July 23rd, 11:17pm

Sometimes, you hear about a place in the old days, registered as a complaint. But painter Penny Otwell’s eloquent account of growing up in Yosemite drew us in, making us miss a bygone era of romance that we’ve never seen. She welcomed us into her home and studio in Mariposa, CA, and shared her Yosemite story.

At 18, Penny came to Yosemite as a counselor for the YMCA. She immediately fell in love with this place, and decided to stay. She was hired by John Curry & Fred Pearson themselves, and worked in the dining room of the Ahwahnee hotel. Here, she witnessed the Firefall from Glacier Point every night, and even witnessed a few heart attacks of guests enjoying the unlimited meal plan! With 3 days off each week, she realized that she could go backpacking into the high country. “People come here for a day and want to see everything. It’s taken me a lifetime, and I’m still observing.”

Penny has never been blasé about Yosemite, keeping journals and notes on her observations in nature, which we had the opportunity to take a peek at. It was only later in life that Penny decided, with no formal training, that painting would be the best way to share her passion about this place. “To understand what Yosemite is best, is by walking slowly,” she says. With an exhibition coming up in the Ansel Adams gallery this September, we encourage you to let Penny sweep you up into her vision of Yosemite.