National Geographic : 2011 Oct
loved that story. And now I can say I've seen the place where Harold held Ansel's ass!" Michael was still chuckling over that one as he picked his way along the lakeshore, searching for the ass-holding place, while his son, Matthew, and I wandered up and down the lake, scruti- nizing the scene, roasting in the unobstructed sun, and feeling de ated that none of the ven- ues looked quite right. Finally we triangulated a couple of boulders with Banner Peak and nailed the location at 37° 43' N, 119° 10' W. e view was just as Ansel Adams had seen it, except for the absence of the feathery clouds that brushed his mountains and the presence of a pine on the right, which had insinuated its way into the composition since 1923. "Otherwise, pretty much what my grandfa- ther saw," said Matthew Adams, who continues the family interest in photography as president of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Na- tional Park. Loose-limbed and rangy, Matthew is a young version of his grandfather, with his Roman nose and dark, arching eyebrows. He whipped out a pocket camera and snapped a picture of his father, who took o his Stetson and beamed by the lake that had caught Ansel's eye so long ago. Mission accomplished, we saddled up and plodded back to camp on the sturdy, steady horses we had picked up in June Lake. We eased down one trail and up another, through high meadows bright with lupine and Indian paint- brush, past twisted junipers on the heights, and over the pass to the Clark Lakes, where our tent camp commanded a ne view of the mountains. e shadows lengthened, the stars popped into place, and the air chilled abruptly. We pulled our chairs closer to the re, remembering the man who had brought us together. "I think my father was happy that the Sierra Club and others put his work to good use," Michael said. He had been ddling with a new Polaroid camera, which prompted the obvious question: Was he a photographer too? "No, I'm not," he said. " at's the rst thing people ask me. e second thing they ask is what my father would think of digital photography. My answer is that he'd love it. He was always excited by the technical aspects of photography. He was always experimenting. So yes, I think he'd be very en- thusiastic about digital, and he would nd some way to use it." To look at his photographs, you might get the mistaken notion that Ansel Adams was a severe man who viewed the world coldly, from a great distance and with little interest in humanity. In reality he was a gregarious creature with a salty sense of humor, a voluble style, and a sprawling network of friends who felt his death keenly. Two such friends were William A. Turnage, then president of the Wilderness Society, and Alan Cranston, the California senator who rose to the position of Democratic whip in the late 1970s. When Adams died, Cranston wasted little time in calling Turnage to commiserate. "What can we do for Ansel?" the senator asked. Turnage was ready with an answer: cre- ate a new Ansel Adams Wilderness area, which, along with the expanded John Muir Wilderness, would link two of the great High Sierra national parks, Yosemite and Sequoia. " is would thrill Ansel more than anything else could do---but it requires an act of Congress," Turnage recalls telling Cranston. e senator readily agreed and ran with the idea. He persuaded his Republican colleague from California, Senator Pete Wilson, to co- sponsor legislation that added 119,000 acres to the existing Minarets Wilderness and renamed it to honor their friend. Within months of Adams's death, the designation sailed through Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. e camp re at the Clark Lakes was burning down. Michael Adams stared into the embers and spoke again of his father, now a permanent presence in the mountains all around us. "He'd be tickled to know that this part of the country has his name on it. He'd love that." j Robert M. Poole's latest book is On Hallowed Ground: e Story of Arlington National Cemetery. Photographer Peter Essick counts Ansel Adams as a major source of inspiration for his career.