Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Lodge at Woodloch (Hawley, Pennsylvania)

This is another place Id wanted to try for years.  We had held off mainly because the rooms are "eh."  We decided to have a low-key anniversary this year so spent the weekend at Lodge at Woodloch.

Like many Fall drives in PA the one to Hawley was pretty.  And long, given the last 30 miles or so was on a heavily deer-populated narrow road at night.  Due to obligations at work (hence our desire to get away from it) we were already much later than we had anticipated (had to cancel my LWL massage and skip their pm yoga class) and we knew wed missed dinner which is why we were so surprised when our cell rang.  It was the Lodge asking for our order-saying they would have it ready and waiting for us despite the hour.  We were amazed at how considerate this was and decided if this was indicative of their service as a whole we were in for an excellent weekend!

(Nemacolin, take note) Upon arrival we were warmly welcomed by a valet team.  One whisked away our luggage while the other escorted us through the lobby to the front desk, who greeted us and led us to our table in the dining room.  Perfect ambiance, exceptional service, and good food made for a lovely first night at Woodloch.

Saturday began about as perfect as it could have with spotting a deer near the foliage-encircled waterfall through our room's glass doubledoors!

Our itinerary for today, our anniversary, was diligently researched and reserved well in advance.  Wed start off with a guided morning fitness walk, then an AM stretch class, followed by a guided Kayak trip on the lodge lake, before participating in a geocache along the grounds, then hitting the forest bike trail with a guide (which was our big event for our special day!), finally closing things out with some relaxing pm stretch and yoga before dinner.

Sunday began with the some am fitness classes, then afternoon water painting, then day to ourselves until dinner.

Decor is either hit or miss and in the common areas of the Lodge is def a hit-even some pieces from our own house (thanks RH)!  Because the lobby is otherwise tastefully decorated I will forgive the chakra bowls.  A common room offers a large-screen tv with cable and 24 hour tea, coffee, and cookie snacks.  The outside grounds are very pretty-there is a walking trail, a dock, and a large outdoor fire ring.

The spa is nicely appointed and while I wasnt able to reschedule my cancelled massage or have an opportunity to try other treatments I can say based on my brief interactions the spa staff is not great.  The front desk seemed friendly but uninformed and the "towel woman" was pretty bitter about something, ha.

Woodloch is also a day spa. There were a stream of people in white robes at breakfast and lunch along with us, the resort's overnight guests. Though upon check-in we were told feel free to wear your robes anywhere, we did not. We wore "regular clothes." And it was clear most of the other overnight guests also wore "regular clothes." Most of the people in white robes were chatty women presumably there for a "girls day out." Consensus was this was a bit of an interruption; it'd be nice to maybe have a separate area for them.

The classes I thought were fine and worth the time to build into your schedule.  The setting alone is peaceful as you feel as though you are creating your chi ball literally among the tree tops given the floor to ceiling windows!  The instructors were great-one was a bit cold though knowledgeable enough.

The conditions of the lake rendered the kayak trip impossible.

The geocache was nice.  We had two guides (one in training) and one other couple.  The lead guide (female) was a bit on the louder side and while we would have preferred a more serene experience both were knowledgeable about the area's flora and fauna.  We have done countless geocaches and the other couple none so we sort of left most of the hunting to them (:  When the guides learned we were experienced they said in the future let them know in advance and theyd take us to more difficult caches off the property.

The water painting was fine.  The instructor spent what seemed a great deal of time giving us his personal background but once we finally got started it was an enjoyable experience.  And he was super patient and friendly, as were the other participants, when I spilled my cup of water all over the place.  I found the act of painting in and of itself extremely relaxing.  Though our "art" isnt anything wed display in our home it was a lot of fun to compare.  Her:  Oh I love how you did your mountains!  Him: Your clouds looks really really nice.  And though they are tucked away our paintings do surface now and then when we are looking for something else and we sit for a moment smiling at our work and fondly recalling our time together at Woodloch.

We had two problems, both significant, with our stay.

1. The Lodge encourages you to make reservations for activities well in advance, which as I said, we did. Which is why we were surprised when we arrived in the lobby for our anniversary bike ride through the forest and nobody was there.  We were a few minutes early so we sat by the bowls and waited.  And waited.  Eventually, the great couple of guys who welcomed us our first night approached; they had noticed us sitting there and wanted to make sure everything was ok.  They immediately began investigating.  Turns out there had been only one couple, us, signed up for the bike ride.  Apparently another couple showed up in the lobby a few minutes earlier than we did and the guide took them-never bothering to confirm who they were, where we were, etc.  According to the front desk, allllll other activities, including spa treatments, were fully booked for the day so, they were "sorry," but we were left to our own devices.  Sure we still enjoyed our time together-took naps, took the walking trail, but it wasnt what we had planned.  The bike ride through the forest was our big activity for our special day and they messed it up.  A pretty big mistake in our book.  While, eventually, they offered the bike ride for Sunday  morning, we declined.

2. Upon making our reservations I confirmed theyd be able to accommodate a vegan diet.  I was beyond assured this was absolutely no problem.  Upon arrival I again raised the issue, just to be sure, and again I was assured it wasnt an issue at all.  "We cater to vegan diets all the time," they said with a smile.  So you can imagine my frustration when, aside from the first night, every single meal was an issue.  I asked one waitress (the one with all the tattoos) whether the spread was butter or a dairy-free spread.  She said, no kidding, "This is a spa, we arent going to serve butter here."  Which...yeah, didnt make a lot of sense to me either.  Each meal was pulling teeth to determine ingredients and request substitutions.  One waiter didnt know what "vegan" meant.  Sigh.  We did "complain," and the Restaurant Manager was amazing.  She asked to meet us in the common room to discuss the situation (which really I would rather have discussed in private).  Nonetheless, she definitely heard us and validated our concerns and was embarrassed to learn of our experience.  Though by this point there was but one meal left to be had she did make sure it was perfect.  By the way, she informed us Tattoo was wrong-it was in fact butter.

We also had two absolute highlights during our stay:

1. Saturday night we brought our wine out to the large fire ring. Shortly every seat was full and it was typical group conversation-what everyone does for a living, where they live, what are their interests.  It was a really nice time.  But it became even nicer as people began turning in and eventually we were left with only one other couple.  Though the Lodge states the ring is turned off at a certain hour it blazed through the night as the four of us sat rocking under the stars!

I regret not asking for their contact information.  We dont often so easily click with other couples but we really hit if off.  If you know of a petite blond-haired principal in New Jersey elementary schools with a husband who is adamant public libraries have lost their value, please contact me.

2. Sunday night was our other highlight.  Most couples had left for home and we had nearly the whole place to ourselves.  We headed to the spa common areas where there is a pool, waterfalls, and an outdoor hottub.  After playing around inside we headed to the pis de resistance.  It was here that any negative experience about our weekend slipped away as we spent an indeterminable amount of time together warm and bubbly under the starry sky!

Our closing thoughts on the Lodge itself are we think its "fine." We think for most people its probably "amazing." But its all relative. If youve never had any better you dont know what youre missing.  Though there were exceptions, service was only surface-level good.  We just think weve had better.  That said, the setting is really very pretty and the time spent celebrating our life together was unforgettable!!

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