined to memorialize him so his widow accepted the offer of the town of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, to bury him there and rename their town, Jim Thorpe in his honor. We had lunch at the historic Broadway Grille built in 1849 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You’ll want to stroll the streets of Jim Thorpe, which are lined with antique shops, art galleries, quaint shops and a lovely, recently restored Opera House.

We spent another delightful day touring nearby Milford, Pennsylvania, with lunch hosted at Bar Louis in the historical Hotel Fauchere. Founded in 1852 by Louis Fauchere, Swiss master chef from the famed Delmonico’s in New York, the establishment quickly earned a reputation as a stylish destination for those of the Gilded Era. The menu features the freshest ingredients from the current owners’ organic farm and revels in innovative cuisine. A Christopher Makos photograph of Andy Warhol and John Lennon hangs above the bar.

Following lunch we headed for a tour of the historic Grey Towers National Historic House, ancestral home of conservationist Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the U.S. Forest Service and twice governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

The mansion was built in 1886 by Gifford Pinchot’s father, James, a successful businessman and philanthropist. Civic-minded and supporters of the arts, James and his wife, Mary, designed the summer home to utilize local materials and reflect the French heritage of the Pinchot family. 

The family helped shape conservation in America. Disturbed by destructive logging practices then prevalent in the country, James encouraged his eldest son, Gifford, to consider a career in forestry. After graduating from Yale, Gifford went to France to study because at that time forestry schools did not exist in the United States.

Gifford returned home and became head of the U.S. government’s Division of Forestry in 1898 and in 1905 was named chief forester of the newly created U.S. Forest Service by a good family friend, President Theodore Roosevelt. Gifford’s magnetic personality and leadership style served him well in politics.  During his tenure, national forests more than tripled in size and he considered conservation his greatest contribution to American domestic policy. He was elected governor of Pennsylvania in 1922 and served two terms, wiping out the state’s $30 million deficit, securing relief for the unemployed and paving rural roads to “get the farmer out of the mud.”   

Gifford Pinchot attributed much of his success to his wife, Cornelia. She was competitive, independent and active in politics long before she married Gifford at the ripe old age of 33, while Gifford was 49. She stood 5 feet, 10 inches, with flaming red hair and a preference for red clothes.

The Pinchots were widely known and appreciated for their social activism. Cornelia’s interests focused on education and labor rights of women and children. Cornelia was well known for being “equally at home on the picket line with striking workers as she was a gracious hostess at a formal reception.”

She once said: “I have fought many times before I ever met Mr. Pinchot for the things he represents so that I was already committed as it was, and even if he’d not been my husband, I’d have been for him, in common with most of the women of the state, I may say.”

Independent of her husband’s political life, Cornelia became secretary of the Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association in 1918 and lobbied tirelessly for ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A tour of the Pinchot home features a large pool fashioned in the back patio as the dining room with stone place settings and chairs in a circle around the water. Cornelia’s creative dining setting was to encourage lively political discussion and debate — always to help further her husband’s career. Guests would partake of food as it was pushed by hand or sailed across the pool in bowls to each diner. The pool water was then used as a finger bowl for cleaning your hands after the meal. After this demonstration for us, there was some hilarious competition to see whose food might go the fastest or most direct!

Moving on, we headed for the town of Hawley for our last evening spent at the Settlers Inn and Ledges Hotel. Nestled in the northeast Pocono Mountains lake region, Hawley is a growing, historic little town full of activity, culture and fun and much charm. An eight-course dinner paired with local wines was served on small plates so that no course was overwhelming. It was a delightful last evening to enjoy good food and exchange highlights of the trip.

The next morning a farewell breakfast was held at our favorite Cocoon coffeehouse, where we sipped the morning brew crafted from custom-blended beans served with homemade pastries

Restaurants and resorts throughout the region have adopted the farm-to-table culinary trend, utilizing locally sourced, organic and sustainable ingredients to handcraft their menus. Pair your meal with beverages from local wineries and breweries for a truly local experience. One dinner experience hosted by the Shawnee Inn featured six delicious courses paired with various beers. This was a first for many of us.

Enjoy countless events and activities in every season throughout the year!

The Inns

The Inn at Pocono Manor offers 237 rooms/suites and a gourmet four-course Prix Fixe dinner in a gracious and rustic setting.

Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort is located on the edge of the pristine Delaware Water Gap made famous by George Washington, who crossed the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War. Olympian and world champion Jean-Claude Killy once was head of ski operations for the resort.

Settlers Inn and Ledges Hotel is an artfully decorated craftsman-style Inn with 21 guest-rooms. A tradition of dining excellence features a menu devoted to the seasons and artisan baking. Ledges Hotel offers contemporary-designed rooms and sits on Paupack Falls, which itself offers a spectacular view.

The Restaurants

Hotel Fauchere/Bar Louis present a “home away from home” experience. Bar Louis is a stylish, contemporary environment for casual dining and great cocktails.

Broadway Grille combines historic charm with a hip, downtown atmosphere.

Cocoon Coffee House is located in a rustic stone house with fresh, homemade “every day” food. Sip wine or beer while reading from their used-book collection.

Frederica Dunn is a lifelong traveler-turned-freelance writer. She is on the Board of Governors at the National Press Club and led the first NPC journalist trip to Cuba in 2000.

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