Goodbye, Smedley


On October 5th, 2006 I lost my boss and close friend, Steve Medley. The night before he died, we were working on this weblog and it has been difficult for me to update it after his death. Below is the tribute I wrote for him for the Yosemite Association's memorial book, The Complete Guidebook to Steven P. Medley. I miss him every day.

Everything I Needed to Know in Life I Learned From Smedley

Steve and I had the perfect partnership, sort of a professional “dynamic duo,” although we lacked really cool costumes and our delivery van hardly served as a batmobile. After working together for almost eight years, we had learned to appreciate the many ways we complemented each other (he cringed at anything even resembling teambuilding and I gladly ceded any copyediting tasks to him). We had also accepted each other’s idiosyncrasies—I didn’t mind that he played Mexican rock on our business trips and he made an effort to support my love of bar charts and spreadsheets.

We had also become good friends, a rarity in a boss-employee scenario, and that he managed this speaks to his wonderful character. He could transition seamlessly from administering a performance review to enjoying a margarita by the pool while giving me tips on my swim strokes. (Yes, he did hold review sessions by the pool!)

Although I wouldn’t want to emulate his propensity to save old computers for decades or his consistent lunch menu over the last twenty years of yogurt and peanuts, Steve also served as an excellent mentor and teacher. Under his tutelage, I gathered many important tenets of the “Smedley philosophy”:

1. If at first you don’t succeed, a cold beer sure helps before you try again.
Steve’s beer nights with his friends were legendary.
2. Meetings are optional and trainings are for the weak.
I remember being in shock at my first APPL conference when Steve encouraged us to skip a scheduled session so we could walk around Anchorage in search of moose.
3. A bad joke is better than no joke at all.
His humor kept me going during difficult times. After a particularly long week at the office, I lamented to Steve that “I just wasn’t seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” He quickly replied, “that’s because there isn’t one.”
4. There really is a song for every occasion.
Steve never failed to relate even our most dire situations to a song. He even “crafted” a song about our Johnny Partner toilet cans at Ostrander.
5. Never make a decision before 10:00 am, and delay it until noon if possible.
Steve was not a morning person. On one of my first days at work, I strode into his office with a big smile and gave an energized, “good morning!” I still remember the look of utter horror on his face. He asked, “What are you, on drugs?” We all knew not to bother him until after 10:00 am.
6. Be kind.
Steve truly wanted everybody to be as happy as he was. He was a kind, gracious person who cared about the people around him.
7. You can always find it cheaper on ebay.
I don’t think he paid full-price for any consumer good. His ebay habit also procured him an unrivaled collection of Gilroy postcards.
8. Don’t worry, be happy.
In our working relationship, we balanced each other. Steve worried about nothing; I worried about everything. His humor and calming manner saved me from many a nervous breakdown, even the ones he may have provoked from not worrying enough
9. Never use the word “bling-bling” in a sentence.
We had an ongoing debate about grammar and language. He refused to acknowledge any word not listed in his ancient dictionary (of a 1950’s vintage).
10. Family and friends always take precedence over anything else.
He cherished Jane and his sons. And he never let his friends run dry on beer.

Holy, heartbreak, Batman! How can Robin go on without a leader? Smedley, your friendship was a gift. I will miss you for the rest of my life.

Beth Pratt
Yosemite Association Vice President/CFO

Young Lakes

Snow in July? On our drive up to Tuolumne, after we had passed Tenaya Lake, it took me a moment to realize that snow covered the sides of the road. A visitor from Texas stood in her shorts, snapping a photo of her car parked in inches of snowy slush. I regretted that we had not picked yesterday to hike in the high country—what a wonderful experience it would have been to wander in Tuolumne Meadows in July as snowflakes danced around me. The snow had been very localized—a few hundred feet down the road it had disappeared.

The meadows were entirely clear of snow, and the almost clear blue sky and warm sun made it difficult to believe that the area had experienced a storm yesterday that had dropped rain, hail, and snow. High cirrus clouds decorated a small portion of the sky; their presence can sometimes indicate that a storm system has passed.

Today we’re headed to Young Lakes and we begin our hike at the Lembert Dome parking area. Despite it being a holiday weekend, we encounter only half a dozen other hikers on the trail. The path to Young Lakes first wanders (uphill!) through forests, then opens into a meadow where we cross Delaney Creek. To the east, we have a splendid view of Mt. Dana and Gibbs. Further along, we enter a basin under the watch of Ragged Peak, and look southwest at the Cathedral Range.

We had visions of relaxing and taking a dip in one of the Young Lakes, but the thousands of mosquitoes that descended upon us when we arrived at the shore of the lower lake caused us to retreat back up the trail away from the water. We ate our lunch, sans mosquitoes, on a nearby ridge, while enjoying views of the lake and Mt. Conness.

On our return trip we met park ranger Fred Koegler who was out on patrol on his trusted steed Bart. Fred had worked with our President, Steve Medley, when Steve was a ranger in the park. We warned him about the mosquitoes, but he told us one of the benefits of mounted patrol was that the horse deflected most of the mosquitoes away from him. Bart did not appear too pleased at this strategy!