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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2017

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Publisher of "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill--Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers."

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Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #226 December 2017

At Christmas I no more desire a rose

Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth
But like each thing that in season grows
--Shakespeare Love’s Labor Lost


  1. Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo
  2. Silly, but practical: Christmas Gifts for the Hiker/Backpacker by Cam
  3. Reborn on the Run: My Journey from Addiction to Ultramarathons
  4. Zippee-pants
  5. How life in the wilderness changes people! 
  6. Camino: Gathering American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) 
  7. Camino: Rebekah Scott reports on Ditch Pigs
  8. Backpacks for Thru-Hiking
  9. Why you should use SPF-rated chapstick
  10. Great Hiking Trails of the World (Karen Berger)

4#1. Healing Miles -- Susan’s new book: Announcing her soon-to-be-released (only days away!) new book: Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo. In it,award-winning author Susan Alcorn takes us back to Spain, this time on two of the less-crowded (and more difficult) Camino de Santiago routes, the Caminos Norte and Primitivo. 

In Healing Miles, visit lively cosmopolitan cities and remote hilltop villages; sample pintxos in coastal San Sebastian and sip sidra in trendy Oviedo. You’ll gaze out upon miles of sandy beaches witnessing the ocean’s moods as it blasts seawater up through blowholes. Look across valleys blanketed with fog while hiking along mountain paths. Enjoy visiting museums and cathedrals. Meet new friends, celebrate with the local people, and join colorful festivals. It’s all here--and throughout this deeply personal account of the author’s quest to hike 750 miles across northern Spain, you’ll find Susan facing the challenges of aging and family responsibilities. 

We expect that Healing Miles will be on and available from bookstores soon.

#2. Cam Honan’s humor-filled list of hiker gifts. Of course your gift recipients want dental floss and lint in their Christmas stockings! His Hiking Life blog is worth subscribing to, but until then, check out Cam’s current post:

#3. #3. Reborn on the Run: My Journey from Addiction to Ultramarathons (Hardcover – May 1, 2018 ) Susan comments: I first heard about Catra Corbett, the author of this book (which is due out this spring), when she was running the John Muir Trail. She now holds the fastest known “yoyo” time (running it back and forth) on the 212-mile long John Muir Trail, a total of 424 miles, completing it in 12 days, 4 hours, and 57 minutes. I am friends with her on Facebook, so I frequently see her posts about 100-mile runs. With wild tattoos covering much of her body and many piercings, her bright and colorful running clothing, and her faithful dachshund, TruMan, Catra stands out in any crowd. And, as unique as she appears--she is also upbeat, focused and inspiring. I think she's the greatest!

Amazon publisher comments, “Catra has quite a story to tell. She was a meth addict for two years. But then she was caught. After a night in jail is enough to set her straight. She gives up drugs and moves back home with her mother, abandoning her friends, her boyfriend, and the lifestyle that she came to depend on. Her only clean friend pushes her to train for a 10K with him, and surprisingly, she likes it--and decides to run her first marathon after that…."

“In Reborn on the Run, the reader keeps pace with Catra as she runs through difficult terrain and extreme weather, is stalked by animals in the wilderness, and nearly dies on a training run but continues on, smashing running records and becoming one of the world’s best ultrarunners. Along the way she attempts suicide, loses loved ones, falls in love, has her heartbroken, meets lifelong friends including her running partner and TruMan, and finally faces the past that led to her addiction.
She now has become the first American woman to run one hundred miles on more than one hundred occasions, the first to run two hundred miles at once (on the Ohlone wilderness trail)."
Put this one on your calendar or your wish list on Amazon: Notice is under Running & Jogging. Kindle $23.74, Hardcover $24.99.

#4. Zippee-pants. Cathy Seitchik Diaz and her partner are working on a new product that many women hikers will love when they need to pee when outdoors. Their Zippee-pants have many benefits, which she lists: 
NO MORE ......
- Finding a Hiding Place.
- Baring my Bottom.
- Squatting. -Albeit good for Quads. 
- Boyfriend Shielding, NOR Waiting!
Just ....
*UnZip, Pee, Zip, Walk*
Facebook fans can follow Cathy Seitchik Diaz, see a demo by  Cathy Seitchik Diaz , and follow the progress of getting this product to market. Currently a prototype is underway.

2#5. Ned Tibbits, of Mountain Education, will present "Holding the Hand Unseen," center stage in Auburn, CA, on  January 5 & 6, 2018 ,  7:00-10:00pm.  The venue is the State Theater where there will be a unique, intimate, two-night charity fundraiser discussing how life in the wilderness changes people! Click here for details.

Guests will also find sponsor swag giveaways, a thru-hiker gear raffle, gear comparisons 1974 to present, the original 1974 Kodachrome 25 slide show with Ned's unique, digitally stitched, three-slide panoramas, intimate discussion about the internal metamorphosis that happens to hikers during long-distance hiking, observations about planning and trail life, 1974 to now, and for the PCT/JMT 2018 hopeful, an extensive Q & A session about Mountain Safety, the snow, the creeks, and the 2017 "Season of Fire & Ice!" Tickets are now on sale! Limited seating (only 340!) $25

#6. 2018 Gathering of Pilgrims. “Making Meaning from Memories” is the theme of the 21st Annual Gathering of Pilgrims, Thursday, April 12 - Sunday, April 15, 2018. To be held at the Vallombrosa Center*in Menlo Park, California (changed venue).

There will also be a Hospitalero Training,  Tuesday, April 10 - Thursday, April 12, 2018 . More info at

#7. Rebekah Scott and the Ditch Pigs. Rebekah is an American expatriate who lives in a tiny Moratinos, which is along the Camino Francés. She and her husband Paddy call their place the Peaceable Kingdom and often host Camino visitors. She and a crew called “Ditch Pigs,” annually do massive litter cleanup along the Camino. Anyway—when Rebekah recently mentioned having completed this year’s cleanup, I wrote her to see how things are. “Susan Alcorn, the litter has changed now, fewer glass bottles, aluminum cans, and wrappers. MUCH more toilet tissue. Plastic water bottles still abound. Volume is down, probably because we're only picking up a single year's worth of trash now.” [when they started there were many years of accumulation].

I find it terribly gross that anyone would not clean up after themselves and would leave it for others to do. As mentioned previously, there are many alternative: reduce TP use and when necessary to use it, pack it out in a baggie that you’ve brought for that purpose. With almost 300,000 other people on the trails, you can rarely find a spot close by where you can bury paper that would not be disturbed by other people or by animals. And the plastic bottles—pilgrims don’t need to be leaving these behind either. Use a water bladder, or a reusable container. If you do use plastic bottles, and we sometimes do, refill them rather than discard. There are myriad places along the trail to get fresh water—including wherever it is that you stop for the night.

1#8. Backpacks for Thru-Hiking. This blog post, also by Cam, gives straightforward recommendations and info about selecting a comfortable and good quality backpack of reasonable weight (three pounds or less)

#9. Reminder from John Vonhof. “If you are a runner, walker, cyclist, hiker, make sure you use Chapstick with a good SPF rating. I saw the dermatologist today and the medicine I had to use on my lower lip did its job of killing the pre-cancerous cells. Oftentimes we use Chapstick, but forget it’s better to use one with SPF properties.” John is the author of Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes.

#10.  Great Hiking Trails of the World: 80 Trails, 75,000 Miles, 38 Countries, 6 Continents  

by Karen Berger  (Triple Crown hiker). This is a beautiful new coffee table book, chock full of color photos--and I am thrilled to have two of my photos of Patagonia included. Available

Note: all photos above by Susan or Ralph Alcorn

Happy Holidays, trails and travels!
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #225, November 2017


1. Permits for Pacific Crest Trail
2. When to Call it Quits on the Pacific Crest Trail (Cam’s blog)
3. Winter Pilgrim heading for Danube walk
4. Camping with Teenagers
5. Camino: Anacortes woman completes Camino Frances at age 93
6. Prevent blisters
7. François D'Haene bests John Muir Trail speed record
8. Youngest child to complete the Appalachian Trail?
9. Tom Steinstra suggests anti-litter strategies
10.Over 100 national parks will waive admission fees on November 11, 2017 in honor of Veterans Day. 


#1. Pacific Crest Trail Permits: Long-distance permits are only for people traveling 500 miles or more in a single trip. If you plan on hiking or horseback riding 500 or more continuous miles along the PCT in a single trip, the Pacific Crest Trail Association can issue you an interagency PCT Long-distance Permit, free. Keep in mind: first come, first served. The permit process is now underway for trips starting at the Mexican border. You’ll have to wait for  Jan. 17, 2018  for trips starting elsewhere.

“Traveling southbound from Canada into the United States is illegal. Because of U.S. Customs and Border Protection regulations, no permits will be issued originating in Manning Provincial Park, BC, Canada. If you wish to start at the northern terminus, you will be issued a permit for the US/Canada border. You’ll need to start in the United States and hike north to the northern terminus of the PCT at the international border.”

There is a great deal more important information at the PCTA website.

#2. When to Call it Quits on the Pacific Crest Trail: With disturbing frequency, backpackers die in the mountains during the first snows of the season. Avalanche danger, hypothermia and obliterated trails are a threat to your life. Snow has closed the PCT in Washington as early as mid-September. In a normal year, you should plan to be off the trail by October at the latest. Cam’s post on The Hiking Life, Oct. 27, 2017. Cam’s blog voices the concern that many have about increasing numbers of hikers who are getting into trouble on PCT thru hikes because they haven’t done their homework. Clearly unexpected events happen that necessitate calls for Search and Rescue, but some incidents that have happened on the trail could have been avoided if the hikers had not succumbed to one or more of the following:

a) border fever = they can almost taste Canada

b) overestimating their own abilities and underestimating how dangerous October conditions can be in WA. Many who reach Washington, think they know a lot about hiking because they have already completed 2,000 miles including the Sierra with its snow, ice, and raging rivers—and they do, but Washington in October is different than what they have encountered previously and requires a far different set of skills. Read Paul “Mags” Magnanti’s article about this topic: ThruHikers: Specialized Outdoors Knowledge.

c. depending on personal locator beacons/satellite. Short answer—the devices can and often do, fail. Carry paper maps and compass and know how to use them.

More articles worth reading: PCTA: Backcountrybasics regarding snow and PCTA: ThruHiking – Northbound Vs Southbound

2#3. Winter Pilgrim is at it again—making a winter pilgrimage. This year’s plan for her long-walk is the length of the Danube: From the mouth at the Black Sea, (dropping a few times into Bulgaria), Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, to the source of the Danube in Germany. Winter Pilgrim stays in churches, private homes, monasteries—whatever pops up.

Anne Sieben, American born, “global by existence,” started her long pilgrimages in 2007 with a 200-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago and then the Via Francigena from Canterbury to Rome in December or that year. Since that time she has made winter pilgrimages in Mexico, South America, Russia, the U.S., Africa, and more. You’ll find plenty of blog reading material, maps, andmore at her website.  

#4. Teenagers and Camping: Super ideas by Paul Turner for keeping teenagers occupied (and out of trouble) when camping. My favorite is #2. “The Human Pinball Machine,” a fun variation on dodgeball.

#5. Woman hits the Camino at age 93: Wow, quite a record and achievement. Mother and daughter pair Dorothea Adaskin and Tanya Bigge walked the Camino Frances (the best-known trail of the Camino de Santiago routes) this summer. Perhaps not so unusual for family members to walk the ancient trail together, but Dorthea’s age, 93, is! Both are Anacortes, Washington and walked the 500 miles of the Frances from St. Jean Pied du Port to Santiago de Compostela. “Adaskin said when she was starting out on the Camino, she had two goals: to walk the whole thing, beginning to end, and to end the trip well and healthy, with no injuries.” She met her goals. They focused on the little things—the beauty of wildflowers and wildlife as well as the history of the trail and the churches they visited.

Some of their keys to success: they walked between 15 and 25 kilometers a day (or about nine to 15 miles), they packed light, they carried “inserts and bandages” to take care of their feet. They carried only one changes of clothes and shoes and soon learned that stores along the way have ample supplies of anything additional needed.
As many who have walked the Camino have learned from their experiences, Bigge found that there is a certain pleasure and sense of confidence that grows when you bring only limited supplies. “She realized there are so many things, life’s little luxuries, that she shouldn’t take for granted.”
Reassurance to those of us who have had some difficulty with returning to “real life” after a Camino trip—Bigge also experienced some “re-entry” difficulties: you no longer are getting up each morning, packing, and setting out for a 10-mile hike over hill and dale—life is more complicated at home.
One final thing, Bigge recommends people go with a one-way ticket so there is no pressure to meet a deadline for a return. Read more here

#6. Preventing blisters. John Vonhof, author of Fixing Your Feet, also has a blog. Learn how to prevent blisters, or if you get them, how to fix them. Vonhof often spends days at running events helping participants with their foot problems—he has seen it all. 

#7.  François D'Haene Breaks John Muir Trail Speed Record. On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, François D’Haene, a French ultrarunner, completed the John Muir Trail. The trail is approximately 225 miles long and provides approx. 46,000 feet of ascent. D’Haene started at the southern terminus, the foot of Mount Whitney (14,505’) and ended in Happy Isles in Yosemite. His time was 2 days, 19 hours, and 26 minutes—beating Leor Pantilat’s 2014 record of 3 days, 7 hours, and 36 minutes.

He was aided by excellent fall weather and a support team that met him along the way with food, water, and a bed for his very brief naps.  

D’Haene is not a new-comer to Herculean events: he won the prestigious and highly competitive Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc—a 103-mile race with over 30,000 feet of elevation gain—for the third time this year. Article by Wes Judd. Interview with D’Haene here.

The women’s supported record for the John Muir Trail is currently held by Darcy Piceu.  Her supported run was 3 days, 4 hours and 12 minutes—beating the previous 3 days, 15 hours, 32 minutes record set by Sue Johnston in August 2007 by more than 11 hours. Here. 

#8. Youngest Appalachian Trail completion? It’s not over yet, but for fun, you can follow the Appalachian Trail hike by Derrick, Bekah, and their baby Ellie. They started their 2,185 mile flip-flop hike in March 2017 in Virginia and except to finish next year when Ellie is 15 months old. When they finish their trip, they believe Bekah will be the youngest person on record to complete the trail with mom and dad. Note: she enjoys her outings in a child carrier because she’s not walking yet. There’s a lot of practical and motivating information on their blog.

#9. Tom Steinstra, Outdoors columnist in the S.F. Chronicle, has some important points to make in his article “The secret to cleaning up our parks.” Stats he gave: Volunteers in Yosemite picked up nearly 12,197 pounds of trash last year. At Lake Tahoe, volunteers picked up 5,000 cigarette butts. Steinstra has several suggestions to help solve the littering problems: issue litter bags to park visitors, ban cigarettes with filters, paint messages on storm drains like we now have with “Dump No Waste, Drains to Bay.” Steinstra recalls Mott, previously director of National Parks, picking up a piece of litter in front of a group of park employees—and delivering the message—pick up one piece of litter every day—and that example will lead visitor to do the same. [Editor:] I often pick up litter during our walks as I suppose most of you do. I now have set a goal to pick up at least one piece EVERY time I go for a walk. Wouldn’t it be great if we all did this?

1#10. Don’t forget these events: Tomorrow’s Full Moon; Set your clocks back one hour this Sunday (or Sat. night); Veteran’s Day is Sat., Nov. 11, 2017. Some schools and governmental offices will be closed. Many business andmuseums have special offers and discounts to VeteransOver 100 national parks will waive admission fees to everyone on November 11, 2017 in honor of Veterans Day. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy trails and travels, 

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #224, October 2017

Pull out, pull out, on the Long Trail—the trail that is always new.

Rudyard Kipling, The Long Trail


"_blank" data-saferedirecturl="">11.    1. Canada’s 'Great Trail'
2.How to Lead a Hike & How to Calculate Hiking Time
3.Buddy Backpacker Earns Triple Crown
4.Donna Saufley Completes PCT
5. New Appalachian Record
6. Controversy over PCT Claim
7. Stixskin
8. Camino: Assault on the Portuguese route
9. Sanger's Bay Area Hills Project

10. Correction

#1. Canada’s Great Trail. It has been suggested, in jest, that I tackle the Great Trail in Canada. Maybe after it is completely waymarked and a groomed trail? Honestly, I always love hearing about routes and trails and wonder how long it will be before this one has been walked/canoed  in its entirety. The route, which goes across southern Canada and then loops around at the end, is 15,000 miles long and about a fourth of that is under water.

“In 1992, three Canadians inspired by their country’s 125th birthday celebration, thought up a crazy plan. What if they could connect all of Canada’s hiking trails, footpaths, rail trails, and boardwalks and into one giant mega-trail that snaked from coast to coast? It’s now 2017. Canada has celebrated its 150th birthday. And on  August 26th , those three dreamers—along with the thousands of volunteers who helped clear brush, fix planks, put up signs, and do all the other little tasks that make wilderness passable—celebrated the coast-to-coast connection of what they’re calling the Great Trail.”

"_blank" data-saferedirecturl="">

#2.  How to Lead a Hike and How to Calculate Hiking Time. If you are going for a hike, particularly if you are leading others on one, it’s important to know how long you will be out. I can only recall one instance when Ralph and I were stuck out on a trail at an hour when we had expected to be driving home—that was enough for us to realize the folly of our ways. (It was also a reminder to carry a flashlight or headlamp even on dayhikes!)

There are many articles on both topics, here are a couple to get you thinking. “How to Lead a Hike.”  "_blank" data-saferedirecturl="">

“How to calculate hiking time” "_blank" data-saferedirecturl="">

#3. Buddy Backpacker earns the Triple Crown Hiker Award. It appears that not all kids are glued to their electronic devices—at least not full time. Christian Thomas Geiger, trail name Buddy Backpacker, and age nine, has just FINISHED the CDT and set a new record to become the youngest Triple Crown Hiker!!!!!! (Facebook 9/14/17). He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, April 27, 2013 to January 24, 2014 and the Pacific Crest Trail April 5, 2014 to November 24, 2014 (southbound)  "_blank" data-saferedirecturl=""> (also on Facebook)

Buddy’s accomplishments may be out of the ordinary, but his jokes are typical nine-year-old humor.

Q. What do you call a bear without any teeth?

A. Gummy bear

"_blank" data-saferedirecturl="">3#4. Donna L-Rod Saufley, well-known and much loved trail angel at Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce, CA, completed her own Pacific Crest Trail hike on  September 1 . She posted on Facebook. “While the rest of the world was on fire or flooding, this happened. Finished at  6 pm  on  September 1 with Square Peg and Mother Fire. Many thanks to Lookout (Connie Davis) for the awesome trail magic at Manning Park.” As one who completed the entire PCT in sections over many years, I can understand what a thrill it must be for Saufley to have a dream come true. (photo: dogs greet us at Saufley's Hiker Heaven, 2007.)

#5. New AT Record set.  “Joe ‘Stringbean’ McConaughy, a well-known speed hiker, set a new record on the Appalachian Trail today. He hiked the 2,190-mile route in an unofficial fastest known time (FKT) of 45 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes. (Sean McCoy August 31, 2017).

#6. Controversy over PCT and AT claims. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, there isn’t any official way of confirming that an individual has completed most trails—including our long-distance trails such as the PCT, AT, and CDT (Continental Divide Trail). That extends, of course, to claims that someone has broken a speed record, etc. Claims made have traditionally been made based on an honor code, but they are used backed up by submitted GPS records, photos, and so forth.  However, when someone makes a claim that seems impossible, the hiking community starts asking questions.

This September, Donna Saufley, who has contact with hundreds if not thousands of PCT hikers, asked the tight-knit community if anyone had seen a woman, Stacy Kozel, on the trail. With a couple of exceptions (which also have been questionable). No one had. Kozel, who has lupus and is a quadriplegic, was claiming that she had just completed the PCT wearing computer-powered leg braces. She had previously claimed that she hiked the Appalachian Trail. Initially, media spread the news. “Quadriplegic takes on a new hike after conquering the Appalachian Trail appeared in USA Today. ("_blank" data-saferedirecturl="">Sheeka Sanahori, July 25, 2017)

But after Kozel’s claims began being questioned, several media members pulled their stories. People asked how Kozel could have done 30-mile days, whether it would be possible to do the trail without being seen by other hikers, trail angels, shopkeepers, etc. Kozel, who is writing a book about her adventures, maintains that she did the entire trail, but hiked at night, wanted to maintain her privacy, and is hurt by those who are questioning her claims.

Why should anyone care? As many have mentioned, a false claim is a disservice to those, including those with handicaps, who really have ‘walked the talk.' It is a slap in the face to the half-dozen people who died attempting a thru-hike this year. And finally, it might lead some to attempt a thru-hike who could underestimate the challenges of the trail—especially in such extreme conditions as the trail presented this year. Many would like Kozel's claims to be true, but so far, evidence is lacking.

Although some articles about her have been removed, as has Kozels’s Facebook page, some blogs are still online. "_blank" data-saferedirecturl=""> and "_blank" data-saferedirecturl="">

#7.  Personalize your hiking poles. I read today, on Ivar’s Camino forum, of a product that can be used to identify your hiking poles. Occasionally people on the Camino, and I’m sure elsewhere, go to retrieve their hiking poles in a albergue or restaurant, and find that they have been taken. Presumably by mistake, but probably also sometimes on purpose. One answer is to mark the poles in some distinctive manner so that mistakes aren’t made. Some of people use duct tape; I’ve used nail polish. Today’s suggestion was for Stixstick covers. Stixstic covers are of a vinyl covering decorated in bright patterns. The company currently offers about 20 styles, but will soon offer more. 4.99 pounds (plus shipping from the UK). I think they are wonderful, but if many people doing the Camino use the scallop shell design, we’d be back to square one on identification. I wonder—anyone have suggestions on what to use?  "_blank" data-saferedirecturl="">

8. Camino and Personal Safety. Unfortunately, though it is pretty rare, bad things can happen on the Camino. On September 19th, 2017, a peregrina just setting out from Lisbon, Portugal, was assaulted and robbed. Though Ana Barranco was thankful that she was not hurt more seriously than she was, and graciously thanked those who helped her, she left the trail. She, and the authorities she reported her attack to, were in agreement that the section of the trail (near the Tijo River on the way to Sacavem) is not very safe. Read her account on"_blank" data-saferedirecturl="">

#9. David Sanger, who is a noted photographer, has been working on a project he calls the Bay Area Peaks project. He is inviting those interested to check out his peak images and commentary on his website "_blank" data-saferedirecturl=""> I’ve interviewed Sanger previously because of his interesting topic, but also because he is leaving his Nikno at home and has been using his iPhone, using various models from iPhone 3 to the current 7 Plus.

David writes, “... feedback is especially helpful at this early stage. Please take some time to explore and let me know what you like or don't like or would like to see. It's a new design that is mobile-friendly so please try it on your phone too.”

"_blank" data-saferedirecturl="">2#10. Correction to September issue of this newsletter. "It’s Biloba, not bilabo," says Marcy del Clements .  This was in reference to using the leaves from the Gingko Biloba tree, a remedy that has been used in China for thousands of years to help with altitude sickness. Never one to slow down, Marcy (who I interviewed for We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill," is now planning a climb up Mt. Kinabalu (Borneo) in 2019.

Note: photo at top: Susan on the PCT crossing into Canada in 2010; photo at bottom, our Gingko tree. 

Happy trails and travels,  
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #223 September 2017


  1. Susan Alcorn and the Panel Discussion at Book Passage
  2. Good News for Aging Hikers!
  3. Avoiding Altitude Sickness
  4. Controversy over New Speed Record Claimed for Appalachian Trail
  5. 2018 Permits for Pacific Crest Trail Soon Available
  6. Women’s Safety on the Camino
  7. Change of location for 2018 Pilgrim Gathering
  8. Pilgrim Hospitalero training
  9. About the photos
  10. Regional: S.F.  Bay Area pilgrim events
  11. Request for your news and stories

#1.  Panel on travel and travel writing. On Sunday in September (September 3, 2017) in the Event Room, I will be joining the ‘Writers Road’ panel at the next Left Coast Writers® Literary Salon at Book Passage in Corte Madera. We’ll be talking about traveling, writing, our work and our books. Also on the panel, moderated by Linda Watanabe McFerrin, will be Lou Ann Granger (With Love for the Journey: Life Lessons from the Artist's Journals) and Erin Byrne (WINGS: Gifts of Art, Life and Travel in France).  My books include: Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine; Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago and We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers.  If you would like to attend, please send me a note! 

Posted by Left Coast Writers, “Susan Alcorn, travel writer and long-distance trekker, has walked more than 3,000 miles in Spain, France, Portugal, and Switzerland on Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes. From her first walk across Spain, came her book, Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago, which was named finalist for the prestigious 2007 Ben Franklin award for Best Travel Essay. She has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro; journeyed to Torres del Paine, Chile, to hike its famous circuit route (from which came Patagonia Chronicle); and completed the Pacific Crest Trail.  Although she is not averse to traveling by car, boat, train, plane, bus, and rail, she believes that on foot is often the best way to get acquainted intimately with the people, culture, and land through which she travels. Her upcoming book, Caminos Norte and Primitivo: Paths and Interludes, will be released this fall.”

#2. Aging and Altitude! Tusker Trails, who we went with on our Mt. Kilimanjaro trip (and highly recommend—no pun intended) suggests that we may be able to keep climbing the high peaks—or at least deal with the thinning air—quite well as we age. No spoilers here, enjoy the article.

#3. Where Diamox is not an option. Another article from Tusker Trail newsletter on altitude“Just two percent of the world’s population lives permanently at high altitude above 10,000 feet. Those in South American and Asian are able to cope with altitude sickness either through their genetic evolution which, in the case of the Nepalese, took 6,000 years to develop enlarged lungs or something quicker— locally found herbs and other plant compounds to combat it.” The goal of all medications and herbal remedies is to improve to allow the brain to tolerate low oxygen levels.

Primarily they rely on coca leaf in Peru—and have done so for the last 5,000 years. When Ralph and I landed in Cusco, sitting in the Andes at 10,000-feet in elevation, we were immediately welcomed with a cup of coca tea (which does not provide the “high” of cocaine). Free tea bags are found in most every hotel.

The world’s highest railway is between China and Tibet and the station in the Tanggula Pass is at 16,640 feet. They have experimented with various “herbal solutions in pill, powder and sterilized injection form with railway workers with AMS. Researchers concluded that these concoctions may have had a positive effect to reduce the severity of AMS. The Chinese are continuing to build new high altitude rail lines to Tibet and are likely to conduct more rigorous trials to see if Gingko Bilabo, Rodiolo, Fufang yi hao, 

or Sheng nao kang provide a cure for AMS.”  Stay tuned.

Yet, Tusker founder Eddie Frank and the Wilderness Medical Society’s assessments still favor the use of Diamox—in part because other remedies such as coca leaf and Ginkgo may be of varying quality. Diamox is considered “a far superior prophylaxis for AMS prevention,” the society writes. Frank notes that the natural approach--“going slow, hydrating, eating properly while being in peak physical condition for the trek” works for many.

#4. Can He Prove It? “Just after  1 a.m.  on  July 19 , Dan “Knotts” Binde summited Maine’s Mount Kathadin, the northernmost terminus of the Appalachian Trail.” One of his sisters soon posted on Facebook that he had broken the AT speed record for a self-supported thru-hike of the 2,181-mile trail. Ten days after he finished, Binde posted his claim on the Fastest Known Time Pro Boards forum—which is considered “the clearinghouse for fastest known time (FKT) attempts.”

However, controversy has arisen. In an article in Outside Newsletter, 8/22/17, Kathryn Miles asks the question some people have raised, “Can He Prove It?” The article discusses the need for “a better system for verifying hikers' times.” As it currently stands, hikers self-report their record-breaking hikes, but it’s expected that they document their trip with trip logs and SPOT data. Binde has lots of support for his claim—other hikers who saw him on the trail going at a good clip and so forth, but there are gaps in his GPS data (yet we know that electronics can fail).

“If Binde’s claim is true, that would mean he bested the current self-supported record of 54 days, 7 hours, and 48 minutes, set in 2015 by Heather “Anish” Anderson.” What do you think?

#5. Pacific Crest Trail Permits: The PCTA has announced that “the first batch of 2018 permits will be released on  Nov. 1, 2017 .” And they note this is much earlier than in previous years. “This will allow distance hikers more time to plan their trips and give us more time to process these interagency permits.” A second batch will be released in January.

#6. Women’s Safety on the Camino. In general, the Camino paths are very safe places to be, but just like in the “real world,” incidents occur. Anyone on the trails is well advised to program Spain’s (and many other countries in Europe) emergency number, 112, into their telephone. There is a downloadable App that allows you to send an alert from a mobile device/"smartphone'" to the police.

Finally, for the benefit of everyone, it is urged that you report all incidents to the police.

#7. American Pilgrims Event: There has been a change of location for the 2018 Gathering of the American Pilgrims on the Camino. The location of the gathering has been moved to the Vallombrosa Retreat Center in Menlo Park, California.  It will be  April 12 - 15 . Registration will open in January 2018.


#8.  APOC training for pilgrim albergue hosts. Members only! The next Hospitalero training courses will be held Friday, October 13, 2017 through Sunday, October 15, 2017 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

11The cost is $295, which includes the training, two nights' accommodations and all meals Friday evening through Sunday lunch. Email for more information:

#9. About the photos: We have been taking our grandchildren camping at Lassen Volcanic National Park (CA) the last couple of years. Much less crowded than Yosemite (though you still need to get your reservations in early). It's a wonderful area for hiking and backpacking. This last trip we really enjoyed climbing the cinder cone in the NE corner of the park. 

#10. Regional: S.F. Bay Area: Camino and Hiking Event. Saturday, September 2nd, 10:30 am – 2 pm . Lake Merritt Walk + Camino Lunch & Learn. Laurie A. Ferris posts, “This is an informal gathering that takes place on the first Saturday of the month, rain or shine. The group meets at  10:30 a.m.  at the pergola on the east side of Oakland’s Lake Merritt and starts walking promptly at  10:45 a.m.  It’s a level, 3.3 mile walk around the lake that takes about an hour. All are welcome (American Pilgrims members and non-members). Afterwards, there is an optional brunch at Barlago Italian Kitchen. Check out the menu. Remember: Bring cash to split the checks.

Camino Lunch & Learn is a new forum for Bay Area pilgrims to learn about Camino, share their own experiences, or present a topic. For the September 2nd walk, Laurie Ferris, NorCal chapter steering committee member, will present on the One-Week Camino with highlights of the Camino Portugués Central route. The talk will start around  12:45 p.m.  in the private dining room for those who attend lunch at Barlago. The space is extremely limited, so RSVP on the Facebook event or email"

Laurie adds, “We’ll continue with this “Camino Lunch & Learn” series as long as there is interest. The Lake Merritt walks have been a great way for like-minded people to keep the spirit of the Camino alive, right here at home. My hope is for this camaraderie to continue after our monthly walk, where everyone can gather in a comfortable atmosphere over a good meal and learn about Camino topics. I enjoyed every step of my “short” Caminos and look forward to sharing the highlights and lessons learned with those who might not have the time to walk longer Camino routes.” If you are in the Bay Area, join the Peregrinos Northern California Facebook Group to get details on this and other events.

Directions to the walk: Take BART to the 19th Street Oakland station (Lake Merritt station will be closed this weekend) and navigate your way to the Pergola. If you drive, make sure to give yourself enough time to find parking, as there are many activities on Saturday mornings in the Lake Merritt area.

22#11. Hiking Community News Welcomed: I know that many are still busy enjoying summer hiking and trips, but when you have a moment, consider sending news of your adventures to us to share with others in this community. 

Happy Labor Day Weekend!  
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #222 August 2017


  1. Where in the world were the Alcorns last month?
  2. Fatalities on the PCT
  3. Health care
  4. Melatonin updates
  5. Pacific Crest Trail Days
  6. Good exercise advice for seniors
  7. Nat'l Albariño Day.
  8. Camino News—National
  9. Camino News—Regional



#1. The Alcorns took a hike—in France. In June, Ralph and I began a new hike on an old trail—the Camino route from Vezelay, FR. This description is from the website of the Confraternity of Saint James. “The route runs southwest from the little town of Vézelay (in Burgundy), famous for its pilgrimage to the shrine of Mary Magdalene, whose relics are reputedly kept in its magnificent Abbey.  There are two distinct branches, the Bourges and Nevers routes, which meet in the village of Gargilesse.”

We chose the Nevers route and walked for two weeks covering about 130 miles. More info from CSJ: "The “Nevers route [goes] through Saint-Amand-Montrond and La Châtre. Route is 31.6 km longer than the Bourges route, unless the variant via Augy-sur-Aubois is chosen which halves the extra distance.  The terrain is more undulating and varied....” The total distance from Vézelay to Saint Jean Pied du Port is approx. 900 km, from Vézelay to Santiago approx. 1700 km.

We enjoyed our hike—very quiet, flat, and through lovely pastoral lands and charming villages. The weather was somewhat challenging—very hot initially (mid 90s), then humid, didn’t cool much at night so made for restless sleeping. Accommodations are quite limited, so we had to choose between walking shorter distances than we preferred, or longer. We took shorter days and I would advise bringing some good reading material because there is little to do in tiny villages if your French is as limited as ours is. We saw only four other pilgrims.  

We are looking forward to seeing more of this route.

#2. Recent deaths on the PCT. As many of us anticipated, this has been a very difficult and risky year to be on the Pacific Crest Trail. Last winter’s heavy snowfall has led to much higher water runoff in the rivers that must be crossed by thru-hikers.

One particularly difficult crossing is on the South Fork of the Kings River in Kings Canyon. It was there that Rika Morita, 32, (trail name: Strawberry) lost her life. She had come from Osaka, Japan to thru-hike the trail. She was hiking alone, but was reported missing by her father. On July 23, her body was found in the river by other PCT hikers.

Another fatality was discovered on July 31. The body of a young woman, believed to be that of Chaocui Wang (trail name: Tree) of China (but not officially given yet), was found in Rancheria Creek in Kerrick Canyon of Yosemite, downstream from where the PCT crosses the creek.

And there have been other  deaths. Reported in the PCT Newsletter, “In late May, Marvin Novo, of Turlock, California, died while hiking near Whitewater Preserve. He was 58 and had been planning his PCT hike for at least a decade. It is suspected that his death was heat related. In February, another hiker died after falling on ice near Islip Saddle in the Angeles National Forest.”

When viewing videos from other hikers, it is almost unbelievable that anyone has made it through the Southern Sierra this year—many have (probably wisely) bypassed the riskier sections or made the decision to make their attempt later this year, or another year. The Fresno Bee has an excellent article on conditions on the trail and a video of Anya Galina Sellsted barely escaping drowning while attempting to cross a river on a log.

As Jack Haskel wrote in the PCTA newsletter, “We don’t know the specifics of the latest tragedies and won’t speculate. But know this. If you are out there and faced with a dangerous situation, it’s ok to turn back. It’s about the journey, not the destination. It’s ok to stop what you are doing and find a safe place to wait out weather or conditions or simply get yourself to town. This will ensure that you’ll be able to hike another day. Our hearts go out to all of their families and friends, both on the trail and off. We’re so sorry for your loss.”

Dan on the John Muir Trail forum posted, “I started 6/30 NOBO from Horseshoe meadows and finished 7/21 at Happy Isles (Wahoo go me!) It was much harder and more challenging than I imagined. Of streams, “Just about all of them had logs or some means of crossings with some exceptions: A) South Fork Kings River is tough. I crossed in the afternoon 200 meters above crossing point and almost died.”  

Subscribe here:

#3. Health care. I recently went to the dermatologist for a minor procedure and got some good advice on wound care. I was instructed to protect the spot of the biopsy with Vaseline and cover with a bandage. I asked about Neosporin, which we have always carried when hiking in case of a scratch or cut. I was advised that Neosporin is not the ointment of choice. It forms a scab on the outside first, whereas you want the wound to heal from the inside. The notice I took home stated “Avoid the use of Neosporin since it can cause allergic contact rashes.” If an antibiotic is needed, I was advised to use Polysporin—so we have changed to that.

#4. Melatonin: UCWellness Letter reports on Melatonin—It seems that you may not be getting what you expected. In a Journal of Clinical Medicine in 16 brands of the supplement—samples contained one-fifth to five times more than stated (even within the same lots!) The study also found that 25% of the samples also contained serotonin, which was not listed in the ingredients. It was recommended that you look for the USP Verified seal—to meet requirements of the U.S. Pharmacopeial   Convention.  

#5. Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Days – A summer festival will be at Cascade Locks (on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington) August 18-20. This is the 11th annual PCT Days and it’s expected to be fun weekend celebrating the Pacific Crest Trail [and I imagine there will also be some moments of sadness and deliberation]. Join friends old and new for a few days of camping on Thunder Island, live music, a gear fair, games, hiking and

#6. Good exercise advice that Ralph Alcorn located: bad ones

#7.  National Albariño Day. “Although the actual day is in dispute (some sources say it's August 1, while others claim it is on Saturday, August 5)), it's time to celebrate Albariño! Inspired by the Albariño Wine Festival held in the small coastal town of Cambados, Spain during the first week of August, Albariño Day is a celebration of the Albariño grape, which is traditionally grown in Rias Baixas, a wine region in Galicia in northwestern Spain, and produces crisp, wonderfully high acid white wines that are ideal.” News from Farmstead Cheeses and Wines—stores in Montclair Village (Oakland) and Alameda.

#8. American Pilgrims - Board Position Openings: The American Pilgrims' all-volunteer Board is looking for three new directors. “One position will begin in September 2017 and serve through  December 31, 2020  and two positions will begin on  January 1, 2018  and serve through December 31, 2020.” These are three year terms. "If you can envision yourself playing an important role in the future of American Pilgrims and would be willing to serve on the Board, we would like to hear from you! Please send an email requesting an application, or with questions, to The deadline for submitting your application is September 1, 2017.

#9. Regional: S.F. Bay Area Northern California Pilgrims events. Thanks to Laurie Ferris for putting together this information. 

Saturday, August 5, 10:30 am – 2 pmLake Merritt Walk, Bunch and Camino Inglés Presentation Oakland. A walk around Lake Merritt in Oakland is held every first Saturday of the month, at  10:30 am  starting at the Pergola. Afterwards, there is an optional brunch at Barlago Italian Kitchen. This month, Laurie Ferris, NorCal APOC chapter steering committee member, will be presenting about the Camino Inglés immediately after brunch in the private dining room for those who attend the brunch.  Details and RSVP on NorCal Facebook Group. Space is limited, so please RSVP on the Facebook event or email me at

4Saturday, August 19th, 10:30 am – 5:30 pm. Angel Island Hike. Join us for beautiful vistas of the San Francisco Bay Area as we hike the five-mile loop trail around historic Angel Island. This is a moderate hike with just 400 feet of elevation gain, but brings us to the former Immigration Station, the so-called “Ellis Island of the West,” and various Army installations that were active from the Civil War through the Cold War.

Dress for the weather (layers work well) and bring a bag lunch, water, hat, sunscreen and your phone/camera. Walking poles will be helpful, but not required on this path. If you are yet to experience the Camino, bring your questions so you can get advice from seasoned pilgrims. Led by Rob Nickerson, chapter steering committee member. No RSVP required. Just meet us at the ferry landing on Angel Island at  10:30 AM .

GETTING THERE (by ferry)
FROM SF to Angel Island, Blue & Gold Fleet,

* Ferry Building: Depart  9:15 AM  (Adult $19.50, Senior 65+ $11)
* Pier 41: Depart  9:45 AM  (same prices as above)
* Angel Island: Arrive  10:10 AM

Prices are the round-trip total (one-way tickets are sold so buy two to save time) and include the Angel Island State Park admission fee. If you purchase your tickets online, print and bring your confirmation. If you start at the Ferry Building, exchange it for your boarding pass on the ferry. Otherwise, purchase them on board. If you start at Pier 41, go to the Blue & Gold box office to purchase or exchange your confirmation for the boarding pass if you purchase online.

FROM OAKLAND or ALAMEDA to Pier 41 (SF), San Francisco Bay Ferry,
* Oakland Terminal: Depart  8:55 AM  (Adult $13.60/cash $10.20/Clipper, Senior 65+ $6.80)
* Alameda Terminal: Depart  9:10 AM  (same prices as above)
* Pier 41: Arrive  9:40 AM

Prices are the round-trip total and tickets purchased onboard. They DO NOT include the Angel Island State Park admission fee. At Pier 41, the ferry stops at the Blue & Gold Fleet dock. Transfer to the Blue & Gold Fleet ferry (Depart 9:45 AM) to Angel Island. You will need to purchase a separate, round-trip ticket from the Blue & Gold Fleet box office for Angel Island with the admission fee. Per the San Francisco Bay Ferry, there is enough time to make the transfer, but be advised of the short window (officially 5 minutes) and if concerned, consider starting from San Francisco.

The Oakland terminal is located at the west end of Jack London Square near 10 Clay Street. Riders receive up to 12 hours free validated parking in the garage at 101 Washington St. Validate parking tickets at the ferry terminal. The Alameda terminal is located at 2990 Main Street. Free parking is available in an adjacent parking lot.

Service from Vallejo to Pier 41 is available, also from the San Francisco Bay Ferry. See their web site for details. However, service from Larkspur on the Golden Gate Ferry does not begin early enough.

3FROM TIBURON to Angel Island, Angel Island Tiburon Ferry,* Tiburon Terminal: Depart  10:00 AM  (Adult $15, Senior 65+ $14)
* Angel Island: Arrive  10:15 AM

Prices are round-trip and include the Angel Island State Park admission fee. Purchase tickets on board. Cash or check only. No credit or Clipper cards.
The Tiburon terminal is located at 21 Main Street. Here are driving directions ( and parking information (

We’ll finish up in time to take the last ferry back to SF that departs at  4:25 PM  and arrives at Pier 41 at  5:30 PM . Those returning to Tiburon have more options with the last departure at  5:20 PM .

ANGEL ISLAND SUMMIT OPTION: Depending on time and interest, a break out group will hike up to the top of Angel Island at Mt. Livermore (788 feet).
POST-HIKE HAPPY HOUR: If time permits before the ferry trip back, we’ll stop by the Angel Island Café for drinks and live music.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: 1A (less than 6 miles, less than 1,000 ft elevation gain)

Sunday, August 20, 8:30 AM-2:30 PM. Poles for Pilgrims: Using Poles for Hiking, Walking & Outdoor Exercise, Pacifica, California. Join fitness and wellness educator, Jayah Faye Paley, for a fun and interactive hiking poles class, designed specifically to help Camino de Santiago pilgrims prepare for and more fully enjoy the journey.

Using poles optimally will significantly assist in your journey as well as local adventures. Learning to use poles optimally means getting all the benefits without stress or strain (which can occur in the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and tension in the hands can go into your neck). Get more power and endurance on the uphill easier. Save your knees on the downhill. Discover how to recruit your core muscles to help preserve your joints! Improve posture, spine function, balance, upper body strength and performance AND confidence on the trail

A variety of top-quality poles will be provided so you can explore which poles fit you best and help you achieve your hiking, walking and travel goals. You can also bring your own poles.

Location: 180 San Jose Avenue in Pacifica. How to Sign Up: Send an email to and include any concerns and/or body issues in your message. Once you receive your confirmation email and info letter, send your payment of $35 in the form of a check payable to Jayah Faye Paley to 180 San Jose Avenue, Pacifica, CA 94044. First come, first served—limited to 8 spots.

(Please note that this event is not organized, endorsed or sponsored by American Pilgrims on the Camino; it is only being shared with you on a one-time basis because we believe it might be of interest to you as a pilgrim.)

August 25 – 27, Los Altos. Hospitalero Training. Hospitalero training through American Pilgrims on the Camino at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos. Visit the American Pilgrims Hospitaleros page for details.

Laurie adds, “My mission is to celebrate the Camino de Santiago and the pilgrim’s journey, from the Calling to Compostela and beyond. I do this by sharing informative tips on training, gear, and routes; by promoting Camino related events in the Bay Area; by interviewing pilgrims and sharing inspiring stories; and by curating content relevant to the Camino.  Purchases help to defray the costs of hosting and managing this blog so that I can keep sharing the Camino love!”

1Happy travels and trails!

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #221 June 2017

2Welcome to summer (though officially it will be at  9:24 PM  on Tuesday, June 20). And how about the amazing ropeless climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan! Alex Honnold, 31, made the 3,000 foot ascent in approx. four hours on Saturday, June 3rd. Vertical hiking at its most challenging!


  1. Solar Eclipse,  August 21, 2017
  2. Umbrella for rain, and perhaps more importantly, sun protection
  3. New backpacking cookbook
  4. Pilgrim Gathering 2018 
  5. Osprey chicks hatching
  6. Hiking Life when it’s cold and wet
  7. PCT/JMT Evolution Creek crossing
  8. Tips for travelers
  9. Book: Ruth Ginsberg’s fitness routine 
  10. S.F. Bay Area: two local hikes 
  11. S.F Bay Area: Pilgrim hikes in Marin and Alameda Counties
  1. Articles:

#1. Solar Eclipse. For the first time in 26 years, a total solar eclipse will occur in the U.S.  I hope if you are planning to travel to see the solar eclipse on  August 21 , you have already secured your accommodations because they are extremely hard to come by at this point. On the other hand, maybe you’d like to know more about the best places and times to see this phenomenon. Very interesting site here. 


#2. The evolution of the backpacking/hiking umbrella and the ‘Chrome Dome.’ According to Google, “The basic umbrella was invented more than 4,000 years ago. There is evidence of umbrellas in the ancient art and artifacts of Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and China. These ancient umbrellas, or parasols, were first designed to provide shade from the sun.”

Ralph and I first learned about using umbrellas while backpacking and hiking from ultra-light guru Ray Jardine, author of Beyond Backpacking.  
We first used umbrellas on the Camino Frances on our 2001 hike and have carried them on every backpacking and long hike since then. Go-Lite company carried a good style—lightweight, sturdy, with good coverage, but then went out of business. I used a mini-umbrella for years; it didn't have all of the features of the hiking specific models, but I liked the way it folded up. However, but we lost it in Spain last year. and I have never found a replacement that was as sturdy and light.

So, this year we will both be carrying Liteflex Hiking Umbrellas. It has several advantages over a conventional umbrella—lighter  weight (7-8 oz.), a silver-colored exterior to reflect sun’s rays, frame made of fiberglass (with minimal metal so you don’t attract lightning),  AND it can be hands-free. Hands-free is a terrific advantage especially when using hiking poles.

How to make the hiking umbrella hands-free: At Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff events in past years, we saw various methods people had come up with, and Scott Williams, at the spring Pilgrim Blessing in Berkeley, demonstrated his method for making the hiking umbrellas hands-free. Williams slips the umbrella’s handle down under the backpack’s chest strap, then attaches a carabiner to both the umbrella’s cord (cord is on the bottom of the handle) and to the backpack’s hipbelt. On the Peregrinos Northern California page on Facebook (June 2), you can see Laurie Ferris demonstrating a Chrome Dome-style.  Click here. 

Ralph uses a bit of a variation that he found on See here. He puts 2 short pieces of shock chord/round elastic bands around his backpack’s shoulder strap and the umbrella and locks the elastic bands in place with a cord lock (available REI and similar). One  piece of cord is at the chest strap level and one is at almost shoulder height.

Some sources
A.Gossamer Gear (our preferred vendor) offers the Gossamer Gear Liteflex Hiking (Chrome) Umbrella, but unfortunately they are out of stock.

B.Campmor euroSCHIRM Swing Liteflex Trekking Umbrella $46.35 (Amazon) Free Shipping for Prime Members

C. WING TREK UMBRELLAS Liteflex Trekking Umbrella $50.38 (Amazon). 25.2" H x 39.4" W (when open), 7 ounces. We also like the ribbed handle, which makes holding onto it easier.

D. Chrome umbrella from My Trail CO. Link here. 44” when open. Priced at $39 plus shipping and tax.


We purchased "C" because we liked its features and it was in stock.

#3.  New food planning backpackers’ book by Inga Aksamit, The Hungry Spork: A Long Distance Hiker's Guide to Meal Planning.  Inga has done extensive backpacking on the John Muir Trail and elsewhere in the Sierra and beyond. Click here for Amazon.  


#4. Camino Pilgrim Gathering 2018. “Making Meaning from Memories,” will be  April 12-15, 2018  at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale AZ. Mark your calendar. More info will be released on the website of American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC)

#5. Sort of off the hiking topic, but nature at its best. Watch the parents, Rosie and Richmond, and their prodigy Whirley and Rivet.

Our nest cam Ospreys hatch their second chick!

Watch live at or # or

#6. The Hiking Life by Cam. Very good article on hiking in cold, wet conditions. Click here.

#7. Stream crossing in the Sierra Nevada.  Excerpts for June 3 morning update of crossing Evolution Creek from John Colver (from PCT forum).  Evolution Creek one of the potentially trickier (dangerous) creek crossings of the John Muir and Pacific Crest trails. 
“The creek is 1 to 1.4 feet above the banks. We crossed at widest section on downstream side of bend. Water was between chest and chin deep at deepest part of crossing, but slow moving.”
Colver added more important info: some people worked as teams to cross. They went at  8 AM  (sun hasn’t had a chance to melt as much ice upstream). “There were blocks of ice floating down.” He concludes that this crossing may well pose an even more difficult/dangerous challenge when the spring thaw increases. 

[ed.Hikers and backpackers in this area should keep abreast of conditions/reports and consider bypassing this area and returning to do it later in the hiking season.

#8. The 5 – Minute Crafts for those who love traveling.  Cute video, some hints may be useful for hikers. On Facebook, click here

#9. Ruth Ginsberg, Supreme Court Justice, stars in an upcoming book, The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong ... and You Can Too! Due out  October 3 , the 84-year-old’s exercise routine is co-authored by illustrator Patrick Welsh and longtime Ginsburg trainer Bryant Johnson. Her twice a week routine includes real pushups (not from her knees), the plank, and much more.

#10A. Regional: S.F. Bay Area: Berkeley Path wanderers has frequent hikes in varying areas and at different levels of difficulty. One example:  Saturday, June 10  @  10 a.m.  “This one is a walk and tour of some beautiful neighborhoods in Berkeley: From Cottages to Estates: History and Houses of the Elmwood and Claremont Neighborhoods. Leader: Ron Sipherd. Start: SW corner of Ashby & Elmwood Aves. Turn back the clock on this 3.25-mile tour that will focus on the history and architecture of two lovely Berkeley neighborhoods.  Among the highlights will be a remnant of the forty-room Taylor mansion and the far more modest cottages lining Pine Street, which developer “One-Nail MacGregor” built in the early 1900s. Along the way, we’ll pass an urban farm, complete with assorted fowl, fruit trees, and quirky art. The pace will be moderate with frequent stops for commentary from Ron, a local history buff, as well as a rest stop at Peet’s. This route includes stairs and hilly streets.  More details are available on Ron’s website.” Click here. There are more activities at the group’s website

1#10B. Regional: S.F. Bay Area. Redwoods. Sunday, June 11, 2017. Hike led by East Bay Regional park district, click here. Many other events at

#11A. Regional: S.F. Bay Area Camino events:

a. Muir Beach.   Saturday, June 10 . Join us for a hike near Muir Beach in Marin as we walk along the Redwood Creek Trail, up thru a corner of Muir Woods, and then along the ridge on the Coastal Trail for some wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean. Distance is about 8 miles with an elevation gain of around 1,300 feet. Pace will be moderate; hiking poles help on the uphill sections. Bring lunch, a liter of water, and a wind jacket and hat. After the hike, we will adjourn to the 16th century-era Pelican Inn ( for some authentic English beer and hard cider.
BRING: A sunhat, light jacket, liter of water, lunch, money (for the post-hike stop or to help out your carpool driver). 
MEET: Initially at the Muir Beach parking lot near the restrooms at  10:00 AM . These will be the only restrooms on the hike. No water available. (click here for map). Free parking.
CARPOOL: If you want a ride or can give one, post a message here. Suggested meeting points are the Park & Ride lot at the Hwy1/Hwy 101 intersection in Mill Valley ( at 9:30 AM and in the East Bay, the Orinda BART station at  8:45 AM  or the North Berkeley BART Station at  9:00 AM . 
RETURN: Hike ends about  4:00 PM .
DIRECTIONS: From San Francisco and the south, take Hwy 101 North and from the north and east, take Hwy 101 South to Mill Valley (from the East Bay, cross the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge). Take the Hwy 1 exit in Mill Valley and follow the signs toward Stinson Beach. Before you get to Stinson, look for the Muir Beach sign/Pelican Inn on the left side of the road (large white building). Turn left at the inn and drive 1/4 mile to the Muir Beach parking lot. There are restrooms at the parking lot, but no water. For more/other directions, use Google Maps.
NOTE: The hike does not start from Muir Beach. We are meeting there before driving about 2 miles north to the trailhead next to the Heather Cutoff path.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: 2B (6 to less than 10 miles, less than 2,000 ft elevation gain) 
Cancelled by rain. Led by chapter steering committee member, Dick Duker. If running late, call Dick’s cell phone at (510) 705-2447 and meet us at the Heather Cutoff Trailhead next to Hwy 1. Open to all (members and non-members). No RSVP required.

11B. Monthly walk around Oakland's Lake Merritt: This is an informal gathering that takes place on the first  Saturday  of the month, rain or shine. The group meets at the pergola on the east side of Oakland's Lake Merritt at  10:30 AM  and starts walking promptly at 10:45 AM . It's a level, 3.3 mile walk around the lake that takes about an hour. All are welcome (American Pilgrims members and non-members). Take BART to either the Lake Merritt or 19th Street Oakland stations and navigate your way to the pergola. If you drive, make sure to give yourself enough time to find parking as there are many activities  on Saturday  mornings in the Lake Merritt area. Afterwards, there is an optional brunch in the area. Location TBD. Bring cash

Please note: We are taking a break, and there will not be a July issue of this newsletter. Enjoy your summer and  4th of July , and see you in August. In the meantime, feel free to send in questions and items of interest to the hiking community :-) 

Happy trails,

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #220 May 2017


Happy May!—hope you're enjoying the lovely days as much as we are—even with our hillsides turning from green to brown, there are still many places to enjoy the tender, emerald green. Wildflowers abound—maybe not the "Super Bloom" of California's deserts, but we're happy with our golden California poppies, lupine in shades of yellow and blue, Elegant Brodiaea, Chinese houses (like dozens of miniature snapdragons on one stalk), Miners’ Lettuce, and more. Of course we are getting huge crop of  plants that we consider weeds and invasive—like oxalis, Russian Thistle, broom and gorse, and foxtails! We are guaranteed full-time (unpaid) jobs in the garden and elsewhere.  


  1. Super PCT Map
  2. Article: Camping with kids!
  3. Northern California Pilgrims plan camp trip to Tahoe
  4. Sierra Club Bay Chapter on Point Reyes, CA, backpack trip
  5. Join Inga’s hiking trips--all ages covered
  6. Modern Hiker Guidebook for L.A. hikingArticles:

#1. Nice overview map of the entire PCT with many key hiker points. I’m glad this isn’t what I am doing during this heavy snowmelt year! Link here:

#2. A timely and helpful article from Paul Turner, “How to Campwith Your Kids,” on his TakeOutdoors blog. Paul covers everything from planning, having a trial run campout in the back yard, packing, activities, food, safety and more. Paul suggests Frisbees and bubble wands—it’s fun to see kids enjoying the simplest of activities when without the distractions of electronic devices. I can testify to the value of letting kids have their own flashlights (with instructions not to shine them in other people’s faces or campsites). Also I can personally attest to the importance of having several activities lined up. An old hacky sack that I found somewhere years ago, and threw in the back of our car, proved helpful last weekend when we took our 12-year-old grandson hiking in Pt. Reyes. 

#3. Our local chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino, the Northern California Chapter, is operating at full tilt. A new opportunity for this year has been announced: 4th Annual Lake Tahoe Pilgrim Rendezvous at Incline Village/Mt. Rose, Nevada at N. Lake Tahoe,  Friday, July 21 – Sunday, July 23 . This is “an open invitation to pilgrims, both those who have walked the Caminos to Santiago de Compostela and those who are planning to walk.

“Campsites for tent camping have been reserved at the federal Mt. Rose Campground at the summit of Mt. Rose (NV State Highway 431 aka Mt. Rose Highway, just east of Incline Village). The campground will be the activity center for the gathering. For those wishing to attend, but not able to campout, a few local homestays are available on a first come, first served basis, as well as commercial accommodations.

“This year, it is a flat cost of $100 per person ($175 per couple), with half required as deposit on reservation. Early reservations much appreciated. To reserve or if you have any questions, please email Barbara Longshore at

“Please note that this event is not organized, endorsed or sponsored by American Pilgrims on the Camino; it is only being shared with you because we believe it might be of interest to you as a pilgrim.” The Facebook group of the Northern California chapter is a closed group, but to join just make a request and let us know about your interest in the Camino de Santiago. Peregrinos - Northern California

#4. Pt. Reyes Overnight Backpacking Trip. The Sierra Club, the Bay Chapter in particular, has activities, usually multiple, happening every week. This one caught my attention:

Date:   Saturday, June 24, 2017 to Sunday, June 25, 2017

Presented by:  SF Bay Chp Backpacking

Leader: Mike Bandrowski - 510-834-3235

Ernest Castiaux - 510-909-3301

Level:  Moderate (2BT)

Cost:    $35

Signup Restrictions:    Apply after April 24.

Signup Instructions:    Send e-mail to

Bring:  Equipment list will be provided

Directions:       Directions to Bear Valley Visitor Center will be provided.

Cancellation:   Activity is held rain or shine, but may be altered due to inclement weather

Carpool:          Carpool information will be provided.

Join Mike Bandrowski and Ernie Castiaux on a moderate, overnight backpacking trip in beautiful Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Enjoy hiking from Bear Valley Visitor Center to Coast Camp and an opportunity to spend a night near the ocean. Trip limited to 12 participants. Individual commissary. Cost of $35.

If this trip is full, or you are interested in a different opportunity, check the activities page here.

#5. Hiking and/or camping with Inga’s Adventures. I know Inga personally from Bay Area Travel Writers ( of which we are both members. Inga published a book on the John Muir Trail last year and has been very active on related Facebook sites. Inga co-leads her trips with her husband, Steve Mullen, who is also a very experienced hiker/camper.

Inga has several camping or backpacking trips in the works—check her website for details. Currently these trips for children are posted:

June 13-15, 2017 . A 3-day program for younger outdoor campers at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park led by Sonoma Ecology Center educator, Tony Passantino (Inga Aksamit assisting). Register at Brown Paper Tickets. Link coming soon

June 27-30, 2017 . A 4-day program for older outdoor campers at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park led by Sonoma Ecology Center educator, Tony Passantino (Inga Aksamit assisting). Register at Brown Paper Tickets. Link coming soon

Others to finalize include: assisting with a Sierra Club trip in a couple of days for Austin Creek SRA for  June 10  ($30). We're in the early stages of planning a Sierra Club trip to Trinity Alps in late July so keep an eye here.  Inga's Adventures:

Here’s some info about Inga from her blog, “Inga is an outdoor enthusiast and California State Park volunteer who is passionate about exploring backcountry trails safely and encouraging others to push their limits. She’s done the John Muir Trail, High Sierra Trail, Chilkoot Trail (Alaska), many trails in the Tahoe Sierra and has paddled 450 miles of the Yukon River (Canada) in a canoe. She discovered backpacking in middle-age and loves seeing seniors, solo female backpackers and young kids in the backcountry. On the John Muir Trail kids from 2-86 were spotted on the trail.”

#6. New guidebook on Los Angeles hiking. Read about this in American Hiker: Casey Schreiner, author and hiker, is a California transplant from New England. His love affair with hiking in and around Los Angeles, led to the writing of Day Hiking Los Angeles(Mountaineers Books). “125 of the best trails throughout the Los Angeles metro area. Easy-to-use, well-organized guide to hiking in the greater Los Angeles area. Hikes feature ocean views, waterfalls, coastal canyons, native grasslands, rocky peaks, desert wildflowers, and more.”

2I have not read the book, but having just discovered the pleasure of hiking in Southern California’s Los Padres National Forest, I’m sure this guide will take readers to all kinds of great places near LA. Also check out the very popular website: for a wealth of information about hiking in the west, Hawaiian Islands, and more. 

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Tales and Tips, April 2017 

"Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, 

and we shall soon see the results of their love!" Sitting Bull


  1. Bomberos in Burguete 
  2. 2018 U.S. Camino Pilgrim Gathering
  3. Travelers: How to keep your personal documents safe  
  4. Tom Courtney comes to REI with his Walkabout California presentations
  5. Comments on the Nor CA Pilgrim Blessing
  6. Camino Jitters
  7. Hiking Ethics for  
  8. There is indeed a Saint Francis Route (but it is not part of the Camino de Santiago)

#1. Camino interest: An interesting little snippet of news. The local bomberos in Burguete [a town a few kilometers west of Roncesvalles, Spain) have just acquired a new all-terrain vehicle which should allow them access to off-road sections of the Camino even in snow. This is in response to an increasing number of rescue calls from pilgrims during the winter months. It is sad that this should be necessary but good to know that the service is there if required. Read more here

1#2. Camino: Just announced: The 2018 Pilgrim Gathering will be held in Scottsdale, AZ next April 12-15.

#3. Travelers: Marc Longwood, member of Bay Area Travel Writers (BATW), shares this link on about keeping your personal information more secure/avoiding hacking, etc. Short version: don’t throw your boarding pass in the trash after your flight. Fellow member, Ed Hasbrouck, goes deeply into security issues in these blogs. The problem here and an explanation in his What you can do to protect yourself

Tom Wilmer, also of BATW, added, “The same thing [the risk of info getting into the wrong hands] is true of hotel/motel plastic room keys with mag strip on backside.” These items may have personal information that you wouldn’t want to share for security reasons. Don’t throw them in the trash.  

#4. Walkabout California: Inn to Inn Hiking Adventures. Author Tom Courtney will introduce you to some of the remarkable multi-day hiking adventures in his Walkabout Northern California: Hiking Inn to Inn and Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast. Join Tom for one of his presentations on hiking the spectacular Bay Area coastline from the Marin Headlands to Point Reyes National Seashore, traversing the Sierra on a section of the historic Emigrant Trail, and exploring the rugged Mendocino Coast. Find out pointers for planning your next inn-to-inn adventure, including tips on gear and great places to stay. Free, but advisable to register beforehand to be sure you get a seat. All events begin at  7:00 PM . (Google, scroll down to "Classes and Outings" and pick your store.) 
April 4 REI Santa Rosa; 4/5 REI San Francisco; 4/11 REI Mountain View; 4/12 REI Sacramento; 4/19 REI Corte Madera; 4/20 REI Berkeley; 4/26 REI Saratoga; 5/9   REI Stockton.

#5. Camino Pilgrim Blessing: At the Pilgrim Blessing of the Northern California chapter of the APOC (American Pilgrims on the Camino) on March 18, Scott Williams presented a good case for “Zero Drop” trail running shoes (the shoes have a level profile and have little or no "drop" from where the heel sits in a shoe and where the forefoot sits in a shoe). Scott also recommended the book, Born to Run, for more info.  
I am going to ask Scott to write up some info for this newsletter, but in the meantime, I would love to hear from readers of your experiences. Ralph has already purchased a pair and is very happy with them. I haven’t gotten around to trying them yet, but I plan to get them soon. I may not have time to experiment with an entirely new shoe so close to my next long hike, but when we get back and I have time to “ease” into them, I will consider it….

2Another suggestion given at the gathering---mark or label your hiking poles and shoes in some manner before setting off for a Camino hike. There are often lots of poles and shoes by the doorway of albergues and it’s easy to grab the wrong ones accidentally. 

#6. Ivar’s Camino forum recently started a thread on ‘Camino Jitters.’ This is definitely the season when many who are preparing for a Camino hike become more nervous. Though I am less anxious with each Camino trip, I still give way to some worry when thinking about the challenges ahead. With more than a dozen Camino hikes under my belt, I worry very little about what to pack, but getting older has brought more concerns about my physical readiness.

This is not to diminish anyone’s concerns about what to pack (because I have definitely “been there,”) but this morning I got to thinking about Grandma Gatewood, who in her 60s became the first women to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. You may have heard of her, but to jog your memory: Gatewood was a plainspoken farm women, used to hard work, but not a long-distance hiker when she set out in the 1950s. She had little money so she carried her belongings in a handmade knapsack, used a shower curtain as rain gear, and wore Keds. There’s more to the story, of course, but it might reassure you to consider that though that the right gear can make a big difference in your comfort, the right attitude is at least as important. 

#7. Hikers heading anywhere. An interesting take on Leave No Trace ethics in a post by Valerie Hartmann on Laurie Ferris’s The Camino Provides blog. It discusses one of my pet peeves--people leaving toilet paper (or waste!) along the trail, and it also goes into other aspects of proper conduct on the trail.  I think this should be required reading for anyone setting out for a hike.

#8. Camino event: At our most recent Camino presentation, at Burlingame Library, a member of the audience asked a question about the ‘Saint Francis’ route. I wasn’t sure if she had confused it with the Camino Frances (a Camino Santiago route) or not. Ralph looked it up when we got home. There is indeed a Saint Francis walking trail, in Italy. It was inspired by the life of St Francis of Assisi, not Saint James. Here’s a link in case you are interested. 


I hope you enjoy your Easter, Passover, or other spring celebrations and that you participate meaningfully in Earth Day,  Saturday, April 22 . I welcome your comments. 

Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn


Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #218 March 2017

We are getting ready to welcome spring here with daffodils in full bloom and flowering-fruit trees suddenly bursting forth. The beauty of nature helps me stay centered and I hope it enriches your life too. We’ve had so much rain the last couple of months that it has been hard to find a dry trail. We’ve been doing most of our walking on city streets. Some of the homes and streets along our walking routes have had significant mudslides and many downed trees, though nothing like what has occurred in San Jose and Oroville, California. We hope that the next couple of weeks will allow some drying out.   


  1. The Northern California ‘Ruck’ – March 3rd
  2. Hiker Heaven welcomes 2017 PCT hikers
  3. Alcorn’s Camino program in Burlingame, CA
  4. Packing it Out
  5. Backpacking tips from an experienced hiker
  6. The flying squirrel

#1. Of Camino de Santiago, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, Timberland, Wonderland, or John Muir Trail interest. This Saturday, March 4th, the Northern California, Redwood Ruck, will be held near Boulder Creek California. That’s less than 48 hours from when this message goes out, so check it a.s.a.p. click here

The Ruck is a “day-long event is designed for all sorts of backpackers (from novice to expert) to prepare themselves for the hiking season.” But there is camping allowed both  Friday  (3/3) and  Saturday  (3/4) nights. Boulder Creek is near Big Basin, California’s first State Park. Scott Williams writes, “When you see the beauty of the area, you can understand why it was so important to preserve some of the great old growth redwood stands before they were all gone, over a hundred years ago.  The old Boy Scout Camp we’ll be using for the weekend, Camp Lindblad, is in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and itself preserves some gorgeous second growth redwoods and magnificent oaks.  A stream runs through the middle of it….” 


Williams’ is doing the cooking  Saturday  breakfast (a simple meal) and lunch—"a deluxe meal of BBQ’d lamb, tri-tip and Wind River Porcini marinated tofu, vegan chili and all the trimmings.  Dinner is on your own." On Sunday Scott and crew will be whipping up “pancakes with blintz stuffings and more for  Sunday  breakfast.” You can learn more about it and sign up at:  If you follow the link, you will reach a page that also gives dates and places for numerous other regional Rucks.  

#2. Pacific Crest Trail: “GREETINGS TO THE CLASS OF 2017!” wrote Super Trail Angel Donna Saufley, who runs Hiker Heaven near Agua Dulce (So. Cal.), on February 20, 2017. “2017 promises to be a great year, with winter rains leaving much needed water in our drought-stricken region. It will be a very special year at Hiker Heaven since we will be celebrating our 20th year hosting hikers. We are very excited about meeting all of you and to help you along your way.

“We listened to feedback from the Class of 2016, which was our largest group of hikers ever (over 1,600 hosted), and will be instituting a few new policies in 2017 as a result. There is always a peak to the hiker traffic on or around Memorial Day weekend. In 2016 we had 120 hikers present  in one day ; too many to make the experience enjoyable for everyone. 

To cut down on the number of hikers during this window, we will be screening for permits on the following dates and only hikers holding a permit will be welcome to stay on these dates:  Saturday May 20 ,  Sunday May 21 ;  Saturday May 27 ,  Sunday May 28 , and Monday May 29 ;  Saturday June 3 and Sunday June 4

“These are the weekends that bookend and include Memorial Day weekend. These weekends have seen the peak number of hikers in every year that we’ve hosted. The rationale behind limiting to permit holders only is that those without permits are presumed to be in excess of the 50 per day border start date limit instituted by the PCTA at the behest of the agencies that manage the trail. The reason for the quota is the abuse of the trail and its resources by large numbers of hikers in short periods. Overwhelming numbers of hikers affect our resources as trail hosts too, so it makes sense to limit the numbers based on this parameter. Those without permits may pick up packages and mail at Hiker Heaven, but other services will not be offered.

“Another new policy is that we ask that hikers please arrive before  9:00 p.m. , or after  7:00 a.m.  Hikers arriving during the night should camp in the group camp area at Vasquez Rocks County Park or back at the KOA, and arrive at Hiker Heaven in the morning. We, and our neighbors, thank you for this consideration.

“Somehow in 2016 the rumor was on the trail that Hiker Heaven is a party place, which it never was or meant to be. Don’t get us wrong, we want hikers to have fun here. But to keep the party atmosphere down to respectable roar, we are going to require that hikers vacate the seating areas near the Saufley residence at  9:00 p.m. , and move their groups and conversations away from under the windows of our home (we run an electrical contracting business and Mr. Saufley, aka Mumbles/Buzz Saw/Cruise Control/Richard Duncan has to go to work in the morning). We are also going to request that “library voices” are used on the property after  10:00 p.m. , to respect our neighbors as well as the hikers who need and want to rest before hitting the trail.

“Last but not least, smokers are still welcome, but smoking cigarettes will be confined to the fire pit area. We like to open our windows at night to cool off the house.

“We trust that these new policies will make for a better and more pleasant experience for all. Please contact us if you have any questions!”



2#3. Camino de Santiago. Susan and Ralph Alcorn will give a digital presentation “Walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago,” at the Burlingame Main Library on  Wednesday, March 29 , at  7 p.m.  The library is located at 480 Primrose Road in Burlingame, CA. The event will be in the Lane Community Room and is free and open to the public.

The Alcorn’s have walked more than 2,500 miles on ancient pilgrimage trails in Spain, France, Switzerland and Portugal. Come enjoy photos and a talk that will transport you to another world, and learn how you can make your own long-distance walk that will take you back in time. Susan is the author of Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago, and her newest book, on the most northerly Spanish Camino trails, will be published this year.

#4. Packing It Out Crew. In 2015, hikers Seth Orme, Paul Twedt and Joe Dehnert took off to hike the Appalachian Trail, but also with a mission to remove as much trash as they could. They named themselves the “Packing It Out Crew,” and removed almost 1,095 pounds of trash, including a mattress, along the trail. In 2016, Orme and Twedt set off on the Pacific Crest Trail with the same fervor. They removed more than 700 pounds of garbage and no doubt hope that many others will take notice, be inspired to do some trail cleanup themselves, and not trash our trails.  

#5. Backpacking tips from Ron Vaughn‎ to PCT Class of 2017, on Facebook, has a couple of tips worth sharing. 
--use a waterproof marker (a Sharpie or similar) to write your name and contact info on the “inside-bottom of your backpack and stuff sacks,” to make it easier for people to return them to you if your items get lost on the trail.

--“make the first picture” on your smart phone or camera “of your name and an alternate phone number so that it can be returned to you if lost. He also suggests that you tuck a scrap of paper in between the case and the phone offering a reward.

--engrave an alternate phone number on the phone so that it can be returned to you even if the phone’s battery is dead.

#6. People’s Climate Change March. On  April 29 , (time  11 AM-2PM , tentative) people will come together in Washington, D.C. and other cities to “inspire a movement of resistance to a hateful and retrograde agenda that would take our country backward.” Sierra magazine, Michael Burne, executive director of the Sierra Club. to RSVP or find out more.

#7. The flying squirrel. This cute little rodent, with its stretchy membrane, and rudder-like tail that acts like an airfoil, can glide up to 200 feet as it moves with ease from tree to tree. Most are nocturnal, so if you have seen one, count yourself lucky!

Happy trails,

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn


Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #217 February 2017

That we, with Thee, may walk uncowed
By fear or favour of the crowd. (Rudyard Kipling,Christmas in India, 11)v


  1. Stroll with Ridge Trail this weekend
  2. Flyway Festival coming soon
  3. California Mission Walk
  4. Leave No Trail information
  5. Marcia Powers, Grand Slam hiker, to hold backpacking clinic
  6. Alcorn's Camino presentation: Burlingame, CA
  7. Ned Tibbetts gives mountain education 
  8. American Pilgrims Gathering
  9. Hospitalero trailing – East Coast
  10. JMT or PCT food supply at Edison Lake
  11. Cuckoos are not just for clocks
  12. ‘Boots’ in the news
  13. Death of activist and environmentalist Mark Baumer  



#1. Bay Area Ridge Trail:  San Francisco Super Stroll & Roll. Feb 5 , times vary. “No plans for Super Bowl Sunday ? Join San Francisco volunteers for the Super Stroll & Roll on February 5 !  Whether you want to traverse the city from Lake Merced to the Golden Gate Bridge or do a more leisurely hike from transit to Twin Peaks, choose your hike or ride and sign-up today! Free!” Click here for additional information and registration. v

Also: April 22, 2017 . Ridge Trail’s signature fully supported event, Ridge to Bridge is a fundraising hike and ride on the Ridge Trail in Marin and San Francisco with over 400 participants! We need lots of volunteer support to put on this event—especially volunteers to staff rest stops and our catered lunch for the hikes (up to 26 miles) and mountain bike rides (up to 40 miles). If you'd like to volunteer for Ridge to Bridge please click the link below to fill out a brief survey about your volunteer job interest. Please respond to this emailwith any questions.

1#2. S.F. Bay Area Flyway Festival Volunteer at the Flyway Festival on Mare Island, Vallejo, CA. February 11-12 on Mare Island near Vallejo celebrates the return of over one million shorebirds and hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, hawks, songbirds and even monarch butterflies that migrate through the Bay Area. The Wildlife Exploration and Birding Expo has live bird visits and educational presentations and exhibits—including a table to learn more about the Bay Area Ridge Trail, San Francisco Bay Trail and Water Trail! Volunteers needed:Ridge Trail is looking for volunteers to staff their exhibit for 2-3 hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday  between 9am-4pm . No experience necessary! Reply to this email with interest and availability.

#3. California Mission Walkers: An Open Invitation to Hike from Mission San Buenaventura to Missions Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez and La Purisima April 22-29, 2017 . 
News from a group, California Mission Walkers, which is hiking between various California missions—their last walk ended at San Juan Capistrano last September. ”This year, Curt Cragg is organizing a panel discussion in Santa Ynez about the El Camino Real in late April. I propose that we hike from Mission San Buenaventura to Missions Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez and La Purisima.  This itinerary would allow us to participate in the panel at Mission Santa Ynez before continuing on to Mission La Purisima.  The leg between Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez would especially benefit from some shuttling.  For those of us on a budget, camping could be available about half of the time.v

If you are interested in participating in part or all of this hike, the sooner you Butch Briery know, the sooner they can all start planning.” Butch Briery email: v

Their goal: “We are dedicated to promoting a walking route along the historic El Camino Real between the 21 California Spanish missions, and supporting those who walk it.v

#4. The Pacific Crest Trail website has a revamped page on Leave No Trace Ethics. Check it out and learn how to make minimal impact on this and other trails.  v

#5. Marcia Powers & the PCT. Marcia gives Pacific Crest Trail digital presentation including physical prep, gear and food choices for any long distance hike; Leave No Trace practices to enjoy and protect nature. This is from one of our country’s foremost experts on backpacking. Marcia Powers has hiked the PCT, Discovery Trail. Appalachian, Continental Divide and more. Save the date: February 12, 2017 1 PM to 5 PM , Pleasanton Public Library, 400 Old Bernal Road, Pleasanton, CA.

3#6. Camino de Santiago program. Susan and Ralph Alcorn will give a digital presentation on the Camino Frances (Camino de Santiago) onWednesday, March 29, 2017 . Burlingame Library, CA. Details to be determined.v


#7. Hiking the John Muir Trail or Pacific Crest Trail. Ned Tibbits, Director Mountain Education, Inc., recently wrote some information of important to anyone hiking in the mountains this year. Hiking north-bound is way better because all the good glissades down from the passes are on the northern aspects (sides or the pass). Going SoBo [southbound] only means you will have to slog your way up the snow rather than enjoying exhilarating glissading descents down them.”v

“Dead reckoning or line-of-sight navigation over snow is really easy above timberline, but requires that you know how to read a topo map in 3-D. This is a skill, too…. All the snow skills you’d ever want to learn we’ve been teaching to hikers for 34 years. If you guys are heading into the Sierra any time before mid-July this year, you might want to learn your snow skills first! We have great Snow Advanced Courses designed for the summer backpackers who want to get into early season snow hiking.v

“Also, Mountain Education cuts into and maintains a path across Forester’s ice chute every year starting about mid-April. I think we’ll be chopping it near the end of April this year. So, when you guys get there and see a nice trough across the chute allowing your passage to be much safer, remember we are out there teaching and making sure everybody is safe and having fun, even crossing creeks!” Email here. v


#8. American Pilgrims Members20th Annual Gathering of Pilgrims: The Camino Community: Past, Present and Future.  March 23rd-26th  in Atlanta. "There will be a myriad of amazing speakers talking about the evolution of the Camino community and what awaits us pilgrims in the years to come. Attendees will be treated to a wonderful flamenco performance as well as the screening of a Walk to Fisterra. As always, we will have new pilgrim favorites such as What to Pack… or Not, Pilgrim First Aid, and New Pilgrim Q&A. Finally, there will be our infamous Camino Cabaret and Camino 5x5 where you will have the opportunity to share your Camino experiences and talents! Visit our website in mid-January to register."v


#9. Hospitalero training in Georgia. If you've been looking for a way to say thank you for all that the Camino has given you, look no further than American Pilgrims on the Camino and its hospitalero training courses. There’s one in March and there are a few spots left. This will be on the east coast with training in Hampton, Georgia (outside of Atlanta). This training takes place two days (Tues, March 21st thru Thurs, March 23rd ) immediately preceding the Annual Gathering of Pilgrims. Visit our website


The cost is $295, which includes the training, two nights' accommodations (dormitory style/shared rooms) and all meals Friday  evening through Sunday  lunch.  Towels and linens are provided; you must stay at the training facility. No off-site lodging; Last day to register isMarch 9th  for Hampton, GA or when all the openings fill.v


#10. Cuckoo! In a post entitled, “Going Cuckoo, I learned something new. David Jennings and his wife, of Kings Beach CA, walked the Camino Francés in spring of 2012. While on the trail, they heard the delightful call of the Cuckoo bird. When they returned in the fall of 2016 walk the Portuguese trail, they were disappointed that they didn’t hear the bird. Ralph and I have heard the Cuckoo birds on several Camino trips, but not all. I had never stopped to think why—or more accurately, I just chalked it up to the different regions where we were hiking. However, Jennings did a Google search and found out the “the male bird makes that sound as a courting song in the spring. That is why the European common Cuckoo is called ‘the harbinger of spring.’ More importantly, the Cuckoo does not like cold weather so in late August or early September they migrate [upwards of 10,000 miles] to the warmer climates of Africa” One more reason to do Camino hikes in the spring.

#11. More JMT and PCT info. Roleigh Martin in January posted that he “got an email from Muir Trail Ranch's owners (the most favored spot for JMT hikers who desire a zero day along the trail; they have natural hot springs there; they are also the last convenient resupply spot hiking Southbound for about 110 miles (From VVR junction to Kearsarge Pass Junction). The Edison Co is planning on draining Florence Lake this summer to work on the dam. They're scheduling a meeting with us sometime this month to give us more information.”

However, I checked their website on Feb. 3 and found this update, “We WILL be open for the 2017 hiking season. Regardless of the water levels in Florence Lake, we will figure out a way to get your bucket to the ranch. Please check back later for updated information on resupplying with us in summer 2017.”

#12. Boots in the news. Hi, for anyone curious, here is an interview with Geolyn (creator of Boots) on Cascade Hiker Podcast. Click here. “Geolyn Carvin started the single panel cartoon about 15 years ago after she started to section hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Boots, the character, is a girl that doesn't work and has nothing but time to hike. She is not bothered by problems on the trail that seem to put a damper on other hikers around her. 'Boots' is also the trail name given by other hikers to Geolyn, who has finished the PCT now as well as the Tahoe Rim Trail. She has a ‘regular’ job working for hiking famed Tarptent. Take time to also check out her music found on her website!

As for her cartoon, it can be found: Facebook- Boots McFarland Cartoonv

#13. THE TRAGIC DEATH OF MARK BAUMER, A PROLIFIC POET AND ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST FOR THE SOCIAL-MEDIA AGE article by Anna Heyward. “In 2010, [Baumer] kept a blog as he walked across America, in eighty-one days, generating as little waste as possible.”

In October 2016, he set out again, barefoot, to raise awareness of climate change and other environment causes. On Saturday, January 21, 2017, he was hit by a car and killed. He had been on the shoulder of Florida’s highway 90, was walking against traffic, and wearing a high-visibility vest. Florida’s Highway Patrol is going to press charges. (info sent by Tom Coroneos) Article click here. v


Still keeping sane and healthy on our wonderful trails!

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #216 January 2017

3 Hi all and Happy New Year!The photos in this issue include a shot from a trail in Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills that we walked (again) on January 1. I love starting the new year with a brisk walk. The Nimitz Trail at Inspiration Point is paved for the first 4+ miles and so is a popular place for families on foot and on bicycle. Next, you’ll see two photos that are related to stories in this newsletter: of a flight of hidden steps in San Francisco and the Mojave Desert in the springtime! 


  1. John Muir Trail info
  2. Walking in scenic San Francisco
  3. Camino: Hospitalero Training
  4. Liz “Snorkel” Thomas
  5. Hear the Legendary Jeff Garmire—triple crowner winner (in one year!)
  6. Volunteer opportunities with Wilderness Volunteers and others
  7. PCT brings “Trail Dirt Live” to Southern California
  8. The Ruck by ALDHA-West
  9. Bats!


#1. John Muir Trail info: Roleigh Martin has a PDF file entitled “JMT Crib Sheet” that is a goldmine of info about places to stay, shuttle and transportation services and more. 


#2. Walking San Francisco's 49 Mile Scenic Drive. A new book, by Kristine Poggioli and Carolyn Eidson, that includes SF history that you can enjoy while doing all 49 miles—in segments.  She gives you 17, 2-3 mile walks. Also available as an e-book. Walking San Francisco's 49 Mile Scenic Drive: Explore the Famous Sites, Neighborhoods, and Vistas in 17 Enchanting Walks. Available at: Amazon, Book Passage, and more

#3. Hospitalero opportunity. "If you've been looking for a way to say thank you for all that the Camino has given you, look no further than American Pilgrims on the Camino and its hospitalero training courses. The next one available is Friday, February 3, 2017 through Sunday, February 5, 2017 in Los Gatos, California.

The cost is $295, which includes the training, two nights' accommodations and all meals Friday evening through Sunday lunch. Towels and linens are provided. You must stay at the training facility. No off-site lodging. You must attend the entire training for certification so please plan your travel accordingly.

Last day to register is Friday, January 20th, or sooner if all the openings fill.

In order to be eligible for training as an hospitalero, applicants must have overnighted in at least three non-private (municipal, parochial or association-run) albergues on the Camino, must have walked at least 100 km (or biked 200 km) of the Camino, and must be a member of American Pilgrims on the Camino.

If you are interested and you qualify for this training session, the registration form can be accessed through the Hospitalero page on the American Pilgrims On the home page click Actions, then Hospitaleros and then Hospitalero Training through American Pilgrims.

If you would like to contact American Pilgrims for more information about becoming a volunteer hospitalero or if you have specific questions about this training, please contact the hospitalero training coordinators at

#4. Liz "Snorkel" Thomas. Scott Williams wrote (on Facebook) to recommend reading the guest editorial by Liz "Snorkel" Thomas, in the January 2017 issue of Backpacker magazine. “Backpacker is getting serious about long distance walking! Definitely worth a read.”

Snorkel is an incredible long-distance hiker; she’s completed the AT (at one time she held the speed record), PCT, and CDT as well as the “Little Crown,” which is the Long Trail, John Muir, and Colorado, in one year.

You can read Snorkel’sblog here; her latest post is entitled, Dealing with Post-Hike Depression 

#5. The Legendary Jeff Garmire. Enjoy “an evening with Jeff Garmire as he recounts his adventure of completing the Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and Continental Divide trail (CDT) - 7600 miles- All within the Calendar year of 2016!” These three trails compose what is termed the Triple Crown of Hiking. Only 258 people have completed it. Jeff is one of only five people who have ever accomplished this in one calendar year.

January 07, 2017 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM Price: $24 at the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center at the State Theatre, 985 Lincoln Way, Auburn , CA 95603. Phone: 530.885.0156. This event is a fundraiser for the Pacific Crest Trail Organization and Suicide Awareness.

Email: Web: Event ID: 186827

#6. Wilderness Volunteers. Once again our friend Patricia Schaffarczyk is going to co-lead a service project in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. The group will be doing a lot of invasive plant pulling (Sahara Mustard). While this is officially a seven-day trip, what usually happens on the WV trips is work for a couple of days, taking one day off to explore, and then working another couple of days. This particular trip is full, but there are plenty more openings with WV. 

2Wilderness Volunteers is not alone in offering volunteer vacations with jobs such trail building or maintenance, eradicating invasive species, etc. There are other organizations such as the American Hiking Society, whose trips go from Alaska to the Virgin Islands; Sierra Clubwhose service trips also include some with a focus on history (such as their Shenandoah Valley Battlefields, Virginia, trip in May); and thePacific Crest Trail Association.  The level of difficulty of these work/play trips typically ranges from Easy to Very-Strenuous; food is included. The time commitment varies from one day to weeks. Costs range from $0 (PCTA) to $400.  

#7. Learn more about volunteer opportunities through the PCTA at their Trail Dirt Live in Riverside. They will meet on January 21, 2017 at the Mission Inn Hotel in a social setting with “local volunteers, members and partners with PCTA staff and board members.” Information, awards, and fun! There will also be a special presentation for “Longtime Trail Gorilla leader, Pete Fish,” who is retiring.

#8. NorCal Winter Ruck. Scott Williams posted info about the upcoming American Long Distance Hiking Association West, Ruck. (ALDHA-West). It will be March 4, 2017 at Camp Lindblad in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

There is also a Cascade Winter Ruck to be held on Feb. 25 Feb 2017, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM, at the Gorge Pavilion - Marine Park, Cascade Locks, OR.

From Williams, “For those who haven’t been to a Ruck, it’s usually a morning of presentations on hiking and a time for those who are new to long distance hiking to schmooze with the old timers, people who have done one or many of America’s National Scenic Trails.  The afternoon provides time for one on one, “pack explosions” during which the new folks can bring their gear and have it personally critiqued by one or more people who’ve done the trails you’re looking to hike.  For Camino folks, I’ll be personally checking out your kit and I’ll bring some of my own to share.  There’s a lot of overlap between what is needed for our U.S. long distance trails and what is needed for the Camino.  The ticket to enjoying both is to train, and go light.  My hikes are about training and going light is what this event is all about!

“ALDHA-West is a wonderful, non-profit organization I’ve been involved with for a number of years now.  Along with promoting long distance hiking, they’ve sent members to Washington each year to help lobby support for America’s National Scenic Trails.  If you’ve never been to one of their ‘Gatherings,’ which take place in the fall, or a Ruck like this one, this will be an opportunity to get some early season one on one time with seasoned hikers.”  

#9. Bats! We in the San Francisco Bay Area have at least 15 kinds of bats—including the western mastiff bat (aka as the greater bonneted bat), which is the largest bat in North America. As you no doubt know, bats are terrific assets to the ecosystem because, among other things, they consume mosquitoes and other crop pests in great quantities. Though bats are doing fairly well in our area, they are not doing so well in other parts of the country. In fact, half of all species are either endangered or declining due to habitat loss, disease, and climate change. To find directions on how to add bat houses to your landscape, go to Bat Conservation International’s site.

Happy trails,

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

. I’d love to include your success stories and other items of interest with the hiking/backpacking and Camino communities. I encourage you to send them to me at for consideration.
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

 All Newsletters 2020 , 2019 , 2018 , 2017 , 2016 , 2015 , 2014 , 2013 , 2012 , 2011 , 2010 , 2009 , 2008 , 2007 , 2006 , 2005 , 2004

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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