There’s an unassuming little place in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania completely devoid of heart-shaped Jacuzzis, Champagne glass pedestal hot tubs and other ‘70s honeymoon relics. Picture Kellerman’s Resort from “Dirty Dancing” combined with such sleepaway camp staples as bonfires, Bananagrams marathons, movie nights and communal dining.
Deerfield Health Retreat & Spa in East Stroudsburg lacks airs, pretensions and physical abuse. This is neither Canyon Ranch nor Biggest Loser. Nobody checks your luggage for contraband Entenmann’s. There are no alarm clocks, bed checks or surprise drills. If you require structure and 300-count thread sheets to pull yourself together, this is not the retreat for you.
Deerfield is an extension of owner/director Joan Wolff. As the spa’s website declares, this is a “friendly, casual adult weight loss camp and day spa that favors health over hype and laughs over luxe.” Wolff is the kind of people person who becomes family mere seconds after check-in. She is warm, funny, dedicated, and runs a tight ship in order to offer the ideal getaway – one that I became addicted to after my first very tentative visit three years ago. Before that first visit, I was so high-strung, I kept calling Wolff to ask OCD questions like, “Do we dress for dinner?” and “Do I have to sign up for the hikes in advance?” She laughed at me and said, “Just get here.” I was clearly in need of a spiritual detox.
At this magical retreat, approximately four hours from Baltimore (even now, I’m hesitant to share my secret with all of you, but I know Wolff would appreciate the company), guests can have all their meals prepared for them (healthy, yet tasty, really). They can work out all day from morning stretch at 9 a.m. to yoga at 9 p.m. with step aerobics, body bar basics, ab zone, Pilates Reformer and much more in between. Or, they never need to see the inside of a gym. Guests can take a pool class or just splash about (and there is a hot tub, it’s just not shaped like anything but a hot tub). Those inclined to pampering can get spa treatments such as sensitive skin facials, sports massages and contouring seaweed wraps. There are men-specific treatments and couples massages, too. There are even one or two guided hikes a day to any of the nearby parks including Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Bushkill Falls and, of course, the Appalachian Trail. The opportunity to hike every day is what originally drew me to Deerfield, but some guests never go on a single hike – that’s also their prerogative. It’s worth noting that the hike leaders are exactly the kind of guys you want to get lost in the woods with.
Deerfield is open every April (post-Passover) to October. It draws guests of all shapes and sizes from Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, Canada, well, everywhere. I’ve been there with visitors from Puerto Rico and neighbors from the next town over. It’s the “closest destination spa to Washington, D.C.,” according to Wolff.
Guests come armed with personalized goals: Lose weight, eat healthy, work out, return to basics. In my three visits, I’ve seen guests taking a break from caring for elderly parents, partaking in one last pre-wedding diet attempt, celebrating girlfriend weekends, sneaking in a quick break between semesters, even rehabbing from a sports injury.
I go to Deerfield to Do Me. To reboot, recharge, regroup and relax. I take all the sunrise hikes and most of the afternoon hikes, I sign up for Pilates Reformer, attend as many fitness classes as I can, do laps in the heated pool, check out all the lectures (the spa’s fitness instructors lead the talks and are intensely knowledgeable on proper techniques) and show up for every meal — even if it’s just a snack like cantaloupe with yogurt dip (you learn pretty quickly never to skip a meal at Deerfield). At night, we watch movies, compete for silly prizes at bingo or poker, read in a quiet corner, or treat ourselves to a massage (I usually opt for the deep tissue once in the middle of my stay and once at the end to maximize relaxation levels).
And you’d think after a week or so of being cut off from civilization and dessert, you’d be ready to leave. Not so! I dream of staying at Deerfield for an entire month and coming back half my width. Maybe Wolff would let me write the spa newsletter.
Before you ask: Yeah, I usually lose a few pounds after my stay, but it’s the overall positive, energized outlook I regain that is the true takeaway from a Deerfield experience. I intend to sign up for this recharge semi-annually for the rest of my days. See you there!
Top photo: A Deerfield group, including Amanda Krotki — top row, second from left, — takes a hike in The Poconos with leader Richie. (Handout photo)
Deerfield Health Retreat & Spa
650 Resica Falls, East Stroudsburg, Pa., 18302
Rates vary depending on duration of stay and occupancy.
Read more May Travel stories:
- How to Do Nothing at Chincoteague
- Iceland in February — A Great Spot for Geology Geeks
- Fruits, Labor and the Language of Love in Italy
- Journey to the Heart of Africa
- Costa Rica’s Charms
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- An American in (Jewish) Paris
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