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The View from Behind the Locked Gate: The Government Shutdown and the National Parks

It’s day twelve of the government shutdown, and the country has settled into a tired routine.  Much of the shutdown discussion seems to have taken on a tone of resignation or half-hearted complaint, as the public watches while efforts at bipartisan talks collapse.  Despite this trend towards passivity from sidelined Americans, there has been a lot of venom out there—some of it terribly misdirected.

I have been appalled at the extent of the vitriol and misinformation that’s floating around, especially regarding the role of the National Park Service in the closure of its 401 units around the country.  Sites ranging from the Liberty Bell to Yosemite have been barricaded to visitors.  Understandably, people are upset about being shut out of America’s most special places.  For many travelers, a big national parks vacation is the trip of a lifetime: a pilgrimage to places of tremendous natural beauty and historic significance, planned for months or even years in advance.  Being turned away at the gate is hurtful and costly. Read more

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Searching for the Shutdown’s Silver Lining

One good thing about the shutdown: it’s given me the time and mental space to do some writing, for the first time in a long time.

I started this blog in June of 2012.  I updated it regularly until February, when a number of life events coincided to make writing well-nigh impossible.  When I went on furlough (my scheduled furlough, that is) in August, I had lots of quality time in the backcountry.  I did lots of journaling and vowed to take up writing again.  I then came back to work at the beginning of September, and did a whole lot of … not writing. Read more

What to Do if Your National Park Vacation is Ruined by the Government Shutdown

October can be a wonderful time for national park visits.  The crowds and heat of summer have faded, and the colors of autumn brighten the landscape.  Sadly, this year’s government shutdown has closed all 401 national park sites around the country.  How long the shutdown will last is a great unknown.  So what do you do if you pull up to the gate of a national park on your long-planned vacation, only to find the way is barred?

There are no substitutes for our national parks.  They are set aside and protected as national parks for a reason: these lands are of national or international significance.  But knowing that doesn’t help much if you’re in your rental car on your vacation, trying to figure out where you should go when your plan has been foiled.  Here are a few ideas for alternative destinations. Read more

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