An Inn-Born Partnership

An association manager and an engineer ply their artistic sides

by Phyl Newbeck

moose_meadow0218Willie Docto (left) and Greg Trulson met at a bed and breakfast 26 years ago, and in 1996 bought a house on 86 acres in Duxbury to open their own B&B, Moose Meadow Lodge. In 2013, they opened a two-story tree house with running water and an incinerating toilet to complement the inn.

It all began at a B&B in West Virginia 26 years ago. Willie Docto had reserved the entire inn for a weekend, but as friends began to cancel, he reluctantly told the owner he could rent out some of the rooms to other people. That’s how he met Greg Trulson, who was visiting with a friend.

Both of them were living in the D.C. area, and Docto invited Trulson to a happy hour the following Tuesday. Before the end of that evening he had inquired about Trulson’s weekend plans. They spent that Saturday at the International Gay Rodeo in Maryland and Sunday bicycling, and they’ve been together every weekend since.

Most of those weekend trips involved bed and breakfasts. When they moved in together three and a half years after they met, they decided that it would be fun to own their own B&B one day. In 1996 they purchased 86 acres in Duxbury to create Moose Meadow Lodge.

Nothing in the background of these two men, aside from their mutual love of B&Bs, would suggest they’d have chosen this vocation. Born in the Philippines, Docto immigrated with his family to the United States when he was 7. Initially they lived in Queens, New York City, but then Met Life transferred Docto’s father to Oklahoma. There, his mother found work as the food service director at a medical center.

Docto started playing the violin at age 11. After a year at Oral Roberts University on a music scholarship, he transferred to Georgetown, where he majored in biology with thoughts of becoming a doctor. But after graduation he stayed in D.C. and worked in arts management with various symphony orchestras. From there, he was recruited by the National Association of Homebuilders, and subsequently worked for the American Bankers Association.

Trulson’s parents owned a dairy farm in Minnesota. He graduated from Mankato State University (now Minnesota State) with a degree in computer science and business. He lived in Spokane, Washington; Binghamton, New York; and Washington, D.C., with each move’s correlating to a work assignment.

As a software engineer for IBM, he was transferred from New York to D.C. to teach management technical development to students who flew in from all over the country. In 1996, he was asked to move to Vermont for what was supposed to be a three-year project.

When Trulson asked Docto to move to Vermont with him, his partner was resistant. “I said no,” Docto recalls. “It’s too cold and I didn’t know where I’d work.” He finally agreed, with the caveat that they look for a property to turn into a B&B, which led them to the private home they renamed Moose Meadow Lodge.

During the renovation, Docto founded a consulting business that was then the only association management company in the state. “Professional associations are run by people who know how to run an organization,” he explains. “They don’t necessarily know the field but they know how to run things.”

As a result, working as executive director for brewers associations in Vermont and New Hampshire, he ran the Vermont Brewers Festival from 1999 to 2008, and the New England Brew Fest from 2000 to 2005.

Trulson’s three-year project stretched to six years, and when it was over, IBM dismantled his team and offered to buy him out, or suggested he could pursue work within the company elsewhere. “I was at the top of my game but I was burnt out,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to leave Vermont and the B&B was up and running, so in 2003 I decided to take the package.”

By then, they had renovated Moose Meadow Lodge, replacing the painted Sheetrock interior with wood and creating four themed rooms: creel (fishing baskets), ducks, sleds, and mountain view. All the rooms have private bathrooms, some with radiant heat and steam baths. All have decks with stellar views and many have personal touches like the mural on the bathroom wall in the creel room.

With the exception of Docto and Trulson’s private quarters, guests have full use of the entire house including the kitchen and downstairs hot tub, which has twinkly lights on the ceiling to resemble stars. Sinks are made of rocks and fossilized wood, birch bark is repurposed as wallpaper, and many rooms have furniture that Trulson handcrafted from trees on the property.

Their core market is New England and New York, but Trulson and Docto have had visitors from as far away as New Zealand and Japan. Their rooms are occupied for roughly half the year, which is fine since they like to shut down in late winter/early spring for trips to warmer climates.

Maria Stockman was living in Maryland when she won a trip to Moose Meadow Lodge in 2003 with her then-partner, Ken. “We had a two-night stay and fell in love with Willie and Greg and the state,” she recalls. The pair returned several times and were married at the lodge in 2006, at which point they decided that as soon as it was feasible, they would relocate to Vermont.

They moved to Addison in 2013, and Stockman credits Docto and Trulson for the change. “They have become part of our family,” she says. “I think it might have taken me longer to feel that Vermont was home were it not for them. They have such an engaging way. It’s like they were born to do this.”

In 2013, Docto and Trulson added a new venue to their property: a two-story tree house with running water and an incinerating toilet that they believe is the only licensed and registered tree house lodging in the state. It looks down over a pond stocked with trout and is occupied over 70 percent of the time it’s open, frequently rented by families with children. The property has trails that are open to neighbors, and a gazebo at the highest point.

“Everyone in Vermont wears more than one hat,” is how Trulson describes his other duties. In 2001 he ran for justice of the peace and has been elected for two-year terms ever since. When he was first elected, Vermont had just instituted civil unions, so Moose Meadow Lodge offered package deals including his services. Soon other inns began to call him, and he now performs roughly 60 weddings a year.

That includes two historic weddings. One was the first gay wedding in Vermont for two men from New York, at the stroke of midnight. Also at the stroke of midnight was the first openly gay military wedding, which he officiated after the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” That couple returned to Moose Meadow Lodge for their fifth anniversary.

Trulson’s artistic side is apparent in the bent-twig furniture he makes. But Docto also continues to follow his muse, playing violin with the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra and working as founder of the Eleva Chamber Players, whose mission is to elevate the human spirit through music.

“Willie handpicks musicians from New England and New York and they come here for a full weekend of concerts,” Trulson says with pride. “Some of them play with groups like the Boston Pops and the New York Philharmonic.”

Docto was appointed to the Vermont Travel and Recreation Council by Gov. Peter Shumlin and reappointed by Gov. Phil Scott. He was president of the Waterbury Tourim Council and is the founder of the Vermont Gay Tourism Association. Trulson served as a 12-year member of the Duxbury Cemetery Commission.

Darrick Pitstick moved to Vermont in 2001 with his partner and bought a B&B in Stowe. Now the owner of Pack & Send PLUS in Waterbury, he raves about the help he received from Docto and Trulson. “Greg performed most of the ceremonies at our place,” he says, “and Willie was incredible in his efforts to market Vermont as a place of comfort for gays and lesbians. He was the glue of the Vermont Travel and Recreation Council.”

Docto and Trulson had a civil union ceremony in 2001 and were married in 2009. In both cases, the ceremony was on November 10. An avid hunter who is responsible for many of the taxidermy animals decorating the lodge, Trulson notes that those years were the only times he missed the opening of deer season.

Docto is in charge of cleaning and cooking breakfast at the lodge; Trulson is responsible for decorating and serves as social director. “I’m a head of groundskeeping and a vice president of the Lobby Shop,” he quips. He also leads a beer, wine, and cheese tour for up to four guests at a time.

“My dream was for guests to have breakfast on the deck and see moose walk by,” says Docto, noting that this has happened several times.

Trulson feels strongly about not having signs saying “do not enter,” or “don’t touch,” which are prevalent at many establishments. “We only have one rule,” says Docto. “Don’t burn the place down.” Another, less official, rule encourages guests who go into town for dinner to bring their leftovers home for the innkeepers.

“We said early on that when it stops being fun we won’t do it anymore,” says Docto. “I think we are giving our guests a real experience and many come back year after year.” One couple, upon their return for a second visit, confided that their first visit had been planned as their last vacation together — a chance to decide how to divvy up their possessions and separate. They enjoyed themselves so much they decided to stay together.

Another couple came year after year with their son, until one year the wife called to say that her husband had passed. She and her son still planned to come up with her husband’s ashes, and they asked permission to leave them on the property.

“We traveled all over the world,” she told Trulson “and no place had more of an impact on him than this property.” •