It seems a little self-indulgent to write about ourselves, but a lot of our guests ask how we ended up living in Yosemite, so here goes…
Tom grew up in Vermont, where he started rock climbing in the early 1970s, poring over magazines recounting the exploits of the great climbers of the ear like Jim Bridwell and Dale Bard. He didn’t make it to Yosemite until 1985. When he and his brother woke up on that first October morning, the walls of the Valley were covered in freshly fallen snow which made them look all the more impressive, but all the less climbable. It was only October 5, so the Park Service plowed the Tioga Road and they were able to drive east, camping for the night near Mount Conness and finding mountain lion and other animal tracks all over in the foot and a half of new snow the next morning.
Tom went on to get his doctorate in history under Robert M. Kingdon, a brilliant scholar, kind man and ultimately dear friend. Following his degree (and marriage) in 1998, he collaborated full-time with Professor Kingdon and others deciphering, editing and publishing the registers of the Geneva Consistory, a sort of church tribunal in Reformation Geneva and one of the best sources for social history in all of Europe.
Theresa started climbing in 1992 while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and made her first trip to Yosemite shortly thereafter. A bit after that, she met a strange historian just back from two and half years of research in Geneva, Switzerland.
When Theresa moved West in 1996 to begin her doctoral studies in neuroscience at UC Berkeley, the strange guy followed her on the sage advice of his doctoral supervisor who told him that if he had to choose between his career and Theresa, he should choose Theresa. She has been thus far unable to shake him.
While in Berkeley, we spent most of our spare time traveling to Yosemite and other destinations in the Sierra Nevada for rock climbing and skiing. By the time Theresa was done with her studies, we had climbed most of the major features of Yosemite, including climbing the Salathe Wall on El Capitan to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary.
In April, 2003, Theresa’s degree in hand and one postdoc under her belt, we had the chance to take what we thought would be a three-month sabbatical to climb a bunch before Theresa settled into a job in her field. Tom, meanwhile, took a leave of absence from his research position to join her for this climbing sabbatical.
As Pete Seeger said, our sabbatical turned into a mondical and a tuesdical.
In the end, the days turned to months and the months turned to years and we have never quite managed to leave Yosemite. We have been living and working year-round in Yosemite ever since. Our passion for climbing broadened into a passion for natural history, wildflowers, trail running, hiking, mountain biking and snow shoveling.
In addition to Tom’s many years as a historian, he has worked as a park ranger, a ski instructor, a web developer, helping a local hotel with its online presence and, in his younger years, illustrious positions such as slimer (the actual job title) in a fish processing plant in Alaska, pizza deliverer and other equally impressive jobs. Theresa, meanwhile became the assistant manager of the Yosemite Mountaineering School, then the online marketing manager for the park concessioner, and ultimately a freelance consultant for a variety of hotels and other organizations in and around national parks on their Google Ad campaigns and search engine presence.
Encouraged by friends, we bought an empty lot in 2005, and started building. We moved in upstairs in 2007. After a rest break, we completed the apartment downstairs and started renting in 2010.
When we started, we just knew that we wanted to treat people the way we would want to be treated ourselves. We didn’t want to nickel and dime people with add-on charges or leave them to fend for themselves with cast-off utensils in the kitchen that weren’t good enough for us. We wanted our place to be relaxing and feel like home.
What took us longer to realize was that one of the main things we offered people was advice and orientation. At first, we were hesitant to “bother” our guests. We quickly came to realize that in a vast park like Yosemite, many, if not most, people need help putting together a plan of action.
We now think of ourselves not just as offering lodging, but also guides and trip planners with a specialty in Yosemite. We commonly field many emails from our guests as they weigh through their options and, when we’re not away ourselves, often sit down over a map and help people plan their visit (now only with proper social distancing, of course).
We also had no idea the sort of connections we would make with people. Now we’re at the point where some people have made several visits with us and we’re starting to see their kids grow up. We even randomly had one guest show up who was a very close friend of someone who played a brief but pivotal role in Tom’s life almost 30 years earlier (how we figured out that connection is a story in and of itself).
Anyway, it’s been a great journey so far and we hope you’ll join us for a small piece of it if you’re coming our way.