Background on Damian Riley: The following content was created by long-time Nomadik Adventurer and Yosemite Native Damian Riley. He regularly tests gear for us, helps with product ideas and creates content for us. He’s a Me-wuk Indian who’s roots date back thousands of years. The Me-wuk tribe resided in Tuolumne (Yosemite High Country), they lived in small bands, were hunter-gatherers, harvested acorns, had domesticated dogs and cultivated tobacco.
During the summer, my days in Yosemite usually revolve around the high country (although there’s some nooks and crannies in the valley I sometimes hit). Getting on the trails with friends and family to more remote locations. The melted snow, and warmer weather, opens up the other 99% of Yosemite that does not consist of Yosemite Valley. And every single inch of the Yosemite wilderness is more grand and stunning than you could ever imagine. The best part for me is: the lack of pavement, cell service, and crowds. Getting out there and off the grid allows me to reconnect to the traditions and spirit of my Native ancestors that once tended this land for millennia prior.
That solitude of places off the beaten path allows me to just listen, finding a moment with nothing but the breeze through the pine needles is a magical thing. Of course, you can find solitude and peace anywhere in nature, but for me as a Yosemite Native, experiencing those kind of peaceful moments are more than just a method of relaxation. It can be more related to a spiritual experience.
I also try to make as much time as possible to pass on traditions of our culture to my son and the next generation of youth. We spend time examining the grass and plants, looking for edible bulbs, or checking to see which animals have slept in the meadow the night before, based on their depressions in the blades. Understanding the nature of a place has a lot more to do with symbiance, than it has to do with function.
And then of course there are the new traditions we try to pass on with my free time. No day in Yosemite is complete without gripping on some granite. Rock climbing is something we are passionate about as a family. We try to find tiny moments in our busy schedules to remind ourselves how much we still need to learn about climbing. Scaling these granite monoliths takes a lot of patience and humility.
Ultimately it’s just about being out there, trying to connect and absorb the energy of the land- maybe akin to what aboriginals refer to as “walkabouts.” Most days I try not to have agendas with my personal time. Instead I try to focus on my ancestors that roamed this land, and channel a bit of their spirit and endurance for exploration. Not for the sake of excitement, but the desire to learn something from this place. The fun part is usually a natural byproduct of the experience.
The best advice I can give to anyone when it comes to Yosemite would be to just slow down, really, slow down and don’t rush the little moments. Don’t care about where you think you have to be, and just be for a little while. You might have a different experience that goes beyond the natural beauty. My second biggest advice would be to pick up trash when you come across it, a simple but effective way to keep this place beautiful.
Give Damian a follow on Instagram for more epic content –> @damianrileyphoto