It was Yosemite National Park’s 123rd anniversary on Tuesday, the 1st of October – Google even had a doodle to celebrate it – but instead of marking this milestone the park was closed as part of the US government’s shutdown.
The US government shutdown affects tourism
All tourists inside the park were told to leave – anyone trying to enter was turned away.
What a bummer.
Entering Yosemite before the shutdown
The day before the shut down we were wriggling in our seats with excitement as we drove toward Yosemite, one of America’s most famous national parks.
We wanted to do as much hiking as our legs could handle and revel in the wilderness.
Despite listening avidly on the radio to the last minute wrangling between President Obama and the House Republicans it stupidly didn’t occur to us that a government shut down would mean the closure of National Parks.
We found a great camping spot and spent our first night in Yosemite looking at the brilliant stars and listening to the howling of coyotes.
We woke to a perfectly sunny day and drove out of the camp site in high spirits.
Then we saw a crestfallen park ranger stopping all the cars ahead of us.
48 hours to leave
The ranger told us the government was shutdown and that the park was shut indefinitely.
If you had a reservation you could stay one more night but if you didn’t – and we didn’t – you had to leave immediately.
The roads were all still open but the ranger advised us not to stop; the rangers were all going home and the police were patrolling.
Reaction to the government shutdown
Carmen was outraged. I was shocked.
So was every other tourist we saw or met in the park.
People had planned family holidays and travelled from the other side of the globe or around the USA to be in Yosemite.
Now their plans were tossed aside by a political fight a few thousand miles away.
Yosemite was ravaged by a huge fire only a month ago but the park stayed open for that.
Now it’s closed because of politics.
Our plans have had to change
For us it means our plans to visit The Grand Canyon, Arches, Zion and Joshua Tree parks are very likely not going to happen.
It’s a shame because seeing those parks are why we chose to drive around the USA and we don’t have the time to go back if and when they open again.
Oh well, at least we have health insurance as we travel in America and will return eventually to Australia where universal health care is celebrated as a national achievement, not a national crisis.
So go Obama! The parks will be there for a long time; the chance to fight for something we consider good will not be there for long.
We hope all Americans can one day afford healthcare thanks to what Obama is doing today.