RETREAT IN THE WOODS
Sorensen’s Resort offers nourishment for mind, body, and soul.
WRITTEN BY JESSICA SANTINA
PHOTOS BY DAVE SANTINA
At Sorensen’s Resort, you’ll find stunning vistas, abundant opportunities for outdoor adventures, delicious food, and plenty of creature comforts. What you won’t find is a cellular or Wi-Fi signal … which may be the best part of your stay.
Sorensen’s is a charmingly rustic, 32-cabin, all-season resort nestled amid the aspens on the eastern edge of Hope Valley, in California’s Alpine County. Its lush, peaceful setting and delightful hospitality make this a retreat that refuels the body and recharges the spirit.
Situated at 7,000 feet, Hope Valley is one of the Sierra’s largest alpine meadows. Carved by ancient glaciers and the meandering West Fork of the Carson River, Hope Valley is home to a spectacular diversity of flora and fauna.
Martin Sorensen, a Danish rancher, first homesteaded this 160-acre parcel of land in 1899 after stopping here along the Mormon-Emigrant Trail. Since then, it has changed hands only twice: first to Dr. Johan Hultin, from Sweden, who purchased it in 1970 and began incorporating its many Norwegian-style additions, and finally to John and Patty Brissenden in 1982, a Santa Cruz couple who stopped there on their honeymoon.
“We thought it was this magical piece of California,” John says.
Lured by the beauty of this environment, and finding themselves between jobs, the Brissendens — community organizers and social activists — bought the resort without ever having spent a night there or any idea how to run one.
The Brissendens made Sorensen’s a success, turning what previously had been only a summer resort into a year-round facility that fills up most weekends and plays host to weddings, special events, and regular tours and workshops.
Shortly after they had settled in, in 1985, the Brissendens spearheaded a campaign to stop a proposed power line in this valley. The Friends of Hope Valley saved 25,000 acres of land from development, which still are protected today.
Guests to the resort appreciate their efforts every day as they amble along the hundreds of acres of pristine lands (on foot, bicycle, or horseback), encounter profusions of wildflowers, raft the Carson River, trek in the footsteps of historical figures on guided tours, or experience some of the best trout fishing in the Sierra.
Get away and unplug
Sorensen’s offers cozy log cabins and bed-and-breakfast cottages, which serve as a perfect home base for outdoor adventures — or just lazy swings in the hammock. Two- to four-person log cabins are nicely appointed with kitchenettes, woodstoves, and comfy beds. Scattered along winding paths and lit with twinkling lights, they offer the perfect summer respite, with nary an Internet connection or TV in sight — nothing but the sounds of nature and the jovial chatter of friends at the resort’s stone campfire pits, where guests gather in the evenings to swap stories and share a drink.
Just steps away is the Country Café & Gift Shop, where chef Mireya Valencia has been serving up her home-style classics for 23 years.
Reservations are recommended for dinner, where guests choose from a wide array of house specialties. Sorensen’s is known for its classic beef burgundy stew, served all day, every day. The recipe, developed by Patty Brissenden, is a hearty and satisfying blend of garlic-sautéed beef, mushrooms, carrots, red potatoes, onions, celery, and red wine. California’s Hat Creek Grown ranch provides free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free, dry-aged beef.
Other specialties of the house include carne asada, topped with chef Valencia’s own homemade salsa; a Saturday night prime rib special; and the seafood pasta, which features a delectable combination of king salmon, scallops, and shrimp in a buttery, white-wine cream sauce. The Caesar salad dressing is made from scratch and topped with crunchy, house-made croutons.
Dessert is a must. It includes Sorensen’s classic berry cobbler — a homemade biscuit topped with fresh vanilla ice cream and warm berry compote bursting with fresh blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries — or a warm, gooey bread pudding.
At breakfast, selections include Patty’s quiche of the day, thick-sliced French toast in that delicious warm berry compote, and crispy buttermilk waffles. Savory applewood-smoked ham, sausage, and bacon from Corralitos Market & Sausage Co. in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains accompany many dishes.
Need a midday snack? Visit neighboring Hope Valley Resort, also owned by the Brissendens, where Leesa Lopazanski prepares her famous pies and 1-pound cookies.
The simple delights of summer are found at Sorensen’s Resort: sunshine, fresh air, a hammock, outdoor adventures, new friends, delicious food, and total relaxation. Summer getaways don’t get much better than that.
Jessica Santina, managing editor of edible Reno-Tahoe, spent a weekend at Sorensen’s Resort with her husband, Dave. After eating a delicious dinner at the Country Café, whiling away the evening around the campfire, and exploring the breathtaking views, they were hooked on Hope Valley. They’re already planning a return visit.
14255 Hwy. 88, Hope Valley ● 800-423-9949 ● http://www.Sorensensresort.com
Country Café & Gift Shop is open 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. every day. Guests and non-guests are welcome to visit the café and gift shop or take part in resort programming, which includes fly-fishing trips, historic Emigrant Trail treks, bike rides, medicinal plant walks, birdwatching, wildflower hikes, geological tours, photography and art workshops, and more.
Hope Valley Café & Market
14655 Hwy. 88, Hope Valley ● 530-694-2323