The theme for this third AHSP registrant email is preparations for camping. But, as before,  first some general planning news. Hope you will find it worthwhile.

Photo contest and raffle

We will continue the AHSP photo contest this year for images collected during the weekend. We’ve noticed many of the astrophotographers complementing their all-night photon grabbing with next-day image processing. You don’t need to go that far.  Last year, there were few opportunities to capture anything other than clouds in the sky by Sunday, but we hope for much better this year. AHSP would like to recognize your efforts with a slide show and awards on Sunday. Not only astrophotos, but also photos of the people, activities, and mountain environment of AHSP will be welcome, and judged in appropriate categories.  Arlen Raasch is coordinating, and details have been posted on the Web site.

Last year’s successful raffle format will also be continued, with one major prize along with the more typical items provided by the organizers, in addition to the special items provided by our commercial sponsors. Remember that any excess revenue goes to the continuation of AHSP, and to help support our hosts, The Mountain Institute and its programs. If you are away at the NRAO overnight session, no worries — the committee will assure that your raffle tickets are honored and prizes collected.

Q&A call-in

The first Q&A telecon with the organizing committee a couple weeks ago was a great success. The second Q&A telecon will be this Thursday, 26 July, from 7:00 to 7:30 p.m. or so. The meet-me conference line is 703-703-349-9500, conference code 24772012 (“AHSP2012” on the dial).  Several members of the volunteer committee will be there, who can talk about current plans and past experience. Bring your questions, or just listen in.

A final call-in is scheduled for Thursday, August 9, also at 7:00 — for any last-minute questions.

Activities, speakers and schedules

Bob Parks has prepared the final activity and speakers agenda, which can be found on the Web site. All activities which require sign-up are still available except Monday AM caving. Several events are near capacity, and Monday PM caving still has space.

Filling up

By the time you receive this email, we will have reached 95% of the capacity we set for this year. This level was set in consultation with TMI, considering the capacities for observing fields, parking, water, TMI meals, and talks in the Yurt and overflow tent.

Adding items to your registration

If you want to add an activity, such as the Cass outing, NRAO tour, canoeing, & summit hike; TMI meals; or AHSP souvenir items/clothing, simply send an email with particulars to <>.  You will receive complete information and billing in a return email.

Battery shuttle

The battery shuttle will continue, with improvements based on lessons learned last year. Basically, volunteers will help get your batteries from the fields to the Yurts for charging during the day. Details will be provided.

Planning for camping at AHSP

Just as collected wisdom warned last time that you need to protect your equipment from mountain downpours, wind gusts, and unfiltered summer Sun, you need to do the same for yourself and your campsite. Use proper groundcover and pay attention to slopes and depressions, to keep your area dry when the showers come and after.

Sun shelter for your tent during the day is a great idea as you will probably need some shuteye;  sleeping in a hot tent does not work well.  Suspending a silver tarp over your tent with a bit of an air gap between the tarp and the top of the tent works well.  The silver tarp will still heat up but by keeping a small gap between the tarp and the tent the temperature inside will be much cooler.

Flimsy canopy shelters do not fare too well at the site due to the gusty wind, even well made ones need to be very securely staked out or they will be damaged. Consider buying real tent stakes instead of the cheap tent pins that come with many tents.  Walmart sells a version that looks like a long metal nail with a plastic top to tie to which works well.

On a clear dry night, it can get down to the 50s even in August (40s one year!). Better to bring the clothing and sleeping gear you MIGHT need, and hope to not use it.

You will do a lot of walking. Bring good footwear, and spares if not waterproof. Even the heavy dew can soak through canvas shoes.

There are port-o-johns distributed near the fields, and this year we expect to have well water piped to a central location in the fields. You can plan on getting bulk drinking water from there or the Yurts or the shower building. With the altitude, Sun, and walking, you need to drink a lot, and to drink BEFORE you get thirsty. The shower building has real men’s and women’s showers, sinks, and flush toilets, open round the clock.

If you don’t sign up for TMI’s meals, you can prepare your own, but no open fires.
A note on the TMI meals: We’ve asked TMI for the same menu as last year; it a big hit. While there will again be veggie options, there will be more of the meat versions of the dishes — and maybe less broccoli. Still time to sign up.

There is generally coffee and hot water for drinks in the Yurt food service area at night. But you should plan to have snacks and drinks convenient to keep you going at your telescope over long observing sessions. Having some extras to share is a sociable gesture.

While there are some trash cans at the main Yurts, you should plan to pack out your own trash.

The site is too high for any significant mosquito problems. Snakes and larger critters have never been a problem in the occupied areas (e.g., no special food storage precautions). No poison ivy in the occupied areas.

It is high (for the East) and can be very dry. Bring sunscreen and brimmed hats, and do NOTHING which might cause a fire. Drink plenty of water, just do it, you’ll feel better for it. Easy to get dehydrated when you’re having fun. A few people might feel the altitude effects the first day, but nothing most people will even notice.

RVs have their own area. Quiet hours mean no loud socializing in the camping and observing areas at night or early morning, and no engines running (e.g., generators) during those times. Of course, no cars can move after dark. (Sorry: if you arrive late, you need to park your vehicle at the TMI entrance gate ‘til morning.) No hard and fast rules (except following the directions of TMI and AHSP staff), but go the extra mile to be considerate of your neighbors who may have been up all night observing.

It is VERY dark on the observing fields, and we need to keep it that way. All flashlights and unshielded laptop screens must be heavily red filtered, and any lights in tents should not interfere with dark-adaption outside

If you forget something, check with your neighbors first. There is no camp store at TMI, and NO convenience store within many miles. In the next emails, we will describe some resources in the area, including last-minute stops on the way to and from TMI, along with routes and other activities.

For internal and external communications, remember that your cellphone and laptop will not have common carrier service. We’re working on WiFi in AHSP areas; as a result of an AHSP donation, it is already available this year around the Main Yurt. Free limited-duration land-line calls can be made in the main Yurt. If you have Family Radio (FRS), bring it! In addition to your own use, various AHSP announcements are made that way, and it is about the only way to summon help around the fields in an emergency.

Which leads to some advice: being up in the mountains is not a good place to get injured or have other serious emergencies. Richard Grauel, Mike Lesnick, and Arlen Raasch have put together emergency  and first aid plans for AHSP, which includes coordination with TMI, identifying EMTs and other trained personnel who will be there, making sure we have the right first aid and fire equipment, notifying local first responders, etc. In the past, the emergency plan has never been needed, and we hope to keep it that way. By the way, if you have relevant training and would be available on-site, please identify yourself to Arlen at <>. First aid kits are located near the port-o-johns, the registration desk, and the main Yurt. Staff also have access to AEDs.

If you need to have medicine refrigerated, that can be done in the kitchen Yurt. Talk with the staff. If you have a medical condition of which first responders should be aware, similarly let Arlen Raasch know, in confidence.


We’re looking forward to seeing everyone and having a great time in just about 4 weeks. If you have any questions or suggestions or tips we can share in the meantime, contact the committee at <>.

For the AHSP Volunteer Committee,