Gateway to the Pocono Mountains: Jim Thorpe, PA.
By Cacinda Maloney
From the Philadelphia airport I ventured off to Poconos, PA where I was in for a treat on the lovely grounds of The Inn at Pocono Manor, who treated my travel group to amazing autumn-inspired drinks, hors d’oeuvres and a sit-down dinner of encrusted almond lamb chops, filet mignon and lobster. They laid out the red carpet to go with the season colors and it could not have been more pleasant. My room at the Inn was a spacious king-corner room on the upper floor with a wonderful view of the leaf colored mountains.
The next morning, we drove North to Jim Thorpe, which I would like to personally name “the prettiest little town in America!”. I don’t know if they have come up with a town tag line, but this would be my pick. The town has been called the “Switzerland of America” due to the picturesque mountainous location, as well as the “Gateway to the Poconos”. You could easily spend a day walking around, learning the history of the area and taking photos of this quaint, little town.
I was here during that perfect time of year, when green turns to red, yellow, orange and every color in between! Who knew that this trip would be the one that took me back to my childhood memories of raking leaves into a pile and jumping around in them and throwing them in the air with such glee? Back in Texas where I come from, we had seasons too, but now I am a desert dweller and “fall leaves” are just not a part of my life.
Each time I would hold the camera to my eye, trying to capture the colors of the season, a leaf would float down in a swirl in front of me, putting a grin on my face. I had such a hard time grasping this thing called a “season”. As evidenced in front of me, I turned into a kid again, with kicking the piles of leaves that were gathered everywhere.
“Who is Jim Thorpe?”
Known as the greatest athlete of the 20th century and considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, he played basketball, baseball and was also the winner of a 1912 Olympic gold metal for the pentathlon and decathalon.
“Who does all of that?”
“Jim Thorpe does!”
He was an American Indian born in Prague, Oklahoma and as rumor has it, he never did step foot in the town of Jim Thorpe, which was once known as the combined towns of Mauch Chunck and and East Mauch Chunck. He was a student at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School only 100 miles from there, but that is as close as he came to this sweet, little town.
He was buried here in 1953, when his third wife gave his body to Mauch Chunck because the state of OK refused to build a memorial to Mr. Thorpe. She made a deal with civic officials to have the two boroughs merge, and rename the new municipality in Jim Thorpe’s honor. The monument site contains his tomb, two statues of him in athletic poses, and historical markers describing his life. The grave rests on mounds of soil from Thorpe’s native Oklahoma and from soil of the stadium in which he won his Olympic gold medals.
During my visit to the Poconos, I was also not expecting the pomp and circumstance that goes along with the changing of the season in northeastern Pennsylvania. As a 20 year desert dweller, the season are basically only two: hot and hotter, I joke (we also have the wet and wetter: monsoon season). I realize that Americans celebrate the changes of the seasons with the holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving, but I had never seen anything quite like this, with the autumn-colored, potted flowers in every window and on every porch, as well as the pumpkins and the gourds, they were everywhere in site, and I loved it!
With my door fetish in full bloom, they only added to the beauty of each photo.
Also, if you are up for an adventure, this town is the point of departure for white-water river rafting. You can also catch the train for the Lehigh Gorge scenic railway. But if you are here to see the changing of the leaves and a piece of Americana, I would suggest this town is the perfect place to start during the first week of October all the way to the end of November, before the ski season begins.
While in town, you cannot miss the opportunity to visit the well-preserved Asa Packer Mansion Museum, it is a treat for history lovers and turn-of-the-century history buffs. It is a fascinating walk through time and was built in 1861 for $14,000. No photographs were allowed, so unfortunately I don’t have any to share with you. Located on the same lot is a second mansion (built for Asa Packer’s son) which inspired Disney World to model their haunted mansion after it, although I didn’t find it scary at all!
In this region of PA, there is also a great push for the “farm to table” movement, where you will find charming restaurants and local wine growers. You can have lunch at the Broadway Grill and Pub, where local wine producers paired our lunch menu with the chef. The chef prepared a delicious charcuterie board with an in-house cured bresaola, an in-house chicken sausage and an anti-pasta that had cinnamon and cranberry mozzarella for an appetizer. My entrée at lunch was a quite rare ostrich steak, which for me was the first time I had ever even tasted this exotic bird.
After lunch, I wandered up and down the two main streets of old Jim Thorpe and could not help but fall right back into the old habit I have of photographing doors. Yes, that’s right, doors, and windows. I don’t exactly know what my fascination is with doors, but it is to the point that it has become an obsession that I now find it difficult to walk past a charming front door or window and not at the very least take a photo of it. I just love how the colors and the shapes and the styles are all so different and yet so personal to each one who creates their own front door. What is odd to me is that my own front door is not that special. It is not a door that I even remember selecting when I built my house years ago, but it is a very large (9 foot), light-colored wood that is ribbed. It honestly could use some love and attention, unlike the doors I found in this sweet little, ‘charm of a town’ Jim Thorpe.
And there you have it. Just one simple little town with a complicated town name, not 80 miles outside of Philadelphia airport and 100 miles outside of Newark airport, where you can be whisked away to another time and place with great charm, history and bliss in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania!
Disclosure: My trip to the Poconos Mountains was sponsored by the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau.