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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2007

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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #96 Dec 15, 2007

Happy Holidays!
1. Prevent Jet Lag
2. What Will Soon Be Only 54.8 Million Miles Away?
3. Gourmet Treats of Spain
4. Reindeer Games
5. Recommended books by Laws
6. A Beautiful Christmas Message
7. Update on Irene Cline
8. CPR shortcut?

#1. Prevent Jet Lag

Flying home from Spain on Iberia, I read the following in their in- flight magazine: walnuts can help prevent jet lag. I have no idea how to check this out, but we do know that walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, so this hint is worth a try!

#2. What Will Soon Be Only 54.8 Million Miles Away?

On December 18, you might want to take a break from all of the holiday activities and look to the sky. Mars on that date will be making a special appearance and will appear brighter than any star. It won't appear as large again until 2016. Best views with the naked eye should be just after twilight in the eastern sky.
On December 23, according to Andrew Fraknoi, chairman of the astronomy program at Los Altos Hill, CA Foothill College, "the moon will be full and Mars will appear directly below it." "It will look like a red jewel." If you have an observatory nearby, check with them to see if they have viewing hours. In the S.F. Bay Area, there will be free viewings at Foothill College, Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, and Houge Park in San Jose).

#3. Gourmet Treats of Spain

At last year's American Pilgrims on the Camino gathering in Williamsburg, we were treated to a delicious tasting of Spanish delicacies courtesy of Don Harris and his company, La Tienda, which is located in Williamsburg, VA. Ralph and I also attended Don's lecture on Spanish food and learned about "Jamon Iberico" (Iberian/Spanish ham). La Tienda's website describes Jamon Iberico thusly:

"We at La Tienda have been on a quest for the finest of all hams, Jamón Iberico, since we started our business. Like the Beluga caviar or Kobe beef, "Jamón Iberico" is the ultimate of its kind. Until now it has been unavailable in the U.S. Finally two years ago the first producer in Spain, Embutidos y Jamones Fermin, was approved by the U.S. Government to export Iberico products to the U.S. In December of 2007, the first hams were released for sale in the United States."

The free-range, acorn fed hams are due to follow in July of 2008. Supply is extremely limited and we are flying over several shipments to cover demand this holiday season. We have a waiting list, though you must put up a deposit below to get on that list. Hams will be weighed to the ounce prior to shipment and your credit card will not be charged the final amount until the day it is shipped. All hams will be sent in a manner which will protect its quality: that may require 2- day air shipment, depending on the delivery area. You will be notified by email and telephone of the final amount prior to shipment."

According to Harris, a ham of this sort is set out on a counter in homes and restaurants and people cut off a bit at a time to use as desired. At $55 a pound, I probably won't be ordering one anytime soon, but there are dozens of other tasty products available at lower cost--gift boxes filled with tapas, sweets, cheeses--for example. They also offer paella kits, wine, and ceramics. or 800-710-4304. If you mention promo code GC17 you can get 10% off your first order (according to an ad running in the S. F. Chronicle).

#4. Reindeer Games

It isn't too difficult to figure out how it is that reindeer (known as caribou in North America) came to be the animals used to pull Santa's sleigh. After all, they are well adapted to living in snowy regions. They have two layers of fur: the warm inner coat and another layer with hollow hairs. They have large hooves that allow them to stay on top of the snow as well as dig through it to get to the lichen growing underneath.

Reindeer are the only species of deer in which the females have antlers. And according to an urban legend (check ) all of Santa's reindeer must be females because the males generally lose their antlers in November or early December. Snopes continues, "we should have know that they were females because they are able to find their way."

#5. Recommended books by Laws

Grace Lohr sent a book recommendation that I am happy to relay to you:

"Last night at Audubon our speaker was John Muir Laws--a most interesting man who has written 'The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada.' You might want to mention it in your newsletter."

I did a bit of research and found that Laws is a research associate with the California Academy of Science. He's a naturalist, educator, and artist, with degrees in conservation and resource studies from the University of California, Berkeley; in wildlife biology from the University of Montana, Missoula; and in scientific illustration from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada" was published this year by one of my favorite publishers, Heydey Books in Berkeley, CA, in conjunction with the Cal Academy of Science. Cover price $24.95, available on Amazon at $16.47. (368 pages, 2700 full-color illustration.) While at Amazon, I noticed that Laws also published "Sierra Birds: A Hikers Guide" in 2004. Both books have five-star ratings.

#6. Christmas Message

Sometimes just the right message is delivered. Yesterday our cat had to be put to sleep. Sadie was 18 years old and had a happy life, but now we notice an empty space. When I came to my computer late afternoon, there was a message from Dave Woods, a backpacker who we met on the PCT in Southern California three years ago. Go to this address and enjoy the beautiful "card" and Christmas carol that lightened my mood. Cut and paste the link below and follow the directions.

#7. Update on Irene Cline

I've just received a holiday card from Irene Cline, who is one of the stars in my book, "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill." (At the time that I interviewed Irene, she was the oldest woman on-record to have completed the Appalachian Trail). Irene is now well into her mid-eighties and wrote that she has now completed section hiking the 1,000-mile Ice Age Trail (a National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin). Irene is so inspiring!

#8. CPR

Although there have been a few articles published this year about an easier way to give CPR (doing only the compressions), the American Heart Association still recommends giving BOTH rescue breaths and chest compressions (30 chest presses at a rate of 100 per minute, followed by two breaths for adults) in most situations. (I am not a doctor; be sure to get instruction from appropriately trained personnel.) Since most of us aren't out backpacking right now, this might be a good time to sign up for a wilderness first aid class including instructions for giving CPR. In the meantime, there's an easy to understand demo called, "Learn CPR" at:

Happy holidays,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #95 Dec 1, 2007

1. Andrew Skurka's Accomplishments and Award
2. Important Camino de Santiago News
3. ALDHA Lists Triple Crowns for 2007
4. December Sky Guide
5. PCTA Facilitates PCT Trail Permits
8. 2008 Calendar Dates

#1 Andrew Skurka

Press release from  by GoLite. "On November 3, 2007, Andrew Skurka became the first person to complete the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop, an ambitious journey that links the American West's great long-distance hiking trails to traverse 12 National Parks and over 75 wilderness areas. Skurka, 26, completed his expedition by walking an average of 33 miles per day for 208 straight days, covering a distance equivalent to 262 marathons or twice the distance between Boston and San Francisco. In addition to experiencing many of the most pristine and beautiful landscapes in America, Skurka surveyed the toll that global warming is taking on them. Skurka's accomplishment is landmark in the sheer athleticism he displayed, the pinnacle outdoor experience he had, and in the sobering observations he made along the way."

There's a fine story about Skurka in this month's (December 2007/ January 2008) "National Geographic Adventure Magazine". They have named him "2007 Adventurer of the Year." One of comments that Skurka made in the Geographic article (by Daniel Dwane) made me laugh. Skurka was asked if he ever got lonely, and he replied that he didn't, there is no place where he feels more at home [than on the trail], "no woman, no town, nothing."

#2. Camino de Santiago News

Rosina Lia sent the following to the GoCamino forum on Nov. 29. Rosina has studied the Camino, walked many of its trails, visited Santiago numerous times. In other words, she's a font of knowledge about it.

"Probably the most troubling news that I learned about during my visit to Santiago last week concerns fake pilgrims and the problems that they represent, which are much, much worse than we could have imagined, and which explain some of the actions undertaken regarding pilgrims credentials, two seals per locality etc."

It turns out that there has been an alarming number of unscrupulous "travel agents" who have actually "sold" the Camino to bus tourists guaranteeing lodging at the albergues and even a Compostela. Some of them have even charged extra for the Botafumeiro 'show.'"

Many and repeated instances of bare-faced attempts to bribe hospitaleros in order to obtain beds for groups of more than ten people have been reported top the Xunta and to the Archdiocese, and dozens and dozens of "turigrinos" who paid extra for the Botafumeiro and didn't get to see it complained loudly and disorderly at the Cathedral itself."

Disagreeable and nerve-racking confrontations between hospitaleros and fake-pilgrims and their "leaders" have been alarming, and the array of fake "credentials" is mind-boggling."

Because of this, the powers-that-be (Xunta, Archdiocese and Xacobean activities' groups) have published a solicitation of offers from private organizations to manage the net of public albergues on the Camino. Those interested will have to submit a proposal detailing the precise activities intended to be put in place to: a) insure the pilgrim bona-fides of those seeking a place in the albergues; b) to provide assistance to pilgrims as needed; c) to take care of the cleaning and maintenance of the albergues, and, d) to safeguard and deposit the 3 Euros per night which, commencing on January 1, 2008, pilgrims will be required to contribute."

Somehow a yearly budget of 2.3 million Euros has been estimated for the purpose."

Other albergues will continue their own practices and charges. Roncesvalles, for instance, requires a contribution of 5 Euros per night, and the majority of albergues maintained by religious orders will continue their practice of making pilgrims' contributions entirely voluntary."

Also, pursuant to some of the suggestions made by pilgrims, several changes will take place beginning next year:

The informational pamphlet regarding activities and services available to pilgrims, presently available only in Spanish, will be translated into English, German, Italian Portuguese and French, and will be given to pilgrims as they receive the Compostela, or certificate, in accordance to their language," The current pamphlet informs about the Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 9:00 p.m. Pilgrims reunion at the Cathedral; about the "Santiago Sepulcher in History" conferences; about the informal "dialogue" meetings with pilgrims and about the "Spirituality" meetings at the church of Saint Francis at 4:30 p.m."

While logistically it is not practical to call on the pilgrims separately at Mass according to their nationalities, they will be asked to stand, as a group, at the beginning of the Pilgrims Mass to be recognized and saluted."

From Susan: Rosina's letter provides some important background information for those planning a Camino walk. It appears that abuses of the refugio system continue to grow, refugios are becoming increasingly crowded, you should plan to get TWO stamps (cellos) each day for the last 100 km if you're going to use the refugios, and there will be 3-5 Euro fees charged to stay in the refugios.

#3 ALDHA Triple Crown Awards

The American Long Distance Association-West had a highly successful gathering near Lake Tahoe in late September. Their recent newsletter lists 22 recipients of the Triple Crown Award -- those who have completed the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails -- for 2007. Awards went to: Justin Lichter, Adam Pelletier, Kevin Hogan, Shinobu Price, Sanne Larsen Bagby, Chris Bagby, Shawn Forry, Richard Hitz, Godon R. Crawford, Jr., Lawton Grinter, Mike DiLorenzo, Paul Magnanti, Heather Anderson, Arlette Laan, Remy Levin, Bill " Berkeley Bill," Harold Herring, Alden Tondettar, Graham Black, Michael Vaz, Richard Efrid, John Drollette. Totally amazing!!!

#4 December Sky Guide

 December skies: December 14. Beginning of the Geminid meteor shower. Averages 60 per hour. It's bigger than the Perseid shower, but draws fewer enthusiasts--perhaps it's the temperature!

December 21 (22nd if you're east of the Rocky Mountains). Winter solstice. Start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The shortest day of the year.

December 23, 5:15 PST). Full moon. Also known as the "Baby Bean Moon" to the Osage. (above info thanks to Cal Academy of Science Member Publication, winter 2007.

#5 PCTA PCT Trail Permits

On February 1, 2008, the Pacific Crest Trail Association starts issuing permits for those planning to hike, or ride on horseback, etc., 500 or more continuous miles along the PCT. "Permits are required in all wilderness areas, National Parks, and other restricted areas along the PCT.

If you are embarking on a shorter trip, you can obtain a permit from the agency on which your PCT trip originates. For example, if you plan to travel from Echo Lake to Castle Crags State Park, you would need to contact the Eldorado National Forest since your trip would begin in that forest. They would issue a permit good for your entire trip."

If you plan on hiking or riding 500 or more continuous miles along the PCT, in a single trip, the PCTA can issue you a Thru-Permit. This single permit covers the entry (as a pedestrian or equestrian) and traversing of all local, state and national parks and forests along the PCT and is free to PCTA members. A $5 donation is suggested for permits issued to non-member." Lots more info at their website: 

Regional: S. F. Bay Area

#8 2008 Calendar Dates

More Dates to Put on Your 2008 Calendar. American Pilgrims on the Camino gathering Friday, March 7 through Sunday, March 9, 2008 at the Old Mission Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, California more info at

Meanwhile, you'll find details about the Pacific Crest Trail Fest on their website: . I'm very excited about the panel on women, by women, that I'll be moderating. If you're planning on attending Trail Fest, send me the questions you'd like to have answered. That gathering will be March 28th - 30th in Sacramento, CA. 

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #94 Nov 19, 2007

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be ever at your back
May the Good Lord keep you in the hollow of His hand.
May your heart be as warm as your hearthstone.
And when you come to die
may the wail of the poor
be the only sorrow
you'll leave behind.
May God bless you always.
-- anonymous, "An Irish Wish" (found in Ralph L. Woods A Third
Treasury of the Familiar (1970) p. 644)

1. Laugh more, you'll live longer.
2. Great panel lineup for Pacific Crest Trail Association's "Trail
3. Scrambler and Her Family's Adventures
4. How the PCT, AT, and CDT compare
6. Of Camino Interest
7. Backpacker Nutrition and Health
8. Where in the World...?

#1 Laugh More

.This link has gone bad so we substituted another

#2. PCT Trailfest Panel

Friday, March 28 - Sunday, March 30, 2008. The Pacific Crest Trail Association's Trail Fest is an opportunity for members and non-members to learn more about the trail and how to get the most out of recreational and volunteer experiences on it. The keynote address by Arlene Blum will be given on Saturday night at the awards dinner. Blum is a chemist, mountaineer, and author. She led the first American and all-women's ascent of Annapurna (in the Himalayas). This promises to be a fantastic event! Location: Wildland Fire Training & Conference Center, 3237 Peacekeeper Way, McClellan, (Sacramento) CA 95652. (Also during the PCT Trail Fest) I am also thrilled to announce that I will be moderating a fantastic panel of backpackers in a forum entitled, "Women on the PCT" on Saturday (3/29). The all-star panel will include "Ladybug" (Denise Hill), "Gotta Walk" (Marcia Powers), Amy Racina (author of Angels in the Wilderness) and Sandy Mann." (We're still waiting on the schedule for time and location). (For more information about Trail Fest, including accommodations at Lions Gate, visit the PCTA's website:

#3 Scrambler Book Recommendation

A book recommendation: "Hello from a longtime list-lurker. Just wanted to bring your attention to Barbara Egbert's new book, "Zero Days: The Real-Life Adventure of Captain Bligh, Nellie Bly and 10-year- old Scrambler on the Pacific Crest Trail," published by Wilderness Press (288 pp., $15.95). This is a very readable account of Barbara's thru-hike with her husband and Scrambler, the youngest person to ever through-hike the PCT [all 2,650 miles of it!] at age 10. I think anyone who's ever had even incidental contact with Scrambler will attest to the fact that she's an extraordinary one-in-a-million kid." [ed.: I have met her and she's both a regular kid AND an extraordinary one.]
From the reviews, "'Zero Days' is a straightforward account full of outdoorsy details most relevant to those captivated by the idea of trekking the PCT, but there is a moral for the non-hiking masses: If you give your kids the opportunity to amaze you, generally they will."

#4. PCT, AT & CDT Comparison

Great website for comparing various long distance trails in the USA by Paul Magnanti. Paul just finished the Continental Divide trail and compares it to the AT and the PCT. Interested in trying the CDT -- you'll get a good overview and summary of all the information needed for planning a journey.

#5. Annual PCT ZeroDay KickOff

The ADZ 10 (!) will be April 25-27 (Friday - Sunday), 2008. "The 10th Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off (ADZPCTKO) will be held on April 25th thru 27th [Description for the website www.  ] "at Lake Morena County Park--just 20.1 miles by trail, about 7 miles by crow, from the U.S.-Mexico border. At the kickoff you'll encounter good people, great presentations, fair food, a few quality vendors, and several key non-profit organizations. Past thru-hikers, ancient thru-hikers, trail angels, and supporters gather to give those aspiring to thru-hike or take on a significant PCT section a bit of education, some great inspiration, and the butterfly- killing experiences of those who have gone before. Come join us in sending off another year's group and enjoy the fantastic camaraderie, energy, and passion that we, the trail community, all share."

#6 Of Camino Interest

Camino de Santiago news on Spiegel Online International. Charlotte writes, "Check out SPIEGEL ONLINE - November 2, 2007, 05:16 PM at the following website:,1518,512057,00.html
There's an article, "BLISS, BLISTERS AND BEATIFICATION: Pilgrims Flock to the Way of St. James," by Matthias Schulz

"Spiritual seekers and power walkers from all over the world have rediscovered the Way of St. James, the old Christian pilgrimage route through Spain. Some travelers are looking for God, others for sex, while some are just trying to find themselves."
"A distraught young Italian man bursts into the pilgrim office of Roncesvalles, a small village perched among the verdant mountains of the Pyrenees, just as dawn is breaking. He's had to leave his companion behind on the trail and run for help. 'She's collapsed!' he yells, sweat dripping from his forehead. "You'll find her six kilometers from here." A member of the staff calls the Spanish fire and rescue service."
"This isn't the first time that pilgrims have run into trouble. Many tenderfoots are no match for even the first grueling stage from Saint- Jean-Pied-de-Port in France across the forested frontier mountains. Hikers climb the mountain on a mercilessly steep 26-kilometer gravel road to reach their destination. At times, low-hanging clouds reduce visibility to just a few meters...."

It's a lengthy article, but a very interesting perspective on today's Camino.

#7 Backpacker Nutrition  is a (commercial) website with many informative articles for backpackers. When you click on "articles" and scroll down you'll find nutritional recommendations for backpackers and other endurance exercise enthusiasts. "Pack Light, Eat Right," was written by Brenda L. Braaten, Ph.D., R.D.
Braaten covers such topics as: "How to Avoid Hitting the Wall," "How to Get Enough Protein," "Minimize Pack Weight," and "Edible Plants" in an easy to search frequently asked questions format. Well worth your time to read.

#8 Where in the World is Susan?

. This newsletter is a bit later than usual (I aim for the 1st and the 15th of the month) because Ralph and I have been traveling again. We weren't hiking; this time we were in the Caribbean on a Zydeco dance cruise. If you're looking for a great way to exercise when you aren't backpacking, consider dancing to Cajun or Zydeco's captivating music.
Last year Ralph put a short clip, with sound, on . You'll search under "Zydeco Cruise 2006" to get it. This year's is zydeco cruise 2007.

Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #93 Nov 1, 2007

1. Webcam Delight
2. End of Stinky Clothes?
3. The Ruck
4. Ruby Johnson Jenkins Passes Away
5. Melissa West's Art
6. Spirit Eagle Offerings
7. Monsters in the Woods
8. Crime along the Camino
9. East Bay Ridge Trail Addition
10. Women on Common Ground

#1. Webcam  Delight

WOW! I recently found the most wonderful website for viewing the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Several webcams are set up in and around the cathedral. Most wondrous thing - while I was viewing the live cameras - the bells chimed the hour! Unfortunately, I had no sooner found it than the cameras on the cathedral went down. But, there are still livecams in several other Spanish and French locales that might be of interest so it's still worth a visit.

#2. End of Stinky Clothes?

YOU KNOW how some clothing (usually things made of synthetic fibers) stinks after a short time? Backpacking expert Ken Powers sent the PCT-l forum his recommendation for long underwear, "I wear Patagonia silkweight polypro on all my hikes. One tip is to add extra soap and time when you launder them. I keep getting the comment "You look too clean to be a thru-hiker" and I don't notice that the shirts smell. I wore another synthetic fiber shirt on the AT that I couldn't stand the smell of. It smelled like motor oil even when it was clean. Ken and Marcia's website for tons of information on the CDT, PCT, AT, and American Discovery Trail. 

#3. The Ruck

EVENT FOR anyone who loves hiking in the Rockies - or anywhere else for that matter - there's a gathering where you can reminisce about it. It's scheduled for Feb 29th (it's Leap Year) - Mar 2nd, 2008. This will be the fourth year for this event (typically they have about 20-25 people).
"The Ruck is a low key get together for those who enjoy the long trails. Doesn't matter if you're a thru-hiker, a section hiker, day hiker or a just need to love the outdoors and the long trails. More about the Ruck at:  phone: (719) 486-9334
The Ruck will be at the Leadville Hostel in Leadville, Colorado. Go to their website (or call) for reservations. Mention that you are attending the Ruck. Cost is ~$60 for a bunk, shower, four meals (2 dinners, 2 dinners. Potluck lunch on Saturday. There are a limited number of private rooms, so if you prefer a room to a bunk, reserve early." Go to .

#4. Ruby Johnson Jenkins

CO-AUTHOR of two guidebooks to Southern California, Ruby Johnson Jenkins, passed away last weekend. It was only after Ruby's son J. C. Jenkins died in a car accident that Ruby took up backpacking and writing the guides in order to keep J. C.'s books, "Exploring South Sierra East" and "Exploring South Sierra West" up-to-date.
Before J. C. wrote the books, he reportedly walked every inch of the trails using a measuring wheel. Ruby rewalked the trails to maintain the books' accuracy. (There are routes to travel by car, bicycle, and horse as well as on foot). (Mt. Jenkins in Section F is named after him.)

#5. Melissa West's Art

CAMINO ART: Melissa West has some great inkblock prints of the Camino de Santiago available. Melissa has a couple of upcoming shows. Camino art, "Paso a Paso: Prints from the Camino de Santiago," will be at Butch 'n' Nellie's Coffee Company 1820 I Street, Sacramento, CA. November 9 - December 7, 2007 Opening reception Saturday, November 10, 6 - 9pm Check out her website: 

#6. Spirit Eagle Offerings

I FOUND another informative website with info on U.S. trails that is worth checking out. Ginny and Jim Owen's  has journals of the following trails, plus lots of interesting reading about trail safety, how to pack, and so forth.
Great Divide Trail (Canada), 2007
ontinental Divide Trail, 2006
Alaska, 2004
Canadian Rockies, 2003
Absaroka-Beartooths, 2002
Pacific Crest Trail, 2000
Continental Divide Trail, 1999
Glacier National Park, 1998
Colorado 1997
John Muir Trail, 1990

#7. Monsters in the Woods

RECOMMENDED READING: I just finished reading Tim Hauserman's "Monsters in the Woods: Backpacking with Children" and highly recommend it. He writes whereof he speaks - he's taken his own children on many trips. Among the excellent pieces of advice: Let your kids bring a friend [there will be less complaining and more giggling!]. An excellent book to read to find out the ins and out of taking your kids into the wilderness. You can foster a love for the wilderness and help cure the nature deficit that so many children suffer from these days. (University of Nevada Press: 2007)

#8. Crime Along the Camino

THEFTS ON the Camino de Santiago: Recently reported were three robberies -- all at the refugio in Pamplona. "All three left their money and passports in either a locker or on their bed inside their backpack while they went to shower," according to the article as forwarded by Grant Spangler. "At least one person [had] asked their roommate who they trusted to watch their gear and that "roommate" turned out to be a thief. Their money was stolen and the roommate disappeared. Probably wasn't a pilgrim at all. But no way to know that." No one was injured.

These incidents remind us that it's important to keep your passport and moneybelt with you at all times. When Ralph and I took showers, we took turns so that we could watch each other's valuables. Alternately, take your items into the shower stall with you. As Grant reminds us, there are ATMs in all of the larger towns and cities, so you don't need to carry large sums of money.

Regional (S.F. Bay Area)

#9. San Francisco East Bay Trail Additions

BAY AREA RIDGE TRAIL: "7.5 Miles of New Ridge Trail Opening This Saturday" Bay Area Ridge Trail and East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) are announcing a new addition to the Ridge Trail. The trail offers a moderately challenging route through the beautiful Pinole Watershed with spectacular views of the East Bay hills and the Carquinez Strait. It's the longest section of trail they'll dedicate this year.
"The Pinole Watershed Ridge Trail is the culmination of years of dedicated effort by local planners, district staff, and trail advocates. Volunteers worked on National Trails Day this spring in a project sponsored by the Council, REI, and EBMUD to prepare the trail, plant trees, and install specially-designed cattle fences crafted on- site from local eucalyptus. The new trail connects to existing Ridge Trail in Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve, creating a nearly 10-mile continuous stretch."
The Pinole Watershed Ridge Trail will be open to hikers and equestrians. Generally access to the watershed will require an EBMUD trail permit.
Directions: Parking is at the Bar X Corral, just west of the intersection of Alhambra Valley Road with Pereira and Bear Creek Roads, east of Pinole. From Highway 80, take Pinole Valley Road east about 5 miles (Pinole Valley Road becomes Alhambra Valley Road) and turn left at Bar X Corral. Download a map from our website.  Phone 415-561-2595 Fax 415-561-2599


East Bay Regional Park District Naturalist Programs. For information: Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness PO Box 82, Sunol, CA 94586 (925) 862-2601, For EBRPD info:  or (888) 327-2757
One of their upcoming hikes: - "Autumn Winds over Vasco, Sun, Nov. 18, 2007. 9:00AM - 2:00PM, Laughlin Ranch Staging Area, Brushy Peak, Livermore, CA.
"This dramatic, rock-studded landscape is rich in cultural history and is vital habitat for kit fox, fairy shrimp and other imperiled wildlife. Access to this very special place is available only via chartered shuttle on naturalist-led programs. Three relatively easy miles of hiking. We meet at Brushy Peak Regional Preserve. Disabled Accessible. Reg. Required: 1-888-EBPARKS (1-888-327-2757)."
Women on Common Ground is a series of naturalist-led programs for women who love to hike, camp, or otherwise play in the out-of-doors, but whose concern for personal safety keeps them from enjoying the wonders within their own parklands. Activities celebrate natural and cultural history and are designed to help women reclaim the joys of wild places by day and night. Wear sturdy shoes with textured soles for hiking on slippery slopes, dress in layers, wear sunscreen and a sun/rain hat and bring water and a trail snack to share. Parking fees may apply. We meet RAIN or SHINE, but will moderate our adventure to accommodate the weather. We encourage and can often help arrange carpools." +++

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #92 Oct 15, 2007

Dear Friends,
Fall is almost here; I love hiking in the S.F. Bay Area this time of year. At home the leaves on our Japanese maple have turned bright red, on the flowering plum a rich maroon, and the Ginkgo's fan-shaped leaves are now edged with yellow. The Ginkgo Biloba, once thought to be extinct, was re-discovered in China in the mid-1700s. It's one of the world's oldest trees, having lived on Earth for over 150 million years. (info Ohio State U.   )


1. Spanish Musical Interlude
2. Building a Home on the Camino: Dream or Nightmare?
3. Bear Tales
4. "Gifts from the Mountain" 5. The Knees Have It
6. Regional Activities: S.F. Bay Area
7. Susan Alcorn's Blog

#1 Spanish Musical Interlude

 For those who would like to get the feel of being in Spain, Ralph has posted a brief, but wonderful, video of the musicians we saw performing in the portico of the town hall across from the west-facing façade of the Santiago Cathedral. Ralph's blog address is The item is entitled "A Moment of Music - Night at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela."

#2 Building a home on the Camino

 Rebekah Scott, who we were introduced to at the pilgrim gathering last spring in Williamsburg, Virginia, is a woman with a dream. It's a dream that she is putting into being —although at times it seems to be a nightmare. In June 2006, she and her husband Paddy, "pulled up stakes" in the U.S., and moved to a tiny village in Spain along the Camino de Santiago. They bought a farming compound in Moratino, which is on the meseta. Though the town itself is not particularly memorable, the bodegas that one sees when they approach the town are intriguing. If you've seen our Camino slideshow, you may remember the row of doorways cut into a hillside.

Recently, in her blog, Rebekah wrote about the site. "Dug [into the base of the hill] are 16 little doors, A path leads all around the base of the hill, and all along it are porches, entryways, lintels, and doors, each one numbered." She reminds us that the storage areas are used for not only storing wine, but also ham, sausage, cheese because of the bodegas' constant temperature.

Although some of the bodegas are no longer used and have fallen to ruin, some are in use. Modesto's place is decorated with am emblem of the trail — scallop shells. Celestine and Esteban have joined their two bodegas and have outfitted it with a fireplace, old farm equipment, and ancient barrels full of wine — perhaps past its prime. The finest one, however, says Rebekah, is one that has a woodstove, a TV with wide screen, tile floors, running water. It's quiet most of the time, but on occasion the owners and his friends decide to throw a tailgate party or bachelor party and they roast a whole lamb and drink to wee hours. Check our Rebecca's' new life on the ancient Camino: Her photos of the bodegas accompany her July 31, 2007 entry. If you read Rebekah's account of their home-building project, you'll soon find (as Ralph put it) that Frances Mayes' project as described in "Under the Tuscan Sun," warrants only a 4 rating on the scale of difficulty; Rebekah's earns a 9.

#3 Bear Tales

Closer to home, a sad bear story. Amy Racina (author of "Angels in the Wilderness") writes, "Will people ever learn? After two weeks on the JMT, I had only seen two bears, and they were munching on berries and running away from me through the brush, as wild bears should do. As I was hiking back to my trailhead at Roads End in Kings Canyon National Park, I saw several signs warning that a bear had bitten a hiker at Mist Falls, just 5 miles from the trailhead. I made inquiries from a ranger when I got back, and he told me that the bear was a yearling (about 1 1/2 years old) and that people had been feeding him because they thought he was a lost cub. The bear had gotten aggressive, instead of learning to forage for himself. After much consideration, the park service had reluctantly decided that he would have to be put down. And all because people won't read the extensively posted bear-education information. The poor bear had to be shot because people thought it was cute to feed him."

#4 Gifts from the Mountain

 I've just read a wonderful new book, "Gifts from the Mountain." (I only wish I had written it myself.) It's a gem! Eileen McDargh has beautifully captured the essence of wilderness exploration with its numerous challenges and countless rewards. She's shown us lessons learned in the mountains that can enrich our "doing, being, living, and working" back home. Roderick MacIver's illustrations are the perfect complement to McDargh's writing: they show us many of the treasures to be found when we take the time to notice the quiet beauty around us.

This is a book that hikers and backpacker will enjoy AND it's perfect for giving to friends and family that don't quite understand why we do what we do! You can get it from her website or if you are browsing our website, you can order directly through our site (from Amazon) on the women's adventure, pct or jmt page.

#5. Knees: How to Keep them Healthy

Ralph and I have often wondered about the lifetime of various joints. The question is whether knees and other joints have a certain number of movements possible and we are wearing out a scarce resource by hiking OR does using the joints increase their longevity. Ralph did a bit of research (more on his blog! and discovered an article entitled "Ostearthritis and Exercise: Does increased Activity Wear Out joints" by Robert H. Sandmeier, MD. (The Permanente Journal, Fall 2000). The short answer to Sandmeier's question, "No. Exercise is one of the most effective way of improving and maintaining health." He goes on to describe why and how ostearthritis occurs and offers animal studies to support his position on the important questions. He continues, "Exercise (even strenuous…) on normal joints does not result in a substantially increased likelihood of arthritis."

So, take care of those joints by walking. And now that shorter days are upon us, it's an excellent time to work on ways to protect our valuable knee joints. I am NOT a medical doctor or physical therapist, please use your judgment before trying these on for size:

Key Points about Knees

1. In general women have more knee problems than men because of their lighter frame and because of their wider hips (which puts more pressure on the knee). According to the Mayo Clinic (Women's Health Source, Feb. 2006). "Women tend to have stronger muscles at the front of the tight (quads) compared with the back (hamstrings). This increases the risk of a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

2. Keep supporting muscles strong. The knee suffers if the surrounding tendons and muscles are too weak, or out of balance. Don't lock your knees when exercising. Ease into any new exercise programs gradually and avoid "weekend warrior" injuries.

3. Stretches (when warmed up!): HAMSTRING stretches:  Stand on one leg, bend the other knee and slowly pull the leg up behind you to touch your butt. Hold to count of 30 seconds. Repeat with the other.

Sit with both legs straight out, together. Do not lock knees. Bend slowly from the hips while reaching toward ankles. As flexibility increases, reach for feet. Push out through the heels, forcing toes to the sky.

QUAD stretch:

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet under your butt, toes pointed to the back. Place hands about 12 inches behind hips. Lean back, feeling tension in top of thigh (quadriceps), not knees.

"Do NOT let the feet flare out to the side while doing this exercise. If you have any knee problems, be very careful about bending the knees under you. Do it slowly and under control. If there is any pain, discontinue the stretch (from Bob Anderson's excellent book, "Stretching").

4. Avoid deep knee squats (beyond 90 degrees).

5. Use kneepads, or foam cushion when working in the yard or on the floor.

6. Work on foot stability and balance by doing the following:

a) Standing barefoot, close your eyes and bend one knee to lift your foot off of the floor a few inches; keep regaining your balance as needed as you count to 30-60 seconds. Repeat with the other foot. You may only be able to maintain this position for a few seconds, but with continued practice, you'll be able to work up to 30 seconds or more. For safety's sake, be sure to practice this while standing next to a firm counter or piece of furniture.

b) Another exercise for balance. Wearing supportive shoes, stand on a flat surface on one foot and pretend that you are standing in the center of a clock. Jump to the other numbers on the clock and back to the center. Remember to regain your balance when needed. Repeat with the other foot.

7. Change out of hiking boots. We usually hike in trail runners, but there are places we make exceptions (on Mount Kilimanjaro, for example, or when snow camping). When you do wear hiking boots during the day, change to lighter footgear in the evening. It will let your feet relax and thereby reduce strain on your knees.

8. Yes, once again -- a plug for hiking poles! They're no longer a rarity in the U.S. and they definitely reduce the impact on your lower body. I haven't been asked, "where's the snow?" in almost a year now!

9. Lose weight. Losing one pound takes four pounds of pressure off your knees. (Patience White of the Arthritis Foundation)

10. Some OTC meds may help. Glucosamine — According the U.S. Wellness Letter, it can't hurt, and it might help. Ibuprofen — reduces pain and swelling. Capsaicin — a pain-reducing cream.

11. Warm up by starting your walk slowly, and then go into your normal pace.

12. Wear the proper footgear -- without proper foot support, knees and hips have to compensate. Shoes should have enough room to allow for swelling during exercise of hiking, but be snug enough to hold feet aligned comfortably. Consider inserts or orthotics if you have high arches or flat feet. Replace walking shoes every 300-500 miles.

13. Walk your own walk can also mean to keep your stride natural. Don't cause strain on your knees joints by trying to take huge steps up or downhill. When ascending or descending, shorten your stride and keep your knees aligned with your hips.

14. In addition — strengthening the glutes, and your core, by exercising will help stabilize your lower body. Choose your method: yoga, gym, tai chi, Pilates, free weights at home.... If knees are sore, you'll find that swimming is easy on the joints. Other methods widely recommended include elastic bands, acupuncture, and massage.

#7Susan Alcorn's Blog

I'm enjoying my new blog. It gives me an opportunity to write about a range of topics — the importance of happiness; travel; books I'm reading; backpacking and hiking safety, and so forth. Please visit me at

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #91 Oct 2, 2007

"While it's true that one has to be careful and vigilant in the backcountry, it's also true that one has to look both ways before crossing Main Street during rush hour." (Matt Colon, Backpacking Light Magazine, Issue 6, pg. 14.)

1. Camino de Santiago--the "Caminho Portuguese"
2. 2007 Camino Statistics
3. Peakbagging in a Wheelchair!
4. A Chilly Footcare Regimen
5. Heatrash and Blister Prevention
6. Gaiter Talk
7. GoLite Supports Program
8. Seasoned Hiker Celebrates on Half Dome
9. Fire at Kennedy Meadows, CA. (off Hwy. 108)
10. End of the Highest Outhouse!
11. Camino Presentation Next Tuesday!

#1 Caminho Portuguese

Ralph and I have just returned from our latest Camino walk -- this time on the Portuguese Camino (Caminho Portuguese). We started in the delightful city of Porto and followed the ancient trail through remote villages of northwestern Portugal and into the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It's approximately 150 miles and takes about two weeks.

We actually started our trip in Lisbon. We went there on the recommendation of Helena, a young Portuguese woman who we met on the Spanish Camino (in Astorga) last year. She told us that we would feel right at home because it has many similarities to San Francisco: a setting near the sea, a beautiful suspension bridge, many hills, beautiful neighborhoods, and so forth. We were particularly enjoyed seeing a performance of the Fado (details follow) in a neighborhood restaurant.

After two nights in Lisbon (hardly enough!), we went by train to Porto and stayed there for two nights. Since the 18th century, its main product, Port wine, has been world famous. Port wine (also known as Vinho do Porto, Oporto, Porto, and often simply Port) is a sweet Portuguese fortified wine that comes upriver from Porto in the Douro Valley. Porto is a beautiful old sailing port, which was given 'World Heritage Site' status by UNESCO.

The grapes used for Port are grown and pressed upriver, stored in wine lodges in the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, which is just a short walk across the bridge from Porto. There you will find such well-known Port producing companies as Taylor, Croft, Calem, and Sanderman. For some of the tours of the lodges there is a small fee (the fee may be subtracted if you make a purchase). At Taylor, which we toured, there was no fee and we enjoyed a sampling to boot.

I had always thought it would be fun to help with a crushing of the grapes. I remember Lucy of "I Love Lucy" jumping into the barrel. The reality is that it is an extremely strenuous activity. The group climbs into a large wooden barrel of grapes, links arms, and starts marching in place for TWO hours! After that, they continue the process by joining in a party with singing and dancing -- while still stomping the grapes. Although some grapes for making Port are crushed mechanically, the highest priced varieties are still crushed in the traditional manner because it is still believed to be the best way to obtain the full flavor of the grapes. If we had had more time in the area, we would definitely have taken a boat ride up the river to see the vineyards and caves along the way, but we were anxious to begin our walk.

Following the advice of John Brierley, whose "A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino Portugues: The Portuguese Way of St. James" we used extensively, we started our "hike" by taking a to the outskirts of Porto. Brierley had advised this because it would have been difficult to find the way out of town and there wasn't that much of interest.

During the trip I sent the following letter to a few people; I hope it provides some insight into the Portuguese route: "We are now in Ponte de Lima, Portugal and I think we are about one- third the distance. We are taking it easier than on some trips, but today turned out to be 14-miler. The weather today was just about perfect (70s) and there is an increasing amount of trail or off road walking. The first two days were pretty tiring because almost all of the miles were on the paved or cobblestoned side of the road -- and the roads are narrow with cars driven like they are all in the Le Mans. Houses and bathrooms are very well kept and clean -- lots of flowers you would recognize: roses, potato vines, dahlias, hydrangea, and because this is still primarily an agricultural area we see lots of corn and grapes (strange combination). We do, however, often go through small towns and it's pretty easy to find a place to stop for a snack during the day."

Litter is a BIG problem -- recycling seems to not have caught on very much (although there are bins in many places). The places we have stayed have varied tremendously in how fancy they are--the night before last night a very elegant old mansion, last night a hotel, but a rather stark, relatively modern, soulless hotel. In general, I would say that both food and accommodations are cheaper than at home -- surprising when you consider the Euro against the dollar at the moment. A definite bargain. It's also interesting how people dress. The men are usually much as back home. The women's clothing varies from the old style black clothing, to the middle-aged women dressing much as we do, and the teenagers wearing jeans like kids everywhere."

We are doing great -- even have learned about five words. A big accomplishment to learn to say "good day", "cerveza" (beer), and Cha (tea). We are staying an extra day here and will enjoy the contrast of the old Roman buildings, the medieval churches, and the modern and noisy carnival rides!"

Later observations: I got a kick out of the grape growing methods in Portugal and the region of Spain we just explored. A totally different setup. The vines are encouraged to grow high--on varying kinds of concrete or stone posts with wires strung between them. It creates wonderful arbors although it seems like it would be very tiring to have to reach up high and pick the grapes or to have to move a ladder along to reach them.

The question arises of how the Portuguese Camino compares to the French route--the St. James Way across Spain that we normally think of when we mention the Camino de Santiago In some ways they are similar, but in many ways it is a quite different experience. Similarities are that it is a traditional route steeped in history with many religious sites along the way. In addition, the people along the way were friendly and helpful. They were also quite tolerant of our inability to speak Portuguese. Many Portuguese spoke English, but certainly not all! The routines of the Pilgrim's day are much the same on each route--setting out for the day's walk, stopping at bars or restaurants to eat along the way, finding a refugio, albergues, or small hotel along the way. Note that Portugal has few hostels run by municipalities or religious organizations.

A major difference we felt, and most we talked to agreed, is that this route did not provide the same opportunity for introspection. That may be because it's a much shorter route, or that many fewer people are doing it so the sense of community is less--we think it's chiefly because there are so many distractions. Because so much of the time is spent being alert due to the high percentage of road walking, there's much less time for just being.

In fact, many people said that they could not in conscience recommend the first two days of the trail because of the dangerous walking conditions. Even after the initial days, there were several times that we had to cross heavily traveled highways on blind curves. Very scary!

For the most part, the trail was extremely well marked with the familiar yellow arrows. We know that only a few years ago these markings did not exist and we were very grateful to the crew that had placed them. It was interesting that much of the time that we were walking North following the yellow arrows, we were also seeing blue arrows pointing South, which direct travelers to the site of Fatima (and that's what most Portuguese think of when one asks about the Camino!).

Although the path was different, we are still very happy that we had the opportunity to do this walk and would recommend it. I was particularly thrilled to be again in Santiago de Compostela again and as luck would have it, the first person we saw when we reached the old, central part of the city, was a young Dutch woman who befriended us several days earlier at a pension in Portugal. A wonderful happenstance! And, contrary to our 2001 entrance to the city, this one was marked by beautiful blue and sunny skies. Everything was sparkling with the sunlight, tourists overflowed the outdoor tables of cafes, pilgrims -- happy to have completed their journey and reached the beautiful city of Santiago -- were everywhere in the narrow streets leading to the Pilgrim office or the Cathedral. There was such joy and happiness everywhere! We rushed to take some photos while the sun was shining because as you know Galicia is known for its rain. And wouldn't you know it, the next day it turned gray and rain -- the only rain we had during the entire trip! How lucky was that!

I could go on and on, but my creativity seems to be suffering from jetlag.

About the Fado (from the Portuguese site) "A shawl, a guitar, a voice and heartfelt emotion. These are the ingredients of Fado, the celebrated form of world music that captures what it is to be Portuguese."

Fado is the song that harnesses the Portuguese soul. Deep-seated feelings, disappointments in love, the sense of sadness and longing for someone who has gone away, everyday events, the ups and downs of life - inspiration for Fado can come from almost any source."

Nowadays, Fado is almost a symbol of Portugal, a celebrated form of world music that has retained its traditional qualities but moved with the times. Amália, the world-renowned singer who brought Fado to the great concert halls of Europe and the attention of international audiences, has found a worthy successor in Mariza, who continues to tour overseas, taking the Fado to an even wider audience."

The more popular forms of Fado are to be heard in the cities near the sea, such as Lisbon or Porto, but Coimbra has given the music its own unique feel, making it popular among students."

#2. 2007 Camino Statistics

via Rosina from the Pilgrims' Office in Santiago de Compostela: "By the end of August the Pilgrims' Office had granted 86,018 Compostelas to Santiago pilgrims who had met the qualifications therefor. Of this number 41,145 pilgrims came from 91 countries other than Spain. The largest number of foreign pilgrims, 9,574, came from Germany, followed by those from Italy, 8,141; from France, 4,852; from Portugal, 2,799; from the United States, 1,648 and from Holland, 1,242."'

Pilgrims came from all over the world, including Cuba, Israel, Jamaica, Vietnam, Iran, Algiers, Ethiopia and even Irak."

There has been an increase of 12.2% in the number of pilgrims compared to those of 2006. If the trend continues the total number of pilgrims for the year may exceed 113,000."

This surge has caused considerable problems, which are being discussed by the Confraternities with the view of having some possible solutions in place before the possible millions, which may converge on the Camino the next Holy Year, 2010, which will be the last Holy Year for eleven years. The Confraternity in Vienna drafted several suggestions, which were forwarded to the Archconfraternity for consideration. It appears that the same suggestions were being made by confraternities from Germany, Italy, and several other countries."

#3. Peakbagging in a wheelchair

Totally amazing accomplishment by Bay Area athlete, Bob Coomber, who submitted 14,246-foot White Mountain (CA) on August 24.. in his wheelchair. It was Coomber's fourth attempt--previously he had had to turn back because of altitude problems. This time he allowed himself time to acclimate--he spent five days at 8,500' Coomber, who is 52, had a support team to shuttle food and water. He spent three days on his successful attempt--including the final 1-3/4 miles, which took almost 11 hours. "Four Wheel Bob" is well known in the bay Area for his 20 years of hiking in on many of California's rugged trails. www.

#4. Chilly foot treatment

I had to laugh when my daughter-in-law gave me this hint about footcare recently. She works in the event planning/convention field and has to spend hours on her feet--often on concrete floors--and often in uncomfortable footwear. Her strategy for taking care of her feet is, when she gets back to her hotel room, to fill the toilet bowl with a bucket of ice and then plunge her feet in and leave them there as long as she can stand it. Flushing the toilet after the soak is the final, wonderful, treat (according to her)!

When we all went "Ew, gross!" she assured us that the toilet bowl was very clean because housekeeping cleans the bathroom twice a day! (Not sure where she stays, but the motels and hotels I usually choose don't quite meet those standards.)

Not too practical in the "field," or while backpacking, but whatever works...!

#5. Heatrash and blister prevention

Kathy Morey writes, "By the way, some ladies I've been hiking with have had very good luck preventing heat rash with cornstarch or cornstarch-based powder. All who have tried it praise it, even though they found it messy to use until they got used to putting it on. Maybe it would help you, too." [and cheaper than Blister Guard] She also suggests a method for keeping your water bottles cool on the trail, 'Almalee slips an old white sock over the water bottle; I've found this a good way to recycle old, white liner socks. If the sock is too long for the bottle, just fold the extra back down over the bottle for more insulation. Julie wraps her bottles in old newspaper while they're in her pack -- newspaper is a good insulator, and it's another way to recycle the Sunday funnies! [yes, but I wouldn't want the weight.]

Marcy writes, "I don't get blisters anymore, because I've discovered a tip from a's called TwoToms Blister Shield, Anti-Friction Skin Guard.... just sprinkle a dab (well, it says 1 tsp.) in each sock at the heel and I'm good to go all day. It's got wax in it! you can even put it in shoes if you're not wearing sox!"

#6. Gaiter Talk

Glen Van Peski of Gossamer Gear comments that "the Injinji toe socks [which I recommended in my last issue] are also available in Coolmax, not just wool. Also, you might try the lightweight gaiters from Simblissity. I have not tried the Dirty Girls variety, but I love the fit and weight of the Simplissity ones, and the fact that they fit without an under-cord to break."

#7. "GoLite was recently a sponsor for this event:

Youth Ambassadors from gang-ridden inner city Los Angeles trekked through Nepal and delivered more than $100,000 of much-needed medical supplies to rural health posts and people along the Annapurna Trail. Medicines Global

#8. Seasoned hiker on Half Dome

Jane writes about still another seasoned adventurer,
" Just got an e-mail from a friend who did [Yosemite's] Half Dome with three other gals in their mid-sixties. They were celebrating up on top when who comes on up but an eighty-year old woman with her two sons, celebrating her birthday!!!" Wonderful!!"

"My husband and I hiked for three weeks in the French Pyrenees in June and it was fantastic. Gorgeous views, waterfalls, streams full of water, flowers, cows and sheep. And GREEN!!! Not at all dry this year. Didn't meet Americans. The language is a barrier for some, I think.

I've never hiked in Portugal but have been by car all over the country. Areas north of Porto, along the coast and in the Celtic areas are wonderful. Along with the famous Fado music the Celtic music is wonderful."

#9. Highest outhouse is no more

Climbing Mt. Whitney is a wonderful adventure and a rite of passage to many. Unfortunately with tens of thousands wanting to do it annually, there is a tremendous amount of human waste left behind. Until recently that problem was dealt with at an open-air outhouse -- providing spectacular views from that throne atop the 14, 496' mountain.

Now the famous outhouse atop Whitney has been removed and the 19,000 or so hikers each year who get Forest Service permits to hike the Whitney Trail are receiving sanitation kits and instructions on how to use them.

"The highest outhouse in the continental United States is no more," reads the article in the New York Times. "High-altitude sanitation is too hazardous a business. Helicopters must make regular journeys up the steep-walled canyons in tricky winds while rangers in hazmat suits wait below to tie 250-pound bags or barrels of waste onto a long line dangling below the aircraft."

Hikers of Whitney will join those who climb Washington's Mt. Rainier, or who explore the backcountry of Utah's Zion National Park, or take a Grand Canyon river raft trip in being require to pack out their waste. The kits, commonly called the Wagbag, are actually two separate plastic bags. The inner one is a funnel-like bag with powder at the bottom. Water causes the powder to gel, encapsulating anything in the bag. After the climb, hikers can deposit the used bags at the Whitney Portal trailhead. After removal, the bags are designed to biodegrade in 6-9 months.

#10. Kennedy Meadows North burns

Yesterday, October 1, 2007, a fire destroyed the main lodge and several other buildings at Kennedy Meadows Resort near Sonora Pass in California. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The facility, built in 1917, included a rustic lodge, a set of cabins, laundry and shower rooms, and several storage buildings. The facility was used seasonally-- usually from early April to mid October -- and had been enjoyed by thousands of individuals, couples, and families over the decades.

When Pat and I went on our llama trip earlier this year, we accessed the trail into Emigrant Wilderness by walking through the aging resort, which looked like a wonderful place to bring spend some quality time.

Here's wishing you happy trails and healthy feet,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #90A Correction & addition

1. Correction on 2008 Trailfest

#1. In my latest newsletter (#90, Sep. 1, 2007), I gave incorrect information regarding the 2008 Pacific Crest Trail "Trailfest." It will NOT be in Seattle; it will be in Sacramento, California. In the next issue of this newsletter, I'll give the exact dates and additional information. In the meantime, you can check

Details from the PCTA office:
"We are holding Trail Fest 2008 at the US Forest Service Wild Fire Conference Center in Sacramento, California. We will be putting it up on our web site today or tomorrow."

2. AND a great Hulda  Crooks story!

#2. Peter Gotla sent the following story of his unusual High Sierra encounter with the famous Hulda Crooks.

"In August 1986 I was attempting a one-day hike from Whitney Portal to Mount Whitney and back. In mid-morning, around 12,000ft, I came across a very large and unlikely-looking group of hikers sprawled on, and around the trail. Curious, I started asking questions and learned that this was Hulda Crooks and friends, and that Hulda, at age 90, was making her 23rd ascent of Mount Whitney since her 65th birthday. "

But what an entourage she had with her! She was accompanied by her Congressman (really!), [ed.: Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands] her minister, a reporter from her home-town newspaper, some other local notables, and a bunch of kids from her church, who seemed to be doing most of the heavy lifting. There was also a Hollywood movie crew, filming the historic ascent with a lot of sophisticated (and in those days, I'm sure, heavy) equipment. And there's more - the crew was union, and their contract called for them to get three catered meals a day when on location. At the time I was there they were being served lunch in the shade of a sturdy canopy, seated at a portable table. I remember cold cuts, guacomole, bread and fresh fruit and veggies, provided by the catering crew who were also part of the hiking group. The complete ascent/descent was planned to take three or four days."

Despite the crowd, I was able to chat with Hulda. She was friendly, cheerful and encouraging, but looked a little tired. Spurred on by the encounter ("I can do anything some little 90 year old lady can do") I made my first successful ascent of Mount Whitney (after two previous failures). I learned subsequently that she didn't make the top that year and then returned in 1987 for her 23rd, and final summit." [ed.: My thanks to Peter G. for sending this great story!]

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #90, September 1, 2007

1. Pacific Crest Trail in Northern California
2. Hulda Crooks: Amazing Outdoorswoman
3. My new blog:
4. Camino news / a French trail
5. Food Storage in the Sierra
6. A Little Friendly Competition
7. Jim Batdorff's success story
8. Paul McHugh Chooses a New Fork
9. Carole Latimer's Move
10. "It's all good!"
11. Rebuilding Alcatraz Islands Gardens

#1 Pacific Crest Trail in Northern California

When I wrote last issue about the friendliness of trail town Etna near the northern California PCT, I didn't mean to suggest that the other places we stopped were not friendly or interesting. Although Dunsmuir (near Castle Crags) has suffered economically for many years and has lost its laundromat and a B & B that welcomed backpackers, there are some positive things happening and plenty of enthusiasm for re-building a vibrant community. I was particularly happy to see the growing number of new art studios, shops, and restaurants along the river.

Seiad Valley, our final stop along the way, was also interesting in its own way. Because of its location - on the Klamath River - there are several trailer parks nearby. We spent the evening listening to the locals' stories about their gold prospecting efforts in the river.

We also enjoyed eating at the famous Seiad Valley Cafe. In spring 2003, the Travel Channel chose the cafe as the third best location in the world to "pig out." They were referring, of course, to the cafe's great "pancake challenge" which tempts hungry thru-hikers to finish a mammoth stack of pancakes in one sitting. Few have succeeded. The Seiad Valley Cafe appeared on the Travel Channel's "Gross Outs: The World's Best Places to Pig Out" program. Although Ralph and I weren't tempted by the challenge to eat five plate-sized pancakes (containing five pounds of pancake flour!), we did chow down on delicious hamburgers and club sandwiches.

We slept in a trailer park in an area designated for hikers. The foot- high picket fence surrounding the straw covered plot was "to keep the dogs from licking your face while you sleep." The manager had also considerately provided a small fridge, table and chairs, TV, desk and lamp.

#2. Hulda Crooks

An amazing outdoorswoman. "Fondly known as 'Grandma Whitney' among fellow climbers, she made a total of 23 successful attempts at climbing Mount Whitney. She made her first climb at age 66 (in 1962). She climbed it for the last time in 1987, at age 91, making her the oldest woman ever to climb Mount Whitney (14,496').

At the age of 91, she also successfully climbed the 12,388-foot Mount Fuji -- Japan's highest peak. In 1991, a peak south of Mount Whitney was named Crooks Peak in her honor and a park in Loma Linda was named for her (She had become vegetarian at age 19. She lived to the age of 101. (info from Loma Linda University News, 12/3/97)

#3 My new blog: and I would enjoy your comments.

#4Camino News - a French trail

Reader David Keener has news and a great suggestion for a hike in France.

"I am a senior. I just returned from hiking the Camino Frances (Leon to Santiago segment), and wish to return next April and begin far inside France." "Also, an easy hike that would be enjoyable... In the late 1600s a canal was built from the Beziers, on the Mediterranean to somewhere on the Atlantic. It was used to transport goods for only a short time. The portion that remains is called the Canal du Midi. It is beautiful, bordered with enormous plant trees, and passes through some of the best wine country in southern France. There is good infrastructure. Someone should organize a group hiking tour for seniors along this spectacular path! "

#5. Food Storage in the Sierra:

 There's a new Sierra Nevada Wilderness Food Storage Map available on line at . (visitors can also obtain a paper copy of the map at visitor centers that rent bear canisters). The site also provides current information on which bear resistant food canisters are approved in National Parks and National Forests in the Sierra Nevada. The new map should make it easier for backpackers to figure out where canisters are required and where storage lockers are located.

#6 Friendly Competition.

My sister-in-law, Joyce B., has a good idea for those of us who need a little push to get in our 10,000 steps a day, "With our pedometers Brian & I find that a little friendly competition can be a helpful inspiration."

#7. Another success story:

 Jim Batdorff, of Coos Bay, Oregon [where I was born!] recently wrote to the Pacific Crest Trail forum:

 "Just to let you know that after 26 years I completed the PCT this month. I started in 1981, doing a piece of the trail in Oregon with a friend and my two sons. I never had in mind that year, of doing anymore hiking, but as I continued in subsequent years of 'section hiking', I got 'hooked' on the trail. My goal became to section hike 100 miles a year."
"During those 26 years I hiked with over 50 different people, and in some years hiked with as many as 8 people at one time. This month (August 23) I completed the entire trail, hiking the JMT/PCT section from Bishop Pass Jct. north to Duck Lake Jct.; and then Red's Meadow north to Tuolumne Meadows, the later with my two sons who are now in their late 30's. What a joy that was. I want to thank many of you who gave me information and support on the list, and many who gave me support 'on the trail'; and some PCT coordinators who >are no longer with us. Now at the age of 65, and having hiked 126 miles in the last two weeks (9 hiking days) in the high Sierra's, I feel great about what I physically have accomplished, and about the future. "

#8. Paul McHugh

Good news/bad news. Paul McHugh who's been an outdoors writer for the [S.F.] Chronicle for 22 years has just written his farewell column to his readers. He mentions that the Chronicle is "slimming down," but focuses more on the exciting challenges that he's faced over the years in order to bring his readers stories: whitewater rafting in Alaska, kayaking along the N. California coast, and skin-diving in Hawaii. He has some tips for preserving the outdoors, "A reed or a twig on its own is an awfully frail thing. But once bound into bundles, they grow stout and secure." "Join a like-minded affinity group." (S.F. Chron. D 11, Aug. 30, 2007.) We will miss his frequent columns, but as Paul takes a different trail, we can follow him on further adventures at: .

#9. Carole Latimer

Another big move is in store for Carole Latimer, the founder of Berkeley-based Call of the Wild. Coincidentally Paul McHugh (above) wrote recently about Carole, "I've got my cabin up at Echo Summit. I plan on undertaking a ton of backpacking, just on my own," she says. "It's been years since I could [go backpacking on her own], and I'm really looking forward to it." Call of the Wild (510) 849-9292 or (888) 378-1978 (outside California); or .

I've never met Carole, but have long admired her for being a pioneer in the field of women-only adventure travel. As her website states, "it's the world's longest-running adventure travel company for women." Carole was my very first paying customer for "We're in the Mountains, Not Over the Hill", back on April 11, 2003. We wish her well!

#10. Its all Good

In the last issue of this newsletter, I asked volunteers to approach their libraries with the request that they add "Camino Chronicle" or "We're in the Mountains, Not over the Hill" to their collections. Several of you responded. The big promoter award, however, must go to Linda B. of Brentwood, CA, who is a friend from high school days. Linda has launched a letter writing campaign to friends across the country. Thanks to all who helped out! I love it!

#11 Alcatraz Islands Gardens

I found an interesting project taking place in San Francisco Bay: "Rebuilding Alcatraz Islands Gardens . S F. West 415-561-3013; S.F. East 415- 282-6840. ." Wednesdays and Fridays 8:30 AM - 12:30 PM. Volunteers needed (adults). "The extraordinary gardens once created by military and federal prison staff and inmates on San Francisco's Alcatraz Island are being reclaimed as a joint project by The Garden Conservancy, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and the National Parks Service. In continuous existence for over 150 years, these gardens reflect a rich history of horticulture and gardening ideas spanning many different eras, including floriferous Victorian cottage gardens, terraced cutting beds, and environmentally sensitive attempts at erosion control. Since 2003, garden volunteer crews have been working each week to re-establish the historic gardens. Activities will include clearing invasive weeds and brush and salvaging remnants plants. Through the project, volunteers will be introduced to the stories of the gardens and have the opportunity to visit some areas not accessible to the public. As an added bonus, garden volunteers arrive on Alcatraz before other visitors, so you can experience the island during the most tranquil time of day. Registration Required. This is not a drop-in program. An application is required, as well as a commitment to volunteering on a weekly or bi- weekly basis for 2-3 months." Contact Information: (415) 561-3062 or .

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #89 August 15, 2007

In "Dark Star Safari," Paul Theroux writes about one of the local headman he meets named Chief George. During his conversation with Theroux, Chief George claimed that Samburo herdsmen could walk forty miles a day, and that women could walk faster and farther than men. He said, "'Women have a better rhythm. Men walk fast, then have to rest. Women don't rest.'"

1. Section Hiking O, P, Q, R of the Pacific Crest Trail
2. Susan's request
3. Camino: American Pilgrims Regional gathering
4. Camino: American Pilgrims gathering
5. Construction crew on the Camino?
6. Quest Outfitters: silnylon supplier
7. Laundry: camper style
8. Dirty Girl Gaiters
9. Essential and Luxury Items for Hikers
10. Regional: Ticks

#1 Section Hiking OPQR

Ralph and I are celebrating having completed our longest section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail--300 miles from Burney Falls (near Lassen), California to Ashland, Oregon (Sections O, P, Q, R). Our total PCT miles are now 1,400 so we've hiked more than half of the distance from Mexico to Canada.

Many backpackers dread starting section "O." Some guidebooks refer to the horrible trail conditions. Apparently for years there were sections that were almost impassable. At this point, most of the trail is in good condition. There are still a places where you have to push through brush, but at least there are few deadfalls (fallen trees) or serious obstacles. We thought that Burney Falls was a good starting place--the terrain is pretty easy as PCT trails go.

Of course we did have a few challenges--dealing with temperatures in the triple digits--105 at 4:00 in the afternoon--takes some getting used to. Did I mention the humidity? We were warned about poison oak and although there were places where it was a nuisance (primarily near Castle Crags and Seiad Valley), I ended up buying and carrying an 8- oz. bottle of calamine lotion for no good reason.

Many people complain that they get really tired of looking at Mt. Shasta--after all hikers will be looking at it from every angle for 400-500 miles, but I never tire of seeing it. It was especially interesting when we had a cold rain while near Castle Crags (off Hwy. 5, north of Redding) and saw that Mt. Shasta had gained a new mantle of snow down to 9,000 feet. In July?

Our hike also took us through the Trinity Alps, Marble Mountains, and the Siskiyous. The JMT remains my favorite section of the PCT, but this area is a spectacular second. Every mile seemed to bring something new--a forest, a field of wildflowers, a boulder field, sparkling lakes, granite peaks.... Anyone looking for a wonderful place to get into the wilderness and avoid the crowds would enjoy this region.

As our trip progressed, we began to see more thru-hikers (they cover 25-30 miles days compared to our 12-15 ones) making their way north. I noticed that most were a lot less likely to stop and talk than when we see them hiking in Southern California. By the time they get this far north, they seem much more focused on putting in the miles--perhaps they sense the seasons are beginning to change and Canada is still a couple of months away. There were also several days in which we saw no one.

To avoid carrying food for 3 weeks, we mailed supplies ahead to Dunsmuir, Etna, and Seiad Valley. Each of these small towns had its own distinct personality, but Etna was the clear winner as far as hiker friendliness. No sooner had we been delivered to the post office by a trail angel than the locals started asking about our trip. One man offered us a place to stay, "I live by myself, but you're welcome to stay," he said. Another man offered to drive us back to the trailhead (15 miles) when we were ready. We could have stayed for a nominal amount in the local "Hiker Heaven," but elected to treat ourselves to two nights in a "Bed & Breakfast" instead.

As always, on this trip several "trail angels" helped us. We had a terrific sendoff--complete with gourmet meals to compensate for the days of freeze dried ahead--by our friends Sandy and Craig in Clio. Then was JoAnn and Emery Michaels, near Castle Crags, Jim Payne of Etna, Bill of Ashland all of whom drove us from trail to town. Our friend Jeannine Burk drove us from her place in Medford, Oregon to Burney Falls so that we only had to drive one car up north to start out. We would NEVER be able to do all of this on again, off again (section-hiking) without the generosity of the angels.

#2 Susan's Request

As you may know bookselling is a difficult business. So, I could use your help. My request: if you have enjoyed either/both "Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago" or "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers, please ask your local or county library to order it/them for their collection. I have found that librarians are very receptive to patron's requests. Please contact me if you need an information on how to do this. Thank you.

#3 American Pilgrims on the Camino is having a S.F. Bay Area get- together on Saturday, September 23.

Contact Lin Galea (who led an EXTRAORDINARY hike and ferry ride last year that took us from the San Francisco Ferry Building to Sausalito and back again. If you are interested in this year's event, contact Lin and she'll send you details as they develop. "Have folks contact me by email (lin at lingalea dot com) or phone (415-441-5951)".

4. American Pilgrims on the Camino ( will hold the 11th Annual Gathering of Pilgrims on the West Coast in 2008

. Be sure to mark the dates on your calendar and check their website for registration forms and further information this fall. The Old Santa Barbara Mission, Santa Barbara, California March 7 - 9, 2008.

#5. Development Project on the Camino?

Helena Bernardo, formerly of Portugal, now residing in Canada, writes of a threat to the integrity of the Camino. A protest was held on July 29 to protest construction. "The Municipality of O Pino has projected an industrial site on the layout of the French Way between the nucleus of Cimadevila (Amenal) and the public square of Lavacolla. Work has already begun!!!" (ed.: for more information, if you can read Spanish, go to

#6. Laundry--traveler style.

 As you may know, Ralph and I try to travel light. Rare is the evening when we don't do a bit of laundry and hang it out to dry in our room. Refugios almost always have washtubs and places to hang wet clothes--small hotels often don't. If you are carrying hiking poles, you can use them as makeshift clothes drying lines--put one between two chairs, etc. Get creative, but don't let water drip on the floors.

#7. Quest Outfitters.

 If you are interested in making any of your own backpacking or hiking gear--such as sleeping bags, stuff sacks, etc. this is an excellent source of the fabrics. I've just ordered some sil- nylon (extremely lightweight) so that I can make stuff sacks that are lighter than anything on the market.  or 1-800-359-6931 U.S., 1-941-923-5006 for US territories and foreign countries

#8. Dirty Girls Gaiters?:

Don't you need some Dirty Girl Gaiters? I decided I did. On our latest PCT trip, we saw several people wearing lightweight gaiters--which help keep your lower legs and socks cleaner and the pebbles out of your shoes. $15 a pair (no shipping charge or tax). Go to to check out the wild patterns available. (Warning: Be sure you get the URL address correct or who knows what wild site you'll enter!).

#9. Selected Luxury and Essential items in our Backpack:

 Once you get hooked on long-distance hiking or backpacking, you also start fine- tuning what you carry. These are some items that we've discovered are well worth the weight (and expense!):

a) Pot cozies (order from Antigravity gear ). After your food is heated, you put the pot into the cozy (sort of a quilted metal surround) and it lets the food finish cooking and keeps it warm.

b) Injinji Socks. These are cute socks with TOES. They are a wool blend, but they don't itch, feel too warm, or shrink in the dryer. I usually washed them out after each wearing. Dry or not the next morning, I could wear them. NO BLISTERS between the toes (or elsewhere for that matter). One drawback--they wore out very quickly. However, I've decided that having no blisters makes it worth the expense, which I rationalized is less than I spend on diet soda each day when home.

c) Ex Officio panties (or undershorts): Wash them, they dry quickly. If you want to take the time, roll them in a pactowel or bandanna to take out the (minimal) moisture they hold after washing. I've often put them back on immediately.

d) A ground cloth lighter than Tyvek. Polycryo ground sheet from .

e) Body Glide: The company makes a few different products. I like the sunscreen stick "also anti-blister & chafing" stick (.45 oz). I wish the container was smaller, but at least I didn't end up with my usual heat rash. (Although it's rated spf25, I didn't use it for its sun protection). )


#10. Ticks--Regional info:

 Sue F. sends the following: "The good news here is that the ticks in the Bay Area that can carry Lyme disease have lower rates of infection than they do in other areas of the US: "Lane's recent study of Tilden Park in the East San Francisco Bay Area showed that in one area 1.3 percent of adult ticks carry the Lyme- disease bacterium, compared to 5.7 percent of nymphal ticks. These rates are much lower than in the northeastern U.S., where, for instance, fifty percent of adult ticks and 25 percent of nymphal ticks carry the disease in parts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York."  Also:

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #88 July 2, 2007

1. Why We Love Tea
2. Llamas Unite
3. Travel to Spain
4. Passport Snafu
5. To Pee or Not to Pee
6. WATER!!!
7. Regional Hike Ideas
8. Next Newsletter - mid August

#1 Why We Love Tea

. Marcy C. for Southern California reminded me of another use of tea--washing your face. When you are feeling grubby from days on the trail, and there's been a shortage of water, washing your face with your still-warm tea bag is such a treat! Ralph, who drinks coffee, always watches me with envy while I perform this early morning ritual. (If you think this idea is crazy, you just haven't been without wash water long enough!) Marcy adds, "it takes off the old sunscreen and tightens the skin, too." After you wash up, empty the tea leaves under a shrub for mulch and carry out the empty bag

#2. Llamas Unite

A few months ago, Greg and Diana Harford, of Potato Ranch Llama Packers, offered us a llama trip to thank us for adding a link to their outfit on our website. We try to offer a range of possibilities to hikers and know that some people would like to use pack animals to help with the backpack loads. I invited Pat, a friend of mine who I have known since high school. I knew that she has always wanted to go on a llama assisted trip, and although she hadn't been backpacking, she used to go camping a lot. After talking to Greg, we were confident that he would lead us on a trip of appropriate mileage and level of difficulty.
When Pat and I pulled into the parking lot at Kennedy Meadows (the one near Sonora Pass) trailhead (just off CA 108), Greg and seven llamas were waiting for us. With only three of us, we really didn't need that many animals, but Greg wanted to take out the extras so that they would be getting more trail time. This was part of the llama's early season training and he had loaded their paniers with jugs of water so they would get used to carrying weight.
Pat and I unloaded our gear from my car and Greg started sorting through it to balance the loads for the llamas. He used a scale to be sure of it. Pat and I were happy about the fact that we needed only to carry our daypacks with little more than snacks, sunscreen, fleece jackets, and water. We set out with Greg in the lead.
It was a beautiful day in beautiful country. The trail, which goes into Emigrant Wilderness, followed the river the entire way. Though water levels are lower than usual this year, there was still plenty for us to enjoy. Llamas like to move along at a brisk pace; Pat and I both live near sea level and though we had spent the previous night in the foothills, our bodies had not adapted to the 7,000' elevation where we were now ascending. We took our time--stopping to take photos and to admire the views. Greg stopped frequently to allow us to catch up, take a break, and to have lunch. I was pleased that he wasn't just taking off and leaving us in the dust.
We hiked in 5.5 miles to a wonderful campsite just a few hundred feet off the trail. There was plenty of room for the llamas to be tethered and to browse. There was a large flat area for setting up our tents. Things were going well. I was amazed we were finished hiking for the day; Pat was happy that she had arrived in good shape and not totally exhausted.
When dinnertime approached, we all pitched in. Pat and I prepared the salad and cut up the cantaloupe and strawberries. Greg prepared the main dish. As Pat and I relaxed in the camp chairs, Greg poured wine for us and served us appetizers. You sure don't get this kind of luxury on an ordinary backpacking trip!
Feeding the llamas was quite an experience. They were tethered to a common line in such a way that they could reach their individual water dishes and the vegetation, but not each other. Greg filled individual bowls with llama chow and we carried the containers down to the llamas. We had to gauge the distance the llamas could reach--then set the bowl just inside that distance--all the time being careful not to get between the animals in case they decided to spit at one another! Luckily, we survived unscathed.
After a good night's sleep, we woke to another beautiful day. A leisurely breakfast became a leisurely morning, lunch, afternoon, and dinner. We spent the entire day talking--about llamas, about our lives, kids, politics and religion. Luckily, we were in agreement about most of the issues. During the morning, I felt a bit agitated, "When are we going for a day hike," I wondered. But it passed. Our biggest activity all day was moving our chairs from one shady spot to another as the sun traveled across the sky.
The next morning we were to depart for home. Pat and I decided to take photos of all of the llamas before we left. That turned out to be easier said than done. At first, we thought it was just coincidence, but soon realized that the llamas did not want to have their pictures taken. Just as we'd get ready to snap a photo, they would turn their heads away. It took a lot of time and determination to get pictures of anything other than he tail end of the gentle creatures.
After the photo session, we led the llamas (one at a time!) from their overnight spots so that we could brush and help load them. Greg said that it usually takes about three hours for him to get the llamas ready to start in the morning vs. an hour or so if backpacking without them. That's an important consideration if you like getting an early morning start!
To be honest, before this trip I wasn't sure what I thought about the fact that Potato Ranch rents their llamas rather than leading guided trips. I know that some people who have llamas are against this practice. Having been on this trip with Greg, I now know that he cares deeply about his animals and I feel that he runs his business responsibly. We learned some of the reasons that they rent their animals rather than offers guided trips. First of all, it's difficult to get permits to take groups out with llamas (the horse and mule packers have much more political clout). Secondly, leading guided trips requires a different level (very expensive) insurance.
I also felt better about the issue when I learned that they offer their services only to experienced backpackers, and before they send out their llamas with anyone, they give some instruction on proper handling. Greg also tries to match the temperament of the llamas to the needs of the hiker.
I'll let you decide for yourself. You can find out more about their llamas at or 15025 Potato Ranch Road, Sonora, California 95370. (209) 588-1707.

#3. Travel to Spain

Flying to Spain? Be prepared for the "Advance Passenger Information" (API) program that the European Union is implementing. Spain is the first country to apply this requirement. It means that all U.S. citizens flying to Spain must now provide information such as name, nationality, date of birth, and passport number before departure, either online or at the airport. You'll probably see these questions asked online when you make your reservations, but if not, you'll be asked to provide the information at the airport. Keep in mind that the new requirement may cause delays at the airport.

#4. Passport Snafu

 If you have been following the changes in passport rules, you've seen that it has become a huge mess--including congressional hearings!! First the government insisted we all needed passports to travel anywhere outside the U.S. Then, after a huge backlog and outcry followed, they modified the rules to say you can travel by air (until September 30, 2007) to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, IF you can supply proof you've applied for a passport. And the proof is more than your receipt, you have to download a document from the site:
My granddaughter was caught in this poorly planned and executed change in rules. She had applied for a passport in early March for a June trip. It took 14 weeks, hours of busy signals and waiting on hold to the passport office, and finally, a call to our Congresswoman Barbara Lee, to receive the passport. So of course my advise to any of you planning a trip out of the U.S. is to apply early and remember that some countries will not admit you unless your passport is valid for at SIX months from your entry, or planned departure, into that country. Once again, check (foreign entry requirements) for details.

#5. To Pee or not to Pee - Shewee

There's a new device out there for those who don't like squatting in the poison oak or hovering over wet toilet seats in the loo. With the "Shewee," you can unzip your fly-zipper, stand, and pee! It sells for $11.95 on line at (thanks to Tom Stienstra for calling this to our attention)

#6. Water Hydration Tips:

Essential Tips for Water-Scarce Hiking Destination Depending on the year, the season, and the location of your backpacking trip, water can be an extremely important consideration when planning your trip. Here are ten ways to help keep you hydrated in arid and hot conditions.
1. Do the research. Check the climate and weather conditions of your destination before you leave home. Study the terrain or call the local forest service, ranger, etc. to learn about the area. Modify your trip when necessary! For example, Death Valley's temperature averages (daytime) 65 degrees in January, but 115 degrees in July. Summer temperatures at the Grand Canyon can be a reasonable 50 - 80 degrees at the southern rim, but could be 100 degrees or more at the bottom (5,000 feet below the rim).
2. Train for the hike: Condition yourself for both the hike and the temperatures. Six to eight weeks of hikes of increasing distance and elevation--then with a backpack--will help your trip start with you trail ready. If you expect hot conditions, practice hikes under similar conditions will help you adapt.
3. Wear clothes that protect. A hat is a must. A lightweight umbrella shields you from the intense sun whether hiking or resting. Clothing should be loose-fitting, light colored, lightweight, and provide UV protection. Some hikers like cotton, others prefer synthetic fibers that allow wicking (moisture control) so that perspiration can escape.
4. Minimize pack weight. Lower packweight saves energy and allows hikers to travel longer distances, with less strain, if desired. You will need to carry more water when there's a scarcity--lightening your load in other ways allows you to manage the extra water you may need
5. Carry plenty of water. Water weighs 2.2 lbs. per liter, and you'll need plenty. Depending on the level of your activity, the terrain, your fitness level, the temperature, and the water sources, you may need 4-8 liters per day.
6. Water containers: There are pros and cons to water bottles and water bladders. Water bladders are handy because you don't have to stop to drink, which might encourage greater consumption. However, it's harder to gauge how much you are drinking. Water bottles are easier to fill and being forced to stop to take a drink can be a good thing--you get to rest! Whichever way you go, carry more than one container--accidents do happen: bladders can leak (have a shutoff valve!); bottles can get lost.
7. Hike in the cooler times of day: Early morning and late afternoon are the coolest times of day to hike. Stop mid-day to rest, and to prepare your heaviest meal (rather than at the evening stop). Some desert travelers (not me!) hike at night with the aid of a full moon or headlamp. It takes many 10-20 minutes for a young person's eyes to adapt to low light conditions--unfortunately it takes older people more time. A red light allows you to see the trail and doesn't destroy your night vision.
8. Water caches: "Trail angels" (people who help hikers) sometimes bring water jugs to locations along well-known trails (the Pacific Crest Trail for one) as a resource for hikers during the hiking season. That's wonderful, but should be considered a bonus, DON'T count on these sources. You can provide your own water supply by placing your own water jugs along your expected route in advance of your trip. Label the containers, hide them, and be sure you'll be able to find them when you get there.
9. Gauge your level of hydration: You should be peeing hourly or so. When you do, check the color of your urine. If it's yellow, you are getting dehydrated; it should be clear or faint yellow. Drink more water! Thirst is NOT enough of an indicator--there's a delay factor. Drink according to need, not thirst (see #5 above for suggested amounts).
10. Tank up: Before you start the day and whenever you reach a place with water, drink! Never start your hike thirsty. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are diuretics.
11. Avoid water intoxication (hyponatremia). However, just as too little water can cause problems, so can too much. Hyponatremia is a dilution of sodium in the body, which causes a chemical imbalance. When you exercise, you lose water and salt through sweat and urine. When you drink water only, the salts are not being replaced. Though this is more of an issue with endurance runners than with backpackers, it is important to be aware of it. You can enjoy getting extra salt from pretzels, tortilla chips and salsa. You can buy commercial beverages with needed electrolytes, and sugar, but you can make your own and add it to tap water. A recipe from Kaiser Permanente's website (measure carefully):
1 quart water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1/4 teaspoon salt substitute, such as "Lite
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar

12. Recognize the symptoms of heat related illnesses: Heat (Sun) stroke can be fatal! It can strike suddenly with little warning. Signs include: hot, dry skin, lack of sweating (usually, but not always), a very fast pulse, and mental status changes. The person may be physically clumsy, confused, and unstable. The condition is brought on when the body cooling system fails, which leads to a quick rise in core body temperature above 40.5°C/105°F. Cooling and emergency treatment are required.
13. First aid until help arrives includes: move the person to shade; remove excess clothing; place the person on his/her side to increase skin surface to air; wipe the person's body with cool water; place icepacks at pressure points (under the arms, at the groin, on the neck); offer fluids if the person can safely consume them--but do not force liquids. Do not give aspirin.
Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are less serious, but should be treated as well. Heat exhaustion may be evidenced by dizziness, weaknesses, nausea, mild confusion, but doesn't include the extreme mental conditions of stroke and the core temperature has not gone to the extreme of stroke. Nevertheless, cooling, and rest are important to prevent a more serious situation.
Note: Backpacking can be a risky sport. You should consult your health professional before starting any exercise program. People taking prescription medications to control salt in their diets, including various heart or blood pressure medications, should check with their health advisor about the possible complications of hiking in extreme conditions--including hot weather.

#7. S.F. Bay Area Regional hikes

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline hike: Friday, July 27. 7 - 10pm. Not just for women "Moonrise and Sunset Hike By the Bay." Feel free to bring a friend on this colorful, 3 - 4-mile round trip, shoreline hike on the site of a former explosives plant. Bring a trail dinner with something to share and meet at the staging area. Reservations: (925) 862-2601 by noon, Thursday, July 26. Naturalist Katie Colbert.
This is a "women-only" hike: Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness, Tuesday, August 28. 2 - 4:30 AM. "Total Lunar Eclipse Lunacy." That's right! The moon and the sun have decided to do-sa-do in the sky at two in the morning. Fabulous cosmic coincidences, like this total eclipse of the moon, frequently ignore the bio-cycles of mere humans, but that makes this hike even more of an adventure! We'll hike uphill to High Valley by moonlight, marvel at the disappearing moon and the awakening stars, and stroll down under the temporarily moondark sky. Dress in layers and meet at the Old Green Barn. This is not an overnight program, but campsites are available for the evening of Aug. 27. Ask for information about camping when you register. Please call (925) 862-2601 for reservations, by noon, Friday, August 24. If you leave a message please leave your phone number and a street or email address. Naturalists Katie Colbert and Linda Yemoto."
Be prepared with change or small bills for new parking fees and/or machines at park gates. Directions: To reach Pt. Pinole: From I-80 in Richmond, exit at the Richmond Parkway. From the Richmond Parkway, turn right onto Giant Highway and proceed to the park entrance. To reach Sunol-Ohlone: From Hwy 680 near Fremont, drive north on Hwy. 680 and exit at Calaveras Rd. (near the town of Sunol.) Turn right on Calaveras and proceed about four miles to a left turn onto Geary Rd., which leads directly into the park. Drive to the end of the picnic loop road (take either fork) and meet at the gate. From Hwy 680 near Pleasanton: Drive south on Hwy. 680 and exit at Calaveras Rd / Highway 84 just south of the Sunol exit. Turn left on Calaveras and proceed as above Please confirm directions with a map.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #$87 June 15, 2007

1. Colin Fletcher, backpacking guru, dies
2. Running of the Nudes
3. Are We Too Clean?
4. Volunteering made easy
5. Yosemite's Moonbows
6. Crows crow
7. End of the ticks
8. More about permits in Mt. Whitney zone
9. Tea Bags
10. Food storage West and East
11. Unique trip to Zambia
12. Where in the World is Susan
13. Regional: Free Weds.: Cal Academy of Science

#1 Colin fletcher dies:

Colin Fletcher, who many consider the modern day father of backpacking, died Tuesday at the age of 85 in Monterey, California. His health had deteriorated ever since he was hit by a car while walking to town in 2001. Many of us knew him as the author of several books on hiking and backpacking: "The Complete Walker, " "The Thousand-Mile Summer," "The Man Who Walked Through Time," "River" and "The Secret Worlds of Colin Fletcher." He was an amazing hiker who walked the length of California before the Pacific Crest Trail was established and who paddled and walked the Colorado River from Wyoming to the Sea of Cortez.

He has no known survivors. Plans for memorial services are pending. (Monterey Herald, Laith Agha and Dania Akkad, Herald Staff Writers, article last updated: 06/14/2007).

#2. Running of the Nudes

Camino de Santiago. The Running of the Nudes in Pamplona will be held on July 5, 2007. To protest the annual Running of the Bulls two days later, thousands of naked animal rights activists, many with red kerchiefs and fake bulls' horns, will follow the traditional route of the Running of the Bulls. Don't worry, if you miss it, the event will not doubt be posted on the Internet.

#3. "Is Dirt the New Prozac?

(by Josie Glausiusz, Discover Magazine, July 2007, pg. 18) is a fascinating article. As you may know, there has been speculation by some scientists that part of the reason for the dramatically increased number of cases of asthma may be that we are living "too clean." Continuing in that same vein, a recent study (Dr. Chris Lowry, a neuroscientist at Bristol University, and colleagues) indicates that "'treatment with a specific soil bacterium, mycobacterium vaccae, may be able to alleviate depression.'" Simply stated, the mechanism may be that the bacterium stimulates the immune system, which in turn triggers the release of serotonin, which can regulate mood. Maybe the mud pies we made when we were little kids were good for us after all!

#4. Voluntourism

A new service for volunteers is now on the web. provides "voluntourism" with listings of such organizations as Earthwatch. Cheap tickets has a link at with United Way. connects guests to volunteer activities; INOUT hostel in Barcelona, Spain has a program for those who want to help some of their disabled personnel with performing daily tasks; and Backpack and Africa Travel Center has info on volunteering at soccer cams.

#5. Moonbows

"Moonbows" are not seen exclusively in Yosemite National Park-- they are sometimes seen in the spray near such places as Victoria Falls (border between Zimbabwe and Zambia) and Cumberland Falls in Kentucky. They used to be seen in Niagara Falls before the artificial lights were installed. John Muir wrote about this amazing phenomenon in his "The Yosemite." Moonbows require strong moonlight and sufficient droplets.

A research group, Texas State physics professors Donald Olson and Russell Doescher, along with Mitte Honors students Kellie Beicker, Ashley Ralph and Hui-Yiing Chang, have published their findings and predications in the May 2007 edition of Sky & Telescope magazine and in the Yosemite Association journal (Spring 2007). These are some of the dates they predict for late June. Site: Lower Yosemite Falls (the terrace at the west end of the wooden bridge). THU., June 28, 10:35-11:25 p.m.; FRI. June 29, 11:30 p.m- Sat. June 30, 12:20 a.m.; SUN. morning, July 1, 12:20-1:05 a.m.; MON. morning, July 2, 12:55-1:45 a.m.

Go to their website: and search under "Moonbow" to find more info.

#6. Crows

Its been said that crows may be the smartest birds in the world-- according to researchers they may also be the most creative. They've been observed using tools--my favorite example is that they've been spotted in Japan putting nuts that they want cracked under tires of cars in that are stopped at a red light. And they appear to have great sensitivity. When others in the colony were dying from West Nile virus, some crows stood watch over their dying companions. (National Geographic, April 2006)

#7. Ticks & cotton balls

The controversy about cotton balls, liquid soap, ticks, and urban legends ( continues. I received this letter from Barb S. after I noted that the liquid soap treatment had been listed as an urban legend on "I beg to differ.... I recently spent a long weekend in Canada on Rainy Lake, and the ticks were bad! I tested out the "soap tip" to remove a tick from my husband's hairline, and it worked. The tick was lodged tight, but after about a minute of gobbing on soap, it slid right out! It worked better than the alternative of tugging it out!"

#8. Whitney Zone Permits

Kathy Morey, an expert in the field of backpacking (no pun intended), writes: "Regarding overnighters in the Mt. Whitney Zone. No matter where you are coming FROM, if you don't have a straight Mt. Whitney permit, you must have an additional permit for an additional fee ($15) to enter the Mt. Whitney Zone, which extends around Mt. Whitney in all directions for several miles. This zone permit is issued with your regular wilderness permit as one document. There's a quota for the zone, so it would be wise to include an alternate route that doesn't include an overnight in the zone. The PCT is not in the zone, but the JMT is between about Timberline Lake on the west and Lone Pine Lake on the east. For example, if traveling north to south, you might have Horseshoe Meadow as an alternate exit; if south to north, you might exit alternatively at Shepherd Pass or Kearsarge Pass. See and, 'My trip is going to Mt. Whitney, but we are starting on a different trail (starting in Inyo National Forest)' for more info. "

#9. Tea for feet

I love tea bags and not just for brewing my morning and late evening beverage of choice. John Vonhof shares this novel use that his wife heard about on Oprah from Dr. Oz. The problem is stinky feet. The solution is soaking your feet in iced tea. Here are the details: "It's no surprise that so many people's feet smell. After all, since our feet have so many sweat glands, a quarter million give or take one or two, it is no surprise they generate about a half a liter of sweat per foot in a day. But, lets be straightforward, the sweat on your feet is not the cause of the stink. Sweat is actually sterile. The stink comes from the fungus or bacteria--such as athlete's foot. The warm environment inside a sock (or nylon), inside a shoe, is a great place for bacteria to start," says Vonhof.

He continues, "To get rid of the bacteria, make a pot of some mild iced tea and put your feet in it for about 30 minutes a day for a week. Dr. Oz says, 'The tannic acid in the tea will actually tan your foot a little bit, which will dry it out,' he says. 'That's helpful in reducing the amount of sweat, and the odor as well.' This is a good tip that can be done at home as well as on vacation, even during a multiday race."

An added note is in order. Ultrarunners have learned that soaking your feet in tea dries out the skin, which is also good at toughening the skin. Many athletes will do this before a big race to help prevent blisters." Subscribe to John's blog at: http://www.vonhof

#10. Bear canisters (West Coast: Sierra Nevada)

For those camping or backpacking in the Sierra this year, you can find out which containers have been approved for food storage by the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group (SIBBG) at:

>From their website, "Conditional approval is given to any container that has passed visual inspection, an impact test and a zoo test. Full approval is given to any container that has done the above and has been successful during three months of field-trials in the summer. Either type of approval may be revoked due to unexpected problems in the field that either lead to failures, injuries, or resource damage."

If a bear enters your camp, make noise and try to scare it away. However, if a bear does take possession of your food storage container, DO NOT try to take the container back from the bear, and please advise us on the outcome. Questions? Contact us.... Last Updated May 22, 2007"

Food storage (East Coast). At this time, canisters are not required on the Appalachian Trail; know how to hang your bags of food, toothpaste, etc. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy ( currently provides the following information and guidelines for safe travel on the AT.

"Black bears live along many parts of the Trail and are particularly common in Georgia, the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks, and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. While attacks on humans are rare, a startled bear or a female with cubs may react aggressively. The best way to avoid an encounter while you are hiking is to make noise by whistling, talking, etc., to give the bear a chance to move away before you get close enough to make it feel threatened. If you encounter a bear and it does not move away, you should back off, speaking calmly and firmly, and avoid making eye contact. Do not run or "play dead" even if a bear makes a "bluff charge."

The best defense against bears in camp is preparing and storing food properly: * Cook and eat your meals away from your tent or shelter, so food odors do not linger. * Hang your food, cookware, toothpaste, personal hygiene items, and even water bottles (if you use drink mixes in them) in a sturdy bag from a strong tree branch at least ten feet off the ground and well away from your campsite. Make sure the bag is at least six feet from the trunk of the tree; black bears are crafty climbers and good reachers. Bear canisters also provide an effective alternative. * Where bear boxes, poles, or cable systems are provided, use them. Never leave trash in bear boxes. * Never feed the bears or leave food behind for them. That simply increases the risks to you and the hikers who follow behind you. * A bear that enters a campsite or cooking area should be considered predatory. Yelling, making loud noises, throwing rocks, may frighten it away, however, you should be prepared to fight back if necessary."

#11. Trip to Zambia

For Women Only: Adventure Women goes to Zambia. It's not cheap, but it's undoubtedly the trip of a lifetime. From their website: "For AdventureWomen's 25th anniversary year, we are returning to our favorite continent, Africa, for a unique wildlife safari experience for women. Our new destination in Africa is Zambia, a country that has come of age. It is viewed by African safari connoisseurs and wildlife aficionados as the informed traveler's choice for wildlife viewing and is regarded by many as the African continent's greatest secret. Main Attractions * Discover Zambia's South Luangwa National Park, best known for its splendid walking safaris. * Be an "AdventureWomen student" in an exciting, practical, and participatory 6-day Bush Skills course, taught by one of Zambia's leading professional safari guides. * Learn basic tracking skills, identification and behavior of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and MORE! * Then go on a week's big game safari in Zambia's wildlife-rich Luangwa River Valley. Stay in luxury en-suite thatched chalets, each with a private deck overlooking a lagoon that attracts abundant wildlife and game from the African bush. * Experience Africa as few do, on this one-of-a-kind, unique adventure." October 26- November 8.

Adventure Women offers dozens of other trips also--domestic and abroad. I've never been with them, but their trips sure look interesting.

#12. Llama trip

I've just returned from my latest llama adventure--with Potato Ranch Llama Packers--and hope to tell you the full story next issue! It was a fine trip. #13. Regional: Bay Area: The first Wednesday of every month is FREE at the California Academy of Sciences, 875 Howard Street, San Francisco. 10am - 5 pm. (415) 321-8000. ******** Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #86 June 1, 2007

2. Walking in New York City and the Literary Awards
3. Dirt Diva attempts PCT record
4. More on Women's Build by Habitat
5. Forget the tick remedy-Urban Legend!
6. Outings for those with Special Needs
7. WOW hikers
8. Foot care while traveling
9. Letter of Appreciation
10. Inspiring Blog: Why we hike...
11. Stride for Autism
12. Trail Permits Whitney
13. Coast Walk (California Coastal)
14. S.F. Regional: Pt. Reyes
15. Llama trip coming up!

#2. Walking in New York City

Ralph and I have just returned from New York City. We went for the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Awards Ceremony held by Publishers Marketing Association (PMA), and to enjoy the city. At last Thursday night's event, our book, "Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago," and Traveler's Tales, "The Best Travel Writing 2006," were named finalists. The gold medal in our category, Best Travel Essay 2006, went to "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet: Exploring the Seven Continents" by Marty Essen. It looks like a fun book to read.
Most of our time in New York was spent playing tourist--we really had fun! Our time was much too short. A friend, who just moved here from NY in January, had given us several suggestions for how to spend our time. We went to the Magnolia Bakery (featured in "Sex and the City"), at 11th and Bleeker, for cupcakes; saw a terrific jazz trio, Bill Charlap on piano, at Dizzy's Coca Cola Club; took the free ride on the Staten Island ferry (you can see the Statue of Liberty); and walked in Central Park.
We had planned to visit some of the city's great museums, but only had time for one--the (smallish) American Folk Art Museum. Next trip we will definitely get to the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Natural History at least.
Our last night there we joined a group of eighteen other self- published authors for dinner at an Ethiopian Restaurant (Queen of Sheba). For the last couple of years we've all been reading each other's questions and comments on a self-publishing Internet forum so it was fun to put faces with names.
Mostly Ralph and I just walked and walked and walked--as you can well imagine. It's actually much easier to find your way around Manhattan than we thought it would be--and the diverse neighborhoods made it very interesting. We felt entirely safe the whole time. This was my first trip there--and it just whetted my appetite for more!

#3. Dirt Diva attempts PCT Record

Catra Corbett, trail name "Dirt Diva," is attempting to set a new record for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Ed Zieralski in the UNION- TRIBUNE (May 27, 2007) caught up with her briefly last week to conduct an interview. "I know Catra Corbett caught me eyeballing her many colorful tattoos and body piercings because she quickly said something that put both of us at ease when I interviewed her this week.
'I don't look like your typical Pacific Crest Trail hiker, do I?' she asked, flashing a huge smile."
Catra, who lives in Fremont, California is 42. On her blog, she freely admits that until 12 years ago, she was a "party girl," and addicted to amphetamines and alcohol. Now she has gotten clean and sober and has turned to running. She prefers 100-mile events.
It will be interesting to follow her progress--you can do so at According to the newspaper article, the women's record for the 2,650-mile PCT is 91 days and the men's is 78. (In a different category is David Horton's SUPPORTED PCT thru-hike in 66 days. That's a remarkable accomplishment, but it's different because he was not carrying his own food and equipment.)
Catra is doing it UNSUPPORTED--meaning she is carrying her own food and supplies (and picking up previously mailed supplies at post offices, etc. along the way). As of her last entry, May 31, Catra was 2 days behind schedule. She's finding that water is scarce and that a 25-pound pack makes for hard work. We wish her the best of luck on her major undertaking!

#4. Women's Build by Habitat

Marcy writes, "I did a Women's Build [ed.: a Habitat for Humanity program I mentioned in my last issue] one summer and fall.... it was really fun, and the pride of being involved in building a house from the ground up was enormous."

#5. Eleanor lays an urban legend to rest

. "If you check on the website you will see this cure [ed.: "Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds, the tick will come out" method I forwarded last issue.] is an urban legend. Look under ticks on the website and you'll see."

#6. Special Needs Outings

Carol, who wrote the following letter, lives in the S.F. Bay Area, so I have referred her to East Bay Regional Parks and their annual Trail Challenge. In the booklet describing the featured trails, is information about which trails are suitable for hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, and wheelchair users. Perhaps there are some of you in other areas who have information on suitable trails in your area. If so, send it in, and I will run it on space available basis.
"I have been following your tales and adventures for some time now. I am a new hiker of 5 years and have been to many sites throughout the bay area and a special hike out of Springville, in the Sequoia National Park last October. I have been a volunteer with BORP (Bay Area Outreach Recreation Programs) for blind and disabled for 7 years. We will go anywhere that can accommodate wheelchairs (mostly power chairs) and have been using the book "A Wheelchair Rider's Guide" by Bonnie Lewkowicz. We are always looking for different places to hike that will accommodate our special needs."

#7. WOW Hikers

Next time you go to Yellowstone area and are looking for a hiking buddy, look up this group Sue writes, "Every Tuesday up here is hiking day for the WOW's, a ladies only group. (stands for Women of the Wild). We do day hikes around the Yellowstone area."

#8. Foot Care while traveling

 John Vonhof has some (more) foot care ideas: You can subscribe to John's blog: "Last week I flew to New York for 10 days vacation in the New England states. Other than a long delay in Chicago, the flight went well. During the long flight from California to Chicago and then from Chicago to Albany, New York, I was again reminded of several easy ways to keep one's feet happy during travel-especially airline travel. The first tip is about your shoes. Untie them as soon as you are up in the air. Spread the laces apart to relieve tension on the tops of your feet. If you are going to be in your seat for a long time, consider taking your shoes off for a spell.
Secondly, work your feet. Sitting for long periods in a cramped plane seat can be tough. Make an effort to move your feet and toes, and legs to avoid problems. Write the alphabet with your toes, work your ankles side-to-side, and toes up and down. Stretch your feet to work your lower legs. This helps increase circulation-keeping blood flowing.
These two tips work equally well for train and bus travel, and even extended periods in your car. A few minutes every hour spent working your feet during travel can help you feel better and keep your feet happy."

#9. Appreciation

Go for quality and good reputation! When I was growing up and starting a family, there weren't "big box" stores and outlet malls. We had department stores and small business owned by people who lived in the community. If a store offered shoddy merchandise, customers knew to avoid that store.
That said, and moving forward 40 years, it is always a delight to encounter products, companies, and manufacturers who take pride in their product and who make things right when they go wrong. I rarely return things unless they are unused/unworn. In a few cases I have written to companies with a request for replacement, repair, or other adjustment when I felt the product was defective or just didn't last as long as I though reasonable or when I just needed some repair AND I was willing to pay the cost.
The following companies are ones that immediately come to mind as having helped us by repairing or replacing outdoor gear and I'd like to give them a plug. (By list these, I don't mean that there aren't other companies out there--I just haven't had experience with them. You are free to let me know of others).
Gossamer Gear: Ralph does give his backpacks hard use! He loads more than the suggested amount into them (he's the one on our team who carries the gallons of water). Glen Van Peski of Gossamer Gear has been very helpful and accommodating to work with.
REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.): REI has long had a very liberal return policy and any time we've had a return to make, they've been professional and helpful about it. I'm not one who can wear a pair of boots for two years and then return them for a refund because they make my feet hurt, but I have no problem returning a jacket with a stuck zipper that I've only owned a short time.
Granite Gear: Foolish me--in my attempt to reduce pack weight, I cut the straps on my Vapor Trail backpack too short and then the straps kept slipping. Solution: Granite Gear sent, free of charge, some "Triglies," which stop the slippage.
Sunday Afternoons: My Sunday Afternoons hat is great. It has a large brim and a "tail" to protect from sun. It's lightweight and water- resistant. I lost one and replaced it. Unfortunately, after a very short time, the drawstring (that goes under your chin) frayed and was a nuisance because the slider would catch each time I used it. The company replaced the hat at no charge.

#10. Mark Krahling's blog

I just found a beautiful blog by Mark Krahling of Marin County. Mark combines his spiritually moving photographs--from the Camino de Santiago and other beautiful places--with well-written pieces that remind us to slow down and live our purpose in life. Sound like a winner? Mark has walked a bit on the Camino and is also an avid hiker and backpacker. Visit his blog at

#11. Coastwalks

I've recently been reading about Coastwalks--organized walking trips for individuals and families along California's spectacular coast. Coastwalk--a not-for-profit organization--offers dayhikes and multi-day backpack trips of varying levels of difficulty and terrain. Some are open to anyone, others for familes, some for women only. Some are free, some have a fee.
Here's a sampling (from their website June 9, 10:30 am, Fort Ross State Historic Park. Meet at the Coastwalk office in Sebastopol, 825 Gravenstein Highway North at 9:00 am or at the Fort Ross parking lot at 10:30. Leaderless carpooling is encouraged. We'll return to Sebastopol between 4 to 5. Join Coastwalk for an easy 6-mile exploration of Fort Ross. We'll visit the visitor center and the Russian fort constructed in 1812, explore the cove and then take a loop hike starting along the rugged shoreline, then ascend into the forested hills for a look at the San Andreas Fault line, a small virgin redwood forest, and the historic Russian apple orchard. We expect wet grass on the cross country part of the walk. Bring lunch, water and good hiking boots, dress in layers. For more info, contact Richard Nichols at 823-4071.
July 21, 9 am- Tennessee Valley - Fox- Coastal - Tennessee Valley loop, (Marin County). 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, 6-7 mi. Gentle 1/2 mi walk down Tennessee Valley trail, then moderately steep climb up Fox trail for about 1 mi. Then Fox turns toward ocean for another 1 1/2 mi with spectacular views. Then Coastal trail parallels coast with lots of ups and downs another 1/2 mi. Will probably stop for a break at Pirates Cove. Then a steep climb up to Coyote Ridge where we'll stop for lunch. No facilities here so bring everything you need. After lunch another 2 mi mostly downhill back to our cars. Bring food, water and a light jacket. Trailhead: Tennessee Valley Trailhead (directions: follow above directions to Miller Ave. Turn left onto Miller Ave which turns into Almonte Ave. and curve around Tam Hi athletic fields approximately 3/4 mi to Tam junction-Hwy 1. Continue straight/south on Hwy 1 about 1/4 mi and turn right on Tennessee Valley Road. Continue on Tennessee Valley Rd another 1 1/2 mi to trail head. Lots of free parking here plus portable potties. Coastwalk, 825 Gravenstein Hwy North #8, Sebastopol CA 95472 707-829-6689, 1-800-550-6854 Contact: Willow Taraja, Event & Outreach Coordinator Email: wtaraja@coastwalk. org

#12. Permits for Mt. Whitney:

 Climbing Mt. Whitney is so popular that the 60 daily permits allowing overnight stays -- and providing for two- day summit attempts -- are doled out through a lottery each year. Occasionally hikers can luck out--cancellations do occur and the shoulder months of Sept-Oct. may have some spots available to be reserved. Visit the website for details: (permits cost $15 per person). "The quota season (May 1 to Nov 1) is the time of the year when there is a limit on the number of people allowed on the main Mt. Whitney trail.
For any of the following, you do NOT need to enter the lottery:
* Day hikes that will not go farther than Lone Pine Lake do not require a permit. * If your trip begins in a National Park, such as Yosemite or Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, then the permit you obtain from the National Park will be valid for your entire trip. * If your trip to Mt. Whitney will begin on some other trail on Inyo National Forest (such as Shepherd Pass, Kearsarge Pass, North Fork of Lone Pine Creek to east face routes, etc) you can reserve six months in advance of your entry date. For trips that will end on the Main Mt Whitney trail, see "What is Trail Crest". * If your trip begins during the non-quota season (November 2 to April 30), permits may be self-issued at the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center."

#13. Hike for Autism:

We hike for many reasons: exercise, clearing our head, viewing the scenery, seeing new places, seeing birds and wildlife, setting records for distance or speed, and so forth. Many walk to raise money for charitable causes--the Avon walks for example. Others walk in memory of a loved one.
Gary Kuhre, whose son Joshua has been diagnosed with autism, is walking from the family home in Sparks, Nevada to Washington DC to raise awareness of this condition, to lobby lawmakers to pass federal legislation requiring insurance companies to pay for therapy for autistic children. He plans to leave on the cross-country walk on June 9.
"The key with autism is catching it early," Gary said. By the time an autistic child is 7 years old, most of the damage to the child's brain has been done, he said
He will walk along multiple interstate highways and sleep in a tent to keep costs low. Various people have donated items, such as custom walking shoes and a custom cart to carry his supplies. Gary said he will be walking all day today with his cart, which bears a stride4autism banner. In addition to the walk, the couple started a non-profit organization,, which raises money for autistic children in Northern Nevada. The organization plans to award scholarships to autistic children to pay for private therapy. No funds from the organization are used to pay for Joshua's therapy

#14. Regional: S.F. Bay Area.

 We recently went on one of my favorite hikes in the world-- again. It's a place I love to take visiting friends as well as local ones. At the end of Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County is the trailhead from Pierce Point Ranch. Roundtrip to the very tip of the peninsula and back is approximately 9 miles. It's a moderate hike, with along the narrow peninsula from which you can see both the Pacific Ocean and Tomales Bay at various points.
When we went recently, we saw not only hundreds of the tule elk--with many calves--but also a huge pod of whales. The wildflowers--lupine primarily--were thigh high. I always come back from our walks there feeling both mentally refreshed and physically exhausted!

#15. Llama Packing

Next week my friend, Pat, who I've known since high school, is coming with me on a llama trip in the Sierra. We are going as guests* of Greg and Diana Harford, who own several llamas at their place near Sonora. Their company, Potato Ranch Llama Packers, rents llamas to experienced backpackers who'd like to take them into Emigrant Wilderness, Yosemite backcountry and the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. I'll write more about the trip when I return. You can reach Potato Ranch Llama Packers at (209) 588-1707, or visit them at, if you are interested in arranging your own llama-assisted trip.

Please note: *This is not a commercial newsletter. Other than an occasional gift: a copy of a book, a pair of shoelaces, and ...a llama trip, we don't receive payment for mentioning goods, companies, tours, etc. We try to provide information on what's out there to enhance and support your hiking and backpacking adventures.

Hiking and backpacking can be risky endeavors. Always be prepared for emergencies and carry food, water, shelter (warm clothing, etc.), flashlight, matches, first aid supplies, maps. Cell phones don't always work. Leave word where you are traveling and when you are due back.
Happy trails, Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #85 May 17, 2007

1. Report on the PCT's Section D
2. The mysterious snowplant
3. Geolyn on the San Gabriels
4. Ken and Marcia Powers' latest
5. Tick Removal
6. Tioga Pass opens
7. Portuguese Camino
8. Habitat for Humanity Women Build
9. Trekking Pole Clinics
10. Susan and Ralph's next programs
11. Regional: Destination Del Valle, Ohlone Wilderness, Sunol
12. Regional: Sierra Mother Lode Gorge Scrambling

#1. Section "D" of the Pacific Crest Trail:

There was no May 1 issue of this newsletter because Ralph and I were again on the trail. We completed "Section D," an approximately 110-mile stretch in Southern California between Cajon Pass and Agua Dulce.

As section hikers, we have some flexibility as far as when we hike various regions. For the last couple of years, we've been heading for S. California in the spring--hoping for wildflowers, some water, and less heat. In late summer, we've been heading for N. California-- hoping for no snow and few bugs. However, being a section hiker is not all peaches and cream--for one thing, we're not "trail hardened" like a thru-hiker would be by the time he/she reaches a given point. Having said that in my defense, I'll add this. Section D was tough!

Before we looked into it, we pretty much assumed that most of the PCT in S. CA would be arid--primarily desert. In reality, the terrain is quite varied. In fact, one of the interesting things about planning to hike S. CA is that there are mountains to be climbed. In section D, it's Baden Powell that has to be factored in: what's the optimum time in which to get through the snow on the mountain, but not be caught in the extremely hot temperatures of the surrounding desert areas only a few miles away?

This year seemed promising because of there wasn't much snow this winter. The downside was that drinking water was hard to come by. We had read the reports of the those who had already hiked through the area. Not many had because the thru hikers starting from the border hadn't reached the area yet. Concerned about rapidly diminishing natural water sources, we carried several liters of water most of the time. When reliable water sources are 20-30 miles apart, and one hikes 10-15 miles per day, a LOT of water has to be carried. Even though we found enough water, I had serious concerns about the later arriving thru-hikers.

Early in the section, the trail crosses and recrosses Hwy 2 several times. I became quite ticked off by the fact that there were numerous places for people in cars to stop for potty breaks, but not one place where a hiker could get a drink of water! Compounding the problem, was the fact that several campgrounds through which we passed had turned off the water--presumably as a cost saving measure.

While we were on the trail, we heard speculation that several "Fire Suppression Stations" (fire fighting stations) were expected to close soon--just as the fire season begins. We also heard that the forest (in the San Gabriel Mountains) might be closed--again a cost savings measure. Then, just as we arrived home, news came that there were already fires in S Cal--including Griffin Park in Los Angeles--west of where we had been.

In spite of the lack of water--we could only wash clothes twice during our 10 days--there were some wonderful moments of the trail. Making our way up Baden Powell through some of the icy patches lent to the excitement. Melting snow for cooking was fun (thanks to our snow camping experiences we'd learned that you have also have to put some water in the pan--not just try to melt the snow over a fire). The Coulter Pine, oak, etc. in the higher elevations were awesome. Very big and beautiful old trees.

However, one of the most amazing areas we hiked through was right near the end--Vasquez Rocks. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, on W. Escondido Canyon Rd. in Agua Dulce is a" 745-acre park of unique geological rock formations located in the high desert near Agua Dulce Springs. The park features a history trail tour of the Tatavian Indians and Spanish settlers. The park is also available for motion picture filming, weddings, and large group picnics and parties" [group camping by reservation].

You've probably seen the Vasquez Rocks in many old westerns, but I think most PCT hikers are so hot at this point--we were lucky that it was overcast and windy--that they just want to get through the area and get to the comfort and shade of Hiker Heaven.

One of the highlights of this trip was making it to the famous "Hiker Heaven." This is the creation of trail angels Donna and Jeff Saufley. We had heard of their place in Agua Dulce for years, but the reality of what they offer to their hiker friends in terms of accommodations and hospitality exceeded our high expectations. This year is their 11th season hosting PCT hikers.

This is from their website: "Hiker Heaven is at mile 454.4 nobo from Campo, at the end of section D and start of Section E. It is our hope to have EVERY hiker come and stay with us. The official PCT register is here, and our garage serves as the mail drop for hikers in this section. You can pick up packages and mail from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., any day of the week. You can send mail out from here as well.

In addition to being the mail drop, we provide accommodations, showers, laundry, transportation, and tons of information to hikers about the local area. High-speed wireless Internet access and telephones are available for you. There is no charge for any of the services we provide.

As to who is welcome, it's quite simple: anyone with two or four legs hiking the PCT. We can accommodate and welcome dogs, horses, llamas, and goats. We've been told that a stop at Hiker Heaven is memorable part of the PCT experience, so make a stay here a part of yours."

When Ralph and I arrived, there was only one other person staying--a young woman who had sprained her ankle and was hoping to mend quickly and get back on the trail. The Saufley's garage was filled with shelves of hikers' drop boxes (food supplies), signboards with info on water sources, names of other trail angels, maps, etc. Also in evidence was Donna's well-used washer and dryer.

The normal procedure is that the hot, tired, and filthy hiker arrives at Hiker Heaven and is welcomed. Next he/she is invited to pick up some clean clothes--from nearby labeled bins--and a towel, and head for the shower. Dirty clothes are to be dropped in a laundry basket and delivered to the garage--where Donna insists she alone manage the machines. Later on, the hiker's formerly filthy clothes will reappear in an altered state -- CLEAN and fresh smelling. During the times that large numbers of PCT hikers are coming through the area, Donna usually takes a three-week break from work to accommodate them (Jeff is an electrical contractor who sets his own schedule). Even Donna says that it's a bit challenging when the number of people who stay overnight numbers in the dozens.

As I entered the trailer, I took note of not only the comfortable sofas and chairs, TV and VCR, laptops, shelves lined with reading material, and a guitar, but also a hair drier, foot massager, OTC lotions and potions. The kitchen was clean and well equipped. Storage shelves held tins and packets of donated food. It wasn't like a cheap motel where only the basics are there--everything that a guest might want or need had been anticipated and provided--free of charge (donations welcome!).

I also want to mention that another trail angel in Agua Dulce helped us on our latest trip. Diane Ely, who observed that the increasing numbers of hikers were keeping the Saufleys busy, often comes to the rescue. When we were looking for a way to get to our trailhead and not drive two cars to Southern California in order to accomplish that, we put word out on the PCT forum. Diane came to our rescue and drove us from Agua Dulce to the trailhead.

If only the news media would focus on the amazing and wonderful things that so many people do out of sense of "paying back" or simply from the goodness of the human spirit.

#2. The snowplant

One of the wildflowers that we saw in Section D was the snow plant. We've seen it other places, but this was the first time while on the PCT. I checked it out in "Sierra Nevada Wildflowers, " (much recommended because of its great photos and clear details) by Elizabeth Horn. She writes, "snow plant resembles an emerging stalk of red asparagus." What was news to me is that despite its name, it does not push its way up through the snow, but through the "duff and humus of the forest floor, particularly in the shade of towering red fir." She continues, "snowplant lacks chlorophyll and derives its energy from dead plant material. Its roots do not even contact the soil in which it is grown, but instead are enclosed by a casing of fungi, through which nutrient s are transferred." (Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana, 1998).

3. Geolyn on the San Gabriels

Geolyn, who produces the Boots cartoons, writes, "Yep, Section D, that's my backyard. I think John Muir said the San Gabriels were one of the most inhospitable mountain ranges he'd ever been in."

#4 Ken and Marcia Powers' latest

I've often written about Ken and Marcia because I am in awe of their accomplishments--thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) 2000, Continental Divide (CDT) 2002, Appalachian Trail (AT) in 2003, and the American Discovery Trail (across the U.S.) 2005--the "Grand Slam" of long distance hiking. This year she and Ken are hiking the PCT again and you can follow their progress at  Correction: last newsletter I gave Marcia Powers' trail name incorrectly. She is "gottawalk."

#5. Sue Fernstrom forwarded this hint for tick removal

Neither Sue nor I have tried it, but it seems easy enough to try if you should need a remedy. Apparently a pediatrician said it's the best way. "This is great, because it works in those places where it's sometimes difficult to get to with tweezers: between toes, in the middle of a head full of dark hair, etc. Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and let it stay on the repulsive insect for a few seconds (15-20), after which the tick will come out on it's own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away. This technique has worked every time I've used it (and that was frequently), and it's much less traumatic for the patient and easier for me. Unless someone is allergic to soap, I can't see that this would be damaging in any way. I even had my doctor's wife call me for advice because she had one stuck to her back and she couldn't reach it with tweezers. She used this method and immediately called me back to say, 'It worked!' Please pass on; everyone needs this helpful hint."

#6. Yosemite's scenic Tioga and Glacier Point roads have opened

After two consecutive years of late June openings, the lower than average snowpack this winter allowed for access to Tioga Pass in May. All trails in the park are open for hiking--with the exception of the cables on Half Dome and they are expected to be in place quite soon.

Bears are out and foraging naturally. Cubs usually come out of the den with their mothers in April or May and stay with them until the following spring.

#7 Portuguese Camino

Ralph and I are planning to hike on the Portuguese Camino this fall--from Porto to Santiago de Compostela (Spain) and then on to Finesterre on the Galician coast. We're gathering some information-- and expect more will be coming over the next few months. Those who speak Spanish and who are interested in the route can go to for info.

Our Camino friend Helena sends word that "Alex Rato (the person who did all the research and marked the Camino from Lisboa [Lisbon] to Porto) has mentioned that one of the problems of doing the Camino from Lisbon is that there are no albergues, but there are hostals and some pilgrims have stayed in firefighters quarters."

The average amount you will pay for a double room is between 25 and 30 euros and meals are between 8 and 10 euros. I can also tell you that according to Alex 65 pilgrims did the Camino from Lisbon to Santiago in 2006."

#8 Habitat for Humanity Women Build

Not quite on the theme of backpacking or hiking, but I thought it quite interesting that Habitat for Humanity has a "Women Build" program. Visit the site at to see how women from around the country are teaming up to build houses for women in need.

#9. Trekking poles

As you know--because I often mention how they make it possible for me to continue backpacking--trekking poles offer many advantages to the hiker: protecting knees, hips, ankles by reducing impact, helping upper body by increasing muscle strength, and increasing stability not only on regular trails, but also while crossing streams and snowy patches.

There are 39 "Trekking Pole Clinics" scheduled for this summer beginning with the Durham /Raleigh area (Raleigh 6/19; Cry 6/20; Durham 6/21) and ending with three in the S.F. Bay Area (Concord, 7/10; Corte Madera 7/11; Saratoga 7/12. These are co-sponsored by the American Hiking Society, Nature Valley, REI, American Park Network, LEKI, Merrell and Nalgene, and will be given, free of charge, at REI stores across the U.S. Check your local REI for other places and times.

#10. Susan and Ralph's next programs:
June 4 & 11, 2007 (10 a.m. -12:30) Orinda Community Center, Orinda, CA. "'Self-Publishing Basics,'" instructor Susan Alcorn. Join this class and learn how to get your book published. Mainstream vs. self- publishing; how to prepare your manuscript; editing; illustrations; printers; and launching your book." Fee $50-$55, info/register: (info 925-254-2445). Outdoor Store & Bookstore Readings & Programs

2007 Camino and John Muir Trail shows: Wednesday, May 23, 2007, 7:00 p.m. REI Sacramento, 1790 Expo Pkwy., Sacramento, CA 95815. (916) 924-8900. Susan and Ralph Alcorn will present their slide show on the John Muir Trail along with information on how to prepare for an outstanding backpacking trip on this famous Sierra trail. Susan will read from We're in the Mountains, not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers. Free.

Thursday, May 24, 2007, 7:00 p.m. REI Roseville, 1148 Galleria Blvd. Roseville, CA 95678 (916) 724-6750. Susan and Ralph Alcorn will present their slide show on the John Muir Trail along with information on how to prepare for an outstanding backpacking trip on this famous Sierra trail. Susan will read from We're in the Mountains, not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers. Free.

NEW! Wednesday, June 6, 2007. 7:00 PM. Copperfield's Santa Rosa, Montgomery Village, 2316 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95404. Camino program with narrated slides of Susan and Ralph's 500-mile hike of the ancient Camino de Santiago of northern Spain.

#11. Regional news: S.F. Bay Area. Once again Ralph and I are taking part in the Trail Marathon program sponsored by East Bay Regional Parks. The challenge is to complete 26.2 miles during the months of May and June. We like supporting our parks with the fundraising activity, and we like the incentive to hike on some trails new to us.

One of this year's trails is the 20-miler from Del Valle Regional to Sunol Regional through Ohlone Wilderness. For years, we've talked about hiking partway in and spending the night--this was just the push we needed to secure the necessary permits and do it. It was a VERY strenuous hike--torture to the knees, but well worth doing.

Spring is always beautiful time in our parks--great drifts of wildflowers and bountiful crops of poison oak. The overnight was okay. We had the park to ourselves, but it turns out the campsite is under a flight path from Oakland airport (I assume) and so we had to get used to the drone of airplanes and to the planes' flashing lights instead of moonlight. Happily the number of flights decreased as the hour grew late.

One of the great things about the Sunol and Del Valle is that most of the time you can't see any houses or other development--it's just rolling hills covered with grasses, wildflowers, and trees. And during the week, there are hardly any other hikers--it's just mainly you, the cows, and a few snakes (we saw a boa, a baby rattler, and a King snake (bright bands of color).

#12. Regional: Motherlode Chapter--Sierra Nevada chapter of the Sierra Club. A few activities from their "2007 Gorge Scrambling" schedule:

"June 19, Tuesday. 7 to 9 PM. We will go over the Summer 2007 gorge scramble schedule, view one of John Schwinds 8MM MOVIES. A short powerpoint slide show presented by Paul Plathe titled: CANYONS OF THE MOKELUMNE WILDERNESS, about a 5 day 4 nite backpack in the Mokelumne Wilderness. The main feature is THE WESTERN WILDERNESS SLIDE SHOW with Mike Painter of Californians for Western Wilderness. He will discuss Utah as a leading example of citizen involvement in the efforts to provide permanent protection for wildlands. Mike is a member of the Sierra Club's National Utah Wilderness Task Force. Arden-Dimick Branch Library, 891 Watt Ave. (At Northrop). Contact; Alex MacCollom (916) 978-9470."

July 14&15, Saturday and Sunday. Gorge Scramble Level 3. Royal Gorge. North Fork of the American Wild and Scenic River Canyon. This outing is best known for it 30 and 40 foot waterfalls. It has a great campsite, Native American petroglyphs, spectacular overlooks and a trail out not for the faint of heart. The bottom of this two-mile section is at 4000'. There is 2600 feet of elevation gain on the hike out. This is Trip #9 on the gorge scramble webpage at This is done as an overnite backpack. Call for meeting time and place. Group size limited. Leader Paul Plathe 209-476-1498 or"

July 28, Saturday. Gorge Scramble Level 3 Green Valley. N.F. American Wild and Scenic River Canyon. This is trip #3 on the webpage. We will hike down the Euchre Bar Trail. Go up canyon a short ways, then float and scramble down canyon and pick up the Green Valley Trail for our exit. This is a short but beautiful section of the canyon popular with the floaters. 1600' of elevation gain on the hike out. This is Trip #3 on the gorge scramble webpage at Bring lunch and air mattress. Meet 8 am Roseville Square. Leader; Paul Plathe 209-476-1498 or "

Susan's note: Hiking and backpacking can be risky endeavors. Always be prepared for emergencies and carry food, water, shelter (warm clothing, etc.), flashlight, matches, first aid supplies, maps. Cell phones don't always work. Leave word where you are traveling and when you are due back.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #84 April 15, 2007

1. "Camino Chronicle"--a finalist!
2. Winner of contest at REI
3. Book recommendation: Hiking the Gulf Islands
4. Doing the "Waggle Dance"
5. Fatality in the Pyrenees
6. Benefits of Hiking Poles
7. Girls on the Move
8. Regional walks: Berkeley Paths
9. Next newsletter mid-May

#1. Camino Chronicle - a finalist!

I'm very happy to announce that "Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago" has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Ben Franklin award--for Best Travel Essay 2007. My son and I will be traveling to New York City in late May to attend the awards ceremony. The next program on the "Camino Chronicle"--our slide show of the Camino de Santiago--will be at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA. on Saturday, April 21. 4:00 PM. We hope to see you there!

#2. Winner of contest at REI

The winner of the basket of goodies (we did a drawing for attendees at our REI programs this year) was Sarah M. of San Francisco. She was pretty excited about getting a copy of "Camino Chronicle" and several other items. "I haven't won anything in 20 years," she said.

#3. Book Recommendation: Hiking the Gulf Islands

Reader Kwei U recommends a book by Charles Kahn entitled "Hiking the Gulf Islands" published by Harbour Press. "…a definitive book about hiking in all of these islands. Kwei adds, "the Gulf Islands in BC (just an hour or two by ferry from Vancouver) are beautiful and very rural and friendly. The atmosphere is very different from the San Juan Islands just across the border."

#4. Doing the Waggle Dance

Honeybees doing the "Waggle dance." We all know that bees swarm when their hives become too crowded, the question is where they go when they leave their current home. Turns out that the queen and about half of the hive fly out and wait while the scouts go searching. When a scout finds a good nesting site, it tries to get other undecided scouts to join him in the "waggle dance." When 15 or more scouts have independently decide they like a sit, and joined the dance, they fly back to the queen and relay the message that a site has been selected and the whole group flies to the new location. National Geographic (Wildlife Feb. 2007)

#5. Fatality in the Pyrenees

Unfortunately, even though hiking and backpacking are generally safe activities, accidents, even fatalities, do occur. The death in early April of a man who was crossing the Pyrenees on the Camino de Santiago from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles reminds of this fact. According to reports, Chris Phillips, 50, the chief executive of the Edinburgh-based Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP), lost his way while in the mountains due to heavy fog, snow, and winds. He was forced to spend the night in the mountains. An emergency team found him the following afternoon suffering from severe hypothermia. The firemen requested a helicopter but it was unable to fly because of continuing snow. The crew put him on a stretcher and took him to the Hospital of Navarre in Pamplona, but he died shortly after arrival. Phillips, and two Italian walkers (who later sent for help), had struggled together through the deep snow. However, when they crossed the Col de Lepoeder, they became separated. A spokesman for Navarra police said "the dangers of crossing from France to Spain at this time of year were well known and signs giving weather conditions were posted along the early part of the route. It can be spring near Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port but in Roncesvalles and on the mountains above it's still deep winter," he said. Garry Budin, a tour guide on the Camino, commented that it is easy to turn the wrong way under the extreme conditions and expressed his sympathy. He gave some important information to other travelers, "there is a small road, just 50m away and once you are on it you cannot get lost, even if there's snow around." We are saddened by this loss.

#6. Benefits of Hiking Poles

You can review the benefits of using hiking poles and the proper way to use them, at  I've used poles for several years and swear by them. They offer increased stability on the trail and when crossing streams. They reduce stress to knees, feet, and hips. We have also used them to prop up our tarp (shelter) and to support the roof when building a snowshelter. If it came to it, I envision myself fending off bears and mountain lions with them (not that I've ever been lucky enough to see the later). And finally, Ralph uses his to encourage rattlesnakes to get off the trail!

#7. Girls on the Move

Health Magazine has a website with many things of interest to walkers and runners. In particular, if you go to Health.Com/girlsonthemove/  you can register for "search by Zip code" for running and walk partners in your area.

#8. Regional Walks: Berkeley Paths

Regional Walks: Berkeley Path Wanderers' First Wednesday Walks and Saturday Walks. The Berkeley Path Wanderers Association sponsors two series of walks. First Wednesday Walks are held on the first Wednesday of each month. Saturday walks are held on a Saturday each month. These walks begin at 10:00 a.m. and are usually about two hours in length. Walks may focus in a variety of local features and usually include points of historical interest and may include references to the flora and fauna of the area. Walks are free and both members and non-members are invited to participate. The May 2 walk is "Inspired by 1932 Watercolor of Two Paths" Jacque Ensign 510 524-4715  Meet at Oakridge Path sign on south edge of John Muir School playground, on Claremont Ave., 1 blk south of Ashby. We will explore the area portrayed in a recently discovered 1932 watercolor by A. Burr. Some uphill but at moderate pace. For a complete listing of BPWA's Spring Wednesday Walks visit:

#9. Next Newsletter mid May

Ralph and I are packing for our next section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. We'll be doing Section D in Southern California. We're very eagerly anticipating this next get-away. I'm particularly looking forward to meeting and staying at the Sauffley's -- the well-known trail angels who have hosted hundreds of PCT hikers over the last several years. Because we will be out of the office in early May, there will not be a newsletter on the 1st. Look forward to the next one mid-May.
Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #83 April 1, 2007

"I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." John Muir, 1913

1. REI's now a new partner
2. Wild Women Workshops
3. Snow on sections of the Camino
4. One tough Wade
5. Ken and Marcia Powers "Gotta Go"
6. Mosquito avoidance
7. A fine wolf
8. Hiking in British Columbia
9. Regional: Bay Area Ridge Trail events
10. Benefits of Wilderness for Women.

#1. REI is now a supporter of Wild Women Workshops

Wild Women Workshops, based in El Portal, just outside of Yosemite National Park, CA, provides women with "the opportunity to learn about themselves, each other and the natural world through a core curriculum of yoga and creative writing offered in a wilderness setting." Wild Women Workshops offers courses and trips in inspirational locations, from Yosemite to Nepal/Tibet. Integral to the Wild Women experience is instruction in backcountry living skills, including equipment use, safe travel techniques, route finding, meal planning and cooking, and how to practice a low impact outdoor ethic. " (edited from the REI email.)

#2. Wild Woman Workshops

After I read that REI was a sponsor of Wild Women, I went to the WWW website and found several backcountry courses and trips that sounded perfect for many on this newsletter list including: "We have, however, had requests from women to do trips catered toward the 'Wise Women.' ...this 3-day wilderness course takes place in the dramatic backcountry of Yosemite National Park and is designed specifically for women over 40."
As we age, we find new creaks and aches, new emotions and struggles, new adventures and excitements. This trip will give us ample opportunity to spend time in the backcountry with less focus on carrying a heavy backpack or traveling many miles. We will hike to a base and set up camp for 3 nights giving us ample time to explore the alpine meadows, hike to a high peak or pass, dip in the cool lakes, watch sunsets, do yoga, write in journals and have a lot of fun. This is a great trip for those with injured backs, creaky knees, who like a relaxed pace, or who enjoy spending quality time in the back-country." Details:
Who: Open to all women ages 40 and over. The trip is not geared solely for beginners, but is very beginner friendly. Prior experience with backpacking, yoga, and writing is not necessary to participate. Where: Our trip will begin with a lunch in Tuolumne Meadows Campground (8,800') in Yosemite's high country. While our exact itinerary differs each year depending on Park restrictions and group limitations, we generally complete a loop trip in the High Sierra region of the Park. Contact us for a detailed description of this year's route. When: October 5-7, 2007. We will meet at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground at 12:00pm. How much: $425. Includes instruction, meals during course, permits and all group gear. Wild Women Workshops P.O. Box 102 El Portal CA 95318 www.wildwomenworkshops.ORG e-mail: 209/379-WILD (9453)

#3. Snow on sections of the Camino de Santiago:

"Snow, rain and wind" Posted recently by: "camino.pilgrim" silvia_nilsen at yahoo dot com Date: Mon Mar 19, 2007 11:28 pm ((PDT)) "Hi - I'm in Logrono and it is snowing quite heavily with strong winds. My barometer has dropped as low as I've ever seen it (and I winter in England!). Televisions in a shop this evening showed snow ploughs out in Pamplona and environs."Pilgrims planning on leaving soon - keep warm, take gloves and watch out for the mud."

#4. One Tough Wade PCT Hiker

In the last issue, I mentioned Scott "Squatch" Herriott's newest DVD on the Pacific Crest Trail's hikers, entitled "Even More Walking." One of my favorite segments was the footage of Wade. Wade is a 6-year- old boy who apparently loves to backpack. Last year when Squatch talked to him in northern California, he and his mom had just finished a 130-mile trip. They were covering 12-15 miles a day (one day a 17- miler with some snowy sections!) What a cute and amazing kid!

#5. Ken and Marcia Powers

This awesome couple who have completed the PCT, AT, Continental Divide AND the trans-U.S. American Discovery Trail, are getting ready (leaving 4/26) for another thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. They maintain an excellent website where you can follow their adventures as well as learn how they pack and otherwise prepare for their huge undertakings. 

#6. Mosquito Avoidance:

Reader Madeleine sends the following useful information: "For the reputed buggiest areas last summer on my big hike (there were actually bugs clear into Labor Day as it was so wet!) I carried a few of those circular flat green bug repellent coils and a tiny lightweight holder that came with them. purchased at any roadhead store or old-fashioned camping supply place. Low tech but if bugs were really bad, I would light one 1-2' away on a rock upwind of myself while cooking and eating and if I stayed close to the smoke, it did help, along w/ the bug hat (just have to remember to lift it up while eating... drinking works thru the bug net but not eating, ho ho.)"
I really hate repellent and only use on hard to cover w/ physical barrier places like neck, ears, wrists. Wearing my long skirt, I had no problems w/ bugs on legs... except when peeing (standing up w/ skirt hiked up.. SO easy and fast). I might try my nice Japanese incense this year to see if it is more the smoke than scent of the smoke. Much nicer and more natural. Will report back... if there are any bugs.. looks like a dry year."

#7. Hiking in British Columbia:

Word recently about a non-profit hiking club in British Columbia. (non-profit hiking club website). The BC Hiking Club & Trails - Hike Chilliwack British Columbia hiking club offers day hikes for people of all ages and fitness levels throughout the Fraser Valley including Chilliwack & Vancouver BC. Also offers hiking trail descriptions, maps, hiking photos, and hiker profiles. Brent Utah, who sent this info, also has an outdoor gear and clothing store called Taiga Works. They offer outdoor clothing & active wear, equipment for adventure travel & trekking, hiking, backpacking & mountain equipment, survival gear, ski wear, cycle shells and boating wear. 

#8. A Fine Wolf:

Wolf, wolves... California's last wild wolf was killed in 1924, but the Wolf Flower is still in abundance. The lupine (Latin lupus: translates to wolf) reportedly was given its name because it was believed to voraciously take up soil nutrients. Actually what this beautiful spring wildflower does is enrich the soil with the nitrogen- fixing rhizobia bacteria in its root nodules. You can identify the lupine by its palmate-compound leaves and long flower spikes. (palmate: having three or more veins, leaflets, or lobes radiating from one point; ed: think of a hand with fingers extended).
In our area, we can enjoy several varieties at this time of year including the "arroyo lupine" with purple blossoms, and the "whitewhorl lupine" with white blossoms. I particularly like the Miniature lupine "Lupinus bicolor," which is often found near the California Poppy and grows in thick colonies blanketing the hillsides.

#9. Regional: News from the Bay Area Ridge Trail:

 With spring approaching, we're busy planning trail activities to entice you out on the Ridge Trail. We hope you can get out to enjoy the wonderful trail that you are helping to create.
a. Ridge to Bridge Advance Registration All current Council members and donors may now sign up for this popular hiking event on April 28 in Marin County. (A donation to BARTC in the period from Jan '06 to the present qualifies you as current.) Registration opens to all on March 16. The fee is $40, with proceeds benefiting the Ridge Trail and California State Parks. b. April 21, Ridge Trail Dedication at Mt. Wanda, John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez. This morning event is the kickoff for a full schedule of Earth Day activities. c. April 28, Ridge to Bridge. Hike 30, 20, or 13 miles along the ridgeline in Marin County. Raise funds by participating in the "Athon" and win prizes donated by REI. d. June 2, National Trails Day. Trail workdays and activities in several counties are being planned, including Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve in Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. More info at: Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, 1007 General Kennedy Avenue, Suite 3, San Francisco, CA, 94129-1405, (415) 561-2595.

#10. Last call: The Benefits of Wilderness for Women

Join us for a series of panel discussions illuminating The Benefits of Wilderness for Women. The panels will take place on April 12 (Fairfax Women's Club); April 14 (Samuel P. Taylor State Park.) April 15 (Sebastopol Community Center - Youth Annex) Discover a world of wilderness, joy and hope in your own backyard. Learn how you can let the wilderness help you to achieve personal empowerment, find spiritual guidance, and to evolve a more satisfying rhythm in your life.
Three extraordinary women will share their experiences and insights. Catriona MacGregor dedicates her life to helping others work with the transformative power of nature.  . Solo backpacker Amy Racina, author of "Angels in the Wilderness," shares her miraculous survival story and her love of the wilderness.  . Author Susan Alcorn, "We're in the Mountains, Not Over the Hill," shares her adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Camino de Santiago.
The panels offer an opportunity to be inspired, to ask questions, and to discuss your own experience with the wilderness. All three events are free. Light refreshments will be offered. Seating is limited, and reserved on a first-come first serve basis. Contact Amy Racina aracina at sonic dot net (707) 433-6686 for more information.
Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn, "backpack45"

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #82 March 15, 2007

Dear friends and family, It's wonderful to be back home again! Still, we have been having a wonderful time meeting so many of you at various REI and other venues with our Camino program. We love sharing stories of walks and hearing your plans for new adventures.


1. "Even More Walking"
2. Opportunity to learn from a master: Scott Williamson
3. "Hides" from Gossamer Gear
4. Report of the Williamsburg Pilgrim Gathering
5. Pilgrims to Rome
6. Donkeys for a traditional pilgrimage
7. Women in Wilderness

#1. Even More Walking

Scott "Squatch" Herriott's newest DVD on the Pacific Crest Trail's hikers, entitled "Even More Walking," is now out and available--and definitely worth getting. This one features many of the PCT class of 2006. Scott has been hiking in to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for the last few years to capture scenes and stories from PCT hikers up and down the west coast. This year's installment of the "Walk" series, Squatch hikes his most PCT miles yet in a year (700+) in Calif., Oregon & Washington and interviews nearly 150 hikers, trail angels & on-lookers to get their tales, tips and travails of trekking. I wonder if from time to time Scott feels that all of his hiking in from the trailhead to interview hikers, and then hiking back out, is more exhausting than just hiking all the miles in between. Some of the more outstanding segments--IMHO-- is the one of Ralph and Susan Alcorn with the dog they tried to rescue north of Deep Creek (Section C) last spring. Squatch's DVD really captures the essence of the PCT thru - hike: the personalities, the community, the scenery, and more. You've got to get this DVD $18.00 includes postage and handling.

#2. Scott Williamson

Last year yo-yo hiked the PCT (went from Mexico to Canada and back again) -- 5,310 miles, completed his trip in less time than he did the same trip in 2004. 2006 -- Elapsed time 2006: 191 days, 1 hour, 20 minutes (May 22nd to November 28th). In 2004, he became the first person to do a yo-yo in one year.

His website makes for interesting reading. Among other items of interest: "Average number of hours spent walking each day-14+ Base pack weight at start- 8 pounds (including video camera!) [editor note: before food and water]. Heaviest pack weight carried-estimated 50+ pounds (leaving Mammoth lakes southbound) Average weight of food eaten per a day- 21/2-3 pounds Most calories eaten in a single day-17,000 Days spent dreaming about fresh food- 191 1 hour 20 minutes" Go to his website:  for more.

Scott will be giving a talk at the PCTA Trail Fest in Seattle WA in Seattle on March 24, 2007. 12pm In addition, he is giving a number of workshops in April and May in Reno, Nevada and Truckee, California. "Lighten Up Your Load"; "First Long Journey"; and "Map & Compass." This is an exceptional opportunity to learn from a master. Call Tahoe Yoga & Wellness Center to register for any of the workshops. 530-550-8333 or 775.348.YOGA (9642). For more information email info @

#3. Hides from Gossamer Gear

Glen Van Peski, founder or Gossamer Gear, will also be giving a talk at the upcoming PCTA gathering. He's sharing info about his June trip across the Mojave section last year with a sub-3 lb. base pack weight.

Gossamer Gear, a great company that strives to make ultralight backpacking gear at affordable prices, is wonderful to deal with. Ralph sent one of their backpacks in for repair. It was one that he had had for quite a while--since replaced--and he planned to donate it to a local youth group (such as the inner city outings) when he got it back. Since there was no hurry for the repairs, the pack was gone for quite a while. Gossamer Gear, however, decided to reward us for our patience. They sent a whole parcel of goodies including a fingertip toothbrush (slips onto your finger), coiled shoestrings that don't need tying, and my favorite item--"Hides." Hides is a fabric strap that holds your glasses on. It works by slipping on over the ends of your glasses, but in addition--and this is the cool part--the strap unrolls to reveal a place to store your glasses, and the fabric of which the strap is made can be used to clean the glasses. You have to see them--too hard to describe--but they are very, very clever. The strap was a demo item, but I'm hoping to hear from Glen that his company will be carrying it. In the meantime, check them out at  (Ralph's GG backpack weighs less than 1 pound).

#4. Report of the Williamsburg Pilgrim Gathering

Ralph and I have just returned from a mini-book tour to Phoenix (two REI stores). From there, we flew to Williamsburg, Virginia and the 10th annual gathering of the American Pilgrims ( ) on the Camino. I'm still catching up on the laundry and mail, so I'm forwarding Kathy Gower's fine report of our weekend.
"Mon Mar 12, 2007 5:37 pm ((PDT)) Some of you have asked for a synopsis of the wonderful gathering, "A Pilgrimage to America" that took place this past weekend in Williamsburg. First of all, I was not involved in the planning nor administration, so this is a loving glance from a participant and contains observations that may be a bit opinionated...and why not!"

The Gathering started with a Hospitalero Training and I believe there are now a dozen newly trained hospitaleros ready to take their places in the albergues and donativo refugios in Spain. Bravo... "

After wine and tapas from Spain, courtesy of La Tienda, an on-line source for comidas from Spain, it was wonderful to hear some of the many stories, in particular this year from students who have gone on the Camino with George Greenia. Lucky students, lucky us...There were stories of reconciliation, discovery, and as always, lots of familiar themes we could all relate to."

There were several different activities to choose from, ranging from talks by Lyne Talbot on walking the Camino in 1974, to hearing her son as one of the seven or eight that walked this year and related their motives and experiences. Training, Trekking, Foods and Wines of Spain, Pilgrimage to Greece and Rome, Prayer and Pilgrimage (from where the inquiry on the Road to Emmaeus came from) and much more...

It was a full agenda, but that wasn't all for the 130 plus once and future pilgrims who attended...Andalusian music, Pilgrimage in the Islamic Tradition, Crusaders and...a lovely exhibit sponsored by the Tourist Board of Spain that contained work by our American Pilgrims that will travel for the next 3 or 4 years across the United States and Canada. American Pilgrims held an open session on directions for the future, all attended by the press from Galicia and the Xunta de Galicia as well as the Cultural attaché. Forgive me if I have the titles wrong, but it seems there's some bridges that were being forged."

Edward Stanton, [author of] Road of the Stars, was keynote speaker at the customary banquet...another high point. Our Spanish guests were very much in presence, along with pilgrims from US, Canada, Spain, Australia and well, the world community."

Being the 400 anniversary of the founding of Williamsburg, our walk was on Jamestown Island. Quite the juxtaposition of colonial America and our reminiscences and art reflecting our journeys back to the "old country", of sorts. Obviously there was much more in the way of connecting between old and new friends, tales of past and upcoming pilgrimages and lots of time for individual one on one stories."

A highlight for me was seeing slides of the one American who actually lives now on the Camino and to hear her plans and observations from the meseta in Moratinos. Brava, Rebekah... "

{ed.: Mark your calendars!] I hope I've sparked some interest for the next gathering in Santa Barbara, California next March."

#5. Pilgrims to Rome

Still another Camino route to explore. The Pilgrims to Rome, a newly formed group, is having a meeting in London on May 13, 2007. Member Sil wrote: "The Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome (CPR) was formed in London at the end of January. Perhaps you would like to include a link to the website in your Via Francigena page?" Pilgrim blessings."

#6. Donkeys for a traditional pilgrimage

Rosina wrote to two fascinating developments on the Camino de Santiago: : "...four guys from lovely Zamora have instituted a donkey service for pilgrims. The donkeys carry the bags and/or children of pilgrims for the last 100-200 kms. of the Camino. They come accompanied by a care-taker who sees to the donkeys well-being, their food and their accommodation at night. You may read about the availability of their service at ."

" Lastly, the municipal authorities in Santiago put their signature on a plan to establish bicycle lanes to help arriving pilgrims reach the Cathedral. The lanes, as planned, will be protected from intrusion by automobiles and such and will reach the edge of the Casco, which is already pretty much car-traffic free."

#7. The Benefits of Wilderness for Women

Reminder Join us for a series of panel discussions illuminating The Benefits of Wilderness for Women. The panels will take place on April 12 (Fairfax Women's Club); April 14 (Samuel P. Taylor State Park.) April 15 (Sebastopol Community Center - Youth Annex) Discover a world of wilderness, joy and hope in your own backyard. Learn how you can let the wilderness help you to achieve personal empowerment, find spiritual guidance, and to evolve a more satisfying rhythm in your life. Three extraordinary women will share their experiences and insights. Catriona MacGregor dedicates her life to helping others work with the transformative power of nature. . Solo backpacker Amy Racina, author of "Angels in the Wilderness," shares her miraculous survival story and her love of the wilderness. . Author Susan Alcorn, "We're in the Mountains, Not Over the Hill," shares her adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail, Mt. Whitney, Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Camino de Santiago. The panels offer an opportunity to be inspired, to ask questions, and to discuss your own experience with the wilderness. All three events are free. Light refreshments will be offered. Seating is limited, and reserved on a first-come first serve basis. Contact Amy Racina aracina @ (707) 433-6686 for more information.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #81 March 1, 2007

Dear Friends, Family, and Hiking Community,
I hope you can enjoy the full moon on March 3 wherever you live. Here in the Bay Area, we are enjoying our flowering plum trees, blossoming daffodils, and green hills. There are newts in the vernal pools in nearby Sibley Regional Park, and robins and deer in our front yard. The weather has been nippy. There's been a dusting of snow on nearby peaks, as well as hail, lightning and thunder alternating with brief sunny periods that allow for occasional walks. We're grateful that we have not had the severe weather that has hit many other parts of the country.

1. Announcing: Wilderness for Women
2. Crocus mystery solved?
3. Susan's request
4. How about a cigar?
5. Handy items for Camino walks
6. Broads' in action
7. Regional: Bay Area Ridge Trail Walks
8. Regional: East Bay Regional Parks events

#1. The Benefits of Wilderness for Women

Free Panels in Northern CA, April 12, 14, 15. Introducing three extraordinary women for a discussion of the benefits of Wilderness for Women Discover a world of wilderness, joy and hope in your own backyard. Join Amy, Catriona, and Susan as they speak to the benefits of wilderness for women. In a world of ever increasing demands and widening circles of communication, women struggle with the balance of home and family, relationships, work, technology, cultural pressures, community, social causes, and personal goals. More and more women are turning towards the wilderness, inspired by a desire to evolve a more satisfying rhythm, or to reclaim what is missing in the busyness of our lives.

Women embrace the solace of the wild places for many reasons. They go seeking personal empowerment, to conquer their fears, for spiritual illumination, for the growth of consciousness, for a time of solitude, or simply to reclaim their own inner peace.

Our panel members: Catriona MacGregor experienced a profound spiritual awakening at age 12, in the forests near her home. Since then, she has dedicated her life to sharing her vision and helping others to work with the transformative power of nature, to find their inner voice, live more creatively, and carry out their life's purpose, on an international, national, and personal level. Catriona is the co-author of Healing the Heart of the World: Harnessing the Power of Intention to Change Your Life and the Planet along with Masaru Emoto, Carolyn Myss and others.

Amy Racina, ultralight solo backpacker, faced one of the greatest challenges of her life in August 2003. 140 miles into an extended trip, the ground crumbled beneath her, and she fell sixty feet onto rock. Utterly alone in deep wilderness, with both legs shattered; Amy kept her body and spirit alive for four days and nights. Hear the story of Amy's miraculous rescue; share her joy in living, and her enduring love of the wilderness. Amy's essays and short stories have been printed in numerous publications, including the best-selling award-winning anthology Healing the Heart of the World. "Angels in the Wilderness" is her first full-length book. Amy Racina's inspirational story has been featured in The Times (London), The San Francisco Chronicle, The Press Democrat, and on The Montel Williams Show.

Susan Alcorn, author of "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers," began backpacking when she was 48 years old. She set out to climb Mt. Whitney, at 14,196 feet, the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Since that time she's completed more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, 900 miles of ancient pilgrimage trails in Spain and France (Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago), and reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft.) in January 2007.

Susan is a motivational speaker who has encouraged and inspired thousands to discover for themselves the rewards and challenges of wilderness exploration. She believes that the wilderness has important lessons for us - for example, even the highest mountains are scaled by moving forward one step at a time - lessons that serve us well in our day-to-day lives. And, we discover that the simplicity of life on the trail provides us with the opportunity to quiet our minds and frees us from the demands of our "everyday" lives. Finally, Susan encourages wilderness travel as a means of finding moments of great joy - seeing beautiful wildflowers, alpine sunsets, and roaring waterfalls - that most people otherwise never experience in their entire lifetime.

Please pass the word about these events; we hope you will join us. Dates and locations for Women and the Wilderness
I. April 12 (Thursday), 6 - 8 PM,
Panel discussion Fairfax Women's Club, 46 Park Rd, Fairfax, CA 94930
FREE. Light refreshments will be offered
II. April 14 (Saturday), 11:30 AM - 2 PM
Introduction & hike. Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Park is 15 miles
west of San Rafael on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Parking fee
applies. Mailing address: P.O. Box 251, Lagunitas, CA 94938 (415)
488-9897 FREE. Light refreshments. For info:
III. April 15 (Sunday), 1:30 AM - 3:30 PM
Panel discussion. Sebastopol Community Center - Youth Annex, 425
Morris Street, Sebastopol CA 95373. FREE. Light refreshments will be
For info: (707) 433-6686

Or more info on any of the events, or to reserve a seat, contact Catriona MacGregor Amy Racina (707) 433-6686 Susan Alcorn (510) 339-3441 Seating is limited and reserved on a first come basis

#2. The Mystery of the Crocus

At one of our recent Camino programs at REI, someone slipped a note into the basket when I collected names for the upcoming drawing for the collection of goodies (a copy of Camino Chronicle, a Swiss Army style knife, etc.). The paper read, "The crocus is saffron!" At first I thought someone was just fooling around, then I realized that it meant that the plant we identified as crocus in our slides is actually the source of SAFFRON. What a delightful thing to learn! Thank you to the person who passed on the information.

I found this additional info on the Internet, "Saffron is the stigma part of the crocus flower (Crocus sativus). The plant is indigenous to Western Asia and has been cultivated for thousands of years. When trade between the east and west began, saffron was introduced to Europe. The French, Spanish and Italians were the first to use it extensively in their cooking."

The world's largest producers are Iran, Greece, Spain, and India. It is very expensive spices since it is hand picked and must be handled carefully. More than 80,000 individual flowers are required to produce a pound of saffron!"

#3 Susan's Request

If you enjoyed reading "Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago," please ask your library to order a copy for their collection. Many libraries rely on patron' requests. Thank you.

#4 How about a cigar?

Geolyn, an adventurous backpacker and talented cartoonist, recently sent journal entries from one of last year's PCT hikes. She mentioned how some of the members of her party avoided the clouds of mosquitoes--by smoking cigars. "I think the deal with the cigars is the smoke. I would assume it could be any kind of smoke, but for those who enjoy a cigar it's a good excuse to bring it along," she said.

#5. Ten handy items to take on your Camino walk (and most other travels):

1) earplugs (handy of airplanes and in the refugios (hostels);
2) small flashlight;
3) a second ATM or credit card (in case your first one gets "eaten" in a machine);
4) paperback book that you don't mind ripping apart as you read through OR leaving behind for someone else
5) sandals for walking around in the evening (some people like flip-flops for the showers));
6) umbrella (rain and sun protection);
7) a couple of energy bars in case you get stuck with no lunch on Sundays or Mondays (many shops closed);
8) wide-brimmed hat for sun protection;
9) bandanna (versatile: washcloth, bandage, handkerchief);
10) small bars of soap and/or bottle of gel.

#6. Great Old Broads Broadwalks:

I. Recapture Utah, Monitoring event, Date: April 25-30, 2007
Location: near Blanding, UT, Cost: $50 (space is limited to 24
Broads want to Recapture Utah, (or at least parts of it!) for quiet users and the critters. Come help gather data to support our efforts to document ORV use/abuse while enjoying some great hiking. We'll base camp on Cedar Mesa near spectacular Arch Canyon and small teams will hike daily in assigned areas while documenting impacts from motorized recreation. Participants will be trained to use a GPS, digital camera and the Broads Healthy Lands Project monitoring form to collect information. GPS units and digital cameras will be provided for those who need them. We plan on four full days of monitoring. A camp cook will prepare breakfasts and dinners so we can focus on being in the field. Evenings will include informative speakers from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the newly formed Canyon Country Heritage Association. Folks can plan to come early to explore the area or plan to stay and play afterwards. There are not many places to camp and hike finer than southern Utah in the springtime!

II. Scotchman's Peak Broadwalk
Dates: July 26-30, 2007
Location: near Sand Point, ID
Cost: $125 tent campers, $135 RV parking, or $190 for bed in shared
room bunkhouse.
This is a classic Broadwalk where we'll learn about and walk in an area proposed for wilderness designation. We'll spend four nights/ three full days learning about a little known chunk of wild country in the Cabinet Mountains that straddles the Idaho/Montana state line-the 88,000 acre Scotchman's Peak roadless area. We are basing out of the Clark Fork Field Campus (, where we'll have a choice of accommodations and an indoor dining/meeting room where we can avoid bad weather and mosquitoes. Our camp cook will provide yummy breakfasts and dinners each day. Folks from the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks, the local grassroots wilderness advocacy organization, will guide us on an array of special hikes and tell us why this area deserves permanent protection as wilderness.

For more information, please go to . 1911 Main Ave., Suite 272, P O Box 2924, Durango, CO 81301, 970-385-9577; email

#7. Regional: S.F. Bay Area:

Bay Area Ridge Trail Hikes:
I. San Francisco Watershed Hike
Saturday April 7, 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM
San Mateo County, above Crystal Springs Reservoir
Join us for a 13-mile moderately challenging hike on the Fifield- Cahill Ridge Trail through this 24,000 acre preserve, which may only be accessed on a guided trip.

II. Ridge to Bridge
Saturday, April 28
Marin County
Council members can register for this popular annual event starting March 1st. Depending on how well you fare with New Year's fitness resolutions, you can choose a 30-mile, 21-mile, or 13-mile hike or run.
Janet McBride, Executive Director

#8. Regional: Women on Common Ground, East Bay Regional Park District

For information: Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness
PO Box 82, Sunol , CA 94586 (925)862-2601,
For EBRPD info: or (510) 635-0135

Women on Common Ground is a series of naturalist-led programs for
women who love to hike, camp, or otherwise play in the out-of-doors,
but whose concern for personal safety keeps them from enjoying the
wonders within their own parklands.

I. WWII HOME FRONT NATIONAL PARK, Tuesday, March 6 10am - 2pm
Celebrate International Women's Day early with voices of the past as we explore Richmond 's WWII Home Front National Park where "Rosies" built the Victory ships that helped win WWII. Program includes a tour of the Red Oak Victory ship ($5) and an on-board lunch ($4) provided by National Park Service volunteers. Fees are payable to the National Park Service on the day of the tour. Meet outside the park office for our very easy hike with some indoor and on-deck exploration. Registration required. Please call 925-862-2601 by noon, Wed., Feb.28. Specify if you will be joining us for lunch. NPS Ranger Elizabeth Tucker, NPS Volunteers, EBRPD Naturalist Katie

Sunday, April 8 5:30 - 9:30am
SUNRISE AND MOONBEAMS FROM FLAG HILL Rise with the birds this morning for an invigorating uphill hike. We'll share a sunrise snack and wander back looking for wildflowers and other miraculous things. Meet at the Old Green Barn. Registration required. Please call 925-862-2601 by noon, Thursday, April 5. Naturalist Katie Colbert

Monday, May 28 10am - 3pm
As spring fades in to memory and the landscape shifts into summer, we'll see how plants and animals beat the heat in this beautiful park. Wear long pants and socks, bring a trail lunch to share and be prepared for some uphill, off-trail travel on our three - four-mile hike. Meet in the parking lot at the end of Laughlin Rd. Registration required. Please call 925-862-2601 by noon, Thursday, May 24. Naturalist Katie Colbert

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #80 Feb 15, 2007

"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway to the human spirit." --Helen Keller

1. Kilimanjaro Climb
2. Foot Care with Glue
3. Recommended reading: The Long Walk
4. Regional/Statewide: Wilderness alerts
5. Jim Gray, sailor (and backpacker) missing at sea

Kilimanjaro Climb

Our trip to Africa in January was so incredible, I hardly know where to start. Yesterday I looked back at my (computer) folders and saw that it was November of 2005 that Grace Lohr, the Llama Mama of Bishop, first wrote and asked if Ralph and I had ever considered climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Grace had just heard from a friend of hers who had successfully reached the summit (Uhuru Peak at 19,340'). The catch was that the friend was only 37 years old.

Not being one to let age be a determining factor in much of anything, I started doing some research. I called Tusker Trails (the outfit Grace's friend had gone with, and that we eventually chose) and asked about the age factor. Their answer was reassuring, "Actually, being older is often a good thing--you've learned to pace yourself."

Not sure how true that is, but I liked hearing it. When I read through many of the accounts of climbs on Kili on-line, I often saw reference to the Swahili term, "pole, pole." At first I thought climbers were being advised to "dig in" with their hiking poles. I soon learned that it meant, "slowly, slowly." Another confidence booster--I do slowly quite well. I prefer to walk slowly enough to take in what's around me.

Of course we had to have medical checkups (Ralph had a stress test; my doctor said, essentially, that the fact that I had lived through various previous backpacking trips was a stress test in and of itself.) Ralph and I embarked on an exercise program about six weeks before our departure date and were actually pretty faithful to the schedule we set for ourselves (way better than I am usually at carrying out my New Year's resolutions!). We went to the gym; I enrolled in Pilates; we did cardio walks in the hills three times a week and took longer walks once a week. We could have done more and we could have started earlier, but we did feel ourselves getting stronger and that we'd improved our overall fitness.

The journey begins: It was an exhausting 30+ hours traveling to Moshi, the Tanzanian city where the members of our climbing group were to meet and stay before we headed for the mountain two days later. We were a group of ten--six women, four men. Bob, Drew, and John were from Pennsylvania, Aimee, Sharon, and Angela from Texas, Elizabeth from Toronto, Grace from Bishop, CA, and Ralph and I (from Oakland). I was somewhat relieved that the average age seemed to be early fifties-- perhaps I could keep up.

To the starting gate: The day began with a long ride to Londorossi Gate--first on paved roads, eventually on rutted dirt ones. There were thirteen of us in the back on the truck--our hiking team and our three guides. I noticed that there was an armed guard in the passenger seat and wondered if he was there to protect us from people or animals. The Londorossi Gate is the official check-in point where hikers register before starting out on the Lemosho Route.

When we reached the gate, we climbed out of the back of the truck and went to a nearby office to sign the registration book. We surveyed our surroundings--a sad collection of wood houses that seemed to be holding each other up. (These were, I assumed, porters' homes.). While we, the tourists, went to sit on benches and eat our lunch, our guides began the process of signing up our porters--all 48 of them! I noticed that there were scales and that the weight of porters' loads was being determined. (I think that they were not to carry more than 50 pounds.).

Most of us soon found ourselves in a quandary--we had far more food in our lunchbags than we could possibly eat and were being carefully watched by a couple dozen sweet-faced kids. Eventually I decided to give some of my lunch away and I took a hard-boiled egg and part of a sandwich over to hand to a child behind a chain link fence. Unfortunately this set off a pushing and shoving match with other kids trying to claim the prizes. Others who tried to give food away had similar experiences and we all felt very frustrated by the fact that there was such need and we had such limited resources.

After the check-in process and the selection of porters had been completed, we all piled back into the truck and continued on to the actual trailhead. We soon left the dirt road and went onto a deeply rutted muddy one. While on that part of the drive, we had what most of us hoped was to be the only life-threatening moment of the trip. Our truck, mired in mud, ended up with two wheels off the road, on a slope, leaning at a dangerous angle. As the downhill passengers leaped from their seats towards us, we on the uphill side, leaned back. It was like hiking out on a sailboat--and most of us remain convinced that our actions prevented the truck from rolling. Luckily, that WAS the closest call that we had on the trip.

The truck continued on--finally coming to a stop when the road became impassable. We were about a mile short of from the usual start point, but we shouldered our packs and started our climb...

It was fairly hot--probably low eighties. Most of us were in shorts, but expected to be in the shade most of the day since we were in the rainforest. Our guides seemed not to have read the fine print, the "pole, pole" bit, and I was a bit worried. How would I ever keep up? But, for the most part, I did that first day. That night, however, as I fell into bed (tent, comfy air mattress and sleeping bag) I had my first real doubts about my likelihood of reaching the summit. I had thought that the first day of the climb would be relatively easy, so if going from 7,000 - 9,000 feet had been so hard, how could I possibly do well in the subsequent days? Luckily, I found the next two days easier going.

Fast forward: On Sunday, January 28, 2007, our group (except Aimee and Sharon who had to drop out early because of illness) made it to the top. It was, as most everyone says, "tough, but well worth it." The information from Tusker Trails states, "Your ascent from Barafu Camp to the crater and then to the summit will be the toughest section of your climb. Be prepared to DIG DEEP and tap all of your strength, motivation and energy for this 8-12 hour hike above 16,000 feet. IT"S SPECTACULAR HERE! [It]...will most likely be the toughest thing that you have ever done in your life. "

As I said before, this was a most amazing trip; I can still hardly believe it all happened. I'd do it again in a minute, but it would never be the same. We had so many things in our favor--a great "team" of hikers--no one complained, everyone was upbeat; wonderful guides-- highly trained professionals who knew when to encourage and support; porters whose physical strength and joyous manner amazed all of us; favorable weather--minimal rain, no extreme temperatures; a trail that took us through an incredible beautiful and varied series of zones-- rain forest, heather zone, moorland, alpine, and up to the glaciated peak (an awesome sight!).

Let me know if you want to hear more.

#2 Foot Care with Glue

Foot care expert John Vonhof writes in his article, "FOOT CARE TIP - USING GLUE OVER BLISTERS:" '"Here is another one from Dean's list: Learn to Love Krazy Glue. The article went on to say: 'If something goes wrong - and it inevitably will - it's usually with Karnazes' feet. In races and on training runs, he has battled giant, foot- devouring blisters. A surprisingly effective treatment: Krazy Glue. Pop the blister, slather the wound with the super-adhesive, and voilà - your foot is ready to take a beating again. The glue acts as a kind of indestructible second skin and has helped Karnazes finish competitions he wouldn't have otherwise. (Officially, Krazy Glue recommends avoiding all contact with skin.)'"

"This promoted quite a few posts on the Ultrarunning listserv. Folks asked about Krazy Glue. Of course, the Krazy Glue folks have to recommending avoiding all contact with skin. That said, athletes try anything to repair their blisters. Krazy Glue is similar to Dermabond, the medical grade adhesive used in place of sutures (stitches). The products are quite similar. A container of Krazy Glue is inexpensive - less than $3.00, whereas a single use container of Dermabond is $20.00 to $30.00."

[Read the rest of the article and subscribe at: FixingYourFeetEzine-]

#3 Recommended Reading: The Long Walk

Jeannine from Oregon writes, "Here's a book that is griping, terrifying and a must read, "The Long Walk" by Slavomir Rawicz. He was sent to a Siberian labor camp during WWII, escaped w/ six other men and walked 4,000 MILES to India and freedom. Heartrending but couldn't put book down. Tell your hiking friends not to try it. Heh, heh."

#4. Regional/California Statewide Wilderness Alerts

Item 1. EASTSIDE WILDERNESS UPDATE, (Fri, 9 Feb 2007) ANTI-WILDERNESS ISSUE COMING TO MONO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS. On Tuesday the Mono Board [California] of Supervisors discussed ORV [off road vehicle] activist Dick Noles' (Advocates for Access to Public Lands (AAPL)) and the Bridgeport Chamber's request that the Board support AAPL's resolution calling for a legislative ORV overlay over more than a million acres of Eastern Sierra public wildlands, including all those that qualify for wilderness designation. The Board agreed they should hear a presentation by Noles, and have invited him to come give a workshop on the issue. I spoke with Supervisor Hap Hazard this morning and it appears the issue will not come to the Board before March 6. He said it's possible if Dick makes his request in coming days it will be heard on February 20, but that sounds unlikely (the Board does not meet on Feb. 27).

We'll need to pack the room for this meeting. The workshop format will be a very good opportunity for people to critique the AAPL proposal/resolution as we did at Mammoth Town Council. The Board has the authority at this meeting to direct staff to prepare a resolution of support for the AAPL proposal, which is why it will be critical to get people to the meeting. Our goal will be to cut consideration of the resolution off at the pass via this workshop.

Item 2. SENATOR BOXER INTRODUCES STATEWIDE WILDERNESS BILL. As you all know, Senator Boxer introduced a statewide wilderness bill earlier this week to designate more than 2.4 million acres of wilderness throughout California. Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-El Monte) introduced companion legislation in the House. In her press release, the Senator indicated that she would pay special attention to working with Congressman McKeon on an eastside wilderness bill; whether this would be an expanded Eastern Sierra bill or reintroduction of last year's Hoover-Amargosa bill we don't know at this point. Stay tuned.

The bill numbers are S. 493/H.R. 860. The text of the bill has not yet been posted but when it is you can view the bill on the government webpage Thomas at . Sally Miller
The Wilderness Society
100 College Parkway
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
(760) 934-4473
FAX (760) 934-4476
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 442
Lee Vining, CA 93541

#5 Jim Gray, sailor (and backpacker) missing at sea

As many have read, there is a person missing at sea, Jim Gray, who sailed solo in his 40' boat, Tenacious, out of San Francisco Bay on January 28. He was headed toward the Farallon Islands, which are 25 miles west of San Francisco and beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. In a bizarre twist of fate, Geolyn, who produces the drawing of "Boots McFarland" for the Pacific Crest Trail magazine and others, met and hiked for many miles with Jim on the Pacific Crest/Tahoe Rim trails last year. It's impossible to know whether Jim will be located soon, but his connections with the computer world (he's head of research for Bay Area Microsoft) have led to all stops being pulled to locate him via electronic devices. There is a website his friends put up if you want to hear the latest on this phenomenal search.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #79 Jan 15, 2007

1. A Pilgrim Search
2. A Camino scammer story
3. Unrest in Basque (in Spain) area
4. Books for Winter reading
5. Some Federal Park fee increases
6. Views from Mt. Diablo, Pikes Peak, Denali
7. Ray and Jenny Jardine in Antarctica
8. Basics about Bats
9. Reminder: Pilgrim gathering

#1 A Pilgrim Search

Helena of Portugal, a friend who Ralph and I met on the Camino last year, sent the following. It's "a rough translation" of text seen in the town of Manjarín (original text follows):
"Pilgrim that walks up mountains to see horizons.
Wondering and aching soul that searches the truth,
who looks for solitude to have company.
Pilgrim vagabond mind,
that flies more that it walks,
that even before it arrives is already gone.
Your way goes to Santiago,
and you ... where do you go? "

"Peregrino que subes montes para ver horizontes.
Alma errante y dolorida con hambre de verdades
que busca soledades para tener compania

Mente vagabunda peregrina,
que vuela más que camina,
que aun no llega, y ya se va.

Tu camino va a Santiago,
y tu ...a donde vás? "

2. This is a Camino scammer story

Recounted in an Email from Peregrina Stacey on several Camino forums:
"'I walked the Camino starting in Pamplona and ending in Fisterra. Along the way I met some fantastic people, but a group I ended up walking with from Astorga on and I were really screwed over by a con artist along the way. His name is Alejandro, and he walked with us for a couple weeks. He told us he had walked from Belgium and that he had been walking for a little over a year; this is about all he told us that we think is true. The rest of the story was that he had been in a car accident and in it lost his wife and two kids. In the end when we arrived in Santiago all together he ended up stealing 150 Euro from me, my iPod, and another hundred Euros from another in our group, then disappearing. When other Pilgrims heard our story they said they had met him as well and that he had a similar story and got 20 Euro from them.'

We should have been more careful, and I think we learned a valuable lesson. The next day we caught up with him in the pilgrim office and I did get my iPod back. The money wasn't an issue and I honestly didn't care about it. Anyways, I am only afraid that he may continue walking other routes and duping other pilgrims. Since he walked with us for so long I have plenty of pictures of him and if you would like I could forward some to you. I do think it may be a good idea to post something about this on the web site because I would hate for his scams to continue. We did do our best to spread the word on our end, and to send Emails out etc.'

Grant Spangler on his msn forum ElCaminoSantiago commented:
"Thus, kind readers, we see there is little changed since Chaucer penned The Canterbury Tales. Thieves and con men are still plying their trade. The 'wolf in sheep's clothing' as exemplified by Alejandro is as effective as ever. Be spontaneous, live in the moment, have fun, but be watchful.

Note from Susan: Ralph and I never had any problem when staying in the refugios, but occasionally things do happen. When we took showers, we took turns so that the other person could watch our watches, passports, money, etc.

3. Unrest in Basque (in Spain) area

When Ralph and I were in the French Basque region last fall, we were privileged to stay in a charming small hotel in St. Palais. Our host, whose family has owned the home for several generations, was quite optimist about the March 2006 talks and cease-fire announcements between the ETA and Spain's central government. As he explained it, the Basques in France are doing well, but in Spain, dating back to Franco's control, the Basques have been much more marginalized. The Euskadi Ta Askatasuna or ETA (Basque for "Basque Homeland and Freedom") has been termed a terrorist organization because of their violent tactics for achieving independence. But, the last previous fatalities in an ETA attack were two police officers killed in May 2003 near Pamplona and that long absence of fatalities had helped set the stage for the negotiations.

Unfortunately a car bombing in Madrid on December 30, 2006, and a large cache of explosives (220 pounds) found in an abandoned car near Amorebieta (near Bilbao) on January 4 of this year, have shattered the nine-month cease fire. In Madrid, a bomb that the ETA had planted in a Renault van exploded in the five-story parking garage of Madrid's new airport terminal, killing two people, wounding 26, and causing millions of dollars of damage. It was also a setback for Spain Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who has made ending the ETA's forty years of violence a priority during his term of office. Many conservatives have opposed talks with the ETA from the outset because they consider the ETA an active terrorist organization. Zapatero then ordered an immediate "suspension" of government efforts to negotiate a permanent end to ETA's violent campaign for an independent Basque homeland. But leaders of the outlawed leftist Batasuna party, widely linked to ETA, on Wednesday repeated their stance, first mentioned Saturday, that the peace process for them was "not broken," despite the blast.

4. Books for Winter reading

Backpacker Sue Lang wrote to mention that she had enjoyed Amy Racina, "Angels in the Wilderness". "What a page turner!" Sue also recently read "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. "It is about his hike on the Appalachian Trail, with a hiking buddy who probably should not have been hiking, but it makes for funny and interesting reading." Editor's note: I agree. It's been out for a while, but if you haven't read it yet, you should.

5. Some Federal Park fee increases

According to the Yosemite Association newsletter, "Beginning January 1, 2007, the National Park Pass and the Golden Eagle Pass were discontinued and replaced with new America the Beautiful passes. The passes provide access to and use of NPS, USDA FS, FWS, BLM and Reclamation sites which charge an entrance or standard fee for one annual fee. New rates for the America the Beautiful Pass are $80 for 12 months and $10 for seniors." Editor's note: if you already have a pass, it may well be "grandfathered" in. For more information visit

6. Views from Mt. Diablo, Pikes Peak, Denali

Apparently the claim on the summit of our S.F. Bay Area Mt. Diablo that "it is possible to view the second greatest surface area seen from any peak in the world, exceeded only by the 19,340 foot (5,895 m) Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa," is an exaggeration. Another website states that this is a myth put forward by real estate promoter Robert Noble Burgess, who built the first auto road to Diablo's summit, as a draw to his Mt. Diablo Estates project, c. 1914-1917. There is an amazing view possible from Mt. Diablo, however, there are many peaks in Colorado where the view over the Great Plains is much greater. Likewise, Mount McKinley (Denali) in Alaska (according to some calculations) offers viewable area of three times as much.

7. Ray and Jenny Jardine in Antarctica

Ray Jardine, the guru of lightweight backpacking, and his wife, Jenny, who I was lucky enough to interview for "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers", have not slowed their adventurous pace. For several years skydiving has captivated them, but currently they are enjoying what they call their "NFT," Next Fun Trip. They are about Day 67 of their trip in Antarctica. They have already reached the South Pole by skiing. They are pulling sleds piled with immense loads of gear. Now Ray is looking forward to climbing Mt. Vinson. When storms come up, they hole up in their small tent waiting for it to let up--and you think you are suffering from cabin fever! Follow their trip at Ray's website: . There will likely be a new book coming from this incredible adventure.

8. Basics about Bats

Bats are by far the largest predators of night-flying insect pests. One colony of 20 million Mexican Freetail Bats in Texas, for example, consumes 250 tons of insects nightly. Around the world, bats are vital in the pollination and distribution of many plant species, including approximately 450 cash crops on which humans depend. Fourteen of California's 25 species of bats are now waiting for federal protection due to their rapid decline in numbers. Over the past 20 years, California has lost up to 80 percent of its bats, a tragedy that is being repeated worldwide. (info from the Golden Gate Audubon Society)

9. Reminder: Pilgrim gathering

The 10th annual "Gathering of Pilgrims" will be held in Williamsburg, Virginia, March 6-8, 2007. The focus will be the Camino de Santiago, but other pilgrimages will be discussed. for info. Ralph and I will be there; we hope to see you, too.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #78 Jan 1, 2007

1. "Boots" now online
2. Bilgy Tarp Tents
3. Giving Back through VolunteerMatch
4. Global warming affecting Spanish bears
5. National Geographic website
6. Who was Peace Pilgrim?
7. Mt. Kilimanjaro
8. Regional News: S.F. Bay Area outings

1. "Boots" now online

Geolyn, avid backpacker and frequent contributor to the Pacific Crest Trail Magazine, now has a few of her "Boots" cartoons available on line. "Boots" tee-shirts and other merchandise is now available at

2. Bilgy Tarp Tents

 We were happy to hear from Bill of Bilgy Tarp Tents--who designed Bilgy Light Tarp Shelters. Some of the many things we like about this design--the light weight (one person tarp is 1 lb.-12oz.; two-person is 2 lb.-1 oz) that includes the tent stakes. Secondly there is enough height to sit up to dress, etc., there's a built- in pocket, clothesline, and light hangar, and they have a no-see-um walls. I also like the fact that you can either buy the pattern and fabric relatively inexpensively or buy it ready-made. Bill spent eight years on this design. Ralph admired his tent and his combo pack cover - poncho when they were shown last year at a ALDHA-W meeting.

"Tarp Shelter has a 1.3 silicone impregnated ripstop tarp attached to a No-see-um Shelter with 1.3 silicone impregnated ripstop bathtub floor and end flaps to completely cover and protect both ends of the shelter from wind and rain. One or both sides can be lowered to the ground to shed wind..." Go to the website to find out "Why build a Bilgy Tarp Tent?"

3. Giving Back through VolunteerMatch

 REI has a new partnership with VolunteerMatch, a nonprofit organization with a mission to help everyone find a great volunteer opportunity. VolunteerMatch offers a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofits, volunteers and businesses committed to civic engagement. With over 40,000 nonprofit organizations participating, we're confident that you'll find a volunteer opportunity that's meaningful to you. Go to and check out your opportunities.

4. Global warming affecting Spanish bears

Scientists say that some bears of northern Spain have stopped hibernating--likely due to global climate change. In recent years, according to a report by the Spanish Brown Bear Foundation, female bears with cubs have been able to find enough of their natural diet--nuts, acorns, chestnuts, and berries in the mountains to make it through the winter. Male bears in the region have reduced the length of their hibernation.

5. National Geographic website

Just in case you think it's cold where you live, check out "Arctic Trek" in the January online issue of National Geographic for a story of Arctic adventure filled with polar bear visits, cracking ice, storms, temperature at -40, and so on. Also in this issue, photos and story of hummingbirds as well as photos, recordings of, and an article about Humpback whales

6. Who was Peace Pilgrim?

Mildred Lisette Norman was born on July 18, 1908 in New Jersey. In 1953, she changed her name to Peace Pilgrim and began her first cross-country pilgrimage beginning in Pasadena, California. She continued her walks for 28 years covering more than 25,000 miles on a personal pilgrimage for peace. She vowed to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food." In 1981, she was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (though she did not receive it); she died on July 7th of that year.

7. Mt. Kilimanjaro

Because Ralph and I are going to Africa this month, we are continuing to train for our Mt. Kilimanjaro. These cold and windy days are actually very exciting times to be out hiking. For local hikes, it's hard to beat a Mt. Diablo summit hike. Start at Juniper Campground (accessible by either the North Gate or South Gate roads). Head southward to the Summit trail, climb to the Devil's Elbow, follow the North Peak Trail to Prospector's Gap, Take the Bald Ridge Trail (my new FAVORITE), then the Meridian Road, then the Deer Flat Road back around to Juniper. Strenuous, about 6.5 miles, but quite do-able even with the recent rains. Amazing views--in fact it is said that the views from the observation tower atop Mt. Diablo (3,849 feet) are second only to Mt. Kilimanjaro in total land area that can be seen with the naked eye.

8. Regional News: S.F. Bay Area outings

The Golden Gate Audubon Society offers frequent birding trips. Among the January hikes are: East Shore State Park, Berkeley waterfront on Friday, Jan. 26, 9-11 a.m. Contact Bob Lewis, 510-845-5001. In February, trips include a visit to the Hollister area. Meet at the intersection of Hwy. 25 and J-1 in Paicines. 12.5 miles south of Hollister. From there, observers will drive to Panoche Valley (San Benito County.) Usually seen are Golden Eagle, mountain bluebirds, phainopeplas, and vesper sparrows. Chris Carpenter 510-639-1262 (days); 510- 547-2201 (eve.) More info:

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

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Emma Gatewood first hiked the entire 2160 mile Appalachian Trail at the age of 67.  She last hiked it at the age of 76.

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