OAKHURST — If you’re one of the people who’ve been wondering what business would land in the historic Mountain House building at the junction of Highway 41 and the Road 222 turnoff to Bass Lake — wonder no more.
Locally owned, newly expanded and rebranded, Sierra Nevada Motorsports is now the building’s sole occupant. The business previously known as Sierra Jeep Tours started out in Fish Camp. Now, Yosemite High School grads and owners Kristina and Jonathan Tracy are kicking their three-year-old business up a notch, and it’s about as exciting as tooling through the Sierra in an open top jeep, wind in your hair, smell of incense cedar warming in the forest.
The Sierra Nevada Motorsports fleet includes five Jeeps, three Slingshots, ten RZRs, and eight quads. Both guided tours and behind-the-wheel rentals are available. Chase Kliest is the number one tour guide, Kristina says, and he’s been instrumental in getting them to where they are now. In addition to Chase, the company will employ eight new guides this year.
While many in the community have long-hoped that the Mountain House would reopen as a restaurant, no one should be disappointed with the news that a local business is experiencing growth. Jonathan Tracy was born and raised here, and Kristina Beck moved up as a ‘tween. The couple met in high school, graduating in 2010 and 2007, respectively.
They moved away for college, and went to Merced, but it didn’t suit them. They moved to Fresno, and Kristina opened a wellness center in Clovis. Their son Bentley was born, and Jonathan returned to construction work in Fresno, where they bought a house.
Not long after they moved in, Jonathan received a call from Del Alsup who runs Apex Construction in the Oakhurst area. Del said he had a good job coming up in Yosemite National Park and the offer was more than the young family could resist. They packed back up, rented out their Fresno house, and moved to an old log cabin in Fish Camp, owned by Bob Keller’s family.
“I’ve lived up here my whole life, and I wanted to be in Fish Camp to make my commute into Yosemite shorter,” Jonathan explains. “We had some two-wheel drive cars living in the valley, and we said, if we are going to live in Fish Camp, we’re going to need a four wheel drive vehicle. Kristina wanted a convertible.”
At this point in the conversation, Kristina interjects, saying she had wanted a Jeep since she was a kid and her Barbie drove one.
So the Tracys bought their first Jeep. Jonathan would come back from work and Kristina, home all day with a toddler, would say “let’s go out!” They spent untold hours touring in and around Yosemite, with Jonathan showing Kristina around all his old haunting grounds, where he grew up fishing, hiking, and spending time off road.
“People would pay for this!” Kristina noted. So, in 2015, after the tedious process of obtaining permits, insurance, and other necessities in order to line up their ducks, they started the business for off-road guided tours, then known as Sierra Jeep Tours. When the Tracys got their own quads a year later, they realized the business needed to rent quads, too.
Now, they’ve added the Slingshots and Jeeps that people can rent to go into Yosemite and surrounds on their own. Traveling in an open vehicle is a completely different experience than touring in a car, SUV or truck, say the Tracys. With the top off, you get to see so much more.
For the first three years, the couple operated out of a log cabin down a forestry road, with a dirt parking lot — and they outgrew it. As the business has grown, so has the family. Bentley, now five years old, was joined by Taylor nine months ago. Now, it feels like starting all over, Kristina shares.
“Anytime you take a step and grow, it’s definitely scary,” Kristina says, while knowing that the Mountain House is a prime location for their expanding adventures. “We have made it three years, and it looks like a big giant jump but we have been in the back neck of the woods in Fish Camp and many people didn’t know we existed.”
There’s still quite a bit of labor to be applied before the Tracys can call the new digs complete. Fortunately, Jonathan is a licensed contractor and owner of JMT Construction. In addition to his regular jobs, he’s been working nights and weekends at the new location and now, finally, has a couple of weeks off to finish the interior. Those who’ve been driving by the site while it’s been under construction may not have realized that the restaurant inside had been completely torn out, early on, when the floor was gutted. Steve Gabbard of Sun Construction, who completed the beautiful new exterior construction on the building, is working on the inside, as well. Jonathan will do the build-outs planned to turn the building into a great stop for tourists and locals, alike.
Sierra Nevada Motorsports will feature include a small convenience store with gifts and food items including prepackaged sandwiches. The owners are currently talking to local restaurants about supplying meals for their customers.
With a nice big counter for check in and check out, a sitting area where customers can watch their required safety videos, a place for all the helmets, a kiosk for signing waivers, an employee break room, storage rooms and bathrooms — the Tracys plan to fill up the space, no problem. There’s good parking, as well.
They are in operation currently and plan a grand opening as soon as the interior is complete and ready — a couple of weeks. The couple says they couldn’t do all this without the support of family, friends, and loyal customers.
“The best thing is that it doesn’t feel like work,” Kristina points out. “We love it. I still do the tour guiding when I can, and we go out exploring roads. We love to take care of the forest, help keep it clean, and appreciate it.”