Vacation Inspiration: Pocono Mountains

Over the holidays I had a couple of weeks off from work. The first week was spent prepping for Christmas and doing holiday crafts, but the second week we took a brief family trip to the Pocono Mountains. I forget they exist ninety nine percent of the time, but they are only an hour and a half away from Philadelphia. Living in the city, we spend a lot of time outside walking from place to place and taking Merle to the park. It's not quite the same as being outside in open grassy and/or wooden expanses of nature, which for me is one of the few down sides of urban dwelling. We originally intended to take Merle tent camping over the holidays to expose her to more nature, but with night time temperatures hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit, it was impractical to take a toddler camping. Instead we opted to spend daytime hours outdoors but sleep inside at night at a quaint, inexpensive inn. It was significantly more comfortable for everyone :)

During our drive up to the mountains, we ate a big, warm breakfast. We started hiking the Appalachian Trial (this section) at around 9am. We were immediately humbled by the beauty of the enormous trees and the tranquil sounds of the river running. Merle couldn't wait to start skipping (throwing) rocks and I couldn't wait to pee out my latte haha Pro tip: bring a pack of tissues, hand sanitizer, and an empty grocery bag to store your dirties. Going potty outside is much nicer than using the nasty porta-potties. Merle was a good sport about hiking, especially in her not-made-for-hiking snow boots, but there were several times I regretted not bringing our Ergo baby carrier. With a toddler the forward progress was slower than we hoped, however there were plenty of interesting spots to stop and take a rest along the way. We would throw aforementioned rocks along the rivers edge or talk about different types of insects, trees, plants, etc we found along the way. Every so often it would start to snow and it was stunning to watch the snowflakes gracefully fall through the tree branches. Being away from the hustle and bustle of the city and at a higher elevation, it felt like I could just reach up and grab the snowflakes out of clouds. Obviously that wasn't the case, but the illusion was real. Occasionally we would see other hikers, but mostly we were by ourselves which was great. 

At around noon, Merle started to doze so we stopped and ate lunch on a fallen tree. In our hiking backpack, we brought along sandwiches, whole fruit, and nutritionally dense snacks like granola bars and dark chocolate covered nut clusters, as well as several bottles of water. Merle slept briefly while X and I ate and as we finished, she woke up to eat hers. Feeling recharged we hiked a couple of more miles, before heading to the hotel around 3pm. 

The hotel, Stroudsmoor Inn, was quaint with a heavy dose of country charm. The entry way featured an elaborate gingerbread village which was really adorable, followed by a roaring fire flanked by several wing back chairs. The woman who checked us in, the same woman who I made the reservations with the day before over the phone, was very pleasant and answered all our questions. Our room was small, but I didn't expect much for $129 a night. It had all the necessities, like a bed, closet, table and chair, TV, and mostly importantly, a shower with hot water to clean up with after a day of hiking. After we cleaned up and checked out the pool (awesome!), we went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. The food was good and the portions were HUGE. Merle passed out during the meal, so we ended up packing our food to go and eating in our bed while Merle slept. We never eat or watch TV in our bed, so it was an extra treat to be able to kick back in bed, eat, and watch the Hunger Games on TV. Eventually Merle woke up, ate dinner, and went back to bed. All in all it was a slam dunk day. 

My favorite part of the stay at Stroudsmoor was breakfast the next morning. Breakfast was included in the cost of room, which in my opinion generally means it's not going to be very good. I was wrong this time. Muffins and incredibly delicious scones were on the table when we got to the dining room. Unlike most freebie hotel breakfasts, we ordered made to order items off a regular menu. Options that day included pancakes, French toast, omelets, and custom egg dishes. Everything came with bacon, toast, and fruit, plus plenty of coffee and fresh squeezed juices. Breakfast was delicious and I loved being able to order whatever I wanted off the menu with a receipt totaling zero dollars. Is that weird?

We went swimming in the pool for a couple of hours which was so much fun for Merle and I. Then we wandered the property surrounding the inn. They specialize in weddings so that had a wide range of buildings and service on the grounds. They also have a hiking trail. We made the mistake of continue to hike after the trail ended and wound up in someones backyard. Whoopsies! Shortly thereafter we drove home and everyone slept soundly during the ride (except me of course). It was a wonderful, although brief trip, and I can't wait for our next hiking adventure! 

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