North America 2013: Old friends in LA, new ones in Yosemite

Sorry for the delay! A while ago I mentioned I had quit my job to attempt something with a friend; we suddenly found ourselves with a lot of work, which has curtailed blogging a fair bit. I have an ever-growing list of non-travel posts to write, long and short, technical and otherwise, so future travel updates might be rather brief as I try and clear the slate first.

On to Los Angeles

One of the great pleasures of travelling… is meeting other travellers, who can then help you out on your next journey! And so it was; the year before in Patagonia I had met 3 Los Angeles residents: Kevin, understated but with immense resolve (hiking Patagonia while needing both knee and shoulder surgery) and one of the most thoroughly decent men you would ever meet; his friend and counterpoint Dan, ebullient and a brilliant (and constant) story teller; and a beautiful Czech lady with fascinating tales mixing old communist Czechoslovakia and modern Hollywood, Zdenka. A year later I was determined to catch up with all of them again, so despite the city itself having no other appeal to me at the time, it was my obvious next stop.

Dan was out of the country again, but it was great meeting Kevin again and spending more time with him, sharing another hike in the mountains behind LA. Then from suburbia outside LA (an hour and a half of freeway traffic outside, which just appears to be a standard commute), I spent a couple of days in the trendy-hippy beach towns of Venice/Santa Monica with Zdenka, seeing a completely different side of the area.


In so far as I had any plan for this trip, it was to spend roughly 2 months going East across Canada then back West across the US, seeing mostly cities, before touring as much of the amazing national parks on offer in America during my final month. To date I was on schedule, and in yet another display of generosity Kevin loaned me his truck. Swallowing my nerves about driving on the other side of the road—I’d overcome some fear in Alberta, but Californian freeways were another matter entirely—I made a last-minute hostel booking and drove 7 hours up to Yosemite.

The next day, the US Government Shutdown closed the national parks.

Ok, that was a slight exaggeration for dramatic effect. The reality is the next day I had a full day of hiking up to the (bone-dry) Yosemite Falls, where I had lunch overlooking the incredible valley view and watching crows joy-riding the thermal off the cliff edge.

The next day they really did close the parks. No-one had any idea what that was going to mean in practice however, so together with an Irish dorm-mate (are Irish ever not great travellers?) we drove in to try our luck. The ranger at the gate also seemed unclear what the shutdown entailed,1 but said we could go in “today”. From the sounds of it we just got lucky; others were supposedly turned away, while others were allowed in but later evicted by different rangers. This was a Tuesday, and at that time people expected things to be resolved by Thursday—no doubt the parties of the 6 weddings apparently planned inside the park that weekend were particularly hopeful, as well as the climbers with months-long camping plans who were being told to leave.

Still, we counted our blessings and enjoyed a much quieter hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls. There was no way I wasn’t taking advantage of any break—only the day before I’d optimistically paid for a year-long national-parks pass, and the chances of breaking even on my investment by visiting 4 parks were now looking rather slim.

  1. Other than not being paid himself, of course, while the politicians claiming it was necessary continued to draw their own salaries. ↩︎

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