A great but strange Yosemite experience thanks to the US Gov’t.

Picture: Vogelsang Peak reflected in Vogelsang Lake at sunrise, near the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, Yosemite National Park, California<

Image: Storm cloud over Lake Tahoe at sunset, from South Lake Tahoe, California

This last Monday evening found me driving home from the Eastern Sierra along Highway 120, crossing over the Sierra via Tioga Pass Road through Yosemite National Park. It was truly one of the best and most unique experiences I’ve ever had in Yosemite. Unbelievably, I owe the thanks to the United States Government Shutdown, which effected all of America’s National Parks, including the closure of Yosemite. Even though the park was closed, people were permitted to drive along Tioga Pass Road (Hwy 120), yet they weren’t allowed to stop or recreate.

Now every other time I’ve crossed through Yosemite at night, including the dead of night, I always though of the park as being ‘asleep’. I knew people were in the backcountry or camping, employees working, rangers doing their patrols, but yet the quiet park merely felt at rest.

Driving through the park on Monday night, I was hit with the palpable feeling that the park was EMPTY, as if people had vanished from the earth. I was getting to see Yosemite as she was, by herself, like a peaceful sleeping giant, untouched by the footsteps of humans trodding across her skin. This was a different Yosemite; a Yosemite that knew only of Planet Earth and the timeless processes by which she was created, evolving through the eons, and not beholden to the skitterings of tourists and recreational vehicles. I felt humbled and honored to be in her presence during this unique moment, even though I was just passing through.

How bizarre, to think I owe this unique experience to a government shutdown, by a government whom I’m sure will be but a mere blip of existence when defined by time as measured by the land we call Yosemite.

And how quiet was it? While a few cars passed me heading in the opposite direction, there wasn’t another vehicle in my lane, either in front of me or behind, from 5 miles east of Tioga Pass, until I pulled into downtown Groveland; a distance of almost 75 miles. It was one of the best, most-memorable, peaceful drives I’ve had in a long, long time.


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6 Comments on “A great but strange Yosemite experience thanks to the US Gov’t.”

  1. Jim Goldstein Says:

    At least it was a peaceful drive. Did you take the time to get out and listen to the silence at all?

  2. Alma Says:

    LOVE your story on the solitude and immeasurable feeling of the drive across Tioga! We are heading up that way the first week in Nov. and hope that the park is open once again, and we might make across Tioga on our way back home if snow doesn’t prevail and close it by then! Thanks for sharing such a special moment in time with everyone!

  3. Belinda Says:

    I can well imagine the feeling you had…I felt that way when I was under the stars in the Negev and Sinai.

  4. Brian W. Downs Says:

    Makes me wonder if somewhere in the backcountry there are still a few backpackers enjoying the park, blissfully unaware of the shutdown. I certainly hope so.

  5. enlightphoto Says:

    Brian:

    I had the same exact thought. I did pass one car that looked like it had been parked at a trailhead for a long while, hopefully, as you said, blissfully unaware… maybe they felt unusually alone. :)

    Cheers!

  6. Brady Says:

    Nice post. But it’s not “the US government” that shut down Yosemite. It is a small number of Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives who refused to fund the government unless the Affordable Care Act was repealed or delayed. To prevent it from happening again, it’s important that people understand this wasn’t just a random occurrence. One group of Republicans was reckless and has cost the nation dearly for its tantrum.



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