Telegraph Fire Disrupting Yosemite Tourism

July 28, 2008 8:41:32 PM PDT
Despite heavy smoke shrouding the rocks at Yosemite, the park remains open.Park officials shut off the power Saturday afternoon just as a precaution for firefighters.

Tourists have to "rough it" a little more than usual, but most plan to stick around until the power comes back on.

The first clue something is different at Yosemite is the drive through the tunnel on highway 41 from the south. The power is off and the tunnel is pitch black. Then as you emerge from the tunnel, the glorious view of Half Dome and El Capitan fade into clouds of smoke.

It's not the view most first time tourists were hoping for. Kentucky visitor Julie Robison is trying to make the most of her visit. Robison said, "I was disappointed in the no electricity and the really cold showers, but seeing as how we came this far, we figured it was a good chance to camp - and that's what we called it. The kids have had a great time.

Most of Yosemite Valley has power running off of a generator. Hotel lobbies and restaurants are open for business. Individual rooms at Yosemite Lodge and cabins around the Ahwahnee Hotel are dark and un-air-conditioned.

After one night without power, German tourist Jens Obernesser and his family found a hotel room in Oakhurst about an hour south of Yosemite. But for those who stayed in Yosemite Valley, hotel employees did their best to make accommodations - including room discounts and extended stays.

Kelly Karst, the park's concessionaire, says "they've come here really to enjoy the park. The amenities are usually a secondary consideration. There's a little inconvenience because of power outages. Some people need to take a cold shower instead of a warm one.

Kari Cobb of the National Park Service says when Yosemite cannot provide the basic services like water and sewage, that's when they would have to shut down the park. But they don't foresee that happening. Park officials expect the power to be back on before the sun comes up over half dome Tuesday morning.

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