Tom grew up in Vermont, where he started rock climbing in the early 1970s and reading about the big walls of Yosemite. He didn’t make it to Yosemite until 1985 for a brief, snowy trip and a drive across Tioga Pass with a foot and a half fresh snow on the ground (it was October 5, so early enough that they plow the pass if it snows).
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 guy just back from two and half years of research in Geneva, Switzerland toward his doctorate in history.
When Theresa moved West in 1996 to begin her doctoral studies in molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley, the strange guy followed her (on the advice of his doctoral supervisor I might add) and she has been thus far unable to shake him.
While in Berkeley, we spent most of our spare time traveling to Yosemite for rock climbing and, by the time Theresa was done with her studies, we had climbed most of the major features of Yosemite, including an ascent of the Salathe Wall on El Capitan to mark our fourth wedding anniversary.
Degree in hand and one postdoc under her belt, we had the chance to take what we thought would be a brief sabbatical to climb a bunch before Theresa settled into a job in her field (Tom took a leave of absence from his work deciphering, editing and publishing critical editions of sixteenth-century manuscripts).
As Pete Seeger said, our sabbatical turned into a mondical and a tuesdical.
In the end, we just never quite managed to leave. We have been living and working year-round in Yosemite ever since. Our passion for climbing transformed 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, we’ve worked in the park as ski instructors (both), a ranger (Tom), assistant manager of the mountaineering school (Theresa), online marketing manager for the park concessioner (Theresa), web developer. Now Tom works for a local hotel helping to maintain their online presence and Theresa consults for a variety of hotels 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 finished the apartment downstairs and started renting in 2010.
Now, eight years into it (writing this in July 2018), we have a bit of perspective.
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 travel agents with a specialty in Yosemite. We commonly field several 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.
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 four or five 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.