Magical Milford: a Queer Martha Mini-Guide to the Poconos
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
My mother always said, "Everything changes once you hit the Poconos." She was talking about weather patterns, and I suppose there are actual scientific reasons that make the weather change when you hit the Poconos, but there is also something magical about these mountains. You should go check it out.
My dear friend Veronica got Rachel and me a weekend getaway in a cabin in the Poconos as a wedding gift. It's hard to choose a time to head to Poconos. Between the canoeing and hiking in the summer, the skiing in the winter, and the fall colors that cannot be beat, the Poconos are amazing in every season. We chose to head up around Valentine's Day because what else we were going to do for Valentine's Day, you know? The cabin Veronica got us was right on a late in a little community of cabins, but since it was the off-season, there were few other people there. We arrived at our cabin late on Friday night and fell asleep in the perfect mountain silence.
We woke up on Saturday longing for an over-the-top weekend-getaway brunch. Thanks to the magic of Yelp, we found Dingman Ferry's own Forklift Cafe.
Just by hearing the name, I assumed the Forklift Cafe would be reminiscent of the cheesesteak joint connected to the Home Depot in South Philadelphia that is always packed with contractors picking up lumber. I was not against this image, but when we instead found an adorable blue building nestled in the forest boasting a retro-inspired logo and sign, I was pleasantly surprised.
The Forklift Cafe was awesome. It was a wonderful mash up of a main street cafe and a truck stop diner. There was a little shop inside with funny tchotchkes, blackboards with the specials written in chalk, waitresses who recommended the raspberry hot chocolate, and hamburger buns shaped like lips.
Yep, Rachel ate a breakfast hamburger that was shaped like lips. That is the definition of culinary genius, my friends. On my side of the table, I enjoyed the best god damned chocolate chip pancakes I have ever had. I don't even know how they made them so good, but strike me down if that wasn't the fluffiest, chocolatiest, tastiest stack of pancakes I ever put in my mouth. After my pancakes from the gods, I completely ignoring the waitress's suggestion and I ordered a s'mores hot chocolate for dessert. You see, the Forklift Cafe has an entire hot chocolate menu written on a little blackboard, and I beg you not to leave the cafe before you order one. This concoction seriously tasted like a fire-roasted s'more.
We left the Forklift feeling satiated and headed for the beautiful town of Milford.
I had been to Milford briefly before when Rachel and I went canoeing on the Delaware River, but we never really explored around town. Milford's main drag, called Broad Street, is full of cute shops, like Upriver Home here. Milford is, in fact, up the Delaware River, and I really appreciate how literal the owner was when he named his store. Everything in Upriver Home is beautiful and well-curated, and it's worth stopping, checking it out, and supporting a local business.
In addition to Upriver Home, downtown Milford boasts loads of antique shops (I very nearly bought an old card catalogue until Rachel asked me where I was planning on putting it.), art galleries, and eateries. The historic Hotel Fauchère in Milford is part of the distinguished Relais & Châteaux network which puts it in the same league as some European castles. Both the restaurant and the bar of the Hotel Fauchère are excellent choices for refueling while in Milford. At the hotel's Bar Louis you can order sushi pizza. You have to trust me on this - it was awesome.
Under no circumstance should you leave Milford without touring the grounds of Grey Towers National Historic Site, the former estate of Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the United States Forest Service and a super progressive Pennsylvania governor. If you have ever driven on a road in rural PA, you should thank Pinchot, and then you should tour his estate.
Today Grey Towers is open to the public, and its mission it to maintain the estate’s historic integrity, to continue the tradition of Pinchot hospitality, and to strengthen Grey Towers’ connection to the community through public programs such as musical events, public walks and talks, interpretive mansion tours, and conservation education.
It might not be easy for you to get into Grey Towers. You might find that the main gate is closed and there is no place to park. Don't worry, you can always park on the side of the road down the street and then enter through a random gate hidden behind the old guard's house. It is unclear if this is trespassing, but it's not your fault they didn't lock that gate, right?
There were totally other people walking around the estate, so either it was totally ok to go through that little gate, or we were all trespassing and that's just how things go in Milford. I was pretty please that we overcame this hurdle, though.
You walk uphill on a long path to reach the mansion. Once you arrive, stone turkeys greet you in that regal way that only stone turkeys can.
Guys, look at these guard turkeys! This dude was seriously Pennsylvania Proud. Who wouldn't be, though, you know? We're a Commonwealth, and we're awesome.
Rachel and I spent about two hours walking around the estate and exploring the grounds. The interpretive signs tell you the story of Gifford Pinchot and his family, but they also describe the trees you see on the estate and why many of them are significant.
And the view is to die for!
Perhaps the best part of Grey Towers is not the historic preservation or the environmental conservation or even the public programming that makes Pinchot's legacy live on. No, the best part of Grey Towers is the absolutely endless opportunities to make a moody hipster photo shoot happen. We just could not stop.
After a day of being moody hipsters in the Poconos, it was time to retire to our cabin on the lake. Rachel freaked out a little bit as I walked out on the ice to get a good photo of the Pocono sunset, but I think it was worth it.
The Poconos are a magical place where you can find frozen lakes, grand estates, and delicious freaking pancakes. We hope to return in the summer for a canoe trip down the Delaware River - it's always exciting to see how the seasons change in this gorgeous place.