The ongoing government shutdown has hit many national parks particularly hard. There are reports of trash and lawlessness at Yosemite and elsewhere. NHPR’s Sean Hurley went to Lincoln Woods to find out how the shutdown was affecting New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest.
Just as Edie Swift finishes a two-mile walk on the Pine Island Trail in the Lincoln Woods, two riders on fat-tired bikes race by. “I don't think it would be very nice on a bicycle on the ice,” she says.
Maybe not nice on ice - but biking is perfectly legal here – not a sign of any Yosemite waywardness.
Swift says she thought she might encounter more trash, given the shutdown, but so far hasn’t spotted much beside a few tied off doggy bags discarded at the trailhead. “ I never have seen trash barrels,” she says, “and this is quite customary in the state forests - they don't leave trash barrels.”
Swift sits down to rest on a snowy bench outside the Visitor Center and tells me she no longer lives in the United States. Many years ago, she moved to Thirroul, Australia – mainly for the swimming. “So there you go in these rock pools where it’s about as big as this parking lot,” she says, “and the ocean is naturally coming in and out and it’s beautiful.”
But for two weeks every winter Edie Swift comes to New Hampshire - for the walking. “I do it every year and I really enjoy it,” the retired teacher says, “I got out yesterday and tomorrow I'm going to walk somewhere else. I really like it.”
In fact, she says, the government shutdown has had a positive effect on this year’s walking. “I mean all the forest service trails are open all the way around Franconia. And I didn't have to pay. No. It's very, very nice.”
A clear plastic tarp is taped over the fee box, preventing the typical $5 usage payment, along with a sign stating the area is not currently maintained. Which also means the bathrooms here are closed.
“But I prepared for that knowing it would be like that,” Swift tells me. “So you know I just went to Dunkin Donuts so I was prepared.”
The only real downside for her, she says, rubbing her hands together and gazing toward the Visitor Center, “They don't have the little ranger in the building there with the fireplace like they usually do,” she says.
The fire may be out and Edie Swift’s hands may be cold - but here at Lincoln Woods - the gateway to the Pemigewasset Wilderness - civilization remains intact.