The Evil Genius Behind Yosemite Explorer

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Surprisingly, it has come to my attention that people I don't know are finding this site and are starting to wonder who is actually putting these materials on the web. So here's the long-winded, self-indulgent answer to that question.

Yosemite Explorer is maintained (at least in theory though not much in practice) by me, Tom Lambert. I'm a historian and editor of obscure scholarly tomes by profession, but my deep love has always been the outdoors: climbing, hiking and skiing in all forms (cross-country, backcountry, alpine). More recently, I've become a bit obsessed with Yosemite wildflowers.

I first came to Yosemite to climb with my brother in October 1985, but a big snowstorm that dropped 18 inches in Tuolumne and a dusting in the Valley made climbing unpleasant. Miraculously, though, they reopened Tioga Pass and so my first trip to Yosemite involved driving through Tuolumne in the "winter" and exploring the Mount Conness area in a fresh snow. Little did I know that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After that I came back with increasing frequency with my brother and then with Theresa, especially while she was at Berkeley from 1996-2002.

After we finished our doctoral studies (me in history, she in neuroscience), we came to Yosemite in April 2003 to use it as job search central for three months while I telecommuted and she looked for a job. I joke that she ended up with an "academic" job in the end since her first job was at the Yosemite Ski School, then as assistant manager of the Yosemite Mountaineering School (they're schools, right?). That pretty much sealed it and three months turned into three years and whatever desire we once had to earn real salaries (more her than me, since history is rarely a lucrative field), live in the city (uh, never much real desire there, though we enjoyed Berkeley) and work at universities or do research in biotech has been pretty much forgotten. I am still editing my obscure scholarly tomes, but throwing more into the mix — teaching skiing, building some websites and now running our Yosemite vacation rental (reservations calendar). It's ironic that it was teaching skiing back in 1985 that originally motivated me to consider teaching history as a career, but time has shown that teaching skiing is more fun and rewarding for me (though I really love teaching my paleography course and the student reviews have been awesome).

Meanwhile, after a pretty dramatic accident, Theresa left the mountaineering school and is now an online marketer for the concessioner, which has exposed me to a whole wide world that has been surprisingly interesting.

We came to Yosemite for the climbing mostly, though we had loved the backcountry skiing on the east side of the park. After some time here, we came to see what a tiny portion of the park most people see as rock climbers and we got the explorer bug and found that we couldn't get motivated to spend our days off climbing when there were hundreds of miles of trails and cross-country routes to explore. In the meantime, I got a digicam and got a little obsessed with taking pictures on these trips. But then, what the hell do you do with all these pictures? So the idea for Yosemite Explorer was born.

The one thing that I have to stress, though, is this. I want to encourage people to go out and see the park beyond the roads, but please be careful. On a recent trip to Lower Ottoway Lake, I noticed that fishermen have created a ring of dead and beaten earth around the entire lake, often in places where they could have easily walked across rock slabs instead. As more of us fill up the backcountry, the cumulative impact of our footprints (both literal and figurative) increases. Walk on the rocks, not the plants, stay on the trails when possible (but explore when appropriate). We're tired of picking up used diapers, so carry out everything including your used toilet paper and also pick up one piece of garbage that isn't yours while you're out there (this makes a small improvement without driving you crazy). Never feed the animals, not even inadvertently and not even the squirrels (but go ahead and feed the mosquitos if you want to).

Often I hear climbers and backpackers get all snooty about "tourists". If there's one thing that I've learned living here, it's that everyone has their way of enjoying Yosemite and it is foolishly arrogant to think your way is superior to another way. We are all visitors and tourists here, even the sequoia trees who live a mere couple thousand years — a blink of the eye for the granite bones of the park. Some of us may be visiting for three hours, some for thirty years, some will only see the park from the pavement, some from halfway up El Capitan. It's all valid. Preserve and Enjoy!

P.S. If you are one of those people preserving and enjoying the park via RV or you are just uncomfortable driving the twisty roads, please please please use the pullouts. California state law says that you must pull over if you have five cars backed up behind you. Common courtesy says you should pull over if you have one car backed up behind you. Some of us actually have somewhere to go where we're expected to be on time.