Bright and early on the morning after my 23rd birthday, my friend Shelby and I decided to book a day trip from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park.

The tour began bright and early at 7 AM, when we were picked up at USA Hostels in a white van designed to hold around 10 people.

We crossed the Bay Bridge, drove through downtown Oakland, and were on our way into the wild.

I wouldn’t recommend driving through the Sierra Nevada and into Yosemite completely hungover and tired, because you’ll want to fight your body’s instinct to sleep and pry your eyes open A Clockwork Orange style. Missing the beautiful scenery is not an option.

Due to the many wildfires plaguing the Sierra Nevada region, the trees stick out of the ground like black, twisted poles from the brown earth. Animals here are scarce, the air is hot, and the hills are steep.

Up and down these hills we went with our little group until all of a sudden it felt as if we stepped into another universe; the earth became green and lush, giant boulders protruded from the ground, fresh-water streams swished along, and wildlife grazed. My first thought upon entering Yosemite was “Holy shit, I am in the Land Before Time”.

If a dinosaur came along I would not bat an eye.

If there is a heaven, it is Yosemite Valley.

Fun fact, Yosemite National Park covers 747,956 acres; 95% of which is designated “wilderness”. The park is fiercely protected by the National Park Service and in 1984, the park was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

However, like every Utopian society that I have read about, Yosemite has a dark side – the lodge.

Around noon, Shelby and I got hungry and opted to go to the main cafeteria to grab a quick bite to eat. Inside, there was an adjacent giant room with rows of chairs and tables filled to the brim with people watching some sports game on the tube.

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE EVER is outside and these people opted for an air conditioned restaurant with TV’s. Excuse me while I experience nature and climb to Lower Yosemite Falls and trump all of these chumps at being human.

There were many more beautiful souls at Yosemite than not though. Some of whom frolicked in the crystal-clear streams and invited us to join.

Due to the high volume of people coming to see the natural beauty that is Yosemite (the park sees at least 3.7 million visitors a year), the park charges a fee.

Yosemite Entrance Fees:
Description                                                    Good For         Cost
Individual (on foot, horseback, or bus)          7 Days                  $15
Motorcycle                                                            7 Days                  $20
Automobile                                                           7 Days                  $30 April – October, $25 Other Months
Yosemite Pass (automobile)                              1 Year                  $60
When you visit, be sure to be extra vigilant to not leave a trace, except for your footsteps of course!

After a full day at Yosemite, it was time for our little tour group to return to San Francisco.

As we made our way back across the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge and the sun was on the horizon, fireworks began going off in every direction. The Fourth of July.

Oh, Amurica.

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