You would recognize Skytop Lodge today if you were to compare the grand opening day photo in Claire Gierwatowski’s “Images of America: Skytop Lodge” with the lodge and grounds you see today. Additions and modifications since opening day on June 16, 1928, have only enhanced Skytop’s magnificent, stately appeal.
Images of America: Skytop Lodge covers more than 90 years of lodge history from the Roaring Twenties through The Great Depression, World War II, and other significant world events that could have led to its demise. The truth is Skytop has continued to grow and thrive through those ups and downs.
Whether you’ve visited Skytop Lodge, you’re planning a visit, or you want to learn more about Skytop’s history, Gierwatowski spent years researching and compiling the information and photographs contained in Images of America in order to preserve the memories and moments that have shaped the Skytop we know today.
The Dutch Colonial Revival lodge is surrounded by natural beauty with exceptional gardens, lakes, streams, and cascading waterfalls set on 5,500 pristine acres in the heart of the Poconos. Guests return to Skytop year after year to relax and play. Images of America: Skytop Lodge is a must-see historical overview available at Arcadia Publishing and The History Press.
Settlers Hospitality Group Hails Carbondale’s History
Saluting Carbondale’s vast history is no easy task. This Pioneer City was founded on March 15, 1851, and is the fourth oldest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Settlers Hospitality Group chose to honor Carbondale’s coal-mining and railroading history when it refurbished the Hotel Anthracite.
Every piece of art that adorns the walls throughout the hotel tells a story. Consequently, you won’t find a stock photo in the lobby, restaurant, hallways, or guest rooms and each piece, whether it’s a framed photograph or another medium, is in some way related to the city’s rich anthracite and cultural history.
Settlers Hospitality Group is an award-winning hospitality company based in Hawley, PA, one of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s most endearing historic towns. The group owns and manages The Hotel Anthracite, along with the Settlers Inn, Ledges Hotel, Silver Birches Resort, and Sayre Mansion.
Settlers’ goal is to provide their guests with a one-of-a-kind tribute to the heritage that surrounds each of its properties. Equally as important to guests are the exceptional accommodations and cuisine and unwavering service.
“The key operating philosophy of the hotel arm of the Settlers Hospitality Group is to provide an independent and authentic lodging experience that is guest-focused, locally flavored, and pet-friendly,” Chris Simpler, Hotel Anthracite general manger, explained.
Simpler commented in detail about the hotel’s history during our lunch at KOL Steakhouse, the hotel’s signature restaurant. He delved into the features as I sampled the OUTSTANDING Baby Greens and Quinoa Salad, topped with grilled chicken and drizzled with a Champagne Blood Orange Vinaigrette. Suffice to say, the hotel has covered all the bases with style, creativity, and artistry.
Born and raised in the Hudson Valley, Simpler found himself back in Northeastern Pennsylvania to partner with Settler’s Hospitality. His wife Jenna (Simpler) runs the resort side of the Silver Birches Resort, a Settlers property that celebrates the history of the Lake Wallenpaupack region.
Jeanne Genzlinger, the matriarch of the Settlers Hospitality Group, served as the main designer. She selected a neutral color palette, which is an ideal backdrop for the history and outdoors’ themes. Jeff George, (artistic design), S. Robert Powell (Carbondale historian) and Juan H. Espino (artist: The Looking Glass Gallery) all played significant roles in the historical detailing within the walls of the Hotel Anthracite. Altogether, the decor is the best of all worlds. As you enter the Hotel Anthracite, you’ll find historical charm effortlessly blended with modern amenities guests expect.
Large chunks of official anthracite coal are displayed in the Hotel Anthracite lobby surrounded by photos of the Gravity Railroad and its first locomotive, “The Stourbridge Lion.” They’re your cue the decor is intended to educate, enlighten, and motivate you to discover more about Carbondale’s past.
“We have utilized that foundation to bring photography and recreated historical elements to Hotel Anthracite,” said Simpler.
“The feeling we were going for was to bring the hotel back to emphasize what’s out the windows. The neutral palette is great to work with because you have a lot of flexibility. It’s a clean and modern look but it also fits well with the historical theme we have,” he said.
Formerly known as the Carbondale Grand Hotel and operated as a Best Western until the Settler’s group purchased and renovated the building, the Hotel Anthracite averages 15,000 stays a year in their newly-appointed rooms. The management is in tune with their guests’ needs and expectations and delivers a high-quality package.
In the guest rooms, new beds are topped with standard and king-sized pillows. What’s more, towels, linens, curtains, and the sofas are also new. Certified botanical organic bath products are provided in dispensers rather than single-use throw-away bottles to reflect Settlers Hospitality’s commitment to conservation.
YES to Pets
Pets and their families stay in comfort with the pet program in place. Yes, the hotel has pet-assigned rooms to protect guests with allergies. But Simpler said, “We always do something personal to welcome the dogs to our property.” Be sure to inquire about the pet policy when you reserve your room.
Simpler’s way of thinking about The Hotel Anthracite is, “Why not make it a great experience that people talk about.”
KoL Steakhouse Dining: A Natural, Easy Fit
What thoughts does the name “Kōl” evoke? If your guess is a “play on words” reflecting Carbondale’s anthracite legacy, you’re correct, according to Simpler.
“It (the name) is a natural, easy fit,” he said. “It aligns with our history.”
Kōl Steakhouse is for diners who want a dining experience that’s different – fine dining in a casual steakhouse setting. Renowned Executive Chef Michael Bodner begins with locally sourced aged beef and then adds his own creative flair to the regional fare and daily specials.
My choice was the mouth-watering Chicken Milanese Anthracite, a moderately priced entree ($19) from the Chef’s Plates’ section of the menu. The savory breaded free bird farm chicken breast, seasoned with aromatic basil and arranged with tomatoes, harmonizes with the balsamic dressing, asparagus, and creamy risotto. I said “NO” to dessert because my palette was content. My meal was a perfect-sized portion and a combination of flavors.
The wine menu offers more than 100 different bottles of wine in a full range of styles and prices. A handful of local wines are available, thanks to the hotel’s sommelier who put the wine list together for all of the Settler’s Hospitality Group’s properties. Looking for a fresh, local beer on tap or in the bottle? Come to Kōl Steakhouse and quench your thirst. The bartender will accommodate your hankering with a variety of liquor and mixed drink concoctions.
“You need to deliver something more – a new experience,” is Simpler’s philosophy.
Simpler noted, “In the months I’ve been here (as manager), I’ve come to know the untapped opportunity and potential here in Carbondale is huge. Settlers Hospitality management and staff have proven that folks will drive from hours away to dine at their hotels because the experience and food are so fantastic.”
Community Partnerships = Endless Opportunities
Once you’ve taken an architectural and historical tour of Carbondale, venture into local communities and set your sights on Northeastern Pennsylvania’s four seasons. The Settlers Hospitality Group partners with local businesses in each of their hotels’ locations so guests have access to a variety of activities that range from skiing, cycling, hiking, to world-class fishing that will get your heart pumping.
Travel Tip: Hotel Anthracite is a mere 25 minutes from historic sites in downtown Scranton and less than 35 minutes from Honesdale and Hawley. Allow at least a half-day to explore each town.
The Lackawanna Heritage Trail, a popular multi-use trail system. exemplifies how a partnership is a win-win for all businesses and visitors. You’ll find the Carbondale Trailhead literally across the street and less than a half-block away from Hotel Anthracite. Simpler says guests can borrow a bike through the BikeShare program at the hotel and The Carbondale YMCA and ride to the New York border on a bicycle. The trail opened less than a week before my visit and you’ll find the link to my companion story here. Spend some time at the newly-built Riverfront Park along the Lackawanna River and stop in at The Chamber Gallery and view the latest exhibit.
Travel Tip: Buy your Pennsylvania fishing license and bring your fishing gear. The Lackawanna River awaits you with an assortment of cold-water and warm-water fish species. Depending on where you fish, the river is home to trout, bullhead, bass, perch, and bluegills.
History buffs should plan a self-guided walking tour and take in the architecture. Carbondale’s array of historic buildings has helped put the city on the map. Don’t miss the historic Memorial Square, City Hall, and the Trinity Episcopal Church and its extraordinary tiffany-windows. Similarly, guests who love snow sports like skiing will have no problems finding the perfect ski conditions at Elk Mountain Ski Resort. Inquire at the hotel about individual and family ski and rental packages. If you’re like me, combining business and pleasure does involve some advanced planning but your trips can be exceptional and memorable.
Conclusion: Whatever your reason for traveling, Hotel Anthracite is a first-rate lodging choice. Experience a small-town treasure in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the ideal base camp to explore a revitalized region alive with history and culture.
My visit was comped but my opinions are my own and based on my personal experience.
When you meet Mike Possinger, you’ll understand why the Pocono Manor Resort & Spa “Cast & Blast” package is so much fun.
Pocono Manor Resort & Spa’s consummate manager of Manor Sports delights in introducing folks to trap shooting and fishing. They happen to be two of Possinger’s specialties, but the package can be tailored to beginners or more experienced folks who want to fine-tune their skills.
Cast & Blast is one of an assortment of “Stay & Play” packages available at Pocono Manor, a historic inn located in Pocono Manor, Pennsylvania.
According to Possinger, the original plan was to offer Cast & Blast as a Father’s Day promotion but his idea soon evolved into an all-day event that’s perfect for families, couples, and groups.
“It took off,” Possinger said. “The opportunity is right here. You’re going to shoot right here and go a half-mile away and fish in another.”
Creating moments that result in smiles and laughter are among his goals and this year marks the first time Pocono Manor formally marketed this “Stay & Play” package to guests and non-guests. Overnight lodging, breakfast, three hours of fishing, and an Intro to Trapshooting rates start at $199 per night. A resort fee and tax are not included and reservations are required.
Here’s what Kelly Shannon, Pocono Mountains Visitor Bureau PR and social media manager said via email about Pocono Manor’s contributions to the Pocono Mountains’ tourism industry.
“Pocono Manor Resort & Spa is a huge draw to visitors, positively contributing to the tourism in the Pocono Mountains. With so many catered packages and onsite activities like fishing, horseback riding, archery, biking, seasonal events, and in the winter even horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowmobiling, and ice skating, Pocono Manor has so much to offer for all tastes. The resort’s renowned golf course and its serene spa provide even more entertainment to guests. With so much to do, we find visitors returning to indulge in their other activities season-to-season.”
I recently sampled the trap shooting and fly fishing package during a two-day assignment sponsored by Pocono Manor Resort & Spa. Cast & Blast includes about an hour of trap shooting and two to three hours of fishing, but experienced anglers who want to spend more time on the water can fish at the on-site streams for hours.
Possinger is certified through the National Rifle Association (NRA) for shotgun and pistol handling and will devote as much time as needed to be sure participants are comfortable handling a gun. He provides full instruction, covering topics such as gun safety and proper ways to hold, aim and shoot and he’ll tailor a package to meet the needs of families, small groups or corporate clients. Prices will vary, depending on how much casting and blasting you want to do.
“It’s one of those things you don’t experience every day of your life in your own backyard, so we try to make everyone comfortable. People want to learn how to handle a gun,” Possinger said.
Participants must be 12 years and older to participate in that particular package, but Possinger said he’ll be happy to “dream up all sorts of games and activities that will keep everyone happy.”
“If that’s all it takes to make them (people) smile, why not do it? I’ve been at Pocono Manor for a long time and I want you to have fun. I’m the ‘bartender” or ‘beauty salon’ out here.”
Possinger joined the Manor in the mid-1970s as a snow-maker when the manor’s ski program was in operation. Following college and years in politics, Possinger learned the Manor Sports director’s position was available.That was 12 years ago.
“I don’t complain about getting up in the morning and going to work. I go and it’s one of those things that happens when you find a once-in-a-lifetime job.”
Since then, he has catered to guests, including countless individuals with special needs and circumstances.
“Years ago, a guest (a lady) had a bucket list. She was terminally ill and in a wheelchair. I built a tripod and made it so I could set it across her wheelchair. I made a holder that set on her wheelchair and she could turn the tripod and just pull the trigger. She told me, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this. Situations like that are very special to me.”
I spent my second day at Pocono Manor fly fishing in a stream on the property, along pristine “catch and release” water. The on-site stream is only available to registered Pocono Manor guests. A valid Pennsylvania fishing license is required for anyone who plans to take fish from the property.
On July 20, 2017, Erin Caulfield, a Pocono Manor spokesperson announced Pocono Manor Resort & Spa has received certification from the Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA), the largest clay target shooting organization in the world. She also noted the resort has installed five state-of-the-art Pat-Trap machines.
Pocono Manor Resort & Spa is now the only resort in the Pocono region with the ability to host ATA-member only sanctioned registered shoots.
Caufield said Pocono Manor will host its second registered shoot on September 30, 2017. Participants are eligible for discounted overnight rates.
Save the date
Spend Oct. 14 outdoors at Pocono Manor’s Family Field Day with Dunkelberger’s Sports Outfitters. The day’s activities will include Instruction in shooting .22 rifles, airsoft rifles, shotguns, compound bows and crossbows, fishing, fly-fishing demos, children’s games, and a barbecue menu. Visit https://www.PoconoManor.com/Events for more information.
Woodloch: Family resort brings generations together
Woodloch Tradition: Excellence
An all-inclusive family resort
Bright sunshine and mild temperatures set the stage for my extraordinary visit to Woodloch Pines, a 1,200-acre award-winning all-inclusive family resort in Hawley, Pennsylvania. This exceptional four-season destination is located in the Lakes Region of Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains.
A brief history (courtesy of Woodloch)
Before I go into details related to my visit, you should be aware that Woodloch Pines Resort has been family-owned and operated for more than 53 years, offering all-inclusive vacations to generations of families for decades. From the moment you arrive at Woodloch, you will experience the Kiesendahl family’s commitment to top-notch service.
The original 12-acre Woodloch featured a main lodge, annex and two cottages that accommodated up to 40 guests. As its popularity continued to grow, by 1961, the Kiesendahl family had doubled the size of the lakefront resort. In 1983, the resort had grown into 150 acres with nearly a mile of shoreline and 135 rooms. Fast forward to 2016 and you’ll find 160 guest rooms in four different categories and more than 300 acres that beckon you to explore. Most rooms can accommodate up to six people and offer a spectacular lake view from a private balcony.
Awards too numerous to mention
You can expect outstanding service at Woodloch Pines, a family-owned and managed resort. The Kiesendahl family continues to carry on the tradition of excellence and warm hospitality.
Woodloch is regarded as one of America’s “Best Inclusive Family Resorts” and TripAdvisor.com voted Woodloch as the #1 Family Resort in America. To see a complete list of awards and accolades, click here.
A perfect day
I arrived at Woodloch Pines mid-week on a gorgeous mid-September afternoon. Fall hadn’t officially arrived and the leaves weren’t ablaze with color yet but I was delighted to have an opportunity to explore the property under brilliant sunshine and a moonlit evening sky. Here’s a moment I captured after dinner, while on my way back to my guestroom.
A dedicated and loyal staff
DJ Luis is among the many caring and enthusiastic staff at Woodloch. He wears many hats, from a “captain” and tour guide of the scenic boat tour to a multi-talented in-house entertainer.
Listen and watch Luis as he reveals why he has an affinity for Woodloch.
Although I traveled solo to Woodloch, my suite could comfortably accommodate a family. Should you desire more or less space, Woodloch has 160 guest rooms and 70 guest homes to meet your needs. Busy travelers and families will particularly appreciate the well-stocked kitchen with plenty of space to prepare a meal.
Woodloch: An all-inclusive resort with abundant amenities
18-hole championship golf course and community at its sister properties, Woodloch Springs and an award-winning luxury destination spa The Lodge at Woodloch located within a two-mile radius.
Complimentary WiFi available in all accommodations
flat-screen television with cable and pay-per-view movies, refrigerator, iron and ironing board, coffee maker, hairdryer, and in-room safe in every room.
Microwaves and cribs available at an additional charge
All homes feature full kitchen with all cooking utensils and tools as well as an outdoor gas barbecue grill, at least one gas fireplace
One-and-a-half mile paved nature trail plus a three-mile natural terrain trail; bicycles available for use on trails
White sandy lakeside beach with swimming and a water slide.
Waterskiing for guests aged 13 and older, paddle and row boats, canoes, kayaks and sailboats
Indoor and outdoor pool; indoor Kids Splash Zone, outdoor kiddie pool
Bumper cars and boats, and go carts
Woodloch Forest – three-level indoor playground with four slides, tree house, and a separate single-level toddler play area.
Horseshoes, shuffleboard , and bocce ball court
Basketball gymnasium and outdoor basketball courts
Outdoor sand volleyball court
Four new tennis courts
Two nine-hole miniature golf courses
Toddler room, arts and crafts room, and The Bunker- a lounge and Nintendo Wii center
28’ climbing wall
1500 square foot exercise facility with state-of-the-art equipment
Follow this link to view a list of resort amenities available at an additional charge.
Dining and evening entertainment go hand-in-hand
The Lakeview Dining Room is a newly renovated space and gathering place for generations of families to dine comfortably. Upon your arrival at the dining room, members of the Kiesendahl family eagerly meet and greet their guests before dinner.
The dining room was nearly filled to capacity with a mix of ages from one to 85, and yet, the service was extraordinary.
Menus change daily and meals are offered at specific times throughout the day to allow guests to take full advantage of the activities planned. Here’s a sample menu from September 2016. Dining options and meal plans are available here.
Now that you know what was on the menu during my visit, I’ll make your mouth water. After devouring the shrimp cocktail appetizer and salad, my server delivered an unspeakably moist and flavorful salmon served over black rice.
Wondering where to dine at this family resort?
On-site you have a choice of the Woodloch Dining Room, The Country Store at The Inn, North Lodge Cafe, and the Lakeside Grille & Outdoor Poolside Bar (both open seasonally). Only a short distance from Woodloch Pines is The Market and the Clubhouse Grille Room at Woodloch Springs.
Meet Bradley Kiesendahl
I had the pleasure to chat with Brad on a night when he was in costume as “Spock,” from “Star Trek.”
Why was he dressed as Mr. Spock? Please continue reading.
Throughout the evening, he served as the emcee but also took the time to check in at each dining table to be sure guests were beyond satisfied with their meals.
Ah…and then, as I was finishing my dinner, along came Woodloch’s social staff and theater cast also in costume, parading through the dining room. Characters make daily appearances at mealtime. The Lone Ranger and his horse were among the familiar characters who entertained adults and children alike. Do you recognize the monkey from movies and television?
“The Wonderful World of Television”
Family and staff continue a tradition
Following dinner, I was invited to attend a Woodloch themed theater performance, “The Wonderful World of Television” – hence, the reason why TV land characters made their appearance during dinner. A new, creative theme has been chosen every year since the mid-sixties. The family-oriented performance was a retrospective glance back at iconic television shows from the advent of television to many of our current hit series.
I was in awe of the talent, set design and dedication of the cast members who starred in the production. Most of the cast is part of the vast Woodloch family and staff.
Here’s a clip from the performance.
The cast of mostly in-house performers drew constant applause from the audience as they danced to and sang the theme songs from decades of television’s finest moments, with a backdrop of custom-designed sets. A small pyrotechnic display sparkled on the stage at the finale.
Before the closed, theater-goers were also treated to film clips of the notoriously funny Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson.
Take a moment and view some of the photos I took during the performance.
Early morning on the water
Early morning brought anglers to the shoreline to get their dose of Mother Nature as the mist on Lake Teedyuskung slowly dissipated, giving way to another day of bright, blue sky.
My suite offered a wonderful view of the lake. I awakened to an overwhelming desire to cast my fly line into Lake Teedysukung but as I walked towards the shoreline, I noticed the silhouette of one fisherman, Bob Gaines from Yardley, PA. Bass and sunfish are plentiful and I watched intently as Bob caught and released one fish after another.
Scenic Boat Tour
A boat tour is a perfect way to see the gorgeous scenery that surrounds Woodloch Pines family resort. You’ll also catch a view of the property from a different perspective as you learn more about the Woodloch’s rich history.
After a full breakfast, I made my way to the Tea House boat dock, where I boarded Woodloch’s 10:30 a.m. tour boat. If you’re sticking to a tight schedule, guided tours run every 15 minutes, weather permitting.
A family barbecue and picnic on the lawn
Later that morning, I celebrated my final meal at the resort at a barbecue and picnic on the front lawn before leaving for an afternoon fly-fishing class at The Lodge at Woodloch, a sister property, and another award-winning, world-class spa destination.
The traditional weekly cookout brings guests together to mingle in an informal setting, while they have a choice of their favorite “picnic” food.
What’s happening at Woodloch Pines today?
The Edge is your source for up-to-date schedules of activities courtesy of the social staff. Their aim is truly to keep you happy and busy during your stay at Woodloch Pines Resort.
Fernwood Resort: creating year-round family experiences
Gina Bertucci: Focus is on family at Fernwood
Activities=Quality Family Time
Family fun…Have you taken the time to create lasting memories with your family?
Creating an experience that’s all-encompassing for families and guests of all ages is one of the challenges Gina Bertucci, Fernwood Resort co-owner, embraces.
With more than 18,000 member families, Fernwood Resort and the Villas at Tree Tops & Fairway®, 2157 River Rd, East Stroudsburg, PA, is part of RCI and is one of the largest vacation ownership properties in the Mid-Atlantic region with 650 beautifully-appointed villas.
“We have both timeshares and rentals so we’re a mixed-use property,” Bertucci explained.
Lodging options range from one-to-four bedrooms with accommodations for every taste, with a home-like feeling and amenities from simple and economical to deluxe and spacious.
When you’re ready to venture out onto the property, you’ll also see why Fernwood has received awards for being green.
According to Bertucci, “As a business, when we were looking at how to develop these pieces of property, what did we do?”
The Pocono TreeVentures and zipline courses are examples of the extraordinary measures Bertucci and her partners have taken to preserve the beauty and nature on the property.
“We looked at ways to preserve this property. There’s a stream that goes through it, but really when you’re up in the trees, you really do appreciate the nature and the beauty of this region.”
Everywhere you turn at Fernwood, there’s something for everyone. A few of the free on-site activities are swimming and weekly pool parties, summer family movie nights, picnics and BBQ nights. At an additional cost, try horseback riding at Bushkill Stables, Pocono TreeVentures Ropes and Zipline courses, Blue and White Lightning Tubing and Paintball. Visit Fernwood Resort’s websitefor prices and hours of operation.
Approximately 15 years ago, Bertucci and other businesses affiliated with the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau got together to answer the question, how can we continue to showcase the Poconos as a region to explore and enjoy, and at the same time, preserve its natural beauty?
The Fernwood partners, for example, utilized approximately 10 acres of gorgeous farmland for the TreeVentures and Zip Line courses.
“It’s beautiful and challenging and when you’re finished, you think I just did something and it’s great exercise. It’s about authenticity,” commented Bertucci. “And not everyone has had a chance to try horseback riding? For other people, it’s shopping at the Crossings (Premium Outlets), canoeing on the Delaware River, bike riding, seeing nearby Bushkill Falls or following a lovely natural walking path at the 77,000-acre at the Delaware Water Gap National Historic site.”
What’s our recommendation for off-site family engagement?
Don’t leave the Poconos without a stop at Bushkill Falls, known as “The Niagara of Pennsylvania.” With each season the landscape changes, providing a unique experience each time you visit. We suggest you reserve a half-day for your adventure.
Bushkill Falls is the “Niagara of Pennsylvania”
Why should you plan a trip to the Pocono Mountains’ region?
As the nights turn chillier and the leaves that adorn the trees of the Pocono Mountains fall to the ground and create a gentle blanket of vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange, celebrate fall by tuning into the sounds of freshly fallen leaves underfoot. Celebrate the four seasons in the Pocono Mountains.
“There’s something for everyone in the Pocono Mountains. It’s all here and that’s fortunate for us. Family time is part of the fabric of our lives. You remember those moments together.” Gina Bertucci, Fernwood Resort.
“Garden Doug Z,” also known as Doug Zimmer, cultivates many varieties of plants in his gardens at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania.
His craft is to provide Shawnee Inn guests with the freshest farm-to-table produce and vegetables.
Zimmer is the lead gardener at Shawnee Inn, formerly Buckwood Inn, a historic inn with a well-established reputation for extraordinary customer service and lodging and championship golf courses. The Shawnee Inn guests know today is due in part to visionary Charles Campbell Worthington. According to Shawnee Inn history, Worthington was an engineer and inventor by trade, who never enjoyed urban living. Soon, after discovering the great outdoors at Shawnee on Delaware, he relocated to this quaint, small village in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania and “made his mark in the community.” Current owners, Charles and Ginny Kirkwood and their family, are also advocates for sustainability and preserving natural resources.
Garden Doug Z is an experienced gardener and is highly-regarded for his vast knowledge of horticulture. He carries on the Shawnee tradition of “fresh food from the gardens on premises” and outsourcing, only as needed, from nearby farms.
Here’s a quote from the Shawnee Inn history archives.
“The food served in the dining room came fresh from gardens on the premises and nearby farms, an on-site creamery provided fresh milk, cream and butter and drinking water of the purest quality was gravity-fed directly into each room,” according to Shawnee Inn history.
I met Zimmer in early June, while I was a glamping guest at Shawnee Inn. Upon meeting him, I asked my host, Kaitlyn O’Connor, Shawnee marketing coordinator, if I could interview him and snap some photos of Doug alongside his various gardens. Little did I know, he is also the lone gardener.
Zimmer quickly noted, “It’s really not hard to be the lead gardener when you’re the only gardener.”
Sure, he gets help from management when he needs it, but Zimmer added, “I’m pretty much on my own a lot of the times. Today, I needed help with tilling.”
What is the origin of his nickname?
He said, “Some girls gave me the nickname Garden Doug Z.”
How many acres does he farm?
He’s not sure, but I can attest that rows of vegetables and herbs are methodically interspersed in several tracts of land that border the Shawnee golf course. One of his gardens is situated along the golf course, with a spectacular view of the Delaware River.
“I can tell you how I grew tomato plants 30 years ago but I really have a problem with people’s names and acres.”
Elephant garlic, onions, cabbage, tomatoes, and kale are among the varieties of vegetables he plants and cultivates each year.
All of his plants are grown from seed but he noted he is also blessed to have access to a greenhouse. “We don’t bring out the plants (from the greenhouse) until the weather settles down.”
Intrigued by herbs
As we moved to the herb garden that was brimming with healthy, nurtured plants, Zimmer graciously handed me a sample of his “Mountain Mint” crop that flourishes in his herb garden.
“The medicinal property of the mint is it’s an “antispasmodic,” he said.
And as he pointed to the chamomile, he explained,
“I think I’m happy and sedate enough that I don’t need the chamomile, but I’m very intrigued by medicinal plants. There’s an actual sedative in that stuff and that’s pretty cool.”
His affinity for horticulture developed at a young age.
“I couldn’t eat an apple without planting the seeds,” he said.
Obsessed with gardening
Zimmer admits his gardening is a compulsion.
He quipped, “I had it so bad in years past when I put all of my tropical, succulents, and jade plants inside for the winter. I couldn’t sit in my living room. I couldn’t get into my spare bedroom. So, two years back, I said to myself, ‘Doug, this is a sickness and you’ve got to have a 12-step program.”
Zimmer is a generous soul
He’s also known for giving plants away and converting a lot of people who believe they have a “brown thumb.” His advice to those folks is “You’re just a beginner and you’re growing the wrong plants. I have some plants for you that are hard to kill unless you put them in the oven at 350 (degrees).”
“You reap what you have sown”
Sustainability is widely practiced at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort and Zimmer’s goal is to utilize more seeds from his gardens and use natural compost materials to ensure the gardens are as organic as possible.
“We use composted leaves and mix some of the (ShawneeCraft) brewery stuff in there,” Zimmer said. “It’s definitely the compost that makes a difference.”
Taste trumps everything
While heirlooms are very fickle to grow, Zimmer plans to add other heirloom cultivars of tomatoes to his repertoire. Ultimately, taste is the deciding factor that trumps everything.
“If it tastes good, I’ll bend over backward to get that. I’m very proud of that. Through the years, it (the plant) has got to evolve.”
Learn more about menus at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort here.