“ It’s the dead of winter!” the snarky hotel concierge replied after Joel innocently asked what we should see while in Jim-Thorpe. We looked at each other, chuckled and walked away. Poor lady must hate winter. I guess not everyone was as excited as we that, just hours before, a winter storm had dumped on this little Pennsylvania town. Snow was still falling outside, giving a winter wonderland feel to an already snowglobe-esk town. The Poconos, never particularly high on my desirable destinations list, gave quite an impressive show. In our 72 hours there, we explored Pennslyvania wilderness and rambled through some rather corky towns all tucked amongst the mountains and surrounding area – and, the “dead of winter” made them all the more lovely.
After a long drive, tons of tolls – make sure to travel with quarters and single bills if you go – and a night of pretty unfavorable car camping conditions, we woke up just outside of the Poconos to freshly fallen snow. We grabbed breakfast from a Wawa gas station (arguably the best part of road tripping anywhere on the East Coast North of the Mason-Dixon line) and headed to Jim-Thorpe for day one in the Poconos.
Jim-Thorpe is a must see town of Pennsylvania (though, your hotel concierge may try to tell you otherwise). The streets of downtown, amongst other aspects, have helped coin the city’s nickname, “Little Switzerland.” Tall buildings with Switzerland-esk architecture, each painted a different color, are home to local shops, restaurants, inns and a few townhouses. They line the streets, squeezed against one another, leaving only enough room for the seldom alleyway. Brushed white with snow, every part of the town made it feel as if I had fallen into a classic Christmas movie.
Exhausted from lack of sleep the night before, we did a few touristy things in the town and then crashed at the Jim-Thorpe Inn. Staying at the Inn, one of the “Swiss” buildings on the main street, was a highlight of visiting this little town. I honestly wouldn’t suggest planning to stay in Jim-Thorpe for more than a day or two (maybe in the summer season?). It’s the kind of town that is completely worth seeing but doesn’t take long to see.
The train ride through the mountains is a tourist favorite. It was a gorgeous ride with the freshly fallen snow – plus it was a low energy activity - ideal since we were both half asleep.
Day two, we were rested and ready to explore some of Pennsylvanian's wilderness – more the reason we had come. From downtown Jim-Thorpe, miles of trail weave along the river following the railway (a better option if you don’t want to buy train tickets). For a more remote experience of the Lehigh Gorge, just outside the town of Jim-Thorpe, a State Game Land parking area serves as a trailhead for a network of hikes. However, with plans to mountain hop, we stuck with a shorter trial that led to, what we had read, was the best areal view of the Lehigh Gorge.
Delaware Water Gap
From the Gorge, we headed to the Delaware Water Gap – another popular wilderness area in the region. The Appalachian Trail runs through parts of the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area and we had read of promising waterfalls and rocky climbs. Unfortunately, a good bit of the park’s road system was shut down due to winter conditions. We didn’t see all that we had hoped, but we saw enough to know the park would definitely be worth a return visit.
After a full day of snowy hikes, we crashed in a slightly sketchy hotel – you know, the kind with low popcorn ceilings, dimly lit hallways, and paint chipping off the brown metal doors – close to downtown Stroudsburg. We were happy to find a more lively town, in comparison to Jim-Thorpe, with a few promising local business. Downtown Stroudsburg is even home to a surprisingly impressive local coffee shop - Cafe Duet.
Snowboarding in the Poconos
Our last day in the Poconos was New Years Eve. Joel had made pretty grand plans for us to ring in the New Year slope side. If you are looking to snowboard while in Pennsylvania (which if you luck out with fresh snow like we did, you totally should!) there is a handful of options when it comes to best ski resorts in the Pocons. For us, a New Years celebration was of high importance. So, Bear Creek Mountain Resort was our pick – being that they have the best rating for nightlife. If you are a budgeted traveler, like us, buying lift tickets for night ski is a great economic option. The resort set off fireworks. We danced and watched the ball drop with the strange, eclectic group all ski resorts seem to attract and snowboarded until 1 am. A perfect way to bid farewell to 2016 and a grand finale to our 72 hours in the Poconos.