Good times with Steve Hibbs |

Good times with Steve Hibbs

by Lisa Gavon
R-C Alpine Bureau
Steve Hibbs with some of the grandfather clocks he's refurbishing.
Lisa Gavon |

“I get to live here!” he said with a huge grin spreading across his face. Steve Hibbs believes it is a profound privilege being able to call Alpine County his home. “I wake up every day in the place that other people go to vacation.” Steve continues, “It is the perfect place to be.”

Steve considers himself a “recovering engineer,” but after longer than 16 years living full-time in Markleeville, it is obvious the transition to “mountain man” has long been complete. He was born in Reno, and spent the summers of his youth vacationing in the High Sierra, hiking and fishing with his father. An only child, Steve learned to entertain himself. These early experiences laid the foundation for his self-reliance, ingenuity, and inquisitiveness, and developed his love of the wild lands.

His family moved several times, and even with this extra challenge, he was relaxed, competent, and continually at the head of his class. He has always been comfortable with who he is, willing to stand up and speak his mind. These traits have served him well in our Alpine community.

After completing high school in Elk Grove, he went on to deepen his understanding of how things work by obtaining a degree in mechanical engineering. He enjoyed the real-life applications of making things happen. He and his college sweetheart wed soon after graduation, settling in Walnut Creek, then Livermore. They have since parted ways, but had a boy and a girl together, who have interesting and successful lives of their own today. When his family comes into town to visit now, it is an especially happy time for Steve, introducing his grandchildren to the forest and lakes he loves.

His first job was working for a concrete accessories company, designing tilt-up wall panels. He moved on to the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, where he was employed for 35 years as a generalist mechanical engineer. He was fortunate to be able to work on a diversity of projects. It was a perfect fit for him. He retired in 2001, because he could and because there were many other interests he wanted to pursue.

He had grown up with the late John York; they had been fast friends from 8th grade on. It was John who introduced Steve to the secrets of Alpine County.

John and his wife Virginia had built their home in a remote Alpine County canyon. The word “easy” did not exist in John’s vocabulary, and he took Steve to places he would never have gone, with no thought of how to get back. One hike to the top of Raymond Peak was so treacherous, they needed rope to get down, then slid on hard-packed snow the rest of the way. Hiking and cross-country skiing continue to be a big part of Steve’s daily life.

Buying the property three years before, he moved straight to Markleeville the minute he could. Steve feels it is important to take living in the mountains on its own terms, acknowledging that it is not for everyone. Amenities and services some find essential don’t exist here. It is important not to try to re-create a city environment, or we will lose the essence of mountain living.

Collecting and restoring antique clocks began with discovery of an old mission-style clock, then a fine chiming clock, while touring the Sierra foothills. In taking a class to learn to repair them, Steve discovered he already knew how: as if clockmaking had always been his profession. A deep study of the history and technology of timepieces and timekeeping followed, and led to building the collection and fully capable restoration shop where he spends many satisfying hours now.

It wasn’t until he was 56 years old that someone put a guitar in his hand at a musicians’ gathering, and said simply “Play this.” He discovered yet another innate talent, and the music really took hold in his life. He practices every day, playing the guitar, mandolin, and cittern. For five years he volunteered his time to help develop the Music in the Park event, benefitting the Alpine County Friends of the Library, and bringing great bands to town. Steve has also served as vice president of the Markleeville Water Company and as a director of the Markleeville Public Utility District.

Steve is a country man, but he loves a city girl. Liza, his girlfriend of almost four years, lives in Reno. Together, they have the best of both worlds. Between this significant relationship, and the cornerstone of spirituality that Steve holds fast to in his life, he has a sense of peace and balance. He is someone who feels completely at home on this earth, particularly in Alpine County. Steve has chosen very consciously how to spend the time of his life.