We picked the perfect time to be at Yosemite. All of the American schools were back by the end of last week, and we came straight after the Labour Day public holiday on Monday. This meant the valley was quiet (relatively), and all of the staff commented on how lucky we were. If we’d come in August we’d have been fighting for accommodation, food, parking spaces and space on the walks. Its really noticeable how much quieter the roads and hotels are, and of course the only children we tend to see now are either under 5, or foreign.
Our accommodation was okay, which really means it wasn’t okay. The standard of upkeep at Curry Village isn’t what it should be. Often the showers and toilets were pretty dirty, and inside the tents didn’t seem to be cleaned at all – at one point Sarah’s pillow fell off her bed, and got covered in a layer of dirt and yeuchy stuff. Perhaps the reason is that the camp is staffed by young students, mainly Russians, who are doing it for a gap year. If you were 21 again, how would you feel about clearing up for other people, when you really wanted to be down the pub? They facilities are also run by ‘Yosemite Concession Services’, a monopoly organization which doesn’t have any competition. All over the park there are signs saying that they charge reasonable prices, which I do agree with – the problem is that the quality of much of what they do is pretty poor. It reminds me of motorway services in England 10 or 15 years ago. We paid half price for our tent – if we were paying $70+ I’d be pretty dismayed. We met quite a few Americans who were, and they were either ready to complain or had already complained. (In fact, it was them that made us realise how poor things were – I’d kind of written it off as “Well, you expect lower standards when you’re in a tent”).
Separately, while in the park I read that American unemployment is now running at a high level of 6%. Perhaps employing Russian students to staff restaurants, hotels, motels and visitor facilities in America’s Number One National Park could be part of the reason. But then I guess that’s the same anywhere – in London you find few reception staff in big hotels who are English – they’re all working down in Australia on their working visa’s there! I’ve just read what I’ve written – I must be reaching middle age.