> What about the gate pass? > Can I get in without it?
Without the gate pass, you'd pay the $20 entrance fee. However, if the park is full, people could be turned away, but the gate pass would get you in. The Golden Age Pass will get you in for free, but I don't know if it would get you in if the park is full.
You will also need the pass to get out of the park, so hang onto it. In theory the pass is also needed for the camp sites, but we're seldom asked for it. They run the volunteer's campsites mostly on the honor system.
If the gatekeeper doesn't understand the pass, or if you have lost it, ask for a visitor's pass to visit David Balogh at Glacier Point. Then see me for a replacment, or have Dave (or another ranger) sign it. By Sunday afternoon the gate people will have learned about the star party procedure, so you should have no trouble leaving.
> Are we expected to bring our own tents, > camp stoves and other gear, and food?Yes. Bring everything, including filled refillable water containers. Cold water is available but not everywhere. There is a mix of pit and flush toilets. Baths consist of warming a bit of water on the camp stove and sponging off the day's dust and sweat. Baby Wipes have been suggested, but I have not tried them. (Let me know if you have tried this.)
> Is there a store in the park? What about ice?
There is a small store and fast food place at Glacier point that closes about 6 or 7 pm, but does not have ice.
The big store (groceries, clothing, ice, etc.) is in the valley, about 30 miles and about an hour each way. They have bagged ice cubes. To find it, follow signs for "Yosemite Village". While following them, also watch for "Store", and switch to following those.
Bring as much as you can from home. The valley is utterly beautiful, but traffic very heavy and slow.
> I see warning signs about bears. Has this really been > a problem? Or are the rangers merely being cautious?
Yes, there often are bears in the camp and at Glacier Point; it's no exaggeration. They are active day and night, sniffing around for anything that smells like food. The pictures at the bottom of the main Yosemite page were taken at Glacier Point by amateur astronomers.
In one case, a tent was sliced open and a sleeping bag removed by a bear; clearly the bag smelled of food. A human would have simply unzipped the tent.
In 2007 we had two bears near the telescopes. When the astronomers were off to one side, a bear snatched a bag that had candy in it. The bag was found 20 feet away, one end neatly sliced open and the candy removed. The following night, we were adament about NO SNACKS at the star party. We had no trouble.
For information on what to do, how to store food, etc., see the park's bear information page.
> What camp sites are reserved for astronomers?
In the past our sites have been on the "C" loop, sites 81, 83, 85, 94, and 95. All are on the left side the road, along a long curve. The curve and sites enclose a large common area "behind" the sites, where tents can be set up.
Sites 89 and 93 are also on the left (between 85 and 94, of course), but are not reserved for us. If you come up early, try to buy one of these sites for the weekend.
> What sort of weather should we expect?Sunny and hot days, chilly evenings. Possibly thunder and lightning, rain and wind. Yosemite is not within the San Jose coastal climate.
At Glacier Point (elevation 7200 ft), days can reach 95 and nights nearer 40. The valley (4000 ft) can be 20 degrees higher. Bring a big heavy coat, light jacket, two flannel shirts, shorts, long lined pants, and on top of all, a warm cap. The air chills suddenly about 5 to 6 pm.
> Is a GPS receiver useful?
GPS receivers do pretty well on the drive up to the gates. They are erratic on the park roads as trees are abundant and radio-opaque. In the Valley, they fail due to the trees and steep rock walls.
> Is internet access available?
Not at Glacier Point nor in the camp. See the Park's internet page regarding the valley hotels and libraries that provide some access.
> Is gasoline available in the park?
There is a gas station on the road from the Crane Flat entrance, but I don't know exactly where it is. The price is some 50% more than in smaller cities.
When you are driving to Yosemite, you'll probably go through Oakdale or Merced. Fill the gas tank there -- from now on, the price goes up with elevation. It's about 115 miles from Oakdale to Glacier Point. From Merced it's about 102 miles to the Point.
> How far away are the nearest non-camping > accommodations (such as the canvas tents)
The nearest is a small community / development called Yosemite West. It has some hotels and a Bed & Breakfast. Google on "Yosemite West". Some of our members have stayed there. From Glacier Point, the entrance to Yosemite West is about 17 miles (as compared to 10 miles from the Point to the camp).
> Are camp sites available in Bridalveil Campground on Friday?
Odds are against it; perhaps early in the day. You have a better chance on Thursday. Sites cost $15/day in 2009,
> What other information may I find?
The park's own FAQ page has lots of answers, and links to even more.
To School home page. Mail to Jim Van Nuland.
Last updated: 2009 August 24, 1313 hours, pdt