Last October we spent two nights in the town of Jim Thorpe. The town was originally named Mauch Chunk, a name derived from the native Nunsee-Lenape Delaware people. Following the 1953 death of renowned athlete and Olympic medal winner Jim Thorpe, Thorpe’s widow and third wife, Patricia, was angry when the government of Oklahoma would not erect a memorial to honor him. When she heard that the boroughs of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk were desperately seeking to attract business, she made a deal with civic officials. The city obtained the athlete’s remains from his wife and erected a monument to the Oklahoma native, who began his sports career 100 miles southwest, as a student at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
The town of Mauch Chunk was at that time an important railroad and coal shipping center. Currently the population is around 5,000 and the town appears to depend on the tourist trade. Because of its picturesque scenery and mountainous location, the city is sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of America (considerable imagination is required) or the Gateway to the Pocono Mountains.
We were there several days before Halloween and all of the stores had appropriate decorations. The ‘old’ part of the town is small but the decorations and fall colors made the town was very attractive. Located in Jim Thorpe is the historic Mauch Chunk Opera House which is one of Americas oldest vaudeville theaters, still in operation after more than 135 years. We attended a fun show in the Opera House consisting of three silent films by three famous silent film comedians–Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. A professional orchestra, Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, added live music to the films. We stayed in the Inn at Jim Thorpe. Built in 1849 the Inn ‘combines old world charm with modern amenities’. We would agree. The rooms were comfortable and spacious.
But why were we in Jim Thorpe–the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. Cannot remember how I stumbled on this railroad but when I noticed that trains were still running through October I saw an opportunity for a trip. Since it was already late October the only rational response had to be ‘lets get packed’. But where should we stay? There is a small town nearby, Jim Thorpe, which should be OK!
Currently, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway operates trains into the Lehigh Gorge State Park from the former Central Railroad of New Jersey station in historic downtown Jim Thorpe. We took two rides one to the High Bridge and the other up the Lehigh Gorge. The High Bridge trip was only available on the first four weekends in October. The Hometown High Bridge at 168 feet tall and 1,000 feet long, is the scenic highlight of the trip. Also, the train passes two lakes along the way on the approximately two hour trip. Of course you cannot see the bridge from the train but you do get nice views of the surrounding country. The Lehigh Gorge trip used open air cars and traveled up the Lehigh River.
After the day of train rides we hiked the the nearby parks. Nothing particularly exciting. But with nice waterfalls, fall colors and being outdoors–nothing more is needed.
Click to see the images.