Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Small Mountain Town Not Named South Park

As was alluded to in my last post, my wife and I returned to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania this past week. Finally utilizing a six year old gift card from my brother and sister-in-law we stayed the night and had a mini vacation in the Pocono Mountains. The extended stay allowed us to take our time and explore the town in greater depth and visit some of the sights that the constraints of a day trip prevented us from doing the last time we were up there.

Shortly after getting off from my overnight shift on Thursday morning we began our drive to the fresh air and spaciousness of the mountains. The increased familiarity with the area and the route this time allowed us to immediately relax as soon as the last vestiges of the morning rush hour cleared and the highway opened up. It’s amazing what a difference an hour and a half drive can make for ones nerves and sanity.

We arrived in the late morning, parked the car at the inn, and walked up Broadway to find a suitable place for an early lunch. A few blocks up the street we settled on a small restaurant called Crave. I had a vague familiarity as we had previously passed it during our last day trip and I had since then discovered that the Rotary Club of Jim Thorpe meets there every Tuesday for lunch (that may be a good visit in the future). As soon as we finished our meals, eggs for me and salmon for my wife, we ventured out with the game plan we strategized while waiting for our food to arrive.

Our first stop was to The Old Jail Museum just up the street. Many of you may be familiar with the Molly Maguires and this is where much of it happened as is outlined in the marker outside the prison.

Inside the old building you realize how small the space really is and how cramped it must have been with over 400 spectators surrounding the gallows to watch the hangings.

With two men in each cell space was at a premium. And, in one cell, the handprint of Alexander Campbell can still be seen… staining the wall as a proclamation of his innocence (pictures are not permitted in his cell). And up until the 1990’s, inmates throughout the decades lived with that handprint.

As a change of pace, The Mauch Chunk Museum (this was the original name of the town) was our next stop as we walked back down the street toward the inn. Small town museums are of particular interest to me as you can get a much bigger picture and a greater appreciation of the place you are visiting. Many of these kinds of museums are very casual as tourists tend to overlook these fascinations. One of the surprising finds at the museum was in the ballroom on the second floor where the following stained glass can be found.

By this time it was mid afternoon and time to check in. We headed back to the car, grabbed our stuff, and made our way to the front desk. I can’t say enough about The Inn at Jim Thorpe. It is a beautiful old building with a great staff that goes out of their way to make you feel welcomed. Once we got to our room it was time to take a few minutes to relax, let our minds settle, and decide on our plan of action for the second half of our day.

On our way to a happy hour dinner at Molly Maguires Pub and Steakhouse we stopped by the Civil War Memorial situated between the Carbon County Court House and the restaurant. It is quit the impressive monument when standing at its base.

After a hot and hearty meal and some cold Yeungling, it was time to get back on our feet and head for higher ground.

Overlooking the town are the Asa and Harry Packer mansions. As a side note, Asa Packer once served as Worshipful Master of the Carbon Lodge in Jim Thorpe.  

Like many Victorian mansions of the time, the grandiose beauty of these building is something that needs to be seen.
Harry Packer Mansion

Asa Packer Mansion
No detail is missed as every aspect of these estates exudes wealth and power fitting for a magnate and his son.

Surrounding the Asa Packer Mansion is a multi tiered garden that offers a quite picnic like area with large shady trees and a few old water pumps.

Massive stone walls hold back the earth and divide the mountainside into different layers of seclusion.

Carrying you between the worlds are paths broken up by spots of color the most vibrant being clusters of yellow that also line the front of the mansion.

With all that has been manipulated and manicured throughout the property it is easy for one to forget to turn around and take in the view of the town from above. This view was the reason why the mansions were built on that particular piece of land. This is the vantage point of someone who wished to look over the town he helped build and revel in its prosperity.

Having climbed between the different levels, explored the various paths, and marveled at the artful architecture we decided to head back to the inn and enjoy a beverage on the New Orleans style balcony overlooking Broadway. I came to realize on this pause in our evening that we don’t sit down enough and enjoy the world that surrounds us. It was also during this time of rocking chair reflection that reinforced our Shabbat decision to explore the creation that is so easily within our reach but so frequently overlooked.

As the shops closed their doors and dusk quickly approaching we were off again for our last walk of the evening. With the last rays of light reflecting on the Lehigh River, we walked up and down the bank listening to the rush and ripple of the water.

Watching the mountains slowly disappear in the background we began our walk back to Broadway to take in the amber glow of the old street lights.

Just before walking back into the lobby of the inn, we heard music bouncing off our backs. With a curious ear, we turned around and watched as a troubadour played to a crowd that ebbed and flowed like the waters we had just left behind.

By this time we were both tired, ready for bed, and excited for the day to come. But, before heading up, I had to catch this stunning view of our one night abode.

The next day was much of the same as the first. After breakfast at the Broadway Grille and Pub (included with our room), we walked around town, visiting many of the sites we had seen the previous day but, this time, focusing on the experience itself rather than the recording of the experience on film. Later in the morning we headed off to the Dimmick Memorial Library to learn a little more about the town.

This is a great compliment to the local museum no matter where you are as town librarians are frequently a wealth of knowledge when it comes to local history. After a few interesting discussions and some sporadic research, we headed over to the place where our visit began and where our visit would now end, Crave.

With our bags back in the car, our lungs filled with mountain air, and our stomachs full we got back on the road and took the long way home.

Heading south on one of my favorite roads, Route 209, we stopped by Pottsville and captured a quick image of the Yuengling Brewery (we will visit the brewery again in the future to take the tour). Hopping on Route 61 we quickly made our way to I-78 where one of the signs along the highway caught our attention and brought us to our last quick stop before heading home.

Clover Hill Vineyard and Winery was our last stop. We caught them about 15 minutes before closing but it was enough time for a quick tasting and a few pictures. This final destination was an appropriate close to the trip for two reasons as they make some of our favorite wines and also because when heading back home from such an amazing getaway we needed a drink to ease the transition back to sobering reality.