|By Bernard Burt - www.SpaGoer.com, July 2006
Hawley, PA: Thai massage amid the Poconos somehow feels odd. Perhaps
because I'm from Philadelphia, never vacationed beyond Stroudsburg. But
here in the Lakes District at the northeastern tip of the state, spa lovers
are beating a path to The Lodge at Woodloch for a world-class experience.
in forests surrounding Woodloch Springs, a popular family resort, The Lodge
is part of a private 75-acre preserve opened this summer as an adult-only
spa. Architecturally stunning, the 58-room structure harks back to
the great camps of the Adirondacks and Poconos, but has state-of-the-art
fitness and lifestyle programs managed by top professionals led by Pennsylvania
native Ginny Lopis and her husband John, 65, originally from New Jersey.
Greeting guests in the garden foyer with waves of sound created by
stroking crystal bowls, Lopis explains that these bowls are tuned to energy
centers in your body, called heart chakras. The first order of business
is a private consultation with spa director Leslie Johnson, who brings
25 years of experience in the health and wellness industry to the new resort.
"The foundation of our program is based on nature," says Johnson. Choices
range from kayaking and hikes to water therapies and cooking classes. Customized
treatments include facials, mud baths, Native Sage Stone Massage, and Lavender
Garden Dream. Or you can simply opt for Swedish massage and personal services
in the beauty salon.
So you've never tried Thai massage? Neither have most Americans.
Call it modesty or an aversion to being touched by a stranger. Having been
stretched from spine to shoulders by a master therapist at the Oriental
Spa in Bangkok while researching my new book, "100 Best Spas of the World,"
I call Thai massage life-enhancing.
Ted Kaminski does traditional Thai like a native. He perfected the
art by studying with healers at a school of natural medicine in northern
Thailand. We first met at a Marriott resort in Florida. Ted moved to Woodloch
last June, attracted by the climate and an opportunity to help open the
nation's newest destination spa. Among guests, the word was "get Ted."
On a cushioned floor of the Lodge's cool 27-room spa, Ted held my arms
while walking on my spine. As tension releases, pain turns to bliss. Then
he escorts me to the "Whisper Lounge" where robed guests meditate, sip
water and herbal tea while relaxing on wicker chaises with panoramic views
of the forest.
Forget everything you've heard about spas. The Lodge at Woodloch breaks
the mould. From gourmet food to high-energy workouts, luxurious accommodations
and romantic privacy, this is a place that appeals to sophisticated spa-goers
as well as young couples enjoying their first taste of quality time without
Whirlpools with a view, for instance. Windows etched with leaf patterns
bring nature inside the saunas, steam rooms, and Jacuzzi. Soaking in the
outdoor pool, you're surrounded by the forest. Stone patios are heated
for year-round use. Design details come naturally; John and Ginny have
been involved in the spa industry for 20 years. Their client list
includes the new Cloister at Sea Island in Georgia, Bacara Resort in Santa
Barbara, Doral Saturnia Spa in Miami, and legendary Canyon Ranch in Arizona.
But building their own spa was a new experience. Lodge guest rooms are
spacious, with marble-walled shower stalls, veranda overlooking woodland
or waterfall gardens. In the garden, a firepit for storytelling under the
stars. Workouts are enhanced by window-wall exercise studios with forest
Personal awakening and renewal suddenly become realistic goals. Try
reflexology, or workouts on the latest Cybex and Spinning equipment. Sign
up for aerobics classes, or meander down to the lake. Lead therapist Francis
Vincente, a recent transplant from Utah, is entranced with the natural
beauty of Woodloch, and spends days off with his wife, also a massage expert,
exploring nearby Milford and Lake Wallenpaupeck.
Defining the Difference
A destination spa focuses on your well-being, and you are part of a
supportive group of like-minded vacationers. Unlike resort spas offering
sports and entertainment, the Lodge at Woodloch is totally self-contained,
with indoor swimming pool, spa and gym all under one roof with dining and
lodging included in the daily tariff. There's even a gallery of Pennsylvania
paintings. The only reasons to go beyond the gate are golf and antiquing.
Lodge guests have access to sports facilities at Woodloch Pines, and scheduled
outings in the Lackawana River Corridor.
If the daily tariff of $575 sounds steep, the Lodge includes an hour-long
spa service of your choice, along with unlimited meals, making the
all-inclusive rate a good value. But you can come for a day without
staying at the Lodge: swim, workout, massage, and dinner are included in
the Day Spa package for $300.
Learning to slow down was a challenge for Lodge manager Joe Dantoni.
Previously he managed the award-winning Harbor Court Hotel in Baltimore,
Md., for 15 years. Now his day includes staff training and a request from
guests for a limo to Scranton (No problem; transfers are handled by a company
based nearby in Honesdale). Joe sees potential development of skiing at
Mosaic Mountain and casinos as good for regional tourism but doubts spagoers
need distractions. "Guests don't want to leave."
Meals at the Lodge exercise your creativity, featuring organic farm
produce from the region, and surprisingly gourmet desserts. Chef Lyle Bolyard
came from Nemacolin Woodlands Resort near Pittsburgh to head the culinary
arts program at Woodloch. You can learn secrets of healthy cooking in a
demonstration kitchen, and how to cultivate herbs and edible flowers in
the chef's garden. Bolyard's kitchen crew turns out a wide selection of
buffet items for breakfast and lunch, plus a menu that includes yogurt
and fruit smoothies, seasonal game, and fish. Dinner brings the option
of cocktails on the terrace or at the tapas bar, and fine wines and organic
beer to complement the menu.
Who said spa food was for the birds?
Watching red-throated robins take flight, John Lopis reflected on the
energy generated by building the Lodge at Woodloch. Five area banks cooperated
to finance the $37 million project, he tells me, which created 200 new
jobs. Their goal was a place where you become aware of wisdom within.
As my energy level rose, anything seemed possible.
If you go:
The Lodge at Woodloch is located three hour's drive from Philadelphia
or Manhattan. Connect from I-476 to I-84 east, exit 8 (Mt. Cobb)
and follow Rt. 348 to Rt. 590 east through Hawley. From points east, I-84
to Rt. 6 west through Milford and Hawley.
The Lodge's all-inclusive package provides three meals daily, group
fitness activities and classes, lectures and events, plus a choice of 50-minute
spa service, consultation or training session. The opening celebration
(through Oct. 31) adds value with a fourth night free when you stay three.
The four-night package starts at $1,725 per person; beginning Nov. 1 rates
are reduced to $1,200 for a four-night stay. Daily rates from $575 per
person are based on two persons sharing a room. After fall color season,
daily rates start at $400 per person. Added are service charges and
gratuities (18%) and applicable state and local taxes.
For reservations and additional information, call toll-free 1-800-953-8500.
About the Author: Columnist for Healing Lifestyles
& Spas magazine, Bernard Burt authored "100 Best Spas of the World"
recently published by The Globe Pequot Press; online at www.SpaGoer.com.