YOSEMITE -- The climbers and campers and wedding parties had planned for months, sometimes years, and traveled across state lines and oceans to get here.

But Thursday is eviction day at Yosemite National Park. With the federal government shutdown shuttering national parks across America, everyone must be out by 3 p.m.

Tim Larrad will gaze longingly at the legendary granite face of El Capitan when the caravan for the exit begins for the last of the holdouts, a surreal evacuation for an emergency created by politicians 2,600 miles away.

"We came all the way from England to climb and get to the top of El Capitan, but now we won't get the chance," said Larrad, a 52-year-old retired police officer. He had evicted people before, he said, "but I've never been evicted."

Park rangers -- not politicians -- are left with the unenviable job of herding the last of the visitors from a major national attraction that by the end of a typical week would host some 16,000 people. But a few of this week's visitors are determined to remain -- like Canadian rock climber Van Kaenthongratha.

"If you're already up there, no one is going up there to follow you and tell you to come down," said Kaenthongratha, visiting from Squamish, Canada. "This is the prime time of the year for climbing. The temperatures are warm, the days are not too short, and the water levels are low."

The holdout climbers and backcountry campers and hikers won't be cited for trespassing but simply told to leave when they show up, said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman. "We are not going to chase after people," he said.


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Ralph Kaposting and Valerie Brosdal will look back on the park chapel and count their blessings as one of the last couples to get married in the park. They enjoyed a wedding reception at the stately Ahwahnee Hotel just a day before the park was to begin to close.

"We had the perfect wedding, and we're going home before people are being told to leave," said Brosdal of Pleasanton. "The person who married us said, 'You're going to be the last wedding here for a while.'"

Beckie Streed sent in her wedding food order Tuesday and has not heard back. It probably sat in the Yosemite Lodge's fax machine Wednesday.

And there it could stay as long as the federal government remains shut down, the closure inching closer to her Oct. 20 wedding date at Yosemite Valley, where she met the love of her life.

The exodus was starkly apparent Tuesday in the always crowded Ahwahnee Hotel dining room, where only a few tables were occupied. As the park closed more roads and eating places and stores Wednesday, it began to look more like a backcountry ghost town.

Yosemite drew some 3.8 million visitors last year; in the previous year, visitors spent about $379 million.

A sign is posted at a Yosemite National Park visitor center Oct. 1, 2013.
A sign is posted at a Yosemite National Park visitor center Oct. 1, 2013. (Patrick Tehan/Staff)

Disappointed visitors this week said the closure ruined plans months or years in the making to vacation in this popular valley with breathtaking views of high Sierra granite peaks, cliffs and waterfalls. Their disappointments, multiplied by thousands, spread out into the region's tourist-dependent economy, already suffering from the still smoldering Rim fire.

"Our whole plan is up in the air," said Rita Norris, a New Zealander whose family had driven a rented recreational vehicle to their campsite. "This is the first time for a trip like this to the states. ... I've been planning this trip with my family for three years."

They got their stay in Yosemite, although the roads to Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove were closed, and the other parks they planned to visit -- Bryce Canyon, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks -- are now closed.

"I'm in shock and disbelief that a nation could do this," Norris said. "We'll get on, though, and make the best of it."

Gediman said rangers were handing out notices and visiting campsites to inform visitors about the Thursday deadline.

"We are obliged to carry out the closure," he said.

Several other Yosemite guests on Tuesday and Wednesday bemoaned their upended vacations.

Whittier resident Vincent Ramirez arrived at the park with his family Tuesday afternoon in a recreational vehicle, only to be told he could stay for only two of the seven nights he had reserved in the Upper Pine Campground.

"When we checked in, they told us to be ready to leave," Ramirez said Tuesday night as he made a lemon and watercress salad at a camp table. "It's upsetting. Why do these politicians who cannot get along have to take it out on the public?"

Ramirez, a retired truck driver, said he spent more than $200 on gasoline to make the trip with his wife, mother and father.

Some visitors considered themselves lucky to squeeze in a visit -- or a wedding in one case -- just before the closure.

To carry out this year's closure, Yosemite National Park furloughed 666 park service employees and kept on 150 rangers, firefighters and other employees deemed essential, said Gediman.

The Delaware North company that operates park lodges and restaurants is trying to determine how many of its 1,400 park workers will be put on unpaid vacations, said company spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro.

The closure delivered another blow to neighboring communities with hotels and motels that pick up the Yosemite visitors who can't get reservations inside the park.

"We are just beginning to get over the effects of the Rim fire, and now the park closure could put us back in a hole," said Laura Jensen, owner of the Firefall Coffee shop in Groveland.

The nearly contained Rim fire burned more than 257,000 acres, some of it in Yosemite National Park. While the fire didn't reach the popular valley area with lodging and prime tourist destinations, it closed roads and caused many people to cancel trips to the park.

As for Streed, she and fiance Marc DeMasters and their 30 guests may have to hold the wedding ceremony outside the park. She remains hopeful, even joking.

"First, we were planning the wedding, and there was a fire. Now, it could just be closed," she said. "Bring some umbrellas, too, just in case."

Staff writer David DeBolt contributed to this report.