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A Spa is Born in Pennsylvania - The Lodge at Woodloch
By Bernard Burt -, 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.
Secluded 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 the family. 
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 view.
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.
Beyond Pampering
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. 
Online: www.thelodgeatwoodloch.

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

 Bernard Burt

Also See: Kohler Co. Makeover of Scotland's Old Course Hotel Features First Kohler Waters Spa Outside America / July 2006
The Asian Spa Market Experiencing Brand Expansion / Bernard Burt / June 2006
Kohler Co. Acuires the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort and Spa in St. Andrews, Scotland from the Kosaido Company of Japan / October 2004
The American Club, Owned by Kohler Co., Building an Onsite Spa Showcasing the Kohler Brand / Mar 2000


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