From the time he was a teenager, Steve Garrett knew he wanted a simple life. He loved going for long hikes in the mountains, and when he was on the trails, he knew that was what he was meant to do.
But when you’re growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that life is just a dream. So instead, Steve did what he was supposed to do. He got a Business Management degree from Davenport University, and he found a job in Grand Rapids’ furniture manufacturing industry. In 1994, he married a sweet gal named Johnna and they started a family. Life was good.
Then, in 2008, the economy tanked, and Steve was laid off. So, he did what anyone with a dream to hike would do; he headed out to solo hike the Appalachian Trail. Seventy-nine days and over 1500 miles later, Steve knew that he couldn’t spend the rest of his career working a corporate job. Now all he had to do was convince Johnna!
Fast forward four years – Johnna has just returned from a mission trip in Guatemala where she spent a week really outside of her comfort zone, and Steve has been looking into buying a company that he would enjoy running. “I wanted to find something that I wanted to do versus something to just make money. So, I did an internet search for a hiking company and the only thing that came up was Smoky Mountain Llama Treks. My first reaction was, no way. I’d never seen a llama, never had a farm. But it kept coming up, and I kept looking at it. Eventually I asked Johnna to take a look at it.”
“Sit down, buckle up, I’ve got something off the wall to show you,” and her reaction was, “Oh I can see you doing that.”
While the dream of living in a log cabin and spending his days hiking belonged to Steve, he credits Johnna’s mission trip to Guatemala as the real reason that they now own and run Smoky Mountain Llama Treks. “To be out here in the middle of nowhere like this, that was not her thing,” and Johnna agrees.
“I was so used to my middle class life in the suburbs. Guatemala really took me out of that comfort zone. I didn’t know anybody on the trip, so I got to meet people and gained really close relationships with them. And there was the language barrier and the curvy, scary roads in Guatemala. Coming to Tennessee was like a happy medium. I’m kind of out in the boonies, but I still have my mall an hour away. I love the weather here, and it’s so beautiful all year round.”
More than anything else, Steve and Johnna believe that everything fell into place the way it did because it was God’s plan. Within just a couple of weeks, the Garretts had visited Smoky Mountain Llama Treks, fallen in love with the animals, looked at and bought a log cabin—the first and only house they looked at in Tennessee—and the rest, as they say, is history. Or maybe it’s heaven; as Steve says, “I’m in heaven here. I hope this is exactly what heaven is like. “