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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2008

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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #117 Dec 15, 2008

Happy holidays! Contents:

1. Humor from Donna Saufley
2. Wind-chill Index
3. Children Outdoors
4. Pilgrim Stats for 2008
5. Pacific Crest Trail -- Trail Fest '09
6. Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff '09
7. "Boots" McFarland Appears Again
8. Remarkable AT Hiker, Trevor Thomas

#1 Humor from Donna Saufley

Recent contribution to the PCT forum from Donna Saufley, trail angel extraordinaire: "Grizzly goes into the local hiker bar and orders twelve shots. The bartender sets them up, and Grizzly begins to pound them back in quick succession, not even pausing between. Shocked, the bartender asks Grizzly why he's drinking so fast. Grizzly replies, 'You would too, if you had what I have.' The bartender asks, 'What do you have?' Grizzly states as he's swallowing the last shot, 'Seventy-five cents.'"

#2 Wind Chill Index

Roberta Gonzales, CBS Weather Anchor, explains wind-chill values thusly: "[it's] the combined air temperature and wind speed. [It's] calculated with temperatures at or below 50 F. and winds above 3 mph."

Bright sunshine and humidity also play a role in how cold you feel and how you should dress for cold weather. Your goal in dressing for cold weather is to trap your body heat and control moisture. Therefore, wear layers that insulate and will transfer (wick) moisture away from your body (pit zips are helpful). Avoid cotton and other fabrics that retain moisture and are slow to dry; choose garments that are loose- fitting and lightweight. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water-resistant or repellant depending on the circumstances. Mittens are warmer than gloves; inner and outer ones provide greater insulation.

In 2001, the National Weather Service began using a new wind-chill index.

A couple of examples: Temperature 30 degrees F, wind 5 mph = 25 degree wind-chill adjusted temperature.

Temperature 30 degrees, wind 60 mph = 10 degree wind-chill adjusted temperature.

Further examples given at

#3 Children Outdoors

Jane Huber likes to take her three-year old son hiking and has great suggestions in her blog entitled, "Hiking with a 3-year-old." Among her helpful comments when selecting a trail, "Choose the right kind of trail. While the whole family adores singletrack trails through woods and coastal scrub, these aren't best for us. Very narrow trails aren't wide enough to accommodate 2 hikers walking hand in hand, which is essential when we are hiking on trails with a drop-off on one side or that are very steep. It's also essential to be able to see a good distance in front and behind us, because quite often Jack will plop down on the trail to play with leaves or rocks or Heffalump traps, and when he does this I need to make sure a bicycle (or mountain lion) doesn't come barreling down the trail and run into us. Hiking-only trails eliminate the possibility of bikes and horses, but wide fire roads through open grassy landscapes work best." Visit Jane at

#4 Pilgrim Stats 2008

. Rosina recently sent these statistics from the Pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela. MESES DE LA PEREGRINACIN In year order of 2006, 2007, 2008: January: 314, 350, 306; February: 351, 666, 703; March: 1093, 1680, 5328; April: 7,438, 8112, 5655; May: 9992, 12898, 15988; June: 12946, 15157, 15860; July: 18560, 20108, 20983; August: 25968, 27140, 29733; September: 13451, 15189, 17283; October: 7661, 9434, 9871; November: 1755, 2496, 2300; December: 848, 796 [only two years given, not sure which years! Susan]. TOTALS: (2006) 100377, (2007) 114026, (2008) 124010. Visit the Camino forum at

#5. PCTA 2009 Trail Fest

The Pacific Crest Trail Association's 2009 "Trail Fest" will be held March 27, 28 & 29, 2009 at the Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center Portland*Lloyd Center in Portland, Oregon. Trail Fest is an opportunity for hikers and volunteers to learn more about the trail. There will be classes, speakers, and a vendor fair.

Accommodations at Double Tree Hotel can be made by calling 1(800) 996-0510 and asking for the Pacific Crest Trail Association room block. Hotel reservations must be received by Doubletree Hotel no later than March 3, 2009 to receive the special room rates ($114-134).

Check the PCTA website soon at  for details on registration, presenters and vendors.

#6 PCT Kickoff ADZPCTKO 2009

. Greg Hummel has submitted the date of next year's Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff--usually referred to as the ADZPCTKO. It's a hiker gathering, held at Lake Moreno in Southern California, and a fine place to meet others who plan to thru-hike the PCT. The dates for 2009, the 11th ADZ are April 24th - 26th.

#7"Boots" McFarland Appears Again

I missed the boat on this one -- I meant to pass this info on earlier: Geolyn Carvin, whose adventurous hiking cartoon character Boots McFarland finds humor on the trail and beyond, has created several new items that would be perfect for the hiker on your holiday list. At her site, you'll find tee-shirts, bumper stickers, and holiday cards. You can visit the store at:  For more info about "Boots" go to:

#8 Remarkable AT Hiker, Trevor Thomas

A fascinating story from the east coast and the Appalachian Trail appeared in our Friday (12/12/08) San Francisco Chronicle -- Trevor Thomas of Charlotte, North Carolina, completed the AT, all 2,175 miles of it, on October 8, 2008. What makes his accomplishment stand out from the other approximately 400 others who thru-hiked the trail this year, is that Thomas is blind. His trail name became "Zero-Zero" -- a term that indicates zero visibility above, zero visibility below.

How did he do it? His words tell all, "I put my life in the hand of complete strangers over and over again." From beginning to end, others -- sometimes a solo hiker, sometimes a group -- would walk in front of Thomas, tapping on a protruding rock or tree, verbally assisting him, or leading him by hand. Did I mention that this continued for 2,175 miles!

Thomas's hike was not without injury -- he chipped a bone in a fall in Massachusetts, and broke two ribs in Maine, but his determination allowed him to push on. I suspect that observing his determination, against such tremendous odds, inspired many others to push on also.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Welcome in Winter Solstice (Dec. 21)!
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #116 Dec 1, 2008

Pain and suffering on the trail is inevitable, but misery is optional. (PCT forum, author unknown)

1. Fluorescent Vests Brighten the Countryside
2. Fun Fiber Facts
3. What's for Breakfast?
4. Anitra Kass Joins Triple Crowners
5. Cuben Fiber (not edible)
6. Stocking Stuffers
7. John Vonhof's Contributions
8. "Spark Your Dream"
9. Regional: Hiking in the Sierra by Berkeley's Camp

#1. Fluorescent Vests

When Ralph and I were hiking the French Arles route this fall, we had the opportunity to be in the hinterlands in September — and the dubious opportunity of being there on the opening day of hunting season. Our first inkling that anything firearms-related was going on was when we were climbing out of the canyon behind where the beautiful medieval village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert is perched.

We had reached the brambly windswept plateau above Saint-Guilhem and at a distance I spotted a lone figure, wearing a fluorescent green vest, seated in front of some sheltering earthen mounds. At first I thought there was must be some trail maintenance underway, but as we approached, we could see that it was a hunter, holding a shotgun, and settled in for a long wait. "What was he hunting?" we wondered. (Later on we found out that it was boar).

Over the next few miles, and days, we had several other saw other hunters. A shiny object would catch our eye, and we would see a car with a vested driver slowing climbing a steep hill; we'd see a small group of men and their dogs walking into the hills on the deeply rutted, rocky 4-wheel drive roads we shared. Occasionally we'd hear the baying of what we at first thought were dogs, and later learned where the sounds emitted by the boars. Sometimes we'd hear gunshots; sometimes they were too close for comfort and Ralph would call out "Bonjour, Monsieur" and the shooting would pause. I packed away my black thermal tee-shirt and took to wearing my most brightly colored shirt. (I never could figure out why the few other hikers we met seemed oblivious to the proximity of the gunshots, but after a few days of such sounds, I guess we became fairly comfortable, too!)

We always have several unanswered questions that arise when we are hiking in new (to us) territory. The one that next came was "Does everyone who lives around here hunt?" It seemed obvious that the men wearing the vests, carrying shotguns, and traipsing into the hills were hunters. "But why," we wondered when we reached town, "are there bright green vests on the front seats of most every car we see?" In this country, we sometimes see beach towels thrown over the back of a seat — presumably to protect the upholstery or to liven up the interior, sometimes even tee-shirts, but fluorescent vests of the sort that school crossing guards would wear here…not likely.

It wasn't until we got home and were reading a blog written by an English expat that we found the definitive answer: "This quite acceptable law came in on July 1st, having been enforced in Spain for 2 years already. It's now law to carry a fluorescent vest together with a red triangle." ("Jo" has a great blog at )

Jo continues, " The best way to avoid being stopped by [the gendarmes] is to display the vest in a prominent position in the car... hanging it from the back of the driver's seat seems to be the most popular choice. After all that's where it needs to be if you do have an accident or a breakdown. Not in the boot where you may have to risk life and limb to access it." So now you have it; perhaps we need a similar law.

#2. Fun Fiber Facts

It's not exactly news that oats, bran, and other fibers are important in the diet, but here's another benefit for those who'd like to climb the stairs or mountains and not be out of breath while doing so. "In a study, [sorry, no source given] people who ate at least 27 grams of fiber per day had better lung capacity than people who got less than 10 grams. The high-fiber eaters were also 15 percent less likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an irreversible lung condition that makes it hard to breathe. Fiber may protect lungs by reducing tissue-damaging inflammation. The antioxidants in fiber probably help protect lung cells, too." (from They add, "Eating a high-fiber diet can make your RealAge up to 3.5 years younger."

#3. What's For Breakfast?

Breakfast of Champions? Ralph's father's career was as a naturalist and ranger and Ralph spent his early years in Yellowstone National Park. Although they did move out of the heart of the park for the winter, there were still times when being a permanent employee of the park meant living months at a time far from grocery stores. Early on, when Ralph and I were first getting acquainted, he told me that their breakfast cereal of choice was often popcorn. Maybe that's not uncommon in some parts of the country, but it was unknown to me — I grew up with Cheerios, Cornflakes, and Grapenuts. So, I was amused to read today in the RealAge newsletter the following under "EDITOR'S PICK." "What is high in fiber, hung on Christmas trees, and handy for people who hate breakfast? Popcorn! It’s a low-cost, low-calorie way to add fiber to your day. Think of it as your version of puffed rice or bran cereal, minus the pricey packaging. Try add-ins for flavor variety."

#4. Anitra Kass Joins Triple Crowners

A backpacking friend from Southern California, Dave, sent the following, "We have a local young woman who completed the Triple Crown on 11/9/2007, Anitra Kass, a.k.a. Nitro. My partner Suzanne and Nitro's dad work for the same real estate company in the town of Apple Valley and I run into her every so often at work functions. She is a very neat young lady. Her dad told me recently that she is considering an attempt at all three trails in one year perhaps in 2009." [Triple Crown: Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and Continental Divide].

#5. Cuben Fiber (not edible)

Light, lighter, lightest? Backpacking equipment just gets lighter and lighter. The current rage appears to be Cuben Fiber. The attributes of Sil-nylon and Cuben Fiber are described by Joe Valesko (Samurai Joe), who offers a variety of custom gear at his website. "ZPacks backpacks are made from waterproof materials and are naturally water resistant. They can withstand light rain, or brief showers without a problem, but in an all day downpour you will probably want extra rain protection."

"At long last, sub 1 ounce pack covers! Features: * 100% waterproof, seamless design; Shock cord draw string cinches tight around your pack; A lightweight strap clips underneath your shoulder straps to ensure that the pack cover will never blow away in a gust of wind! * Available in 1.3 oz/sq yd Silicone Nylon or .6 oz/sq yd Cuben Fiber. Sil-Nylon is a bit more durable (but also twice as heavy) and may be a better choice if you plan on doing alot of bush-whacking in the rain. Cuben Fiber is plenty durable enough under normal conditions. * A stuff sack is NOT included, however a "rock pouch" on the stuff sacks page is a perfect fit." Prices: Cuben Fiber $32-35; Sil-Nylon Cover $20-22" Check out Samurai Joe’s site at

#6. Stocking Stuffers

Stocking Stuffers for Hikers and Backpackers? For fun, I'm going to write a blog shortly ( on Ten Essential Items for Hikers (or similar). I've noticed over the years that there are all sorts of such lists around, but the thing is, the lists are rarely only 10 items long and secondly, the lists generally not the same 10 things. Seems a bit strange. In the meantime, my list of suggested items for those who like to travel on foot. (I've written about most of these before, so I won't belabor the descriptions. You can Google for address info.)

a. Injinji socks (toe socks that help prevent blisters between toes).
b. Sunday Afternoons hat (large brim protects neck and face from sun; lightweight, versatile).
c. Omnifix (wide tape, which can be wrapped around the foot to prevent, protect (after the fact) blisters).
d. Spenco 2nd Skin Blister Pads (apply to blisters to cushion and get moist for better, faster healing).
e. Moleskin (many people like it to treat blisters (I don't); but I have used it INSIDE my shoes to prevent irritating seams, etc.).
f. StickPic (You attach the StickPic to your camera, stick it on your hiking pole, hold the camera away from you, and you can take a photo of yourself standing on Mt. Kilimanjaro or wherever you happen to be standing). $14.99 . also at REI and similar outlets.
g. Sunscreen (with UVA and UVB protection). My dermatologist actually recommends Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock.
h. Granola Bars (I just happen to love Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Granola Bars (by General Mills)). I know there are tons of "nutrition bars" out there, but most of them taste like cardboard. Before you buy anything in quantity for a long trip, be sure you taste-tested. And keep in mind, that variety is very, very important.
i. Earplugs (tried to sleep in a hostel or an airplane lately?
j. And in the shameless act of self-promotion, I recommend a copy of "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill" or Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago." (available at , independent local bookstores,, etc.
And you can wrap any of the above in a colorful, reusable, bandanna!

7. John Vonhof's "FIXING YOUR FEET E-zine

Always full of helpful items. (His Volume 8, Issue 11, November 2008) includes the following info:

"'I met Melissa Griffiths, an adventure racer from California, as she was preparing for "Raid the North Extreme" in BC Canada in June 2007. We emailed back and forth as she told me of her woes with her feet. From Melissa "…. during Raid …I met John. He gave me 3 tips, which have proven invaluable and since then I've had little to no issues with my feet. The advice is very basic but extremely effective:

1. Keep your toenails short. Really short. I file my nails every night and pay particular attention to rounding off the edges. They should feel smooth all the way round.

2. Hard skin does not protect your feet! I used to think that having a callus was good as it protected the area but it just creates an area for blisters to form. I now file my feet every night with a pumice stone and moisturize thoroughly.

3. Wear good socks. Get rid of the old favorites and invest in something decent. Try the new CoolMax, they do a good job of keeping feet dry and happy."'

John has just released his list of suggestions for Christmas Gifts for athletes. To subscribe to his monthly newsletter: Send an email to FixingYourFeetEzine -subscribe@ yahoogroups. com or go to  .

Also, John Vonhof is the author of "Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes" an important resource for anyone who walks. Be sure to get the newest, the 4th edition.

8. Not on topic:

 I can't end without doing a plug for another book. It's not about hiking or backpacking, but it is a great adventure book. Ralph and I recently went to a local harvest festival. Just outside the entrance sat an old car owned by a remarkably friendly and engaging young couple who were standing in front. Set up nearby was a table with copies of their book, "Spark Your Dream" on display. Candelaria and Herman Zapp, the authors, had originally planned to backpack from their home near Buenos Aires, Argentina to Alaska. For a number of reasons, they changed their mind and set off on what they thought would be a six-month trip by car — their amazing 1928 Graham-Paige.

Ralph latched onto the copy we bought on the spot and started reading it that night. I finally have managed to wrest it away from him and am just starting my journey. According to Ralph, it does get "preachy" at times (follow your dream message), but since I know that their six- month trip became an almost four year one, that they had at least one baby along the way, and that the planned 15,000 miles turned into 43,000 miles, I'm looking forward to every moment of vicarious adventure.


The City of Berkeley, CA, has a full calendar of summer camps near Yosemite. Their website ( ) reads, "Tuolumne Family Camp is located in the Stanislaus National Forest just outside Yosemite National Park. Tuolumne has most of the activities you would expect on vacation, but also so much more in a small, tight community of campers. Camp creates an oasis for adults to relax and unwind and for children to develop an appreciation of the out-of-doors. Whether you're looking forward to the quiet, slow pace of reading a book, a fast-paced game of volleyball or to relax and catch up with friends, Tuolumne has it all." Hikers might be interested in the June 8-12, 2009 "Hiking Camp." Registration for Berkeley residents is now open; non-residents may register beginning November 21, 2008.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #115 Nov 15, 2008

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. That's why it's called "the present".

1. The 2009 Gathering of Pilgrims (American Friends on the Camino)
2. Auction of Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods (CA)
3. New Cross-Country Sierra Crest Route Book
4. Kids Outdoors
5. Snow Tripping with Call of The Wild
6. Oak Tree Trivia or Warning?
7. Sierra Club National Trips in 2009.
8. Why Didn't I Think of That?

#1. 2009 American Pilgrims Gathering

For long-range planners who already have next year's calendar started, be sure to write in some of the following dates for the annual gathering of the American Friends on the Camino. They have just posted the following information and at the website, you will find more details and registration forms.

"Every year since 1998, American Pilgrims on the Camino or its predecessor organizations has hosted an annual Gathering of Pilgrims. These events are opportunities to enjoy the company of old friends, to meet new ones and to relive the experience of the Camino." This year's gathering, Walk in spirit, will be held Wednesday, March 11 through Tuesday, March 17, 2009, in Albuquerque, New Mexico!"

There are three components: "Hospitalero Training [learning how to payback by hosting at an albergue/refugio], March 11 - 12, 2009, South Valley Economic Development Center, Albuquerque, (Available only to members of American Pilgrims). This is our only scheduled hospitalero training for 2009!"

"2009 Gathering of Pilgrims, March 13 - 15, 2009, Best Western Rio Grande Inn, Old Town Albuquerque,"

"Spiritual Retreat, March 15 - 17, 2009, Spiritual Renewal Center, Albuquerque."

Join past and future pilgrims in exploring the deeper and higher meanings that lie within the Road to Santiago. The 2009 Gathering of Pilgrims will engage your body, your mind and your spirit as we share stories, thought-provoking presentations and festivities to celebrate the pilgrim in all of us." Visit 

#2. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods

Just opened their first auction with a wide variety of offerings. Peruse the choices — wine, cheese, jewelry as well as books (including a signed copy of "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers), a hot air balloon ride, and amazingly, "a 4-Night Stay with Airfare from East Coast for 2 at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (Alberta). 

#3. Sierra Crest Route

Ralph contributes his latest book review: "Sierra Crest Route, and other Routes Less Traveled" by Leonard Daughenbaugh. "For those of you who love off trail, want a more wilderness experience, and have technical climbing skills, Daughenbaugh has a new book. You know of the JMT, and probably Steve Roper's High Route. This book describes a route closer yet to the Sierra Crest, entirely off trail, no more than a mile off the crest, and usually within a half mile of the crest. Almost all text, much in description of mountaineering opportunities from the route, so I expect that this will become a mountaineer's bible. This is the first volume of a two volume series, this one covering 228 miles from Haiwee Pass in the south (in the Olancha area) to the Sawtooth Ridge southwest of Bridgeport. The author has broken the route into twelve sections, with approach/escape routes for each section."

The first thirty some pages are precautionary warnings for anyone traveling through isolated high altitude areas, and can provide some useful but sobering information for any PCT hiker. The route never requires more than Class 3 climbing skills - no technical equipment, but the author says that anyone attempting it should have Class 4 skills and carry Class 4 equipment - ropes, etc., mainly because of the possibility of accidentally or intentionally getting into Class 4 areas."

"Other than approach road descriptions, there are no miles or other distance indications. The expectation is that you are familiar with map reading and route finding, and know what you are getting into. Sample text page 70:

'"2.) Ascend northwest above Charlotte Lake and pass through Gardiner Pass, located northeast of Peak 3522. Ascend northeast past the north side of Mount Gardiner, then descend to the west side of Lake 3477, the largest lake in Gardiner Basin, ....."'

At this time it is only available at "

#4. Kids Outdoors

I recently came across these comments and guidelines on the National Wildlife Federation's Green Hour e-newsletter: "The National Wildlife Federation released a statement from Vice President for Education and Training, Kevin Coyle, …urging Americans to trade screen time for green time and getting outside for a Green Hour."

"Dr. Steven Galson, MD, the Acting U.S. Surgeon General, …had some great ideas on how kids can be active. '"They can climb trees, they can go on the playground, they can do hopping and skipping games."'

'"The guidelines for children and adolescents (ages 6-17) include: * Children and adolescents should have 1 hour or more of physical activity every day. * Most of that hour should be either moderate- or vigorous- intensity aerobic physical activity. * Children and adolescents should do vigorous-intensity activity on at least 3 days per week. They also should do muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activity at least 3 days per week.'" 

#5. Snow Trips with Call of the Wild

Call of the Wild has some winter plans afield [no pun intended]. "Call of the Wild Inc., the World's Longest Running Adventure Travel Company for Women (Since 1978): "Snowshoe Among the Giant Sequoias", February 6 - 8, 2009, includes Bed & Breakfast Lodging

This unique weekend is designed for anyone who likes to be active in the snow, but doesn't like to camp in it! Sequoia National Park is approximately 3.5 hours from both Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Our office can assist with carpooling if you are interested.

They are also leading backpacking trips into the Sierra, including a Mt. Whitney trip in July. Call of the Wild is now located in Mountain View, CA. Check out their 2009 Trip Calendar:  Email: trips at callwild dot com. Phone and Fax: 650 265 1662; Toll Free: 888 378 1978.

#6. Oak tree Trivia or Warning?

 I love Oak trees, but may look at them at bit differently in the future — particularly if it's stormy outside. According to the California Magazine (University of California alumni publication, pg. 14.), "the oak tree is more likely to be struck by lightning than any other tree." That's because oak trees have a deep tap root "that plunges deeply into the ground. They also have hollow, water-filled cells that run up and down inside the trunk." Those two features make it a better conductor of electricity than more shallow rooted trees.

#7. Sierra Club National Trips

And while we are talking about trips in 2009, it's not a bad idea to consider some of the long-distance trails in Europe. The Sierra Club's new catalog is now out — two that might interest are "Northern Spain — Camino de Santiago and Picos de Europa, June 1-14. They will combine moderate day hikes on the Camino with visits to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, and the prehistoric cave painting of Altamira. Luxury accommodations in inns and Paradores. $4,165. (trip #09620A)

The England's Coast-to-Coast Walk (Irish Sea to North Sea) is scheduled for May 24-June 6. This one takes you through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. Price: $3,725. (#09655)

A more affordable and adventurous tour might be one to Alaska — the "Wilderness by Land and by Sea, Kenai Fjords National Park and Chugach National Forest", from July 5-16. The trip combines backpacking and a one-day cruise. $1,895 (#09021A). Check them out at or call 415-977-5522

#8. Why didn't I think of that?

A small thing, but quite helpful! Today Ralph and I were at a local gathering of Camino pilgrims at Lin Galea's home in San Francisco. Madeline, one of the other guests, mentioned that she takes large (3" long) safety pins when hiking and backpacking. Since we always love finding a way to use any item we carry more than one way, I immediately decided to replace my clothespins with safety pins. Then not only can they be used to hang clothes on a line, but also they can also more securely hold damp socks (or whatever) on the back of a pack. In addition, the safety pins can be used when you have a blister. Thank you Madeline!

Happy trails and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #114 Nov 1, 2008

"Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you are alive it isn't. It is the same with the trail. Your journey is not finished if you are alive — you must saddle up and hit the trail." (PCT forum/unknown author)

1. Weasel Watch
2. Helpful Camino Report
3. Mea Culpa!
4. Marcy on Top of the World
5. Kids & the Outdoors
6. Camino Gathering in San Francisco
7. Behrens Earns Triple Crown
8. Camino with a Walker?!
9. Great Old Broads and You

#1 Weasel Watch

A couple of weeks ago, Ralph and I went hiking on the edge of the world. It was a great day for hiking in the Bay Area. The hike was from the Pierce Ranch, which is at the northern tip of Pt. Reyes National Seashore, and it's one of my favorites. This is the time of year that the Tule elk enter the rut and because the trail is along a narrow peninsula between Tomales Bay and the Pacific Ocean, it's extremely easy to find the elk. Usually we see huge groups of females with a male or two in a couple of different locations. There are also usually some small groups of males — bachelors — sulking somewhere in the vicinity.

But to us the most exciting wildlife sightings we saw that day were much smaller than the elk — two striped skunks and a weasel. We saw the skunks before we had even reached the parking lot. They were about 20 feet apart, both minding their own business and searching in the short grass for something to eat. After watching and shooting a couple of photos or them -- somewhat nervously because I was sitting in the car with the window down — we continued on to the parking lot, got out, and started our walk.

About a mile along, I saw motion in the trailside vegetation -- a weasel. Now until my first sighting of a weasel, I had always pictured them as being huge and ugly. This guy was slender and cute. I could not believe how long he stood there watching us. During the time we watched him — about 5 minutes all told — he went into and out of his burrow (or someone else's) several times, but he just couldn't get over being as curious about us as we were of him.

A perfect way to spend a foggy, but not too cold, fall day! If you would like a break from campaign youtube clips and phone calls, and would like to see a delightful (if I do say so myself) video of an adorable little critter, go to  and watch my new weasel buddy.

#2 Helpful Camino Report

Robert Spenger often contributes to the Camino forums (santiagobis @, saintjames @, gocamino @, Ultreya @ He recently wrote the following (which I have shortened) Tue, Oct 28, 2008.

"2000/2002 - 2008 changes" "In 2000, I started from Arles, joined the camino francés at Pamplona, and continued on to SdeC and Fisterra. In 2002, I started from Saint Palais, took the route Napoleón from SJPdeP to Roncevaux, and continued on to SdeC, with bus jumps from Burgos to Sahagún and from Astorga to Ponferrada. This year, 2008, I started from Condom, France, where I had stopped last year after a start from LePuy, and continued on to Sarria, where I had to give it up when my right knee got too bad to continue. On that trip, I took the Valcarlos route from SJPdeP to Roncevaux, and used bus jumps from Belorado to Burgos and from Sahagún to León. I also did the regular 20km (i.e. dirt) trail from Hornillos to Castrojeriz, whereas I used the 30 km highway route for that section on the 2000 trip. One other change was that I made the side trip to the Eunate this year. In 2000, I bypassed it by going from Monreal to Puente la Reina by way of Pamplona instead of directly. In 2002, I did not want to take the time to do the side trip."

"There has been a great deal of trail improvement. One case in point is that meseta variation. In 2000, I did the stretch from Villefria to Hornillos on a day that started out O.K. but got very wet by the time I was crossing the notorious hills before Hornillos. Notorious for the gooey, grey mud that piled up on your shoes until you felt like you had bowling ball halves glued to the soles — then suddenly flying off so that your next step was a few inches lower than you expected. It was for that reason that I opted to take 30km of pavement to Castrojeriz the next day instead of the 20km of mud. This year I could see the grey soil on either side of the path, but the path itself has been covered with a layer of a reddish-brown mix of dirt and gravel."

"…There were a lot of other places that I even had trouble recognizing because the trails were so different. On the early trips I remember seeing a lot of newly planted saplings (even some on the south side where they belonged) and I wondered if any of them would make it to become shade trees. This year, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that many of them, including a lot of new ones had indeed survived and were serving their function."

"The number of pilgrims is definitely way up. Both the 2002 trip and this one were at the same time of year, so the comparison should be valid. I did not have trouble getting a bed, because I was doing only about 16km a day (in contrast to the 16 miles a day that I averaged in 2000) and usually getting in between 12:00 and 14:00, but, in the early stages in Spain, the albergues were filling up by mid- afternoon."

There are also far more albergues available, especially private ones. An additional change was that the term "refugio" doesn't seem to be used anymore. They were all referred to as albergues. The food hadn't changed much in the bars, restaurants, and tiendas, but there seemed to be a much greater percentage of the pilgrims doing their own cooking this time around. The albergues themselves seemed to have made this easier, with plenty of equipment, including refrigerators and microwave ovens. It seemed like over half of them now have internet facilities, usually coin-op type, ranging from 15 to 35 minutes per euro, but occasionally gratis or donativo."

"There is a lot more luggage transport available and in use now. Transbagage and other companies that had been operating for quite some time along the LePuy route in France, now extend their services all the way to SdeC and probably to Fisterra. I noticed it mostly from the ads posted in various places, including the albergues."

#3 Correction:

In an earlier newsletter, I reported a major Pacific Crest Trail achievement as "Scott Johnson & Joe Kisner have done it! However, I had an incorrect name: it should have read Scott WILLIAMSON & Joe Kisner. My apologies — I used to know a contractor whose name was Johnson, so that's probably where my brain came up with the glitch! Anyway, Scott and Joe did indeed set a new record for completing the 2,650-mile PCT (without a support team) by finishing in 71 days, 2 hrs, 41 minutes. (June 8, 2008-Aug 18, 2008). "Of interest to those who adhere (like me) to the "PCT/John Muir Trail Diet", which is basically a plan of eating minimal food while doing lots of strenuous hiking, Joe (who reportedly believes in the "pre- stored calories method") lost about 50 lb., while Scott, always lean, lost hardly any." info from: JMT Reinhold

#4 Marcy on top of the World

I love to print success stories, and here's a fantastic accomplishment — Marcyn Clements (who was in "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers") has just returned from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. I can tell from her emails that she is still high from the altitude and the thrill of it all. That's understandable — Kili, at 19,340', is the highest peak on the continent of Africa. Marcyn believes that Tusker Trails (who Grace Lohr, Ralph, and I also recommend) is "the best" company" on the mountain.

#5 Kids and the Outdoors

I have mentioned this before, but today I am welcoming about 40 new subscribers to this newsletter, so I want to get word out about a helpful resource — a weekly blog with great ideas and activities for the family getting outdoors and playing. Go to:  (by the National Wildlife Federation)

#6 Camino Gathering in San Francisco

Gathering of [San Francisco] Bay Area Pilgrims, Saturday, November 15th, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Noe Valley, San Francisco. From Lin Galea Hola Peregrinos/as, "The 2008 walking season is coming to a close. Pilgrims are returning home and Camino yearn is setting in. The best antidote is to meet with fellow pilgrims and start planning your next trip. To help tide you over till your next walk, we have some recently returned pilgrims who will share their special Camino experiences with you."

Michael Barham, a doctor of ministry student at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, is studying the experience of pilgrims as they enter into Santiago. This past summer, he spent several weeks in Santiago and on the camino volunteering as a hospitalero, and will share some of his experiences, and the questions he is exploring for his thesis. Ralph and Susan Alcorn will talk about their recent trip: the GR 653 from Arles to Toulouse [France]– Planning,
Guidebooks, Images."

The festivities begin at 10:00 AM. We will provide coffee,
beverages and soup. Please bring something to share for lunch: bread,
wine, cheese, chocolate, etc."

Please feel free to contact me if you have something you would like
to share with the group.
RSVP lin at lingalea dot com for address and directions."

#7 Behrens Earns Triple Crown

He finished as he started: In 1987, Bob Behrens started out on the 2,928-mile hike of the Continental Divide. Three days later he sprained his ankle and had to leave the trail. The next year, he completed the trail. In 1998, Behrens trekked the Appalachian Trail's 2,198 miles from north to south. (Only 10 percent of hikers who began the trail that year finished it.)

In April of this year, Behrens's wife, Ruth, drove him to the Mexican border near Campo, CA where Behren's would start the Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles). They hiked for months and when only days away from reaching Canada, Behrens fell. His ankle quickly began to swell. After he and his hiking partner, Koby-Burley, accessed the situation, Behrens had a choice to make — to stay put while his partner hiked out to get help, or to hike the last 100+ miles to finish the trail.

Behrens elected to continue on. After finishing his hike eight days and 130 miles later, he returned home and went to the doctor. X-rays confirmed that he had broken his leg in two places and that he had torn a ligament in his ankle. Behrens, a 57-year-old Great Bend, OR, native is now recovering from surgery and planning his next adventure — to Alaska.

According to the American Long Distance Hiking Association, Behrens is among fewer than 100 people in the world who have completed all three of the long-distance hikes that comprise The Triple Crown. (For more info on their trip, go to, enter JoJo Smiley (Koby-Burley's trail name) in the search window, then explore the 2008 Pacific Crest Trail information.)

#8. Camino with a Walker

A 77-year-old woman, Mimouna El Mazougui, has just completed the Camino de Santiago — from the French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela. And if that isn't enough of a feat (no pun intended), she did it with the aid of her walker. Mimouna said that it was not difficult. '"I left fifty days ago from France and every day I made about thirty kilometers. There were days when I had to walk more than the usual distance because the walker didn't let me walk the original route and I had to go on the highway."'

#9 Great Old Broads and You

Together with you, Great Old Broads for Wilderness can raise more funds with their auction. It's an opportunity to bid on everything from trips (to such adventurous locations as Peru, Africa, rafting on the Colorado) to jewelry, art, and books. Go to the auction site

From their website, "Great Old Broads is a grassroots organization dedicated to wilderness growth and protection. The Great Old Broads was founded in 1989 in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Today our wrinkled ranks have grown to include men and younger women (Broads-in-training), though the majority of our membership continues to be older women committed to protecting wilderness areas."

Happy trails!
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #113 Oct 15, 2008

"Life and the trail are what you make of it...kinda like Play- Doh." (from the PCTA forum)

1. A Sundae Trail?
2. Calories and Hiking
3. Fatalities in the Sierra & on the PCT
4. Tale of the Cat
5. Foil Bedbugs
6. Rainbows
7. Mark Shea on the Camino
8. Regional: Bay Nature
9. Regional: San Carlos Tomorrow Night

#1 A Sundae Trail?

Here's the scoop — next time you are in Eastern Connecticut, don't miss out on the "Ice Cream Trail." At website:, you'll find maps and listings of the dozens of shops, stands, and restaurants serving ice cream (or gelato). The list includes the 99- year-old Ice Cream Shoppe at 34 Lyme St., Old Lyme. Perhaps someone could consolidate the various maps and create a loop hike that would take hikers by each one?

#2 Calories and Hiking

 If you don't live near Eastern Connecticut, you'll have to get your fuel/calories elsewhere. How many calories per day does a long- distance hiker or backpacker need? You need to look at calories burned and calories consumed.

Calories burned depends on several factors: your weight and body composition, weight of your pack, elevation gains (climbing requires more than flat walking); pace of walking, and hours of hiking. According to Backpacking Light, if you hike 2.5 miles per hour, you'll burn about 400 calories per hour. Plus you'll burn about 150 per hour while in camp and about 75 calories per hour while sleeping.

So, for example: you hike 10 hours, spend 6 hours on lunch and snack breaks and in camp, and sleep 8 hours. 10 x 400 + 6 x 150 + 8 x 75 = 5,500 calories. Further, if a backpacker carries two pounds of food per day with a density of 125 calories per ounce, that works out to be 4,000 calories of intake. So that's why most long distance backpackers are able to indulge in pizza, ice cream, and all-you-can-eat buffets at trail towns along the way and still lose weight. On our latest hiking trip to France, Ralph and I were able to eat all the rich foods — cheese, duck, and pastries — we wanted and yet lose weight! (Of course now that we're back home, we have to cut back!)

#3 Fatalities in Sierra and PCT

I try to keep this newsletter focused on the upbeat, but sad to say, there have been several serious events over the last couple of weeks concerning hikers and the hiking community that warrant mentioning. Be careful out there!

a) On Friday, October 3, 2008, Christopher Andrews, a 42-year-old man of Hillsborough, while hiking in California's Emigrant Wilderness apparently slipped and fell into a ravine. He had been out for a solo 5-day backpacking trip, but reports speculate that he decided to cut short his trip in the Sierra when a weather forecast indicated an approaching storm. In the process, however, he suffered a mishap. He sent a 9-1-1 distress call on his SPOT safety beacon, which gave his location, but apparently the incoming storm came on so rapidly that search parties were unable to set out immediately. The search began Saturday morning, but the locator stopped functioning. When his body was found on Monday near Iceland Lake, searchers had to rappel into a ravine to reach him. Andrews and his wife Amy had two young children. They were both Oracle employees and loved the outdoors.

b) Another hiker's death can be attributed to the same storm in the Sierra — this one involving Phyllis Hall, a 62-year-old woman from Happy Valley (near Portland), Oregon. Hall, who was also an experienced backpacker, had been on a 65-mile section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in Northern California. She had previously completed the PCT through Washington and Oregon and 700 miles of California.

Hall and her companions were hiking on Friday, October 3, 2008 when the cold front came in. Reports indicate that she and her companions were surprised by the severity of the storm and were not prepared for temperatures dropping below freezing. Her husband, Dr. Don Hall, indicated that the other three hikers left the trail to seek shelter and that Hall decided that staying on the trail was the better strategy. They all camped out that night near Tinkers Knob in Placer County, CA at more than 8,900 feet.

The next morning the hikers called for help and were found by rescuers. Hall was found in her tent, only partially conscious; she later died at a hospital in Truckee, CA., apparently as a result of exposure. The other three were cold and hungry, but otherwise okay.

Hall and her husband had been married for 43 years and both enjoyed the outdoors. She was a marathoner and had climbed Mt. Hood, Rainier, and Adams.

#4 Tale of the Cat

Tom Stienstra, Outdoors writer for the S. F. Chronicle (Oct. 5, 2008, Section D 13) and whose "Great Outdoors with Tom Stienstra" appears Sundays at 10 AM on KMAX-31 Sacramento, always has interesting stories, but this one is extraordinary! Jane Chanteau, 73, resident of Palo Colorado near Big Sur, California was truly surprised recently by what the cat dragged in. Chanteau was sound asleep one night only to be startled awake by the scream of her pet cat, Bearli, who was under her bed. She awoke with a start and saw a large animal next to her bed. She swatted at it, then fully awake, realized that the animal was a mountain lion.

She yelled to her husband, Guge Punchera, and they both scrambled out of bed. The lion began searching for a way out of the house. The couple eventually managed to guide the big cat out of the front door using a broom. Later they discovered glass on the floor from a sliding door and figured that the lion had seen Bearli through the door and broken in to catch him. Chanteau warns others to bring their animals in at night and if they have similar doors, to cover them at night so that interior lights don't advertise the presence of pets.

#5 Good riddance to bed bugs?

 Another recent contributor, Glenn, to the GoCamino forum wrote about avoiding bed bug problem ( "I used a product by Sawyer's and sprayed it on the exterior of my bag and pack. At my wife's suggestion, I also took some lavender essential oil to dab on me before sleeping (it also negated undesirable refugio smells). I had no problems with the critters in 2007…. It is not for direct skin contact, only for clothes.

"Developed in cooperation with the U.S. Military, government agencies, universities, and others; this Sawyer Clothing repellent offers protection from disease-carrying biting insects. The active ingredient, Permethrin, is a synthetic molecule similar to those found in natural pyrethrum, which is taken from the Chrysanthemum flower. Not only does this product repel insect, but will actually kill ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, mites and more than 55 other kinds of insects. Sawyer Permethrin insect repellents are for use with clothing, tents, and other gear. A single application lasts 6 washings. Permethrin is odorless when dry, and during the drying process, it tightly bonds with the fibers of the treated garment. It will not stain or damage clothing, fabrics, plastics, finished surfaces, or any of your outdoor gear.

#6 Rainbows

"Rainbows form by internal reflection of sunlight in a raindrop." (Roberta Gonzales, CBS Weather Anchor, S> F. Chronicle. 10/3/08). To see a rainbow, the rain should be in front of you and the sun behind. The bigger the raindrops, the brighter the rainbow.

#7. Mark Shea's Camino movie

Check out Mark Shea's interview–-spiritual-journey-along-the-camino-de-santiago/

#8. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area: Bay Nature

As many of you know, we have an excellent regional magazine for those who enjoy the outdoors entitled, "Bay Nature". They have recently launched what they term, "Your gateway to nature in the Bay Area." At you'll find news about the world around you, discover places to explore, and read features, or watch videos, about local plants and wildlife.

#9. San Francisco Bay Area Pilgrim Gathering

Nov 15, 2008, 10am - 5pm contact Lin Galea for details: lin at lingalea dot com

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #112 Oct 1,2008

"The bubbling brook would lose its song if you removed the
rocks." (collected from

1. Correction on Camino schedule
2. Camino and Stephen Hawking
3. Ralph's Story of Arles Route French Camino Walk
4. Susan's Updated Camino Gear List
5. "Boots" McFarland
6. She Ran around the World!
7. Marcyn Goes for Dirty Girl Gaiters
8. Susan and Ralph's Camino Programs
9. Ladybug Flies Home
10. Regional: Berkeley Path's
11. Regional: REI " Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: A Family Adventure

1. Correction on schedule

Ralph and I will be giving our Camino program for the Yokut Chapter (Modesto, CA) of the Sierra Club in April (not March) 2009.  Our upcoming events are also posted on our website under "Calendar and Events."

#2.  Camino and Stephen Hawking

"Stephen Hawking honoured at end of extended Galicia visit," ( Sunday, September 28, 2008).  British physicist Stephen Hawking recently visited Galicia for a week and
completed a section of the Camino de Santiago in his wheelchair before arriving in Santiago de Compostela.  He then was awarded the first ever Fonseca prize at  Santiago University.  His host, Jorge Mira, said that, "I hope they'll (kids) want to become scientists because they see Hawking."

#3. Ralph's report on Arles route walk

Ralph and I recently hiked on the southernmost Camino pilgrimage trail in France.  We started in Arles and traveled to Dourgne (about 190 miles).  We agreed that the route was the most difficult of the three Camino routes we have done previously--the Camino de Santiago (St. James Way) across Spain, the LePuy Route (France) and the Camino Portuguese (Portugal).  It's certainly do-able, but the route from Arles has much more road walking, more strenuous mountainous climbs, and fewer facilities.  However, the trail has its own beauty-- particularly the area near the medieval village of Saint-Guilhem-le- Desert, which is justifiably called one of "the Plus Beaux Villages de France" (the most beautiful villages of France).  The approach to the village is alongside the beautiful steep-sided gorge of the Hérault River.

Ralph notes, " The 4k roadwalk [ed: with access at a few points] along the river Hérault is incredible. Walk on the river side, and keep looking into the gorge, water spurting from the sides, wonderful. Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is a beautiful little village, and the climb out of town the next day is your first taste of a true mountain trail. We stayed at Hotel Restaurant Guilhaume d'Orange at foot of the village."

After Montpellier the waymarks [markings that indicate which way to go] were there, but no paint was wasted on extra waymarks before absolutely needed, and it helped to have two pairs of eyes looking for waymarks. The first three days, we got lost every day for a short while, and in going into Vauvert, were totally lost, and just kept asking people for the direction to Vauvert, and kept following small roads and flagging cars for information until we got there."

Susan's notes:  We also had some true "Trail Angel" experiences — this is one of several. We had taken a bus through Montpellier in order to avoid a tedious walk through the industrial route into and out of that city.  The bus ride ended in the town of Grabels.  The guidebook, which recommended this strategy, was enough out of date so that the "end of the line" was no longer in the same place.  When we got off of the bus, we couldn't make heads or tails of the directions to the trailhead.  A bicyclist stopped to help us. His English and our French were inadequate for the job, so after pointing and gesturing a bit, he finally got off his bike, got out his pen and tablet and drew us a map. This whole process took about 15 minutes of his time, which I think is a very nice gift for anyone to give.

Another fond memory — staying in a Chambres D'Hotes owned by a couple. We were the only ones staying there and we had arranged to have dinner with them.  This was not a fancy hotel; it was clean, but run-down. Dinner (which the husband had prepared while the wife was at yoga) was salad, lentils with sausage, cheese, pastries, wine and bread. A simple country meal — and delicious. The apéritif before dinner had been made by the husband's mother at her home in Montpellier. The red wine was also from their harvest. What made the meal even more special was that instead of being served as if we were customers, we were invited to sit with them as if we were family.  I thought that this was most gracious of them — especially considering, once again, that they had to work harder than we did to converse because of our limited French.

We have made a vow to take more French lessons before our next trip!

 Ralph's summary of our trip: "Starts flat, long days and not too interesting, but after Montpellier, some true mountain trails, great views, and quite a bit more rugged than the Le Puy route. Most days no facilities between start of day and end of day, so need to carry lunch supplies. Our plan followed the normal stages, and km per day were typically in the 22 to 27 km range. After three days of dragging in tired each night, and having to start early the next day without seeing the village, we modified our plan and stuck in some short days of 13 km or so. That meant we didn't reach Toulouse, but had a more enjoyable trip. Usually reserved the next night's accommodation, and regretted it the few times we didn't. We saw few pilgrims, but pilgrim level accommodations have few beds, so best to call ahead. This trip was in Sept. and weather was good. Only wore raingear a few hours. It was quite windy in some spots and I wore my wind jacket daily, and wind pants for about 3 days. We used trail runners with no problems. Having French at a sufficient level to carry on basic conversations with French pilgrims would greatly improve the experience.

Ralph has written up in great detail the guidebooks and maps we used, information about the trail (and its markings), where we stayed, our phone equipment, and so forth. Go to our website: and look (left hand column) for the heading "Camino de Santiago" and then "3rd - LePuy, Arles"

#4. Susan's Camino Gear List

I have just published my updated list of what I take on Camino walks. You can find the gear list at my blog, (entry dated September 28, 2008).

#5. Geolyn's Tees

Geolyn, whose intrepid cartoon character/backpacker "Boots" McFarland often graces the pages of the Pacific Crest Trail's Communicator, now offers "Boots" McFarland Tee shirts at And there's a bumper sticker too!

#6. She ran around the world

"Six years ago, Rosie Swale-Pope lost her husband to prostate cancer."  Rosie, a 61-year-old woman from Wales, decided to fight back. She decided to run around the world--20,000 miles of it.  It took her five years and she had to cross the finish line on crutches, but she was successful. Her comment, "It's a journey that came out of sorrow, but it's a journey that has turned to joy." (  ) "

#7. Marcyn and Dirty Girl Gaiters

Marcyn who is generally backpacks in the Sierras is currently preparing for a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  She wrote recently about her experiences with Dirty Girl Gaiters. "…I wore my dirty girl
gaiters during this last backpack and several ladies said they wanted a pair.... so I gave them the web site!  They are a gas... and my climbing guide, Chris Simmons had this to say:  'If you have fashionable clothes (like my gaiters), you look good.  If you look good you feel good.  If you feel good, you hike safe.  Therefore, fashion is safety... or something like that...' it was funny!" (

#8. Reminder: Our upcoming Camino events:

Thursday, October 16, 2008. 7:00 PM. San Carlos REI. 1119 Industrial Road, San Carlos, CA 94070. (650) 508-2330. Susan and Ralph Alcorn will give a talk and digital slide presentation on the Camino de Santiago, the famous 500-mile pilgrimage trail across northern Spain. Susan is the author of Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago. Free.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 7:00 PM. Concord REI, 1975 Diamond Blvd. Ste. B100 (the Willows Shopping Center, Concord, CA 94520. (925) 825-9400. A travel program which takes you across the Pyrenees, down through the regions of Rioja and Navarre, across the meseta, over the Cantabrian Mountain ranges, and into Galicia. Ralph and Susan Alcorn's program will provide details of foot travel on this ancient trail--the Camino de Santiago. Free.

#9. Ladybug finishes PCT

Ladybug Flies Home after Completing the PCT. "As I reflect upon completing the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, my mind wanders off to what will come next. But, first things first. I compare my 4,148 mile journey to a cancer patient's treatment, particularly my sister's 10- year ordeal for whom I hike. Since the beginning of my aspiring PCT thru-hike in 2006, I have hiked through record snow amounts, climbed the highest mountain in the United States, and hiked in the desert in record heat. I have gotten lost...very lost...on a few occasions. I developed 4 severe cases of poison oak. I foolishly fractured a rib glissading in the record snowfall. I was air rescued out of a rattlesnake den descending Fuller's Ridge in the vast San Jacinto Wilderness. I broke my right hand and hiked with a fiberglass cast on my arm for 8 weeks. And I shattered my left tibula/fibula only to be air-rescued a second year in a row. It was through my sister's death that I truly learned how to live. Cheryl taught me that.  While my hike might sound miserable to some, I considered the obstacles as mere hiccups to my ultimate goal. Thank God that the trail is timeless. Since 2006, I learned how to live in communion with God in His natural world. With each obstacle, I became closer to God. Cancer patients go about their daily lives undergoing brutal chemo/ radiation treatments...all with such grace, determination and, in Cheryl's case, humor. Cancer patients know how to live their lives deeply fulfilled. Distance hikers learn that too by the simplicity of walking, eating, and sleeping. This year's 550 mile distance hike to complete the PCT was fulfilling in every way imaginable. When I approached the Canadian border, I was not euphoric. I was content. Just as was my sister when she died peacefully in 1998...content in knowing that her faith in God was strong enough to permit her soul to exist alongside her Maker.

Cheryl will always be my footpath of pride as I continue my passion with future charity distance hikes. To continue to honor Cheryl's memory by benefiting cancer patients and their families through
Hospice of Cincinnati is a life path groomed for me. I just love to hike. So...CDT I come...ready to Embrace the Brutality of the 3,100 mile backbone of the United States!"  Ladybug

#10. Regional S.F. Bay Area:

 Berkeley Pathways October Events
Saturday, October 11 - 10:00 a.m. - Old and New Emeryville; Sandy Friedland 510 528 3246 E-mail to:  ssf at
Meeting Place: In front of Old City Hall at the intersection of Hollis and Park in Emeryville This flat walk will explore old and new Emeryville, what Earl Warren once called: "the rottenest city on the Pacific Coast". Today it is known for its biotech, software, and film industries. Optional lunch to follow at Rudy's No Fail Café. For public transit information, go to:

Sunday, October 19, 10am - 6pm. North Berkeley Spice of Life Festival Be sure to visit the BPWA booth where our volunteers will be selling the recently released fourth edition of our map along with packets of greeting cards designed by local artist Karen Kemp.  You also can pick up complimentary copies of our newsletter, learn about our free guided walks, and chat about our latest path building projects. Web site for more information on the Festival.

#11. REI Zero Days talk

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: A Family Adventure. 10/15/2008  7:00 PM "In April 2004, Barbara Egbert, Gary Chambers and their 10-year-old daughter, Mary, set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Canada. When they reached the Canadian border in October, Mary became the youngest person to successfully complete the 2,650-mile PCT in the same calendar year. Join this intrepid family for slides and stories of their remarkable six-month adventure. Come learn tips on gear, planning and how to safely include a 10-year-old on an undertaking of this magnitude. Following the program, Barbara will sign copies of her new book, Zero Days: The Real-Life Adventure of Captain Bligh, Nellie Bly, and 10-Year-Old Scrambler on the Pacific Crest Trail." Free, no registration required. REI Berkeley Clinic Room, REI Berkeley, 1338 San Pablo Ave (near Gilman) Berkeley, CA 94702 (510) 527-4140.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #111 Sept 1, 2008

"If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come.
Shakespeare: Henry IV, Part 1

[ed.]I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day!

1. New Record for Pacific Crest Trail
2. PCT Day Cascade Locks
3. Eureka! Found the Pocket Sink!
4. Our PCT Hike: Ashland to Willamette Pass, Oregon
5. Butterflies in the Headlines
6. Blister Treatment Recommendation
7. Susan's article in Backpacker Magazine: Keeping Clean(er)
8. Ralph and Susan's October Camino talks
9. Vermilion Resort (JMT hiker news)
10. Camino de Santiago, Spain: Alert: Bedbugs!
11. Balance Rock Foundation: Yosemite Backpacking
12. Where in the World are Susan and Ralph?
13. Booking Events for 2009!
14. Regional: Women Only Hikes in EBRParks

#1. New PCT Record

Scott Johnson (correction: Scott Williamson) & Joe Kisner have done it! They did indeed set a new record for completing the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail (without a support team) by finishing in 71 days, 2 hrs, 41 minutes. (June 8, 2008-Aug 18, 2008).
Of interest to those who adhere (like me) to the "PCT/John Muir Trail Diet", which is basically a plan of eating minimal food while doing lots of strenuous hiking, Joe (who reportedly believes in the "pre- stored calories method") lost about 50 lb., while Scott, always lean, lost hardly any. info from: JMT Reinhold

#2. 2008 PCT DAY, Cascade Locks, Oregon.

Jason Waicunas, organizer, sends word of the second annual PCT Day in Cascade Locks, OR, which takes place on Saturday, Sept. 6th. The day's events include: trail maintenance in the morning, a day hike in the early afternoon, gear raffles, bike tour/photography workshop raffles, PCT trivia games, and spending time with friends new and old. Camping is available $10 tents, $25 for RV sites in Cascade Locks; there are other nearby campgrounds along the Columbia River. Volunteers needed. RSVPs helpful! More info at the PCTA's website: You can also contact Jason Waicunas < or <> or (651) 334-1826.

#3. Pocket Sink

For quite some time I have been showing attendees of our Camino and backpacking programs a nifty, plastic folding sink that we travel with. Problem has been, we haven't been able to find a source to tell people about. Ralph has now found the "Folding Pocket Sink" at It's $7.49 plus shipping. We've used it various ways: in Spain for soaking my tired feet and when backpacking to wash clothes away from water sources because of its convenience and so that we don't pollute.

#4. Ashland to Shelter Cove

Ralph's and my latest backpacking trip was from Ashland, Oregon (where we left off last year) to Willamette Pass, OR/Hwy 58 (about 190 miles). Most everything we had read prior to the trip about Oregon mentioned how flat it is and how it would be possible to just zip along on the trails doing 40-mile days. Hmm! Those reports must have been written by those who had already spent three months on the trail hiking the 1,700 miles through California's deserts, high Sierra passes, and the Trinity Alps and Marble Mountains of the north; perhaps already trail hardened??? To cut the long story short, we did not find Oregon to be flat or easy, but it was easier and so we were happy to be able to average 16 miles a day.
You may have heard the Appalachian Trail called the "Long Green Tunnel." That's in reference to the fact that much of the trail has you walking through forest with few views to be had other than the trees. Some people describe the Oregon section of the PCT in the same way. And there's some truth to that, particularly when you are comparing it to California's more varied terrain, but the truth is that Oregon's PCT miles are beautiful. (Disclaimer: I was born in Oregon.) We did indeed walk through lush, green forest for days; we also walked through huge volcanic boulder fields, spotted dozens of clear blue lakes, and gasped at the spectacular views into the Klamath Falls basin. The trail hugs the rim of Crater Lake for several miles providing unique views from countless vantage points as it makes the circuit--what an outstanding day that was! We saw several parties of dayhikers attempting some of the more challenging nearby peaks such as Mt. Thielsen and Diamond Peak.
Actually, we would have had great views from high points just out of Ashland--of Mt. Shasta and other points south--if northern California's wildfires had not still been burning out of control. Smoke is no respecter of state lines, so we had hazy conditions much of the time until we reached Crater Lake. Other than a couple of mornings with some drizzle, we enjoyed very good weather.
Along with the drizzle we had some thunder and lightning, but since the trail is lined by forest much of the time, we weren't at nearly the risk we've experienced on several exposed passes in California (a real plus as far as I am concerned!). It was pretty exciting and spectacular to be able to stand -- we kept it short -- at the base of Mt. Thielsen (which has been called the "Lightning Magnet of the Cascades") and watch lightning strike other peaks in the vicinity.
The people we met on the trail enriched our trip. We had hoped that our timing (late July-early August) would have us on the trail at the same time as thru-hikers because we enjoying meeting them. Forest fires have stymied most hikers this year so they've had to change their plans and wait out fire closures or road walk or hitch rides around burn areas. Still, we met a number of interesting PCTers--both section and thru. "Showoff" who was running much of the trail; "Wheeez" who was battling intestinal ailments but still moving north; "LaDeDa" whose enthusiasm buoyed everyone she passed; Dale and Kathy from Michigan who shared our campsite and our water filter; "Nimblewill Nomad" author of "Ten Million Steps" who was stopped in his tracks when he found out that Ralph is even older than Nimblewill and Billy Goat (both 69).
Our last hiking day was our longest; we put in more than 20 miles and it was all because someone we met on the trail told us that trail angels in camp at our destination (Shelter Cove Resort/Odell Lake) were providing "Trail Magic" -- a barbecue dinner to hikers that night. So our hike ended one day ahead of schedule and we enjoyed the hospitality of "Roadrunner" and his wife as well as meeting up with some of the hikers we'd met earlier on the trail.
Our trip ended, we waited for our friend and trail angel, Jeannine Burk of Medford to pick us up and return us to "civilization." We took a scenic route home that included stops on other points near Crater Lake. We were surprised to learn that the storm that we had experienced as a mild one, had apparently hit Crater Lake full force. The boats that ferry people onto the lake to sightsee and visit Wizard Island were unable to run because the Cleetwood Docks had been damaged in the stores (they've since reopened).

#5. Butterflies

When our trail angel, Jeannine, picked us up at our finishing point and drove us south to Crater Lake, we saw zillions of butterflies flying en masse and lighting the highway. As we drove along, we hoped not to run over them, but of course we had to deal with the resultant mess on our windshield. They were such an unexpected phenomena that their antics were reported in the newspaper out of Klamath Falls. An insect observer identified them as the California tortoise-shell. We had also seen them on the trail and tried to photograph them, but they did not want to light on the trail and my efforts were frustrating.

#6. Blister Treatment - thread method:

Bob Riess of San Diego, CA writes, "In my hiking first aid kit I carry a needle and some cotton thread. When a blister starts, I thread the needle with 6 inches of cotton thread. Then pierce the blister through and through at the widest point, but leave the 6 inches of thread, three inches on each side of the blister. The cotton thread will wick out the moisture, and after a couple of days, just pull the thread. If the world is perfect, the skin will reattach and callus up."

#7. Susan Alcorn Backpacker Magazine article

Earlier this year, Backpacker Magazine ran an article that I wrote for them on keeping clean(er!) while backpacking. They made substantial changes to what I wrote, but I can live with it . You can find the article in the April issue of magazine or Google for it under Backpacker Magazine Susan Alcorn. If all else fails, send me an email and I'll forward a copy of the article to you. It's entitled, "Start Smart: Stay Clean and Healthy".

#8. Our next Camino presentations:

Thursday, October 16, 2008. 7:00 PM. San Carlos REI. 1119 Industrial Road, San Carlos, CA 94070. (650) 508-2330. Susan and Ralph Alcorn will give a talk and digital slide presentation on the Camino de Santiago, the famous 500-mile pilgrimage trail across northern Spain. Susan is the author of Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago. Free.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008 7:00 PM. Concord REI, 1975 Diamond Blvd. Ste. B100 (the Willows Shopping Center, Concord, CA 94520. (925) 825-9400. A travel program which takes you across the Pyrenees, down through the regions of Rioja and Navarre, across the meseta, over the Cantabrian Mountain ranges, and into Galicia. Ralph and Susan Alcorn's program will provide details of foot travel on this ancient trail--the Camino de Santiago. Free. Please check with the store or our website for any changes and updates.
"Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago" was named a finalist for the prestigious Ben Franklin award for Best Travel Essay 2007. Awards were given by the PMA, Publishers Marketing Association, in New York City on May 31, 2007.

#9. Vermillion Valley Resort news

Hikers of the John Muir Trail often take the ferry across Lake Edison to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR) for a short stay and to pick up supplies. Earlier this season, the ferry was damaged when it ran aground necessitating the use of several smaller craft. An update of 30 Aug 2008 by David Hough on pct-l: VVR "Ferry update: Lake Edison has been falling about three feet a day and the ferry dock had to be relocated about an hour west of where it used to be. It still saves two hours of uninspiring trail so most find it worthwhile. But it means that you need to be at the Mono Creek trail junction by about 8:15am or 3:15pm in order to catch the ferry. Still hot showers, cold beer, good food at VVR. Lots of JMT hikers although PCT through hikers are long gone."

#10. Bed bugs on the Camino Frances

 (alert from Sil on the Camino forums). Unfortunately bed bugs are once again rearing their ugly selves on the Camino de Santiago. We first reported on this problem in 2006 and the Confraternity of Saint James wrote the following: "During 2006, an infection of bed bugs spread along the Camino Francés. By the end of the season, all refugios were aware of the problem, and many had been fumigated, but it is not certain that the problem will be solved in 2007. Don't be deterred from going on this account, but be aware of the possibility that the infection will recur. Here's what to look out for, and what to do if you should pick up a fellow-traveler or two. With reasonable precautions, namely shaking out your sleeping bag outside at regular intervals you should be able to prevent the worst problems. And perhaps most important: check your sleeping bag, clothes, and rucksack before leaving Spain, to avoid bringing any bed bugs back with you. If you are susceptible to bites it might be wise to carry anti-histamine pills with you."
This is a brief summary of the most RECENT report about the current situation: 1) Hontanas: Three people have reported problems at the Hontanas Municipal hostal. There are not reported cases at the other hostal in Hontanas that is in the Puntido. 2) (August 29) San Juan de Ortega: Many people have reported complained of multiple bug bits after stays in San Juan de Ortega. And unfortunately, that can cause problems not only there but also further along the route. 3) There have also been reports on problems in accommodations in Estella, Hontanas, El Burgo Ranero, Tardajos, St Juan, Hornillos, Fromista and Finisterre.
Here's some more information and some precautions: Ask at the alburgue whether or not they have a bed bug problem before you decide to stay there. Bugs are about 1/4" long. Check the bedding, particularly the mattress along the seams, for the little black stains bedbugs leave before you lay out your sleeping bag. The bite is usually not very painful, but leads to itching. Confraternity recommended treatment is one tablet of antihistamine twice a day, repeated for a couple of days. There are also anti-itch or antihistamine creams available. Pyrethrum-based sprays can be used." The rest of this thread is on the Gocamino forum (Google it).

#11. Women over 40 backpack:

Would you like to get in one last backpack trip this year? I just came across a backpacking trip that might appeal: "Women over 40 Backpack: Yoga and Hiking in Yosemite" offered by the Balance Rock Foundation from September 18-21, 2008. Most of their 2008 offerings are over, but there is a trip planned in September. Description from their website  : "This 4 day wilderness course takes place in the dramatic backcountry of Yosemite National Park and is designed specifically for women over 40. It is unique to share a tent, life experiences, and backcountry vistas with women from varying decades. This trip is a response to requests from women to do trips catered toward the 'Wise Women.'" As we age, we find new creaks and aches, new emotions and struggles, new adventures and excitements. This trip will give us ample opportunity to spend time in the backcountry with less focus on carrying a heavy backpack or traveling many miles. We will hike to a base and set up camp for 2 nights giving us ample time to explore the alpine meadows, hike to a high peak or pass, dip in the cool lakes, watch sunsets, do yoga, write in journals and have a lot of fun. We'll have porter support to carry group gear into and out of the backcountry."
This is a great trip for those with injured backs, creaky knees, who like a relaxed pace, or who enjoy spending quality time in the back county. Open to all women ages 40 and over. The trip is not geared solely for beginners, but is very beginner friendly. Prior experience with backpacking or yoga is not necessary to participate. Price: Tier 1 $745 / Tier 2 $600 / Tier 3 $535."

#12. Arles to Toulouse walk

Ralph and I will soon be starting on another exciting Camino route. We'll be returning to France to hike on the southern most French route, which begins in Arles. Our office will be closed during the month of September; the next issue of this newsletter is planned for October 1, 2008.

#13. 2009 Camino programs

We are now scheduling Camino and backpacking readings, talks, and slideshows for 2009. We will be in Modesto with the Yokuts chapter of the Sierra Club in March. If you are involved with a group that is interested in one of our programs, you can contact us by email or phone number (see below).

#14. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area

 The East Bay Regional Park District has just provided their fall schedule of Women on Common Ground. These hikes are naturalist-led programs for women who love to hike, camp, or otherwise play in the out-of-doors, but whose concern for personal safety keeps them from enjoying the wonders within their own parklands. Here are some details about two of their five upcoming events, both lead by Naturalist Katie Colbert:
EARLY EQUINOX SUNRISE, Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness, Sunday, September 21,6:00 – 9:30am Crisp and colorful autumn days are on their way! We’ll greet the new season with a three to five-mile hike towards Little Yosemite and beyond, and watch as the nearly equinox sunrise spills its glow onto the hillside oaks and grasses, and into Alameda Creek. Be prepared for leisurely uphill and downhill hiking. Meet at the far end of the picnic loop parking lot near the pipe gate. Registration required. Call (510) 544-3240 by noon, Thursday, September 18.
TURKEY FRIDAY WALK, Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park, Friday, November 28, 10:00am – 3pm Stretch out your drumsticks and work off that stuffing with a 6-mile hike up and around Pleasanton Ridge. We’ll explore the olive groves and gobble our “leftover” lunches in thanksgiving for the preservation of this spectacular ridgeline. Registration required. Call (510)-544-3240 by noon, Tuesday, November 27. You can get on their e-mail list, call (510) 544-3240 or drop them a note at svisit @ for more info.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #110 August 15, 2008

1. Connecting Kids with Nature
2. New Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Record Expected
3. Where in the World are Susan and Ralph
4. Bear Beware!
5. Foreign Banking
6. Monkey Business on the PCT
7. Crow Talk
8. Joining California Parks Foundation
9. Great Old Broads Walk
10. Camino Art
11. Alcorn's next Fall Camino Events

#1. Kids with Nature

Today I found an good resource for parents and other adults who would like to introduce kids to the outdoors and are looking for suggestions on how to do so. National Wildlife Federation has a new website at  . From NWF's Greenhour homepage: "Most adults of a certain age have childhood memories of carefree days spent playing outdoors -- climbing, digging, collecting, building, and exploring the natural world around them, at their own pace, in their own way."
Those children of a generation ago are the parents of today, and you might expect such outdoor play to be part of their families' lifestyle. But today's overscheduled kids are increasingly "plugged in" to electronic devices and media and unplugged from the fundamental and formative experience of nature in their own neighborhood. Their senses -- including, most sadly, their sense of wonder -- are bombarded, overwhelmed, and ultimately diminished."
Richard Louv, author of 'Last Child in the Woods', refers to this nature-child disconnect as 'nature deficit disorder.' One of the primary symptoms is the replacement of the green space by the screen space as the occupier of children's free time. Indeed, a Kaiser Family Foundation study found that the average American child spends 44 hours per week (more than 6 hours a day!) staring at some kind of electronic screen. Studies have linked excessive television viewing to obesity, violence, and even lower intelligence in kids. Now, a growing wave of research indicates that children who spend time outdoors are healthier, overall, than their indoor counterparts."
Children who regularly spend unstructured time outside:
# Play more creatively
# Have lower stress levels
# Have more active imaginations
# Become fitter and leaner
# Develop stronger immune systems
# Experience fewer symptoms of ADD and ADHD
# Have greater respect for themselves, for others, and for the
The National Wildlife Federation recommends that parents give their kids a 'Green Hour' every day, a time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world. This can take place in a garden, a backyard, the park down the street, or any place that provides safe and accessible green spaces where children can learn and play."
[ed.] Getting our kids into the outdoors is so important, go to  today. You can sign up to get updates and new suggestions for meaningful family-fun activities.

#2. New Pacific Crest Trail record for hikers?

It looks like Scott Williamson and "Tattoo-Joe" will indeed completed the PCT in record time. Scott has "yo-yoed" (hiked Campo-Canada-Campo in one year) the PCT two times; Tattoo Joe currently holds a speed record for completing the PCT (79 days). This year, they left Campo on June 8th and are expected to reach the monument in Canada on August 18th (72 days).
This is in spite of Joe wrenching his knee and their hiking through a fire closure in northern California. The fact that they walked through a closed area has incensed many people, but apparently it was with the permission of firefighters and rangers. Walking through the area was, as his wife Michele reported, "probably not the wisest thing to have done." Scott had water dumped on him from aircraft and said that the ground was so hot in places that it was melting the bottom of his shoes.

#3. Where are Ralph and Susan

Ralph and I have been putting on the miles on the Pacific Crest Trail--the National Scenic trail that runs from the Mexican border (Campo, CA) to just inside Canada (Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia). We were determined to backpack the southern California miles that were all that we had remaining in order to complete California, and also to resume hiking north from Ashland, Oregon.
Completing the 300 miles in SoCal, took several trips this year. First, Ralph drove down and cached water for our trip because natural water near the trail is hard to come by. Then we did hike #1— Agua Dulce to Jawbone/Butterbredt Canyon. Our trip was interrupted by strong winds. As I reported in an earlier newsletter, we estimated the wind speed at up to 60-70 mph — strong enough that we were at times fighting to remain upright. Bottom line, the wind pushed my backpack enough that it set off spasms in my back — and we left the trail. A month later, hike #2, we returned and picked up where we had left off — and continued on to (the southern) Kennedy Meadows.
Our final segment in the south was to be from Cottonwood Pass (12,126') south to Kennedy Meadows. Unfortunately (for our plans), nature intervened again. First it was a late snowstorm; then it was wildfire. The wildfire raged for weeks, but being in a wilderness area, much of that time it was under observation, but not being actively fought. When it was under control, we went for it.
When we climbed to Cottonwood Pass, I was overcome with joy. I had not realized how much I missed the beauty of being in the high Sierra and above timberline. Most of our trips in the recent past have been in either the deserts of southern California or the lower elevation forests of northern California. It was wonderful to once again be able to breathe the clear alpine air. However we weren't there very long -- only three days and then we were approaching Kennedy Meadows (Inyokern), which is at approximately 6,000'. As we entered the area of the Clover fire, we were amazed to find how extensive the damage was to the area immediately surrounding the trail. We found that 4-5 miles of trail were affected. It was clear that the trail closure that had been in effect was not an arbitrary* decision.
The damage to the area varies. In some places, there was already new vegetation springing up; lupine in particular loves disturbed soil. Some trees were only singed; time will tell how much will survive. In other areas, scorched trees had become nothing more than large sticks of charcoal. We saw numerous boulders that had had their outer layers blasted away by the intense heat.
We had a remarkable, rare, wildlife sighting—a wolverine. We notified the biologist in Sequoia National Forest and he told us they would probably send a team out to try to find and study it. No authenticated sightings of wolverines have been reported in the area for many years *Later, we heard from other hikers (before the closure was put into effect) that they had gone through with open flames in the near vicinity. Not fun!
Our even more recent hike was 190 miles from Ashland to Willamette Pass, Oregon and it was also a gorgeous one. Taken together, these hikes have reminded me of why I'm doing all this: the opportunity to immerse myself in beautiful, inspiring surroundings and the fun of meeting people from the hiking community who share our enthusiasm. More about this trip next issue. We have now completed 1,900 PCT miles.

#4. Bear Beware

Marcy Del Clements, who was one of the women featured in "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill," recently sent me a photo of a bear she saw while hiking in the foothills near her home in Claremont, CA. Both she and the bear were startled by the encounter, but the bear was much more interested in fleeing the area than bothering Marcy.
Shortly after her sighting, this article by Times writer Andrew Blankstein appeared in the Bakersfield Times: "Warning, hikers: Bear attack east of Bakersfield" (July 22, 2008). "A bear attacked and seriously injured a woman hiking in the Walker basin area east of Bakersfield today. The woman suffered facial lacerations and was being airlifted to a medical center. Her condition was not immediately available, said Kern County Sheriff's Department deputy Michael Whors.
"State Fish and Game wardens and county animal control officers were dispatched to the area, known as a hiking spot, to find the bear. The area was hit by a major wildfire earlier this month, burning 30,000 acres."

#5. Foreign Banking

Last issue, I gave several suggestions about dealing with money in foreign countries. Several people had comments to make. Bill B. of Alameda wrote, "we do not carry debit cards, just ATM cards that cannot be used except at ATM machines. We were at a hotel in Antigua, Guatemala, when an Australian woman had her debit card stolen and her travel account back home completely emptied within a few hours. She did get the money back but it was a real hassle. Also, I think credit cards from Capital One and Chase do not add any of their own charges to those imposed for foreign transactions by the Visa or MasterCard companies...."
And even though some financial experts recommend writing "ask for ID" on the back of your credit card instead of your signature, Kimberly S. is not alone in her opinion that "when writing 'see photo I.D.' on the back of credit cards, you SHOULD also sign them for two reasons: they are not valid until signed, and some places (like the US Post Office!) will not accept them; more critically, if left unsigned, the thief can sign your name in their own handwriting and not even have to work on practicing forging yours. Not every place will ask for photo I.D.
She continues, "Best of all is to get a credit card that has your photo embedded. CitiBank offers these, and others do too, free of charge.
[ed] My intent was warn you ahead of time that there are financial matters to attend to before you travel and to offer the advice I'd collected from various experts. Use your own judgment.

#6. Monkey Business

Another correspondent recently sent this item from The Sun (San Bernardino and the inland Empire. ) "Last weekend a female hiker lost her way while returning from Mt. San Gorgonio, the highest peak in Southern California at 11,499 ft. (approx. - some books say 11,502 ft). Anyway, not too long ago, a chimp named Moe escaped from his cage in the So. Cal. mountains. Can you imagine this poor girl being lost in the wilderness and seeing a monkey running through the woods? She must have thought she lost her mind and was becoming delirious from lack of food and warmth (she should have had plenty of water - I hiked San Gorgonio on June 21 and there was lots of water). I wonder how many other wild and exotic pets are running loose in the wilderness due to their owners either letting them go or they escaped?

#7. Crow Talk

The article in National Wildlife Magazine (Aug/Sep 2008) entitled "Something to Crow About" caught my attention. In my opinion there are more crows around (where I live) than there were 10 years ago. Perhaps that's why the article intrigued me.
Kevin McGowen, a Cornell University ornithologist, writes that crows may congregate to roost in numbers from fewer than 100 to more than 2 million (Fort Cobb, Oklahoma). He also lists several possibilities to explain why they roost in cities: cities may be 5-10 degrees warmer than the countryside; they're less bothered by great horned owls; and the light may help them see owls' that do pursue them, and finally, some cities have larger roost trees than would be found in surrounding areas.

#8. Joining Calif Parks Foundation

Right now you can get a deal and help the California State Parks Foundation by joining the organization. They are offering a Special Introductory Rate of $25 (regularly $40) and they are throwing in a one-year subscription to Sunset magazine (a $16 value) to all membership levels. You will also receive: 7 day-use parking passes, good for admission to more than 200 state parks, California Parklands newsletter, and an Official California State Parks map. Check it out at:  * California State Parks Foundation membership card

#9. Great Old Broads

Great Old Broads sends information about an exciting event for Broads in September. The Spring Basin Broadwalk, to be held near Fossil, OR on September 18-22, 2008 has a few slots left.
Cost: $165 - includes camping first night, lodging at the Hancock Field Station the next 3 nights and all meals Thursday dinner through Monday breakfast. E-mail rose at or phone at 970-385-9577 for more information or to reserve a spot. Or mail the full amount, $165, to Great Old Broads for Wilderness at PO Box 2924, Durango, CO 81302.
Details: "Join us for our first ever Oregon Broadwalk. Located in the high desert of central Oregon, the Spring Basin proposed wilderness encompasses rolling hills of sagebrush and dramatic rock spires where you’ll find sensitive archaeological sites and endangered plants and animals."
Local landowners, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) have worked together to develop a Wilderness proposal that could permanently protect Spring Basin. With widespread local support for the proposal, the future of a Spring Basin Wilderness rests in the hands of Congress.
Our base for most of the weekend is the Hancock Field Station, a rustic facility run by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) with "cabins"(provide your own bedding), showers and a dining hall where we can meet and eat."
We will gather Thursday afternoon to get acquainted. Friday will find us day hiking in Spring Basin Wilderness Study Area led by local leaders and with a range of options of difficulty/length. That evening ONDA staff will tell us about area wilderness and conservation issues. Saturday we’ll have a workday pulling fence on the northern border between Pine Creek and Spring Basin Wilderness Study Area. Regional and national wilderness issues will be our evening topics. Sunday we’ll be hiking and exploring and learning about the area some more. Watch the website for more details. Come join the fun! For more information about Spring Basin visit ONDA's website. 

#10. Camino Art

Melissa West, whose art has often been inspired by her Camino walk, is having a sale of her work as well as several showings. Melissa is moving her studio from Oakland to Santa Cruz, CA and is having her first-ever art sale to celebrate: "ALL artwork in my studio is 10% off through the end of August, AND prices include tax. Email me to ask about your favorite painting or print, buy art on Etsy, or come to an open house. Open House, Thursday through Saturday, August 14 - 16. Thursday, August 14, 4pm - 8pm Friday, August 15, 4pm - 8pm Saturday, August 16, 12 noon - 6pm (You must call or email to set up an appointment because she lives in a gated community.) Current shows: Paso a Paso, Prints from the Camino de Santiago, is currently on display at 2223 Restaurant, located at 2223 Market Street in San Francisco. The prints will be up through September 24. Alameda's Towne Center through the auspices of the Frank Bette Center for the Arts. They are available for viewing each Thursday evening from 5:30 - 7pm, when there is also a free concert. For additional viewing hours, contact the Frank Bette Center at 510-523-6957. Visit her website at . Email studio at

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #109 July 15, 2008

1. Warning on Cipro
2. Keep Valuables Safe
3. Currency and Foreign Travel
4. Sierra Club Backcountry trips
5. "Boots"
6. Camino News
7. Timecheck00 Useful Info
8. Stellar Jay Antics
9. What's REALLY Important?
10. Pamplona's Running of the Bulls
11. Where in the World Are Susan and Ralph?
12. Regional: Bay Nature Outings

#1. Warning on Cipro

Cipro and similar antibiotics might lead to tendon ruptures announced the US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday, July 7, 2008. There is increasing evidence that such drugs might lead to ruptures that could leave patients incapacitated and needing extensive surgery. The FDA has ordered makers of fluoroquinolone drugs to add a more prominent warning (a black box) on their products and to develop literature for patients emphasizing the risks.

In general tendon ruptures are associated with sports injuries and occur to men in their mid-30s. "The link to treatment with the antibiotics is highly unusual, and scientists still don't fully understand why it happens. The FDA officials stressed that many of the serious injuries appear to be preventable if patients stop taking the drug at the first sign of pain or swelling in a tendon, call their doctor and switch to another antibiotic."

The two leading drugs covered by the warning are Cipro (often prescribed for urinary tract and intestinal infections) and Levaquin (generally used for respiratory infections). Note: The FDA warnings do not apply to fluoroquinolone drops used to treat eye infections.

The FDA has said that they have received several hundred reports of tendon ruptures, but would not cite a specific number. Sidney Wolfe, of the consumer group Public Citizen, which has sued the FDA to issue the warnings, has stated that there have been 407 tendon ruptures, "with an additional 341 reports of tendonitis." (Ricardo Alonso- Zaldivar, the Associated Press, July 9, 2008). The FDA has claimed that "prescribing literature for the drug class" were already in place, but issued this new warning because "the message might not have gotten through to doctors and patients."

Cipro may have an important place in the arsenal against serious bacteria. It is effective against anthrax and has stockpiled by the government in case of a bioterrorist attack. However, in light of the risks involved, it seems wise to discuss the risks and benefits with your medical provider before taking these drugs.

Also from AP article: "Tendons are cords of tissue that join muscles and bones, and are essential in movement. The most common kind of rupture reported to the FDA involved the Achilles' tendon in the heel, but some involved the rotator cuff in the shoulder, and tendons in the hands, biceps and thumbs."

#2. Keep Valuables Safe

Watch where you leave your credit cards. Some people are in the habit of leaving their credit cards, wallet, and other valuables in their car when they reach a trailhead and are going for a hike. In the AARP Bulletin (J/A 2008), author Sid Kirchheimer warns against this practice. Thieves may target cars left in such locations and when they swipe only a card or two, the fact that some cards are missing cards might not be noticed for a while. It's better practice to leave any unneeded cards secured at home. Another hint offered: write "Ask for ID" on the back of your credit cards rather than your signature.

#3. Currency and Foreign Travel

When planning a foreign adventure, you will also need to figure out how to obtain foreign currency. Whether using cash, credit, debit, or money orders (or a combination of these), there are advantages and disadvantages to each.
 We prefer to secure some currency before leaving home — especially some small denominations for taxi or bus fare, some meals, tips, and other incidentals until settled.
 If you are planning to use credit cards or ATM cards, it's a good idea to notify your bank so that you don't encounter a "freeze" on your account because of the out-of-country charges and withdrawals.
 Withdrawals from ATM machines will be in foreign currencies; your account will be debited in US dollars.
 Be aware that there are usually fees associated with withdrawals and they vary between banks, etc.
 Be sure you have the international phone numbers for contacting your cardholders in case of emergency situations. Make xerox copies of the cards and phone numbers.
 Ralph and I carry different ATM cards in case we have problems with one card or another.
 If you plan to make withdrawals from an ATM machine, be aware that a four-digit numeric PIN number is standard; check with your financial institution before you go. If you have an alphabetic PIN, change it before you go. (The keypads don't usually show both numbers and letters).
 Know what your ATM withdrawal limits are and change the limits before you go if necessary.

#4. Backcountry trips with the Sierra Club

( .) The Sierra Club has several more backpack trips available this year. "Point Reyes Natural History Beginner Backpack: September 21-27 should be wonderful. It takes you to the edge of the world (Pacific Coast of California) where you'll backpack for days and day hike to see tule elk and elephant seals. (#08140A). Bargain priced at $555.

For those with physical challenges, consider the "Memories of Muir: Accessible Adventure in the Sierra Nevada, CA. September 7-13. "Join John Muir's great-grandson on a backcountry adventure accessible to participants with various abilities." Starts the Sierra Club description of a trip south of Yosemite. Participants can travel by foot or by riding in a horsedrawn wagon with solar powered wheelchair life. (Trip #08198A) $1,095.

#5 Boots

If you would like a bit of trail humor in your life (and who doesn't need some levity right now?), follow the trail adventures of Boots on the PCT. Cartoonist Geolyn, whose cartoons often appear in the PCT Communicator, is a backpacker who lets her character Boots share her bewilderment when finding hordes of mosquitoes, false summits, or hungry deer while on the trail. Subscribe to the "Weekly Boot" by sending a message to <>.

#6. Camino News

Rosina, who writes often on the Go-Camino forum states, "The Tourism and Information Department in Santiago has announced new forms of recognition to be afforded to Compostela earning pilgrims. Upon presentation of the Compostela at a tourist and information office, and a picture ID, such pilgrims will be granted the right to attend museums for free and to go in tours organized by Roxoi to visit places heretofore out of bounds to ordinary tourists, like workshops in art centers, inner courts and salons of major government buildings, etc." (

[ed.: It appears that the "Roxoi" that Rosina is referring to it the, which is the most modern, (if you consider construction of the 18th century modern!) building on the Obradoiro. It's a huge and elegant neo-classical building right across from the Cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela. It is currently used by the city council and the government of Galicia.)

Pilgrims and others interested in the history and legends of the Camino might want to view the center, triangular part of the Pazo de Raxoi where they can see a depiction of the battle of Clavijo with a large sculpture of St. James above it.

Subscribe to the forum:
To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit  or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to

#7. Timecheck00 backpack food blog

Ralph has just posted to his blog ( an article entitled, "Repackaging Backpacking Food, Our menu, and Pilot Biscuits." In this entry, he gives information on how one sends cooking fuel via US mail and tells how he packages and selects our backpack foods. I think you will find it very useful; he does all of our food prep (I do have veto power) and has fine-tuned the process over many years.

#8. Stellar Jay Antics

Scientists have found that Stellar Jays are extraordinarily intelligent—this latest story is further proof. A reader to Gary Bouge's "Dogs & Deer: Friends of Friendly Foes," (Bay Area News Group 7/12/2008) send the following story. While in Tahoe (CA) lately, a waiter told the visitors that they couldn't leave the little packets of sugar and imitation sugar on the outside tables because of the Stellar Jays. "Because the jays will eat the sugar?" asked the visitor. "No, it's because the jays will throw aside the imitation sugar and drop the sugar packets on the ground. Then they peck holes in the sugar packet—not to eat the sugar, but to attract ants—and then the jays eat the ants!"

Gary invites readers to send items about the strange things they've seen jays do. You can e-mail him at .

#9. Pamplona Running of the Bulls

A tourist died, several injuries occurred during this year's running of the bulls in Pamplona. On the first day (July 7, 2008) of the San Fermin festival, an Irish man, Private Aidan Holly, died after he fell from a high wall while watching the annual event. In addition there were at least twenty injuries. One article noted that half of the injuries were to Spanish citizens and half were to visitors and commented on the heavy drinking that occurs along with the eight-day event. Does it make sense to get drunk and then try to outrun a herd of bulls? Damian Corrigan--who does NOT advocate running with the bulls but recognizes that many foolhardy people will try it anyway-- compiled a list entitled, "Tips for Running with the Bulls." I don't recommend running with the bulls either, but I find it interesting to read more about the tradition:

#10. What's really important to backpackers?

Ken and Marcia Powers, holders of the Grand Slam Award for long distance walkers, recently completed the Arizona Trail. Reading their journal entries, it's soon clear that the Arizona Trail is often an illusion rather than a reality, but it does have a starting point (the border with Mexico) and an end (the Stateline Campground on AZ/UT border). Their trip was 45 days, 808.8 miles and also took them through the Grand Canyon on the Rim-to-Rim trail. to read more.

There were many things I enjoyed read about in their journals, but this was one of my favorites: "[at reaching] Russell, the trailhead, [we enjoyed] the promised outhouse and gorgeous camping AND a garbage can!"
Excitement about a GARBAGE CAN!!!!… Sort of an inside joke. If you've spent any time at all backpacking, you know that the prospect of being able to get rid of trash is something to look forward to.

#11. Where are Susan and Ralph?

Susan and Ralph will soon be back on the trail. Now that the Clover fire on the Southern Pacific Crest Trail is under control, Ralph and I are heading down there to do our last California miles. Then we are heading north to Oregon to pick up the PCT near Ashland. Therefore, the date of the next issue of this newsletter is uncertain.

#12. Regional: Bay Nature Outings

S. F. Bay Area Regional: Bay Nature Magazine has three upcoming events that would be fun for friends and family: "An Angel Island hike on July 20, a Peninsula Ridge Trail hike on August 16, and an Angel Island paddle on September 20. Attendance is limited for all three, so RSVP soon if you want to join us!

7/20/08 Angel Island Hike. Ferry out to explore the jewel of San Francisco Bay on a hike cosponsored by BAY NATURE and Greenbelt Alliance. On this 5- to 7-mile hike, led by Greenbelt Alliance board member Bob Johnson, we'll explore the cultural and natural history of the largest and most diverse of the Bay's 48 islands. Following the Perimeter Trail, we'll visit some of the island's historical buildings and then wind our way to the top of Mount Livermore for lunch."

8/16/08 Crystal Springs Ridge Trail Hike on the SFPUC Watershed Join BAY NATURE for a hike above the Crystal Springs watershed on property owned and managed by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission. An SFPUC naturalist and/or trained volunteer docent will lead us on an 8- to 9-mile hike through old-growth Douglas fir and mixed softwood forest, then out onto coastal scrub and serpentine grassland."

9/20/08 Kayak to Angel Island
Say hello to Indian summer by joining BAY NATURE and Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC) for an exciting day on the Bay and Angel Island. On the water, we can expect to see some of the many waterfowl that return to the Bay in late summer and early fall, as well as resident harbor seals. After landing on the island, we'll enjoy a gourmet picnic and a short naturalist-led hike. Kayakers of all experience levels are welcome. Kayaks, paddling gear, instruction, and lunch will be supplied and are included in the $90 fee for the day."

For trips 1 and 2, RSVP with your name, the number of people in your group, and your email and phone number. For 3, the kayak trip only, RSVP by emailing Allison at kayak at etctrips dot org or by calling (415) 474-7662, ext. 13. She will send you registration information and process your payment before the trip

Dan Rademacher
Editor, BAY NATURE magazine
Bay Nature
1328 Sixth Street, #2
Berkeley, CA 94710
510-528-8550 (office)
510-528-8117 (fax)
hikes at baynature dot com

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #108 July 1, 2008

1. What's "Fill"?
2. Mosquitoes
3. "Wilderness Foxes" outdoor adventures
4. Life on the California Coastal Trail
5. Saufley Article Link
6. Billy Goat on the Trail
7. World Cup and the Camino de Santiago
8. New Cultural Center in Madrid's Art Heart
9. How Many MPG Do You Get?
12. Where in the world are Susan and Ralph?

#1. What does "fill"

 — when used to describe what's in a down jacket or sleeping bag — mean?  recently had the answer. It's the amount of cubic inches that an ounce of down takes up. So if the ounce of down fills 600 cubic inches, it's rated 600-fill; if the ounce fills 900 cubic inches, it's rated 900-fill, etc. The fluffier (the greater the "fill" number) the better, but most likely you'll pay more for that fluffier, warmer garment.

#2. mosquitoes

What those of you who are bothered by mosquitoes have always thought is true — that they favor YOU — may well be true. According to the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter (July 2008), mosquitoes have "fine- tuned sensors that allow them to detect exhaled carbon dioxide up to 100 feet away." Close up, they can detect various other chemicals that we secrete and although we all secrete the same chemicals, we do so in varying proportions. Although researchers study how we can avoid being "bitten," there is no evidence that Vitamin B, garlic, or any other food work. DEET and picaridin are effective. Spraying clothes with permethrin, or wearing pretreated clothing is effective. Less effective, but useful, is oil of eucalyptus. Citronella candles are no more effective than any other smoke-producing candle. (Did I tell you about the time that I lit one on the dinner table? Why didn't anyone tell me that they are designed to be used OUTSIDE!!! )

West Nile Virus cases have continued to grow, but the risk of infection remains low. According to the Center for Disease Control (  ), "When someone is infected with West Nile virus (WNV) they will typically have one of three outcomes: No symptoms (most likely), West Nile fever (WNF in about 20% of people) or severe West Nile disease, such as meningitis or encephalitis (less than 1% of those who get infected). If you develop a high fever with severe headache, consult your health care provider. "

#3. Wilderness Foxes adventure trips

I recently heard from May Woods of Wilderness Foxes and wanted to share some information about her nature trips for women over 40. Read on:
"Dear Susan,
Just discovered your website and really share your desire to introduce the world of hiking to women over 40. After graduating from college at 55, I decided to implement a business plan I created for my business degree. Because my husband seemed to never have the time, I usually hiked with my friend Maureen and so she joined me in starting my company, Wilderness Foxes outdoor experiences for women over 40. We just take small groups of 3 or 4 women over 40 on camping, canoeing and cabin trips in nature. We hope this venue brings more women to nature and they enjoy it as much as we do."
May Woods
email: wildernessfoxes at yahoo dot com
Wilderness Foxes, P.O. Box 73, Gladeville, Tennessee 37071
Phone: 615-443-3371

#4. California Coastal Trail hikers

Justin Davis & Ryan Fox, offer an enthusiastic journal on-line that allows you to journey with them on their travel north from Malibu, CA. Follow the young hikers at  You'll enjoy their perspective on baseball, beaches, beer, and babes….

#5. Donna and Jeff Saufley

The trail angels of Agua Dulce, CA who run the amazing Hiker Heaven for Pacific Crest Trail hikers, were recently profiled in a Signal article, which you can read at: 

#6. Billy Goat on the trail

 "George is the name my mother gave me," he said. So begins the recent article on a backpacker well-known on the PCT, "Billy Goat." "Billy Goat has hiked more than 32,000 miles…. "He has conquered the so-called Triple Crown of American hiking — the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest trails — multiple times." Billy Goat is 69 and spends ten months of the year hiking; the other two months primarily are spent preparing for his next hiking trips.,0,7598932.story?page=1

#7. SPAIN takes the Euro Cup!

 Significant news for those planning to hike the Camino de Santiago in 2009! The Spanish media has been widely reporting that "millions of Spaniards" promised to walk the Camino de Santiago in 2009 if Spain won the Euro Cup on Sunday — and Spain just won! (Apparently the last time Spain did win the Euro tournament was in 1964, against the Soviet Union.) It won't be lonely on the Camino next year — at least during the summer months!

#8. New Cultural Center in Madrid

Madrid's art center, already a magnificent collection of museums, has a new addition, the Caixa Forum Cultural Center. This is a seven- story complex, located at Paseo del Prado 36, and near the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen museums. The center, which is a restoration and expansion of a electrical station built in the early 1900s, was designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, designers of London's Tate Modern. Caixa Forum will hold art exhibitions, cinema, concerts, and conferences.

#9. How many MPG do you get?

Interesting statistics on the PCT-L forum today, put together by a frequent contributor to the forum, "Switchback:" "A recent study conducted by Harvard University found that the average American walks about 900 miles a year. Another study by the American Medical Association found that Americans drink, on average, 22 gallons of alcohol a year. This means, on average, Americans get about 41 miles to the gallon."

#12. Regional: Where in the world are Susan and Ralph?

 We had planned to hike the 50-mile section of the PCT in Southern California between Kennedy Meadows and Cottonwood Pass last week. Instead -- because of the "Clover Fire," which has closed the trail in that area until at least July 8th, we spent the week at home, sort of. This gave us a great opportunity to hike several of the "Trail Challenge" hikes described in a booklet given out to participants in the annual hiking/ biking program run by East Bay Regional Park District. If you are interested in EBRPD's programs, go to  and check them out. to download the trail challenge booklet:

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #107 June 15, 2008

The #1 question that I am asked by women when I speak at backpacking functions is, "Where can I find someone to backpack with?" I hope this issue helps some of you find an answer to this dilemma because you'll read about a variety of interesting backpacking or hiking trips with an assortment of companies or organizations. I wish I could do them all myself.

1. Dirty Girl Gaiters
2. Audubon trip: Mono Lake/Eastern Sierra, CA
3. Bee Stings
4. Loma Prieta (Sierra Club): Backpack Trips
5. John Vonhof of "Fixing Your Feet" Fame
6. Flying on the Pacific Crest Trail?
7. June 24th CAMINO Event
8. Simon Calder Explores SPAIN (Camino clips)
9. Food Storage: Freeze-Dried Shelf Life
10. Classic Appalachian Trail Distance Calculator
11. California Coastal Trail Hikers
12. Call of the Wild: Backpacking to Mt. Whitney
13. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area: Ridge Trail Outing
14. Regional: Susan and Ralph's Upcoming Camino Programs

#1. Dirty Girl Gaiters

I bought my first pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters last year, but didn't really use them until our April-May backpack trip. They are great! Very easy to use, keep my feet and socks cleaner than usual (at least my ankles and back of my foot), and not hot. I now have two pairs so I can vary my gaiter wardrobe. Highly recommended and very sexy if I do say so myself. $13 includes shipping; 7.75% sales tax is added to California orders. They have great customer service! . Click on "My Empire of Dirt" to order.

#2. Audubon Trip

Golden Gate Audubon Society goes to the Eastern Sierra Nevada. Friday–Sunday, July 11–13 Contact: Rusty Scalf,, 510.666.9936; Emilie Strauss,, 510.540.8749. "Meet July 11 at 8 a.m. at Mono Lake County Park, just north of Lee Vining; overnight stay on July 10 is recommended. We plan to cover diverse habitats, hiking up to 10,000 feet in the surrounding Eastern Sierra in search of birds and flowers. Trip will likely include Mono Lake and Lundy Canyon and environs, but will be fine-tuned upon arrival. Emilie has done extensive field work in the Mono basin. Participants are responsible for their own transportation, food, and lodging; information can be found at . Trip will include long hikes at a high elevation and will require endurance. Trip is limited to 15 people. Contact Rusty Scalf to reserve your spot and for more information. Be prepared for entrance fees to such places as Yosemite National Park and Bodie State Park, and/or taxi service across Saddlebag Lake." [ed. This is just one of the many trips that this chapter offers in the S. F. Bay Area and further afield.] Check out: 

#3. Bee Stings

Pain Relief from Bee Stings? Item sent by Amy Racina (author of "Angels in the Wilderness"); please note that neither of us is recommending this treatment, we're just sending it along. Original source unknown.
This information may be something to remember, as this season will soon be here again...It might be wise to carry a penny in your pocket while working in the yard.... A couple of weeks ago, I was stung by both a bee and hornet while working in the garden. My arm swelled up, so I went to the doctor. The clinic gave me cream and an antihistamine. The next day the swelling was getting progressively worse, so I went to my regular doctor. The arm was infected and needed an antibiotic. The doctor told me - ' The next time you get stung, put a penny on the bite for 15 minutes'."
That night, my niece was stung by two bees. I looked at the bite and it had already started to swell. So, I taped a penny to her arm for 15 minutes. The next morning, there was no sign of a bite. We decided that she just wasn't allergic to the sting."
Soon, I was gardening outside. I got stung again, twice by a hornet on my left hand. I thought, here I go again to the doctor for another antibiotic. I promptly got my money out and taped two pennies to my bites, then sat and sulked for 15 minutes. The penny took the sting out of the bite immediately. In the meantime the hornets were attacking, and my friend was stung on the thumb. Again the penny. The next morning I could only see the spot where the hornet had stung me. No redness, no swelling. My friend's sting was the same; couldn't even tell where she had been stung. She got stung again a few days later upon her back—cutting the grass! And the penny worked once again."
Wanted to share this marvelous information in case you experience the same problem. We need to keep a stock of pennies on hand. The doctor said that the copper in the penny counteracts the bite. It definitely works! Please remember and pass this information on to your friends, children, grandchildren, etc."
Susan adds:  gives this urban legend an "undetermined." They note that there are many folk remedies that make the rounds and state that there is nothing magical about the [which is a small percentage] of copper in pennies.
More importantly, they note that some people are extremely allergic to bee stings and should seek immediate medical attention. Those who know they are allergic to stings should carry an EpiPen and then seek immediate medical attention.
And odd thing I noted in the "Bee Stings" article is that it uses the terms "bee" and "hornet" interchangeably, but they are not the same insects. Bees can only sting once and their stinger is left behind in the site where you were stung. When you remove the stinger, try not to squeeze the venom into your wound. A credit card, which can be used to scrap it out, may work better than tweezers, which might squeeze more venom into the wound. I personally prefer to use ice (or a cold water bottle when hiking) to reduce the swelling. One final note: these people sure get stung a lot! I could count on my fingers the times I've been stung in my lifetime.

#4. Loma Prieta Sierra Club trips

The most frequent question that I get when giving talks on women's backpacking is "How do I find someone to backpack with?" I can't easily match people up, but I do love to pass word along about organizations that have backpacking trips. The Loma Prieta chapter (which meets in Palo Alto, CA) of the Sierra Club offers some wonderful backpacking trips—at a variety of levels and in a variety of locations. Going on some of their trips would be a great way to find some compatible companions and discover some new territory. Some trips may be full, if so, get on the cancellation list.  A sampling from their website:
July 7-13. Pacific Crest Trail: Section M. (rated 3B [7-10 miles/ 2,00-3,000 ft. elevation gain); dayhikes Highway 49 (near Sierra City) to Bucks Summit (near Bucks Lake).
"We'll start this summer's PCT hiking with Section M. 57 miles of day hiking over six days (ranging from 7.6 miles to 12.5 miles each day), with a layover day in the middle. Do as many (or as few) of the hikes as you wish. Camp at Plumas-Eureka SP or stay in a motel near Graeagle or Calpine. Well-behaved dogs are welcome. Limit 12. For reservations and instructions, contact Dorie Stoessel at 650-941-2502 or 530-583-0382 or by sending e-mail to duchess at casaraquel dot com (e- mail preferred)."
August 8-10. Yosemite National Park: Tuolumne Meadows to Upper Young Lake. "This is a beautiful loop trip out of Tuolumne Meadows to the highest of the Young Lakes. We will hike approximately 7 miles in and gain 1700 feet and set up camp at Upper Young Lake. The next day we will day hike cross-country to Roosevelt Lake. On the return we will descend via the Dog Lake trail with spectacular views south to Tuolumne Meadows. Hot water commissary for breakfast and dinner. Limited to 6 trip participants. Trip fee is $8 per participant. Cancellation two weeks prior for full refund. Leader: Renee Rivera; co- leader: Anne Gorby. To sign up please contact the leader, Renee Rivera at reneemaririvera at yahoo dot com. Reservations will be taken after May 8th."

#5. John Vonhof

This is from John Vonhof's Fixing Your Feet E-Zine, January 2008 (copyrighted material) EDITORIAL: PATCHING BLISTERS – THEN AND NOW Years ago, around 1985, I ran my first Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Then I had a second finish and a third, and finally a DNF at Rucky Chucky. I still remember my first time. My feet hurt from a blister on the ball of one foot. I made it to Rucky Chucky and crossed the river. My drop bag had clean shoes and socks. As I pulled off my wet socks and socks, I realized the blister needed patching. My recollection is that there was a podiatrist across the river and he offered to help. The patch he applied was the standard back then. Clean and pop the blister, add a layer of Vaseline, cover it with a piece of gauze with moleskin over the top. Did it work? Yes, in that I was able to finish in 26:32 and change. And No, in that it was extremely uncomfortable and made every step hurt. That old patch was bulky and uncomfortable. It introduced something new and large into my shoe and changed the way my foot fit in my shoe. It also changed my gait. I knew there was a better way."
Over the years, blister care has evolved as products were introduced. We had Spenco’s 2nd Skin, which is still around and still one of the most popular patches. Then there was Compeed, which took several names as it went from company to company, Blister Block, and a host of similar knock-offs."
For years, I used a lot of 2nd Skin. I like the sticky stuff and bought it by the 300-count jar. I noticed however, that as I took the old 2nd Skin and tape off to apply another patch, the skin underneath had really macerated. This made it difficult to apply a new patch. This is most important for runners and walkers in ultras, and adventure racers in multi-day events. These athletes, whose feet had been protected, were, in my view, now open to more problems."
So, in the past years, I have moved away from 2nd Skin to a very basic system. I clean around the blister, drain it, and then apply a dab of zinc oxide. Over the top goes a strip of Kinesio-Tex tape. This system put a very thin strip of tape on the foot, which is virtually un- noticeable to the athlete. I have not seen or been told of problems with this system."
Times have changed. If I am working a single day event, an Avon Walk, or a 50-Miler, a nice Spenco Sports Blister patch or 2nd Skin works well. But for any multiday event, or long ultra, I will use my system until I find something better. If you have any ideas, or want to share your favorite blister patch, please send me an email." SUBSCRIBE or E-mail: FixingYourFeetEzine -subscribe@ yahoogroups. com or go to .

#6. Flying the pct?

Peter Kirby decides to fly instead of walk the PCT? "I just got back. Like your experience, the wind was very strong between Kelso Valley and Bird Spring Pass. I even got knocked off my feet once — my first ever! I love challenges so it was fun and the flowers were beautiful. I got some tick bites just before Walker Pass with the telltale red circles and headed home to get checked for Lyme disease."

#7. Celebration in Santiago de Compostela:

 The 24th of June is a big holiday in Galicia and celebrated non-stop in Santiago. The 24th of June is St. John's day AND the summer solstice. Rosina, who contributes frequently to a Camino forum (gocamino-subscribe AT writes, "The night preceding it is a very big do that goes back to the ancient Celts, dedicated to worship the purifying element of fire. All over Santiago fires are lit to scare away 'bad spirits' and shoo off the 'meigas.' The fire-worshiping Galician rites require the devotees to jump repeatedly over the lit fires, at least three times, to leave behind bad vibes and, once fire-purified, to attract good luck and good things. The tradition also requires that wild flowers be gathered and left in water overnight, in the open air, so that they be enriched by the morning dew; washing one's face in the morning with the resultant perfumed water guarantees beauty and youthful appearance."
At night, all over the city, you will find people jumping over fires, grilling sardines all over the city and making "churrasco" (strips of meat, seasoned and broiled over an open fire) as well as groups singing Galician airs. Rosina adds that the weather in Galicia at present is ideal.

#8.Simon Calder on Spain

 A website, "The Independent Travels" features "48 Hours in and around Spain" a podcast by Simon Calder. On the podcast, you'll see wonderful images of Leon and Astorga (including a visit to a tasty chocolate museum). 
On "Spain: Twin Track: a trail of Two Train Travellers," you'll travel from Leon to Santiago de Compostela aboard one of the greatest luxury trains of Europe. "The toss of a coin decides whether Ben Ross or Simon Calder will indulge aboard El Cantabrico, while the other takes the budget option. But whatever the outcome, both will get to enjoy the rich heritage, countryside and shorelines of 'Green Spain.'"  There are more travels in Spain. Check it out.

#9. Food Storage

Kristin Hostetter, "Gear Chick,"  answers a reader's question about dehydrated food. "Does freeze dried food go bad?" Her response, "…bite into a stale packet and you'll know what it tastes like to clean a chalkboard with your tongue. Fortunately, packages are stamped with a "Best if used by" or a Julian date code (21203 means it was packaged on the 212th day of 2003). Store yours in a dark, dry place and eat it within 2 years of that date."

#10.Classic Appalachian Trail Distance Calculator.

 This is a fantastic tool/site for Appalachian Trail hikers. This program calculates the approximate walking distance in miles between 2 points along the Appalachian Trail. Simply choose a selection from each of the list boxes below, then click on the submit button. These distances are based on the Appalachian Trail Data Book for 2006, a publication of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. He lists the points both North to South and south to north. 

#11. California Coastal Trail hikers

Hiking the California Coastal Trail: "Justin Davis & Ryan Fox. On June 9th, 2008, Ryan Fox and Justin Davis embarked on their summer- long hike from Santa Monica into Oregon on the California Coastal Trail (CCT). They will walk over 1,000 miles of their native state, and it will take 3 months to do it. They are walking for many reasons: to revisit places they've traveled and/or lived in the past, to see new places, and to connect with friends and family along the way. The hike is also going to be in support of Coastwalk and its work toward the completion of the Coastal Trail. You'll be able to read their blog and view their photos on the Coastwalk website, beginning in about a week (around Thursday, June 12).
On their way they will be volunteering their time helping Coastwalk update segment maps of the CCT. They will also be raising awareness about the California Coastal Trail to those they meet along the way. They will be spending close to 90 days along the trail, many of them camping. However, camping is not always an option. Many nights will be spent between campsites, and due to budgetary concerns, hotels will rarely be used. So they are asking for your help. In return for a few good stories and a home-cooked meal (they are great cooks) they could use a few places to stay along the coast. This walk is as much about the people they meet along the way as it is about the places they walk.
Coastwalk urges you to help these adventurers out in any way you can! Please contact them directly to offer your assistance: Ryan Fox,, (510) 693-4735 - Mobile Justin Davis,, (408) 464-4415 - Mobile
Remember Coastwalk (a nonprofit) offers day hikes as well as backpacking trips to on the California coast for people of all ages. Coastwalk, 825 Gravenstein Highway North, Suite 8, Sebastopol, California 95472 (800) 550-6854.

#12. Call of the Wild - Backpacking to Mt. Whitney

Women only need apply: Call of the Wild, the "Pioneer of Adventure Travel for Women," is now celebrating its 30th year of leading adventure trips. An example of their 2008 adventures is: Mt. Whitney Backpack, [August 1-8, 2008]. "Ready to make a change in your life? This High Sierra adventure appeals to women ready to meet a challenge, physical or otherwise! This is our twenty-fourth annual backpacking trip to Mt. Whitney, and we've guided literally hundreds of women to the summit."
This 8-day trip covers about 58 miles in six hiking days. We'll walk through some of the most dramatic, beautiful scenery in the High Sierra. Our route goes through Sequoia National Park and follows the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail. The climax of our trip is the summit of Mt. Whitney. At 14,495', it's the highest point in the continental United States. A Pre-Trip Class is included when you sign up for this trip. Go to Pre-Trip Classes."
Rating: Challenging, Cost: $1,350, Deposit: $500 View a detailed itinerary of this trip and other domestic as well as foreign trips at:  Phone: 530-642-1978 Toll-free outside California: 888-378-1978 Fax: 530-642-1978 E-mail: Mailing address: Call of the Wild, 610 Myrtle Avenue, Placerville, CA 95667 

#13. Regional:

 Bay Area Ridgetrail Events:  Green Valley Falls Hike Date: Saturday, August 9, 2008 Location: Vallejo, Solano County Description: "Green Valley Falls is one of the most picturesque places in Solano County and the waterfall vies for the title of most beautiful in the Bay Area. Our Solano County Committee has obtained permission for three hikes to visit this lovely spot in the Vallejo watershed, on trails the Council helped to repair after the winter storms of 2005-2006. The falls flow all year long and it is cool and inviting even on a hot day. The hike is fairly short, but there are some steep and difficult spots. Doris Klein will lead the hikes this year. The start time is 9 am and the hike should last about 3 hours."
The City of Vallejo limits each hike to 30 people. We'll take reservations on a first-come first-served basis. You must bring a photo ID, be older than 12 years old, and be accompanied by a parent or guardian if you are under 18. The City also requires the Council to buy a permit and carry insurance. To cover these costs, we ask current Ridge Trail members pay $10 each and non-members pay $15 to join this outing. You must be registered to go on this hike. Directions provided with registration confirmation. Confirmations will not be sent until late April, and then every other week following (so you may not receive confirmation for 2 weeks after registering).

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #106 June 1, 2008

Polliwog: "poll" from head, "wygle" from wigglehead. From the "2107 Curious Word Origins, Saying and Expressions," by Charles Earle. Galahad Books, New York. 1993
1. California's State Budget Spares State Parks [for now!]
2. Ralph writes about PCT adventure
3. Where on earth were Susan and Ralph?
4. "It's a bird, it's a plane... No! It's Superman!" Well, maybe not!
5. More info on Tejon Agreement (PCT). [It's GOOD news.]
6. Geographic Correction
7. Photo and Horseback Adventure in the High Sierra
8. Furry Chicken
9. Camino de Santiago Interest
10. Susan and Ralph's Backpacking and Camino Programs

#1. Great news from the California State Parks Foundation.

"The voices of state park supporters across the state have been heard! …Governor Schwarzenegger announced he reversed course on his draconian proposal to close state parks. He released a revision to his January budget and is now proposing to restore funding to keep all of California's state parks open and keep lifeguards on our state beaches."

But our work is far from over, and the Save Our State Parks Campaign will continue. It's important to remember that the Governor's proposal is just that, a proposal, and must be approved by the Legislature. We will be working with legislative leaders to ensure they share the goal of keeping all state parks open and accessible and secure their approval of funding to do so. "

At the same time, the proposal to close 48 state parks and take lifeguards off 16 state beaches illustrated how under funded the state park system truly is, and how precarious its long-term fiscal picture appears. While we may have averted an immediate crisis, our challenge is clear – as park supporters, we must identify and advocate for sustainable funding for our state park system. Otherwise, we will simply be fighting, year after year, over another list of 48 parks to be closed." California State Parks Foundation. (Go To  ).

#2. Ralph on PCT adventure:

"Two or three years ago I read Larry Gonzales' Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why. It made me realize that a lot of my 50+ years of backpacking 'experience' was just good luck, repetitive carelessness vs the odds of a bad event. Since that book, I particularly take care on Pacific Crest Trail sections not to do two or more dumb things the same day. For example, starting up a pass at 2 in the afternoon with an obvious thunderstorm moving in is one dumb thing. Continuing on up while it's cold, wet, windy, dark is approaching, and I'm shivering, is several more."

Last summer we got caught in freezing rain near Castle Crags, were slow to get our rain gear on and got wet, so we stopped in early afternoon, put up the tent, and got into our bags till we warmed up. A smart move."

On our recent hike from Agua Dulce to Kennedy Meadows trip I didn't follow my caution instincts, to my regret. Around mile 618 we found ourselves about three miles short of our goal, about 6pm, so kept on going, even though the wind was blowing us all over the trail, and it was about 45 degrees. Dumb move #1. I passed this one fair campsite on the side of Pinyon Mountain, saying to Susan, 'we can do better, there is always some micro-site'. Dumb move #2. The trail kept routing us towards a low pass, the wind velocity increasing as it got funneled between the hills. By the time we reached the pass, the wind gusts were knocking us off the trail, even with hiking poles. I did some research later, and according to one climbing site, that takes wind gusts of about 70+ mph. Susan's back started to spasm from the sideways wind gusts against the pack."

Anyhow, my lifetime good luck continued to hold. Some dayhikers had left a car there for their next day's destination, and they had left it unlocked. We sat in the car a few minutes to assess the situation. Susan said, "I'm not leaving this car". Well, I was seriously concerned about what we would have done if the car had not been there, so I got out and attempted to put the tent up. No way. Would have shredded the tent. Again, from the same climbing site [URL above], I learned that there is a term for this situation, called maytagging the tent. Ever had a washer roll your clothes up? So, I walked down the downwind side of the pass, looking for a somewhat sheltered spot, and finally found one. At that point, having satisfied myself on the no car situation, I went back and happily spent the rest of the night in the car. Of course it was too windy to cook, so we ate the next day's lunch (bars, jerky, etc.) and had supper the next morning."

After the fact, we looked at what we could have done if forced to overnight there with no car and no shelter. The tent had a bottom, and we could have used it as a bivy, even with no poles. We also each had fleece pants, & down jackets as well as rain jacket and pants. We also had an emergency space blanket. So we would have survived, just spent a fairly miserable and noisy night."

The next day was beautiful, and we continued on for several miles, but Susan's back continued to spasm. Our exit points were Walker Pass, a day and a half further, or possibly Bird Spring Pass, another 10 miles at that point and a low traffic 4wd road. Zero Verizon cell reception since highway 58. We decided that continuing on would be dumb move #3, and hiked back to the car to wait for the dayhikers (who we had met a day earlier). If there had been no dayhikers, we would have walked down from the pass to Kelso Valley Road and hitched. We exited the trail and returned 10 days later, healed, and a little more wind smart."

I have a couple of reasons for relating this. One is that we were carrying enough gear to stay safe. The other is to illustrate that it is easy to make mistakes when tired, and you need to make the effort to think 'is this dumb mistake #2?'" Ralph Alcorn,

#3. Where were Ralph & Susan

More about our PCT (Section E, F, 1/2 G) hike. Ralph wrote the letter above as part of the recent discussion on the PCT forum about preparedness. Many hikers in southern California starting out on their thru-hikes of the PCT were recently surprised by a recent dramatic change in the weather enroute. (Tioga Pass, the highcountry pass in Yosemite, was closed temporarily just days after its opening because of several inches of new snow). The thing is, snow in May (or any month) may not be the norm, but it is not unprecedented and those who expect to be hiking through the mountains for months need to be prepared for weather changes. Ralph and I were hiking through the desert (Mojave), by definition an arid land--but we had at least one night with temperatures below freezing.

In response to Ralph's letter, a reader sent in a reminder that when you are tired and somewhat stressed, you should eat and drink something [an energy bar, etc.] in order to better deal with the situation. Excellent advice!

#4. "It's a plane, it's a man…."

 As Ralph mentioned, we did finish our planned trip from Agua Dulce to Kennedy Meadows. We saw a few interesting animals. One kind appeared late afternoon flying from flower to flower. I was certain it was a hummingbird--though the tiniest I had ever seen, but when I got home and researched it, I found out that it was a White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth.

According to a website, "Hummingbird moths have disappointed many people who believed that they were seeing their first hummingbird." But hummingbirds are not brown, with striped backs, and reddish coloration on the wings. "They will not let you approach them to get a closer look. If you believe you saw a brown, striped hummingbird, you probably saw the perfect hummingbird look-a-like…" I had also been confused by the fact that the moths were flying around during the day-- most moths fly at night. In addition, it has a long proboscis (the tube that sucks nectar). Finally, the hummingbird moth is HUGE as moths go--3-4" wingspan. You can see some photos at:

Other sightings we enjoyed, sort of: the scorpion under our tent that we discovered when packing the tent away; the walking stick; the polliwogs swimming in a stream that ran across the trail, the bear and coyote prints we followed for miles…. As far as vegetation, it was amazing how much change had occurred in the 2 weeks between trips. There were still lots of wildflowers, but instead of a wide variety, we saw a few varieties covering large areas.

#5. More on Tejon agreement

Liz Bergeron, Executive Director of the Pacific Crest Trail Association, recently (5/9/08) sent further details about the May agreement with Tejon Ranch (Southern CA). "You may have already heard about the monumental conservation plan unveiled by Tejon Ranch and several national environmental groups this Thursday. These groups worked together to come up with a landmark conservation and land use agreement that provides the framework for conserving up to 90% of Tejon Ranch's landholdings, amounting to 240,000 acres."

This agreement is great news for the PCT, and here's why: A significant part of the plan includes a conservation easement for the trail that will allow the PCT to be relocated from the floor of the Mojave Desert to the crest of the Tehachapi Mountains, in keeping with the original vision for the PCT and following the preferred route agreed upon by the U.S. Forest Service and the Pacific Crest Trail Association (see the future route of the PCT on the map below)."

"The easement, to be donated by Tejon Ranch Co. and valued by the U.S. Forest Service at an estimated $12 million, will permanently protect 37 miles of trail and 10,000 acres of trail corridor. This is the largest relocation project since the trail's official completion in 1993, and will fill the largest gap where the PCT does not follow the originally designated trail route or the crest of a mountain range."

#6. Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides

In my haste to let you know about some of trips offered by Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, I mistakenly wrote that is in Bishop. It's actually located in North Fork, CA, along Yosemite's South-Western border. [ed: Only 187 miles difference! Sorry!] Go to: . Call: (800) 231-4575

#7.Photo and horseback workshop

 Professional photographer and adventurer Phil Hawkins, who has been backpacking and photographing the High Sierra for 28 years, is sponsoring some high sierra wilderness photo workshops in Sequoia this summer. Check out

This is an area in which Ralph and I have backpacked (and I wrote about in "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill"). Beautiful scenery with excellent photo opportunities. Some excerpts and keywords from Phil's itinerary for a week's trip primarily on horseback:

"7 days in the high altitude Sierra Nevada range of central California with 5 FULL days at the 9,500 to 11,500 ft elevation photographing some of the most spectacular scenery in the US. You'll see the Perseid Meteor Shower, which ...will peak on the night of the 11th and 12th and we will have a ringside seat to the grandest lightshow imaginable. Although there will be a moon out, at 1/2 to 3/4 phase, we will still be able to see a grand show. Plus, there will be a full moon on the 16th, our last night. We will be positioned at 11,500-ft. Elizabeth Pass to shoot the moonrise over mountain scenery you will never forget!

"Day 1, Saturday, August 9. You will arrive in Fresno, where we will meet and carpool, caravan, etc to Horse Corral Pack Station in Sequoia National Park. Cold beverages and hors d'oeuvres will be waiting for us. Dinner will be at 6pm, which will leave enough time to shoot the sunset if you desire. Time also to arrange your gear, last chance to get those items you forgot, meet with Charley the owner of Horse Corral Pack Station for horse assignments, orientation ride, and instructions for the trail.

Day 2… 20 mile ride to Deadman Canyon at the 9,500-foot elevation. Travel time should be about 8 hours by horseback. We will stop regularly to shoot the scenery on the trip.

Day 7… Friday Dinner at 11,500 feet! Easy morning, then the crowning excursion! Dinner at Elizabeth Pass! We leave around noon, take our time and travel by horseback to Elizabeth Pass arriving at around 5:30 or 6pm. Wine, cheese-and-crackers hors d'oeuvres and cool refreshments will be available as we wait for the barbecued chicken or grilled pork loin dinner with fresh vegetables, bread and dessert to be ready. We'll eat a sit-down dinner with tables and chairs, prepare for photographing the sunset, then turn 180 degrees and shoot the full moon rise immediately after. Then, around 8:30 or 9pm we will head back to camp.  or 559-307-7773 for more information."

[ed. I LOVE this part] "Bears are a natural part of the national park environment. It's not likely, but it is entirely possible we will see bears. There are NO Grizzly bears in the Sierra Nevada range. Our species is 100% Black Bears, also known as 300-pound furry chickens. For more information on putting this very misplaced fear into proper perspective, see this link:  This information is written specifically for Yosemite National Park, but is equally applicable to Sequoia National Park. Packers are trained in proper food storage and you will receive a briefing prior to departure on how to conduct yourself with food in the wilderness. If you follow the protocol for food handling we will have no problem with bears."

#8. California wilderness protection

Peter Kirby sent information on additional legislation of interest to conservationists and trail wanderers (like us): From: McKeon Press Office [] Sent: Friday, May 23, 2008 1:07 PM Subject: McKeon, Boxer Introduce Sweeping Legislation to Protect California Wilderness. WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) introduced legislation Thursday to protect almost half a million acres of wilderness lands in California. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the companion bill in the Senate. Apparently the bill includes 11 miles of the PCT in the Hoover extension.

#9. News of the Camino de Santiago.

 On a recent forum letter (Gocamino mailing list), Rosina reported the following: "1. The Galician newspapers report a 32% increase in Camino albergues from 2006 to 2007. 2. According to the Xacobean sources, at the end of 2007 there were 219 albergues in the environs of the French Camino, of which 43% were public, 42% were private and 15% were sponsored by religious orders. (In 2007 about 92,000 pilgrims traversed the French Camino). 3.The Bishop and the Councilman are fully committed to the establishment of a public albergue every 25 kms before 2010. 4. Two well-known cinema and TV actors will star in a movie that will be filmed next July. The movie will be called "The End of the Camino" and will be shot in O Cebreiro, Sarria, Portomarin and Santiago. It will be a comedy depicting the experiences of two reporters who decide to walk the Camino. At present, the producers are looking for 700 extras to play pilgrims." Subscribe: ).

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #105 May 10, 2008

1. ThermaRest Cushioning?
2. Pacific Crest Trail re-route--Hooray!
3. Scott Williamson's upcoming PCT hike
4. Reservations for lodging in Santiago de Compostela
5. Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides Trips
6. Campo, CA: The PCT southern Terminus
7. Whew! and you thought Half Dome (Yosemite) was scary!
8. Petra, the Confused Swan!
9. Mountain Lion Primer
10. Where in the World are Susan and Ralph?

#1. Thermarest Cushioning

Ralph and I use very lightweight sleeping pads for our backpacking trips and they generally are comfortable enough. We use the Therm-a-rest Z-Lite, which is a 3/4 length (51" long) pad. I recently wondered if over time the cushioning is reduced. I measured the pad in its folded up position (it folds up sort of accordion- style); it measured 3-1/2"--the new ones measure 5"--we bought new ones!

#2. Pacific Crest Trail Re-route

Friday's newspaper (S.F.Chronicle: May 9, 2008) brought unexpected, but delightful news. Conservationists and the owners of Tejon Ranch have agreed on a plan that would save 240,000 acres from development. Tejon Ranch, which surrounds the area known to those who drive to Los Angeles as the "Grapevine," is composed of grassland, oak forest, and desert. One of the plans within the agreement is to reroute 37 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail that currently meanders through the Mojave Desert. Having just completed the trail section that goes through the desert, I can testify that a reroute would be most welcome to hikers. More importantly, this land acquisition would protect an important corridor for such animals as kit foxes and California Condors (an endangered species).

#3. Scott Williamson

A posting today on the PCT-l forum announced that Scott Williamson, who has "yo-yo" hiked (walked both ways within one year) the Pacific Crest trail twice, is out to break the unassisted record for the trail. He and Joe Kisner plan to leave Campo (on the border of Mexico) June 8th at noon. The current record is 79 days, 21 hours, and 42 minutes for the 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada.

#4. Reservations for lodging in Santiago

Grant Spangler writes on the Camino forum that a refugio in Santiago de Compostela has started taking reservations. "The Seminario Menor in Santiago is now taking reservations over the Internet. Just fill out the online form, Name, address, DNI, and don't forget your email and phone number." The Seminario is about a 10- minute walk from the Cathedral. Fee is Euro: 9,50 per person, per day.

#5. Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides

 Named "Best Outfitter on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure Magazine Nov/2007. Here are some of their offerings--such a fantastic collection of trips-- everything from daytrips to multi-weeklong mountain climbs; local to global, private guided trips to group outings.
Women's Backpacking Course in the Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada: Guided by Heidi Vetter who spent 82 days solo hiking the Sierra, this course is an amalgamation of her skills and experiences that she hopes to pass on to other women, inspiring them to find their own sense of stillness in nature. Moderate hiking daily, this course is designed to impart the skills you need to make yourself at home in the wilderness.
* Heidi Vetter's Wilderness Photography and Women's Backpacking Course
* Duration: 5 days/4 nights
* Level: moderate
* Cost: $995 photo trip, $795 women's backpacking trip
* 2008 Dates: July 2-6 photo, Aug 6-10 backpacking
* Aconcagua (22,841')
* Duration: 19 Days/18 Nights
* Level: Strenuous
* Cost: $3695 per person on group size of 8-10 people
* $3995 per person on group size of 6-7 people
* $4295 per person on group size of 4-5 people
* 2009 Dates: Jan 6-24, 2009
* Custom/Private Guided Backpacking
* Duration: based upon itinerary
* Level: all
* Cost: $425/Day for 1-2 people, $95/day for each additional
person up to 6 people in Yosemite and Ansel Adam's Wilderness(Southern
* Half Dome, Mt Whitney (Cottonwood), and remote Sequoia-Kings
Canyon Backpacks: $495.00/Day for 1-2 people, $100/day each
* All private and custom trips include guide(s), permits, meals,
and all equipment.
* 2008 Dates: May through October
Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides is located in Bishop, CA.
Go to: "Best Outfitter on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure Magazine Nov/2007 (800) 231-4575
The president of SYMG is Ian Elman and he was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his company's services. "A lot of people think, "If I can't get lost I don't need a guide." Having a guide makes the experience a richer one for the clients. It takes the 'worry' of logistics out of the trip (where, when, how, when to stop and rest, when to fill up on water, when to turn around and when to keep going etc). A guide can also pace clients properly to achieve a greater success rate getting up and down. They also add a safety net for any accidents or injuries that can (and do) occur. All of our guides are Wilderness First Responder trained. Our local guides know the trail and have had many experiences with many types of hikers. This knowledge base allows them to evaluate clients quickly and efficiently which allows them to make decisions in regards to safety while balancing the client's personal goals. Some people are very intimidated by all of these factors and they enjoy having professional, knowledgeable, and friendly guides with them for their Half Dome experience."
There are 2 other factors that our services are also used for on Half Dome in particular. The first is liability. School groups, company groups or groups of friends, or family reunions or just a couple of friends. The responsibility is transferred to a professional. There is less of a chance that anything 'can go wrong' with a guide and if it does 'go wrong' for some reason, then they aren't responsible in most cases. Also, families where the parents want to share the wilderness experience with their kids but want to make sure that the kids have a great time. By hiring a guide, they can feel good that the time is going to be the best it can be and that their kids respond better to the experience with some else in charge besides them."

#6. Campo and PCT Terminus

For those who haven't been to the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail, you can watch a neat video of the trail's inauspicious beginning at the following link.

#7. And you thought climbing Half Dome was treacherous

Watch this! Sue writes, "Thought you'd like to check out the video 'El Camino del Rey', now playing on (also forwarded by Marcy). This is in Andalucia (Spain). Originally built in 1901, this walkway now serves as an approach to makinodromo, the famous climbing sector of El Chorro."

#8. Petra, a black Australian swan who lives in Munster, Germany

seems to have been imprinted with an unlikely "parent." It seems, the Audubon (March 2008) magazine reports, that Petra has fallen in love with a white, plastic swan-shaped pedal boat. She stares longingly at the boat, circles it, and coos at it whenever boaters sail it around the lake.

#9. Mountain Lion Primer

Mountain lions attacks are rare, but since our hiking season is upon us, it seems prudent to review some strategies. First, experts tell us, if you see a mountain lion, it's likely that it has been watching you for some time. Mountain lions generally follow their prey at some distance and then crouch before their final run to attack.
If you see a mountain lion, stand tall (holding your hiking poles above your head might help). Do NOT run, back away confidently. Mountain lions main source of food is deer--about one per week. They are not used to their prey fighting--so in case of attack, FIGHT BACK. A woman whose husband was attacked last year in Northern California used a ballpoint pen to punch the mountain lion in the eye. (info from Jerry George, "Attacks area rare, but be prepared to fight" Chron" 5.10/2008, pg. F4.).
Though I have never seen a mountain lion in our thousands of miles of hiking, I would love to--from a safe distance! (We did see a fresh print in the dust in section E of the PCT a couple of weeks ago).

#10. Where in the world are Ralph and Susan

The reason that this newsletter is coming out at such an odd time--not the 1st of the 15th of the month--is because Ralph and I are heading out again on a backpacking trip. Actually we are resuming the PCT trip of sections E,F, & G that we started in mid-April. These sections are in southern California, starting in Agua Dulce and ending in Kennedy Meadows--a distance of about 250 miles.
This is a rather challenging portion of the PCT as far as weather and water supplies. To help with the water problem (the lack thereof) Ralph actually went down south early in April, drove miles of dirt roads or hiked in, in order to place caches of water at appropriate places along the trail. There is at least one stretch with no natural water for 20+ miles and another stretch of 30+ miles. Since we normally hike 12-15 miles per day, you can see the problem.
As usual, we had the good fortune to have trail angel encounters. Donna and Jeff Saufley of Agua Dulce and to Diane Ely, saw that we got off to a good start. The Saufley's, who run the famous-in-hiker- circles "Hiker Heaven," provided us with a comfy bed and a hearty fettuccine dinner the night before we started hiking. They also kept our car for us until we returned. Diane was on standby to help us anywhere along the route and she was the one who picked us up in Tehachapi when our trip ended--100 miles from her house!
Part of Section E's "charm" is that you have to walk a day or two along the California and then the Los Angeles aqueduct. The irony is lost on no one who has traveled this way that millions of gallons of water are flowing just below your feet (go rent the movie "Chinatown" if you don't remember how the water was "stolen" from the Mono Lake area and sent on its way to Southern California). However in the Los Angeles aqueduct, the water is buried under several inches of concrete with no access for desert hikers.
Skipping ahead to the Mojave Desert. Although I had dreaded the crossing of the Mojave Desert, we were lucky enough to be protected by some cloud cover, or light winds, most of the time. And thank goodness, we did not see any sidewinders or even the dangerous Green Mojave rattlesnake.
We encountered a problem on Day #12. Although we hadn't seen anyone for almost three days and had no phone reception, we had been doing well and were on schedule. Mid-afternoon, we stopped for a break at Butterbredt Canyon. A car pulled up, then a second one. Chester (the younger) stepped out. We got to talking and soon learned that he and his parents were slack-packing sections of the PCT. They had two rental cars and each day they would drive one car to their chosen endpoint and then drive the second car to their starting point. Then they would walk from car to car. We thought it was an interesting way of doing their hike with the benefit of not having to carry their backpacks.
We say "goodbye" and resumed our hike. As we climbed towards Pinyon Mountain, the wind started to pick up. By 5:00 PM, it was blowing quite hard and we began to look for a sheltered place to set up camp. We found nothing suitable for setting up a tent. We continued on. The wind became so strong that both of us were pushed off the trail numerous times and we were lucky that the slopes of the mountain were not dramatically steep. Whenever I stopped, it was all that I could do to resist being pushed along.
Finally we reached an intersection of dirt roads--and amazingly, one of the rental cars was parked there. Ralph went to see if the car would provide a windbreak. No dice. Then, a fluke of luck, he tried the car door and found it was unlocked! What are the odds??????
I jumped in and announced that I wasn't leaving the car. Ralph tried to set up the tent in the shelter of a nearby Joshua tree. He finally gave up because the wind would have destroyed the tent in the process of setting it up (we estimated the winds varied between 40-60mph). After a little searching down canyon, he found a somewhat sheltered spot, where setup was possible, but opted for the relative comfort of the car where we spent the night.
My back, which had had a few twinges from the wind blowing sideways at my pack, seemed okay the next morning. But about two miles into the hike, I began to feel both twinges and spasms. Not a good thing when you are two days from a road and have no phone connections. We considered our options and decided the safest thing to do was to go back to the car and wait for Chester and his parents (Ellen and Chester).
They ended up driving us three hours on dirt roads as they placed their cars for their next day's hike and then drove us back to a motel in Tehachapi. That makes Trail Angels 4, 5, & 6 for this trip!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Number 4 was R. K., the hotel manager at Day's Inn in Tehachapi who gave us a round trip ride to a trailhead.) Ralph and I came home, caught up on the mail, laundry, reclaimed our social lives, etc. and will head out again soon to resume our hike-- seventy miles to go to Kennedy Meadows.

The next newsletter is scheduled for June 1.
Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #104 April 15, 2008

"A well-spent day brings happy sleep." Leonardo De Vinci
1. Popularity of the Appalachian Trail
2. Low Fares to Madrid?
3. Sun Protection
4. The Planets
5. Notes on PCT Trail Fest
6. Book Review: "Last Child in the Woods"
7. Book Review: "26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Cote d'Azur
8. Camino Route: Via de la Plata: Plans for new albergues
9. Regional: Wildlife sighting: Black Panthers
10. Regional: Through-Hike and Equestrian Ride
11. Regional: Marin Headlands: Art show, "California Landscapes"
12. Regional: Llama Day Hikes
13. Regional: Scrambler's Event Schedule
14. Additional info on CPR recommendations
15. Leave No Trace Ethics

Note: Due to our hiking schedule, the next issue of this newsletter is scheduled for May 15th. I hope this one is long enough to hold you for a while!

#1. Appalachian Trail

According to Outdoor Magazine, Bill Bryson's entertaining, and somewhat controversial, "A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering American on the Appalachian, Trail", spurred a 57% increase in thru-hiking on the AT. In 2000, 633 completed the 2,175-mile walk from Georgia to Maine on the AT, which is sometimes referred to as the "long green tunnel."

#2 Low Fares to Madrid

Camino flights: Cheap fares to Madrid? Recently Michael Hicks of Travelzoo Staff wrote into the Camino pilgrim forum about cheap flights, during May, to Madrid. I went to Orbitz and did a bit of investigation. First Michael's original letter, then my comments.
"$443-$550 -- Fly to Madrid from 8 Cities (Roundtrip)* new Madrid, Spain
Top 20 deal - sells out quickly!
Travel dates: Select dates through May"

For travel through May, we found some amazing fares on Orbitz for travel to Madrid from major cities across the country, starting at $443 roundtrip. By the time June rolls around, we expect these same routes to be priced over $1000." Roundtrip prices from the following cities to Madrid start at:
* Chicago ... $443
* New York City ... $501
* Washington, D.C. ... $505
* Orlando ... $518
* Miami ... $529
* Dallas ... $536
* Los Angeles ... $536
* Atlanta ... $550"
These fares are most widely available when you travel on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. When searching for the lowest fares, be flexible with your dates, and keep in mind that many fares listed $40- $60 higher are still great deals."
Click here to begin a flexible search on Orbitz. We suggest using options #2 or #3 to search many dates and fares at once, to find the best deal. The final price will include approximately $90 in taxes. Orbitz. Restrictions apply, and fares are subject to availability. -- See Orbitz Web site for full details. * Some taxes, fees additional. Learn more"
[Susan responds] Yes, it did look like there were deals to be had, but I also noticed that the taxes and fees sometimes came to $300+). Therefore, there is a wide range of prices for both the airfare and the added fees. Nevertheless, if you are interested in a May flight to Madrid, this just might be worth checking out.

#3. Sun protection:

 I recently went to my dermatologist (for a routine checkup) and during my appointment, he reminded me to use sunscreen daily (just like brushing your teeth!) even when I'll be in the car all day. He recommended Neutrogena with helioplex, which is actually what I do use. It protects against BOTH UVA and UVB. I also like the fact that it isn't greasy (or as greasy!) as many other sunblocks.

#4. The Planets

April 20 is the Full Moon, which is known to the Choctaw as the "Wildcat Moon" and to the Dakotah Sioux as the "Moon when Geese Return in Scattered Formations". (Cal Academy of Science, Spring 2008.

#5. Pacific Crest Trail Association's Trail Fest:

 The last weekend of March Ralph and I attended the association's annual meeting (this year in Sacramento). It was the first time we had attended and well worth our time.
I wish I had time to give a complete report, but I'll focus on the panel that I moderated, "Women on the Trail." The panelists were Amy Racina, Marcia Powers, Sandy Mann, and "Ladybug." Each woman has so many interesting stories to tell and so much experience to share--we could only skim the surface.
Some highlights [somewhat paraphrased]:
When Marcia was asked about protecting the environment, she responded, "Ken and I know our route each day and if we see litter alongside the trail and it's more than halfway along the way, we pick it up and carry it with us until we can dispose of it. If it's less than halfway along the way, we leave it for someone coming the other way to take out."
Ladybug told an intriguing story about life on the PCT. In Spring 2006 she was coming down off of Fuller Ridge, which involves an extremely steep descent from the mountains down to hwy 10 near Palm Springs, CA. Ralph and I have hiked this section and remember it well-- the steep terrain, the endless switchbacks, a very region with no water for miles. There had been a fire a few seasons before, but grasses were starting to recover, the mice came for the grass seeds, the rattlesnakes came for the mice....
Ladybug saw a rattlesnake, "Not that unusual." she thought. Then she saw another, "Hmm...." Then another. She realized that she had stumbled into a rattlesnake den and was completely surrounded by snakes. She scrambled up onto a nearby boulder--hoping they wouldn't climb the rock--pulled out her cellphone and called 9-1-1. After standing on the rock for a while--waving her jacket--she was spotted and then airlifted out by search and rescue.
Both Amy and Sandy addressed the topic of hiking solo. Amy Racina, whose book "Angels in the Wilderness," tells about the 60-ft. fall she took when hiking solo in Kings Canyon, explained why she still prefers to hike solo. "Anytime you hike with someone else, compromise is involved. When I hike alone, I decide when to get up in the morning, how far to hike, what pace to keep, when to eat, and so forth." She noted, however, that she now carries a signaling device so she can call for help in case of emergency.
Sandy "Frodo' Mann, who also has been backpacking since her mid-teens, likes to hike with her husband (Barney) or others. One of the reasons for hiking with a group is safety, she says. "I'm short," she added, "and there were stream crossings [on the Pacific Crest Trail] that I could not have made without help. Last year, she was part of a party of four as they thru-hiked the PCT. When they were within stone's throw of the Canadian border, the group, which was dubbed "Operation Snowplow," encountered extremely treacherous weather, retraced their steps for many miles, and then took an alternate route so they could complete their hike.

#6. Last Child in the Woods

I've recently read, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" by Richard Louv. From the back cover, [Louv] "links the absence of nature in the lives of today's wired generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends: rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression." I am re-inspired!
Luckily, you, my readers, are in the optimal position to help reverse the trend. You who have enjoyed hiking and backpacking and love the outdoors, can introduce a youngster (your own or an "adopted" one) to the greater world. Nothing fancy required: a walk in the woods, an afternoon skipping rocks by a stream, a run along the beach.

#7. 26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Cote d'Azur

I also recently read, "26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Cote d'Azur (France)," and reviewed it on Amazon. "Recommended reading. Makes Me Want to Hike in France! April 2, 2008
I've hiked in France, but I had no idea what a beautiful and interesting region Cote d'Azur was until I read Florence Chatzigianis's, "26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Cote d'Azur." Now I want to go there, her guidebook in hand, and try out the trails she describes so vividly.
Chatzigianis's book is not only informative, but also easy to use. She's organized the 26 hikes by region, which enables visitors to quickly find a trail nearby. I particularly like the way that the "Table of Hikes," breaks the hikes into categories of "easy" and "medium," and then gives the distance and time needed for each. And since I like to know whether I'll be doing a lot of climbing in the mountains or a bit of strolling by the shore, I find the small drawings showing the elevation range of each hike are also quite useful."
Chatzigianis's colorful photos are a rich accompaniment to the text. Not only are there pictures of the beautiful countryside, but also of the many historical and cultural sights that most auto-touring visitors miss."
Finally, I found that the "Aside" sections--short essays on such intriguing topics as "Hiking Under Water," (on the island of Port- Cros) and "The Cork Oak" (some of which you see on the Lac de l'Ecureuil trail), make "26 Gorgeous Hikes on the West Cote d'Azur" an indispensable guide for any traveler who wants to truly experience France's Mediterranean coastline."

#8. Camino Route: Via de la Plata: Plans for new albergues

Rosina reports that there are plans to provide new albergues in the Via de la Plata "The Ourense province has just allocated 5 Million Euros to the betterment of the Camino facilities in the province, including the building of six new albergues." "Ruben Lois, in charge of the project, declared that the province of Ourense aims to have a public albergue every 25 kilometers, in addition to the existing albergues and those in the City of Ourense itself. " "Ourense is the last leg of one of the alternate endings of the Via de la Plata."
In her letter, Rosina recommends that pilgrims on the Via de la Plata take the route that goes through Ourense. She comments that, though it adds mileage, the albergues are not crowded and the city is interesting--including its sulphuric hot waters that offer the opportunity to take hot baths.
In addition, Pontevedra has also recently allocated one and a half million Euros to improve the facilities of the Camino that crosses the province. "The above projects are expected to be completed by next year's summer, in anticipation of the Xacobean Holy Year in 2010".

#9. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area.

 I found it absolutely fascinating to read Tom Stienstra's, Chronicle Outdoors Writer, (S. F. Chronicle: April 1,3 2008) column entitled, "Mysterious black panther makes a rare appearance, scout reports." Seems that there have been several sightings in wildland areas in the greater Bay Area. Also some in central and in southern California.
One sighting was at my favorite hiking trail, Pierce Ranch in Pt. Reyes. Other reports are from Las Trampas, Sunol, and Cabot Regional Parks, Carquinez Strait, and the Marin Headlands. In Central California near San Luis Obispo, and near Lake Arrowhead in So. Cal. While Fish and Game has never seen a mountain lion that was jet black, many hikers have and the Point Reyes sighting was by a local wildlife expert, John Balawejder. I'd LOVE to see a mountain lion--black or otherwise--in the wild--from a safe distance of course! "The Great Outdoors with Tom Stienstra" is on KMAX in Sacramento on Sundays, 10AM.

#10. Regional: S. F. Bay Area: Bay Area Ridge Trail New East Bay Hills Through-Hike and Equestrian Ride. From Janet McBride, Executive Director, Bay Area Ridge Trail.
"Registration Opens April 15 for East Bay Benefit Hike Aug 27 - 31 Good news for hikers! You may have heard of the annual Tilden Wildcat Horsemen's East Bay Hills Trails Benefit Ride and been disappointed you didn't have a horse. This year, to honor the Council's 20th Anniversary, Tilden Wildcat and Metropolitan Horseman's Associations are inviting hikers to join the fun. The five-day hike will travel the entire Ridge Trail route from Castro Valley to Martinez. Equestrians and hikers will gather every evening for excellent food and entertainment. The Tilden Wildcats will handle registration for the equestrian event. Learn more at the TWHA website (note: the 2008 ride flyer is not yet posted as of this writing)."
Bay Area Ridge Trail Council
1007 General Kennedy Avenue, Suite 3
San Francisco, CA 94129-1405
Phone 415-561-2595

#11. Regional: An art show entitled, "California Landscapes", in Marin Headlands Greening Gallery Marin Headlands Visitor Center Golden Gate National Recreation Area Through May 26, 2008 Fort and Bunker Roads [View map] Reception: Sunday, April 27, from 4:00 to 5:30pm.
The artist, Melissa West, also does fascinating Camino art. Check out her website:

#12. Regional: Llama Day Hikes in EBRPD Redwood Regional Park, Oakland, CA. "Come experience the wonderful world of llama packing! Experienced llama packers will guide this 4-6 mile hike. Llamas will carry your lunches and personal items and you will have the opportunity to lead a llama while learning about handling, caring for, and packing with llamas. Parking fee charged at Redwood Regional Park. Financial assistance available. Reg. Required: 1-888-EBPARKS (1-888-327-2757)." All llama day hikes are 10:00AM - 4:00PM Sat. May 31, 2008. Sun, June 1, 2008. Sat, June 21, 2008. Sun, June 22, 2008. Info:

#13. Scrambler's Tour Dates: One of the highlights of the recent PCT Trail Fest was seeing Scrambler and her family give a talk. Scrambler is the youngest PCT thru hiker (she was 10 years old when she completed it in 2004). Her mother, Barbara Egbert, has written a book, "Zero Days: Hiking the PCT," which is "a heartwarming story of her family's adventures while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Wonderfully written, this book is a must-read for parents hiking with small children. Barbara's tales, some very personal, reflect the trials and tribulations of being 'thru-hikers' on their 2,650-mile trek from Mexico to the Canadian border."
Scrambler (now a poised young lady) and Barbara are making some appearances locally. Don't miss seeing them!  April 15, Marina REI store (the new one between Santa Cruz and Monterey), 7:00 p.m., 145 General Stilwell Drive, Marina, CA 93933, (831) 883-8048.
 April 20, Sunol Events Center, 1-3 p.m., right here in beautiful downtown Sunol (mostly a Sierra Club event).  June 12, San Carlos REI store, 7 p.m. 1119 Industrial Rd Ste 1B, San Carlos, CA 94070, (650) 508-2330

#14. Added CPR info. Last issue, I mentioned that the American Heart Association had recently modified their recommendations and now also approve the 'Hands-only" method (experts say 100 uninterrupted chest presses per minute). To clarify: the hands-only CPR is for adults who "suddenly collapse, stop breathing, and are unresponsive--which is usually the case in cardiac arrest." In this case, the adult still has enough oxygen in his/her lungs and blood. Added info: For children AND for those adults who suffer lack of oxygen due to a drug overdose, near-drowning, etc., the traditional mouth-to-mouth and chest presses are still recommended in order to get air into their system. However, "something is better than nothing," said Professor Michael Sayre, whose committee made the recommendation.

#15. As we enter hiking season, a review of Leave no Trace Ethics (used with permission (c) 2008 Leave No Trace): (Plan Ahead and Prepare; Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces; Dispose of Waste Properly; Leave What You Find; Minimize Campfire Impacts; Respect Wildlife; Be Considerate of Other Visitors) 1. Plan Ahead and Prepare * Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit. * Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies. * Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use. * Visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups. * Repackage food to minimize waste. * Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces * Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow. * Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. * Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary. o In popular areas: Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites. o Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy. o Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent. o In pristine areas: o Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails. o Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly * Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. * Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished. * Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. * To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
4. Wildness, Leave What You Find * Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts. * Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them. * Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species. * Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts * Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light. * Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires. * Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. * Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
6. Respect Wildlife * Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them. * Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers. * Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely. * Control pets at all times, or leave them at home. * Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors * Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience. * Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail. * Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock. * Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors. * Let nature's sounds prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises
This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:  ++++

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #103 Apr 1, 2008

"If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it; Every arrow that flies feels the attraction of earth." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

1. "Hands only" CPR Recommended
2. Appalachian Trail's Growth Spurt?
3. Organic Trail Mix
4. Great Old Broads
5. Bears Barely Slept
6. Spain's Continuing Political Discord
7. How to Keep Warm on Cold Nights under the Stars
8. Camino Pilgrim's Credentials in Madrid
9. Don't Be Foot Sore
10. Camino de Santiago Pilgrim Stats
11. Sierra Club Backpacking Trips
12. Leave No Trace (LNT)

We now have more than 700 subscribers; let your hiking friends know that they can subscribe by sending a message to Susan at backpack45 at yahoo dot com. Thank you.

#1. Hands Only CPR

In a major turnabout, the American Heart Association said today that chest compressions only--at 100 chest presses per minute for an adult--works just as well as the standard combination of chest compressions and mouth to mouth breathing. So if CPR is indicated, call 9-1-1 and immediately start the uninterrupted chest compressions. (Oakland Tribune, April 1, 2008. pg.1).

#2. Appalachian Trail to extend?

 A trail, known as the Pinhoti, which runs 334 miles from the AT's current southern end in Georgia to Cheaha Mountain in Alabama, has just been completed. Some want to get the extension added officially to the existing 2,160 miles of the AT.
Hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail would still be ahead mileage wise. It's 2,650 from the Mexican border to the Canadian one on the PCT. What I'm wondering is if those who have already hiked the AT as currently configured would have to hike the entire 2,440 miles if the proposed extension is added in order to say they had thru-hiked it? (Just kidding!)

#3.Organic Trail Mix

Geolyn wrote, "I was at the Natural Foods Expo this past weekend and saw the company Bear Naked has made trail mixes named after the three trails: PCT,CDT, and AT. They are back east and the employees have volunteered trail work on the AT." Bear Naked, , also partners with the National Arbor Foundation, and the PCT, AT. and CDT associations. Here are some of their products:
Pacific Crest
"Our Pacific Crest Trail Mix: Organic cashews, organic pistachios, organic dried mangos, Organic raisins (organic raisins, organic sunflower oil), Organic sunflower seeds, organic sunflower oil, salt)
Appalachian Trail Mix: Raisins (raisins, sunflower oil), cranberries (cranberries, sugar, glycerin, sunflower oil), almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, whole grain oats, brown rice syrup, dried apples, pumpkin seeds, oat bran, evaporated cane juice, honey, canola oil, whole grain crisp rice (rice and barley malt), ground flax seed, coconut, natural flavors
The Continental Divide Granola is "a delicious mix of whole grain chocolate granola combined with almonds, walnuts, banana chips and more... sweetened naturally with honey and brown rice syrup".
All trail mix packages are 5 oz 3.99. The site offers organic granola mixes (4.99 for 12 oz.), hot cereal. Free shipping for orders over $75.

#4. Great Old Broads

A Broad Reminder to Sign up Now for the Gold Butte Broadwalk Date: April 10-14 Place: South of Mesquite, NV Cost: $110
"Come on out for this classic Broadwalk in your neck of the woods. We’ll learn about and walk in an area of wild stunning desert scenery. The Gold Butte region is in the southeast corner of Nevada, just west of the Arizona/Nevada border. This gorgeous area has been described as "like someone took southern Utah, Joshua Tree, and the AZ Strip and put them in a blender." It is a geological jackpot with jagged limestone and basalt peaks rising over 5,000 feet. There are also slot canyons, jumbled granite boulder fields and bizarre sandstone sculptures in a multitude of colors. Many amazing archaeological remnants and petroglyphs can be seen. Spring wildflowers, migrating birds, desert tortoises ….come explore with us.
We’ll spend four nights and three full days learning about and exploring this unique area with the help of the Nevada Wilderness Project. We’ll gather Thursday afternoon to set up our camp near Whitney Pocket and begin getting acquainted. Breakfasts and dinners each will be provided for the group by a camp cook leaving us more time for learning and adventure. Speakers will join us each evening and local hike leaders each day to share the wonders of Gold Butte. We will spend one day volunteering on a project with the BLM and the other two days hiking and exploring with a range of difficulty offered. Our long weekend ends as we break camp after breakfast on Monday morning.
The Las Vegas Field Office of the BLM has designated Gold Butte as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) however it is not enough. Population growth in both Las Vegas and St. George is resulting in increased use, especially of ORVs, which are causing extensive damage. There are wilderness quality lands here needing protection. Come join us to discover how we can help this amazing area get the protection it deserves.
To reserve a spot, click here, email Rose at, or call Broads' office at 970-385-9577. For more information about Gold Butte, visit Wild Nevada.

#5. Bears bearly slept

Lake Tahoe (Nevada side). Skiers at Tahoe's nearby Incline Village may soon be spotting black bears on the slopes. Carl Lackey, biologist for the Nevada Dept. of Wildlife, responded to Incline Village residents' reports of bear sightings in the area. A couple, Penny and Allen Misher, reported that a small bear had been living under their deck for several weeks and had eaten three small pine trees in their backyard (most of the area is under several feet of snow). It's not unheard of for bears to come out of hibernation in early March, but it's more usual for them to emerge later in the month. Authorities have stepped up their campaign to remind residents to keep dumpsters and trash secured.

#6. Spain's Continuing Political Discord

In early March, politician Isaias Carrasco was killed in the Basque town of Mondragon, two days before a general election. Spain's popular newspaper, El Pais, reminded readers that four years ago, and just three days before a general election 191 people in Madrid were killed in train bombings
Although Zapatero, of the Socialist party, was reelected Prime Minister in the subsequent election (2004), the support the party had hoped for was missing. The conservative party blamed the ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) - a militant Basque separatist movement) although much evidence pointed towards Islamic militants as the responsible parties. Zapatero and the ETA had been negotiating until last fall when there was another bombing and the talks were stalled.
A cultural aside: When Carrasco's coffin was carried to and from the church, the crowd clapped. According to the Associated Press article by Harold Heckle, clapping by Spaniards is a typical way to show respect and say goodbye at funerals.

#7. How to keep warm

Keeping warm on chilly camping nights. You may wonder why, as days warm across the country, I'm providing hints on keeping warm. It's because it's still cold in the high country! If you sleep warm (which I don't), you can save these hints until next snow camping season. Meanwhile for those of us who hate having cold feet at night:  Go to bed with clean feet and clean and dry socks. Wear an extra pair.
 Check out a sleeping bag labeled "Women." Many manufacturers put extra down at the foot of the bag.
 Put extra garments under the foot end of your sleeping bag to provide extra insulation.
 Fill a water bottle with hot water and put it in the bottom of your bag before you get in. (Be sure the lid is on tight).
 Thanks to Backpacker Magazine: Sprinkle cayenne pepper in your socks. (I haven't tried this, but I'm really curious about it. How about Tiger Balm or capsicum? Have any of you readers ever tried any of these creams?)

#8. Camino Pilgrimage Statistics

. The Pilgrimage to Santiago in January 2008. Report from the Pilgrim’s Office: During the month of January 2008, 306 pilgrims were received at the Pilgrim’s Office. The number of pilgrims in the year 2007 during the same period was 350.
Of those pilgrims, 95 were women (31.05%) and 211 men 68.95%). 288 pilgrims (94.12%) arrived on foot and 18 by bicycle (5.88%).
Pilgrims’ Age.
4 pilgrims were younger than 15 years old (1.31%); 146 were between 16 and 35 years old (48.04%); 150 were between 36 and 65 years old (49.02%) and 6 were aged above 65 years old (1.96%).
Pilgrims’ Motivation. Religious (94; 30.72%)
Religious AND Cultural (173; 56.54%)
Cultural (39; 12.74%)
Pilgrims’ Nationality.
Spanish: 159 (51.96%). Most of the pilgrims come from: Madrid, 44; Galicia and Catalonia with 19 pilgrims in both cases); Valencian Community with 15; Castile and León 13, and the Basque Country, 11.
Foreigners: 147 (48.04%). Most of the pilgrims come from the following countries: Germany with 34; Italy with 15; Brazil with 13; the United States and Portugal with 8 pilgrims in both cases; The Nederland’s and France with 6 pilgrims each, and Switzerland with 5.
Starting Points.
Most of the pilgrims received during the month of January started their Way to Santiago in: Sarria, 56 (18.30%); O Cebreiro, 26 (8.50%); Ponferrada 25 (8.16%); St. Jean Pied de Port 20 (6.54%); in Roncesvalles, León and Astorga started 18 pilgrims respectively (5.88%) and in Burgos 12 (3.92%).
The Chosen Routes
Most of the pilgrims chose the French Way with 240 (78.43%); followed by the Portuguese Route with 28 pilgrims (9.15%), the Silver Way has been chosen by 18 pilgrims (5.88%), the Northern Way with 11 (3.9%), the Primitive Way with 4 pilgrims (1.31%) and the English way with only 1 pilgrim (0.33%) . Four pilgrims (1,31%) have chosen other ways. All statistics from: 

#9. Don't be foot sore

John Vonhof, author of the ezine, "Happy Feet" has currently an article entitled. "What’s in Your Shoe?" He tells about a routine sort of walk to the transit station and how something in his shoe began to irritate his foot. "Not something big, but something that let me know it was there. I ignored it on the way there and I ignored on the way back. You know how it is – it’s not that bad, just a small irritant and when we don’t feel it, we forget it."
He goes on to make the point that not taking the moment or two to get rid of that "offending 'thing'" would have been a mistake. It could easily have turned into a blister.
"It can be the same way whether running, hiking, adventure racing, or like me – just plain walking. When we feel something inside our shoe, we often put off getting rid of it. If in a race, it takes to long. If hiking, there’s nowhere to sit. If adventure racing, the whole team has to wait.
What we need to remember is that these small irritants in our shoes can, over time, cause hot spots and blisters. They can also wear holes in socks. They can also cause us to change our gait, which can lead to physical problems up and down the body.
So when you feel something in your shoe, take a moment and check it out. Your feet will thank you.  John is the author of "Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes, 4th edition." Highly recommended.

#10. Pilgrim credentials in Madrid

According to Grant Spangler, who often contributes info to the Camino forum, you can get Pilgrim credentials in Madrid:
Credenciales in Madrid at: ...
Catedral de la Almudena
Calle de Bail?n 8
28013 MADRID (Madrid)
Mon-Fri 10:00 - 13:00
Tel +34 (914) 546 422
Fax +34 (915) 427 906

Get to the Catedral on the Metro 'Opera.'  Directions continue: "On the bottom left of the map is an area outlined in red. On the left you see a green area, the Campo del Moro, right next to it is the Palacio Real, just beneath that is the Catedral de la Almudena. There is a door on Calle Bailen for the Arzobispo de Madrid. Walk through that door and ask the woman at the reception desk for the guy who handles the Credenciales."

#11. Sierra Club Backpacking trips

The Sierra Club has a number of interesting backpacking trips scheduled for this summer. In California, trips include: Led by Diane Cook, who emphasizes Leave no Trace ethics is "Lakes and Valleys
Sierra Backpack, June 21-28, rated Light/Moderate (#08110A), $545.
Beginners might want to check out (#08115A) "Intro to Backpacking,
Tahoe National Forest, July 20-26," or "Women's Beginner Backpack,
Ansel Adams Wilderness", July 20-26 and July 27-Aug. 2. Washington:
"Goat Rocks Wilderness for Beginners" (Aug. 3-9). In Wyoming: "Llama
Tracks in the Gors Ventre Wilderness" (July 12-19); In Michigan: "Isle
Royale" (August 1-7). In Arizona, "Kanab Canyon and Deer Creek
Loop" (Sep 20-27). There are many more listed in the Sierra Magazine
or on their website:  or 415-977-5522.

#12. Leave No Trace (LNT)

Outdoor Ethics include recommendations for reducing our impact on the trails and outdoor areas we love to visit (which are sometimes loved to death, it appears). Those who are preparing for trips likely would benefit from reading and reviewing LNT's suggestions. For example although most hikers are aware that they shouldn't leave their food unattended in bear country, I've observed that some backpackers don't know that it's recommended that they step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering horses or other pack animals (which have the right of way). Go to:

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #102 Mar 15, 2008

"Give me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling."
Walt Whitman

1. Bicycling the Camino de Santiago
3. Camino Art: Sacred Steps
4. Women in the Wilderness: backpack in Sequoia Nat'l. Park
5. Pacific Crest Trail Fest REMINDER
6. Walk to save Tibet: Activism on the Camino de Santiago
7. Special Offer from Knapsack Tours
8. Sun Dogs
9. Spring and Easter

#1. Bicycling the Camino de Santiago

Recently a reader, Steve, asked for some information about bicycling the Camino, and bike rental. Here's what I sent: "There's a booklet that I picked up in Spain last year entitled, 'The Pilgrims' Ways to Santiago in Galicia' 'The French Way by Bicycle.' It's published by the Xunta de Galicia (which I think is the tourism board). The back cover reads, 'Xunta de Galicia, Conselleria De Innovacion E Industria, Direcction Xeral de Turismo, S.A. de Xestion do Plan Xacobeo'.
Though the tourist board is not always prompt with answers, the booklet is worth finding because it's composed of maps, elevation drawings, and pertinent info. They mention that the best month to do the trip on bicycle would be first two weeks of September. The booklet divides the route into 15 stretches."
In return, Steven did some further research and sent the following: "… very useful information from a Yahoo Group called Santiago_Bicicleta ( They have a bunch of information on their Files section regarding bike rentals, other people's experiences, etc. It's a pretty good resource for not only bicycle pilgrims but everyone, really.
From there I found information on a bike rental place in Santiago that delivers the bike to your starting point, then you just turn them in at Santiago. The prices are reasonable (for the setup I'm looking at, it'll be ~320 Euro for 2 bikes for 12 days), and they provide many other extras you can rent out for your trip such as first aid kits, packs to carry on your bike, etc. Their website is located at  (that's the English link)."

#3. Camino Art: Sacred Steps

Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago." Last year when Ralph and I were at the American Friends of the Camino gathering in Williamsburb, VA, we saw an art exhibit that is a collection of photographs and works or art made by modern pilgrims on the path. The show is now traveling and will be at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation until March 30, 2008. Information 805-965-0093 or 

#4. "Women in the Wilderness"

A backpacking trip in Sequoia Ntl. Park will Thursday - Sunday, July 24 - 27, 2008. Instructors: Petit Pinson, Stephanie Strickland Price: $259 (member price $225). Price includes: meals, tents, stoves, cookware, water filters
"Set yourself free! Sleep under the stars in the magical beauty of the Sierras. Enjoy the solitude of the wilderness while learning new skills (or refreshing old ones), exploring, writing, and stretching your mind and body with other adventurous women. Bring your friends, daughters, granddaughters.... beginners welcome (minimum age is 15). This is your chance to howl at the moon! Join us for a wonderful Women in the Wilderness weekend. Age range: 15 and up. Difficulty level: Easy to moderate, hiking under five miles with moderate elevation gain less than 1,000 feet. Sponsors: Sequoia Natural History Association, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks · Here is the information about the expedition Petit Pinson and I are organizing through the Sequoia Natural History Association's Sequoia Field Institute. Info: 

#5. Pacific Crest Trail Fest

Reminder: Friday, March 28 - Sunday, March 30, 2008. The Pacific Crest Trail Association's Trail Fest is an opportunity for members and non-members to learn more about the trail and how to get the most out of recreational and volunteer experiences on it. The keynote address by Arlene Blum will be given on Saturday night at the awards dinner. Blum is a chemist, mountaineer, and author. She led the first American and all-women's ascent of Annapurna (in the Himalayas). This promises to be a fantastic event. Location: Wildland Fire Training & Conference Center, 3237 Peacekeeper Way, McClellan, (Sacramento) CA 95652.
I am also thrilled to announce that I will be moderating a fantastic panel of backpackers in a forum entitled, "Women on the PCT" on Saturday (3/29), 10:45-12 PM. The all-star panel will include "Ladybug;" "Gotta Walk" (Marcia Powers); Amy Racina (author of Angels in the Wilderness); and Sandy Mann. Bring your questions about life on the trail! (For more information about Trail Fest, including accommodations at Lions Gate, visit the PCTA's website: )

#6. Camino Walk

While we were in the NW, we met someone who was participating in a program called "Spain 508: Walk for Tibet". Their leaflet reads, "Join us along the famous route to Santiago de Compostela -- a contemplative journey to support freedom and human rights. Take a step towards justice and peace for Tibetans. Those interested will meet in St. Jean Pied de Port on May 17, 2008. Email inquiries to: spain508 at Website  The Tibet Action Group (TAG) is "an international group of concerned citizens taking action to help Tibetans."

#7. Knapsack Tours

Which I mentioned in the last newsletter, is extending a promo for my readers. Owner, Mike Palucki, is offering their Yosemite tour for $100 off or just $895 p/p ($995 originally) if booked by March 27th. Knapsack Tours, E-mail: kthiking at or call 925-944-9435 for details. Knapsack Tours offers affordable trips with dayhiking.

#8. "Sun Dogs" ???

 According to Roberta Gonzales, CBS 5 Weather Anchor, a "Sun Dog" is a bright circular spot on a solar halo. It's caused by reflection or refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals that make up cirrus (wispy) clouds. "Sun dogs mainly appear at sunrise or sunset when the sun is low." You learn something new every day!

#9. Spring Equinox

March 19, 2008 will be the Spring Equinox for those of us living in the PDT, Mountain, and Central Time zones. March 20th for the Eastern Time zone. Full moon on March 21. By tradition, since this is the first full Moon of Spring, the following Sunday becomes Easter Sunday. (Cal Academy newsletter, Spring 2008)

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #101 Mar 1, 2008

1. Old Faithful, Yellowstone, live (sometimes!)
2. Webcam: What's the weather in Yosemite?
3. "Scrambler" and Zero Days
4. "Boots" McFarland on the trail
5. Mosquitoes Stick Around
6. Volunteer Opportunities
7. Yosemite Backpacking Trips
8. Time to Replace Sunscreen?
9. Knapsack Tours -- tour on foot
10. Sunglasses -- sign of intelligence
11. Susan and Ralph's NW tour report

#1 Old Faithful

There's a great website , which (at times!) has a webcam of Old Faithful. Click on "photos and multimedia." It has never worked when I've been there, but they keep promising, meanwhile there's lots of great other stuff at the website -- virtual tours, etc. so I thought you might be interested.

#2. Yosemite Live Webcam


#3. Scrambler and Zero Days

Scrambler's Tour. Marcia Powers writes, "The Egbert/Chambers family is speaking at the Pleasanton Library on Sunday, March 2 at 2pm. Scrambler is the youngest PCT thru hiker and Barbara's book is Zero Days: Hiking the PCT."


Sunol author, Barbara Egbert, is "Zero Days," a heartwarming story of her family's adventures while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Wonderfully written, this book is a must-read for parents hiking with small children. Barbara's tales, some very personal, reflect the trials and tribulations of being "thru-hikers" on their 2,650-mile trek from Mexico to the Canadian border.

Barbara will be signing her new book at 2 p.m. March 2 at the Pleasanton Library; at the Pacific Crest Trail Association "Trailfest" in Sacramento on March 28-29; at the Saratoga REI store at 7:30 p.m. April 3; at the Mountain View REI store at 7:30 p.m. April 9 and at the Marina REI store at 7:30 p.m. April 15.

#4. "Boots" on the trail

 -- well, actually on the web with humor about the trail. Geolyn Carvin, who is an artist, decided after she began section-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail that she would draw (literally and figuratively) on her trail adventures, and created the down-to- earth character known as "Boots." Geolyn now has a new website all of her own featuring the popular Boots at

How it all came about: "A native of Southern California, Geolyn enjoys all the natural advantages of living in such a vast and varied state. As a child she camped every summer in Yosemite, hiked the local mountains and played in the surf of the Pacific Ocean.
January 1st of 2002 Geolyn put her mind to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. With her busy schedule, completing it in sections seemed the wise thing to do. As she hikes she writes a journal documenting her many adventures. Passing these "short stories" around for all to read, it became apparent that it was comedy. This is how "Boots" McFarland was born. Why not draw some of these ridiculous situations. Every hiker experiences them and better to laugh at than cry."
Geolyn is also a musician/songwriter and has performed with many bands across the country. She is currently working on her third solo album." Go to: 

#5. Mosquitoes stick around

West Nile Revisited: Unfortunately West Nile Virus in humans continues to spread. In 2007, there were cases reported in 43 states (not in Washington, Maine, Hawaii, Alaska, Vermont, New Hampshire and West Virginia). The highest incidence was in Colorado 576, California 379, and Texas 246 (stats from Center for Disease Control).
However it's important to keep this in perspective by remembering the following: "Most WNV infected humans have no symptoms and less than 1% of INFECTED people develop more severe illness" ... and that of the few people that develop encephalitis, a small proportion die but, overall, this is estimated to occur in less than 1 out of 1000 infections."
Tips for those who are outdoors in mosquito affected areas: *Wear long sleeved shirts and pants. Wear a head net if mosquitoes are particularly thick. *Nothing surpasses DEET for repelling mosquitoes. Apply it to clothing and exposed skin. *Option for clothing: Buy brands with Buzz Off (permethrin) treatment. Adventure Magazine reports that the treated Ex Officio brand shirts now stay effective against mosquitoes through 70 washings. *In most areas, mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk -- pay closer attention during those times. *Mosquitoes do not like strong breezes. Sit where the wind can keep them away. *Check inside your tent for bugs before bedtime.

#6. Volunteer Opportunities

Trail Projects for Volunteers wanting to give back. American Hiking Society's Volunteer Vacations lists 75 projects in 25 states -- the projects are under the direction of such organizations as the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the USDA Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The difficulty of the projects range from easy to strenuous (general trail maintenance to heavy lifting, shoveling, sawing, etc.) Trips #21-25 are in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco; trip #26 is in the Vasquez Rocks County Park in Southern California; trip #63 & #64 are in Monongabela National Forest, West Virginia.  for more info.

#7. Yosemite Backpacking Trips

Yosemite Seminars: Looking for a fantastic backpacking trip -- look no further. Yosemite Association has 53 seminars, day hikes, classes, and backpack trips listed in their current newsletter. You do not need to be a member to participate (but there is a reduced fee if you are). *How about #30 "Half Dome Overnight"? July 18-20 * Perhaps a longer trip? Consider #23, which takes you backpacking for two nights to the North Dome Photography session. June 16-18. * Even longer? Try the Women's Backpack trip, #34, and you'll enjoy four nights in the Glen Aulin region. July 27-31. More trips and details at .

#8. Time to replace sunscreens

According to the U C Berkeley "Wellness Letter," (7/2007) sunscreen should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Doesn't sound like the glove box will do it, does it? Although most sunscreen has a 3- 5 year shelf life and some has an expiration date, if you haven't stored it properly, it may be less effective. And let's face it, if you have a container of sunscreen that's more than a couple of years old, it probably means that you are not using enough of it!

#9. Knapsack Tours: Tour on foot

I received the new brochure from Knapsack Tours: Day Hikes on a Shoestring. This is a local company that was recommended a few years back by Doris Klein (one of the wonderful women who contributed their stories to "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill."). What I like about their trips is that they go interesting places and at very affordable prices. For example: Cinque Terre, Portofino, and the Italian Riviera in October. Oct. 12- 17. $1,995, which includes three and four star accommodations, breakfasts and dinners, and daily guided hikes. Or closer in: the Olympic peninsula, July 20-25, $1095, all meals, lodging in simple cabins, transportation to the trailheads, etc. . E-mail: kthiking at or call 925-944-9435.

#10. Sunglasses: Sign of intelligence

Too cool for sunglasses? Hardly! Wearing sunglasses shows the world how intelligent you really are. Sunglasses with UV protection help protect again macular degeneration (which can cause blurred vision or even blindness). You might even stave off a wrinkle or two!

#11. Susan and Ralph's NW tour report

Ralph and I just returned from a 10-day tour of the Northwest -- combining business and pleasure. Actually, the business part is pleasure, too, because we love doing Camino presentations. We met enthusiastic audiences in Seattle (World Wide Books & Maps), Portland and Eugene (REI stores). Since we had tons of equipment, books, etc. to transport, we drove. It was great to be doing a road trip -- it's been a long time. We could stop whenever we wanted to eat (lots of wonderful seafood!) or hike, we didn't need to worry about hotel reservations, and we were able to fit in visits with friends in both Medford and Jefferson, OR.

In addition, we were very lucky to have great weather. The NW is known for having for lots of rain, but from Seattle we saw Mt. Rainier and while in Portland we saw Mt. Hood. We also did a day trip to Mt. St. Helens and saw it in all of its glory -- such a delightful trip!

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #100 Feb 15, 2008

Dear Readers,
It's looking a lot like spring here in the S. F. Bay Area -- our daffodils, flowering plum, and currant are all in full bloom. The goldfinches are busy at the thistle-seed feeder and the robins are getting drunk on the cotoneaster's berries. We even have a forecast for 70's for the weekend. With the greening of the hills due to our earlier much-needed rain, it's a perfect time for hiking.

1. Pilgrim Statistics for the Camino de Santiago
2. Recommended Book and Program: Classic Hikes of the World
3. Amy Racina on Discovery Channel
4. State Park Closures? -- No!
5. Susan's interview on French Rivera website
6. Raindrops keep falling on ...
7. PCT Trail Fest's Inspiring Program
8. The Electric Stride
9. "Camino Chronicle" -- Susan and Ralph tour NW
10. Jim Payne's Bear Canister Loan Program (PCT)

#1 Pilgrim Statistics for Camino de Santiago:

. Helena, a pilgrim friend from Portugal, sent the following statistics showing how many people registered that they had hiked the various Camino routes: "Interesting to see that after the French Camino, the Portuguese Camino is the most walked.
Camino Francés 82407; 91872
Camino Portugués 6467; 8110
Camino del Norte 5378; 5871
Vía de la Plata 3523; 4193
Camino Primitivo 1588; 2569
Camino Inglés 804; 1085
Otros caminos 210; 326
Total general 100377; 114026."

#2 Book Classic Hikes of the World:

. Marcia Powers sent word of a book "Classic Hikes of the World" by Peter Potterfield, which I was eager to get. It arrived today and what a delightful book! "23 Breathtaking Treks with detailed routes and maps for expeditions on six continents," so we are provided with not only wonderful photographs but also small relief maps showing where the trails go. Included are two of my favorite hikes: John Muir and Kilimanjaro, one we hope to do next year -- the Patagonia route, "Torres de Paine," and 20 others that I wish I had the time and money to do.
Potterfield is doing a 20-city coast-to-coast slide-show tour of REI stores to launch his "Classic Hikes of the World." Each program begins in the evening at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free, no reservations required. To sweeten the deal even further, REI is giving a prize -- "attend a slideshow and be eligible to win the Grand Prize of an REI Adventures Backpacking Trip for two to Mt. Rainier's crown jewel, The Wonderland Trail. Other prizes include a complete ensemble of backpack gear from the tour sponsors."
REI programs:
Feb 16: Manhattan Beach; Feb 22: Saratoga; Feb 23: San Francisco; Feb 24: Sacramento Mar 9: Niles (Chicago); Mar 10: Hingham, MA; Mar 11: Boston; Mar 15: Fairfax, Virginia (DC); Mar 16: Durham; Mar 17: Buford (Atlanta); Mar 23: Boulder; Mar 24: Denver; Mar 26: Colorado Springs April 3: Dallas; April 4: Houston; April 11: Portland, Oregon; April 12: Seattle.

#3. Amy Racina on Discovery Channel

Backpacker Amy Racina, author of "Angels in the Wilderness," is going to be on the Discovery Channel! The series is entitled "Human Body: Pushing the Limits". You may remember that Amy suffered a horrendous fall in Sequoia Ntl. Park several years back. The episode that she will be in, "Sensation" airs March 09, 2008 at 9.00pm. Info:
The other Human Body: Pushing the Limits episodes are:
Sight - March 02, 9.00pm.
Strength - March 02, 10.00pm.
.Brainpower - March 09 10.00pm

#4. State Park Closures

Amy also sends information of what you can do if you want to take action against Governor Schwarzenegger's budget proposal to close 48 of California's state parks. (additional info in newsletter #99.
Amy writes about the proposal and her favorite parks,

"The proposed park closures would save only one tenth of one percent of the state's budget deficit.... Of these 48 parks, two are especially dear to me. Those of you who have read my book will know of my love for Henry Coe State Park, near Morgan Hill in Northern California, 87,000 incredible acres of wide-open spaces, the largest park in Northern California. I was blessed to see a mountain lion there just this past spring, and it was the first place I was able to go backpacking on my almost-healed broken legs. Armstrong Redwoods - Austin Creek in Sonoma County, near where I live, protects a First-Growth Redwood forest, and offers magnificent climbs for Spring backpack training. You will all have your own favorite parks.
Act now to save our beloved parks! 5 things that you can do right now.
1. Contact your legislators and tell them to oppose any park
2. Write a letter to the editor to your local paper
3. Involve others in the campaign to save our state parks
4. Share your story about enjoying California's state parks
5. Participate in Park Advocacy Day, April 7 2008"
For details about the 5 things you can do, go to:

#5. Susan's Interview on French Riviera website

My most recent interview was posted at Azur Alive on February 3, 2008. Another reason to visit Florence Chatzigianis' website would be if you are interested in hiking on the French Rivera (not a bad idea!). Florence is the author of "26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Cote d'Azur (26 Gorgeous Hikes)," which I plan to review next month.

#6. Raindrops keep falling

Roberta Gonzales, CBS Weather Anchor, (Chron. 2/6/2008) says, "The speed of a raindrop depends on its size." Now you may think that this is contrary to what you learned in physics, but I suppose the resistance offered by falling through the air makes a difference. Anyway, she continues by stating that a "raindrop falls at the rate of 20 miles per hour" and drizzle falls at slightly less than 5 mph." Her statistics are for the Bay Area (almost sea level). I'd love to know how one measures this and how it would vary at higher altitudes.

#7 PCT Trail Fest Program

The upcoming PCTA Trail Fest, which is being held in Sacramento, CA on March 28-30, will provide an outstanding program for attendees. I feel privileged to have gathered together four amazing women backpackers for the "Women on the Trail" panel. Our panel discussion is scheduled for Saturday, March 29 from 10:45 AM -12:00 PM. (info: )
Women on the Trail Panel - Come hear a panel of accomplished women, including thru-hikers, share their experiences, and their enjoyment of hiking from a uniquely female perspective. Facilitated by Susan Alcorn, PCT section hiker and author of "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers."
Our panelists are:
Amy Racina, author whose "Angels in the Wilderness," chronicles her terrifying true-life ordeal. While backpacking in Sequoia National Park (CA), Amy suffers a 60-foot fall onto granite. Both legs are shattered. She's off-trail and utterly alone in deep wilderness.
Amy has been seen on "The Montel Williams Show" and National Geographic's "Adventure Magazine" and is being featured this year in the Discovery Channel Documentary "The Extreme Body." Amy's story has also served as inspiration for a new song in the soon-to-be released latest album of "In Flight Safety." 
Contact Amy Racina at aracina at to schedule a new event or speaking engagement.
"Ladybug," from Cincinnati, OH, who hikes to honor her sister's memory. After her sister Cheryl died from breast cancer in 1998, her family created the Cheryl Rose Walden Foundation to raise money for breast cancer patients and their families. Ladybug funds her own hikes and donates 100% of donations to the foundation are given to Hospice.
Ladybug has completed the AT and attempted the PCT twice. Both times PCT attempts were thwarted by serious falls, but trooper that she is, she plans to complete the PCT this year. She is writing a book (all proceeds to benefit Hospice) but reports that "progress has been delayed due to the direction on my PCT hike." 
Marcia Powers, "Gotta Walk," whose accomplishments have made the record books, also joins us. From Marcia and Ken's website , "Like many other retired Americans we like to travel in our beautiful country, but instead of traveling in a motor home we carry all our gear in backpacks. Since 1998 we have logged over 13,000 miles of hiking through 30 states. These miles include 4 major long trails - the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail and American Discovery Trail. These four trails have been called 'The Grand Slam of Long Distance Hiking.'"
Sandy Mann, "Frodo," is among the featured backpackers in the current Pacific Crest Trail "Communicator" (Feb. 2008). The article, entitled "Eight Days in the North Cascade" and written by Sandy's husband, Barney "Scout" Mann, chronicles what happened to several groups last fall on the last miles of the PCT. Bottom line: eighty-nine thru hikers, who had been on the trail for five months, had to abandon their quest within spitting distance of the Canadian border when early season storms hit.
Sandy and Barney, who were part of "Team Snowplow," managed to reach the last decent bailout point, Harts Pass, where their group unanimously decided to leave the trail. A trailside sign read, "Canadian Border 35 miles." Sandy and Barney are also members of PCT's network of "Trail Angels."
The rest of the PCT Trail Fest programs are equally compelling. You'll have the opportunity to meet Jackie McDonnell, "Yogi" (author of the PCT Handbook) on Friday, and on Saturday, you'll hear from presenters such as Francis Tapon, author of "Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America," "Scrambler," the youngest known person to have thru-hiked the PCT, and Arlene Blum, author of "Breaking Trail - A Climber's Life" and "Annapurna A Women's Place. Two different area hikes on Sunday. Go to  for more details.

#8. The Electric Stride

It's beginning to look like we hikers might be able to help solve the global-warming problem. The electric stride, a 3.5 pound device (oops, there goes the ultra-lite adherents!), that is strapped onto the knee generates electrical power as the wearer walks. Researcher Max Donelan said that just a minute of walking with the device could power a cell phone for 10 minutes -- now if we just had cell phone reception on the Pacific Crest Trail, we'd be all set.

#9. Camino Chronicle - Susan and Ralph Tour the Northwest:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008. 7 PM. Wide World Books & Maps, 4411
Wallingford Av N, Seattle, WA 98103. (206) 634-3453, (888) 534-3453.
Join Susan and Ralph Alcorn on their trip across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Susan will read brief excerpts from Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago and narrate slides of the pilgrimage trail. Free.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008. 7 PM. REI Portland, 1405 NW Johnson St.,
Portland, OR 97209 (503) 221-1938. Similar to the Wide World Books & Maps program above, but more extensive with suggestions for equipment, info on accommodations, etc.
Thursday, February 28, 2008. 7 PM., REI Eugene, 306 Lawrence St.,
Eugene, OR 97401. (541) 465-1800. (see description above.) Free.

#10 Jim Payne's Bear Canister Loan Program

Per Jim's PCT-L posting:

Canister Loan Program for 2008 PCT Thru-hikers: (Pct-l, 12 Feb 2008). 16:53:38 +0000 Attention: 2008 thru-hikers - regarding the second season of the PCT Perpetual Bear Canister Loan Program... There are still a 'few' bear canisters available to borrow from both the 'permanent' inventory and the "one-on-one" loan system...
2008 PCT thrus - are you on a tight budget or have limited finances, or are you coming from overseas or from an area of the US and won't have ANY use for a bear canister after your PCT thru-hike? You may be able to borrow a bear canister for your PCT thru-hike for 'free' (except return shipping)...
In 2007, 13 bear canisters were available for loan ('free' except for return shipping) to nobo PCT thrus... This 'program' started somewhat by accident - I had posted to pct-l offering my bear canister for free to a cash-impaired 2007 PCT thru... I received many replies in very short order - so what to do?... Plan B: I asked numerous vendors to donate bear canisters and many did so - also received some private donations...
For 2008 a few more bear canisters were added to the 'permanent' inventory... There will also be a "one-on-one" loan system in which someone can loan their bear canister to a thru without donating it to the permanent inventory - the lender would ship it when/where the thru requested, the thru borrowing it would return ship the bear canister directly to the lender...
This program is currently NOT done entirely on a 'first come - first served basis', but rather on a show of 'some' need, however small.... For those that can easily afford to purchase a bear canister, BearVault now has an excellent purchase program (formerly a rental program) - a BV400 for $65 including shipping to Kennedy Meadows or Tuolumne Meadows or Echo Lake (that's the lowest price on the internet when shipping is included, plus they send it to you right on the PCT) - see for full info... (BTW, I have no affiliation nor vested interest with BearVault - other than they were, indeed, very generous contributors to the loan program in '07!)
If you think you might qualify for a 'free' bear canister loan for your 2008 PCT thru-hike, please contact me off-list via email (there are still a 'few' canisters available) - and please briefly explain your reason or need, however small, to borrow a bear canister for your PCT thru-hike... I'll be glad to answer any of your questions regarding the loan program... Thank you. Jim Payne E-mail contact: enyapjr at

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #99 Feb 1, 2008

1. M & M's now in dark chocolate
2. Back to Basics: Back Care
3. Marcyn del Clements' "Cowichin River"
4. Your action needed to save California's State Parks
5. Susan and Ralph's NW Book Tour
6. John Vonhof's foot care newsletters
7. Cabin fever setting in? Check out this website
8. American Pilgrims gathering -- Details
9. Regional: Ken and Marcia Powers' program on PCT
10. Yo-yo on the Continental Divide
11. Hike in Briones
12. "Native Bees - What's the Buzz?"
13. John Muir Laws tours

Dear Friends,
Welcome to our new subscribers, and hello to everyone!

#1. M&Ms in dark chocolate

 We always mix M&M's into our trail mix and now that they've come out with dark chocolate peanut and plain candies, we can benefit from the dark chocolate's health benefits. Life is good and getting better!

#2. Back to Basics Back Care

I've posted an article on managing/preventing back pain in my most recent blog. Go to to read "Back Pain is a Pain: Improving the Situation"

#3. Marcyn Del Clements - Cowichin River

Marcyn Del Clements, who contributed to "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers," has a beautiful poem in "Appalachia: America's Longest Running Journal of Mountaineering & Conservation" (copyright AMC, Winter/Spring 2008. pg. 31). Marcy gave permission for her work to be printed in this newsletter:
"Cowichan River, Vancouver Island
April 8, 2001

Rain all day on the roof of our cabin, then moonshine
opens the night. Wolves prowl across the river beyond the firs,

in hemlock and maple, calling to each other,
a ricocheting din deep, deep into snow-filled steeps.

All moon-up the wolves cry as the light empties
into water where steelhead hide behind slick boulders

that pull rapids into holes where the swollen rainbows
turn and spawn in the shallow, sandy eddies. Now we

close our books, and blow out the kerosene lamps.
The light of stars bounces across the pulsing river

and flickers in the windows of our cabin on the Cowichan.
Climbing into the warm loft, together under the down,

we listen as the wolves move far upriver."

#4. Your Action Needed on Calif State Parks Closure

Amy Racina (author of "Angels in the Wilderness") did considerable research find out who to contact regarding California Governor Schwarzenegger's ill-considered bill recommending 48 state parks be closed. (There was considerable information on the situation in the last issue of this newsletter. Newsletters are archived at ) Your help is needed to prevent these closures.
For background information in the San Francisco Chronicle concerning these closures, go to:  and type in "state park closures"
Sample letter:
Save Armstrong Woods State Park!

Sonoma County's own Austin Creek and Armstrong Woods State Parks are threatened with closure by a new state budget bill that is now being considered by the State house of Representatives. The bill attempts to resolve California's 14 billion dollar deficit. If Governor Schwarzenegger's bill passes, Armstrong Woods, Austin Creek and a score of other State Parks will soon be closed. The bill calls for closure of 48 of California's State Parks. The parks would no longer be maintained, and they would be closed to public access. Worse still, If the parks are closed now, this could lead to a justification in the future for actually selling these irreplaceable resources. The proposed park closures would save only one tenth of one percent of the state's budget deficit.
These two State Parks, Austin Creek and Armstrong Woods, are both located near Guerneville, and are unique and precious to us here in Sonoma County. If you have ever strolled through Armstrong Woods, a cool oasis of huge first growth redwoods, if you have enjoyed a picnic in the shade of the giant trees on a hot Sonoma County day, marveled at the stunning views from bullfrog pond, hiked in the secluded valleys and climbed the wildflower dotted hillsides of the Austin Creek area, then now is the time to act. Act now to help save our beloved parks!
What you can do:
1) Forward this message to everyone you know who may be interested. Post it on all of your email groups and bulletin boards.
2) Send a Message to Each Representative. You can take action and help in this crisis by contacting your representative for the State Assembly and State Senate. To find out who they are and to contact them, go to this site: and put in your home zip code. Click on the representative's name and that will take you to their official web page. Each page has a "Contact" link easily found on their page. This will take a little more time, but your comments won't look like a form letter.
3) Send a Message the Easy Way If you do not have the time to contact each representative personally, the California State Parks Foundation provides an easy way to take action. Just go to this site  and fill in the information they request. Please note that you must give out your email and home address, but not your telephone number. You can alter the prepared message to fit your concerns if you want. Also, unless you uncheck the boxes, you will receive information from this foundation.
The Sierra Club officially opposes these closures. To see their statement, go to Thank you all for your help in preventing the closure of our beloved Armstrong Woods!

#5. Susan and Ralph Alcorn Tour the Northwest

Tuesday, February 26, 2008. 7 PM. Wide World Books & Maps, 4411 Wallingford Av N, Seattle, WA 98103. (206) 634-3453, (888) 534-3453. Join Susan and Ralph Alcorn on their trip across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Susan will read brief excerpts from Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago and narrate slides of the pilgrimage trail. Free.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008. 7 PM. REI Portland, 1405 NW Johnson St., Portland, OR 97209 (503) 221-1938. Similar to the Wide World Books & Maps program above, but more extensive with suggestions for equipment, info on accommodations, etc.
Thursday, February 28, 2008. 7 PM., REI Eugene, 306 Lawrence St., Eugene, OR 97401. (541) 465-1800. (see description above.) Free.

#6. John Vonhof footcare newsletters

 To subscribe to John Vonhof's newsletter on foot care, send an email to
 FixingYourFeetEzine-subscribe or go to . John Vonhof is the author of "Fixing Your Feet: Prevention And Treatments for Athletes (Paperback) " now in its 4th edition. His December 2007 newsletter has helpful information for those who are suffering from toenail fungus, "If you struggle with toenail fungus, and have tried everything you can think of, here is a resource especially for you. Dwight Thomas wrote a book on this subject, aptly called, 'The War Against Toenail Fungus'. This is Thomas' story of his fight against this common affliction." Thomas says, 'Toenail fungus is ignored. It's extremely widespread. Nobody knows much about it, and you can't get rid of it. I leaped into the breach. This is a toenail- fungus patient memoir."
Here is part of a review from : "'The book evaluates the newest FDA-approved pharmaceuticals for fungal nail infections, including Lamisil Tablets and Penlac Nail Lacquer. While emphasizing the importance of these drugs, he explains why treatment failure is so frequent with the standard regimens, and he suggests ways in which these products might be used more effectively.'"
"The author explains in detail what this ailment is; and how Penlac (topical) and Lamisil (oral) prescriptions work. He noticed based on his firsthand experience that Penlac works very well on the tip of the toenail, but not the bed and matrix of the toe. And, most importantly he describes a unique strategy on how to better utilize these weapons against toenail fungus. His strategy will give you a new cure that has a much higher percentage success than using Lamisil alone."

#7. Cabin Fever?

My sister-in law Joyce, an amazingly talented artist, home designer, and environmentalist who loves waterfalls and other natural places, sends the following website with beautiful scenes from nature.

#8. American Pilgrims Gathering Details

The registration packet for the 2008 Gathering of Pilgrims is now available! Go to to register. Email questions to or write to: American Pilgrims on the Camino, Attn: Gathering, 1514 Channing Avenue, Palo Alto CA 94303.
"The 2008 Gathering of Pilgrims, the 11th annual, has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 4 through Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at the Old Mission Santa Barbara in sunny Santa Barbara, California. The theme is 'Other Roads.'"
The registration packet (PDF, 350KB) contains everything that you will need for all phases of the Gathering:
* Overview of the Gathering (March 7-9) and the agenda
* Information about accommodations and transportation
* Information about the Writing Workshop (March 7)
* Information about the Spiritual Retreat (March 9-11)
* A payment form covering all events
* The registration form for the Gathering
* The registration form for the hospitalero training (March 4-6)
* A (paper) copy of the American Pilgrims' guidebook questionnaire (What's this?)
* An American Pilgrims membership form (members receive a discount on the Gathering registration, meals and lodging)
"If you are arriving at the Santa Barbara Airport and are thinking about taking public (municipal) transportation to the Old Mission, from the airport you will need to take the number 11 bus to the downtown transportation center and then transfer to the number 22 bus. The bus stop at the airport is outside the terminal on William L. Moffett Place. Ask in the terminal for the exact location. Look up the fare--exact change required! Arriving in Santa Barbara at the Amtrak Station? You will need to take the Waterfront bus (W) to the downtown transportation center and then transfer to the number 22 bus. Be sure to ask the train conductor for a "Transit Transfer Pass" and ride for free on Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit both directions!"

#9. Regional Ken and Marcia presentations

News -- San Francisco Bay Area: REI stores present Ken and Marcia Powers' program on "Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail." on several dates.
"Bay Area residents Ken and Marcia Powers are thru-hikers extraordinaire; in the last eight years, they've hiked four of our country's long distance trails-the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and the American Discovery Trail (ADT). Join Ken and Marcia for slides and stories of their adventures hiking the 2,658-mile PCT. As they take you from Mexico to Canada through some of the most spectacular national parks and wilderness areas of our West Coast states, they'll highlight sections of the trail, which are perfect for shorter backpacking vacations. Find out tips on gear, trip planning and paring down your load to a safe and comfortable minimum."
All shows at 7:00 PM. Free.
Wednesday, Feb.6, 2008 Berkeley
Wednesday, February 13, REI Corte Madera
Tuesday, February 19, REI Concord
Tuesday, February 26, REI Fremont

#10. Yo-Yo on Continental Divide

Also not to be missed at REI will soon be Francis Tapon giving his program, "First Ever Yo-yo Hike of the Continental Divide Trail: Mexico to Canada and Back" Following the program, Francis will sign copies of his book, Hike your own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America. All programs at 7:00 PM. Free. .
Tuesday, January 29 at REI Fremont
Tuesday, February 5 at REI Concord
Thursday, February 7 at REI San Carlos
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 Berkeley
Wednesday, February 20 at REI Mountain View
Wednesday, February 27 at REI San Francisco
Thursday, February 28 at REI Santa Rosa

#11. Hike in Briones

A walk with Women on Common Ground (women only!) to Briones Regional Park. Sunday, February 24. 10:00am-2:30pm. Amphibian search. "We'll take a leisurely four-mile hike up- and downhill through grassland and briar patch to the Maricich and Sindicich Lagoons to see California newts frolic in their slimy splendor. Bring a trail lunch with something to share and meet at the Alhambra Creek Valley staging area. Reservations required. Call 925-862-2601 or 510-544-3240 by noon, Thursday, February 21. Naturalists Linda Yemoto and Katie Colbert"

#12. Native Bees

Berkeley Path Wanderers Association is holding their 2008 BPWA Special Winter Program "Native Bees - What's the Buzz?". Thursday, February 7, 2008. Speaker: Dr. Gordon Frankie, Professor of Insect Biology 7:00 - 9:00 PM Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby Street, Berkeley. Directions to the Redwood Gardens are on the  website.

#13 John Muir Laws tours

John Muir Laws, author of the Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada, will lead a workshop on nature journaling for families. Saturday, February 2, 10:00 a.m. to noon. Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary, 376 Greenwood Beach Rd., Tiburon. (415) 388-2524, ext. 113. $15 for adults, $8 for children.

Happy trails!
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #98 Jan 15, 2008

1. ALERT: California State Parks in Peril
2. American Hiking Website
3. Full Moon
4. Fiesta de San Fermin (Pamplona, Spain)
5. Squirrel Antics
6. Reminder: Susan's author events
7. Pacific Crest Trail mail info
8. Regional: PCT Mt. Hood gathering
9. Regional: S.F. Bay Area: Unique Volunteer Opportunity at Cal Academy
10. Saving the Best for Last? A 2600-Mile Peace Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Part II

#1. ALERT California State Parks in Peril

: For anyone who loves California's State Parks Sobering news in Tom Stienstra's S. F. Chronicle this week about Gov. Schwarzenegger's budget proposal, which would close SEVENTEEN State Parks. Hopefully, you have seen his article. Please read it now, if you haven't yet 
Here's more from Stienstra: "The future: To save $9 million, Gov. Schwarzenegger's budget proposed to close 48 state lands, including 17 state parks, 17 state historic parks, 3 state beaches, 9 state recreation areas and 2 state reserves. In addition, staffing would be cut 50 percent for lifeguards on state beaches in Southern California, and $4.4 million would be cut from management and operations of the state park system."
--Defining the closure: "'Closed' means 'No public access.' There would be nobody there to run the park. The budget would eliminate the positions and the people who run the park. There would be no maintenance people. The positions would disappear. We've been on a road (decisions to reduce park funding) and it's like we've been dismantling this car for years. But now the wheels are coming off. The proposals are not locked in concrete. It goes to the legislature." -- Roy Stearns, deputy director, State Department of Parks"
--Economic thrift vs. social loss: "Achieving a mere $9 million savings by hacking at the heart of our state parks system inflicts maximum physical pain for minimal financial gain. Closing California's treasured parks undermines a legacy that has been established for future generations. The California State Parks Foundation urges the Legislature to reject the Governor's proposal." --Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation"
--Best of California: "State Parks have long represented the very best of California, and have represented the very best in efficient government service. The proposal to close 48 of our parks will negatively affect every Californian and countless visitors from throughout the world." -- Richard Bergstresser, State Park Peace Officers Association of California."
--From the inner sanctum, Part 1: An insider from the governor's office said one option to keep parks open is for local park districts to annex adjacent state park properties. For instance, instead of closing Portola Redwoods State Park, it could be annexed by San Mateo County and run as a conjoined park system with adjacent Pescadero Creek, Memorial and San McDonald county parks. In Marin, Tomales Bay State Park could be absorbed by adjacent Point Reyes National Seashore. This would likely be opposed by local districts because they too are short on money for parks."
--From the inner sanctum, Part 2: "If public doesn't rise up in protest, these closures will happen." --Tom Stienstra
"Please pass this along to all the California campers that you know!"


 A brand new website with tons of information for hikers including such topics as where to take a volunteer vacation, where to find hiking trails, and how to reduce your carbon footprint.


January 22nd. This month's moon is known variously as "Moon of the Terrible" (Dakotah Sious); "Cold Meal Moon" (Natchez) and "Goose Moon" (Tlingit). (From Cal Academy's Winter 2007 publication.)

#4. Fiesta de San Fermin

FOR CAMINO WALKERS or other visitors to Spain, the date for the Fiesta De San Fermin is July 6-14, 2008. This is the event that is named after Saint Fermin, but it has become a week of partying with a barricaded course through the city of Pamplona for the running of the bulls. Vuelta del Castillo at 11:00 P.M. is the best place to be to see the nightly fireworks.

#5. Squirrel Antics

BARBARA CHICAS, graduate student at U.C. Davis, has been doing some squirrely investigation. She has observed squirrels chewing up rattlesnake skins and putting it on their fur. They were also noticed picking up the snakes' odors from soil and other surfaces. It's presumed that this is in order to make themselves unappealing to predators. Other scientists have noted that some squirrels have become immune to snake venom. (Oakland Tribune. 12/22/07).


 Slide show and Self-Publishing Course in January: Tuesday, January 22, 2008. Ygnacio Valley Library, 2661 Oak Grove Road Walnut Creek, CA 94598. (925) 938-1481. "Meet and greet" gathering time with refreshments at 6 PM. Susan and Ralph's popular digital slide show on the Camino de Santiago with Susan reading short excerpts from Camino Chronicle as well as narrating the slides from approximately 6:30-7:30. Doesn't talk of Spain on a wintery evening sounds like a great idea? Free.
Thursday, Jan. 24 and 31, 2008. Orinda Community Center Adult Ed, 26 Orinda Way, Orinda, CA 94563. (925) 254-2445. 7-9:30 PM. Join this class and learn how to get your book published. For many, self- publishing is the preferred way to get into print. We discuss mainstream vs. self-publishing; how to prepare your manuscript; editing; illustrations; printers; and launching your book! Bring a book that you would like to model your book upon. Pre-register by mail or phone. Course number: 2-77-2, Orinda Residents $50/Non-residents $55.


Hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail (2.650 miles from Mexico border to just inside the Canadian one) treasure places where they can get needed supplies and perhaps sleep in a real bed for a night or two. Two of these places are Vermillion Valley Resort and Drakesbad.
Hikers wanting to get to Vermilion Resort can save a few miles of walking by taking a boat shuttle across Edison Lake. Here is this year's ferry boat schedule: "Our ferry boat, The Edison Queen, travels on the lake from approximately June 1st to October 1st depending on the back country snow conditions and our visitors requirements. It runs seven days a week with special departures upon request. The boat dock at the mouth of Mono Creek is less than a mile from the main PCT/JMT trail. Fare for the shuttle is $9 per person, one way, and can be purchased in the general store."
The following shuttle schedule is for the upcoming 2007 season (from approximately June through October of 2007): Morning
9:00 am... Leave Vermilion Valley Resort
9:45 am... Leave Mono Creek Landing

4:00 pm. Leave Vermilion Valley Resort
4:45 pm. Leave Mono Creek Landing

Pacific Crest Trail Hikers going through Lassen National Park have a great place to pick up mail and get some R & R. Drakesbad is a designated mail drop, approved by the National Service, with mail available 24/7. They sent the following information to Roslyn Bullas of Wilderness Press.
"Hikers are welcomed anytime for meals (low cost), logistic (transport to medical facilities), clean up, shower or tub) laundry, relaxation in hot spring pool. Drakesbad is within 40 miles from the halfway mark and a good reason for celebration. Park Service campground is in 1/4 mile distance right on the PCT. Larger groups please advise us of your arrival in advance by calling 530 529 1512 Ext. 120 and leave message.
Billie and Ed Fiebiger, Ranch Host, Drakesbad Guest Ranch

Mail should be addressed:
Hikers Name
c/o Drakesbad Guest Ranch
End of Warner Valley Road
Chester, California 95640
Estimated day of arrival

#8. PACIFIC CREST TRAIL Association, Mt. Hood Chapter

1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Saturday, February 2, 2008. Annual Meeting. Featured will be a presentation by David Cobb and Jonathan Ley highlighting their 2006 walk across Iceland. Location will be at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest Headquarters, 10600 NE 51st Circle, Vancouver, Washington 98682.
Take a winter break and visit with backpacker friends. David Cobb and Jonathan Ley, both superb photographers and Pacific Crest Trail veterans, will present photos and stories of their recent trip across the rugged length of Iceland.


Cal Academy of Science, in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco is looking for Academy Guides to help with opening day of the new Academy in late fall, and beyond. Training starts in February. Guides will learn about such things as the Rainforests, Africa, the Caribbean, Climate Change, Coral Reef, and Earth and Space. Guides will have lots of hands on training: making comets and volcanoes, working with invertebrates, and so forth. The choice will be yours. Call Rosalind Henning (415) 321-8111 or email  for information on volunteering.


I've just received a copy of Brandon Wilson's "Along the Templar Trail: Two Men, Two Continents, One Quest" which I'm looking forward to reading. In this issue of the newsletter I'm printing (with Brandon's permission) the second installment of an article that he wrote on the topic. If you missed the first installment, you can either email me and I'll resend my Jan. 1 newsletter or you can find it archived on our website (left side of the home page and click on "newsletter")
"A 2600-Mile Peace Pilgrimage to Jerusalem"
by Brandon Wilson (c) 2007
(the second and final section)
"As usual, the region was rife with tension, but I was convinced that delaying our trip would do no good. Who knew if next year would be any better? Would we be allowed to walk through the Middle East? Although I tried, I was unable to get a Syrian visa in advance, since they were only issued for six months; not long enough for us at that point, and their Turkish consulate recently stopped granting them to Americans.
Just as important were the physical challenges: Could we survive a distance equivalent to crossing North America? Could we walk the daily equivalent of a 30 km marathon--and do it day after day without the Camino brotherhood and support to spur us on? Only time would tell. Once while walking a pilgrimage trail from Lhasa to Kathmandu across Tibet, I learned you just had to have faith. God or the Universe would provide. Finally, besides having a chance to make a unique personal pilgrimage and establishing a route that others might follow, I had a third reason for walking the Templar Trail. I wanted to talk with as many as I could along the way about choosing peaceful methods to settle our differences. I would walk for peace along a path once associated with war. As any peregrino knows, once people walk a trail together, share food and learn about each other's lives, we realize that our needs are much the same. We all want about the same things for our families, regardless of culture and religion. So this became my ultimate quest--to pioneer a pathway for peace that others might walk in brotherhood.
Late April arrived all too soon and we excitedly set off from Dijon, France. At first we walked beside French canals of, trails once trod by mules pulling barges to market. With these level dirt byways, even from the start, we hit a quick pace by Camino standards. After spending a night in a local pension or guesthouse, we'd have a hearty breakfast and then hit the trail by 7:00 a.m. Then we'd stop to warm up at 10:00 and again for lunch. Averaging between four and five kilometers an hour, or thirty kilometers a day, we'd aim for a village large enough to offer accommodation by early afternoon. However for us, this involved constant guesswork. Some days we were luckier than others when we had to continue to the next village. But unlike the Camino these days, there was never the race to beat bicyclists and 5 a.m. plastic bag-rustling pilgrims to the next refugio.
As we'd feared, the weather in France and western Germany dogged us with numbing rain and then snow through the Black Forest--even in May-- while showers had us constantly changing in and out of rain gear. Although the French canals meandered through scenic areas, we were relieved to arrive in Donaueschingen, Germany--the source of the Danube River. This was also the birthplace of the Donau Radweg, or bicycle path. It's maintained, mostly flat and well marked, spanning 1,367 kilometers through four countries along the Danube Valley to Budapest. At that point, we bought local cycling guides to supplement the Donau Cicerone Guide I'd brought from home. These were especially helpful for finding zimmer frei or private rooms each night.
Surprisingly, we were alone on that beautiful trail most of the time. I'd heard that it was very popular in the summertime. Far from fair- weather peregrinos, we walked six to eight hours a day through rain for eighteen out of twenty-one days in Austria, Believe me, hope does float. However, as always, traveling slowly had its just rewards. We savored local cuisine. There's a reason for heavy German cooking. Nothing warms you quite like Swabian sauerbraten with red gravy, kraut and spätzle topped off with a Dunkel Hefeweizen, an unfiltered wheat brew that's a meal in itself.
We also explored local culture, taking one day off every ten to "rest." The path crossed a never-ending procession of history and art; from the grandeur of baroque jewels like Regensburg with Walhalla, its Grecian-like temple, to the monasteries of Weltenburg where we attended a Gregorian Mass and spent the night with monks; from Mauthausen's gruesome concentration camps to the storybook cities of the old Hapsburg Empire: Linz, Vienna and Bratislava.
All along the path, in each country, we met folks we called "angels." Just when we thought we couldn't be any wetter, more famished or bedraggled, they'd appear and shepherd us home for a hot bowl of soup. Sometimes, learning we were "pilgrims," they'd offer us a free or discounted room. Or lead us to the right path at a critical trail junction. On days like those, I'd muse it was almost too easy. All that would soon change. Outside of Budapest, we became true pioneers when the radweg ended. As we entered Serbia, our bicycle path morphed into two-lane roads with more bulges than a fat lady in Spandex. It became harder to find food. We searched longer for a room and then negotiated harder for a "local" price not based on our wallets or nationality.
As if that weren't enough, midsummer temperatures soared to eighty and then ninety degrees (F). Although we often tried to follow the less than blue Danube on gravel paths atop levees, in Hungary the paths swarmed in a mosquito feeding frenzy. Humidity along the river was so thick that we'd be drenched in sweat by 9:00, so we were eager to duck into the hills for relief. Despite language barriers, especially in the poorer counties of Eastern Europe, I frequently chatted with others about our peace trek. We were a novelty, to say the least. Newspapers or television news teams in the larger cities interviewed us and we reached millions with a message of peace. Not surprisingly, their reaction was warm and often emotional, as they'd suffered through nearly endless wars for centuries.
As always, timing is everything. In Belgrade we suffered a cruel shock. Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon were again trading missiles. Who knew if it might escalate? The border population was already being evacuated. So although we promised to re-evaluate our route (or even the wisdom of continuing) once we reached Istanbul, I already sensed there would be a change of plans. To risk it all and walk through a war zone seemed reckless. Besides, I was determined to find a route that others might follow. No, it wouldn't have the predictable safety of El Camino, but why take on any unnecessary risks?
Outside Belgrade, our path coincided with the old Roman road dating back to the 1st century. Occasionally, we'd see bits of its two chariot-wide cobblestoned surface poking through the peeling asphalt. Although I already missed the radweg, there were other problems. The sizzling weather and fatigue were taking their toll. By the time we reached Plovdiv, Bulgaria, my friend, dehydrated and disoriented, was ready to stop by noon. Yet the hardest part of our journey remained-- crossing Turkey and the Middle East.
After we reached Istanbul, he reached a difficult decision to return home. He had given it his best. It was his tough decision to make and I couldn't blame him. Considering his earlier pilgrimage from Dijon to Finisterre, he'd walked the width of Europe--not bad for 68-years old. As for me, I also had a difficult choice. With the wildfire of war possibly spreading to Syria, an Ebola-type virus infecting parts of Anatolia, an attempted attack on the American embassy in Damascus, and the recent killing of tourists in Amman, Jordan, I'd continue alone across Turkey's high, barren plains. I'd head south 800 km. to Alanya on the coast. This route coincided with another Crusader trail to Cyprus and then on to what was called Palestine.
Given our government's Middle Eastern policies, I was initially uneasy about folks' reaction to an American stumbling through a Muslim region. However hardly a day passed that I wasn't taken under someone's wing. Their generosity was amazing and I had to be careful of what I visualized, as my wishes would soon mysteriously materialize. People still reached out, curious to learn about my quest and talk about peaceful options. Alanya's television station even insisted on shooting an interview before I caught the quick ferry to northern Cyprus.
This trek across Cyprus, Option "B," was never absolutely guaranteed. The notorious border between the north and south parts of the island had only recently opened after thirty or more years. So I was relieved to cross without any major problems, then trek another three days through sleepy mountain villages. Finally, I arrived in Limassol, in the shadow of its own Templar castle on the island's southern coast. Soon after, I made the overnight crossing on a weekly cargo ship to the recently shelled port of Haifa, Israel.
Back in Turkey, I'd heard about a new Israel National Trail and met Dany, its founder, in Haifa. He was generous with his time, supplying me with topographic maps and an extremely helpful list of "angels" to assist on my final stretch to Jerusalem. All in all, this path was a welcome change. For eight days, it led me off-road into the parched, rugged hills, then along wide beaches to cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, and finally southeast toward the Holy City.
Israel was on a high state of alert, but that was typical for what they called "an island surrounded by a sea of sharks." My hosts were open and generous. They were a varied cast of characters, all equally interested in sharing a rare glimpse at modern Israeli life. Once again, as in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Turkey, I found that people are similar, no matter what their country, culture or religion.
Finally on September 29, 2006, after trekking 137 days (160 days total) over 4,223 walking kilometers (2,620 miles), I entered into the Old City of Jerusalem through legendary Jaffa Gate. It was the midst of Ramadan and Yom Kippur. Much of the Old City was closed. There was no fanfare or welcoming committee. I was only one solitary peace pilgrim entering a city held sacred by three major religions; grateful to all those who helped him realize a dream. Before leaving, I was able to meet with the Chancellor in the Latin Patriarchate office where he hand-typed what he said was the first certificate or compostellae made for a foot pilgrim.
Was it an easy trek? No. Was it "impossible?" No. Was it fulfilling? Most definitely. I found the same contemplative, transcendent opportunities I'd discovered on El Camino and other pilgrimage trails. I hope I planted some seeds along the trail. Perhaps they will take root and this Templar Trail will become a true international path for peace that all may walk in brotherhood. After seven million small steps, in my heart I discovered we can each make a difference. We are all pilgrims, each on their own path, each with their own story to tell. Walking is only a first step, but one we each can take to discover the peace within. In that way, eventually, war will become unconscionable. Darkness will be dispelled with light--one person, one step at a time. # # #
Interested in learning more about walking this trail to Jerusalem?
Brandon Wilson's memorable book about this journey, Along the Templar Trail, complete with maps, stages, packing lists and details, has just been published by Pilgrim's Tales, Inc.). He's also the award-winning author/photographer of Yak Butter Blues: A Tibetan Trek of Faith and Dead Men Don't Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa. For a preview and to download free articles about other pilgrimage trails mentioned, please visit:

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #97 Jan 1, 2008

1. Gull Talk
2. "Boots" McFarland
3. "When Deer Go Bad"
4. Recommended Book: Along the Templar Trail
5. Winter Tasks

#1Gull Talk

 According to the National Park Service, "The red dot on an adult gull's lower mandible (beak) serves as a target for chicks to peck to inform their parent that they need feeding."

#2 Boots McFarland

If you want to get on the mailing list for the "Boots McFarland" cartoons ("Boots" is a backpacker whose comments tell it like it is), send a note to the cartoonist at: "Boots"  I particularly identify with this week's content and Boot's comment, "I'm normally a slow hiker...unless there's a thunder and lightning storm."

#3 When Deer Go Bad

I'm tickled that "Pacific Crest Trail Communicator" (PCT Association's newsletter) has just run my story, When Deer Go Bad in their Dec. 2007 issue. The following is my original piece:

When Deer Go Bad
While backpacking I've worried about bears, fretted about rattlesnakes, swatted at mosquitoes, and searched for ticks, but never once did I consider that we would meet up with "the deer that went bad."
Ralph ("Timecheck") and I were recently doing a Pacific Crest Trail section hike from Burney Falls to Ashland (O, P, Q, R) -- 300 miles of gorgeous scenery through the wilderness areas of Castle Crags, Trinity Alps, and the Marble Mountains of Northern California.
We saw 0 bears, but more scat than ever before; 1 rattlesnake, as big around as your arm and the largest we've seen to date; perhaps 2 dozen deer.
One night, camped close to the trail in the Marble Mountains, I heard a commotion outside of our tent. Ralph looked out, saw nothing, crawled back into his sleeping bag. Next morning we found prints of deer, horse, and humans on the trail -- certainly nothing unusual.
The next night we were further north, but still in the Marbles. From where we camped, we could see smoke, and occasionally flames, from a wildfire in the region. And even though it was many ridges away and the PCT had not been closed, I was concerned about it. We camped further from the trail than we had the night before, but close enough so that anyone hiking by would see us and be able to update us on the fire.
Around 10:00 PM., I was awakened by footsteps that seemed to be coming from someone walking down the trail. "Hi! Who's out there?" I called. No answer. I rolled over and went back to sleep.
4:00 AM. Footsteps again. This time closer and on the non-trail side of the tent. Was a ranger coming by to warn us to evacuate the area? "Who is it?" I called out. No answer. Did Sasquatch really exist? We looked outside. Nothing.
We surveyed the area in the morning. Several holes, perhaps a foot in diameter, six inches deep had been dug. Deer prints clearly registered. We realized that the holes were in the spots where we had peed. Salt! The deer wanted the salt.
Two nights later we were in the Siskiyou Wilderness beyond Seiad Valley. We stopped late in the day to choose our campsite. I noticed a couple of deer in a nearby meadow and photographed them. We decided that we would pee further from the tent so that we'd have a good night's sleep.
Shortly after climbing into the tent, we heard deer approach. We looked out; there were two nearby examining our site. We heard the clatter of metal as they nosed our cook kit. We watched them for a while. Even when I couldn't see them, I could hear them munching on the grass alongside the side of the tent. My only concern was that one would trip on the tent's line and fall on us. When either of the deer got close, we yelled at them to go away -- but they hardly budged. They obviously weren't afraid of people. It was going to be difficult to go to sleep.
Suddenly there was a strange movement in front of the tent. "It's taking my hiking pole!" I yelled. Ralph leaped out of the tent, "bare ass nekkid" as they say. He hollered and chased after the errant deer. Fifty yards away, it finally dropped the pole. After I wiped the deer slobber off of the strap, the pole was none the worse for wear, but from there on out, I made a point of keeping the strap of the pole within sight whenever we went to bed.
(A few days later we heard about a thru-hiker who had had her shirt stolen from her campsite by a deer. Warning: safeguard your sweaty clothes!) (c)2007

#4 Recommended reading

Brandon Wilson's newest book  has just been released, "Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace". It's available from his website: as well as Amazon and other booksellers.

With Brandon's permission, I am printing the first installment of an article that he wrote on the topic
A 2600-Mile Peace Pilgrimage to Jerusalem
by Brandon Wilson (c) 2007

"For the modern-day pilgrim, or peregrino, walking the Camino de Santiago across Spain is something you'll carry with you for a lifetime. You'll remember the fellowship, the cry of "Buen Camino" from locals as you leave the refugio in the morning, the scent of  thyme in the still summer air, the bocadillos washed down with hearty Rioja, the aches, blisters then calluses. When you return home, you pack those memories and a certain peaceful bliss to share with others.
As they say, "That's when the real Camino begins." Little in the rest of your so-called normal life seems to match that experience. Your walking stick calls to you from the corner. It's a little confused, perhaps taunting you with, "I thought we were pilgrims?" Until finally, you succumb and promise yourself, "Well, maybe just one more time..."'

What do you do? Walk the Camino Frances again? Take an alternative route to Santiago, like the Via de la Plata? Or maybe in an effort to immerse yourself in the pilgrim experience again, you set off farther a field for the Via Francigena from Canterbury, England to Rome, or the St. Olav's Way across Norway. I know. I sympathize with you. As part of a growing fraternity of worldwide peregrinos, I've been there, done that, and more. I confess. I am a pilgrimage addict."

For me, the extension of my desire was ultimately the realization that I had to walk to Jerusalem, preferably sooner than later."

When I first walked to Santiago during the Jubileum in 1999, I kept meeting a likable Frenchman in his sixties. As we walked, he shared his plan to trek with his wife from his home in France to Jerusalem, some 4,500 kilometers. Although I admired his dream, fantasies and realities seldom meet. However, we stayed in touch over the next five years as I continued to walk an annual 1000 km. pilgrimage on various paths in Europe."

Imagine my surprise one morning when I heard from my old friend. His wife was unable to trek to Jerusalem as they'd planned. Would I like to join him?"

What a foolish question."

It was already December and we planned to leave in April. Our route would loosely follow that of the old Templar Trail that once connected with the Roman Via Militaris. It was trekked by Godfrey de Bouillon and his troops, including the original first nine Templars, on their way to the Holy Land during the First Crusades. Stretching across two continents and eleven countries, it was an exciting challenge fraught with uncertainties. A millennium ago, pilgrims traveled together for safety and support. However, we would be on our own, blazing a new trail for future peregrinos and unsupported for up to seven months."

There were more than the usual packing challenges. Past experience had taught me the beauty (and necessity) of traveling light on these walks. I planned to carry just fifteen pounds, but still needed to prepare for temperatures ranging from near freezing to a hundred degrees in the Middle East. Consequently, I opted to walk without a tent. Similar to the Camino, we'd find an affordable local room every night in monasteries, convents, pensions, or hostels. Again, in the interest of marking a trail that others could follow, I set a modest peregrino budget of just thirty dollars per day. That would prove challenging in today's world, but it would force us to travel simply-- and rely more on the kindness of "angels" along the way."

As in Spain, there were the language barriers. Sure, we could handle English, French and sauerkraut German, but Serbian, Bulgarian, Turkish, and Arabic would put our mime abilities to the supreme test."

Next there were the politics..."
(c)Brandon Wilson

++Brandon's article will be continued in the next newsletter. "For a preview of his book, and to download free articles about other pilgrimage trails mentioned, please visit:"

#5 Winter Tasks

Because the colder weather and shorter days interfere with our hiking to some extent, this is a good time to inventory your backpacking equipment and make needed purchases, mend clothing and tents, clean the water filter, wash sleeping bags (special soap, no detergents), and property store all equipment. Your sleeping bag should not be stored in a stuff sack; it should be in a large cloth bag. This is also a great time to plan the next adventure!

Happy trails,
Susan 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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