YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Everybody gathers around Joe, the guy who seems to have all the answers. Only he doesn’t.
He’s worked in Yosemite National Park for about 30 years, and is trying to advise anxious guests about what’s open, what’s closed as the government shutdown enters its second day. If they want to see the valley floor, he says, they’d better get in their cars and drive now, before more of the roads are closed. They probably won’t find an open restroom along the way, but the food court in Yosemite Village might be — for now. Then again, they might get turned away. Who knows? It’s hour by hour now.
I never intended to get a firsthand look at the closure of a national park. I knew before I left Chicago that it was a possibility, but held out hope. Now here I am, trying to figure out what to do in my third day in the park, when some of the wonders I’d come to see are inaccessible.
My friend Barb and I got here on Monday, not exactly regretting the night we spent in San Francisco, which was nice, but anxious to get to the wilderness. That first day, we tried to drive to, or get a glimpse of, as many of the iconic attractions as possible — Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls — and got out to do short hikes and, in my case, take hundreds of photos. We marveled that they were some of the same ones that Ansel Adams photographed so long ago.
By Tuesday morning, everyone awoke to learn that the government, indeed, had shut down. But the park hadn’t quite yet. Those with reservations in the park, like us, would have 48 hours to get out. We decided to make the most of it and drive to Glacier Point and do a long hike. But too late: The road to Glacier Point already was closed. Cars pulled in and stopped. People got out and started talking to each other.