Outdoor adventure adds to offerings at North Country B&BBy DEBRA THORNBLAD
Special to the Sunday News
April 19. 2014 8:11PM
MILAN -- North Woods Rafting has passed from one Milan family into the hands of another. Over the winter, Lincoln Robertson and Heather Piche sold the 13-year-old business to Mark Peabody and Kim Hockmeyer, owners of the Mahoosuc Inn.
Peabody said Robertson and Piche had been talking about selling the business for a couple of years. They said they decided to buy it because they wanted to make sure North Woods Rafting stayed at the high level of service it had been under the Robertson/Piche ownership.
Peabody and Hockmeyer are sure they can continue to offer that service because for the couple, it's like coming home again. Both had parents who were very involved in white water rafting. Peabody's father was a white water guide with the Appalachian Mountain Club in the Worcester area for many years and continued to take on increasingly difficult challenges in northern Canada, including the Coppermine River.
Peabody was a white water enthusiast since he was a kid. He is a fifth generation North Country resident, with several past family members who worked for the Brown Company in Berlin. He worked in the woods logging for a few years.
In his youth, Peabody had a milk route and saved his money to buy an aluminum Grumin canoe from Catello's in Berlin, back when they sold small engines and other things besides music.
Hockmeyer's father, Wayne, started Northern Outdoors, of The Forks, Maine in 1976.
"They were pioneers in the white water business," Peabody said.
"The Androscoggin River is the perfect entrance to white water rafting for families," he added.
Northern Woods Rafting is the newest addition to the mix offered from the Mahoosuc Inn property, but it is far from the only activity available there.
When Peabody first bought the 85-plus-acre property just north of the Milan village in 1991, the dwelling was a duplex, and the barn was in danger of collapsing.
He went to work on the barn first, and the first outdoor activity offered was horseback riding. Peabody had previously offered horse boarding at Bell Hill farm in Stark. Over the years the barn was rebuilt to house not only horses, but three separate housing units that are now used by Peabody and Hockmeyer and other family members. There is also a banquet room for serving meals to guests.
Horses were, in fact, how Kim met Mark. She was looking for a place to board her horses and contacted him. They eventually married.
A few years ago, the large dwelling was no longer needed for the family. Renovations started, and the Mahoosuc Inn, a bed and breakfast, opened four years ago. It has six rooms with a capacity of 15 guests. There is also a full kitchen and a reading area with a fireplace on the main floor.
Over the years the Peabody/Hockmeyer family has continued to build on the outdoor activities offered from the property.
"As we've been building the business, we've been building it with a real vision for outdoor recreation," Peabody said. "I firmly believe we have to provide a high quality experience to visitors who come to the north country."
Eleven horses are stabled on the property and are available for horseback riding. There are trails throughout the property.
Corridor 19, one of the main snowmobile corridors, runs right through the property. In exchange for using the land, the local snowmobile club grooms a trail right to the inn's door. Other winter activities include cross country skiing, hiking (year round) and dog sledding.
The hiking trails, he said, are open year-round and are free for the public to use.
In warmer seasons, entrance to the Ride the Wilds ATV trail is only a half-mile away, and there are plans to bring it closer, which will enable visitors to access it right from the property.
The property also boasts several gardens for those interested in gardening.
The entire property is pet friendly. They just ask that dogs stay on leashes until past the horse pasture areas.
Another new project about to get under way is the yurt ground. Peabody said he has been approved for 14 yurts and hopes to have four done by this fall. These will be available year round, will be heated by solar and gas and have small kitchens.
A small store is being planned for an area in the barn. They will be a full-scale outfitter for paddle sports. In addition, a small gift shop will offer things like T-shirts, and Hockmeyer will be offering homemade soaps, not only for people, but for dogs and horses as well.
They are also hoping to add special interest weekends, perhaps a learn to make beer event or quilt making. The Inn is also available for weddings.
With all that's going on, Peabody said he's decided to combine all of them under one business umbrella he's calling "Mahoosuc Outdoors." He expects that to be accomplished this month.
For more information, go to mahoosucinn.com, or call 449-6646.