Yosemite Roots

“We would bring cans of chilis or beans so the trout would occasionally taste different” my grandfather reflected at the dinner table. “When you’re eating fish three meals a day, you need variety somehow.” He had traveled to Yosemite annually since 1929, starting at the age of 6 weeks old. His family would stay at least a week at a time, living off the land as well as at the High Sierra Camps, searching for the next hidden lake with boundless fish.

Our trek began in Tuolumne Meadows, where my great grandfather’s ashes were spread. I spent the week with Grandpa TT’s daughter, my aunt Kathy, along with 3 other family members. Although he wasn’t able to partake in the journey, hearing stories from TT upon our return to civilization (San Francisco) put into perspective the relation I have to the valley. 

Look closely and you'll find a marmot scavenging the ground for food

Along the way we spent time at Vogelsang and Merced High Sierra Camps, as well as a night near Little Yosemite Valley. The trip gave me space to live with and collect my thoughts. As we descended our last stretch of trail, a sensory overload of wafting perfume, thick forest fire smoke, and the harsh, clapping echo from a rescue helicopter overhead momentarily disturbed my newfound mental clarity. I was struck by the massive population that visits the valley. Dipping and dodging through the crowd, I couldn’t help but ask myself what value the images I created would hold both to my family and to our society amidst the cohort of thousands of lens-wielding park-goers.

Dinner bell at Merced Lake

Bear claw meets human paw

Although this was my first time back in the park since the age of 11, I realized that I have been following the path less traveled, the one my grandfather and his father had sought-after for all those years in Yosemite. From the towering peaks of Banff, sheer rock of New Mexico and endless waters of Washington, maybe I have been searching for the same relationship with nature my family had, albeit in new corners of North America.

Jerry plays Cat Steven's Moonshadow for the campfire compadres

My whole life I've been surrounded by family members passionate about their experience outdoors, in part a product of those early journeys away from the city. I look to public land as a reset, a means of living. Do I feel most at home through these experiences because of my personal taste, or my lineage? Surely a cross-section of the two. How can these connections be translated visually in a way that changes how others think? For some, perhaps they may encourage a new vantage point. But is that enough? I’m still not sure. All I can do is continue to search for moments that leave me closer to the family I come from.

Grandpa TT (Tom Terrific)