Fifty-five years ago I visited Vermont on our first ski trips to
the state. My dad took my two younger sisters and me on trips to
Mount Snow, and once to Bromley and Dutch Hill, before we moved
from Connecticut to New Jersey.
Fast forward. Thirty-five years ago, John and I left New Jersey
to move to Vermont. We had been second-home owners in Shrewsbury,
Vt., and were in search of a different way of life, one that would
incorporate more community (as opposed to economies, which was
perceived as the "great enemy" of our generation) and a sense of
living in nature and connecting with the land as well as with
To be honest, my mother thought we were crazy. Having brought up
her own family of five children in the suburbs of Connecticut and
then New Jersey, she thought that it was just awful that we were
taking her two young grandsons to live in the land of bears.
Heavens, they might get eaten!
I had been a Girl Scout (at Camp Alice Merritt) and loved the
experience and the outdoors. Then, thanks to Dad sharing his love
of skiing, I had become a gung-ho skier. As a high school teacher
and ski club advisor, I had taken club members on trips to Vermont,
Austria, Italy, Colorado and lots of night trips to Great Gorge and
Being those were the 1960s and 1970s, many thought I was crazy.
After all, managing a bus- or plane- load of 45 teens was no easy
feat; and heavens, they might hurt or worse, get drunk and get me
I guess you could say I was of the more adventurous kind, even
if I was a female -it was the age of women's lib., after all.
THE VERMONT MOVE
Husband John 'hated' all those New York Times articles that ran
stories about people leaving city life for Cape Cod or the boonies
Actually, he was jealous so I said to him, "let's join
He located land for sale in a New York Times ad and said, "call
this number." I did.
His brother did the engineering on the site, and a New Jersey
architect did the house plan.
Having never lived in a rural environment, we were heading not
only for adventure, but also an entirely different way of life. For
one thing, we were giving up jobs to start out all over.
I left teaching to run a B&B in our new mountaintop home -
specially designed to appeal to guests who wanted to share our way
of life with a view of Killington Peak to our north. We could see
the top of the lift and the old peak lodge; and with binoculars or
telescope, we could watch the skiers.
And so we found ourselves living at 2,240 feet above sea level
(then the highest year-round home in New England) and John wrote a
brochure about Lorenwood, our B&B. It began:
"A crackling fire . . . good conversation . . . berry picking .
. . tangy apple cider . . . fiery fall foliage . . . hot cinnamon
popovers . . . the crunch of snow on a starry winter night . . .
Glimpses of a New England world where time moves at a slower pace,
where nature's beauty can be savored at your doorstep, where
community and friends are important, where flagging spirits are
At Lorenwood you and your family or friends can come home to a way
of life that we all yearn for. As private guests you enjoy
exceptional home cooking and luxurious accommodations in a brand
new architect-designed rustic lodge atop a secluded mountain with
unspoiled 60-mile views."
It went on, idealistic as anyone could be who had fallen in love
with old Vermont.
I suppose that seems "nuts" to some, and it certainly makes me
laugh now. But I was not alone in wanting something different in
those times. We were living with Vietnam and Watergate; riots in
Newark and Plainfield, NJ, where a policeman was stomped to death -
never mind Watts, it was happening right there close to where we
Eventually, I saw a job offered for a ski writer in The Mountain
Times, so I took on part-time writing, which was all I could manage
what with the B&B and two young boys. (Living 1.5 miles from
the school bus stop -up a mountain where you gained over 400 feet
in elevation - translates to a long walk home for two little boys,
who could freeze to death if the bears didn't get them first!)
REAL VERMONT LIFE
John and I left a good law practice and part-time college
professor job in New Jersey to begin a law practice from scratch in
Killington, those were the start-up-all-over-again years. John was
sponsored by the Rutland Lorentzes (no direct relation) to become a
member of the Vermont Bar, so we became friends. That was good
because Stephanie Lorentz, the attorney, got lots of feedback on my
stories in The Mountain Times and passed them on to me.
Upshot, we did those jobs that enabled us to start over, and
John pitched in to help me and I to help him. He drove down to the
school bus mornings, and I did the afternoon runs. I needed to be
home by 3 p.m. - we were old fashioned and idealistic enough to
want to be there for the boys (versus giving them things like trips
to Disneyland.) So I made freelance writing my new "work" and gave
up teaching. I worked around the kids' schedules and did the
volunteer thing - church, Boy Scouts, PTO - and wrote late at
We learned to heat with wood. The plumbing and heating
contractor said a woodstove would be more useful in our living room
than a fireplace so we got a Vermont Castings Vigilant, which was
just coming into vogue. We also put in a Tarm oil-and-wood
combination furnace to heat our three-level home.
Man, did I learn to work that baby! Sometimes I would turn off
the emergency switch so the oil would not come on while I was
making a fire, or when the fire wasn't yet hot enough thus causing
the oil to run per pre-set temps. I soon learned to work that
furnace to a T. In fact, I can keep a fire going when the power is
out and turn valves for gravity feed heat (bypassing the
circulators which require electricity.)
We put the fieldstone fireplace in the guests' quarters - a
walkout lower level of the home that features two bedrooms, two
baths, a large Jacuzzi, sauna, kitchenette with dining area, and
large living room with that "walk-in" fireplace as one writer from
Boston Parents magazine called it.
Next we knew, our full-time Vermont neighbors a mile-plus down
the hill told their Massachusetts friends about us, and that
started B&B visits from doctors and residents from the Boston
One of their wives was a writer and between her front page
feature article about Lorenwood and their connections, we were
Yes, those were the days. Like-minded couples and young families
came up and had breakfast in our dining room, most often made by
John who became a great breakfast chef - still is and although we
gave up the B&B after boy number three, he still makes me
muffins and popovers on Sunday mornings!
If the guests had kids, the kids ate out in our family room with
our kids and watched cartoons. The parents loved the free
babysitting and "adult" breakfast in the adjacent dining room with
fire in the woodstove.
We live in a beautiful place and our guests became repeat
friends and part of an extended family.
We also led cross-country ski expeditions outside our door. No
manicured trails, just trails packed down by snowmobiliers or
bushwacking trails. They loved it - we loved it.
BACK TO NATURE WITH AMENITIES
We called Lorenwood "back to nature with the amenities."
Amenities in those days meant downhill at Pico, Okemo, or
Killington and a Beta VCR machine with the TV in their living room
with a growing library of movies to watch. It included the sauna
and whirlpool. And an occasional car start by me.
The staple we provided was R&R (rest and relaxation) and
good conversation. Guests could hole up in their quarters and even
elect not to take breakfast. They had the entire downstairs to
themselves as we didn't take more than one party at a time -
unless, of course, several couples or two small families wanted to
come together - a hideabed in their living room meant we could
accommodate eight in total.
But most of the time, they shared their time with us and us with
them. So much so, that we restricted visits to fall foliage and
winter so as to have summers just for our own kids.
Eventually, John got busier at work and my writing notched up to
the first Killington book, which took me five years. The simple
life we came for was becoming extremely busy. The boys' lives also
began to fill up with Scouts, Youth Group, church, choir, and
extra-curriculars like theater, soccer, and a-cappella school
groups, which meant we had to drive them to the faraway school
mornings because the school bus didn't come that early and make
more runs for theater at night.
We gave up the B&B to pursue this new stage of family
The adventures didn't fail us though. We saw our first bear from
the safety of our car. Foxy Loxy never ate the boys although he did
cross their paths as they came up from the tennis court to watch
the Dukes of Hazard on Friday nights while we played into darkness
There was even a snake that made its way upstairs when a lower
door was left open - a babysitter shoed him out of the house for me
as I faint easily.
We had an orange crate - Volvo station wagon - that couldn't get
up the big hill when there was deep winter snow or even one inch of
warm slippery spring snow that hadn't been plowed.
That triggered buying four-wheel drive vehicles so John could
get to work and me home with the groceries and kids. Our first was
a used Jeep that I used to push my parents' big Buick up the hill
When baby Jim was born, I got an AMC Eagle - I had had to walk
home pregnant the winter before and John said, time for that safe
Volvo to go.
Then it was on to a Subaru and as the boys grew bigger, then we
traded the Subie for a big Jeep Cherokee. Then more Subarus; we
currently tally eight of various models.
Some winters the town plow couldn't get through the deep
snowfalls and had to use a front loader to clear the road to us.
Christmas 2002 it snowed so much that we couldn't get home till the
town plow went up our hill. If the road commissioner hadn't told
him to go up our driveway, we never would have made it out to our
son's wedding rehearsal the next day in NJ.
Mud season was just as treacherous - more so some years. There
were a good number of walks home to get the Blazer to pull the
four-wheel drives out of the mud.
Our first plow vehicle was a small, used International jeep -
the kind on Mash as I recall - with holes in the floor boards and a
stick shift. Our first Christmas it took all day to plow our
driveway with it as we had over three feet of snow and it kept
coming down. We could only move snow down the driveway as it wasn't
The next year we got the Blazer and it rained for Christmas. The
Blazer never failed us, although I did get it stuck more than once
while plowing heavy spring snow and dented in the doors from
bouncing off snowbanks. I have photos of us digging it out or
plowing the boys along with the snow. I did say we were
Another side to rural life was that if you wanted your kids to
have other kids to play with, you ended up hosting them. So I
imported boys and then started Cub and Boy Scouts. A woman could
not be a Scout Master (cub leaders were ok) when I started in the
1980s, but they could when I finished in 2000, and I was one for
lack of a male leader until our oldest sons returned home to lead
Rural life necessitated doing what you wanted for your kids. We
became very active in church, teaching Sunday and Vacation Bible
School as well as singing in the choir "as a family" and helping
out by serving as trustees and then chairs of the church - now
treasurer and trustees. Some things don't change.
Being an active volunteer in our community, after all, is part
of what we came for- an observation, not a complaint.
CRITTERS VS. CRIMINALS
Believe it or not, I got seven years worth of weekly newspaper
columns from the rural life here.
There was that porcupine that invaded and ate car parts. My
mother-in-law's was a victim, her brakes failed due to her brake
lines being eaten by our porky. He also ate my brother's brake
lines, which caused him to borrow a shotgun from our friends.
(Being from the suburbs, we weren't and never became hunters,
although I have shot many moose and turkey photos.)
Well, he never got that porky despite some late nights in the
woods, but I sure got a surprise when cleaning for guests that
fall. I had said "hide the gun under the couch downstairs where the
boys can't find it." I meant under the couch not under the seat
cushions. But that's where I found it and removed it before some
romantic couple got moving and maybe triggered a bigger bang than
they had bargained for!
That same porky (I think) once got up on the front deck where I
had put a mini-wheel bike to block his entrance. When I saw him, I
grabbed my sponge mop and pushed him away. Well, he hopped on that
trike and rode it down the stairs, never to be seen again. I had
quills in my mop as proof, and a souvenir.
In contrast, Mom wrote to me during that time and explained that
the bakery in North Plainfield, NJ, where John had taken the boys
to get Sunday donuts was the site of a serious robbery and that the
man I babysat for one New Year's - and for whom she worked as a
bookkeeper - hired a mobster to kill his mistress's paramour and
hid the body parts in a yard.
Did that make rural Vermont dull by comparison? Safer? I'm not
Looking back the boys had good schooling, a good time, and grew up
to be decent citizens and family men, and they still come home to
Now, we contemplate growing older and moving off the mountain. I
don't really want to think about ever leaving the spectacular views
that drew us to this site. I love saying good morning and goodnight
to Killington Mountain, six miles north as the crow flies or to
Whiteface to the west. The sunsets, mountains, and cool summers are
part of the very fabric of our lives.
Maybe some day a young family with dreams of "getting back to
nature with the amenities" will want to move to Vermont and raise a
family of kids who like to shovel snow, mow the lawn, plant
gardens, and run a log splitter so they can haul eight cords of
wood and pile it high so as to keep warm by a fire.
Sure they will ski and snowshoe and have adventures camping out
on the land and learn to play tennis on a clay court, but they will
also learn to be part of a family by performing chores and being
needed. That goes for school and community activities, too.
In the final analysis, I think that is part of being connected and
the best part of rural life. To be sure, it is not easy at times,
but it can provide the stuff of dreams for people in search of
something just a little different and, perhaps, a tad
I often told guests who got gooey-eyed over the view, the snow,
or the dream of living in the country, "This is a great place to
visit, but you wouldn't want to live here."
They seldom believed me. I probably wasn't that
Photo by Ken Keim
Karen D. Lorentz interviews a coach at the Mountain Inn when the
U.S. Ski Team was stationed there for the 1980 Olympics at
Whiteface, NY. She was writing for the Mountain Times at the