Yosemite and the Hantavirus

Yosemite National Park is one of the most renowned National Parks in the US and the most visited by Americans and foreigners alike. People who set foot in this wonderland never forget the sight of Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome and Clouds Rest.
Hikers, fortunate enough, to have walked the Mist Trail, the John Muir Trail and reached the top of the famed Half Dome, know that danger and raw beauty are often best neighbors.
Since I live in the southern foothills, I am a frequent visitor.
The news that people have contracted and died from the Hantavirus after staying in Curry Village is alarming and sad.
Although I climbed Half Dome four times, I only spent a night at Curry Village – my first hike to the top – in 2004.
I expected very basic commodities and was impressed by the rustic yet very clean facilities. Freshly laundered sheets were provided for the beds. A dresser stood on the wooden floor, which was clean.
The only drawback for me were the strict rules about food, drinks and toiletries – including toothpaste – that had to be put away in bear safe lockers. I knew they made sense but it’s annoying to pack your little personal things in a metallic safe to only retrieve them in the morning.
When I stayed in the tents, my friends and I ate before reaching the park so I had no opinion on the food served within Curry Village until I climbed Clouds Rest early June.
Our group had three teenagers and I had promised them pizza on the way home. We enjoyed a great outdoor meal on the large shady terrace of the pizzeria feet away from the tents. It was the perfect closure after a day spent outside.
Over Labor Day weekend, my family brought a young French student to the park and we ate our lunch on the Merced River, where we saw squirrels and deer, enjoying their own lunch.
At Glacier Point we admired Vernal and Nevada Falls, the two falls you pass on the way to Half Dome. People have lost their lives at these three outstanding locations.
Each time I go there, I am especially careful, aware of the strength of nature.
Only in wilderness do I find myself humbled by powers that can’t be tamed.
What is happening in Yosemite now is scary. It does scare me.
This morning I was planning a hike for late fall to Ostrander Lake, off Glacier Road and a spring hike to Waterwheels, accessible from Tuolumne Meadows.
As always, my hiking buddy and I made backup plans. Hiking in Yosemite means being able to change plans in case of a sudden change of weather.
Now it will also means being aware of the life that we encounter when we enter animals’ territory. We knew to be wary of bears and mountain lions. But mice?
So far everyone who died from the Hantavirus stayed at a campground.
These deaths are tragic and will have an impact on the park and affect the way visitors want to experience their stay in Yosemite.
As for me, I will check the news carefully, hoping that more answers will be offered to the visitors and that no one else will die after visiting what, in my opinion, remains one of the most awesome American landscapes.

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