The Highlander

Running Wild With Jen Mathiesen: Jim Thorpe

Jen Mathiesen, Web Editor

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As the weather gradually begins to grow colder, many of us don’t want to walk to class, let alone go out and adventure through the woods. The temperature is intermittently above 50 degrees, and it is well worth it to get out and explore. Although, I woke up to a rainy, miserable looking day, I was determined to still go on the adventure I had planned.

I am so glad I did. Even though it wasn’t that “perfect sunny day,” I was still content: My adventures took me to the town of Jim Thorpe.

Jim Thorpe was originally founded as Mauch Chunk in 1818, and it was renamed in 1953 to honor Olympic medal winner, James Francis Thorpe.

The main attraction that I set out for was the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, located at 1 Susquehanna Street. It is 45 miles from campus and it takes about an hour to get there. (I know that may sound like a long time, but it really isn’t that bad and the ride flies by!)

The Railway operates May through December. Trains run at different times, depending upon the month. During October, November and December, the Railway operates on the weekends and offers several ticket times. The Railway also has several special event rides, including a PA Dutch Treat Train, a Bike Train, an Autumn Leaf Train, the Hometown High Bridge Train and other special trains. Schedules are on the Railway’s website at www.lgsry.com.

While the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway was my focus, we were tempted by a Jim Thorpe Visitor’s Guide that listed many other attractions, the majority of which were located within walking distance of the train station.

We purchased our tickets for the one o’clock train, and they were very affordable – $13 round trip to ride in coach seating. We had some time to wait, so we decided to walk through the town of Jim Thorpe, which is quite unique. It is made up of old Victorian buildings and features some quirky storefronts, restaurants, and historical attractions. As we waited, we felt as if we were in a different time or place. It was remarkable. If we had more time before boarding, we would have eaten in one of the several restaurants.

We came across the Mauch Chunk Opera House, which is a venue for live performances and cultural events year round. Further down the road, we found The Old Jail of Jim Thorpe, which is now a museum (and locals say it’s haunted). You can tour the jail daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and September and October on weekends only. The schedule is at www.theoldjailmuseum.com.

As we made our way back to the station, we stopped at one more spot: the Asa Packer Mansion. The magnificent mansion was built in 1861 for Asa Packer, a philanthropist, railroad magnate, US Congressman, and founder of Lehigh University. The mansion is not restored and exists essentially the same way as when the Packer family resided in it. The building is open for tours. See the schedule at  www.asapackermansion.com.

Once boarded, we embarked onto the tracks that followed the Lehigh River, through Glen Onoko and into Lehigh Gorge State Park. We saw high cliffs, beautiful views, wildlife, and the remaining colors of this season’s foliage. It was such an experience to ride on an historic form of transportation. The great views beckoned us to see the sights after the ride was over.

We went to Lehigh Gorge State Park where we saw an abandoned Railroad tunnel called the Glen Onoko Tunnel (also known as Turn Hole Tunnel). This tunnel was built in the late 1800s by the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad, which was leased to the Central Railroad of New Jersey in 1912. The Railroad tunnel was abandoned in the 1950s.

I recommend that you get a group together and spend some time exploring Jim Thorpe. Make sure to check the schedules and hours of operation for the attraction and plan accordingly.

Whether you go to just one place or many, you will certainly enjoy your time in the stunning Victorian town of Jim Thorpe.

Two girls walk alongside the train as it passes over the bridge. Train rides are 45 minutes in October due to increased popularity and demand.

Two girls walk alongside the train as it passes over the bridge. Train rides are 45 minutes in October due to increased popularity and demand.

Tyler Bartron checks out the train tracks off of the Glen Onoko Falls Trail.

Tyler Bartron checks out the train tracks off of the Glen Onoko Falls Trail.

A young boy and his father get ready to board the Autumn Breeze train car.

A young boy and his father get ready to board the Autumn Breeze train car.

Tyler Bartron glances out of the end of  Turn Hole Tunnel.

Tyler Bartron glances out of the end of Turn Hole Tunnel.

Flowers that have grown next to the train tracks of the Railway.

Flowers that have grown next to the train tracks of the Railway.

The Old Jail Museum holds tours for you to wander through the cold, “haunted” hallways. The tour shows you Cell 17, which has a mysterious handprint on the wall, as well as the gallows where the accused Molly Maguires were put to death.

The Old Jail Museum holds tours for you to wander through the cold, “haunted” hallways. The tour shows you Cell 17, which has a mysterious handprint on the wall, as well as the gallows where the accused Molly Maguires were put to death.

 

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Running Wild With Jen Mathiesen: Jim Thorpe