Permits, Lotteries and Restricted Wilderness

I don’t think I’ve ever had so much anxiety about an upcoming trip before.  I’ve flown in helicopters, slept underground, lived without running water for weeks at a time and all I want to do this time is go camping in a National Park.  Yosemite, to be exact.  The Disney of the Wilderness.

(It is a little known fact that Yosemite is way better than Disneyland.  This is a direct quote from my 5 year-old last year, so I trust the statement to be accurate and true.)

Yosemite has to be one of the most well-known National Parks in the entire United States.  It’s right up there with Yellowstone, The Smokey Mountains and The Grand Canyon, arguably first among them all (depending on who you talk to).

Ranking #3 in the Nation in terms of number of visitors per year, you can guess how it gets a little crowded sometimes.  The Smokey Mountains boast the highest number of visitors per year, followed by the Grand Canyon, but in both of those locations a quick stop on a road trip accounts for a lot of the traffic.  Yosemite, on the other hand, isn’t really on the way to anywhere.  When people come to Yosemite, they come to stay.

Can you guess where the anxiety is coming from?  I want a campsite in Yosemite.  I want it really bad.  I might want it more than I want my son to get into Pre-K next year.  (Not really, but maybe, no, not really… maybe…)

The thing is, reservations for campsites in Yosemite open up for booking every two weeks and on the day that they open they fill up within minutes, sometimes seconds!

We have our plane tickets to California already.  We’ve invited friends to meet us in the mountains.  My children can’t wait to go to Yosemite.  But I don’t even know if we can stay there!

I’m freaking out.  Just a little bit…

Just Breathe.  Reset.

Nature doesn’t have to be this complicated and it can be overwhelming when it gets that way.  Admittedly, I am sometimes frustrated by what seems like a lot of hoops to jump through just to get outside and witness something beautiful.

But I get it.  If there were enough campsites in Yosemite to accommodate the people who wanted to stay there, the place would be a parking lot.  That’s not what we want.  We have to protect the places we love and sometimes that means restricting access.

Beyond just camping within the park, my husband and I would love to do the cables up Half Dome while Grandma plays with the kids in the Valley.  That hike requires permits and there’s a lottery to get them.  Again, there’s no guarantee we’ll get to do the epic adventure we really want to, but ultimately I’m ok with that.

This beautiful planet we live on is ours to share, and sometimes sharing requires taking turns.  I’ve got an idea in my mind of what our summer vacation will look like, but I need to be flexible.  If we can’t make it this year, there’s always the next.

If I don’t go, then somebody else will, and maybe their life will be changed for the better because of it.

The goal is to get outside with my babies and show them something wonderful.  I’m hoping that this year it will happen in Yosemite.  But if not, we’ll find something else beautiful to look at.  They won’t go without.

So in a couple days, I’ll be at the computer, watching the clock with my finger poised over the submit button, just hoping that a year of waiting pays off and we’ll have a campsite in July.  But if not, we’ll find some other mountains to explore.

But just in case, say a little prayer for me on Wednesday, ok?

What about you?  What are your bucket list adventures with the family?  Are there restrictions on your adventures?  Do you avoid the permits and the lotteries or do you seek them out?  Please share your experiences in the comments below.

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