Picture: Vogelsang Peak reflected in Vogelsang Lake at sunrise, near the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, Yosemite National Park, 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.
Image ID#: tiga-2073
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