A quiet getaway in the White Mountains

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/09/25/a-quiet-getaway-in-the-white-mountains/

The leaf-peeping season is one of the busiest times of year at The Horse & Hound, a romantic inn and restaurant nestled in the valley behind Franconia’s Cannon Mountain ski resort.

What is surprising to me is how many of the inn’s guests are from Europe, per full-time innkeeper Doug Maskiewicz. One week, the 10 rooms were filled by Brits, and the next by Germans. That’s a long way to come to see maple trees turning red and yellow. But it’s also a testimony to the inn’s reputation.

This fall, the inn is almost completely booked. But as of this writing, there are still slots open for Bostonians looking to get away for a few days. I suggest not waiting if you plan to visit.

Photo by John Farrell

Even on overcast days the sitting room and library on the first floor are bright and cheerful. Photo by John Farrell

Just three hours’ drive north of the city, The Horse & Hound was built in 1946, and has been a haven for Hollywood celebrities from the start. A great photo of Joan Fontaine can be viewed on the inn’s website. More recently, the inn welcomed Mandy Patinkin, Eric Roberts, and Cynthia Gibb — who comes back regularly after staying at the inn during a New Hampshire movie shoot a few years back.

The Horse & Hound was completely renovated in 2010 when it was purchased by the current owners, Ron Homer and Ken Adler. Both men are lawyers who visited the area many times during their careers. Before they took over,  the inn changed hands seven times. Fortunately, as Maskiewicz told me, the fundamental structure was always well-preserved.

Homer concentrated on restoring all 10 guest rooms. Prior to his ownership, The Horse & Hound devolved into just a restaurant and bar for several decades. Homer wanted it to be a complete inn again.

Homer then turned to Maskiewicz and asked him to run it full-time. At first, the idea caught Maskiewicz a little off guard since his professional background was writing software code for legal firms. “But they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” he said with a smile. And it turned out to be a great fit.

His assistant innkeeper, Sue Jessen, lives just down the road where she and her husband retired in 2001. “I’ve been the assistant innkeeper for just over three years,” she said.

An avid hiker, Jessen finished climbing all 48 of the 4,000-footers in the White Mountain range many years ago, and she loves sharing her knowledge of the area with visitors.

Maskiewicz lives at the inn year-round, keeping it shipshape and welcoming guests. He also makes sure the restaurant and bar run smoothly. Maskiewicz  grows his own vegetables in a beautiful garden and greenhouse on the southwest corner of the property. This summer, six beds of lettuce were enough to supply all the restaurant’s salad needs. He also grows tomatoes, beans, snap peas, and herbs.

His efforts have been so successful that New Hampshire Magazine just awarded The Horse & Hound its Editor’s Pick for “Best of NH 2015 for Garden-to-Dinner.”

Photo by John Farrell

The greenhouse and garden on the grounds of The Horse & Hound provide most of the vegetables and herbs for the restaurant. Photo by John Farrell

When does Maskiewicz find time to rest? He takes his vacations in November and April during the offseason. After Jan. 1, the inn will be open for weekends, while the bar and restaurant will be open Thursday through Sunday.

The inn also caters to small weddings: parties between 50 and 75 are optimal. It’s also available for corporate retreats and family reunions.

In addition to being a convenient base for skiers in the winter, The Horse & Hound is  a great base in the summer and fall for bikers and hikers. It is less than a mile from New Hampshire’s Route 116, which is a biker’s delight. It runs roughly 10 miles from Franconia all the way through the valley north and south of the Kinsman Mountains. The Coppermine Trail and Reel Brook Trail are both within a short drive of this route, and feature lovely cascades that run parallel to the hiking trails.

But even if you’re not interested in outdoor activities and you just want a nice getaway, the inn is a wonderful refuge from the noise of city and suburban life. There isn’t a squeaky door in the place, and the peacefulness in the shadow of Cannon Mountain is palpable, both day and night.  On the landing at the top of the stairs, a bottle of brandy and a tray of glasses awaits guests who want a night cap before turning in. The inn also has comfortable beds with thoroughly renovated bathrooms and showers. Every room looks out onto the woods.

The restaurant menu is superb. They have a continental breakfast for guests who want to grab-and-go early in the morning. The kitchen also offers a variety of selections, such as different egg dishes, omelets, and scrambled eggs. Dinner features fish, beef, and pasta entrees, along with salads prepared with the homegrown vegetables. The restaurant has a nice selection of wines, and the bar provides excellent cocktails.

If the weather is not conducive to outdoor activities, you can spend hours in the inn’s reading room, which is cheerful even in cloudy weather. You can also make  coffee or tea as you relax with a book or magazine.  Their Wi-Fi service is reliable if you need to stay connected. But after a few hours, you won’t want to!

Details about the Horse &Hound may be found online at: http://www.horseandhoundnh.com 

John Farrell is the author of The Day Without Yesterday: Lemaitre, Einstein and the Birth of Modern Cosmology from Basic Books. He writes about science, technology and media for Forbes.

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