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Soak in some rays on the sun deck after a dip in the outdoor whirlpool. (Image: Courtesy The Lodge at Woodloch)

Head to The Lodge at Woodloch for a dose of the great outdoors

I’m not even going to try to sugar coat it: I’m not a fan of camping. No part of setting up a tent, showering in facilities that are generously described as rustic or cooking my own food in a makeshift kitchen with none of the tools or niceties as the one I have at home is my idea of a good time. In my opinion, any camping “vacation” requires another getaway when you return, just to recover. But a weekend in an award-winning destination spa and resort in the Pocono Mountains? That’s more my style. At The Lodge at Woodloch, you can trade in your sleeping bag for a room that offers a menu of pillows from buckwheat to foam, be served creative cuisine with no campfire or portable stove in sight, and indulge in pampering treatments while still feeling like you are getting away. Now that’s even a better idea than glamping!

Check-In

All guests receive a tote bag and refillable water bottle at check-in -- definitely useful perks for toting your stuff to the spa, gym, classes and the pool. You’ll also be able to pick up the list of activities happening during your visit. Most are already included with your stay--everything from meditation, stretching, outdoor yoga, hiking and barre classes to ones on journaling, watercolors, sketching and kayaking are offered. A few incur a surcharge (typically around $30), including wine and cocktail tastings and cooking classes. After checking in, head to Tree Restaurant (adjacent to the lobby) to book your dinner reservations each evening, as popular times tend to fill up quickly.

Stay

The 58 guestrooms--divided into 46 Veranda Deluxe Rooms, 9 Junior Suites and 2 One-Bedroom Suites--definitely give the resort an intimate feel. I’ve stayed in rooms on the first, second and third floors, those facing the woods and lake as well as the rock garden waterfall that’s located at the front of the resort, and there really isn’t a bad room to be found. All have a private veranda with chairs and a table, which is a great spot to enjoy coffee in the early morning, a glass of wine with the sunset or a late-night cocktail. Rooms are decorated in neutral, muted, soothing tones and are equipped with refrigerators, walk-in showers, private water closets, granite countertops, double sinks and filtered water.

Spa

All guests can utilize the amenities of the well-appointed spa. I love the indoor Aqua Garden during all times of the year, which boasts floor to ceiling windows, a heated pool and a two-level whirlpool with Hydro Massage waterfall jets to ease sore muscles. Outdoors, another year-round horizon edge whirlpool is joined by a large number of lounge chairs on the sun deck--look carefully, and you can sometimes spot a family of deer, or even a black bear, in the woods beyond. Several areas entice you to relax, nap or read before or after a treatment (or just on a lazy afternoon), including an enclosed porch, co-ed Whisper Lounge with a fireplace and outdoor porch with rocking chairs, and completely silent relaxation room. There are separate saunas, eucalyptus steam rooms and clothing-optional whirlpools for men and women in the respective locker rooms, and infused water, teas, chilled washcloths and snacks throughout the spa. And there is no need to tote any of your toiletries: the locker room and showers have shampoo, body wash, conditioner, lotions, razors and shaving cream and other items. There are also dispensers with different SPF sunscreens right before you head outside to the sun deck.

This visit, I was craving a treatment that combined pampering with the gorgeous setting found outside the Lodge’s windows; I found it in the Deep Forest Ritual, a hundred minutes of sheer bliss. First, my therapist scrubbed me with a combination of coffee and dandelion, after which she wrapped me so my body heat would activate the exfoliation properties and let the mixture sink into my skin; I told her I happened to be a bit claustrophobic, so she didn’t wrap me too tightly. When I was wrapped, she gave me a scalp and head massage, after which I went into the room’s private shower to wash off the gritty mixture. Next up was a 50+ minute massage with heated birchwood sticks, which reminded me of thick wooden drink muddlers or handle-less rolling pins. The therapist rolled them on different parts of my body (much like you would roll out dough, I guess), relieving tension and relaxing muscles. I loved it--much more so than a hot stone massage. The only challenge with them, she told me, is that since they are large, they tend to be a bit unwieldy for certain areas of the body. So, for those parts, she used her hands. But overall it was a fabulous treatment, and one that apparently releases lots of toxins, so drinking a large amount of water afterwards is important.

Get Outdoors

No matter the season, there are lots of things to do outside. Walk the path down to the Lily Pad, the resort’s outdoor activity hub, where you can borrow a kayak and paddle around Lake Teedyuskung (depending on the time of year and week of your visit, you can also take a guided tour around the lake and learn about the plants, birds, fish and insects in its ecosystem, or try your hand at fly fishing.) Like to walk? You’ll find guided nature walks, botany walks, geocaching and nocturnal walks for stargazers on the calendar. Channel your inner Katniss Everdeen with an archery class. Borrow a bike and embark on either a two-hour, twelve-mile ride through the Delaware State Forest, or a three to five mile, two and a half hour ride on the woodland trails surrounding the resort. If you are looking to cultivate your green thumb, take a class in gardening, house plants, or creating and maintaining hoop houses. And if you are looking for a bit more adventure, head to Woodloch Pines a few miles up the road, the sister resort which has activities including a climbing wall, Segways, a shooting barn and a zip line; guests of The Lodge at Woodloch have full access to all of them.

Savor

The cuisine here is definitely spa-focused, but that translates to fresh ingredients, lots of flavor and gorgeous presentation--not tiny portions, deprivation and “diet food.” I’ve enjoyed some incredible meals at The Lodge that are also true to the season. All meals are taken in Tree, the resort’s signature restaurant. Breakfast and lunch can be ordered a la carte. (Do not miss the edamame dumplings for lunch, which are served with a slaw of cabbage, red pepper, scallions and cilantro with a citrus-dressing—order them by themselves or as an add-on with another entrée, ranging from grilled trout or shrimp, flavorful bowls and buffalo burgers.) There is also a small buffet for those in a rush to get to a class or to the spa. (Breakfast buffet options include pastries, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal and toppings, while lunch always features a soup, salads, wraps and dessert.) Oh, and you can have the first two meals of the day in your robe, which is always fun. Dinner is a four-course affair. Favorites from my most recent stay included the burrata appetizer served with artichoke tapenade and miners lettuce and drizzled with truffle balsamic vinegar, and pan-roasted sea scallops over carrot puree with black Thai sticky rice and a yuzu tamari dressing. There are always several specials each day and evening, too, and staff is so accommodating with selections. Want an extra first course instead of a salad? No problem. Want two first courses and a salad? They can do that too. Afterwards, take a glass of wine and head back outside to the fire circle.

Can’t miss outdoor experiences at The Lodge at Woodloch:

  • Sunset kayaking around Lake Teedyuskung
  • Walking the stone labyrinth outside the resort’s back entrance
  • Embarking on a three-hour guided hike around the Delaware Forest
  • Soaking sore muscles in the large outdoor whirlpool
  • Sitting around the fire circle and stargazing
  • Making s’mores on the fire by the Lily Pad
  • Starting the day with an outdoor yoga class
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