Sorensen’s owners bring love to mountains
R-C Alpine Bureau
They were newlyweds filled with infinite hopes and wild dreams. When John and Patty Brissenden first saw a little piece of land tucked into a hollow on the side of a mountain, their love for each other spilled over onto it. Their new life, wedded to each other and the land, started on their honeymoon and has continued for the past 37 years.
With their life stretching out before them the Brissendens saw endless potential and possibility in Sorensen’s Resort. Steep cliffs rose above a little grouping of cabins and a luscious meadow opened out across the road. The West Fork of the Carson River meandered through a canyon with a crown of aspen trees encircling it. Sorensen’s is known for these special trees, and come fall the excitement elicited by the changing colors of the quaking leaves draws people from far and wide.
Hope Valley is breathtaking. The Brissendens were transported by its beauty. No matter what the obstacles, whether business permits, land use issues, water system challenges, building authorizations, or simply the difficulty of living at 7,000 feet in a remote high mountain canyon, John and Patty have weathered it all. They have stood by each other and stood by the resort. They are active stewards of the environment, not only for the Sorensen’s property but for the entire region.
The land itself is on the old summer trade route of the Washoe tribe. It has always been a unique stopping place for travelers. According to the well-researched book “They Came Every Summer” by Arthur Ewart, the first cabin was built in 1888. Martin and Irene Sorensen purchased the land in 1916 for $750. The legendary resort opened in 1926, renting cabins for 75 cents a night. They survived through the Great Depression and then the war years on a shoestring budget.
Between 1947 and 1952 the property got electricity and indoor plumbing — things we take for granted today. In 1970 Sorensen’s was sold to Dr. Johan Hultin. Hultin dedicated himself to creating a traditional Norwegian vernacular building, a charming cabin that is still in use today. Hultin found it difficult to maintain the resort and sold the property to the Brissendens. John and Patty moved there in 1984 and have made many improvements, including expanded lodging opportunities. They even erected two cabins saved from the old Santa’s Village site in Santa Cruz, Calif., bringing back wonderful childhood memories for many.
The Brissendens have absolutely no background in resort management but they have turned Sorensen’s into a distinctive and compelling place to be. After years of hard work it has it’s own enchantment. There is a fresh and delicious menu available 7 days a week at their cafe. They have a wide range of hiking trails, fishing spots and places to meander and regain your balance in a complex and challenging world. In the winter the resort becomes a wonderland. It is the perfect basecamp for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
John and Patty have developed and sustained a new model for vacation rejuvenation. They are both passionate and political people with an unusual amount of energy. John was elected to the Alpine County Board of Supervisors in 1988, serving one term. They raised their children here, using a Thoreau model of wilderness living. Both the mind and body are engaged at this one-of-a-kind destination.
They have created a full range of amazing workshops tailored to each season. There are tours of the night sky led by professional astronomers, Gold Rush history adventures, watercolor painting workshops, medicinal plant and wildflower walks, studies of the geology of the High Sierra and landscape photography classes, just to name a few. Horsefeathers Fly Fishing School also offers guided coaching out of the resort. Visit sorensensresort.com or call 800-423-9949 for more information. It is a special place to visit and a comforting and uplifting place to stay.