Sometimes you need a hug and a cookie.
I arrived at the Inn at Westwynd Farm numb and dazed from too much exposure to the frigid Pennsylvania air and too little heat in my car. I tried to mutter a cheery greeting to Frank Troxell, who owns the property with his wife, but my face wasn’t working. He smiled sympathetically and opened his arms. I scooted inside and quickly thawed, like a frozen dinner in an oven. Nearby in the kitchen, Carolyn was arranging cookies on a cooling rack.
“I made these for you,” she chirped.
I surveyed the countertop, covered in vegan pumpkin treats, and assessed the situation: To consume them all, as a gracious guest should, I would have to pop five cookies per hour or extend my stay by several days.
Adding to the challenge was the table in the parlor, which Carolyn had loaded with plates and platters of sweets: chocolate brownies, oatmeal Craisin cookies, raspberry bars, fruitcake bites and fortune cookies. In the corner, a hot beverage station offered bottomless cups of Keurig coffee and tea, plus hot chocolate. There was also clipboard with a sign-up sheet for breakfast. Serving time ran from 8 to 10 a.m. Grace and Timothy, a couple from York, Pa., claimed the early-bird slot; this guest with the sleeping habits of a teenager penciled in 9:54.
“You better not be late,” Frank joked to me, “or you’ll be docked.”
As a backup (the rooms do come with such oversleeping devices as fireplaces and thick quilts), I plotted alternate breakfast plans. For example, each room comes with two Hershey chocolate bars and a big bowl of kisses (the choco-town is only three miles away). And in the downstairs living room, the owners stock the fridge with wine, soda, beer and water and set out pretzels, granola bars and microwavable popcorn. Or I could negotiate with the horses in the barn for their carrots.
Of course, Mother, I would never eat chocolate for breakfast, nor would I steal a horse’s snack. Especially when the graceful animals are the inn’s raison d’être.
In 1975, the Troxells bought their young daughter a horse named Radar, because he “was so little,” Carolyn said. (Pop culture reference: See “M*A*S*H.”) Five years later, the couple acquired the 32-acre farm and its outbuildings in Hummelstown to accommodate their expanding brood of children and growing horse hobby. They boarded other riders’ animals, doting on their guests with loving attention and a quality mix of hay and feed (notice any parallels?). In 2002, the recent retirees opened the inn, with 10 rooms for visitors with 10 toes and 25 stalls for those with hooves.
The horse theme runs like a blue ribbon through the inn and down the hill to the barn. All but one of the rooms honors the equines who fill up the family’s memory book (the outcast is Landar, a Great Dane). Fortune’s Return was the show name of Radar. Serendipity was “a dapple grey pony mare who unexpectedly came into our lives,” reads the room bio. (Ask Carolyn to tell the heart-lifting story about the foal from Florida.) I stayed in Killarney, which was named after the champ who almost made it to the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney with the Troxells’ daughter Mary in the saddle.
Horsey artwork and decorative pieces are tastefully sprinkled across the three-story house, creating a vibe that is more pastoral English manor than My Little Pony shrine. Paintings and sculptures featuring the animal in various environments and poses brighten the main public spaces. In my guest room, the bathroom hand towels hung from a pair of leather stirrups, and a trash can with images of horses rested near the fireplace and large-screen TV. On the dresser, a horseshoe-shape pen holder cradled a writing instrument and, behind the king-size bed, prints of fetching riding scenes enlivened the wall space between two large windows overlooking the south pasture and pond.
“We want people to feel like they are in the country,” Carolyn said, “but not ducks-and-bunnies cute.”
Of course, you can’t ignore the cuddly side of the inn. Two words: Paco and Taco, the alpacas.
Twice a day, the employees deliver meals to the menagerie of animals — stall service. I won’t rise early to feed myself, but I will get up at any hour to nourish a four-legged friend. At 8 on the dot, I passed Timothy, Grace and a cinnamon coffee cake in the dining room. Frank handed me two carrots and sent me on my way.
In the red barn, I was immediately welcomed by two yellow Labs, Pete (insta-BFF) and Polly (aloof and barky), followed by Hugo (cheerful) and Tommy (wry), the farm staff. Hugo let me follow him on his rounds and help fill 21 buckets with oats and other chow. He introduced me to some of the residents, including Willie, the oldest boarder at 35 (or so) years of age, and Storm, the youngest at 3. I admittedly played favorites and gave Sparkle, the Troxells’ granddaughter’s horse, a chunk of carrot. I fed the rest to Hugo and Tommy — donkeys, not the caretakers.
When I returned to the house, a second couple had replaced the first at the long wooden table. I sat on a stool in the kitchen and chatted with Carolyn as she prepared their waffles with a generous toss of pecans or chocolate chips and a blizzard of powdered sugar. She also gave me a preview of my breakfast: baked oatmeal mixed with muesli, sliced apples, raisins and brown sugar, with an orange sauce on the side. I assumed that she would scoop out a portion; instead, she placed the whole baking dish on the table. With creative spooning, I ate most of it but covered my tracks.
By mid-morning, the horses were out in the fields grazing, and the other guests had retreated back to their rooms. The table of treats still groaned from the weight of decadence.
I regretted checking out, but fortunately my departure resembled my arrival: I left with a cookie and a hug.
“You’re much warmer now,” Frank said, before ushering me back out into the cold.
The Inn at Westwynd Farm
1620 Sand Beach Rd., Hummelstown, Pa.
Rates from $109 per night.
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