ABOUT OUR CASA
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The Story Of Sunset Inn
Sunset Inn, a small quaint lodging located in the beautiful High Sierra, is just 2 miles west of Yosemite National Park, at the Big Oak Flat entrance gate (Highway 120). The 3 lovely, well equipped cabins are surrounded by ancient forest, on the edge of a private meadow, ready to accommodate visitors to Yosemite and the High Sierra. This prime property is also the home of the Nickell family. But it wasn’t always so...
The first inhabitants, local Miwok Indians spent their summers in the Sunset Inn environs feasting on acorns, abundant wildlife, and other local delicacies. Evidence of their habitation from prehistoric times can still be seen in the grinding stones near the cabins overlooking the lush meadow.
Originally part of the Crocker Station stage stop, homesteaded in 1883, Sunset Inn has had a colorful past.
In its hey-day, the early 1900's, Crocker Station, the main stage coach stop along the Big Oak Flat Road to Yosemite, housed nearly 200 inhabitants. The 2 acre Sunset Inn property was purchased from homesteader Henry Crocker by local wood shake/shingle maker Franklin Babcock in 1886, and eventually became the only portion of this 160 acre homestead still privately owned to this day.
Several other individuals owned the property in the ensuing years, operating a variety of enterprises. At one time Sunset Inn was distinguished to be the local brothel, catering to gentlemen looking for entertainment and companionship. Later it was operated by the Bear Creek Corp as a logging camp, and later still it was utilized as a hunting lodge. Local legend has it that the likes of such notable characters as John Muir, Galen Clark and possibly even Samuel Clemens visited Sunset Inn in the early days.
A fascinating story was published in the periodical magazine ‘Arizona Highways’, in the 1950's about a hunting trip where the hunter, while staying at Sunset Inn, discovered gold! He lost his bearings during an early snow storm and was forced to vacate the mountains for the winter. In his excitement, he ended up spending much of his anticipated earnings in advance (a little too soon!). Unfortunately he was never able to relocate the huge vein he had discovered amid a group of giant cedar trees. No worries, we are still looking!
Many years of neglect, coupled with only occasional seasonal use had left the three Sunset Inn cabins and main house in sever disrepair. Until the 1970's no one had managed to brave the winter months at Sunset Inn. The mountains were quite formidable in those earlier times.
In 1976 Bill Nickell and Lauren Bauman (that’s us) arranged to rent one of the rustic cabins, were married, and shortly had the good fortune of purchasing the property. Our two children, now adults, were born and raised here. For many years Bill and I commuted to Yosemite and the surrounding communities, working at whatever jobs we could to provide the income necessary to purchase this extraordinary property. Bill generally worked in construction and carpentry, honing his trade on side jobs while also doing construction for the government in Yosemite and elsewhere. I worked in Yosemite learning the hotel business, including housekeeping, front office and hotel management, and eventually ended up in the professional kitchen where my true passion for cooking blossomed.
Much time was devoted to improvements enabling year round occupancy of the property. Establishing an effective system to provide indoor running water, including the winter months was one of our first tasks. Next foundations under the main house as well as each of the cabins were in order. All the structures had been sitting right on the dirt. The foundation projects entailed the grueling job of digging under buildings, jacking them up, and pouring concrete.
Many years have passed. The multitude of restoration, renovation and construction projects Bill has performed are miraculous. His expert craftsmanship and attention to detail are evidenced throughout the architecture of the cabins as well as in many areas not seen. An incredibly talented master carpenter/craftsman, Bill has put his heart and soul into Sunset Inn.
For 6 years, beginning in 1993, I operated an out-of-the-way bakery in what later became the ‘Meadow Lark Cabin’ catering to many of the local eateries, and also created custom designer cakes for innumerable weddings in the Yosemite region. I loved expanding my craft and fine tuning my culinary skills. I felt so fortunate for the opportunity to work at home while our children were young.
We reestablished the “Inn” in 1998, and have since thoroughly enjoyed welcoming guests from all over the world to this unique spot. We have continuously worked on upgrading and improving Sunset Inn. In 2000 we finally managed to convince Pacific Bell that we needed an actual phone line. This turned out to be a very worthwhile investment after so many years with no phone connection to the outside world.
Much work to renovate and refresh, as well as constant maintenance has ensued over the years. One of our more impressive endeavors was the restoration of the ‘Meadow Lark Cabin’. We are so thrilled with the beautiful transformation! In the ‘Sugar Pine Cabin’ we refurbished the kitchen and enlarged and enhanced the bathroom with a full size granite-look shower and two bathroom skylights. Thanks to guest comments (we do listen) we also upgraded the ‘Larkspur Cabin’ with more wood interior including a lovely hardwood floor, and beautiful lighting. We are so pleased and proud to share these beautiful cabins with our guests and friends.
After completing all the work on our cabins, and many years of waiting, we finally revived our own 1940’s 'basic' house, with a stunning open beam wood ceiling, and refinished the vintage wood floors, etc! Simple, yet simply beautiful! Definitely worth the wait!
Sunset Inn has become our home and our heart. The beauty, the tranquility and the peace only found in nature have fostered our dedication to our incredible home. Knowing what a wondrous place this is, we thoroughly enjoy sharing it with others.
We hope you will make the journey to Sunset Inn and find out for yourself what so many others have treasured.
(Please contact us for written permission to copy or use any of the above material.)
The Rim Fire
During the second year of a serious drought, the end of August and early September brought a major forest fire, dubbed the ‘Rim Fire’, to our area. It burned 250,000 acres, through our beautiful national forest, including the vicinity of Sunset Inn, and into Yosemite. We are so fortunate that our property was spared, thanks in part to the extraordinary efforts of some very heroic firefighters! The surrounding forests, as well as portions of Yosemite, were hard hit in many areas, thankfully our spot remains a rather miraculous oasis.
The results of the fire will have lasting effects on the region, altered for countless years to come. The good news is, the forest has begun regenerating itself with both shrubs as well as millions of young trees, like miniature forests all over the region, including all the native pines and firs as well as oaks, dogwood, etc. Here at Sunset Inn, we are raising seedlings and are replanting areas adjacent to our property. Guests who are so inclined are welcome to 'plant a tree'.
The tremendous outpouring of love and support we received from our dear friends and wonderful guests the world over, during this ordeal has been truly heartwarming! Thank you so much!!!
Three years later many of the trees which survived the Rim Fire had become dramatically weakened due to several years of drought, and fell prey to infestation of voracious ‘bark beetles’. Consequently large areas of the Sierra, as well as forests throughout the entire west have been effected. The forest is ever-changing. Good news here, the bark beetles were short lived, and the forest continues to regenerate.
We have photos!
Our area is forever changed, thankfully still beautiful, if not a bit different, and still as peaceful, serene and secluded as ever. And…our new open forest reveals mountain views that in the past were concealed in dense forest, and our sunsets are better than ever! Always a silver lining!
In 2014 our daughter, Amelia, and partner Steven opened a wonderful bakery & café, right outside Groveland. A very fun, very yummy venue with a true ‘local mountain hideaway’ feel to it. We are very proud of them and their enterprise, entering their 5th season, the
is a great, convenient spot to stop on your way to Sunset Inn or Yosemite. Please pardon the plug, but why not?
Son Andy and new daughter-in-law Sabrina live nearby and continue to help us maintain the property as well as providing a little technical support.
We are so fortunate to have them all so close!