The Lodge at Glendorn

photophotophotophotophotophotophotophotophoto Sometimes as the 58 year old kid, you have to treat yourself to life’s wonderful pleasures that are not muddy, adventurous, snowcovered, or viewed from underneath a smelly sleeping bag in a tent. This was the case this weekend when Janet and I went to the Lodge at Glendorn in Bradford, Pa. This woodland retreat was created in 1927 by C.G. Dorn as a wonderful family camp to enjoy for years as a respite from the rigors of the oil business. The family built cabins for each of their children and enjoyed hunting and fishing for years until 1995 when they opened it up to the public. Fast forward to the fall of 2009, the Dorn family decided to put the property up for auction and two of their regular guests, Cliff and Tracy Forrest, had the vision to buy Glendorn and not let it be sold into parcels of land. The Forrests have put their heart and soul into the place as evidenced by their induction into the exclusive membership of Relais and Chateaux. http://www.relaischateaux.com Only the finest hotels and resorts are in this directory and you can appreciate this as you wander the grounds and see the thoughtful way the place is landscaped and the cabins are appointed.

As Janet and I approached the black iron gates in our Jeep,which recently hauled mulch and firewood, I tucked my shirt in and announced our presence to the staff who were waiting for us. We were shown to the Dale Cabin built for one of the Dorn sons. This was our second trip to Glendorn and it was our 25th wedding anniversary. The accomodations did not disappoint as each cabin has it’s own flavor and decor consistent with the history of the retreat. As we wandered to the Big House for our lunch, we were greeted by a friendly staff and escorted to a table in the dining room with a great view of the brilliant fall foliage. The fresh flowers on the table adorned with white linen tablecloths and napkins, were welcoming along with the beautuful silverware and utensils. The cuisine is prepared by Executive Chef Joe Schafer and his unique style of menu is second to none. To show you how good this guy is, my friend Cliff gave us a tour of the kitchen and presented a country ham to Joe to prepare for the breakfast menu for the next day. Now if you know anything about country ham, you know that it is like a catcher’s mitt that has been salted to death and is stored in a dry place. It is big in the south and when the boss says to prepare it for the next day, you better know what you are doing for the guests. Joe was spectacular and even prepared it with the traditional red eye gravy and grits. Pretty good for a guy that can prepare world class meals in the Pennsylvania wilds. Cliff even dropped the damn thing in the parking lot but I will tell you, it was good. Dinner was unbelievable and the fresh bread and butter with black sea salt was so good, I remarked to my wife that I would like to swab the butter dish with the warm sourdough bread. But I envisioned the whole dining room staring at me in horror with fixed eyeballs if I had done something like that. Hey, at least I wouldn’t lick the butter dish? But again, Jan’s filet, my salmon and the soups and desserts were to die for as we made our way to the two story fireplace which was lit for us to enjoy. The opening of the fireplace was circled with a stone archway that was protruding from the wall and Cliff told us that when a Dorn became engaged, they had to walk that stone protrusion above the opening of the massive fireplace. Up and over the arch and down the other side. Lots of accidents Cliff said, but part of the great fun with the Dorns and the traditions that they have instilled in the place.

Janet and I hiked and explored the trails which was pretty adventurous seeing that Janet had broken her elbow hiking six weeks ago. But she was game and the beauty of the place was spectacular. We even did a little skeet shooting this weekend under the watchful eye of Cliff and his Orvis endorsed staff. I am not a good shot. I can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a bag of rice, but I had fun trying. You can fly fish here with excellent instruction. Mountain bikes are available for exploration and in the winter, there is cross country skiing, showshoeing, and just up the road is Ellicottville, NY which has loads of alpine skiing opportunities. But if you just want to walk and explore the grounds, that is really relaxing and you can really soak in the atmosphere of this storied 1500 acres. You almost feel as if you are back in time especially if you take the time to read the history of the Dorns at their special retreat. I laughed at the sense of humor of C.G.Dorn in a series of published letters to his best friend bound in an old book on the desk in our cabin. Cliff and Tracy have respected that heritage and kept the history of the place in tact with references to the Dorns and their way of providing rest and comfort for their guests.

Perhaps the most impressive thing abount Glendorn is the attention to detail. The training of the staff is superb as they concentrate on the little things. They serve you coffee with the logo on the mugs facing you and the handle on your appropriate side. The cabins are serviced twice a day. You can go out to fish, hike, etc., and when you return, your bed is made or turned down and everything is tidy as if you had just checked in. Fruit, wine and cheese, snacks, are all available in the rooms in the lodge and the cabins. Really, there is nothing that you can desire because the attention of the staff is so keen. Cliff does not allow tipping. He and Tracy feel that the service should be excellent without the incentive of monetary compensation by the guests. For the 58 year old kid and his bride of 25 years, this was a wonderful getaway. We were sad when we had to drive the Jeep through the black iron gates on the way out, but I said,” Dear, wasn’t that wonderful? I will definitely bring you back here in another 25 years.” Just kidding dear……………. we can’t wait to get back. Check it out and definitely go there. http://www.glendorn.com

As we met our friends for pizza when we returned, we laughed and said,” Well, back to reality.” But, you know, sometimes you just have to appreciate the finer things and “go for it.” That is what good memories are made of and celebrating a wonderful life with my wife couldn’t have been at a better venue. Thanks for reading and go to Glendorn.

Why I like Pittsburgh

IMG00035IMG00012-20091025-1208Giant Rubber Duck's American Debut Goes Swimmingly - Wired Scienceneil_walker.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxphoto Imagine if you will coming into the airport in Pittsburgh,Pa. and not knowing much about our fair city. The first two guys you see are shown above. One is George and one is Franco. Now George made a big splash here in 1753 as a surveyor and almost literally drowned in a big splash in the Allegheny River. But he went on to great notoriety as a British officer and helped to secure the cornerstone of our city’s early existence -Fort Pitt. He later made many trips to our region and Pittsburgh was near and dear to his heart. The other guy, Franco made a great catch in a football game against the hated Oakland Raiders that went down in gridiron history. If you ask most older Pittsburgers today, they will all tell you, in a friendly way, that they were at the game and saw the “Immaculate Reception.” Now if that were true, I would estimate that there were 600,000 people at that game. Wow- that must have been crowded. I don’t rememberit being THAT crowded because I was there. ( Yea – sure you were Pat). But I was.

As you make your way through the tunnels, you are treated to a spectacular collage of buildings and 3 rivers that form the “Point”. You can see the most beautiful baseball field in the country( PNC Park), as well as Heinz Field that is the home of the Pitt Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. But as you make your way to the Strip District and perhaps the South Side, you will begin to notice what makes Pittsburgh so special- the people. Pittsburghers are a friendly lot and will be glad to help you find your way even take you there if they have the time. In many larger cities, folks are in survivor mode and will hip check you to get a cab, or they will do whatever they can to get over on you just because there are so many people. It is survival in the bigger cities, but Pittsburgh is just small enough that the pressure of urban civilization has been lost a little bit on our community.

To go along with the friendliness of the city are the neighborhoods. Please check out a great blog, http://90Proofpgh.wordpress.com This will give you a great feel for the neighborhoods that make the city so special. Local cuisine, taverns, restaurants in corners and nooks, all are represented. Everyone thinks that Pittsburgh is all about Primanti sandwiches, but as good as they are (late at night), there are so many more eateries and establishments in Pittsburgh’s many neighborhoods that can be enjoyed. 90 Proof can illustrate it well.

Pittsburgh is an enthusiastic town. When the steel industry went in the tank in the 80s, Pittsburgh was resilient and vowed not to be a “rust belt” city. The city fathers welcomed construction of new residence communities to encourage surburbanites to think about living and working along the rivers and supporting the new life that was sprouting up out of the coal and dust of the industrial evacuation. Pittsburgh quickly became a white collar community with the UPMC Medical Facility expansion and the rise of the financial markets in town. Along with this entrepreneurial excitement and resiliency, was the spirit of our community in it’s tireless support of it’s sports teams. The Steelers are having a rough start, but that does not stop the Black and Gold faithful from attending in sell out conditions and having their beloved tailgates at every home game. We are in playoff baseball right now and it is the first time that the Pirates have been in the post season in 21 years. The other night the park was standing room only and the balance of fans were either on the Clemente Bridge watching what they could, or glued to ther TV sets at home sporting Bucco gear in their neighborhoods. The Penguins opened their season this week and Stanley Cup fever is in the air and Pittsburgh fans hang on every word that comes out of Sidney Crosby’s mouth.

We even have a 40 foot rubber duckie moored in the water!! Pittsburgh is the innaugural bathtub for the Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s duck and Pittsburghers lined the rivers and the point by the thousands welcoming this piece of inflated art that will be here for a month. The crowds at PNC Park say that the duck is good luck to the Bucs and are grateful that it will be floating close to the stadium in the post season. Shaundra Miles of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust says it best when she remarked that the duck is a “reminder with all that is going on in the world, that there is joy, and joy in simple things.” That is what defines a person living in the ‘burg. We have joy in our communities, our city, our sports teams, and in our lives in general. There is a spirit in Pittsburgh that is most evident in the happiness that a kielbassa sandwich brings at a football game, the micro-brews that are enjoyed at the many local establishments, the thrill of a home run in the post season, the visual bonus of fireworks over our three rivers, the colorful buildings, and the comraderie in the streets during a game or in the work place in anticipation of a win on the ice, field, or gridiron. That spirit is alive in me because of the many nights I sat up and listened to Bob Prince (The Gunner) broadcast a Pirate game and announcing after a victory that ” we had then alllllllll the way!!!” That red plaid sportcoat is etched forever in my memory.

Pittsburgh also has a vibrant outdoor community. Visit http://www.ventureoutdoors.org to see the many hikes, beer tasting hikes, bike rides, snowshoe events, and other outdoor instructional outings that this organization so aptly make available to visitors and locals alike. Janet and I like to use the many bike paths that wind their way through the city. You can park up river and ride to the games, leave your bike in the racks at Kayak Pittsburgh on the Allegheny River, and then return without having to worry about parking. Ride to the Red Fin on Herr’s Island and take in a good lunch while looking at folks enjoying the river on their boats and jetskis. Get involved with the rowing clubs on the island and get instruction on how to take part in a great activity on the river. You don’t have to go to an Ivy League school to learn to row. You can do it on the Allegheny River with a local club.

Well, I may have exhausted that visitor who first stepped off the plane and met George and Franco in the airport. But there sure is enough for him or her to do and maybe, just maybe, they will begin to have that great Pittsburgh spirit as they enjoy dahntahhn with a chipped ham sandwich and some Blend an at. Go see the duck, root for the Bucs, and be glad that you have experienced the “Most Liveable City in America” Thanks for reading.