A Friends Getaway at Woodloch

By Laurie A. Guzda

Spending time with friends can be enjoyed over a lovely dinner, watching a film or attending an art gallery opening. As friends, we support each other’s causes, make it to one another’s functions and help each other overcome challenges. There’s a whole new faction of 50 plus boomers out there that are entering a new phase of life where the kids are grown and even the grandchildren aren’t babies anymore. Retired, semi-retired or just pulling back, we find ourselves finally with the time to do the things we’ve always wanted to do. We’re volunteering and donating time and experience, we’re hungry for learning and exploring; and we look to our friends to help us along the way.

Friendship is as important now as it was through adolescence, we just have better toys. A true test of friendship, like any relationship, is discovering how well you can travel together. So, when eight friends from the New York metro area—Lynne Colatrella, Alon Marom, Carol Shwidock, Michael Turner, Anthony Palazzo, Todd Kosakowski, Philip Heilman and myself—decided to plan a “un-weekend” getaway, we began pooling our resources. With so many schedules to coordinate and hours of endless emails and texts while trying to decide on a location that offered fun, variety and comfort we finally stumbled on one of the best-kept secrets—Woodloch.

Only a two and a half hour drive away, Woodloch is a family-owned resort that has been operating since 1958. It’s actually three resorts in one: the original Pines, the Springs golfing community that rents houses and The Lodge at Woodloch, a destination spa resort. Although the Pines is predominately know as a family resort (voted the #1 family resort in the U.S. according to Trip Advisor) it’s a haven for adventurous adults during the week when kids are in school. If you have the ability to travel weekdays, then you can find some great deals like we found at Woodloch. Many resorts eliminate staff and activities during the week, but not here. In fact, they’ve amped up their offerings for newly or semi-retired folks; business owners; career people who need the Internet, but not an office; and people with jobs that allow for weekday travel.

Here, we discovered the AWAY package. AWAY stands for Art, Wine, Adventure and You. And we dove in to all of the offerings. The wine tasting was fantastic. It was actually a wine-and-chocolate tasting that not only delighted my palette, but also taught me something new that I could bring home to share. It’s a little trick on how you hold the wine and chocolate flavors in your mouth, time it just right to experience the full explosion of its essence. The tasting included four wines, four chocolates, cheese and fresh berries. The wine was easy, something we all enjoyed and didn’t fear. Next, we headed to the Watercolor class. Several of us enjoy doing art and welcomed the class while others were maybe not so much afraid, as reluctant. This is when sharing with friends takes the edge off. It’s frustrating to hear someone say, “I have no creative talent.” Most likely a teacher, parent, sibling or friend long ago instilled that thought—shame on them. Through nervous laughter we trusted the enthusiastic and animated instructor, John Leoni, as he guided us step-by-step along with his personal stories and antidotes. It wasn’t long before a beautiful painting began to emerge. They were all amazing. Todd and Lynne were probably the two most reluctant to paint and yet produced two of the most stunning pieces of art. Later at dinner, Todd commented on how much he enjoyed the class and would do it again the next day. However, we had something else planned.

Fear is a funny thing. It’s a thought that gets into your head and can easily paralyze you. But, with trusted friends by your side you can face any fear head on. Carol was terrified to zip line. She was open and honest about her fear. Because she was surrounded by loving friends, she had the courage to face and overcome it. As far as zip lines go, this is a small zip line, but it’s fast. And after you zip down the hill you then have to leap off a platform to be lowered to the ground. This is not something for the faint of heart. I don’t think Carol was the only one who had reservations, but she was the only one who was honest about it. Everyone zipped and our adrenaline was pumping. Carol’s sense of accomplishment was obvious in her smile after completing the run. In fact, her whole face smiled and radiated her inner strength.

We did art, wine and adventure. We also enjoyed the nightclub, which featured a song and dance review that was delightful. It was followed by a comedian named, Eric Lyden, who was very funny. I still laugh remembering his jokes about the dating sites. The food was abundant and good. We had choices that served all of our needs. Our rooms were very spacious and remarkably clean.

Speaking of service, I don’t think you can talk about Woodloch without mentioning its exceptional customer service. People have been working here for years, some for over 25. They’re so happy that it almost makes you think there’s something in the water. Woodloch is a happy place. I would imagine it starts with the owners who are clearly present and engaged. You feel like you’re invited into their home making you feel like you now have new friends.

The power of friends to make us laugh, learn something new, push boundaries and face fear is a gift. Here’s to Friendship. Pass the chocolate and wine, please.

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