Behind the Scenes: Why We Care

Behind the Scenes: Why We Care

A snowy spring day along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo: Carolyn Botell

Here at the Conservancy, we spent a lot of time – on and off the clock – thinking, writing and talking about Yosemite. Each one of us has a unique relationship with the park. Some of us grew up in Yosemite's gateway communities, or first got to know the park during childhood camping trips; others fell in love with the Sierra as adults, when we were drawn to the mountains seeking adventure, solitude, or the simple pleasure of a walk in the woods.

No matter how or why we first set foot in the Valley, or Tuolumne Meadows, or Mariposa Grove, we all share a commitment to the park – and to inspiring others to experience and care for it. As the year comes to a close, Conservancy staff reflected on why the park matters to us. Here are just a few of the reasons we care about Yosemite:

 

It prompts us to reflect, and to look forward.

A couple of Conservancy employees enjoy a walk under the towering trees in Mariposa Grove. I remember my first camping trip with my dad (without my mom along) – we went to Yosemite Valley, and we saw a bear on the trail to Vernal Fall. Today, the park is a place of healing and inspiration for me, a place to recover from grief or anxiety, a place that makes me look forward and think about the future.

 

We feel at home in the park.

Yosemite gives me a sense of comfort and belonging. On my first visit, I instantly felt at home. The park is widely admired for its grandeur, but for me, it’s about more than scenery: The connection I feel when walking in a meadow, next to a waterfall, or under giant sequoias is one I feel nowhere else, and one I can’t get enough of!

 

It's a shared haven, one for which we’re all responsible.

I care about Yosemite because of how important it has been to so many people. People have lived here for thousands of years.  Visitors have come to take in its astonishing scenery since before John Muir's time.  Today, millions of people from all over the planet come to see the park, and want to see its beauty protected – what a wonderful thing to have this sanctuary to share.

 

"The Sentinel": Sentinel Rock and the ephemeral Sentinel Falls, on the south side of Yosemite Valley. Photo: Ryan Kelly

It fuels our curiosity.

An enormous watchtower stands on the south side of Yosemite Valley. Its name is the Sentinel. My first memory of this dark feature, which sometimes resembles a giant’s tombstone, is from the boulder field behind Camp 4 on a moonlit night. There, above the tree line, in silver-gray tones, I saw Half Dome and the Sentinel above a dark carpet of pine trees. A perfectly full, white moon hung above it all. In that moment, a door of possibilities opened, and Yosemite became the focal point for my life.

Steve Roper’s description of a legendary climbing route on the Sentinel fits my general feeling about life in Yosemite: It’s “an odyssey up a natural line.” Like so many others who care for Yosemite, each season renews my curiosity for this place.

 

Conservancy employee Deb Holcomb captured this summer sunrise high in the Sierra during an Outdoor Adventure in bighorn sheep habitat.It’s both enduring and ever-changing.

I’ve experienced Yosemite on hundred-degree July mornings, in early-spring hail storms, and during quiet autumn days when the meadows and trees seem bathed in gold. Every time, the park is at once familiar and wonderfully unknown. As my feet fall into step on favorite trails and I look for well-known landmarks – jagged Cathedral Peak, the ridge of Clouds Rest, rounded Mount Starr King – I also love seeing how the plants, animals, streams and light have shifted from season to season, or even from morning to evening.

 

There’s so much to learn (and do)!

My favorite hike in Yosemite is in the southwestern part of the park, around Buena Vista Peak – that’s the first backpacking trip my husband and I took on our own. It was incredibly empowering to know that we could take care of ourselves in the wilderness, and has led to many amazing (and longer) backpacking trips since.

I’m also a big fan of the Conservancy’s Outdoor Adventures, because you get to learn from park experts and meet others who love Yosemite as much as you do. To paraphrase what one of our naturalist guides told me, “the more you know, the more you see.” Every time I go on an Outdoor Adventure, I learn something new, and that helps me see more whenever I visit the park.

 

We feel rooted in the park and love sharing it with others.

Growing up in the Yosemite area, the park has always been a part of me.  As a kid I loved swimming at Cascade Beach and Tenaya Lake.  I feel incredibly lucky to know this place well from a young age. I care about Yosemite because it's a deep part of my family history and I get to run around the mountains and feel young forever!

Since I know the park so well, I love bringing people here for their first visit, and seeing Yosemite through their eyes. As an enthusiastic traveler myself, I know that it can be daunting and confusing to navigate a new place, especially someplace as large and wild as Yosemite. Getting local guidance from someone who knows the area can make a huge difference for how you experience the park, or any destination.

 

Mountains, lakes, waterfalls, wildlife ... what else could you ask for?

From Mount Hoffmann, a favorite hiking destination of Conservancy employee Gretchen Roecker, you can see mountains for miles, and spot high country lakes nestled among the peaks.In Yosemite, you can spend your morning on top of the world (aka Mount Hoffmann) admiring the peaks stretching out in every direction as marmots sunbathe on boulders around you; enjoy an afternoon soaking your feet in the shallows of Tenaya Lake, watching the waves sparkle and occasionally scanning the nearby granite for climbers working up the domes; and catch sunset from the Valley floor, listening to snowmelt tumble down the walls.

 

We are inspired by others who love the park.

As part of the Conservancy’s fundraising team, I get to work with donors every day who love Yosemite for the same reasons I do! One of our supporters said it best – that she was making a legacy gift to Yosemite Conservancy because it’s the best gift she can give to those she loves.

 

It offers respite and reinvigoration.

In today’s hectic world it is difficult to be alone with oneself without the distractions of day-to-day life. Yosemite provides a place to find true solitude, to refresh one’s soul and recharge for another day.

 

We'd love to know why you care about Yosemite, too! Whether you share your stories with us in an email, on social media, through photos on Flickr, or any other way, we're always thrilled to hear from people who love the park.

See you in Yosemite!

 

Above: One of the perks of working in and in support 0f — Yosemite: the endless opportunities for appreciating, and photographing, spectacular scenes, like this snowy spring day on the Merced River. If you follow us on social media or are a regular reader of this blog, you've probably seen some of the many images taken by Conservancy employee Carolyn Botell, who has a knack for capturing mesmerizing moments, from morning fog lifting out of the Valley to a pair of pileated woodpeckers searching for insects in a sequoia grove. To see more of Carolyn's Yosemite snapshots, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter!

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