A long time ago, I took my very first trip to Yosemite. It was so long ago that there were still matchbooks in the hotel rooms. On the cover was a picture of Half Dome covered in snow with the words: "YOSEMITE. OPEN ALL YEAR." It made me laugh. The idea that anyone thought nature was something that could be left open or closed down seemed so preposterous that I've kept that matchbook all these years. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so funny.
During the stalemate in Washington, nature became a pawn, something that was opened and closed to the public at will. And that makes me sad. During the three years my family lived in Yosemite National Park, fall always marked one of our favorite times of year. Labor Day meant the end of Yosemite's crowds, when traffic jams and noise were replaced almost overnight by quiet, serenity and peace. For those lucky enough to experience the park in October, with its still warm days and resplendent fall color, Yosemite seemed especially blessed. But not this year.
This year, no one was happy. Not the law enforcement rangers. They were charged with the duty of keeping people out of Yosemite Valley and enforcing the rules about the park’s shutdown status. Not the scientists, maintenance workers, interpretive rangers and fire specialists who woke one morning to find they were “non-essential.” Certainly not the employees of Delaware North Companies, Inc. (DNC ) who work at the shops, restaurants and hotels that cater to Yosemite visitors. Already hovering at the bottom of the pay scale, many of these people make it only because DNC helps subsidize their living expenses. And certainly not the visitors. They were greeted at the gate by one lone employee who hands a piece of paper stating that they may drive the highways, but the park itself was closed and that pulling off the road, even to gaze at the scenery, was forbidden.