Out West student blog

A Quieter Side of Yosemite

Color image of a butterfly in a field of California Cornflowers
Not your typical valley view- a butterfly approaches a field of California Cornflowers in Mariposa Grove.


By Emilia Schrier
B.A., English, 2016
Archives and Records Management Intern at Yosemite National Park

I am not a morning person—9am class was always too early to handle. But there are some rare occasions when I don’t mind losing a few hours of sleep… case in point, last Tuesday. 4am and the pre-dawn darkness saw me jolting awake, wriggling into some hiking clothes, and stumbling out the door with pack and camera in hand. By 5am I was in government vehicle with the park videographer, literally racing the sunrise. Our goal: capture the Mariposa Grove in early morning light.

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is home to several hundred giant sequoia trees—the world’s largest single tree and largest living thing by volume. The grove, currently being restored to protect the trees, is closed to the public until Spring 2017. (To learn more about the restoration, visit https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/mariposagrove.htm) But Kristin (the videographer) had come to document the restoration, so we were waived through the gates.

Always a peaceful place even with the crowds of visitors, the empty grove seemed imbued with a different kind of life that morning, bordering on spiritual. The sun streamed in through the trees and we watched as the rising light slowly illuminated the meadow. We didn’t speak much, as the camera was rolling, so the only sounds were the playful calls of birds flitting around us and the constant hum of bees in the wildflower meadow. We spent the entire morning in this serene lull and when we finally left in time for a late lunch, I felt like I was returning from a different world.

This is not my typical day—I am an intern for the Yosemite Archives and not the videographer, after all. At the archive, the general description of my job is to catalogue, describe, organize, and conserve collections pertaining to park history. Archival holdings are mostly 2D documents, while historical objects go to the museum. These documents can be anything from handwritten letters to photographs to old maps. Because there is always work to be done in an archive, my day to day work is always varied. At any point in time, I’m working on at least 4 big projects, plus 3-4 side projects!

But it’s surprising how often my projects at the archive lead me to opportunities in other areas of the park. Researching the background of one collection led me to spend two days working in the Research library, and I’m scheduled to work for a week in the museum as well. After cataloguing maps of the park that showed changing forest boundaries, I attended a forum hosted by the US Forest Service to learn more about the role of wildfires in forest change. And I got the chance to accompany Kristin on her video assignment because I’ve been preparing video gear for an upcoming oral history project.

I thought this summer would pass slowly, living away from fast-paced Silicon Valley. Instead, five weeks of this internship have flown by in a hectic whirl of paper, projects, and the ever-present summer traffic. So I like to spend my days off on some shady trail up in the high country, or continuing my search for the perfect swim hole (must have: privacy; deep, calm water; sun and shade; granite slabs, dirt, or sand for easy access; and nice napping/reading stones). I find that I’m happiest in some quiet corner of this beautiful park.

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