Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 16, 2017
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Indulge in Glendorn’s understated luxury

America’s No. 1 hotel resort whispers “wealth” softly

The Lodge at Glendorn is a Relais & Château mountain property in Bradford, Pennsylvania that’s best known for fly-fishing, and trap and skeet shooting. It opened to the public in 1995 and was last year named the #1 Resort Hotel in the Continental US by Travel & Leisure.

I am neither a fly-fisher nor trapshooter, but last year, for our yearly getaway weekend, my two sisters and I drove 31/2 hours south of Toronto, not unlike the pilgrimage skiers from southern Ontario make to Ellicottville. Glendorn is down the road. It’s 607 hectares nestled deep in a valley abutting Allegheny National Forest.

While Glendorn is remote, it glows with the rustic elegance you’d expect from a five-star lodge. This is all because of its history. It started as the family retreat of a 19th-century Pennsylvania oil baron, Clayton Glenville Dorn, and grew, topsy-turvy, springing up a total of eight cabins as the children enlarged their families. But when each cabin can sleep nine to 10 people, you have the makings of a commercial lodge. That happened in 1995, but the fourth generation of Dorns managed it for 15 more years, which explains its deeply homegrown roots.

It has the feel of a stage set when you enter the cabins. We were housed in the Roost, named after a granddaughter who married her childhood sweetheart with the last name Bird. Constructed in the 1930s around a stone fireplace (there are 41 working fireplaces on the property), one later addition was added, each also with its own fireplace. It is an enchanting warren of rooms with handcrafted built-in everything. We opened doors, chattering about details, getting lost in the maze of rooms, laughing as we rounded corners.

Yet, as always, it’s the small details that captivated us. Still-warm chocolate chip cookies awaited us. Two different coffee machines turned us into discriminating baristas. The ice bucket was chilled and an ancient metal-lined ice-drawer provided endless restocking for our whole visit. The fridge was full of sodas, the bar amply stocked. We knew, sitting in front of the crackling fire, we would happily never move. But we had adventures planned.

Slippery fish

Skeet shooting was a novelty, but our guide, Damon Newpher, turned us from nervous beginners into eager ones. He selected very light shotguns for us and his instruction was instrumental in our success because we actually did hit those flying discs.

Then… “Do we want to go jeeping?”

We were off on a guided history of timbering in the Alleghenies, the oil boom, current forest husbandry, selective logging and the changing nature of forest growth around Glendorn.

Damon earned his spurs as a guide in the south, but he returned home to ply his trade as a top woodsman and fly-fishing guide. Sitting with him atop the Allegheny plateau at 640 metres, he pointed to his home two hilltops over where he and his wife would hike a virginal stand of Eastern Hemlock and White pine that evening after work. He’s worked at the lodge for 17 years and clearly has never lost his patience with the uninitiated or the love of his craft.

But it’s around fish that you can feel you are in the hands of a trout-whisperer: “they will get skittish if you don’t land the fly correctly; there’s only one chance at this.” This is said as we gaze into a swirl of trout visible in the lowest water levels seen in years. For us, they just won’t bite.

He offers to lay out a hike for the next day and asks if we want to have lunch delivered to the top of the hill so we don’t have to carry our food all the way up.

“Absolutely.”

“Leave it to me.”

We then head back to the lodge and into the spa for facials that leave us plenty of time to explore the grounds and chat with staff. We learn stories that have clearly endured through the decades. The miniature fire wheel truck, constructed to haul 18 kids around the property, has been faithfully restored and is operable. The playroom stocks ‘round-the-clock ice cream and a corn-popping machine for snacking between pool rounds. Tennis courts hug shuffleboard areas, bikes abound. But it is the fly-fishing and shooting cabin centres that signal you are in the presence of hallowed ground.

Dinner at the Hideout

Orvis waders and boots are racked outside the outfitters, and the gunroom boasts exquisitely ordered cabinets of shotguns. No gear? No problem. Faded pictures attest that every Dorn child rode, shot, fished, tramped, swam — and bits of that legacy are on the walls to ignite our own sense of nostalgia.

When it comes to meals, there is nothing rustic about Glendorn. A four course tasting menu of French cuisine changes daily. The wine list is appropriately expansive, the service efficient under the great chandelier. We overeat. We love it. We groan our way to deep, silky-sheeted beds, each in our own quarter, the silence of the place almost a resounding force in itself.

The highlight of our stay occurred during our hike and was part of Damon’s plan that we not carry packed lunches.

“Hike up to the Hideout,” he suggested. “Feed the fish along the way at the fish hatchery and let us deliver lunch.”

The Hideout was the secluded haunt of Forest Dorn and boasted its own workshop for him to add to the build-ins. If there was a light on, visitors were welcome; if not, don’t bother slugging it up the last of the stiff hike up from the valley.

So, having done just that, we were enchanted with the setting, but even more so when three SUVs pulled up. Three staffers leapt out to light up the BBQ, setting a fine table and presenting us with generous servings of roasted sirloin tips, mashed potatoes, arugula/goat cheese salad, and gluten-free berry crumble, all presented piping hot in elegant copper cookware.

Only after we nosed around in the Hideout, exploring its own exquisite cabinetry, did we push on with our hike, now even more necessary to burn off some calories. In the glow of the warm October light, we not only finished our hike, but carried on to Bondieu Lake where the kayaks, paddleboards and canoes were beached. Where else to try paddle-boarding if not on this jewel of a man-made lake?

By sunset, we’d come full circle and were back in the Roost, preparing for yet another dining extravaganza.

Glendorn is open year-round, and its winter activities promise equal measures of indoor luxury and outdoor snow-shoeing, ski-doos and cross-country ski trails replacing the 29 kilometres of hiking trails. Then again, there are those 41 working fireplaces.


The Lodge at Glendorn (from $525 a night, double occupancy; glendorn.com) has 16 distinct accommodations, most in standalone cabins. The Main Lodge features four distinct rooms and suites.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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