July 8th, 2:15am

We had a great start in Yosemite National Park, chatting with Park Rangers Jamie Richards and Moses Chun, Press Officer & 2016 Centennial Ambassador, respectively. Having started two weeks ago, Jamie did not meet the President during his Father’s Day visit. But Moses, shared that—with a radiant smile on his face—he did have the opportunity to meet him, and it was one of the greatest moments of his life.

A large part of our conversation centered around how Yosemite National Park was, and continues to be, a trailblazer. Yosemite Valley was the very first protected federal land (protected in 1864), and thus played a key role in the formation of the National Park Service. It serves as a testing ground to this day, with the management of visitor impact on Half Dome serving as a modern day success story. Because of Yosemite’s grandeur, it attracted the praise and support of naturalists and California citizens to advocate for its protection, many figures who are now legends today—Frederick Law Olmsted, John Muir. Trailblazing is in the DNA of this park.

Jamie emphasized the historical significance of President Lincoln’s signing of the Yosemite Grant, in the middle of a raging Civil War, to protect land that he had never seen for himself. The park continues to be inspirational to different people for different reasons—for its physical and natural beauty, or the ability to retrace the footsteps of key figures and events. Yosemite holds so many different kinds of stories, which make this park so unique: from the Buffalo Soldiers and army calvary that patrolled the early park, to Clare Marie Hodges, becoming the park’s first female ranger one year before women could even vote, and to contemporary stories of people finding their own inspiration in the park.

For Moses, his connection to the park is a deeply emotional one. After visiting Yosemite as a kid, and having the opportunity to volunteer through a UC Merced program, he’s still moved by the idea that somebody he never knew, and that never knew him, wanted to give this place to him; to make it for all people, for all time. For him, one of the most rewarding parts of his job is to see a visitor, from the other side of the world, whose face lights up in awe of this landscape. Moses quoted the President’s speech from his Yosemite visit, saying that this place “changes you just by being here.” The landscape, so dramatic and awe-inspiring, makes you feel small and think about where you are, who you are, and your place in the world.