Out West student blog

The Summit After Freshman Year

The vista from the summit of Cloud's Rest
A photo from the top of Cloud's Rest (9,930 feet from the ground).


By Rachel Lam
Undeclared, 2019
Museum Intern at Yosemite National Park

I am nineteen years old. Last June I finished my first year at Stanford University and then promptly began an internship at Yosemite National Park. I work in Yosemite Valley at the park’s museum. Over 5 million natural and cultural objects make up our collections – including paintings and prints by Thomas Hill and Chiura Obata, negatives and photographs by Carleton Watkins and Ansel Adams, Paiute and Miwok basketry, native herbarium, native biological and geological specimens, and other Yosemite artifacts like historic park ranger gear.

Though I’m not exactly sure what I will major in or what jobs I’ll hold in the future, last winter I decided that this summer I would work in a museum. Three interests of mine intersect in museums: art, history, and anthropology. I wanted to see if museum work was something I might want to do as a career. So I applied to a few internships and decided to work in the museum at Yosemite.

So far my work has comprised of inventorying, cataloging, rehousing, researching, and writing descriptions for exhibits. I like the latter two tasks the most. The first three are interesting because I get to handle fascinating objects, but the actual tasks are a bit too repetitive for my tastes. I like how when I research or write, every word I read or make is new. My internship allows for a special project which I create and complete myself. I’ve decided to research the park service’s relationship with the seven American Indian tribes traditionally associated with the Yosemite area. I hope to revise several web pages on the official Yosemite National Park website and perhaps lay the groundwork for a future exhibit. It’s a very complex topic with a lot of conflict. I have been reading books on the subject and was able to attend the 14th Annual All Tribes Meeting - where Yosemite National Park Service leaders meet with leaders from the local native communities. I’ve learned a lot of the history of their relations and some of it is quite sad, for example the last native eviction by the park service was in 1969 and involved burning native homes. However, the meeting gave me a sense of hope. All of the people in attendance were very respectful of each other. It seems like today’s park service and tribal leaders have begun to forge better relationships. They are attempting to work together to care for area they all love immensely.

After a busy (and sometimes very stressful) year at Stanford, this internship feels a bit like a retreat. I have a lot of time to think, hike, read, swim, draw, adventure, and journal. All activities I love, but didn’t really do as much as I’d have liked this school year. One of my favorite hikes so far has been Cloud’s Rest. It’s a challenging hike - 14.4 miles round trip. It leads to one of the best views in the park. I’ve never been able to see so far in all directions before. From that vantage, the earth seems to want to impress upon her viewers a sense of adventure, appreciation, and acceptance. The summit of Cloud’s Rest feels a bit like my internship at Yosemite and this summer in general. I can see how far I’ve come in nineteen years of life. I can see the many directions in which one can go. I’m not sure what I will do in the future, but somehow I know that it'll be okay.

Read more at the Out West Student Blog »

Recent Center News

Salmon fishing banned again in California; a growing movement against conservation; the history of the Columbia River’s “salmon wars”; new costs and restrictions for oil and gas drilling on public lands; and other recent environmental news from around the West.
Stanford economist Paul Milgrom won a Nobel Prize in part for his role in enabling today’s mobile world. Now he’s tackling a different 21st century challenge: water scarcity.

Image Credit: Getty Images

The future of water in the Southwest was top of mind for participants and attendees at the 10th Annual Eccles Family Rural West Conference.