Despite Mount Rainier National Park staff’s best efforts to let visitors explore the lands around the iconic Washington State mountain, the only entrance road open into the park during the winter months was closed on Sunday, January 6th, 2019. A simple announcement on the park’s website greeted visitors with the following:
“Beginning at 3:00 pm on 1/6/19, the park is prohibiting all public vehicle access into the park via the Nisqually entrance near Ashford. This closure to public vehicles is expected to continue until further notice.”
For many, this news comes as no surprise. During the latest shutdown, National Parks around the country are facing an onslaught of visitors who do not practice Leave No Trace methods, or who are willingly ignoring rules and regulations that can typically be more enforced when the parks are fully staffed. In Olympic National Park over the New Years holiday, dozens of hikers had dogs on and off leash at trails around the park. In Yosemite National Park, piles of human waste and garbage were left along pullouts in the iconic valley, while hoards of nogoodniks camped illegally around Joshua Tree National Park.
National Parks have remained open during the latest pointless Government shutdown, but as garbage and human waste piles up, Mount Rainier National Park staff has little choice but to close the gates. Local Rainier lovers spent last weekend cleaning garbage up around the region, but it apparently wasn’t enough. Sadly, Mount Rainier is now inaccessible to the thousands who normally visit the park each January, closing off one of the states most iconic and gorgeous sledding and snowplow regions.
While it appears that you can still walk into the park, few will make the drive all the way past the small communities of Elbe and Ashford to walk 6.4 miles to reach Longmire. Few still would make the 17 mile trip up to Paradise. For now, it appears as if Mount Rainier will be covered in the clouds of winter and hidden in the fog of a seemingly unending shutdown.
It is sad that a pout about a wall, and the selfish, disgusting and irresponsible actions of others has now put up a barricade to lands that are supposed to be public. Hopefully, the National Parks can open fully staffed soon, and I will keep my fingers crossed, but not hold my breath, that they will finally get fully funded to once again become the gems of beauty and imagination for generations to come.