home of Shepherd Canyon Books

Help support this site by using our Amazon or REI buttons for any purchase

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2017

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

Shepherd Canyon Books
25 Southwood Court
Oakland, CA  94611
   email backpack45 at

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

  If you would like me to remove your name from the newsletter e-mail list, please let me know. If you know anyone who wants to be added, please have them send me a message. Thanks.

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 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.

Page Changed: June 6, 2017 18:01

[Home][Top of Page]   - Please send comments, suggestions to backpack45 circleatsign yahoo dot com
All text and images copyright © Shepherd Canyon Books - 2003 through 2013
“ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to”