October 1, 2013 Yosemite National Park’s 123rd Anniversary
October 1, 2013 United States government shutdown
We had vague knowledge that the government shutdown was looming but hadn’t really considered its ramifications on us. On September 30, at the Mono Lake Visitor’s Center, a ranger reminded us that there would be no one there the next day if the shutdown was not averted.
On the morning of the 1st, we stopped at a coffee shop in Lee Vining near the eastern entrance to Yosemite. The only information we could find online said the park was allowing people to drive through on the main road (Route 120, an important east-west road through the mountains) but was not permitting anyone to stop, park or stay. They would be evacuating the thousands of tourists already in Yosemite Valley. (A few days later they would close the road altogether.)
We had only three days before The Big Trip would be over. Since avoiding Yosemite would be an enormous detour, we decided to drive through, do a little sightseeing and camp on the other side for the night. The entrance booth was unmanned and a large sign instructed people to stay in their cars and keep driving.
However, without rangers or employees to enforce this ban, people completely ignored it. Within 50 yards of the sign, tourists had already pulled over and were out taking pictures. This mass civil disobedience was amusing. Scenic vista’s parking lots were full and people roamed freely.
Yosemite Village, where most of the tourists stay, was chaos. Vacations that have been planned for years were disrupted. Visitors were given two more days to leave. Many of the visitors were foreign nationals.
The upside of this was, since people were more concerned about rearranging their plans than sightseeing , the roads were actually less crowded than usual. If you’ve ever been to Yosemite, you’ll know that the main drive through the valley is always an overcrowded zoo, heavy traffic, fighting for parking places and waiting in lines. Not the kind of national park experience I like.
Just outside the park was a small national forest campground. Although it was probably technically closed as well, since no one was there, we spent the night.
The next day we stopped at a coffee shop in Mariposa, just west of Yosemite. A German couple who had fled Yosemite were making new plans on the Internet to visit Big Sur – not a bad alternative. The shop owners were concerned that friend’s plans to be wed in Yosemite in two weeks might be scuttled.