On Mt. Rainier, businesses taking a hit from government shutdown

LONGMIRE, Wash. -- The government may be shut down for business but national parks are open for play.

Still, the shutdown is sparking confusion at places like Mt. Rainier.

"I didn’t know what the conditions were because there’s no one to call," Brad Cramer said. He's in town from Milwaukee visiting family.

At the main entrance, posted signs on the shutdown replace park rangers. Those cruising through the payment booths are quick to point out a silver lining.

"It’s free now, that’s nice," Cramer said.

Free — but limited. Paradise is shut down and the gate is locked, preventing people from accessing some of the park's most popular destinations.

"It’s a shame," Julien Ribuat said. He and Angela Pollicino have been planning their trip to the summit of Mt. Rainier for eight months. They flew all the way from Sydney, Australia, and learned about the shutdown mid-flight.

"We're tourists," Pollicino said. "We're not involved in your political situation but we're here to spend money on your economy, come see beautiful places here, and now we can’t do that."

The shutdown is already hurting the bottom line for some businesses.

"I think probably the most visual is the dining room," said Melinda Simpson, gesturing behind her to an empty dining hall. She runs Rainier Guest Services at Longmire Historic District. "We're open for lunch and there’s not a table in there."

At the National Park Inn -- which is still open -- the partial shutdown is having a major impact.

"It’s a financial hit," Simpson said. "Some of our staff can’t work and they won’t be paid back, so that’s a tough thing on Christmas."

Just then, a 13-year-old boy named Jack walked in with fresh-baked cookies in hand a little Christmas spirit to make things a little better.

"The cookies are for, A) Christmas, it’s Christmas, why not? and B) the government shutdown," Jack said. "I figured you guys aren’t getting paid so might as well make cookies."

The gesture to park rangers brought tears to Simpson's eyes.

"That is the sweetest," she said. "Can I give you a Christmas hug?"

As people like Patrick Barkalow switch up their holiday plans -- "Our plan was to go up to Paradise" -- a hike will have to do.

Or you could holiday like the Aussies, kicking up your feet on the porch to enjoy the view of the mountain, even if your original plan was to enjoy the view from the top.

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