Welcome to The Lodge
Dana and Cathi Belcher have a passion for travel, nature, food and people (... and with a surname which literally means "good cheer" and "hospitality", that should come as no surprise!) Being innkeepers allows them to share those passions, in hopes that their guests have a uniquely wonderful experience at The Lodge. Along with their four children, Dana and Cathi would like to welcome you to their home here in New Hampshire's White Mountains!
Your Innkeepers, The Belcher Family
Before our lives as Innkeepers...
When Dana and Cathi Belcher (and their 4 home schooled children) purchased The Lodge on January 24, 2005, they were embarking on a brand new family venture! ... but 'adventures' were no uncommon occurrence to them! While in college together in the early 1970's, Dana and Cathi lived in a tipi, experimented with wind and solar power, and built 3 geodesic domes as an alternative to dorm living. After receiving their degrees, they moved onto the family farm in Chester, (Orange County) NY. Together they restored the old c. 1790 farmhouse while re-establishing the gardens, orchards and livestock there.
As lovers of history, they also became assistant curators of a nearby Museum of 19th Century Technology, where they demonstrated blacksmithing, spinning & weaving, broom & candle making, apple cider making and open hearth cookery.
In 1977, after the death of their first child, Andrew Skidmore, it was time to switch gears. Dana put his environmental science degree to good use as a biologist on the Hudson River, doing environmental impact statements on the power plants along its banks. He received a patent for an automatic plankton sampling machine he developed, and authored several scientific papers. Eventually, however, Dana spent almost as much time testifying in court as he did in the field, so that he switched his focus to follow in his former District Attorney grandfather's footsteps pursuing the study of law. He received a JD degree from Cardozo Law School in NYC. During this time, Cathi had been running a restaurant she started in an art gallery, which culminated in her going to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, and developing a lucrative catering business.
Years later, when Dana was in his 2nd year of law school in Manhattan (and tired of commuting), they both moved closer to his school, becoming the Resident Directors of the Penington Friends House, a 100-year old Quaker International, Multi-generational Community House with 32-rooms with about 50 residents. There they designed and oversaw a huge renovation of this 5-story brownstone in the Gramercy Park area, ran the 2 meal per day restaurant for its residents, and brought its tenuous financial situation under control.
Their son Christopher was born there, but when their 'next-in-line' (Noah) was on the way 5 ½ years later, they decided that it was time to move back to the country to raise their growing family. They bought their dream property in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains - 25 acres of secluded woodlands on their own private lake, and once again pitched their 24' tipi which they temporarily called home, and where Noah was born and spent his first 3 months of life! (He took his first canoe ride when only 12 hours old!). They first renovated a small cabin where they lived without running water or electricity, all the while designing and building their solar post and beam dream house. Bringing in a portable saw mill, Dana and Cathi cut down the native red and black oak trees they needed and milled all the beams on site, spending the next 3-½ years completing every aspect of the house themselves.
Two weeks after they officially moved in, their daughter Zia was born at home, with older brothers Chris and Noah welcoming her with open arms. Later that year they received a 1st Place award for their house for "Best New Construction" in their county. Dana established his own private law practice in the area, eventually becoming the Assistant County Attorney, while Cathi, a stay at home mom, home schooled the 3 children and pursued her other passion: writing. Living on their own nature sanctuary with such abundant wildlife provided a wonderful home school opportunity, and they both became licensed by the DEC as Wildlife Rehabilitators. At one point they housed 3 baby beavers, 2 foxes, 2 fawns, a raccoon, oppossum and a bard owl in their home!
Their "school" day often began with a canoe or kayak trip around the lake or a hike on the "Beaver Trail", followed by personal entries and sketches into their own Nature Journals. Dana was publicly awarded "Environmentalist of the Year" by Sullivan County for his local environmental work and contributions to the community.
When Chris was 7 and Noah 3, they began to play chess, which became a passion as well as a gift in their lives. Soon the boys started winning numerous local, state and National Championships against both children and adults. They eventually outgrew their dad's teaching and had to have private Grandmaster chess coaches. Dana traveled with them all around the US, Europe and South America for tournaments. Noah won the Gold Medal for the US Chess team in Brazil when he was 10, becoming (at that time) the world's youngest FIDE Master. From 2002 to 2004, the Belcher family was the Editor for the New York State Chess magazine, Empire Chess. Chris and Noah each had a column, and Cathi wrote for each issue as well. She won a National Journalism award for one of her articles, as well as for the magazine itself ("Most Improved Magazine"). Joshua joined the family in 1996, bringing their total family number to 6. Over their last several years in New York State they bought up properties as they could afford them, renovated the houses on them, and rented them out as a family business.
As an adjunct to their home school curriculum, Chris, Noah and Zia all became involved with two very important projects. The first was as volunteers at the Bull Stone House, Dana's ancestral homestead, now a museum (www.bullstonehouse.org). These ancestors, William Bull and Sarah Wells were the first white pioneer settlers in Orange County. The Belcher family kids helped in the transcribing of old family letters, as well as with the discovery and deciphering of the original land grant from King George (a huge parchment that had been stored and hidden in the attic). Their efforts helped enable the Board of Directors to take the parchment to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC for archival study, and subsequent preservation under controlled conditions. Zia and Cathi also warped the old loom in the attic of the museum, which they demonstrated at the Annual Family picnic. The history of Sarah Wells and William Bull and their 12 children is reprinted in an exciting book, which rivals any action-adventure film today!
The second project which became a major force in their lives for many years was the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the US Air Force.
Chris and Noah proceeded through the ranks to Lt. Col., also achieving the status of Cadet Commanders and "Cadet Officers of the Year". They became certified Ground Team members for Search and Rescue missions, and Noah was awarded the rare and prestigious Spaatz Award in 2005, 'retiring' from CAP as a full Col at age 15.
Chris, also a chess master in his own right, was presented in 2004 with a Congressional Award Gold Medal in Washington, DC by Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), for his work with CAP, chess and various community service and personal development projects. Immediately afterwards, he was selected to attend a special PJOC program in New Mexico, an Air Force Para-rescue school. Chris was also chosen by the Civil Air Patrol as a "Young American Ambassador to China" in 2007 and spent a summer there in China and Hong Kong.
Chris graduated from the Mount Washington Valley Leadership Academy, and in addition to being the Assistant Manager at the Lodge he worked as marketing Assistant at Believe in Books Literacy Foundation. He plans to make the Hospitality field his life mission.
Chris proposed to the Love of his life, Elizabeth Anger, at nearby Glen Ellis Falls in April 2010. They were married on june 18th 2011 in E. Amherst, NY. Hometown of the bride and her family. Following a reception at Shea's Theater in downtown Buffalo, and a honeymoon in Savannah, Georgia , the couple set up house it Pitsburgh, PA, where Elizabeth recently graduated from the University of PA, wehre she graduated summa cum laude on a fall pre-med scholarship in Neurology and Psychology. She will be attehnding graduate school there. Chris has been Assistant Manager of Operations at the George Washington Hotel in Pittsburgh.
Both Chris and his brother are home school graduates. Noah is also an amateur photographer and an excellent bagpipe player, formerly a member of the Pipeline Pipe Band. In 2005 Noah started his own company, Granite State Internet Marketing, providing clients with website design, web optomization, and custom software development services. Noah is also a Computer Programmer and Software Designer. Recognizing their talents, both boys were chosen as "Young Entrepreneurs of the Year" by the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2006. Later that year, at the age of 17, the worlds Leading software company, Animetrics, learned of Noah's computer talents, and hired him as a part-time contractor. After working with their company for six months, Animetrics offered 17-year old Noah a full-time position as one of their Software Engineers, with salary, benefits and stock options. It was an offer no one could refuse, Mathematics and Johns Hopkins would have to wait a few more years! In August 2009 Noah finally embarked on this dream at JHU as a Computer Science major.
His first and second year classes, heavy on Calculus, and other math and sciences, were full of courses his mom could barely pronounce, let alone describe! He is on a 4-year combination BS/Masters program. The love of his life, Dana, attends school at nearby Patrick Henry College, VA. Noah and she became engaged on May 1 and plan a May 25th, 2012 wedding.
Only daughter Zia is the resident 'night owl' at the Lodge. She's an artist, singer and dancer, who loves children and had a sell-out babysitting business for guests and local families until she got too busy with other things! She and her mom are learning to play their Celtic lap harp. Zia attended a private school in Tamworth, NH, studying the arts and theater for one year, but discovered that home schooling was a better fit. She loves to write poetry and paint. For five years she has worked under the tutelage of Chef Larry Baima, owner of The Thompson House Eatery, across the street from The Lodge. Zia has been working there in various positions from dishwasher to salad maker for five years, and has graduated to Lunch Chef and dinner expediter, where she is learning all aspects of the culinary arts and restaurant management under Larry and Leslie's caring "wings".
Zia has been accepted to the Maine College of Art in Portland starting in August, 2011.
Joshua, the official "Social Director" here at the Lodge, is a LegoManiac who also loves to study science, read books, make and fly model airplanes, visit the Maine coast with his dad and twirl wooden staffs. He was the first in the family to attend " real school", as the Jackson Grammar school was a unique opportunity just too extraordinary to let pass by! He graduated from JGS in June 2009 and will now continue to home school. Josh is a very adept amateur magician, putting on private shows and performances to the amazement of his family and friends. He plays the Ozark Harp, and is becoming extremely proficient with a classic yo-yo he inherited from his oldest brother. Among Josh's close friends are his lifelong friend Jesse, Duncan, Malcolm and his special friend Monty, whom he met 5 years ago at The Lodge.
Now that you know the family players, here's how they got here...
In the summer of 2004 on a trip to visit a relative, the Belcher family fell in love with the White Mountains and their lives were changed forever. That very weekend they started looking at numerous Bed and Breakfast properties to buy as a family business, all of which needed too much work to consider seriously. When they discovered The Lodge, they knew that "THIS was IT"! They went back home, started selling off the properties they owned, secured financing from a bank, packed up and moved into The Lodge a short 5 months later ... never looking back!!! So much transpired in such a short time, that it could only have been "meant to be". They have never once regretted their decision, and in fact, pinch themselves regularly to make sure it is all still 'real'! Innkeeping uses every skill they have ever acquired. They love being Innkeepers and meeting new people and The Lodge makes good use of everyone's skills and talents.
From business and management (Dana & Chris), to website development and internet marketing (Noah), to cooking and front desk operations and artistic/esthetic decisions (Cathi), housekeeping (boys and Zia) and babysitting, they all work together as a family to make it a success. Cathi became the Jackson Town Columnist in 2006, and for about a year and a half also had her own radio spot on the Jackson Public Radio Station. She makes the annual "Ducky Cake" for the Memorial Day Wildquack Festival, which measures 4' x 8' and weighs about 600#!! You can watch her make it in the lobby each Memorial Day weekend (she will even give you some samples!). She also makes very elaborate gingerbread houses during the holidays, and has won an award for them each year since moving to New Hampshire, which she donates to local charities. Cathi also makes wedding cakes and other custom goodies.
In spring of 2009, Dana and Cathi bought a little log cabin 'retreat' in the hills of Jackson. It is here that Cathi can steal away for a few hours here and there to pursue her writing, music, gardening, natural history studies and artistic pursuits. She and Dana also find serene moments at the "Little Lodge" cabin to hike, ride their bikes, enjoy nature and reconnect during their busy lives. Here she offers special weekend workshops for women. Cathi was hired as a writer under contract in 2010 for Mary Jane Butters of Mary Janes Farm, where she writes as "The Mountain Farmgirl."
They love the little town of Jackson and it's friendly, welcoming residents who never once made them feel like "outsiders". They revel in being part of a small New England community and its many activities (especially the Historical Society, Library, Grammar School, Sewing & Garden Clubs, Hiking & Skiing). They love the beautiful White Mountains, as well as the rugged beauty of the Maine Coast, where they hope to retire someday. They look forward to meeting you on your next visit to The Lodge, and discovering where your life journeys are taking YOU! Come for a peaceful visit - away from the concrete hustle-bustle of Miracle Miles and impersonal franchise hotels... and perhaps share a homemade cookie and a cup of tea with them soon!