Sometimes you just need to get out of Dodge.
For those of you who live on other shores, or haven’t grown up hearing it, that oh-so-American expression means Dodge City is a mess, and it’s time to move on. My research into its origins revealed that it did NOT originate in a black-and-white western—Gunsmoke is the most often cited—but probably was a genuine popular reference to various no-goodery (like that? I made it up) in 19th Century Dodge City, Kansas. But I’ve digressed.
This time last September, I’d gotten pretty itchy (hadn’t we all?), so my daughter suggested that we take a short road-trip. How did I feel about the Poconos? The idea resounded—a trip back in time seemed just the ticket. For those of you who don’t know, the Pocono Mountains were Pennsylvania’s answer to the Catskills–easily accessible from Philadelphia and New York, a perfect family getaway for city-dwellers fleeing the summer heat. Follow the link above to learn more about their history.
Decades ago, when I lived in Northeastern Pennsylvania, various points in and around the Poconos were favorite day trips. I have a vivid memory of legitimate landmarks and tourist traps, my first employee party at the glittering, circa 1970 Mt. Airy Lodge, visiting friends at their summer cottage on Lake Wallenpaupack, picnicking at Promised Land State Park, chamber music at the Dorflinger-Suydam Sanctuary, blueberry picking with the kids, and savoring the minestrone at a favorite Italian restaurant in Mt. Pocono… a time long passed but hardly forgotten.
We stayed at a “vintage” Wallenpaupack resort — decidedly not fancy (which you don’t really need at a lake anyway), but comfortable enough, with a night-time view of the water and the stars well worth a few compromises on amenities or convenience.
To be fair to my beloved New England, the Poconos aren’t impressive as mountains go. The average elevation is only about 2200 feet (compared to Mt. Washington at 6288. Each day, we took leisurely walks around the lake. Day one, we spotted a bald eagle swooping, then perching in a tree just a short distance from shore. When we returned the next day, and the next, there the eagle was again.
Day two we rented a pontoon boat, ably piloted by my daughter. To our delight, we were joined on the cruise by an extraordinary number of monarch butterflies, in the process of migration. I don’t know if that’s a common experience, but for us it was thrilling and new. That afternoon, we stopped at Lacawac Sanctuary and then followed the Delaware toward the Catskills, to stroll through Narrowsburg (a peach of a hamlet—which it officially is—and home to the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance gallery) and lunch on the porch of a brewery in Callicoon. Day three, we were greeted on our walk by a family of deer, close enough to touch as we crept quietly past them.
Hawley, on Route 6 northeast of the lake, is a small town that has struggled since the collapse of manufacturing. The Greek cross-shaped silk mill is reportedly the largest bluestone building in the world. When manufacturing began its march overseas, so many of these magnificent factory buildings went to seed. But the silk milk has thankfully been preserved, thanks to a community partnership and the support of an entrepreneurial family enterprise. Similarly, The Ledges hotel was once the J. S. O’Connor Rich Cut Glassware Factory. O’Connor was much revered as a glassmaker and had worked with another of the Pocono’s legendary glassmakers, Christian Dorflinger, before opening his factory in Hawley.
Our last night we had dinner on the terrace at Hawley’s treasure, the venerable Settlers Inn. Dating to 1920, the B&B retains the charm of another era, but its farm-to-table menu reflects many of the fun and interesting dining trends that are decidedly 2022. The inn is set among beautiful gardens and also boasts a downright magical outdoor dining and event area, Grant’s Woods.
The things I love most about traveling (and have missed most) are the unexpected discoveries: those snippets of history you’d never heard, the beautiful vistas you hadn’t imagined, the connections and coincidences that caught you totally off guard. These are the Aha! moments that make any trip worthwhile. While I had a passing knowledge of Christian Dorflinger’s glassworks but did not know about Hawley’s glassmaking, silk milling history. I’d never seen that the New York side of the Delaware and oddly had never really expected to (why, I wonder?). Now I’d go back for more, in a heartbeat.
All in all, it was a grand respite—not too far from home, completely uncomplicated and refreshing, yet holding an impressive cache of surprises. “Just the ticket” indeed.