Road Trip Destination: Eagles Mere, Pa.
Eagles Mere in the Pocono “Endless Mountains” in northeastern Pennsylvania's Sullivan County was founded as a resort for wealthy Philadelphia society in the 19th century. It's now a year-round getaway that bills itself as “The Last Unspoiled Resort.”
It's easy to see why. Perched at an elevation of 2,100 feet, this rural aerie is surrounded by forests, state game lands and two state parks, Worlds End and Ricketts Glen. The latter features more than 20 natural waterfalls. Iroquois tribes were among the first settlers in the region, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Eagles Mere grew up around Eagles Mere Lake, which is 2 1⁄2 miles in diameter and features postcard vistas in all seasons. The picturesque Victorian Village features art galleries, restaurants, specialty shops and a bookstore. In the winter, the region draws skiers, snowmobilers and ice skaters.
William Loeffler is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7986.
Browsing area history
The Eagles Mere Museum's six galleries tell the story of the region with exhibits on glasswork, narrow-gauge railroads and farming. Admission is by donation. Visit the museum gift shop, where you can purchase books, clothing, local artwork, ornaments, children's puzzles and limited Eagles Mere antique collectibles.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Details: 570-525-3155, www.eaglesmeremuseum.com
Built in 1878, the Eagles Mere Inn is the only remaining full-service lodging from the town's 1800s heyday. The 19 rooms and suites each feature a private bath. The price includes a five-course gourmet dinner, breakfast in the morning, access to the game room, nearby tennis courts, and facilities at Eagles Mere Lake, which is a mere 400 paces away. It also includes use of the inn's bikes, ice skates and cross-country skis. Weekday winter room rates vary from $159 to $239 per night and $174 to $254 on the weekends.
Owner Barbie Gale has owned the inn since 2006. You won't have to worry about chirping cellphones, because the elevation and isolation tend to render them inoperable. There are no televisions in the rooms.
“They come here to unplug and reconnect,” Gale says.
Historic bed and breakfast
The Crestmont Inn is a charming, historic bed and breakfast that sits on the highest point in Eagles Mere. Built in 1899, it combines the best of old and new. Its 15 well-appointed, antiques-stuffed rooms feature private baths and flat-screen televisions.
Melissa and Tony Faulkiner bought the inn earlier this year. Tony Faulkiner, a chef, oversees the menu for their 100-seat restaurant. He describes the fare as “a little bit of fusion, a little bit of a Italian, a little sushi.”
The rooms range from basic standard queen rooms to jacuzzi suites. They also have family suites that sleep up to six people. Off-season rates, from November to Memorial Day, range from $100 to $210 per night. The cost includes breakfast. All inclusive packages are available.
Details: 800-522-8767, www.crestmont-inn.com
Each year, weather permitting, workers cut blocks out of the frozen Eagles Mere Lake and volunteers use them to construct a toboggan run. The tradition dates to 1904. Prior to that, workers cut out the blocks of ice and stored them, covered in sawdust, for use in the hotels during the summer. It takes more than 800 blocks of ice to make the quarter-mile slide. Proceeds benefit the fire companies in Sullivan County. Tobogganers reach speeds of almost 40 miles an hour. After zooming down the hill, they slide part of the way across the frozen surface of the lake. A large toboggan, which holds eight adults, is $20 per hour. A small toboggan, which seats six adults, is $15 per hour.
Hours: 6:30-9:30 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays. Reservations are not accepted. Toboggans can be rented up to one hour before closing.
Details: 570-525-3244, www.eaglesmere.org/emslide.html
Hit the trails
For those who enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, the Crystal Lake Ski Center has 20 miles of trails that wind through 960 acres in nearby Hughesville. The facility features wooded trails and a charming lodge. The ski area is about 18 miles from Eagles Mere. (Details: 570-584-4209, firstname.lastname@example.org)
For snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, there's the D&H Rail Trail that runs from Forest City to the New York Border (www.nepa-rail-trails.org). Shush the slopes at the Elk Mountain Ski Resort in Union Dale. (Details: 570-679-4400, www.elkskier.com)
Take the plunge
The annual Sullivan County Kiwanis Winterfest begins at 7 a.m. Feb. 16 at Camp Brule, a Boy Scout camp 16 scenic miles from Eagles Mere.
It features dog-sled races, an ice-fishing tournament, tubing, food, horse-drawn rides, fireworks and almost 40 vendors who sell wreaths, wood carvings, antique sleigh bells, candles, hand-knitted items, art, hand-painted items and children's books. Visitors are welcome to bring their ice skates, snowshoes and cross-country skis.
Hearty humans can compete in the Human Dog Sled Race. Sleds and harnesses will be provided. Teams of six people pony up an entry fee of $5 per person, strap in and mush for all they're worth. The winner is determined by a series of 50-yard dashes between two teams at a time. The “top Dog” gets $100.
“We literally freeze a 100 dollar bill on a block of ice,” organizer Cindi McCarty says. “When we advertise cold hard cash, we mean it.”
Another highlight is the Polar Bear Plunge, where contestants pledge at least $100 for charity to cannonball themselves into frigid waters. Prizes are awarded to the best dressed.
Winterfest evolved out of a dog-sled race called the Endless Mountain 50. The event drew competitors from as far away as Alaska and Canada, and was featured on “Good Morning America.” The organizers added other events when they realized that spectators had nothing to do between the start and end of the race.
The day ends with a sit-down dinner and fireworks at dusk. “Two years ago, it had just started to snow when the fireworks started,” McCarty says. “It was beautiful.”
Admission is $5; 12 and younger free. Free parking.
Details: 570-924-4224, www.sckiwanis.com