Moose Mountain Lodge was built in 1937-38. The lodge is a big old comfortable log building perched high on the western side of Moose Mountain. It has survived 73 years of snow, sleet, ice, wind, and lightning. The weather comes across the Connecticut River Valley and sweeps up the mountain, wearing away at the log surfaces like sandpaper. Sometimes the wind gets unbearable with its relentless buffeting. We often remark that it’s almost like living on a ship at sea.
The winter of 1973 turned out to be a fateful one for Peter and me. We were living in South Salem New York with our five children and assorted horses, sheep, dogs, and cats. Peter was in the wholesale lumber business and I was teaching in a Head Start program. We read about a water-powered sawmill for sale in Lancaster New Hampshire in Yankee Magazine.
The next weekend we drove to Lancaster to see it. It was a fascinating place but well beyond our mechanical abilities to maintain it. The idea of that challenge plus announcing to our children that we were moving to Lancaster New Hampshire, “the snowmobile capital of the U.S.” was too daunting for us. We wisely decided not to pursue that any further. We came back on a snowy day to Hanover where we spent the night with a friend of mine from my childhood. We envied her life in Etna, skiing out her back door, and easy access in summer to the many lakes and rivers in the area.
Over dinner that night, Maris told us about some friends of hers, the Clarkes who owned a Cross Country Ski Lodge in Etna. We agreed to go there the next morning. When we started up the road to the Lodge the next morning the snow had changed to sleet and freezing rain. We had to leave our car on the first curve of the mountain road and walk up the hill. The Lodge was barely visible in low clouds as we rounded the corner of the slippery driveway. There was no view that day.
We were welcomed inside and quickly warmed ourselves in front of a cheerful fire. We couldn’t take our eyes off the log ceilings. We were entranced by the warmth and welcoming comfort of the huge living room. We were determined to come back as guests in better weather to ski with our family. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Colorado circumstances once in a while?
The winter of 1973-74 turned out to be the year of our first gas crisis and poor snow. We did not come back.
In May, Peter came to Hanover to visit his father who had graduated from Dartmouth in 1913. He had retired to Hanover where he could relive some of his happiest years and be close to skiing. Peter’s father had been a ski jumper while at Dartmouth and a long time ski jumping judge. While at Dartmouth he had skied up to Mt Moosilaulkee from Hanover, a twenty-five-mile trek. People would stop them and ask what they had on their feet. This was in 1912. He was in the first group of men to ski up and down Mt Washington in 1912.
Peter stopped that day to see our friend, Maris in Etna. She told him that the Clarkes were thinking about selling the Lodge. The rest is our history as we are now in our 36th year of owning the Lodge.
The very next week found us back on Moose Mountain, this time able to drive right up to the front door. Now, without the mist, we saw that the Lodge sat on the mountainside with all the Connecticut River Valley spread out below. We explored every nook and cranny of the building, met the goats, drank their milk and fell in love with Moose Mountain. The gentle contours of the pastures that reminded me of Wyoming, now turning green, bordered by maple and birch trees, gave a feeling of utter peace. No cars whizzed by this mountain retreat. This was the ultimate end of the road location- that is, if you could reach it. We didn’t think of details like that. We were negotiating to buy an Inn. That also meant we would be running an Inn, and there would be guests. We could deal with those details later.
In June 1975, Moose Mountain was finally ours! We sighed with relief as the moving van, grinding gears loudly, eased around the last curve. We thought all our worries had ended. We had a plan for running an Inn. We had both stayed at small ski lodges as children and loved the experience. We talked long and hard about what we wanted Moose Mountain Lodge to be like for our guests.
Peter continued his work in New York, living out of a suitcase with friends and relatives while I tried to settle into our new life in New Hampshire. He showed up tired on Friday nights and left again on Sunday or Monday, a painful separation for all of us. But it wasn’t s bad as when I had to check out some opportunities in Arizona a few years earlier.
At long last winter came, bringing our first guests, people coming to eat three meals a day and ski on our trails. Peter unpacked his suitcase for the last time and together we began to cope with the chaos of being hosts to twenty-five guests.
Luckily, time dims all memories, at least the bad ones. I vaguely remember running out of water because of frozen pipes, running out of water because of an inadequate well, and running out of water because of loss of electricity. Then there were the road crises-people in ditches, people at the bottom who couldn’t get up here, and the people at the top who couldn’t get down.
Obviously, if we are still here after 36 years, we have managed to cope. No matter how bad a situation is it can become worse. Eventually after everything that can go wrong has gone wrong, and you’ve survived, you begin to relax. It was a relief to realize that our guests did not expect us to be perfect. How could we ever have managed without our guests who were always ready to hold the flashlight while we primed the pump or help to thaw the frozen pipes with, it seemed the sheer warmth of their understanding?
Our guests made inn-keeping the way of life that we have loved. We looked forward to meeting new guests and making new friends with as much pleasure as those who returned year after year. Inn-keeping on our beautiful mountain allowed us to live in this peaceful place in isolation while still meeting interesting people.
We have adopted an Old Norwegian saying that hangs over our front door. ”On the mountain, nothing needs to be perfect.”
A modern definition of luxury should be, organically grown food, pure water, open space, open views, and freedom from noise. This is a quote from Fritz Frey, a well known European Inn Keeper in 1975. Moose Mountain has been far from perfect but we certainly offered all those ingredients plus a healthy dose of caring for our guests.