There were only 10 guests on the train. Normally in July and August there would be riders. Scott Gediman was explaining how the poolside and patio of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel would usually be full of politicians, dignitaries and others lapping in its luxury when his eyes beheld a sight made possible by smoke and fire.
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A 3-year-old bear climbed into an apple tree and lumbered up a branch for a snack while a 5-year-old bear explored the nearby field for insects and other snacks. After thick smoke from the massive Ferguson fire, which has burned more than 73, acres and destroyed 10 structures, made its way into the most iconic region of Yosemite National Park, officials decided it best to close Yosemite Valley — home to granite giants El Capitan and Half Dome, and striking views of Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America.
And beautiful. The only sounds are the river running and wind blowing as fluffs of dandelions, and ash, float through the air. Cyclists, people fishing in the Merced River and scampering children in school groups are nowhere to be seen. At sunset, Sentinel Bridge would normally be filled with dozens of photographers trying to capture the orange sun coating Half Dome.
Now, the sound of snapping comes not from a camera shutter but from a gray squirrel cracking into a pine cone. At the Tunnel View overlook — where throngs of tourists snap thousands of photos a year of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls and Half Dome — only a single person sits in the parking lot.
A wooden chair where a park ranger would usually give presentations at the Half Dome Village amphitheater collects dust on the stage. The green and yellow open-air trams used for Valley floor tours guided by a ranger sit idle. Campsites booked five months in advance are deserted. The campsite in Lower Pines, where Oprah Winfrey once stayed, is empty. Nearby, a pile of firewood sits abandoned close to a fire ring, the sign of a trip likely ended sooner than desired. On average, , people visit Yosemite National Park in July, and an additional , visit in August. But in recent days, the only people have been a skeleton crew of park staff and concession workers who live at the park, along with the occasional firefighters working on building fire line nearby.
More than 3 million people have visited Yosemite National Park every year for the last 30 years. Last year, it was the fifth-most visited national park in the country.
What parts of Yosemite are affected by the closures?
Gediman is less worried about the impact to the park, albeit significant, than he is for the small-business owners scattered throughout the region. You have Oakhurst, Sonora and Mariposa, whose economies are mostly or fully dependent on the park. For the last three weeks, the cancellations at local inns and tourist attractions have begun to pour in, with some even canceling reservations made for late August. Along local highways, vacancy signs, a rare sight for the summer months, are placed outside inns and hotels.
On Thursday afternoon, the black Shay locomotive sat ready for the hour round trip it would soon take, pulling three covered red and green cars and two cars made from logs. Usually in the summer months, up to passengers would be boarding the train.
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On this day, there were 10 people, more than half of whom are from Europe and booked their trips months in advance. In late August , the Railroad fire started right next to the tourist attraction at p. Passengers were evacuated and told to head north to Yosemite.
This was great news for tourists from Israel, Italy, Germany and many other points on the globe who drove into a park still hazy from the diminished but still active Ferguson Fire. It was cool, an unforeseen benefit. The bears were especially happy to climb some of the apple trees in Curry Village and feast on the harvest. The closing came at the busiest time of year for the park, when visitors typically number around 15, to 18, people a day, Mr.
Gediman said. Yosemite was serene during the closing but filled with choking smoke from the nearby fires. The park closed for two and a half months.
Yosemite Fire Part 3
Gediman has an office at the park headquarters in Yosemite Valley, but he spent Tuesday outside, greeting visitors as they streamed in. Gediman said by telephone, pausing to answer a query from a carload of foreign tourists.
Here is what travelers should know about three major fires in popular tourist areas in California. Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers. More than a thousand homes have been destroyed across California. An investigation revealed that the L.
The Times pointed to The Tribune in San Luis Obispo , whose coverage of the death of an inmate led the county to change how it treats mentally ill prisoners. The chemical, glyphosate, was declared a carcinogen by California.
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