In advance of the Yosemite trip

The weekend of Friday, Feb. 3 – depart Sunday Feb. 5, 2023, will be the THIRTY-THIRD ANNUAL Yosemite Valley winter trip.

We recommend some things to do in advance
(some of them should be done well in advance)
of our winter trip to Yosemite National Park

even done before the club has official college permission to go on the trip.

cropped long narrow photo of part of the milky way

Overnight Accommodations

The club will not make reservations for any overnight accommodations, individual students do that.
And the best accommodations sell out before the mediocre ones.

Even if you have not made a complete decision to go on the trip,
deciding if your budget can afford a cabin or a campsite is important.

You have a number of choices of where you stay overnight
(campground, heated-or-not wood floored canvas roofed/sided tent cabin, wood walled cabin or hotel room)
– see lots of photos of these below.

and who you share a campsite with / have as a roommate
(or you could come up just for the day Saturday – but people rarely do).

Trip members often make reservations for one of the tent cabins, cabins or hotel rooms well in advance, so they have more choices of where they will stay, and make a big note on their calendar of the deadline to cancel without paying a cancellation fee. (Seven days????)
Then they look for roommates.

We do not recommend staying overnight outside of Yosemite valley for this trip, even if it looks like you can get a really nice place to stay for a low price. Please talk to us about any you are considering as the webpages advertising them do not always show what they truly look like. (One, for example, shows a nice rental unit with space and forest around it next to a picturesque pond, but ALL the rest of the units are right-next-to-each-other, and with no nearby parking. If you made a decision to stay there based on that one photo at their webpage, you would be truly disappointed.)

 
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– – – the lowest cost overnight accommodation is camping

overnight in either Camp Four, without a reservation and with no parking space at your campsite,
or

in Upper Pines Campground, (the only campground open in the winter with individual campsites with parking spaces). Each Upper Pines campsite ($36 per night, as of late 2022) holds a maximum six people and two vehicles.

An Upper Pines campsite from the 2022 trip:
space cleared in snow with tents pitched

Having campsites near to or next to each other in the same campground loop is more fun.
(Especially when we can get some of the best campsites by having people make reservations as early as possible.)

The “Outdoor Club” does not get campsites.
Students on the trip get them and share them as they want to.
If you get a campsite you do not use, and no one wants to take over,
you will need to be willing to spend the usually $10 to cancel, but people have done this regularly for many years.
(Please do keep track of the last day to cancel with only a $10 (or other small) fee.)

 

Campsites for our Friday, Feb. 3 – depart Sunday Feb. 5, 2023 weekend trip
go on sale SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

so plans are best made that far in advance if you want a better campsite
.
 

Getting a free account at recreation.gov, and learning the system for getting campsites in advance can make it easier. People who want to go on the trip often meet in advance to think through which sites they will reserve, often getting more campsites than they personally need, since most people finally decide to join trips close to when the trip starts, when there might not be any campsites left.

How many campsites will be needed?

At least the day before you need to make a campsite reservation, confirm your login and password information for your free account and look around at the recreation.gov website to be sure it looks the same as you remember it. Set more than one alarm clock to get yourself up and at your computer before 7 a.m. Pacific time. Confirm that your clocks really are set for the official U.S. Pacific Standard time.
https://time.gov/

 
(From the park website: “Camping or sleeping in vehicles is permitted only in designated campsites. Sleeping in vehicles is not permitted anywhere else in Yosemite.”)
 

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Instead of camping,
renting a tent cabin could be less expensive than renting proper winter camping gear / tent
.

AND it will not matter how late you leave town, as you will not need to pitch a tent out in the potential weather, you just move right into your tent cabin

Hotel, cabin, tent cabin reservations can be made a year and a day in advance. (When we looked in July 2022, Curry Village overnight accommodations were only available for the weekend of our trip, not the weekdays before or after. If you want to stay longer, you will need to camp or make a different reservation for a different location.)

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Please note that when we talked about this trip during summer quarter, and a few students made reservations, the prices were lower.
When I checked again in September, I changed prices at this website.
They could go up again, so please verify when you make a reservation!

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Curry Village is walking distance from the campground.
(or a free daytime shuttle bus ride in years the shuttle is running the full route).

All the Curry Village listings below have access to a lounge with free guest WiFi,

but none at Curry Village listed below have phones/TV/fridge.

There is also a large main shower house.

 

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Curry Village tent cabins:
– – – people without cold weather camping gear (or who just want to be more comfortable)

can get a wood-floored, canvas roofed/sided tent cabin,
(optionally heated, but bring a reeeealy good sleeping bag or even two)
with various double bed and single bed combinations, electric lighting, restroom/showers nearby

Curry tent cabins as of a price survey for our trip dates we did in September 2022
were (unheated) $132, (heated) $152 (as of a price survey we did in July 2022 were (unheated) $98.00, (heated) $118

(Canvas tent cabins with one double bed are often the same price as canvas tent cabins with two single (twin) beds or one double bed and two single (twin) beds. Most people on this trip have chosen the ones with more beds, even if they do not need them.)

Lots of details to make your stay in a Curry Village (briefly named Half Dome Village) tent cabin more fun and comfortable are at:
Yosemite valley tent cabins tips and tricks

 

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Curry Village cabin without a bath (but with a restroom / bathhouse a short walk away) 2 dble beds $151 (up from $123).

cabins and picnic table

end of bed chest of drawers

beds in cabin

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Curry Village wood-walled cabin with a bath (one dble bed or one dbl bed and one single bed ) $216 (up from $188, and could go up again).

Note that at many of the lower cost units there is no room between at least one of the double beds and the wall.

hotel room with two double beds, one right next to the wall with no space to walk by

bed and dresser

Google street view of cabins with a bath

 
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All the Curry Village Stoneman hotel rooms were $247 (2 adults).

Most of the Stoneman rooms have two double beds.

Four of the Stoneman rooms (# 6, 8, 9 and 11, these sell out early) have two double beds downstairs and another double bed in an upstairs loft,
$266.74 (four adults) $286.48 (six adults)

downstairs as seen from above:

two beds, door, windows

looking up the stairs from the lower level:

bathroom door, stairs

and the upstairs loft double bed:

bed and loft wall, edge of stairs

If you stuff the maximum number of people in one of these units, sharing the shower could be difficult, but the main shower house is a short walk away

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All rooms at Yosemite Lodge have a private bathroom, a TV (some with DVD player), phone, mini-refrigerator, writing table/coffee table,some coffee makers, in two story buildings without elevators, many, but not all, with either a private balcony or private patio, as well as free Wi-Fi, restaurants, a tour desk (and a swimming pool/bike rentals in the summer).

 

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Yosemite Lodge standard room
king, queen or 2 dbl beds, $288 2 adults

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Yosemite Lodge bunkbed rooms with a bath $308 2 adults / $328.50 four adults – 1 Queen Bed and 1 Bunk Bed with an upper twin and a lower double bed and a dining table. This means you can stuff more people in (you are allowed a maximum five people, but your comfort level could be strained with more than 4 people) and save money, or just have more space off the floor for your piles of luggage.

Some of the buildings with bunkbeds rooms, with either balconies or ground level patios, have public walkways beside them
but have the privacy of a tree that also blocks the view,
or a clear line of sight out towards the cliffs,

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The Ahwahnee hotel will not be open during our trip due to earthquake renovations.

   

raindrops on ends of spruce needles

Making a reservation

 
TO LOOK AT THE current availability of cabins/hotel rooms/tent cabins,

check current prices and make a reservation, go to

https://www.travelyosemite.com/lodging/yosemite-lodging-experience/

At the top right corner click on the dark blue square CHECK RATES , and the box where it says “Plan Your Trip Now” choose “All Yosemite Lodging”

Leave it set for 2 adults to get a better list of options, but realize there may be an additional small charge per person for more than 2 adults at some of the lodgings
($118 for two adults might become $132 for four adults for a heated tent cabin with one dbl bed and 2 twin beds;
$ 123 for 2 adults might become $151 for four adults in a Curry cabin without a bath.

then enter a Check-in date of 2/3/23 and a check-out date of 2/5/23.

Then click the dark blue rectangle CHECK AVAILABILITY .

Note that the prices say “average per night” and are not the total price for the two nights you entered. When you make the reservation you will get a total with taxes /fees and any extra charge for the number of people over 2 (if you put in the total number of people when you make the reservation). You can change the total number of people when you get there, (and pay more) BUT you can not put more people than the maximum in any overnight accommodation, including campsites.

Some years they have a “Winter Fun pass” (usually one free pass per room / cabin, NOT one free per person) which might include the following: ” Lift ticket/gear rental at Badger Pass Ski Area. Ice skating pass/skate rental for Curry Village Ice Rink. Rental for cross-country ski gear at Badger Pass Ski Area. Rental for snowshoes at Badger Pass Ski Area. Two-hour Valley Floor Tour – guest will need to reserve tickets for tour time of their choice. Additional Winter Fun passes can be purchased.” The room price will be much higher and you will likely not have time to do all the things mentioned in two nights stay, especially if you decide the hike would be more fun than skiing once you see who is going on the hike.

Quadruple check and mark your calendar with your last date to get a refund, especially if you decide to get more than one type of overnight accommodation and then look for roommates.

And again, lots of details to make your stay in a Curry Village tent cabin (or even a cabin without a bath) more fun are at:
Yosemite valley tent cabins tips and tricks

row of rocks carved into brick shapes

Also on your list for doing ahead of time:

The last time you used your camera, and took out the memory card / chip
to look at your photos on a laptop, did you remember to put the memory chip back in?
Where is the charger for your digital camera?
 
Mend things before the trip,
that tiny tear in the rain pants
will be easier to fix at home than it will be in the campsite when it becomes a big rip
and it is raining heavily.
 
Your hiking boots do still have tread left on them, correct?
Are your boot laces about worn out?
 

Have you been washing / rinsing / drying clothes with a favorite scented product?
Scented attracts mosquitos and other unpleasant insects,
so for the wash just before the trip you might want to switch to unscented.
 

If you have your own water purifying pump, it will be much easier to back-wash it and/or take it apart and clean the exterior of the filter cartridge at home before the trip, than waiting until the trip when it starts to not work well. (Follow the manufacturers instructions, which you kept a copy of when you bought the pump, yes?)

 

During any long hike
To truly be able to leave no trace and follow backcountry rules digging your personal latrine hole the proper distance from water, etc.,
you will need to know how far 100 or 200 feet is.

Lay out a tape measure at home and walk it and count your paces.

How to poop in the woods.
 
stones in a row on a wall
Are you sure the tent you are borrowing has all its parts? Was it put away after the most recent trip without fully drying it, and now it has mold? (Yup, you might guess that happened on a previous weekend trip and the guy did not discover it until he was on the trip. – They slept in the car.)

We advise people to bring tents to a pre-trip meeting and pitch them, as some turn out to not be adequate for use in rain, but might be with an additional huge tarp over them.

There are crucial things wrong with each of these tents.

Don’t buy a cheap tent has reasons why and more examples of tents to NOT bring.

row of rocks carved into brick shapes

Consult with your doctor, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente,
to see if you are up to date on your Tetanus vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a Tetanus vaccination every ten years for adults.
One of these:
• Tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine
• Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine
https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/tetanus/index.html

 
Is it time to see the dentist about that tiny ache?
 
You should plan to bring an adequate supply of your prescriptions for a longer-than-you-anticipated road trip, so checking in advance if you have enough or need to do refills is wise.

Also check over-the-counter remedies (and check their expiration dates) for any ailment you get that could spoil your trip, possibly including: aspirin, Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, Naproxen Sodium, athlete’s foot, anti-itch hydrocortisone, cold and cough syrups and lozenges, allergy tablets / eye relief / sinus relief, stomach ache, Breathe Right, Imodium, calamine lotion.

The faculty advisor and spouse are not allowed to share any over-the-counter remedies, yes, even just aspirin, with students. The biggest grocery in Yosemite valley often has a wide selection of over-the-counter remedies, but sometimes has shortages:
partially empty store shelves

so bringing what you might need could keep you much happier.
 
Over-the-counter medications can be ineffective if not used as directed on the label, or can even cause potentially long-lasting or even life-threatening consequences. “Oooops, was I supposed to take one of this tablet every six hours or two every four hours?” Don’t expect that you will remember, even if it is something you take regularly. If you re-pack them into small containers be sure to copy and pack the instructions (and expiration date) with them.

pine tree branch ends

When you are at home you can usually quickly get issues with your vehicle resolved at a nearby mechanic or dealer of your make/model, so many people don’t regularly check their vehicle’s fluid levels, tire pressure, brake wear, etc.

People on a budget often put up with not-essential-for-safe-driving problems with their cars.

But deferred repairs and maintenance can spoil a road trip

and be much more expensive and/or difficult to fix when you are on the road.

The Road trip vehicle prep and recommended service webpage includes things people can do without paying a mechanic.

If you intend to drive a convertible and it has an electric power top, be sure you know how to put the top up manually in case the push-button function stops working. Rain storms can come in quickly and heavily.

Make spare vehicle keys to have in different places, give to others in your carpool. It is worth investing in a spare vehicle key or two or three, in the pockets / daypacks of various people, since your cell phone does not function everywhere in the park and you could need to take a bit of a hike to get to a hotel front desk to try to use their phone to get an Auto Club locksmith to unlock your car when you lock the keys in it (common while putting on chains). And getting that help to your vehicle can take quite awhile! If you rent a vehicle for the trip, talk to me about where you might be able to find a spare key in that rental.

CSAA or other Auto Association memberships usually give you (or maybe your parent?) free maps.
Paper maps can be easier to use for planning. Yes, you can download maps on your phone, but paper maps can be essential for driving through areas without phone service.

You will want at least the CSAA “Central California – Bay Area to Lake Tahoe” map.

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five national park entrance pass cards

Plan in advance how you will split the park entrance fee.

Each carload will pay their own park vehicle entrance fee. Effective June 1, 2018 (and we expect it to be the same in 2023) the park entrance fee for Yosemite National park will be $35 per vehicle, $30 per motorcycle or $20 per person, and an annual (Yosemite park only) park pass will cost $70.

If you want to go on our August Grand Teton trip (and especially so you also want to visit Yellowstone National Park during that trip, which has it’s own entrance fee) you save money by investing in a $80 National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands annual pass. Then you will get in free to see other national parks on the way to and from Grand Teton and free to visit Muir Woods, etc.

OR better yet, find someone to carpool with who already has a National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands annual pass

OR find someone who is an active duty U.S. military member or dependent and has their ID Card (CAC card or form 1173) and can get a free national parks pass http://store.usgs.gov/pass/military.html

OR find someone who is 62 or over to get a lifetime seniors pass for $80.

(The passes can’t be transferred/shared so the person who gets the pass needs to be in the vehicle and show a photo ID.)

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If it is necessary for you to attend religious services during the trip you need to plan ahead
by researching where you can attend, and let people in your carpool know of your needs and the dates / times / locations.

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You’ll be bringing a lot of gear, so
4 people should be the limit in a 5-passenger SUV,
3 people should ride in a sedan that seats four,
and some cars really should only have 2 people.

If everyone brought a large container of full-sized toiletries, as in the left of the photo below, they would take up too much space. By bringing travel/sample sized containers of shampoo, lotion, etc. in a smaller bag, as in the example on the right in the photo below, there is room for even a full sized can of spray insect repellent – which you might want even in the winter.

NO!→ toiletries for bear box.jpg: ← Yes!!

Tear off the appropriate size and number of sheets of foil you will need, fold and pack them with a few plastic sandwich bags as needed instead of bringing whole packages.

Yes! → foil and plastic bags: ← No

If you think you can fit five people in a vehicle that seats five AND ALL THEIR GEAR, you need to plan early for how everything will fit (it likely can’t unless you have a large cartop carrier – see advice at Carpool Faqs).

You might even want to get together a few days in advance of the trip, with the bags people want to bring, and try packing.

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Start looking around for downloads and links to info
to put on your smart-enough-phone to be able to access info more easily, including webpages about the trip AND

 
An app for Yosemite National Park info (best downloaded before you get there when you can find reliable internet), with info about visitor centers, historic places, natural features, and services throughout the park.

“Even without cellular service, the app will be able to share your location on the map and bring up all site content.”

https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/app.htm
 

Planets Visible in the Night Sky in Yosemite National Park
https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/@5410952

 

Weather map: “GeoColor is a multispectral product composed of True Color (using a simulated green component) during the daytime, and an Infrared product that uses bands 7 and 13 at night. During the day, the imagery looks approximately as it would appear when viewed with human eyes from space. At night, the blue colors represent liquid water clouds such as fog and stratus, while gray to white indicate higher ice clouds, and the city lights come from a static database that was derived from the VIIRS Day Night Band.”
https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES/sector_band.php?sat=G16&sector=nr&band=GEOCOLOR&length=12
 

For the drive : California roads open http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi

 

You might still be able download a free copy of this Red Cross first aid textbook to your smart-enough-phone to bring with you, the Red Cross Wilderness and Remote First Aid Emergency Reference Guide and Red Cross Wilderness and Remote First Aid Pocket Guide

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The Yosemite National Park rangers would like you to call them
if you see a bear in Yosemite,
no matter where it is or what it is doing.

Since 2003 there has been a note in the Yosemite Guide: REPORT ALL BEAR SIGHTINGS! To report bear sightings, improper food storage, trash problems, and other bear-related problems, leave a message for the Bear Management team at: 1 (209) 372-0322. Your call can be made anonymously.”

bear with blue tag on ear
If you can, in all the excitement, try to notice if the bear has a tag (usually on the ear), the color of the tag and if possible, the number on it (the tag is large enough that with a telephoto lens you should be able to read the number).

bear with ear tag

NPS bear tracks: bearlogo: from the Keep Bears Wild program NPS bear tracks:
From the Yosemite Daily Report newspaper:
“It is extremely important to remember to yell at bears that are in and around development, even if they are foraging on natural food. Though it is very tempting to get close for a picture, or just to watch these incredible animals, it is important not to give into this urge. Yelling at them if they are in residential areas or near people is critical to keep bears natural fear of humans. Giving bears plenty of space. When bears become too comfortable around people, they will often start causing damage to structures and vehicles, or will even become too bold around people, creating safety concerns.”

bear walking along fallen tree
 

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stones forming a wall


Where were they when they got that great picture in Yosemite?

Where can I take a photo that looks like the one on a Yosemite postcard I just bought?
Places to take photos of Half Dome, Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Staircase Falls.

   
View of Sentinel Rock (top right of photo) from one of the balconies of a lodge bunkbed room:

trees, cliffs

and stars from one of the balconies, with Sentinel Rock towards the left:

starry sky and some lights from building on trees