Massive Yosemite fire doesn’t keep away many hikers, campers

A friend snaps a picture of Norm Zalog in Yosemite National Park as the Rim fire burns about 25 miles away.
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK -- The Rim fire burned deeper into this famous national park Wednesday but was hardly noticeable in some of Yosemite’s most popular areas that sit far from the flames and smoke.

Tour buses stopped at overlooks and trails, campgrounds were nearly full, and many visitors to Yosemite Valley had not altered course in the face of one of the largest wildfires in California.

“People who come here, they like Yosemite and they’re probably not going to change their plans unless they’re ordered to leave,” said Mike Dresen, 61, who was meeting up with his nephew in Yosemite for several nights of hiking and backpacking.


PHOTOS: Rim fire rages into Yosemite

The Rim fire – now entering its 12th day – has burned 187,466 acres, including about 43,310 acres in the northwest part of the park.

The blaze is on pace to soon become the sixth-largest fire in state history. Nearly 4,100 firefighters were taking part in the effort to put down a blaze that so far has destroyed 111 buildings, including 31 homes.

Still, hikers and campers were undeterred.

“We didn’t really think about canceling our trip, even though our families were encouraging us to reconsider,” said Dresen.

His nephew, Jason Henika, said the road closures had prevented them from reaching one hiking trail, but said they were otherwise unaffected. The 39-year-old off-duty firefighter could smell smoke on the drive to the park from San Jose, but he kept going. He hadn’t visited the park since he was a boy and had been planning the trip for eight months.

He did consider the possibility that the wildfire could keep some people away as Labor Day approaches and perhaps give him and his uncle more solitude on the trail.

“There was a hope that everybody was going to beat feet and there will be fewer crowds,” he said, “but it seems more like business as usual.”

Mia Moon, 38, of Los Angeles, also didn’t the blaze change her camping plans.

“We came anyway,” she said. “But if the fire was any closer, we would have probably not come.”

She and her husband, father, 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son were spending the week camping in Yosemite -- a trip she had not made since she was her children’s age.

Campgrounds were full enough, she said, that they had to set up their tent at the Wawona Campground outside of Yosemite Valley, but were planning to spend another day in the valley swimming and sightseeing.


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