Ron Mackie remembers picking up toilet paper for two weeks after Memorial Day 1970. About 1,500 “flower children” spent the holiday jammed into a lovely camping spot not far from Nevada Fall.
Yosemite National Park was going through another growth spurt as young people flocked to places where indoor plumbing was not a priority. And, as always, America’s mad love affair with this granite wonderland got more complicated.
How do you protect a national treasure while inviting the world — including 1,500 hippies — to come see it?
“Before that Memorial Day, you would see a few backpackers in the wilderness, and that was about it,” said Mackie, 79, a former Yosemite wilderness manager who worked decades in the park. “By 1970, it became a real challenge.”
But it shouldn’t have been a surprise. The worry over big crowds started in the 1860s shortly after Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act to protect Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias.
The topic will surely come up again as the National Park Service celebrates the 150th anniversary of the act on June 30, the date Lincoln signed it.