El Capitan, tall trees, and the Merced River, with Andrea and the MINI Convertible on the side of the road.

A Day Trip to Yosemite Valley

“Tomorrow,” my dad suggested late Wednesday night, “you should take Andrea to Yosemite.”

That idea had never crossed my mind because I always assumed it would be too far. But a quick Maps search revealed that Yosemite was a not too-unreasonable 2h40m drive away. Moreover, in the garage was the perfect vehicle for the road trip: a John Cooper Works edition MINI Convertible that I had rented from SIXT Rent-A-Car at the San Francisco airport. 

More internet searching revealed that motorists would need a reservation to drive through Yosemite until after September 30th. But there would be some reservations up for the taking at 8:00 a.m. At that hour, I logged on to recreation.gov and paid $3 for a spot. Then, less than two hours later, we were on the road headed to what is perhaps California’s favorite National Park.

Both Andrea and I initially had reservations about such a day trip. This would be our last full day in California, and we would rumble down pavement for most of it.

But when we arrived in Yosemite Valley, we quickly case aside any notion that this trip was not worth it. 

“Be sure to thank your dad for the idea,” Andrea said as we gazed toward El Capitán. I was thrilled that Andrea could see the 2000-foot rock that Alex Honnold mind-blowingly climbed without a rope. Almost exactly a year ago, we watched the movie Free Solo which documented this feat, a movie that got my vote for best film of 2019.

We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the major attractions of the Yosemite Valley loop, including the Merced River, Merced Beach, Three Brothers, Swinging Bridge, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. The drive was splendid and not overly trafficked. The landscape and granite rock formations were every much as beautiful as Ansel Adams’ photos made them out to be.

Thanks, Dad, for the suggestion.

Andrea and Felix in the John Cooper Works edition MINI that I rented from SIXT in San Francisco.
Andrea and Felix in the John Cooper Works edition MINI that I rented from SIXT in San Francisco.
Andrea on the side of the road next to some rock formations off Portal Rd. before the entrance to Yosemite Valley.
Andrea on the side of the road next to some rock formations off Portal Rd. before the entrance to Yosemite Valley.
Andrea in front of the Merced River.
Andrea in front of the Merced River.
The black John Cooper Works edition MINI Convertible and Andrea in front of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.
The black John Cooper Works edition MINI Convertible and Andrea in front of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.
El Capitan, tall trees, and the Merced River, with Andrea and the MINI Convertible on the side of the road.
El Capitan, tall trees, and the Merced River, with Andrea and the MINI Convertible on the side of the road.
Felix Wong in front of of the Merced River and the south side of El Capitán.
Photo by Andrea
Felix Wong in front of of the Merced River and the south side of El Capitán.
Tall trees alongside the smooth pavement of Southside Drive through Yosemite Valley.
Tall trees alongside the smooth pavement of Southside Drive through Yosemite Valley.
There were quite a few people taking naps or selfies on a log at Merced Beach.
There were quite a few people taking naps or selfies on a log at Merced Beach.
Felix and Andrea at Merced Beach, with the southeast side of El Capitán and its prominent "The Nose" in the background.
Photo by Andrea
Felix and Andrea at Merced Beach, with the southeast side of El Capitán and its prominent "The Nose" in the background.
Felix trying to wrap his arms around some very tall trees.
Felix trying to wrap his arms around some very tall trees.
Andrea standing in the Merced River, with the Three Brothers rock formation in the background.
Andrea standing in the Merced River, with the Three Brothers rock formation in the background.
Andrea on the Swinging Bridge.
Andrea on the Swinging Bridge.
The black John Cooper Works edition MINI Convertible by a white recreation vehicle in a parking lot at Curry Village, with the west face of Half Dome towering above.
The black John Cooper Works edition MINI Convertible by a white recreation vehicle in a parking lot at Curry Village, with the west face of Half Dome towering above.
Felix standing on a boardwalk. If you look closely, you can see Yosemite Falls behind.
Felix standing on a boardwalk. If you look closely, you can see Yosemite Falls behind.
Due to refinery issues, gasoline in various parts of Northern California was double the price of other parts of the U.S. $7.28/gallon for super unleaded at Chevron in Merced!
Due to refinery issues, gasoline in various parts of Northern California was double the price of other parts of the U.S. $7.28/gallon for super unleaded at Chevron in Merced!