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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2009

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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #132 Jan 1, 2010

Happy New Year! Please send news about your upcoming plans and destinations!
1. Walk to see the elephant seals
2. Gently used running shoes
3. Hikers' Inspiration for 2010
4. California State Parks Ballot Measure
5. Barefoot hikers
6. Ken and Marcia about the Idaho Centennial Trail
7. Backpacker Magazine's "Ask a Bear"
8. Camino de Santiago: Addressing 2010 Overcrowding concerns
9. Camino: 2010 American Pilgrims Gathering
10. Camino: American Pilgrims' outstanding newsletter
11. Camino: It's "hospitalero"
12. Camino: 2009 Statistics.

#1. Walk to see the elephant seals

I just had an item on viewing wildlife published in the current issue of VIA Magazine. "Ano Nuevo State Park, Pescadero, Calif. 'One of the great delights of midwinter,' says Susan Alcorn of Oakland. 'Depending on when you’re there, you’ll see mating behavior, male elephant seals battling for dominance, or weaners (pups) learning to care for themselves. Walks to the sandy point are guided, and you must reserve well ahead.'" (800) 444-4445,  .

To read the article in its entirety: 

#2. Gently used running shoes

If you are a hiker, you'll certainly want to subscribe to John Vonhof's "Fixing Your Feet Blog" john at johnvonhof dot com if you don't already. Vonhof "knows" feet and goes to runner's events often to help runners prevent or take care of their foot problems. His book, "Fixing your Feet" (Wilderness Press), should be on every hiker's and runner's bookshelf.

His Christmas blog, "Donate your gently used running shoes," had some very practical advice on what to do with your old running shoes -- recycle them!

John continues, "Running shoes are always needed. Run the Planet has compiled a list of recycling programs around the world. Their "Shoe Recycling Programs" web page lists 16 places to donate your old shoes in the U.S., Australia, and the United Kingdom. 'There is a Heaven for old running shoes.'"

Some of the listings:
A. Soles4Souls distributes shoes in the U.S. and 50 other countries.

B. One World Running sends shoes to runners and others in Africa, Haiti, and Central America.

C. Refuse & Recycling Services, Jewish Community Center, 655 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, California, (650) 496-5910. E-mail: recycling at Shoes are recycled for playground surfaces and sports courts
D. If you live in Canada, use Sole Responsibility, which distributes used running shoes to needy countries. 

#3. Hiker's inspiration for 2010

It's not too late to make your New Year's resolutions; if you want some ideas on how to make them work for you, go to my articles for inspiration.

Call them opportunities, not resolutions! part 1  Dec. 31, 2009.

#4. California State Parks Ballot Measure

California State Parks is going to begin gathering signatures for placing the State Park Access Pass on the ballot for next November.

The goal is to collect 700,000 signatures on the petition that would then be voted on by California voters. The initiative would increase CA motorists' annual vehicle registration fees by $18 but they would get free year-round admission to all 278 state-owned beaches and parks.

Much of the $500 million expected to be generated each year would be used to bolster park funding and maintenance. As you may remember, the Governor almost closed 80 percent of our state parks. As it turned out, the parks were "saved," but in reality Goldstein continues, "some state parks are ALMOST closed anyway, with significant service reductions, reductions of days and seasons of public availability."

The concept of charging motorists an annual fee was introduced in the legislature last year, but killed during budget talks. It's hoped that Californians, who want to support their parks, will approve the initiative.

Another way to help keep our California State Parks open is to participate in Park Advocacy Day, March 8, 2010 in Sacramento. "Participating in Park Advocacy Day is meaningful, fun, and most of all, easy! Participants are placed in small teams of fellow park advocates (typically between 4-6 people) and spend the day meeting with policymakers discussing the many important issues facing California's 278 state parks. Each team is led by a returning Park Advocacy Day participant who knows what to do and we even provide you with talking points and background information to help you prepare for your meetings."

For more information, or to register for Park Advocacy Day, please visit go here, or call 916-442-2119. There is no cost to participate, but registration is required by February 19, 2010.

A worthwhile offer: "Join or renew and receive FREE day-use passes as well as a one year SUNSET magazine subscription... enjoy our parks now and take pride in knowing that your donations are working to help preserve, protect and enhance California’s most precious resource... our state parks. Join or renew today!" President Elizabeth Goldstein

#5. Barefoot Hikers

I'm not at all convinced that I want to try this, but if you have ever considered hiking barefoot, you'll be glad to know that you aren't alone!

#6. Idaho Centennial Trail.

We hadn't heard from Ken and Marcia Powers for a while, so Ralph inquired where they had been hiking. Never ones to rest on their laurels, it turned out that they were adding a "new" hike to their lifelist. (They are quadruple crowners having previously hiked the Pacific Crest, The Appalachian, the Continental Divide, and the American Discovery trails.)

Ken and Marcia thru-hiked the Idaho Centennial Trail, which Marcia describes, "The Idaho Parks and Rec, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management cobbled a border to border trail using trails that existed 19 years ago at the time of their centennial celebration. It was never thru hiked because it had the reputation of being harder than any other trail and lacking any resupply opportunities. The official web site says that the trail can be section hiked with a support crew."

They made a spreadsheet and went for it. As it turned out, another hiker, Brian Frankel of ULA, had also been interested in the trail. He hiked it southbound in 2008, becoming the first thru-hiker and when Ken and Marcia hiked in northbound in 2009, Marcia because the first female thru hiker.

Marcia gave a couple of examples of the difficulties of making this trip. Not only were the dated maps seriously out of date and gave inaccurate distances. Large stretches of the trail had been obliterated by lack of use or washed away. "The first two of the four resupply towns were 600 trail miles apart so we picked up boxes at three landing strips in the Wilderness!"

Marcia closed with "Our entire hike was quite an adventure, the most challenging we've hiked. [However] the ICT has all the spectacular vistas and varied hiking similar to that of the PCT.

#7. Backpacker Magazine's Ask A Bear

Backpacker Magazine has a blog entitled "The Daily Dirt." The "Ask a Bear" (Dec. 3, 2009), was interesting and fun.
"Q: Why all the fuss about bears in every issue of the magazine? You make it sound like there are constant bear attacks. How many bear attacks are there annually in the USA, and how are they distributed across the regions?—Larry Conley, via email"

"A: Face it, Larry: People love me. They always have, and they always will—in a recent homepage poll, 40 percent of respondents said they most want to see me in the wild (wolves came in second with 34 percent, and cougars came in third with 26 percent. Losers.)."

The article goes on to state that there have been 29 fatalities by bear attacks in North American during the 2000s. Canada 15; Alaska 3; Tennessee 2; and New York, New Mexico, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah and Montana each had one. This equals under 3 per year, compared to 26 killed by dogs, and 90 killed by lightning.

Camino de Santiago Coverage:

#8. Camino de Santiago - addressing overcrowding concerns

Allay fears about not finding a place to stay while on the Camino de Santiago. Because next year is a Holy Year, The Camino is expected to be much more crowded next year. Syl Nilsen, a regular contributor to t he Camino forums, has written, "Many people have expressed concern about the possibility of overcrowding on the Camino next year. I contacted a number of tour operators that offer package tours on the caminos in Spain to ask if they would consider providing an accommodation only booking service for pilgrims next year. So far, six companies have said that they will offer to reserve small inns, pensions, hotels etc (and also a few private albergues) for pilgrims in 2010. I have posted the list, which might be of interest to your members, on my blog  If more companies come back to me in the affirmative, I will add their names and contact details to the post.
Kind regards,
Syl Nilsen

#9. 2010 American Pilgrims Gathering

The 2010 Gathering of American Pilgrims is entitled "The Camino Today," and will be held Tuesday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at the San Pedro Center, Winter Park, Florida. Winter Park is about 12 miles from the Orlando International Airport (MCO).

There are three major components the gathering: Hospitalero training, the gathering, and A. Hospitalero Training
March 16 - 18, 2010
The San Pedro Center
Available only to members of American Pilgrims

B. 2010 Gathering of Pilgrims
March 19 - 21, 2010
The San Pedro Center

C. Spiritual Retreat
March 21 - 23, 2010
The San Pedro Center

For more information and/or to register, go to 

#10. American Pilgrims Newsletter

American Pilgrims is now publishing a beautiful newsletter that you can access at: 

#11. Hospitaleros

In the last issue, Hospitalero was spelled incorrectly. Hospitaleros are people who "give back" by volunteering in pilgrimage refuges along the Camino.

#12. Camino statistics

Sent by Sil to Camino forums on Jan. 2, 2010 and from the Pilgrim Office.
A. Pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela grew by 16.6% in 2009 and totaled 145,877.

B. 85,945 men; 59,932 women.

C. 120,605 foot, 24,892 bike, 341 horses and 39 in a wheelchair.

D. Ages: 1,272 children under 12 years; 12,303 between 12 and 18;
34,608 between 18 and 30; 28,670 between 30 and 40; 25,483 between 40
and 50; 24,989 between 50 and 60; and 18,552 over 60.

E. As to the motive for the pilgrims made the Camino de Santiago: 62,188 replied that due to religious and exclusively for religious; 132,491 others; 13,386, (9.18%), said the religion had nothing to do to with the trail.

F. Nationality: Spanish 79,007 (more than half);
German 14,789;
Italian 10,341
France 7459
Portugal 4854
U.S. 2540.

G. The trails:
The French Way 113,001.
Portuguese Way 11,956
North Road 9183
Via de la Plata 6,254
The Primitive Way 3388; the, the Way
English Way 1793;
Other 302.

Sil is at

Happy trails and Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #131 Dec 1, 2009

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt." William Shakespeare, "Measure for Measure", 1603


1. The Road Less Traveled
2. Report on the Camino Portugués
3. The France Camino Route GR653 - to Rome
4. Snow Courses for Hikers
5. Butterfly GPS
6. Knapsack Tours
7. Susan's latest Camino articles
8. Crow or Raven
9. Off-season equipment storage
10. Gender Differences


#1. The Road Less Traveled

Helena Bernardo, who lives in Lisbon, Portugal and loves the Camino, sent this link to a youtube video. It's a beautiful rendition of Robert Frost's "The Road Less Traveled," spoken by Alan Bates. Don't go any further without listening.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

#2. Report on the Camino Portugués

Helena also is active in the Portuguese association that looks after the Camino route. She writes, "Very soon I will be sending you some news from the Portuguese Camino as we are getting ready for Jacobeo 2010. This past weekend our association started to repaint the markings from Lisbon to Santiago (well, from Lisbon to Porto) we did about 70 kms and will be doing the rest over 5 weekends."

We were very happy to came across a group of 40 pilgrims from Asturias and are now sure this route is going to be very popular next year, so, we are doing our best to make the journey as safe as we can for our fellow pilgrims."

As most of you know, next year is a Holy Year and the number of people walking the Camino is expected to be huge. By the end of this year, the number of pilgrims applying for their Compostela will probably exceed 125, 000.

#3. The France Camino Route GR653 - to Rome

When Ralph and I were hiking on the GR653 in France this September, we met a couple traveling from St. Jean Pied du Port, France to Rome, Italy. Arno and Huberta are volunteers ("hospitaleros" in Spanish) at a hostel, L´Esprit du Chemin, in St. Jean. They carried most of their gear on a cart (which you will see in the following video). If you would like to see what that Camino trail looks like, click on this link: 

#4. Snow Courses for Hikers

Ned and Juliee Tibbits offer a remarkable course (more accurately a series of courses) for those who want to know more about hiking in snow. The courses are FREE and will be in the Tahoe area, CA. Note that Ned's description says that these courses are for "snow campers and thru hikers;" if you are a more moderate hiker (i.e. like me, not planning to hike the entire 2,650 Pacific Crest Trail in one year), contact Ned and see if you can join anyway.

Following is Ned's description and the course dates.
"…these Courses are free, highly informative, specifically for snow campers and thru hikers, and designed to teach you how to be safe while enjoying our beautiful winter backcountry.

Mountain Education's Snow Course Schedule, 2009 - 2010:
December 4,5,6
December 18,19,20
January 16,17,18
January 29,30,31
February 13,14,15
February 26,27,28
March 12,13,14
March 26,27,28
April 2,3,4
April 9,10,11
April 16,17,18 "

All you have to do to sign up for one of these dates is to email us your desire, number of people in your party, ages, and emergency contact information (cell number for last minute Course changes)."

Please read all of our other Forum posts included here to help you prepare for and understand snow travel as it pertains to the thru hiker."

Forum posts:

"Thanks for wanting to be as prepared for the realities of the trail as you can be to ensure safe and pleasurable trips ahead. The Fourth Season is waiting for you! "

Ned & Juliee Tibbits
Mountain Education
South Lake Tahoe, Ca
ned at pacificcrestcustombuilders dot com

#5. Butterfly GPS

Smithsonian's latest issue (Dec. 2009) reports that scientists at the University of Massachusetts have found the key to monarch butterflies navigation. Monarch butterflies migrate great distances and scientists (and others) have long wondered how they find their way to the same destinations year after year. It appears that it is the insect's antennae because "when the scientists removed or painted the antennae to block the sunlight, " the butterflies could no longer find their way.

#6. Knapsack Tours

Next year's trip? If you are starting to plan next year's hikes, keep this company in mind, Knapsack Tours. They offer "Day hikes on a shoestring." 2010 features trips to Cinque Terre (Italy) June; Andalucia (Spain) September; Swiss Alps in June; Olympic National Park (WA) July; and Yosemite Ntl. Park (CA) August. You stay in hotels or cabins (or dorm or tent in Yosemite. Prices range from $1,195 to $2,995 for trips varying from their 6-11day trips. . Knapsack tours is in its 25th year of leading tours. Based in Walnut Creek, CA.

#7. Susan's latest Camino articles

I've posted several articles about the Spanish Camino de Santiago as well as a local hike (San Francisco) lead recently by Lin Galea of American Pilgrims on the Camino ( ) Check out:

a) "Sparkling San Francisco hike for Thanksgiving week."

b) "Camino de Santiago, part 1."

c) "Camino de Santiago, part 2."   "

d) "Camino de Santiago, part 3."

e) "Camino de Santiago, part 4."

#8. Crow or Raven

I "borrowed" this from Alan Close, El Cerrito, who sent it to the Oakland Tribune. A bus driver in Zion, when asked the difference between a crow and a raven, responded. "Both like pinion nuts, but when a crow flies out of a pinion tree it will be with one pinion and when a raven flies from a tree it will be with two pinions. SO, the difference between a raven and a crow is a matter of a pinion."

I know, it's awful!

#9. Off-season equipment storage

This is the time of year when many of us begin our hibernation (and carb loading!). It's also a good time to prepare your gear for next year by storing it properly. These ideas are from American Hiker, Fall 2009, author Seth Levy. Tent: if your tent is dirty, set it up and wash it down with a dilute solution of no-residue detergent and warm water. Let it dry using a hair dryer if needed. Then lubricate the zipper with graphite (a pencil lead will work). Patch any holes. (ed: I use ripstop nylon tape with adhesive backing). Store the tent rolled or stuffed in a large cotton sack (ed: pillowcase will work). Don't store it folded; creases can damage the waterproof coating.

Sleeping bag: If your bag needs more than an airing, wash it. Levy recommends using a commercial washer and dryer for synthetic bags; contacting your local outdoor store for care of down bags.

The considerations are: not to leave soap residue in the bag, which will affect the loft of the down, and not to damage the baffles (stitching that keeps the down in its proper sections). I personally use either a large capacity washer for our down bags or our bathtub for handwashing it. Whichever way, take care not to lift (or agitate) the wet bag excessively because that causes damage.

When I dry my bag, I press out excess water, lay it outdoors on our metal mesh patio table (so it can have circulation underneath) on a sunny day. And when most water is gone, I put it in the dryer, no heat, with a tennis ball to fluff it up.

When your bag is thoroughly dry, store it in a cotton stuff sack (never the compression bag) or "hung by foot in a cool, dry place" according to Levy. (ed: if only I had such a luxury of space!).

#10. Gender Differences on Backpackers

"Gender Differences among long distance Backpackers: A prospective study of Women Appalachian Trail Backpackers" by David R Boulware, M.D.. The objective of the study was to compare the experiences of women backpackers and determine the extent to which injuries and illnesses limit endurance outdoor recreational activities." To read the results, go to: 

Happy trails and Happy Holidays!!!!
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #130 Nov 1, 2009

"I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." Jack London

1. Rare but fatal attack by coyotes
2. Shelton Johnson interview and stories
3. Don and Dave Woods score PCT
4. Camino de Santiago designated Endangered
5. Backpacker's packing tip
6. Susan and Ralph's upcoming Camino program
7. Brandon Wilson update -- completes 2,500 K hike.
8. Does Ibuprofen Help or Hurt During Exercise?
9. Skywatcher's Guide November 2009
10. Camino: American Pilgrims Events and News

#1. Rare but fatal attack by coyotes

I've been writing for  regularly (when not backpacking) and you can click on the following links to read the entire article. Taylor Mitchell, a 19-year old singer-songwriter from Toronto, was attacked while hiking by two coyotes last Tuesday and later died of her injuries. It's important to keep in mind that this was an extremely rare event. The last reported fatality in the United States was to a 3-year-old girl in Glendale, CA in 1981 and reportedly the family and neighbors had been feeding the wild animals. 

#2. Shelton Johnson interview

I was recently invited to interview Shelton Johnson, the African American Interpretative Ranger in Yosemite who has been appearing in the Ken Burns' "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" series on PBS. When I asked Johnson which was his favorite hiking trail, he said, "the one that I am on."

Talking with him was a fun and interesting--he's articulate and passionate about the parks and he has become an expert on the Buffalo soldiers and their role in protecting some of our national parks in the early 1900s. His book, "Gloryland," has just been released. Click here and read the two articles. 

#3. Don and Dave Woods score PCT

It's always exciting to hear again from people that Ralph and I have met on the trail. In 2005, we camped near Dave Woods and his son Don on the Pacific Crest Trail in Southern CA (Lost Spring). Dave wrote recently, "Don complete his supported thru-hike of the PCT this summer. He left the [Mexican] border at Campo at about 6:30 AM on May 30 and showed up at the Manning Park [Canada] trail head at about 6:15 on August 27 giving an elapsed time of 89 days and change." Dave was the support team, sticking with his son the whole way by driving ahead to trailheads and towns to deliver food and other supplies all the way to Canada. Dave continued, "Although his time is not even close to the new record 90 days is not shabby and I am very proud of him."

Congratulations to both of them -- Don for completing the trail, and Dave for being such a great dad!

#4. Camino de Santiago designated Endangered

The Camino de Santiago is included in the 2010 list "Endangered World Monuments." I read on the Camino forum (from Sil) that the route of the Camino de Santiago (Spain) has been listed on the 2010 "List of endangered world monuments" as compiled by the World's Monuments Fund. The list gives 93 sites in 47 countries

The article states that the route crosses more than "1,800 protected, culturally important historic and artistic sites." In spite of the route's historical importance, a new major highway is being constructed. The highway has already "destroyed 3 miles (4.9 kilometers) of the fabled Route near Santo Domingo de la Calzada."

#5. Backpacker's Packing Tip

Backpacker's (and other travelers) packing tip--and one that we always use: To keep your sleeping bag and other large items dry in your backpack use turkey baster bags --they are relatively sturdy, incredibly light, and inexpensive. Finally, put everything inside a trash compactor bag.

#6. Ralph and Susan's upcoming Camino presentation

Ralph and I are giving our program on Camino de Santiago in Los Gatos, CA this Friday, November 6th at 7:00. We'll be at the Sierra Club Singleaires meeting. Last I heard there were a few places open, but call soon, reservations required.
Singleaires Newsletter: Travel Night, Friday November 6, 2009. 7p.m. Backpacking Through Spain – at Rinconada Hills Clubhouse, Los Gatos. SUSAN ALCORN has hiked through Spain, France and Portugal. She and husband Ralph Alcorn, life Sierra Club members, will present a narrated digital slide show on hiking Spain's Camino de Santiago. The Alcorns are publishers of two award-winning books: Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago, and We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers. LIMIT 20 PERSONS. RESERVATION REQUIRED! No Entry without reservation! Security guard will have names of attendees. Call Rita Baum 408/866-9158 to reserve. Coffee will be provided. Bring wine, soft drink, or finger food to share and 50 cents for the Sempre Virens Fund.

#7. Brandon Wilson update

Brandon Wilson, author of Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace, is hard at work on a new book--this one about his 2009 trek. "Sorry to have been out of touch for a while. Cheryl and I have just completed our 2500+ kilometer trek across the Alps! Yes, we left Hawaii in May and it has been touch and go as we crossed eight countries on foot."

We encountered snowfields, deadly ticks (yes, I caught Lyme disease), bad cheese, the stench and slop of cow paddies, and the daily rigors of climbing up and down 1,000 meters every single day. Plus, it happened to rain about 40+ days straight through Austria. Wow!"

It was physically the most challenging trek I've ever made. But we made it...and I'm truly grateful to be able to unpack and grab a beer from our own fridge for a change." We've set up an apartment in the Sud Tirol in the midst of the Dolomites where I'll be working on a new book about the experience for the next year while Cheryl studies German and immerses herself in the finer points of Italian wines."
Ciao, Brandon
author/photographer/member of The Explorers Club
Brandon's website: 

#8. Does Ibuprofen help or hurt

Ibuprofen--good or bad for hikers? Interesting study of what backpackers often call "Vitamin I" [ibuprofen]. In a paper entitled "Phys Ed: Does Ibuprofen Help or Hurt During Exercise?" By Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times "Health." September 1, 2009.

"Several years ago, David Nieman set out to study racers at the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile test of human stamina held annually in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California." Nieman is a physiologist and director at the Human Performance Laboratory at the North Carolina Research Campus.

His findings were worth considering: Runners who had taken the ibuprofen before and during the ultramarathon had significantly more inflammation. The runners showed signs of mild kidney impairment. 70% of the runners were using ibuprofen before the race and most throughout the race.

Other researchers have found that most people take the painkiller to prevent pain, but that in fact a number of studies have shown that as Nieman stated, "NSAIDS did not lessen people’s perception of pain during activity or decrease muscle soreness later.

Stuart Warden, director of physical therapy research at Indiana University states [if you take ibuprofen before every workout] "Your bones don’t thicken and your tissues don’t strengthen as they should." He states that you should take ibuprofen when you have an acute injury with inflammation and pain from an acute injury, but not as a prophylactic measure.

#9. Skywatcher's guide Nov 2009

Skywatchers Bonanza: Monday, Nov. 2: Full Moon. Called the "Hunter's Moon," the "Beaver Moon" by the Algonquin, and the "Raccoon Breeding Moon," by the Osage; Nov. 16: New Moon; November 17: Peak of the Leonid meteor showers. Expected to be a major display because it's in conjunction with the new moon. [Ed.: Now if I could just drag myself out of bed in the wee hours!] Info from 

#10. American Pilgrims meetings

American Pilgrims on the Camino. I was pleased to get the September 2009 newsletter from American Pilgrims with the many events lined up for those interested in the Camino de Santiago.

This coming weekend: Bay Area Regional: One-day Pilgrim Event in the SF Bay Area. American Pilgrims on the Camino. Saturday, November 7th. 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM Hola Peregrinos: "The 2009 walking season is coming to a close. Returning pilgrims are basking in the afterglow of their experience; next year’s pilgrims are devouring maps, testing new shoes and weighing backpacks." The event includes a slide presentation by Kathy Gower entitled, "El Camino de las Estrellas: Sacred Sites Along the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain." It also features a workshop by Phil Cousineau called,"Great Round of Pilgrimage", which will incorporate story-telling, sketching, and active imagination exercises."

"In addition to our two presentations, there will be ample time to meet fellow pilgrims, share stories, unpack Camino memories or spark the fire of future pilgrimages. Lunch will be soup provided by our hosts Rozan and Brad Gautier, with extras provided by all of us."

This event will be at the Walnut Creek home of the Gautiers, a ten- minute easy walk from the Walnut Creek Bart Station. Parking is also available. Exact location will be provided upon receipt of registration fees. Registration Fees: APOC members: $25, Non-members: $35. For more information and registration packet contact Lin at LinGalea dot com Lin Galea 1070 Green Street San Francisco CA 94133 tel: 415-441-5951

Annual Gathering: The next annual gathering of the group is scheduled for March 19-21, 2010 in Orlando, FL. the theme for which is "The Camino Today." The setting will be the San Pedro Retreat Center in Winter Park, 15 minutes from the Orlando International Airport. The gathering has several components: Hospitalero [hosts in Spanish alburgues] Training: Takes place March 16,17, and 18, just before the Gathering, Gathering: Friday March 19 (An early arrivals reception on Thursday evening will offer a time to meet and greet before the activities start on Friday.) Gathering March 19-21. Spiritual retreat: Sunday afternoon, March 21 to Tuesday morning, March 23. The organizing group is asking for input on topics of interest and you can submit your ideas to Bill Matthews at BillinFlorence at aol dot com. All ideas are welcome!

Women on Pilgrimage: Some interesting facts from the newsletter immerged: The number of women pilgrims has increased substantially during the recent resurgence of the Camino. In 1991, less than one- third of pilgrims arriving in Santiago were women; this jumped to about 40% by 2008. During the two most recent holy years, 1999 and 2004, the figure was even higher—close to half each year. Statistics merging sex and nationality, only available since 2004, reveal that female pilgrims from the U.S. surpass male pilgrims from the U.S. (females average more than half of U.S. pilgrims to Santiago during the past 5 years!).

Germans on Pilgrimage: During the last three years, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of Germans walking the Camino de Santiago. That's largely due to a book that was written by Hape Kerkeling. It was originally published in German as "Ich bin dann mal weg", but has now been translated into English and is available "I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago," Hape Kerkeling, Free Press 2009, translated by Shelley Frisch. ISBN-13: 978-1416553878 Kerkeling is a well-known comedian in Germany and humor is certainly part of the book's appeal, but there is (according to one reviewer) also a fair amount of introspection.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #130 Oct 1, 2009

1. ALDHA (east coast) gathering
2. Camino website
3. "No Way" Ray's book.
4. Susan and Ralph hike a second section of Chemin St. Jacques (France)
5. You learn something new every day
6. Alberges in Spain (new listings)
7. Sigg water bottle replacements
8. More notes about travel by foot in Europe
9. Regional: Bay Area hike this weekend, plus…
10. Regional: Bay Area RidgeTrail program at REI

#1. ALDHA-E Gathering

America Long-Distance Hiking Assoc. (ALDHA) Gathering Oct. 9-10 in Gettysburg, PA. Speakers: Bart Smith (thru-hiked every U.S. National Scenic Trail); Walkin' Jim Stoltz (backpacked over 30,000 miles). The Gathering Amazingly, the fee for the entire weekend and its activities is still only $10.

"To kick things off, we will have a virtual tour Friday night of all 11 of the national scenic trails in this country, presented by premier photographer Bart Smith who, by the time of the Gathering, will become the first person in history to have thru-hiked every single national scenic trail. ..."

#2. Grant Spangler's Camino website

Resources for the Pilgrimage Road to Santiago. Grant Spangler's website has some interesting features for the Camino traveler: includes weather reports as well as some spoken Spanish and French vocabulary that you may find helpful to practice.

#3. Review of No Way Ray's book

I've been meaning to put in a review of "No Way Ray's" book, for some time. This is a must read for every hiker and backpacker. Published after his death (from a fall on the Pacific Crest Trail in southern California) by his wife, Alice, "A Thru-Hiker's Heart, Tales of the Pacific Crest Trail" by Ray Echols (author, illustrator), Alice Tulloch (editor) is honest, fun, and insightful. Sad that it was his last work, sad that we didn't have him around longer.

#4. Chemin St. Jacque GR653

We are still unpacking from our latest hike on the GR653 in France. Last year we hiked from Arles to Dourgne, this year from Dourgne to Oloron St. Marie, and next year hope to hike from Oloron to Puente la Reina, Spain. It will be interesting when we complete this route and we can thoroughly compare and contrast it to our hike on the LePuy route (also known as the GR65).

Ralph will be posting information about the route on our website  and we'll both be writing about it on our blogs and (me) on  in the next couple of weeks. Rather than writing a report of our trip in this newsletter, I have decided to share two letters that I sent home to a few friends and to family while we were traveling.

One of the joys for me of hiking is meeting the trail community. In this my first letter home, I briefly relate a wonderful encounter with French hospitality.

Letter home #1.
Not sure where to begin--We are walking in France on an ancient pilgrimage trail; now in the midi-Pyrenees. Started east of Toulouse and now 120 or so miles along. The countryside is mostly farmland-- corn and sunflowers, some forested areas. Best, as always, is the food and people."

I have to share a story. One day we were walking with a young couple (from Phoenix of all places!) that we had met in the gite (shared room) the night before. Ralph and I missed our turnoff for the place we were going to stay, but were enjoying talking with the couple, so we just kept going and planned to double back."

When we went back, we could not find the little street we wanted. Ralph waved to a passing car, The driver stopped and looked at the map and said (in English), "You are nowhere!" He had to go pick up his son at school, but moments later came back and told us to continue up the street to his house."

When we got there, Jacques showed us that our map was incorrect; it was directing us up the neighbor's driveway and the owner's dog had recently bitten the postman!"

Jacques invited us to have lunch, but we had just eaten, so declined. We asked about his good English and he told us he had gone to UC Berkeley When we said we had both graduated from Cal, he said "then you MUST come in and have some wine with me."

So we did. Jacques introduced us to his two young daughters and the son, explaining that his wife was at work, and he was the full-time babysitter. The wine we were served was definitely far superior to the young wines we usually drink here. Jacques said he had had company during the weekend and we had to help him finish off the open bottles. We also enjoyed fruit, pate, and bread. Anyway, his hospitality exemplifies the great experiences we have been enjoying."

Got to go, hard for me to use this unfamiliar computer."

This has been a very difficult trip -- the weather (hot and humid, but now turned rainy), long distance between accommodations, but we are still doing fine."
Buen Camino,
Susan and Ralph

As letter #2 indicates, not every hike one does ranks in his/her "Top 10." This letter is dated Sunday, September 20, 2009 10:46 AM.

Letter home #2.
Hi all,
We are now at our destination, Oloron St. Marie (France), which is about 40 Kilometers from the pass/border into Spain (which we plan to do next year). We have walked the 200 miles from Dourgne to here since our hiking start on Sep.10."

It has been a very difficult trip--especially for me. Physically and psychologically. Very hot and humid most of the time. Walking in a sweat; clammy all the time, waking up hot in the middle of the night. We had rain all of one day and it happened to be one of the rare days when we were NOT walking on the shoulder of a road. Our boots became heavy from the boot sucking mud; my hiking poles gathered so much mud they felt like weighted pendulums. Luckily it wasn't such a great distance and someday we will laugh about it."

And the scenery--although there were highlights (spectacular churches and cathedrals) and neat little towns, it was mostly cornfields and stubble from plowed cornfields (or sunflowers). Nothing like the awe- inspiring gorges we had last year; or the mountains we hope for next year."

We have seen few hikers in our three weeks--perhaps a dozen. So most days it has been only the place we stay, buy bread, etc. that we see anyone. For distraction; I would try to straighten the curves on winding roads or try to imagine how many times the ears of corn would go around the world if laid end to end.…"

We started with the "feeder" canals near Toulouse; Then followed the Canal de Midi; that was fun because of the activity of the bicyclists and seeing the people on the canal in rental houseboats on holiday: etc: Then up and down through the farmlands, the last few days have been more interesting because of the climbing into the foothills."

Added: we ended our trip by taking the train back to Toulouse for our flight home. We were told that Toulouse means, "Pink City," not sure about that, but many of the buildings are of brick, which is quite a contrast to the stone construction in other regions."
Bon Chemin,

#5. You learn something new every day

After making the mistake of asking one of our hosts while in France, "Which part of England are you from?" and being politely informed that they were from Wales, I also learned about the local populations of Pau (pronounced POE-a), France.

Because we were near the Pyrenees, I assumed the homes and people we were seeing were Basque and asked about it. The Welsh daughter of the household said politely, but pointedly, "The Béarnaise don't like to be called Basque, and the Basque don't like to be called Béarnaise -- just as the Welsh don't like to be called English." Ouch!

#6. Albergues in Spain

Helena, a friend in Portugal who we met while hiking on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, sent a list of new albergues in Spain.
a) Albergue de Zariquiegui
Direccion: C/ San Andrés, 16
Localidad: Zariquiegui
Teléfono de contacto: 948 35 33 53 / 679 23 06 14
Propiedad del albergue: Privado
Institución o Administración encargada de los costes de conservación:
Persona encargada de atender el albergue: Belén Cristóbal

b) Albergue de Villatuerta
Direccion: C/ Rebote 5
Localidad: Villatuerta
Teléfono de contacto: 948 53 60 95
Propiedad del albergue: Municipal
Institución o Administración encargada de los costes de conservación:
Persona encargada de atender el albergue: Simone y Miguel
En caso de estar el albergue cerrado: No cierra

c) Albergue Casa Mariela
Localidad: Torres del Río (Navarra)
Teléfono de contacto:
948 648 433
Encargado: Fernando
Institución o Administración encargada de los costes de conservación:
Persona encargada de atender el albergue:Fernando
En caso de estar el albergue cerrado:

d) Albergue de Peregrinos de Logroño-Puerta del Revellín
Direccion: Plaza Martinez Flamarique, 4 Bajo
Localidad: Logroño (La Rioja)
Teléfono de contacto: 629 170 447
Propiedad del albergue: Privado
Persona encargada de atender el albergue:
En caso de estar el albergue cerrado:

e) Albergue Camino Santiago de Frómista
Direccion: Avenida del ejército español (frente al centro médico)
Localidad: Frómista (Palencia)
Teléfono de contacto: 97 98 10 282 / 653 751582
Propiedad del albergue: Privado
Institución o Administración encargada de los costes de conservación:
Persona encargada de atender el albergue: Florentino Román
En caso de estar el albergue cerrado: Acudir al hostal Camino de
(está al lado) y preguntar.
Observaciones: En caso de estar el albergue cerrado los propietarios
recomiendan preguntar en el hostal Camino de Santiago, que está justo
lado y preguntar.

f) Albergue El Burgo Ranero
Direccion: Fray Pedro, 32
Localidad: El Burgo Ranero
Teléfono de contacto: 987 330 094
Propiedad del albergue: Privado
Institución o Administración encargada de los costes de conservación:
Persona encargada de atender el albergue: Personal
En caso de estar el albergue cerrado: No cierra

g) Albergue La Torre
Direccion: C/ La Torre, 1
Localidad: Arcahueja (León)
Teléfono de contacto: 669 66 09 14 / 987 20 58 96
e-mail: info(arroba)
Propiedad del albergue: Privado
Institución o Administración encargada de los costes de conservación:
Persona encargada de atender el albergue: Personal
En caso de estar el albergue cerrado: No cierra

h) Albergue Gabino
Direccion: C/ Real
Localidad: El Ganso
Teléfono de contacto: 660 912 823
e-mail: albergue_aaronfly(arroba)
Propiedad del albergue: Particular
Institución o Administración encargada de los costes de conservación:
Persona encargada de atender el albergue:
En caso de estar el albergue cerrado:
Observaciones: -

i) Albergue A Cova do Frade
Direccion: El Salvador , 1
Localidad: Samos
Teléfono de contacto:982 546 087 /982 107 267
Propiedad del albergue: Privado
Institución o Administración encargada de los costes de conservación:
Persona encargada de atender el albergue:
En caso de estar el albergue cerrado: -

j) Albergue Porto de Santiago
Direccion: C/Diputación, 8
Localidad: Portomarín (Lugo)
Teléfono de contacto:
618 82 65 15
Propiedad del albergue: Privado
Institución o Administración encargada de los costes de conservación:
Persona encargada de atender el albergue:
En caso de estar el albergue cerrado:
Observaciones: -

#7. Sigg bottle replacement

Marianne sent the following information about Sigg bottles. "SIGG - Swiss Engineered Water Bottles" regarding their Exchange Program

August 2009
"(USA) – If you are concerned about your bottles with our former liner, SIGG is happy to offer a voluntary exchange program. Bottles containing our former liner can be exchanged for SIGG bottles utilizing the BPA-free EcoCare liner.

First, determine which liner you have. You can see pictures here

Download the following shipping documents and box up your bottles with the former liner. 1) USA Shipping Label - please place this on the outside of the box: (you can download online the "USA Shipping Label Here".

2) USA Return Form - please fill this out completely and place it inside the box.

Download the Return Form.

Please note that you will need to pay to ship your bottles inbound to SIGG for replacement as this is a voluntary program - not a recall. SIGG is not offering refunds. This exchange offer is available through October 31, 2009.

After your bottles are received at our warehouse, you will be contacted directly with regard to your replacements. SIGG changes its bottle designs every year, so exact replacements are not always possible.

If you live in Canada and would like a replacement for your bottles with the former liner, please download the following shipping documents:

1) CANADA Shipping Label - please place this on the outside of the box:

Download the "Shipping Label for CANADA" Here.

2) CANADA Return Form - please fill this out completely and place it
inside the box.

Download the Return Form for CANADA Here.

All bottles will be recycled.

#8. Tips for travelers on foot in Europe:

a) When entering restrooms in hotels, bars, and restaurants, pay attention to where the light switch is because many are on timers and have the amusing habit of turning off at inopportune moments (you have to hit the switch again to restart it).

b) Remember how you learned this little rhyme when you were younger, "Mabel, Mabel strong and able, keep your elbows off the table, this is not a barnyard stable, but it is a dining table." Well, in France, and maybe elsewhere, hands and elbows are supposed to be on the table and not in your lap. (One site suggested this was because otherwise we don't know what you are doing under the table with your other hand.)

c) Shops and stores often close for a midday break. Check the posted signs. AND, we also found that an 8:00 PM closing (for example) does not mean that you can run in at 7:55 and pick up a loaf of bread. More likely the shopkeeper will be pulling down the metal gate or putting on the padlock by that time.

d) We are finding fewer and fewer Cyber (Internet) cafes. Because increasing numbers of travelers (with cars, etc.) are carrying laptop computers, hotels offer Wi-Fi connections instead of computers.

#9. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area.

 "Anniversary Trail Party on the Carquinez Strait Loop" "Come out this Saturday, October 3, and explore little-known trails near the Carquinez Strait. Help celebrate milestone anniversaries with the Ridge Trail and Bay Trail (20 years) and East Bay Regional Park District (75 years)."

Saturday, October 3. 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM, 10:15 AM Presentation at the Nejedly Staging Area, Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline in Martinez, followed by fun walks and rides including:

* Carquinez Strait Scenic Hike--Take a casual stroll along a closed roadway for blufftop views of the Strait. Learn about ongoing work to improve this area for bicyclists and pedestrians. * Birding Walk @ Martinez Regional Shoreline--Explore the edge of the Carquinez Strait on a naturalist-led excursion of Martinez Regional Shoreline. This short walk will follow the trails along Alhambra Creek and marshes for shorebird and waterfowl viewing. * Mountain Bike Moderate Trail Ride--distance and route details dependant on group interest. * Equestrian Ride--ride options to be announced."

In addition: the City of Martinez is hosting a 5k fun run/walk starting at 8 AM on Saturday, Oct. 3. Portions of downtown streets including Marina Vista, Alhambra and Berrellessa will be closed to traffic until approximately 9:45 AM.

The recommended route from ALL directions is to take Highway 4 and exit at Alhambra Ave. Alhambra may be open to traffic by the time you are arriving, but IF NOT - detour signs will direct you as described below.

Take Highway 4; exit at Alhambra Avenue and head north. During the race - traffic will be diverted as follows: Turn right (off of Alhambra) at Soto Street and make an immediate left on Castro Street. Proceed north on Castro to Green Street, turn left. Traffic will be allowed to cross Alhambra intermittently (may be some delay). Turn right on Talbart Street and proceed north. Turn left on Carquinez Scenic Drive and look for the entrance to the EBRPD Nejedly staging area."
Bay Area Ridge Trail Council
1007 General Kennedy Avenue, Suite 3
San Francisco, CA 94129-1405
Phone 415-561-2595

#10. Berkeley, CA REI. Clinics and Events

, "Adventures on the Bay Area Ridge Trail" 10/20/2009 7:00 PM. "With 320 of its proposed 550 miles now completed, the Bay Area Ridge Trail offers hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists a remarkable wilderness experience within a short drive of home. Following ridge-tops encircling San Francisco Bay, the trail promises stunning views and a variety of habitats-oak woodlands, wildflower meadows, and redwood-shaded canyons.

[On Oct. 20] Bay Area Ridge Trail Council's Board Member Morris Older will give a slide show tour of sections of the trail, perfect for day hikes/rides and multiday backpacking adventures. Come explore this spectacular trail, which connects 75 Bay Area parks and open spaces, and find out how you can get involved in the 2nd Annual REI Ridge Trail Service Day, or other projects, to help complete it.":REI Berkeley Clinic Room, # 1338 San Pablo Ave, (near Gilman) Berkeley, CA 94702, Berkeley Customer Service 510-527-4140. Free; no registration.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #129 Sept 1, 2009

1. Triple Crown holder Scott Williamson and Adam Bradley break PCT record
2. We find Trail Angels in Oregon, too!
3. National Public Lands Day
4. Sox or socks?
5. Camino documentary
6. ALDHA - West gathering
7. Travel Safely
9. "Restore Hetch Hetchy" walk and support
10. Amy Racina of "Angels in the Wilderness"
11. Coastwalks offers great local trip
12."Don't Kiss the Saint" (Camino de Santiago)
13.Top Ramen + Doritos = Ghetto Tamale
14.Two llamas to good home
15.Inga's "Worst Backpacking Trip Ever!"

#1 Scott and Adam break record

When Ralph and I were backpacking in Oregon recently (more story in item #2), we tried to follow the progress of Scott Williamson and Adam Bradley who were attempting to break the speed record for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. The first e-mail we read said, "I'm not sure if you are presently hiking, but I wanted to let you know that Adam & Scott arrived at the Oregon/Washington border on July 31st, 53 days, 8 hours, 41 minutes, 57 seconds after departing from the southern terminus, and 10 days 14 hours 16 minutes 12 seconds after entering Oregon. They're not sure if that's a record for Oregon &/or California+Oregon, but maybe you know...?"

And then, the big news came from JMT Reinhold: "Just to let you know and confirm that Scott & Adam broke Horton's record by 22 hours. They did it [completed the 2,650 miles of the PCT] in: 65d9h48m This is just one more crown for Scott to wear, the undisputed, undeniable, unquestionable ''King of the PCT'' Scott & Adam did it without a support team while Horton did it with a support team." [ed.: support team meaning other people may have brought him food or other supplies, or given him at ride to town, etc.] Doing the math, we see that this is better than 40 miles per day!].

#2. Trail Angels in Oregon

Near the end of Ralph's and my trip, we sent this letter home: "Ralph and I are celebrating having arrived at Cascade Locks on the Oregon border. Tomorrow we cross the bridge across the Columbia and enter Washington. This brings us to 2,150 miles completed of the Pacific Crest Trail (and about 250 on this backpacking trip so far). By the time we finish the three days planned in WA, we will have only (?) the 450 remaining miles of WA to do.

It's been a very good trip. Oregon is definitely easier terrain than CAa, but that doesn't mean it's easy! Some call this state's part of the trail the "Long Green Tunnel," but that hardly does justice to the variety of the land. Yes, lots of beautiful trees, but also incredible fields of flowers, myriad lakes, snow-capped mountains, etc. I could go on and on about various adventures along the way--the bat who shared our accommodations one night, the fording of streams swollen by glacial melt, the wonderful night at historic Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, but I am instead going to relay our "trail angel" encounters so far.

A. Our friend Jeannine Burk, who luckily for us likes to explore new places and drove us last year and this to the trailhead at the beginning of our trip and picked (will pick) us up at the end. This represents hundreds of miles of driving! Thank you Jeannine! B. An incredible cache left by at least three individuals just off the McKenzie highway (near Bend, Oregon). Hidden in the bushes just off the road were three coolers filled with sodas, beer, individual packages of Oreos and Snickers bars (full sized!), apples and bananas-- all this maintained daily by local (Bend) angels for PCT hikers. C. Whoever left a 3/4 full bottle (1/2 gallon size) of Black Velvet Whiskey in the middle of the trail near Jefferson Park. We only had a capful each, but it went down beautifully! D. And finally, the equestrian (one of a group of three riding beautiful Arabians horses) who dug into her saddlebag and gave us several yummy, homemade oatmeal cookie bars.

The amazing community of the Pacific Crest Trail is one of the remarkable rewards of long-distance hiking the Pacific Crest Trail." See photos at: 

#3. National Public Lands Day

"Get Involved. Thousands of volunteers in every state will put their hands to work on Saturday, September 26, 2009 in a coast-to-coast effort to improve and enhance our treasured lands. From Plymouth Rock to the Golden Gate, [volunteers are needed]". Source: 

#4. Socks or Sox

Kim Sorbello sent this, "About socks... for years we have been sold on Smartwool Trekkers over Wigwam polypro (very thin) liners. We walked across England in them (200 miles) without a rest day, alternating two sets each, and never had a blister, even when our feet got terribly sweaty. Haven't walked the Cotswolds, but have walked England's "Wainwright's Coast-to-Coast Trail," and it was AMAZING." [editor: Regarding the area of England, it's spelled Cotswolds, not Cotswalds as I wrote last issue.]

#5. Camino Documentary

Amy Gorman sent this info about a documentary on the Camino de Santiago. "Mani Feniger and I belong to an online women's group, and she's part of this project."

#6. ALDHA Meeting

If I were around, I'd head for this year's gathering of the American Long Distance Hiking Assoc. (ALDHA) West Gathering, September 25-27, 2009 at Camp Arrah Wanna, in Welches, OR (one hour drive from the Portland airport). Register at: . Get a discount if you register by September 8, 2009.

The presenters will include: Scott Williamson "who will give his perspective on the PCT over the years and what it has meant to him, and discuss some of the threats to the PCT and efforts to preserve and protect it, whether it be with volunteering or simple things one can do while out hiking on it. Scott says, This trail in many ways is my home and thus I hold it close to my heart, more than just a place to do speed records, yo-yo's or any of that. Those are just excuses to be on it!"

Andrew Skurka will "explore 'The New Frontier of Long-Distance - Hiking: Long-Distance Adventuring.' Andrew says, 'The area that I think is ripe for further exploration is in this long-distance adventuring sphere, which depends much less (or not at all) on established trails or published guidebooks, introduces new techniques for wilderness travel (e.g. packrafting and backcountry skiing), and accesses areas of the country that long-distance hikers historically have ignored.'"

Also, Doug Scott, the Policy Director for the Campaign for America Wilderness (  ). "Doug will speak about his involvement in protecting America's Wilderness and the impact of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which is the most significant conservation measure to be enacted by Congress in the last 15 years."

Other events: Triple Crown Hiker Brice Hammack hosting a gear swap/ sale. The Triple Crown Award ceremony honoring of those intrepid souls who have had the unique opportunity to hike America's three long trails: the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. The Backpacker Olympics (Can you pitch your shelter in under 10 seconds?). And, the Trail Work Party on Fri. Sep. 25. Please contact crew leader Roberta Cobb at trillium97at hotmail dot com for details and to sign up.

#7. Travel Safely

Tom Coroneos sent in a travel hints article from Nicholas D. Kristof (NY TImes 5/3/0/09). I ran one item last issue, these also might be helpful: A. " If you’re a woman held up in an isolated area, stick out your stomach, pat it and signal that you’re pregnant. You might also invest in a cheap wedding band, for imaginary husbands deflect unwanted suitors." [editor: I might add, if you are traveling with a man to whom you are not married, you also might consider investing in the wedding band if you are going to a country where there's a stigma against unmarrieds sharing a hotel room, etc.] B. "Lift the sheet [in your hotel room] to look for bloodstains on the mattress — meaning bed bugs."

#9. Restore Hetch Hetchy Walk

Dave Keith writes that the Muir March pledge drive -- organized by the Restore Hetch Hetchy organization -- is underway. They need not only pledges, but also marchers. I think hikers and backpackers would be well suited for this endeavor. At David's site, , you can make a pledge or get more information about participation in the effort to restore the beautiful Hetch Hetchy valley.

#10. Amy Racina of Angels in the Wilderness

"A 60-foot fall onto granite. Both legs shattered. Off-trail. Utterly alone in deep wilderness. Backpacker Amy Racina’s compelling memoir 'Angels in the Wilderness' chronicles her terrifying true-life ordeal."

Amy writes, "I am thrilled to announce the release of the softcover edition of my book, "Angels in the Wilderness." The paperback is available for purchase at many bookstores already. You can place an advance order on , and if you ask, your local bookstore will be happy to order it for you. It retails for $15.95."

Amy's upcoming speaking schedule:
• 7 PM REI Marina CA – September 8
• 7 PM REI San Carlos CA – September 9
• 7 PM REI Santa Rosa – Sept 10 -
• 7 PM REI Fremont CA – Sept 29
• 7 PM REI Concord CA – Sept 30
• 7 PM REI Brentwood CA – Oct 1
• REI stores in Washington State - October Dates to be announced

"For those of you who wonder what else I am doing now, here is a brief update: Amy, now 53, lives in Healdsburg, California with two cats and her boyfriend Mickey. She owns and operates two businesses, Instant Pool Cards ( ) and The Everyday Goddess, a traveling festival clothing store. Her son Sam, now 22, lives nearby." Amy is a California State Parks Volunteer, working to save our State Parks from pending closure. She also volunteers for the Ceres Project, cooking and delivering food to cancer patients. She is an integral part of a "Share the Care" program for a friend paralyzed by MS.

Although she admits that her injuries have slowed her down a little, Amy continues to hike and backpack as much as possible. She still enjoys soloing, but now carries a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). In 2007, Amy completed a 120-mile trip on the JMT and climbed Half Dome again for the first time since her fall. She hopes one day to go back to the Tehipite Valley, the scene of her near-fatal accident."  530 Reed Court, Healdsburg CA 95448. (707) 433-6686. cell: (707) 490-4932

#11. Coastwalks Trip

Coastwalks is leading a hiking, camping, boat trip (trip #09-013) in Marin County (CA) on September 14 - 19. 6 days, 5 nights. Cost: $425 adults; $250 children/youth (ages 7 – 17). Fees include: Guided hiking, 5 dinners, morning beverages, camping fees, hostel stay and boat trip across Tomales Bay.  "Spend six days in the spectacular open space of Marin County, hiking and camping in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), Point Reyes National Seashore, and Tomales Bay State Park. Hike along bays and estuaries, over ridge-tops, and through wooded canyons to remote beaches." A boat crossing of Tomales Bay will bring us to the Point Reyes peninsula where we expect to see Tule Elk, a great variety of raptors and shore birds, egret and heron rookeries, and white (fallow) deer." Each day you carry your daypack, lunch and water since your camping gear is transported for you and delicious evening dinners are prepared by Coastwalk volunteers. We camp for four nights and spend one night in a hostel. Hot showers are available two nights, while swimming is an option in the bay and in a lake."

#12. Don't kiss the Saint

MADRID (AP) "Spain's Catholic Church has new advice for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela: Don't kiss the saint. For centuries, pilgrims have visited one of Roman Catholicism's holiest shrines [the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela] holding the purported remains of St. James the Apostle, Spain's patron saint. It was customary for them to hug a statue of St. James and even kiss it."

"Now, thanks to fast-spreading swine flu, the church is urging the faithful not to pucker up. It has even removed the holy water that worshippers use to bless themselves in the cathedral in the cobblestone old quarter of Santiago de Compostela, in Spain's northwestern Galicia region." According to the Associated Press an usher stationed next to the statue, which is located behind the main altar, and asks visitors not to kiss the statue.

This is part of the new Health Ministry campaign of hygiene hints on how to curb the spread of swine flu. "Another custom, which may be even harder to curb, is that of Spaniards greeting each other with kisses, one on each cheek, even when meeting strangers. Spaniards are now supposed to shake hands. Swine flu has killed 12 people in Spain." (AP)

#13. Ghetto Tamale

I was just doing some looking around for some info about Top Ramen when I came upon this youtube site entitled "Top Ramen +Doritos=Ghetto Tamale." Knowing that Top Ramen (and often Doritoes) are often backpacking food staples, I thought this might even be a trail worthy recipe. I haven't tried the recipe yet, but it looks interesting. And, the clip is really fun to watch.

After I ran this item on the PCT-l backpacking forum, I heard from Eddy, "That looks like what I have heard called Chi Chi [and here is her recipe]:
1 pack ramen noodles crushed
1 flavor packet from the ramen
1 small bag doritos crushed
1 summer/beef sausage or long slim jim beef stick
1 cup boiling water
Optional: cheese.

Mix the first four items together in a freezer bag, In camp add a cup and a half of boiling water to the and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Stir and eat

#14. Two llamas free to good home

Llamas free to a good home. Date: Tue, 1 Sep 2009 09:27:20 -0700 From: <ned at pacificcrestcustombuilders dot com> Subject: [pct-l] free llamas, more To: "Pacific Crest Trail List" <pct-l at backcountry dot net> "The two [llamas] are 'gelded,' or whatever it is called in the llama world and one is nearly all white while the other is just the opposite. Still no idea how old they are."

Once again, there are two llamas up in Butte County free to a good home. Email me back and I will put you in touch with the rescuing party. Mtnned

#15. Inga's Worst Backpacking Trip Ever

Inga sent in this story, which is too long for me to run in its entirety, so I'm printing a teaser and you can go to her blog and read her entry dated July 13, 2009. Inga also wrote that there were many lessons to be learned -- among them -- even experienced backpackers can get themselves into trouble.

"To Hell(hole) and Back-The Worst Backpacking Trip Ever (Trip Notes-Powderhorn Trail to Hellhole Reservoir)

"This won’t qualify for the worst trip in the annals of backpacking because no one was seriously or mortally injured, but in our combined history, this was the worst trip ever for me and my husband. A combination of minor mishaps, lost trails, illness and topography came together to make this trip memorable for all the wrong reasons. Were there lessons to be learned? Most certainly."

We were excited to have four days off, so my husband, Steve, planned an ambitious route, spending hours with the topographic software program, inserting waypoints and printing maps. Distracted by other things I didn’t get too involved with planning, neglecting to do a web search on the route. We were planning a 30-mile route from Barker Pass in Tahoe to Hellhole Reservoir, up to McKinstry Lake and on to a path that intersected with the Rubicon Trail, a popular jeep route. The reservoir and jeep route were likely to be populated so it didn’t even seem like we were going into backcountry that was that remote."

"From Barker Pass we walked to Diamond Crossing on the Powderhorn Trail, a beautiful section of the hike we had done many times before. After a very brief, though steep ascent the trail gradually descended into the Granite Chief Wilderness through a rare section of old growth forest. We gazed up at the postpiles as we always do, admiring the precise vertical formations of columnar basalt towering overhead. Spring comes late to Tahoe, so even in July the wildflowers were out in profusion, including mules ears, corn lilies, shooting stars, Indian paintbrush, columbine, pussypaws and checker mallows. The air was heavy with the scent of pine and wild oregano, and the hiking was effortless.

After about two hours we arrived at the Diamond Crossing intersection of trails, marked with a wooden sign. Instead of heading to the creek to camp, or to the Whiskey Creek Trail as we have in the past, we turned left and headed toward Hellhole, well known as a place lost skiers can end up if they ski off the backside of Alpine Meadows or Squaw Valley ski areas."

"We arrived at the banks of Five Lakes Creek at a flat, low spot. We were able to cross a side channel by rock hopping, but had to remove our boots to cross the main channel as it was a bit deep. The cool water was refreshing as we gingerly stepped across the creek on slippery rocks. From there we found the trail easily and began our long descent to Hellhole. For the first few hours the trail was easy to follow, though there was quite a bit a deadfall to clamber over. This trail is not maintained, but was visible by a depression on the ground and by blazes in the trees. The cedar forest was a bit scraggly but kept us cool in the afternoon sun."

Sometime in the afternoon the trail became more difficult to follow and Steve began the first of many episodes coordinating GPS, topo map and compass. We were comfortable that we were heading in the correct direction, at least near the trail, scrambling over increasing amounts of deadfall as we traversed a large hill. We noted that the trees had changed from the pines and cedars to oak, signifying our loss of elevation. Eventually we spotted Hellhole Reservoir, glittering blue in the distance.

Having completely lost the trail, we crossed a fairly wide streambed containing only a trickle of water. On the other side we stood looking at the lake and the steep hillside dropping down dramatically, wondering where the trail was when we spotted one stone cairn, then another. We had found the trail by happenstance. We picked our way down the steep, rocky embankment paralleling the creek bed, knees complaining but knowing we were close. After some searching we found a good tent site, which involved a bit of a scramble down to the water but afforded expansive views of the lake.

Tired, but satisfied that nine difficult miles were behind us, we made camp and watched a few boats traverse the lake. We’re not used to seeing trappings of the modern world when we backpack but we were expecting it and knew it was only one night until we got into more remote country. The music blaring from the campsite across the inlet was a bit unnerving but they were playing some good selections so we considered it happy hour, gave them a neighborly wave and had a drink. We reveled in the relative warmth of the water and evening air, something you don’t get in the higher elevations of Tahoe. Tired from the exertion of the day, we turned in early and drifted off to sleep, only to fly out of the tent at the sound of an explosion ricocheting off the granite walls cupping the lake. Our happy campers were shooting off fireworks in a pre-4th of July celebration. Groaning, we went back to bed and were only mildly startled as a new discharge went off every 15 minutes for awhile.

Day 2, Hellhole Reservoir
The next morning we broke camp to the strains of Michael Jackson’s "Thriller", paying homage to the pop star who had died the week before. We had a relatively easy five mile day planned to get to McKinstry Lake but we got going early, knowing the trail might not be well marked…."

Lessons Learned by Inga "Later we thought about what we would have done differently, and there were a few things. We should have done more research on the trail, and we would have been forewarned about just how difficult the route finding would be on this un-maintained trail. We let fatigue and a realistic, but misguided quest for water lead us down a ravine that we had no business being in. I have no idea how I got sick as we were meticulous about filtering our water, and most of our food was dry."

We did a few things right. We turned back when we should have and abandoned our original destination. We didn’t have unlimited food, but we had enough to last a day or two extra if we had needed it. We were armed with a good map, GPS and compass, and used them extensively. We have good backcountry skills and knowledge of first aid. We left our itinerary with friends who knew what to do if we didn’t return on time."

As the poison oak rash bloomed across my arms a few days later I reflected back on the experience. The backcountry comes with inherent risks, and part of the appeal of the backcountry is to test yourself against the elements. We passed the test, but only by the slimmest margin. I pushed myself to the very limit of physical endurance, Steve took on as much as he could to lighten my load, and the end result is that we were able to draw on our strength and experience to get ourselves out. A pleasant trip? No. A successful trip? Yes."

To read the rest of Inga and Steve's adventure, go to Inga's blog . One of the amusing aspects of their experience is that they vowed, while on this hellish trip, that they would give up backpacking and try canoeing. I notice in her most recent blogs, however, that they are still backpacking -- even taking kids!

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #128 Aug 1, 2009

1. Just up: September ALDHA-West gathering
3. John Muir Trail resupply alert
4. Socks or sox
5. Still checking your baggage? (Camino)
6. Grant Spangler website (Camino)
7. Suzanne Finney
8. Touring the Cotswalds
9. Susan's hints to hikers
10. Unicycle on CDT First time ever -- follow this!
11. Camper chow -- pancakes with beer
12. Kilimanjaro fee discounted
13. Geolyn and the cell
14. Destination Alps
15. New accommodations on Portuguese Route in Galicia for pilgrim travelers (Camino)
16. Unseen Hazards
17. Climber brilliantly rescued
18. Border agent killed near PCT
19. Regional, S.F. Bay Area: Women on Common Ground
20. Regional, S.F. Bay Area Ridge Trail
21. Thank you!

#1. September ALDHA-West gathering

Just got this info this morning -- preview of what's happening at this year's American Long Distance Hiking Assoc. (ALDHA) West Gathering, September 25-27, 2009 in Welches, OR. Coordinators Heather Anderson and Jackie McDonnell (Yogi) announce a star-studded cast including Scott Williamson, Andrew Skurka, and Doug Scott with activities including Triple Crown awards (for those who have completed the PCT, Appalachian, and Continental Divide trails) as well as Brice Hammack (Triple Crown hiker) hosting a gear swap/sale , Backpacking Olympics, and trail work fun.

Camp Arrah Wanna, in Welches OR, "an easy one-hour drive from the Portland airport, and only a 30-minute drive from Timberline Lodge. The camp is beautiful and the accommodations are perfect: lodging is in cabins, and the dining hall is separate from the presentation building. The AV equipment is terrific!"

Register now at: . Get a discount if you register by September 8, 2009.


I'm writing up many of our hikes at  check it out and let me know what you'd like to see.

#3.John Muir Trail Resupply Alert

Warning! ask your packer if they have a current permit to go into Sequoia Kings Canyon NP. If they do not have a permit to bring animals into Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, they cannot do a drop at Charlotte Lake Ranger Station. This news from a couple who had a prearranged food drop at the ranger station, only to arrive on time and find a note that their food drop was on top of Kearsarge Pass due to Berners not having their permit yet. They had to abort their trip. Berners now has their permit effective 7/7/09.

#4. Socks or sox

John Vonhof posted an article, "Socks - Good, Bad, and Ugly" Jul 10, 2009. John is an expert on feet and often helps runners having foot problems (or helps them avoid foot problems) at marathons. His question and subsequent advice is aimed at runners, but certainly applies to hikers, too. "Why would you [to paraphrase] wear threadbare socks to save a bit of pocket change and jeopardize your hike?" You can read and subscribe to his messages at:

#5. Still checking your baggage?

Grant Spangler, who frequently posts on the Camino sites, recently posted a link to a youtube video about someone who had a bad experience with United Airlines. Spangler asked, "Still wanna check your bags?" Check out:

Some background from Dave Carroll, guitarist, "In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn't deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say no to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world."

#6. Grant Spangler website change

Recently met Grant (see above) and learned that he has updated his Camino website with a lot of helpful info for hikers.

#7. Tom Stienstra on Suzanne Finney

Tom Stienstra writes an inspiring story of Suzanne Finney, a woman in her 50s who is determined to finish the remain 800 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail even though she is uncertain what her future -- battling cancerous tumors -- might bring.

#8. Cotswolds Info?

One of our readers is considering a trip to the England's Cotswolds and would like to hear about the experiences from anyone who has hiked there. Please send me your information and I'll forward it. Thank you.

#9. Susan's hints for hikers:

  • Not necessary to use sunscreen rated 70-100. According to UC Wellness letter Aug. 2009, SPF of 80 blocks 99% of UVB, while SPF 40 blocks about 97%. Just be sure that the lotion contains zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, or Mexory. Equally important, apply it liberally 1/2 hour before exposure (to allow absorption time) and reapply every couple of hours.
  • This summer I am again not leaving home without these accessories: my sun hat from Sunday Afternoons, my hiking poles, my dirty girl gaiters  (I'm sporting a new pattern called Wild Cat); my sunscreen and lipgloss; and babywipes. I'm also trying something new "Kool Tie" which you wear around your necks and is supposed to keep you cool for days. (I sincerely hope it does because it's hot, hot, hot in Oregon right now!)
  • Since the PCT in Oregon has mosquitoes in abundance this time of year, I'm spraying my clothes with Sawyer's spray before we leave, taking DEET, carrying a mosquito net that fits over my hat, and sleeping in a tent. Other things that help: sleeping away from standing water, camping where there's a breeze, and covering up at dawn and dusk.
  • Modifications I've made to footwear and care: We almost always wear trail runners-- the only exceptions in the last five years have been on Mt. Kilimanjaro (boots were required by Tusker Trails) and in Patagonia (I wore boots, Ralph wore runners). We wear Asics, but everyone's feet are different, so they might not be best for you. They have a higher toebox than many others, allowing room for the custom made or store-bought orthotics. I stick a cheap-o Dr. Scholl's pad under the orthotics for extra cushioning. Warning however: don't put too much padding in your shoes because then you loose the stability you need.
  • I wear either the double-layer Wright's socks or the Injinji toe socks AND a pair of liner socks on top to prevent blisters (which plagued me for years!). The Injinji socks wear out way too fast on the trail, but they've still been worth it to me. (Has anyone tried other brands? Very cute styles on a site called  )

#10. Unicycle on Great Divide Trail

Kim S. sends this item about an interesting undertaking -- her daughter, Gracie Sorbello, who is undertaking to do the entire 2,705- mile Great Divide Trail on a unicycle! "She's fully unsupported, carrying everything for a 3.5-to 4-month, 2705-mile trip down the Great Divide Trail (therefore going quite ultralight!). It is the longest unpaved bike trail in the world."

She will be the first person in the world to do this, and will be trying to raise awareness and funding for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She previously was the first woman in the world to ride her unicycle from Coast to Coast - Wilmington NC to Long Beach WA - carrying her gear on her back."

This is to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She is sponsored by Panama Jack and Keen Footwear. At the last minute a unicycling friend, Matt Burney, decided to join her and will be her photographer and documentarian. Gracie's blog is at  More about the trip, and how to donate, go to:  (One Continental Divide, One girl, One wheel).

#11. Camper Chow - Pancakes with beer has an idea for those who want to start their camping day with a kick. "Trail Chef: How to make great pancakes -- with beer." It's a very short, fun youtube clip: 

#12. Kilimanjaro fee discount by Tusker Trail

Tusker Trail, the outfit that led our climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro is offering a $1500 discount on Kilimanjaro climbs when 2 people sign up and climb between Jun 1 and Dec 31, 2009. 1 (800) 231.1919 (Toll Free North America). We highly recommend Tusker.

#13. Geolyn cell phone tip

Geolyn, whose Boots cartoon character tells the tales of backpacking, sent in a good tip for backcountry travelers: "When on day hikes sometimes I forget to turn off my cell phone. So throughout the day it is going in and out of range. I noticed this uses a lot of battery as the phone finds signal and drops it, much more than if it has constant signal (or none for that matter). Anyway, it might be nice to remind people to turn it off at the beginning of the hike or it may not have the juice when they need it."

Also Geolyn is moving to the Nevada City/Grass Valley area and will be seeking out local hiking buddies -- so if you live there, send me a note and I'll forward it to her.

#14. Destination Alps

Still another place I wish I had time to go: Hiking in the Alps with travel company Adventure Women. "Hiking the Swiss Alps: September 4 – 13, 2009. A great "combination" hiking trip in the spectacular Swiss Alps. From the painted houses and rolling hills of traditional Appenzell, to the fjord-like lakes and glaciated mountains of Engelberg, hike the spectacular Swiss Alps! $3,895 ($600 deposit), rated Moderate to High Energy. 800-804-8686

#15. New accommodations on Portuguese Route

Helena, a friend who lives in Portugal, sent the following. The albergue is in Spain, on the Camino Portugués. "Pilgrim friends: this is to inform you that the Asociación Galega de Amigos do Camiño do Santiago, AGACS, continuing their intention to offer hospitality in Galicia, have come to an agreement with the Franciscan community of the historic Convento de San Antonio de Herbón, in Padron to be responsible for, and offer shelter and hospitality to pilgrims on their way to Santiago. "

The albergue is cared for by pilgrims for pilgrims and offers shelter with the spirit of the original hospitality of the Camino of Santiago. With this in mind the Albergue de Peregrinos de San Antonio opens daily at 16.00 hours and has 22 places priority being given to pilgrims who have come on foot, it is not possible to accept groups, pilgrims with motor transport assistance nor reservations, the places must be for those who arrive exhausted, tired and in need of finding somewhere to sleep. Within the traditional hospitality we also offer the evening meal and breakfast thus sharing your Camino in a place of peace and wellbeing."

"To arrive at the albergue, in the village of San Xulían, in the Concello de Pontecesures, you come to a cross-road where if you turn to the left you continue the Camino Portugués towards Padron 2.7 Km, but if you turn to the right you take the "ALTERNATIVE" which will bring you to the Convento de Herbón 2.7 Km from the Camino Portugués. As you can see the distance from the cross-road to the albergue in Padron or to the albergue of Herbón is the same either way. In order to avoid any confusion for pilgrims we have marked the alternative to Herbón with red arrows and we have put this information notice at the crossroad. Buen Camino, ultreia y "San Yago" adjuvanos"

How to find the Albergue de Peregrinos de San Antonio, Herbón, Padron.
In the village of San Xulían, Consello de Pontecesures, at the cross- road T junction take the right-hand turning (alternative route) follow the red arrows 2.7 Kms and you will arrive at the Albergue de Peregrinos de San Antonio which is located within the Convento de San Antonio de Herbón, in Padron."

#16. Unseen Hazards - new book

For those who want even more to worry about, you might want to check out this latest book by Jerry Genesio. Cutter Laboratories employed him in their Biological Products Division for nearly 20 years. (Please note: I have not read this book and therefore have not reviewed it).

This is his press release: "Bridgton, Maine, June 22, 2009. Unseen Hazards That Threaten Hunters, Campers, and Hikers. There are UNSEEN HAZARDS [his emphasis] in forests and fields that threaten those who enjoy hunting, camping, and hiking. Genesio has written an 86-page book containing vital information about these perilous pathogens. Each is described with symptoms, treatment, history, carriers, geographical risk areas, and significant incidence reports. The book also contains advice provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, on how to avoid vectors such as ticks, and how to properly remove ticks." "…of 27,444 cases of Lyme Disease reported in 2007, 87% were confined to 10 states, including Connecticut and Wisconsin."

#17. Hiker free climber rescued

 Items in the news this month: Talk about scary: Daniel Susman, who tried free climbing in Yosemite, got stranded around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 15th, and had to be plucked from a tiny ledge of cliff face by rangers. Some say it was a dumb move to try this climb, but I'm more focused on the incredible job done by the park search and rescue team.

When the rescue team aboard a helicopter took a look, they decided it was too risky to try plucking Susman off the rock (turbulence caused by the helicopter). So they lowered Ranger Keith Lober to a location 50 feet above Susman where Lober could insert anchor bolts into the rock. Then Ranger Eric Gabriel was lowered from the anchor bolts to where Susman was clinging. Finally, all were lifted off the rock and to safely.

Original reports stated that Susman was a PCT thru-hiker, but that has not been confirmed. One thing is for certain, he's lucky his cell phone worked considering the spotty reception in the mountains.

#18. Border Agent killed near Campo

I've written an article on the Border Patrol Agent who was killed recently near Campo. CA. Campo is the border town where the Pacific Crest Trail starts in southern California.

#19. Regional, San Francisco Bay Area Women on Common  Ground

From the latest calendar of the East Bay Regional Park District, Naturalist Programs, Women on Common Ground. For information: Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness, "Women on Common Ground" This is a series of naturalist-led programs for women who love to hike, camp, or otherwise play in the out-of-doors, but whose concern for personal safety keeps them from enjoying the wonders within their own parklands Late Summer Moonshadow Dinner Hike. Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness 5:30-9pm, Saturday, August 29. We’ll hike uphill in a shady canyon, picnic by candlelight, and wend our way back downhill by the light of the silvery moon. Bring a trail dinner with something to share. Meet at Visitor Center. Reservations required. Please contact (510) 544-3240 or  by noon, Thursday, August 27. Naturalist Katie Colbert

Equinox Be a Kid Nature Wade. Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness, 4:30-7:30pm, Tuesday, September 22. Grab a mini-vacation while summer turns to autumn as we splash and wade through Alameda Creek to see what has be-fallen the stream at the season shift. Wear shoes and pants that can get soaked. Meet at heavy metal gate at far end of picnic area. Reservations required. Please contact (510) 544-3240 or  by noon, Monday, September 21.Naturalist Katie Colbert.
If you would like to add your e-mail address to the list, OR if you would rather continue receiving paper copies, please contact (510) 544-3240 or .

#20. Bay Area Ridge Trail Hike and Ride

Bay Area Ridge Trail Council announces two upcoming major events. "East Bay Hills Through-Hike and Ride" "Register now to hike or ride the second longest continuous section of the Ridge Trail from Castro Valley to Martinez, September 2-7. This annual equestrian ride welcomed HIKERS for the first time in 2008 and the fully supported through-hike was a hit! Join the Ridge Trail, Tilden Wildcat and Metropolitan Horseman’s Associations for one day or all five (hike) or six (ride). Come hike or ride carrying only a daypack and let volunteers cook and transport your camping gear! Equestrians and hikers will enjoy mostly separate trails during the day, but gather every evening for excellent food and entertainment. This year, the event is dedicated to the memory of long-time Ridge Trail advocate and friend, Ron Brown."

"Ridge Trail Cruz" will be Saturday, September 12. Their 4th annual Ridge Trail Cruz in the Santa Cruz Mountains straddling Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. "Enjoy this multi-sport event on your favorite trail mode—foot, wheel, or hoof—and choose your distance. Hikers choose from 13 or 23 miles one way (we bus you to the start), equestrians select 10 or 23 miles, and cyclists have the option of an intermediate or advanced ride. There is also a tot- and senior- friendly family hike so you can bring out the kids and grandparents."

Register by August 14 to receive the early bird rate of $40 for hikes and rides, and $20 per family for the family hike. General registration starts on August 15 and fees will be $50 and $25 for family hike. Event attendance is limited so don’t delay! The registration fee includes: a light breakfast, shuttle to the start (for hikers), volunteer guides, a buffet lunch, water, snacks along the way, maps and more."

The Cruz also raises funds for the Ridge Trail through the Cruz-a- thon. Invite friends and colleagues to sponsor you at $1, $5, or $10 per mile and earn a chance to win great prizes including REI and Mountain Trail Bikes gear, or a 3-night stay for 2 at 'Norman Diego’s The Mexican Inn' in Cabo San Lucas!"  or Phone 415-561-2595, Fax 415-561-2599

#21. Thank you for reader submissions

Readers submitted many of the items in this newsletter. I want to thank each of you for sending in items for all of us to enjoy. Your news provides a much broader scope of coverage than I could possibly cover on my own. Thanks again!

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #127 July 1, 2009

Tusker Trails (who led our Kilimanjaro expedition) has this to say in their current newsletter, "There's an old saying -- those who think it can't be done shouldn't bother the person doing it."

1. Scott Williamson and Adam Bradley attempt new PCT record
2. Sky Guide for July
3. Appalachian Trail annual gathering
4. Jeff Schaeffer and the 66 rocks
5. Nude Hiking Day
6. Susan and the team
7. Alcorns' Camino programs in July
8. Terry Sweetland reports on recent Camino de Santiago walk
9. Wes and Rita: More about the Camino
10. Errecaldia directions to St. Jean Pied du Port
11. Pilgrimage and the 2010 Jacobean celebration
12. Climbing Half Dome trip open
13. Warning about credit card number theft by camera phone

#1. Scott Williamson and Adam Bradley PCT record attempt

 They are not only out to break David Horton's 67 day speed record for hiking the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail but are also doing it unsupported (whereas Horton had a support team). A couple of weeks ago, freelance journalist Jacob Nahin did an interview with the two backpackers about this year's attempt.

Scott and Adam will be making very few stops along the trail, so watch and enjoy this one at  It's on June 19, 2009 and entitled "Live in the Wild-no Tech edition. Pacific Crest Trail hikers fight to beat record". The hikers don't want to broadcast where they are — they don't want support (and perhaps because their admiring followers would slow them down). Apparently on the day of the interview, they had hiked more than 40 miles.

David Horton's (unofficial) run of the 2,650 mile PCT (66 days, 7 hours, 16 minutes) is available at 

#2. Sky guide

From the Cal Academy of Science's Summer 2009, Skyguide. Full Moon on July 3 and August 5. August 12, the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, but spoiled by the brightness of a quarter moon. Sunrise 5:52 AM PDT, Sunset 8:36 pm PDT. August 1 Sunrise 6:13 am PDT, 8:18 pm PDT.

"This is the international Year of Astronomy and the 40th anniversary of the first human's footsteps on the moon. On July 20, 1969, Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed the Apollo 11 Lunar Module "Eagle" on the Moon's Sea of Tranquility and spent 21- 1/2 hours there collecting rock samples, taking photos, and conducting scientific experiments."

#3. Appalachian Trail annual gathering

 Join Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Vermont July 17 through 24th. There is still time to register for the ATC Biennial Meeting and Festival. The Appalachian Trail Festival and Biennial Conference in Castleton (near Rutland), VT starts July 17, 2009. Register today at and guarantee your reservation at the "Best Deal" in Vermont this summer. A full schedule of meetings, workshops and hikes can also be found here. Appalachian Trail Conservancy, P.O. Box 807, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425. Contact Name: Royce Gibson, Telephone Number: (304) 535-6331

#4. Jeff Schaeffer and the 66 rocks

Jeff Schaeffer, the author of several guidebooks, including three about the Pacific Crest Trail, and "The Geomorphic Evolution of the Yosemite Valley and Sierra Nevada Landscapes Solving the Riddles in the Rocks," which disproves long-held beliefs that the Yosemite Valley and entire Sierra Nevada range were carved by glaciers, recently set off with his twin brother, Greg, on a six-week trip around the country to climb 66 rock formations.

The 66-year-old twins plan to do both outdoor and indoor climbing routes and combine their climbing adventures with visits to friends and relatives. Jeff says, "I’m not the healthiest myself. I’ve had a number of climbing injuries and other injuries that sort of limit me." Jeff used to go free soloing — "until he was 50 and fell head-first."

"I’ve written more books and sold more books than anyone in the world (on Sierra Nevada geology), but the main thing is I mapped more precisely than anyone in the world," he said. "I did 4,000 miles of trail mapping. I was obsessed with accuracy."

He’s had many injuries -- to his back, both shoulders, and his right knee. All, he says, from climbing to the breaking point and attempting to do things in his 60s that would have been much easier in his 20s. (quotes from Andy Wilcox, Register Sport Writer, Napa Valley Register, Napa CA. 6/3/2009. Online: 

#5. Nude Hiking Day

This year's "Naked Hiking Day" fell on Father's Day. There are those who think it's a great way to hike. "There's no way to explain it until you experience it," said Andrew Williams, 28, a machinist from Warren, Pennsylvania, who first hiked naked six or seven years ago. "It's not about being lewd and crude and all that. It's just enjoyment." One hiker commented that there was one advantage — you can see the ticks more easily.

Not all hikers are happy about it and rangers and police warned that nude hikers could be charged with indecent exposure. We haven't heard much about any arrests back east--that may be because the scandal involving Governor Mark Sanford — purportedly hiking the Appalachian Trail, but then getting caught returning from Buenos Aires and his paramour took over the headlines for a while.

#6. Susan and the team

I've posted more hiking articles on  You can see them at  and tell me what you think.

#7. Susan and Ralph Alcorn's July events:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 7:00 PM. REI Fremont, 43962 Fremont Blvd. Fremont, CA 94538. (510) 651-0305. Hiking the Camino de Santiago. Susan Alcorn, author of Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago, Independent traveler Susan Alcorn will present a digital slide show of her five-week 500-mile trek along Spain's ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the burial place of the disciple St. James.

Come walk with Susan and Ralph through quaint medieval towns in the high mountains of the Pyrenees, across the fertile red soils of the Rioja region, to the lush green Galician Hills. Susan will give you pointers for planning your own Camino adventure, including gear, expenses, lodging and what to expect about life on this centuries-old trail. Free, no reservations required.

NEW posting: Monday, July 13, 2009. 5:30-7:00 PM. Book Passage, 1 Ferry Bldg. # 42, San Francisco, CA 94111. (415) 835-1020. A Left Coast Writers' event hosted by Colette O'Brien. Five writers are reading about "The Great Outdoors." Susan Alcorn is going to read from Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago, the story of her five-week, 500- mile trek along Spain's ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the burial place of the disciple St. James. In Camino Chronicle, Susan combines her journal entries with legends, history, and cultural insights.

Thursday, July 30, 2009. REI Brentwood, Ste 100, 2475 Sand Creek Rd, Brentwood, CA 94513. (925) 516-3540. See REI Fremont July 7 program above for details.

#8. Terry Sweetland reports on recent Camino de Santiago walk

Terry Sweetland and his wife Sharon, who recently returned from hiking on the Camino de Santiago. They hiked from St. Jean to Pamplona and from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. They've sent some very useful information about their experience.

a. There are not many Laundromats in Spain and when you find them they're expensive. There is one in Pamplona and there are some in certain albergues. [editor: if I remember correctly, we only used a washer/dryer once or twice. We washed our clothes in laundry tubs or sinks most nights].

b. We stayed in hotels and never used our sleeping bags, so if you plan to do this then leave the bags.

c. If you just plan to take the Camino from Sarria to Santiago [ed. the last 100K/60 miles], there's a Mochila Express that will send your backpack ahead for 3 euros to your next stop, look for it in Sarria. So if you take 5 days to finish then it will be 3 X 5= 15 euros. We just put 7 days supplies in one backpack and sent the rest in a box to Santiago from Sarria. Note the post office in Santiago will hold a box for only 15 days.

d. Take Mitchem deodorant; it worked well and we never had an odor problem.

e. The eating hours were hard to get used to, you may want to take other food. [ed. As is the case in much of Europe, dinner is served quite late. Many restaurants don't start serving until 8:30 or 9:00PM. However, the hotels and refugios can usually point you to restaurants or bars where you can get food earlier. It is a good idea to carry some granola bars, cheese, etc. for times when you might want something to tide you over. In addition, many people buy food in the local shops and cook their own meals in the refugios. If you stay in hotels, of course, this wouldn't be an option.]

f. My wife is from Central America and we speak Spanish and we still had a rough time with some Spaniards who seemed rude. But on the last day I think I figured it out. If they don't know you then they are not friendly. Many people who were rude, were very friendly the next day, on our second contact.

g. The star system rating hotels etc. is confusing. We found many great hotels with one or two stars. Everything is very clean.

h. When we used the restroom on the road I always bought something. Also when you enter a restaurant or any room say 'Buenos dias;' it's the polite thing to do.

#9. Wes and Rita: More about the Camino

This from Wes and Rita on the gocamino forum June 13, 2009. Wes and Rita have tried twice previously to walk the Camino and are now celebrating completing it (which they did on June 9th). They made the following observations:

a. "No one ever said they packed too lightly for the Camino." We packed really lightly, had only a silk sleep sack and never needed a bag as only 2 places didn't have blankets (Roncesvalles and the monastery in Leon) and then we just added our fleece layers and were fine — body heat generated by so many peregrinos kept us warm.

b. They stayed in albergues every night and only had one really bad experience in Alto do Poio — it wasn't clean and smelled bad near it. "Go on to the next town where there is a really nice looking new one," they advised. They also found the woman at the albergue in Rabe de la Calzada to be extremely unpleasant (the albergue is in her home). They instead stayed at another place, which Vincento at the bar could tell others about. Said his brother had a place for 8 euros each and after we said "great," Jose Maria came for us in his car to drive us the few streets up to the top of the town where we had a little room with 4 other peregrinos and Jose made us a wonderful little dinner with whatever we wanted to order, which we ate outside on the patio. We recommend this albergue if you are going to be staying in Rabe — just stop in the bar and ask Vincento about it!

c.They stayed in several Xunta de Galicia albergues — that others hadn't liked — and liked them and 'they only cost only 3 euros'.
d. "In Burgos we found that the albergue mentioned in our (dated) guide book was closed and happened on a new albergue on Calle San Pedro de Cardena at the church Parroquia San Jose Obrero (across the river as you enter town). It is one of the religious albergues, all donativo, with mass and dinner and prayer meeting after, then breakfast in the morning. It was a beautiful modern place with two bunk beds in a room, nice storage compartments and bedside lamps! (A palace of an albergue and we highly recommend it). These religious albergues (in Estella the Albergue Parroquial at 18 Mercado de Viejo, in the church in Grannon) that offer a pilgrim dinner are really wonderful and the spirit of the peregrino community really comes alive in them."

#10. Errecaldia directions to St. Jean Pied du Port

A recent post on Camino forum provided a link to a website of a B & B in St. Jean Pied de Port.  What is particularly helpful to pilgrims, is that Tim has made a list of various ways to get to St. Jean, which you may or may not know, is tricky to reach. Errecaldia, 5 Chemin St Jacques, St Jean Pied de Port, France, 64220. Telephone: 0033(0)559491702 The bed and breakfast looks cute, but in addition, you can click on "the area" and then "getting here" and you will find his updated list on how to get to that off-the-beaten-track village.

#11. Pilgrimage and the 2010 Jacobean celebration

Rosina writes in a recent forum, "Next year will be a BIG one on the Camino. It's the 119th Xacobean Holy Year that will be commemorated. Because there will not be another one for the next 11 years huge crowds are expected in Santiago and the preparations therefore are reaching a frantic pace." She adds, " I have learned that 95% of all hotel rooms in the Santiago Casco have already been booked. Therefore, if some of you would like to go to this once-in-a- lifetime experience I would suggest that you begin acting on your plans."

"The Holy Door will open on December 31, and it is expected to be a tremendous celebration." "The Santiago Archbishop, Msgr. Julian Barrio, has stated that during the Holy Year the maximum number of persons allowed in the Cathedral at any one time will be 1,200. He did mention that bona-fide pilgrims would be given priority. He also said that because of the limit to be imposed the number of Masses will increase during the year, and that perambulating through the Cathedral will not be permitted during religious observances. Tourist groups will be allowed only during specific times."

#12. Climbing Half Dome trip open

If you've ever wanted to climb Half Dome, here's a plan. "Yosemite Backpack with Climb of Half Dome & Clouds Rest Summit, September 10-16th, 2009." Rating: Moderate Backpacking, Group Size Limit: 13, Accommodations: 6 nights camping, Cost: $850; Reservation Deposit $300.

"This classic Yosemite backpacking trip starts at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley and takes us up the wild Merced River Canyon. Our route takes us past many gorgeous waterfalls and loops around to join the John Muir Trail. There are incredible views throughout the trip and the bare granite domes and other obvious topographic features in this country make it a perfect trip for learning (or improving) topographical map reading skills."

"Our trip culminates in a climb of Half Dome. We think this trip offers the very best way to climb Half Dome because our camp is remote, yet nearby—only 3.6 miles from the summit. We’ll ascend Yosemite’s most famous landmark by the non-technical hikers' route assisted by the banister-like cables, which lead to the summit. What a feeling of accomplishment when you stand on top of Half Dome with sweeping views of Yosemite Valley, Tenaya Canyon and the far reaches of the High Sierra! If you love Yosemite but want to escape the crowds, don’t miss this opportunity to experience with us Yosemite’s pristine and quiet Merced River Canyon. "

"Day 1, Thursday ~ Arrival Please arrive by 3 PM. We’ll meet in our reserved campsite in Yosemite National Park. When you get to the campground, our site number will be listed with the attendant at the kiosk and also posted. We’ll sort out gear and get our packs organized and have a good dinner about 7 PM."

"Day 2, Friday ~ John Muir Trail to Little Yosemite Valley; 5.4 Miles After breakfast we’ll break camp and drive to the backcountry visitor parking lot where we’ll load up our packs and set off on our hike up the John Muir Trail. Our destination today is Little Yosemite Valley, and there are gorgeous views along the way: Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, Illilouette Fall, Yosemite Falls and the Valley. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)"

The trip description continues at Call of the Wild's website: Call of the Wild, PO Box 1412, Mountain View, CA 94042 Phone & Fax (650) 265-1662 Toll Free Outside CA (888) 378-1978

#13. Warning about credit card number theft by camera phone

Susan's warning: I recently had my credit card number used fraudulently. The card hadn't been lost or stolen; what we think may have happened is that someone took a camera phone photo of the number and ID when I used my card at an outdoor fair. There are other ways, and we'll probably never know for sure, but just remember to keep an eye out for camera phones when using your card. And if possible, hand over and accept back your card upside down to block the view of potential fraudulent users.

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #126, June 1, 2009

1. Berkeley hike TONIGHT
2. Susan writing for
3. Brandon Wilson setting off for Via Alpina hike
4. Camino "Senoras" and "Caballeros"?
5. Trickery on the Camino?
6. Karen Najarian and Sierra Spirit LLC
7. How many millions are hiking?
8. Mt. Whitney by the Mountaineers' Route
9. Regional: Anne Marie Brown at REI
10. Regional: Outdoors Writer Tom Stienstra at REI Berkeley
11. Alcorns' Camino programs in July
12. Hint: Weight-to-calorie ratio
13. Newsletter going to a once-a-month publishing schedule
14. National Trails Day, 6/6/09

#1. Regional hike in Berkeley tonight

The Berkeley Path Wanderers Association leads hikes during the week that are about two hours long. "Walks may include a variety of local features and usually include items of historical or botanical interest. Walks are free to both members and non-members. Tonight, Mon. June 1, 7:00 p.m. is the "Albany Hill at Dusk" theme walk. Meeting Place: Creekside Park in El Cerrito at the south end of Santa Clara Ave. Transit: BART or AC #72 bus."

The president of Friends of Five Creeks leads this annual evening walk co-sponsored by BPWA and F5C. We will cross Cerrito Creek on stepping stones, note Native American grinding stones, and climb Albany Hill on a narrow, fairly steep trail, gaining 300 ft. We'll enjoy snacks and sunset views and return via a gentler route. Wear shoes with good traction and long pants and sleeves to avoid poison oak. Bring flashlights and walking sticks if you use them. For info: Susan Schwartz - 510 848 9358"

#2.Susan writing for

I've been having fun lately writing for  under the heading of "travel writer-hiking." On second thought, "fun" might not be the most accurate description of the hours I have been putting in doing the hikes and then writing about them, it is, however, good exercise both physically and mentally. (It also helps me appreciate the work that would go into being a daily columnist for a newspaper.) If there is something less than a pittance, that's what I'll be earning doing this, but I've decided the discipline of producing a regular column is a good learning experience for me.

I've only been doing this for a couple of weeks, so I've only begun to explore the possibilities, but so far I've written about some local hikes and one in the Mendocino area on the "Ecological Staircase." Check out my articles at  and tell me what you think.

#3. Brandon Wilson on Via Alpina

Brandon Wilson recently checked in to tell us about an exciting new hiking adventure that he and his wife have just embarked on: "I thought you might be interested to know that my wife Cheryl and I are heading off on another peace walk--this time along the Via Alpina. Imagine 1500 miles of tranquil Alpine hamlets stretching across eight countries. It's a perfect opportunity to discover the distinct cultures, history and natural beauty--one step at a time."

This hut-to-hut trek will be well-fueled by great local wine, crusty bread, curiosity and wanderlust. I see it becoming a Euro Appalachian Trail someday, and a chance for Americans to find their own peace as they get off the beaten path to discover a region far beyond the stereotypical land of cheese and gnomes."

We're trekking light (15 pounds) for 4 months with some fantastic new gear supplied by GoLite and a 21-oz. tent from Gossamer Gear. We're also carrying about 30 topos, (however, not all at one time) supplied by Omni Resources."

Here's a preview: . If folks are interested in learning more about the trail, they can visit . "

Finally, 'Along the Templar Trail: Seven Million Steps for Peace', my book about our peace walk from France to Jerusalem, has been named a Finalist in ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Awards (Adventure/ Recreation). Hey, it's another small step..."
Brandon Wilson
Visit  for a video preview. Or explore: 

#4. Camino "Senoras" and "Caballeros"?

Rosina reported on Camino forums recently that (according to the Archdiocese) in 2008, there were 125,141 pilgrims receiving the Compostela and 41.7% were women. Apparently the growing percentage of women walking the trail is leading the Xunta and the Archdiocese to consider "the growing female presence and its potential needs." [ed. I personally view it as a non-issue, but others may have differing opinions. Do you?]

#5. Trickery on the Camino de Santiago?

It's a story that you can easily imagine evolving into a movie--a pilgrim enters town rain- soaked, weary and hungry, anxious to find a place to put his head for a good night's rest. He encounters a sign reading "Albergue Closed." He's momentarily disappointed because he has stayed at the closed albergue previously, but sees another hotel nearby and finding a room, checks in. Later that night, when venturing out for dinner, our traveler walks by the albergue that had been posted as closed, and discovers that it is open….

This scenario was apparently played out in Negreira. The Hotel Tamera, according to Glenn, may be luring pilgrims away from other accommodations.

#6. Karen Najarian and Sierra Spirit LLC

Thanks to Facebook, I have discovered an expert Sierra backpacking guide, Karen Najarian. Her qualifications are impressive; she been leading beginning backpack trips in Yosemite for 11 years and for the past 6 years has leading the Yosemite Program for REI. So, if you want to meet Karen, sign up for REI's Half Dome, Yosemite Creek, or High Country Trips. The Half Dome trips are July 9-12, July 23-26, July 30- Aug 2. REI to register: 1-800-622-2236. $625 for REI members.

Karen, who is also a Clinical Lab Scientist, has formed her own company Sierra Spirit LLC and offers not only backpacking trips, but also classes in Leave no Trace, wilderness first aid, etc. www.  or Email her at sierramaclure at sbcglobal dot net

#7. How many millions hiking?

According to the Outdoor Industry Association's annual Outdoor Recreation Participation Study for the United States 2006, Americans (16 and older) reported on their outdoor activities -- 76.7 million stated that they had hiked that year and 13.5 million that they had backpacked.

#8. Mt. Whitney by the Mountaineers' Route

If you've always wanted to climb Mt. Whitney, you certainly have tons of opportunities to do so with REI Adventures this year. They are doing 19 trips, the "Mt. Whitney Summit Climb" starting with a June 24-27 climb, and ending with one on Oct. 8-11. From their website, "Learn the basics of alpine climbing on a guided climb of Mt. Whitney via the mountaineer's route (class 2-4). This is not the John Muir trail, but rather a less frequented classic alpine route involving rock scrambling, cross-country hiking and, when conditions warrant, a short bit of rope team travel with crampons and ice axes and/or rock climbing on rope. Expect strenuous backpacking for three days with a total elevation gain of 5700'. You should have backpacking experience and be in strong physical shape; this is not a beginning backpacking trip. Plan to carry a pack weighing 40-50 lbs for two full days. Group gear including shared 2-person tents, stoves, fuel, food, and climbing equipment will be split among group members to be carried up the route in our backpacks. There are no porters on this trip. This is a self- supported alpine climb, with heavy packs on often steep and exposed terrain. It is a significant challenge for fit and experienced backpackers. Proper equipment and conditioning is critical to an enjoyable experience on this trip. $695 for Members, $755 for Non- Members. Contact: REI Adventures: 1-800-622-2236"

#9. Regional: Anne Marie Brown at REI

 June 9, 2009. "Great Yosemite Day Hikes and Weekend Backpacking Trips." 7:00 PM. Author of "Moon Handbooks: Yosemite" and 12 other guidebooks on California recreation, Ann Marie Brown will give a slide presentation of "some of her favorite day hikes and short backpacking trips in Yosemite, including her top picks for best peak/lake/ waterfall trails in the park". REI Berkeley Clinic Room, 1338 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702. (510) 527-4140. Free. No registration required. Additional dates/venues: Wednesday, June 10 at REI San Carlos; Tuesday, June 16 at REI Marina; Thursday, June 18 at REI Saratoga. All programs at 7PM.

#10. Regional: Tom Stienstra at REI

"Sierra Crossing and More: an Inspirational Evening with Outdoors Writer Tom Stienstra." June 17, 2009. 7 PM. Tom is outdoors columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle as well as an award-winning guidebook author. Recently he made a 70-mile crossing of the Sierra Crest, from Mount Whitney west to Sequoia National Park. In this program, Tom will entertain and enthrall us with slides and stories from his adventures. After the program, Stienstra will autograph copies of his guidebooks including the new editions of "Moon California Camping" and "Moon Northern California Camping". Free. No registration required. REI Berkeley Clinic Room, 1338 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702. (510) 527-4140. Free. No registration required. (ed. Don't miss this one!)

#11. Reminder: Upcoming Camino programs by Susan and Ralph Alcorn

. Tuesday, July 7, 2009 7:00 PM. REI Fremont, 43962 Fremont Blvd. Fremont, CA 94538. (510) 651-0305. Hiking the Camino de Santiago. Susan Alcorn, author of "Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago." Independent traveler Susan Alcorn will present a digital slide show of her five-week 500-mile trek along Spain's ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the burial place of the disciple St. James.

Come walk with Susan and Ralph through quaint medieval towns in the high mountains of the Pyrenees, across the fertile red soils of the Rioja region, to the lush green Galician Hills. Susan will give you pointers for planning your own Camino adventure, including gear, expenses, lodging and what to expect about life on this centuries-old trail. Free, no reservations required.

Thursday, July 30, 2009. REI Brentwood (brand new store!), Ste 100, 2475 Sand Creek Rd, Brentwood, CA 94513. (925) 516-3540. See program above.

12. Hint: Weight-to-calorie ratio

We recently went to one of the John Muir Trail slide shows given by Harv Wilson and Monica Beary. It was an in-depth clinic with plenty of practical tips on how to plan for a successful JMT trail hike. One of their recommendations was to look carefully at the weight-to- calorie ratio of your food. The rule they adhered to was an ounce of food had to provide 100 calories. Very important consideration if you are trying to maximize fuel and also keep your pack weight down!

13. Susan's Tales and Tips going to Monthly

After lengthy consideration of both my hiking and writing schedules, I've decided to put this newsletter on a once-a-month publishing schedule. So look for the next newsletter on July 1, 2009. Please continue to send in your items of interest to the hiking communities.

14. Reminder: National Trails Day in Saturday, June 6, 2009

Go to  for info and for a trail work project or hike in your area. American Hiking Society together with several public and private individuals launched National Trails Day® in 1993. One of the goals of the day is to bring awareness to the trails through the work projects and through scheduled hikes.

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #126, May 15, 2009

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to's about learning to dance in the rain." (author unknown) Sent in by Paul Schlarman of Bella Creativa ( )

1. National Trails Day
2. LL Bean's Outdoor Adventures
3. Bay Nature's Wow Factor
4. It's Your Back
5. "World-class Hiker," Scrambler and Family
6. Lost Blind Hiker Found Safe and Sound
7. On the Calendar -- Backpack 45's Events
8. Wine, Art Happenings, Bed & Breakfast….
9. Items of Interest Welcomed

#1. National Trails Day

Saturday, June 6, 2009 is National Trails Day and there are hundreds of opportunities to pitch in and repair or build a trail as well as a variety of hikes that you can join.

American Hiking Society together with several public and private individuals launched National Trails Day® in 1993. One of the goals of the day is to bring awareness to the trails through the work projects and through scheduled hikes. In 2007, there were more than 1,000 planned activities. If your organization wants to get involved in planning and registering an event for 2009, you can download a form on the American Hiking website or contact Heather Sable, Trail Programs Manager, at 301-565-6704 x 204 or HSable at .

According to the American Hiking Society, the United States has 200,000 miles of trails -- all of which can help contribute to our physical and mental health. Of course it's best to use them if we want to see their great benefits.

The following are some of the activities, go to  for other info.

From the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council (Region: San Francisco Bay Area) The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, Volunteers for Outdoor California, and the Muir Heritage Land Trust are working together to build 1.5 miles of new Ridge Trail on Fernandez Ranch (Martinez, CA). June 5-7 for those who want to volunteer and camp out for the weekend. When completed, this trail will be part of the Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail. Visit  for more information.

REI, Ridge Trail Council, and the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) are working together on the Eagle's Nest Trail (San Pablo, CA). The plan is to reroute a section of the trail that goes through the EBMUD's San Pablo Recreation Area, connecting Wildcat Canyon Regional Park to San Pablo Reservoir. Volunteers will also be involved in pruning and clearing brush as well as putting in signs…. Volunteers are invited to a free barbecue lunch on-site, courtesy of EBMUD, and will also receive a commemorative T-shirt and goodie bag from REI. Advance registration is required. To register, and find out additional details on where to meet and what to bring, contact REI Berkeley Outreach Specialist Amber Hoffmann, amhoffm at or (510) 527-4140 x 216.

Sonoma County Regional Parks and Ridge trail volunteers will be working on a new backpacking camp in Santa Rosa, CA. The Merganser Backpacking campground is part of the Ridge trail's effort to allow multi-day hiking or riding trips on the Ridge Trail. "No prior experience necessary, all tools and project supervision, gloves, snacks and drinks provided. Work is from 9am to 1pm."

"Directions: Meet in the Pythian Road parking lot: Take Hwy 12 East from Santa Rosa toward Kenwood. Turn left onto Pythian Road (Pythian Road will be the first stoplight you encounter after you pass the main Oakmont entrance.) After about 100 yards, Pythian Road forks. Stay to your right. The road becomes wooded and then you pass through a yellow gate. Stay on the road and you will come to the parking lot in about a 1/4 of a mile. For more information contact John Ryan, 707-565-3356 or jryan1 at"

#2. LLBean's Outdoor Adventures

I've been a customer of LL Bean (based in Maine) for years because of their excellent customer service and the quality of their merchandise. I've just noticed, however, that they also offer a wide variety of outings for those of us who love active sports. Check out their website ( or ) if you live near one of their stores and you may find an Outdoor Discovery School adventure that interests you (hiking, kayaking, fishing, leadership skills, wilderness first aid, etc.)

#3. Bay Nature's Wow factor

Bay Nature Magazine, which is an outstanding publication with articles about our region's natural wonders, also has a captivating E- newsletter, Bay Nature Connections. If you live in the S.F.Bay Area, you'll find its articles and news informative and helpful when planning your next outing on your own or with their trip leaders. You can go to: 

#4. Kathy Morey on back care

Kathy Morey, experienced backpacker, sends the following tips after reading last issue's suggestions about back care. "How I DO concur with the pack-lifting/pack-doffing advice! For a sore back, I've often found that the simple exercise of keeping the lower body stationary while swiveling the upper body as far as you can comfortably go to the left and then to the right, for 50-100 times, temporarily loosens and relaxes the back very nicely. Another exercise (maybe following the foregoing "loosening up" exercise) is to lie flat on your sleeping pad; bring your knees to your chest and hold for a little as you try to flatten out your back; release; and then repeat several times. I think of it as "ironing my back straight"!

[Susan notes: with backs, as with most body "parts," prevention of injuries is more fun than recovery!]

#5. Mary Chambers - Scrambler - World Class Hiker

Glad to see that the S.F. Chronicle, (San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, 5/5/09) gave Mary Chambers some of the recognition she and her family have earned.  Mary, known as Scrambler in hiking circles, was only 10 years old when she and her father, Gary Chambers, walked the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2004. Her mother, Barbara Egbert, was part of the team most of the way, but had to leave the trail in Washington due to injuries. The current article tells of the original hike, and also last summer's 120-mile PCT hike in Washington, which allowed Barbara to complete her journey, too. Barbara wrote a book, entitled, "Zero Days," about their PCT hike. It's an inspiring book and a must read for every family with hiking or backpacking interests.

#6. Blind Hiker

Kenneth Knight is the production manager for Backpacking Light (  ) an online backpacking website for those who want to travel light. Knight, who is legally blind, became lost for several days after stepping off the trail near the Punchbowl Shelter on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. He had been hiking solo, but was meeting up with a group of hikers most evenings at the shelters along the way. On April 26, he stepped off the trail and almost immediately lost his way. He was also out of water, so he went downhill to find a stream and set up camp. Initially he set small signal fires, but they went unnoticed and no one realized that he was missing at that point. When he missed a flight home to Ann Arbor, Michigan, a search was begun. Three days after the search was begun he was found because a signal fire that he started got away from him and turned into a two-acre brush fire. Firefighters found him and contained the fire on Saturday, May 2, 2009.

Knight is considering using a satellite beacon that can signal a lost or injured hiker’s location to rescuers, but he also said that devices can fail. Having the skills to survive is what's most important, he said. Kenneth is a highly experienced hiker and backpacker. Read his blog at 

#7. Upcoming REI Camino programs

Susan and Ralph Alcorn: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 7:00 PM. REI Fremont, 43962 Fremont Blvd. Fremont, CA 94538. (510) 651-0305. Hiking the Camino de Santiago. Susan Alcorn, author of "Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago." Independent traveler Susan Alcorn will present a digital slide show of her five-week 500-mile trek along Spain's ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the burial place of the disciple St. James.

Come walk with Susan and Ralph through quaint medieval towns in the high mountains of the Pyrenees, across the fertile red soils of the Rioja region, to the lush green Galician Hills. Susan will give you pointers for planning your own Camino adventure, including gear, expenses, lodging and what to expect about life on this centuries-old trail. Free, no reservations required.

Thursday, July 30, 2009. REI Brentwood (brand new store!), Ste 100, 2475 Sand Creek Rd, Brentwood, CA 94513. (925) 516-3540. See program above.

#8. Wine, Art Happenings, B&B at Mendocino

I recently enjoyed a press trip to Mendocino, CA. At my blog , you'll be able to read about my wine tour in Anderson Valley and my stay in Elk at a ritzy bed and breakfast (a refreshing contrast to my sleeping bag and foam pad). My next entry is going to be about an exhilarating sea kayaking tour, and a walk in Jughandle Reserve to see the unique Pygmy forest.

#9. Items of Interest Welcomed

I very much enjoy sharing news of your adventures, and forwarding suggestions or hints, to the hiking, backpacking, and Camino communities. Send them to backpack45 at and we'll all benefit.

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #125, May 1, 2009

"All great things are done for their own sake." Robert Frost.

1. May 1 Deadline for Early Registration AT Festival
2. Backpacker Magazine Site for Hiking Companion
3. Camino de Santiago Weather & Adventures
4. Healing Your Back
5. Pilgrimage to Chimayo, New Mexico
6. Mendocino Hiking Group
7. Slide program: "Tips for Hiking the John Muir Trail"
8. Golden Gate Audubon Hikes

#1 May 1, 2009, was the deadline for early registration for the Appalachian Trail Festival and Biennial Conference in Castleton, VT

Register today at to receive your discount and guarantee your reservation at the "Best Deal" in Vermont this summer. (word comes from Bob Almand, Chair ATC Board of Directors)

#2. Backpacker Magazine forum for hiking companions

Backpacker Magazine has a site where you can search, or post, for hiking companions.;f=822107219 

#3. Camino de Santiago Route Aragones weather

In mid-April, there was a message on the Gocamino forum from Glenn Jilek entitled, "Difficult Day. It serves as a reminder that weather is an important thing to consider when planning a hike — in particular a long-distance one. Always check current conditions and always have an alternate plan.

Glenn spent the night in Jaca (on the Aragones route, not on the Camino Francés) and initially teamed up with two Germans to walk the Camino. To start their hike, they planned to take a bus to Somport to reach the border, which was north and in the Pyrenees. The night before the group headed out, there was thunder, lightning and pouring rain in Jaca and they wondered if there might be snow in the higher elevations.

The Germans dropped out when they saw that there was indeed snow in Somport, but Glenn and two new companions continued their trek (now going downhill) through blizzard conditions and new wet snow. In time, the snow became cold rain and the path often a slippery stream.

He reached the small village of Villanua just as it began to hail. He found the refugios and hostels closed. Luckily, Glenn encountered some trail angels, who helped him secure a place to stay in the next village and he survived to tell his tale.

After Glenn's posting, there were many comments — some called him foolish, some said that others should not be so quick to judge, but that having the proper gear (clothing, etc.) is critical. I think it's important to keep in mind that the Camino extends almost 500 miles across Spain and when you hike it, you can expect to encounter a wide variety of terrain and weather.

#4. Healing your back

Another gocamino posting was from Robert, a man who was having problems with his back and wasn't sure how his trip would go. That spurred me to respond, because I have encountered similar problems just before highly anticipated hikes.
"Hi Robert,
As one who suffers from back problems from time to time, I understand how uncertain you are feeling. There is no doubt in my mind that stress adds to the situation. I've been slated to go on several trips over the years where the back problem came up just before the hike/ snowshoeing adventure. My chiropractor has worked miracles more than once enabling me to forge ahead every time."

What I have found is that those back twinges serve as a warning sign that something is out of alignment (or whatever), and they take some time to recover; for me it's usually a 3-10 days process. Basically (in non-med terms because I'm not a doctor) there's an inflammation that's occurred that needs time to heal--so it is important during that recovery process to ease up and use good body mechanics: (1) not over-reaching to grab something from the top shelf (2) bending your knees when lifting objects rather than bending over from the waist."

When you are driving or flying, get out of your seat and stretch at least once an hour. I have found ibuprofen to be quite effective at relieving pain and inflammation — also icing (some people like warm compresses) and Tiger Balm can help (although Tiger Balm smells really weird so you might not want to wear it on the airplane)."

Hiking (according to my chiropractor, my doctor, and me) is probably the best thing you can do for your back. It sounds like you have reduced your pack's weight so I don't have to mention the importance of doing so. Good luck to you!" Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

Deborah added another helpful suggestion: "…[importance of] being careful when putting on and taking off your pack — try to avoid a twisting motion when lifting the pack up or down to put it on — if you can set the pack on a surface (a table, chair or bed or a half wall) and back directly into the straps, pull the pack toward you and then stand up — much easier on the back than lifting the pack with one hand and swinging it around. Same thing in reverse for removal…."

#5. Chimayo Pilgrimage

Greg, who I wrote about last issue, completed his hike to Chimayo, New Mexico. This is his chief supporter's (his wife) report. "Greg walked 7.5 miles on Wednesday, 9 miles yesterday and 8 miles today. He is so glad that he made it the whole way. We had a number of concerns as Wednesday approached. Even though Greg had been doing a lot of walking, was he really ready to walk so many miles in three days? The road from Los Alamos was windy with not much of a shoulder, would Greg be safe? Greg made me promise not to show the pictures of the road to his mother before he embarked on that walk. Would the weather cooperate? Greg wanted me to walk the last part with him, but how would we get back to our car if I walked with him? "

"So today, Greg started walking from the Santa Cruz church at 7 am with the temperature about 30 degrees, but there was no wind. Our plan was for me to meet him in a couple of hours at a church 6 miles down the road and 2 miles from Santuario de Chimayo. I would walk with him the last two miles and hopefully God would find a way to get us back to our car."

"Greg is wearing a Chimayo hat that he will give to Pat, he is carrying a walking stick that he will give to Sasha, and he is wearing two crosses: one for Nancy and one for Dick's wife, Virginia. He is walking for them and I will be walking for him."

"It took Greg over two and a half hours to walk the 6 miles to our meeting place. The first thing he wanted to do was take off his down jacket. The temperature was now in the 60's."

"It took me a long time to drive to our meeting place because there were hundreds of pilgrims along the roads. There were a number of stations where pilgrims were given water, apples, oranges and bananas. There were many people saying "God bless you." Most of the people were young, but there were older people too. There were people pushing strollers, people pushing wheel chairs, groups of people wearing tee shirts with a picture of a loved one, people with their dogs, people jogging, and people smoking as they walked. Most people were walking steadily and peacefully. Occasionally someone would have earphones on listening to music, but that was rare. Most people were in small groups, but there were people alone too."

"As we approached the Santuario de Chimayo, there was a medical team waiting to give assistance. So far, they were mainly treating blisters. The police were obviously present. There were no more stands with free water and fruit. We had entered the area of venders. Some people set up stands along the road, others sold out of their vans. There were fruits, junk foods, T-shirts, crucifixes, jewelry and CD's. "
"We passed the vendors and entered Santuario de Chimayo.

"There was a four hour wait to enter the sanctuary. A small room at the side contains the dirt that has been blessed. Some believe that the dirt has healing properties and there are stories of people leaving their crutches in the room because they have no need for them any more."

"We sat at the Santuario talking to people and met a woman from Santa Cruz, California named Connie. We talked for a while. I asked her how far she had walked and she said that she had an injury and a handicapped placard and that she had walked from the front of the parking lot. After about an hour at the Santuario, Greg said we had better head home and we started our two-mile walk back to the car. Connie asked me if she could give us a ride to our car. God had found a way to get us back to our car. We only had to walk to the front of the parking lot and she drove us to our car."

#6. Mendocino Hiking Group

Regional: Mendocino, CA. "I am a member of Weekly Wanderers [and of the Sierra Club] who has moved up to Mendocino area. I have formed a hiking group up here and am always interested in those who want to join us on our hikes. We, too, hike every Wednesday AM. I started the group with an 8:30AM hike start but found that up here, certainly in the winter, it is better to start at 9:30AM. I have about 30-35 people on my email list but only 3-5 who regularly hike. I plan all the hikes, but am hoping that over time the group will grow and others will also plan and lead the hikes. If you know anyone in this area who might be interested in participating in my group please let me know. I miss the S. F. Bay Area group and hike with them when I am in the area and can. Regards,
Nancy Banker
E-mail: nancy "at sign"

#7. REI program on JMT

 "Tips for Thru-hiking the John Muir Trail" The John Muir Trail, from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney, stretches for 211 miles through some of the most spectacular wilderness lands in the lower 48 states-Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams and John Muir Wildernesses, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Tonight, veteran backpackers Monica Beary and Harvey Wilson will share tips on how to plan and successfully complete a thru-hike of the JMT. They'll introduce you to the trail with slides of their 20-day adventure, and discuss route-planning, gear, foot care, food/nutrition, hygiene, and physical conditioning. Free, no registration required. Tuesday, May 19, 2009 7:00 PM. REI Berkeley Clinic Room. (510) 527-4140 Wednesday, May 13, 2009. 7 pm, at REI Corte Madera Thursday, May 21, 2009. 7 pm, at REI Brentwood

#8. Golden Gate Audubon Society

Many upcoming trips and hikes. If you can not reach the person leading the hike, contact Pam Belchamber at 510-549-2839. Audubon website: 
a). Pt. Reyes National Seashore (Marin County, CA). Sunday, May 31, 8:30 AM - 1 PM. Meets at Five Brooks Pond and is looking for nesting landbirds and Wood Ducks. Then nearby to find Pileated Woodpeckers, etc. Shady Douglas firs, climb 600-800 feet (about 4 miles rt.). Leader: Emilie Strauss, desertpeach at (510) 540-8749. No reservations necessary. [Bring lunch and water if you so desire].
b) Mono Lake and Eastern Sierra (CA). July 10-12 Friday-Sunday. Meet at Mono Lake County Park at 8 AM Friday, July 10. Visiting the west and south shores of Mono lake, Lundy and Lee Vining Canyon, and Saddlebag Lake. On Sunday, the hike will take the group over 10,000 feet, so participants should be in good condition. Limit 15 people [reservations required]. Emilie Strauss, desertpeach at (510) 540-8749.

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #124, April 15, 2009.

"If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring…" from "If I Had My Life to Live Over" attributed to Nadine Stair.

1. How the Natural World Turns
2. Regarding Creek Crossing…
3. Topo Maps
4. Peregrine Falcons
5. Pilgrimage in New Mexico
6. Sil's Camino Site
7. Star Light, Star Bright- National Dark Sky Week
8. Lyrid Meteor Shower
9. How Fit Can You Be?
10. Taking Transit to Trails
11. This Weekend's Camino/Backpacking Programs by Susan Alcorn

#1. How the Kestrel Turns

Kestrels, which are small falcons, fancy chubby voles (or other small critters) for lunch. The question is--how do they find them? Turns out that voles dribble their urine as they run about clearing runways through the grass. Their urine fluoresces in ultraviolet and kestrels can see in the UV spectrum. A further advantage to the hunting kestrel is provided by those grasses that host fungi that make the voles' urine fluoresce even more intensely in the UV spectrum. ("The Eye of the Beholder," Jack Laws, Bay Nature April-June 2009).

#2. Regarding Creek Crossing

I found a very good article that was originally submitted by Mtnned entitled, "Regarding Creek Crossing." If you are going on any long distance trails this year, in particular in the spring, you need to consider how to do it safely. (  )

Regarding Creek Crossings
(from the PCT forum, Tue Jan 20, 2009, Mtnned)

1. You do not have to cross the creek where the trail does.
2. Look for dry, above water crossings first (naturally!).
3. Select a wet crossing route that is calm, shallow, has a good footing, and no bad run-out (rapids, rocks, etc.)
4. The creek will be lower in the mornings where fed by snow melt above.
5. The creek may be narrower and easier to cross uphill of you, so go check it out.
6. Always probe ahead when crossing on snow bridges.
7. Keep as much of your clothes dry as possible; strip to shorts if needed. Float your pack in a bag if necessary.
8. Do not hurry. It will be cold, even freezing, but don't be hasty as you cross, especially with unsure footing.
9. Prepare for a quick re-warming on the other side and a change of clothes as needed.
10. Multi-person crossings can be safer.

Safety is your primary concern:
-Route & Technique:
-Above Water:
-Choose a route where you can walk or crawl across a log.
-Select a path where you can rock-hop from one to another to get across. Beware of potentially slippery surfaces (snow, ice, moss, little rocks on big ones, glacial polish, and wet rock in general. Grab bushes and branches as you go for balance.

In The Water:
-Protect your Balance before you start across:
-Choose a path that offers the best visible underwater footing, say on sand or gravel instead of rocks. If you can't see the footing because of rapids, search the creek uphill for calmer waters.
-Use a long, strong pole, walking sticks, or branch as a "third leg" downstream. Learn how to use it to keep you from falling. If you use your walking sticks, make sure the extension locks are tight; a sudden collapse may mean you'll be swimming. It is advisable to use both together for their combined strength.
-Cross in groups, arm-in-arm, perpendicular to the current, each person helping each other's balance.
-Assure that you have optimal traction and predictable stability while crossing:
-Whenever possible, wear some form of footwear that will protect your feet from sharp submerged objects while able to maximize traction and adherence to the slippery rocks that live there. Often you will not be able to see where you are hoping to place your next step, so you will "feel" ahead for a good place to set your foot. Sometimes that place will be in a wedge or crevice between two rocks. In this case you may wish you were wearing a shoe with a hard, stiff rubber sole so you can straddle the wedge without twisting the ankle and losing your balance or experiencing the pain of your foot being squished between the two rocks and needing to make a fast next step to get out of it, sometimes to a place that was no better or even worse.
-Loosen pack belt and shoulder straps. Should you loose your balance and fall, you don't want your pack's weight to drag you under.
Snow Bridges:
-Never assume they can hold your weight. Always visualize both sides of the bridge for thickness and ice.
-Always probe ahead for strength and thickness. You will need greater and thicker if you are "posting" in boots versus walking on snowshoes or skis.
-Before crossing be aware of what it will take to get out of the water should you fall through.
-Always be ready to make camp and dry out if you survive even partial immersion in winter conditions.

After Crossing:
-On Snow, immediately put on warm, dry socks and your dry hiking boots. If you had to strip to shorts to make the crossing, get out of any and all wet clothing and replace with warm and dry. Your legs will probably be numb and you freezing. It is not advisable to try to dry out your clothes on your body while hiking thereafter. Do not take a chance on hypothermia. Keep your boots dry. Should you suffer full or partial immersion in snow-fed waters surrounded by more snow, but with sunny, dry ground or rocks nearby, and you still have your pack, quickly scramble to them and change clothes. If the weather is cold and cloudy, make camp and warm up until dry.
-On Dry Trail and with summer temperatures, it is advisable to keep your hiking footwear on while crossing the creek (as it is relatively easy to cut or injure your feet when you do a bare-foot crossing), then walk the boots dry the rest of the afternoon. The next option is to change to dry socks after crossing and walk the boots dry. The last option is to carry some form of additional footwear just for creek crossings. Those we have seen along the trail have been very lightweight, flexible foam versions that may or may not give you the foot protection and stability required to make safe and predictable crossings on all expected underwater surfaces. Whatever you use, make sure they stay on; loosing a shoe while crossing can be dangerous, too, besides embarrassing and trip-ending (although humorous)!

#3. topo maps

On the evolving website (not com) (from which the stream crossing article above was reprinted), Peter "OC" Dascalos provides many useful tools for backpackers. It's the site for "Trail Beta and Free Topo Maps" including: Pacific Crest Trail - Journals, Pictures, and Maps about the Trail John Muir Trail - Trail Beta for the premier trail in the world! Outdoor Adventures - The list below is just a few of the trips that OTT has trail information and maps for planning and enjoying your trip! * Sierra High Route * Lowest to Highest - Death Valley to Whitney * White Mountain, CA * Big Rock 

#4. Peregrine Falcons

The peregrine falcons are back in San Francisco's financial district at Main and Mission streets and the pair's four eggs should be hatching, if they haven't already done so, momentarily. There's a webcam watching the activities that is monitored by Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group (University of California at Santa Cruz).  Note: even if you don't have the software to watch the activities, you can still read the journal updates.

#5. Pilgrimage in New Mexico

Ralph and I have been very focused on the pilgrimage routes in Europe connected with the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrimages, of course, happen in many other parts of the world--including the United States. The following letter, about the pilgrimage in Chimayo, New Mexico, was written by Greg Horner and sent to us by Fran and Vic Smith.

Fellow Pilgrims on the journey through life,

"Over 20 years ago I was in No. New Mexico for spring break, which that year was Easter Week. Wherever I went, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Madrid, Los Alamos, I intermittently saw pedestrians walking along the side of the roads and highways. Many had walking sticks and they seemed to be hiking. They were literally miles from anywhere, but appeared to be in no distress, and they were all walking in one direction: north. At the hotel in Santa Fe I asked and was told that these walkers were on the Pilgrimage to Chimayo, to a small chapel in that small village."

"Before the Spanish colonized No. New Mexico 400 years ago, the native population had believed that the springs and even the soil of this area had curative and healing properties. The Spanish incorporated this belief into their local lore and the 200-yr-old Santuario de Chimayo is now often called the Lourdes of America. For decades visitors have come to the Santuario hoping and praying for relief from their pains and cures for the afflictions. Many believe that their faith has been justified and you one can see many abandoned crutches and other medical aids in the small chapel with the 'magic dirt.'"

"I formed no conclusion about those miraculous claims, but I was interested in this very human activity. And just as one might, someday, want to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, or travel through No. Spain on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, I wanted to some day make a Pilgrimage to Chimayo. Now I wanted to be "practical" too, after all Chimayo is at about 8000 ft. and can be very cool (even snow) in the spring. Therefore I wanted to attempt this in a year where Easter was late. This year Easter is Apr. 12. I plan to make the pilgrimage this year walking approx. 31 miles over three days: Apr. 8, 9, 10. I'll walk from Los Alamos to Otowi, then from Otowi to Espanola, and on Friday, with an early start, from Espanola to Chimayo hoping to arrive before noon."

"But doing the pilgrimage to ask for a divine cure was not part of my thinking years ago when I initially gave it thought. And even now, after having fought with cancer for almost 5 years, that would not be my first supplication. While I certainly would love to be cancer free myself, I believe that if God can miraculously solve problems, it would be a higher priority for Him to first end the killing and hate we see through out our world, end the starvation and lack of clean water for thousands of children, and reveal a brighter path for those feeling intense loneliness and despair."

"So why go? For one thing, I like the challenge. Cancer treatments have left my legs weakened, but I can still walk if only slowly. A year ago, I was in the hospital for almost three months and could only shuffle about with the aid of a walker. Since then I've been gradually increasing my strength with this pilgrimage as one goal in mind. I've been walking every day, riding the exercise bike three times a week, and joyfully regaining much of the weight I lost last year. (Ginny's wonderful cooking really helps with that last part!)"

Greg's letter continues with the message that on his walking stick will be the name of four people he cares about who have been affected by lymphoma, Nancy, Dick, Sasha, and Sue and he asks for prayers for all of them. I will include more information on Greg's pilgrimage as I receive it.

#6. Sil's Camino Blog

A website recommendations--this one by Sil who contributes her thoughts on the Camino forums frequently. Her blog is  and I especially like her intro message.

"Welcome to my blog! I am a born - again walker and this is a journal of my wonderful walks. I'm planning on many more. 'We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.' Teilhard de Chardin (Amawalker, runner-up in the 2009 S A Travel Blog of the Year Award)

#7.National Dark Sky Week

According to the Cal Academy's magazine, about 6,000 stars are visible to the unaided eye when we are lucky enough to be in a location where light pollution doesn't interfere. According to their Skyguide article (Spring 2009), "Most light pollution is caused by inefficiently-designed fixtures that spray light sideways and upward, instead of down to the ground where it’s most useful. National Dark Sky Week, April 20, 2009, is part of an effort to educate the public about light pollution. The week, started in 2003, is to encourage us to turn off unnecessary lights so that we can see more of our wonder- filled sky.

#8. Lyrid Meteor Shower "approaching."

The peak of the meteor shower will be on April 21st. We have a waning crescent moon, so conditions are most promising from midnight to predawn of April 22nd.

#9. Backpacker Magazine on Aging

The current Backpacker Magazine (May 2009) has a "keeper" article on aging and fitness -- how we age physically (what's inevitable and what's "voluntary"!) and how we can optimize our fitness no matter what age. Includes recommended activities and foods for each age group.

#10. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area.

 The current issue (April-June) of Bay Nature magazine has a special pullout map showing how to use transit to many trailheads in our region. The map gives a helpful overview of where thirteen parks in our region are located and detailed bus, BART, rail, and ferry connections. Also in this issue is a beautiful collection of poetry, history, and prints by Tom Killion and Gary Snyder from their new book "Tamalpais Walking." (   )

Killion and Snyder will be reading and giving a slideshow presentation from "Tamalpais Walking" at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA 94925. Free and open to the public; for more information call (415) 927-0960.

Additional shows: April 29, 2009. Avid Reader Bookstore, 617 Second St., Davis, CA 95616. 7:30 p.m Free and open to the public; for more information call (530) 758-4040. April 30, 2009. Rakestraw Books, 409 Railroad Ave., Danville, CA 94526. 7:00 p.m. Free and open to the public; for more information call (925) 837-7337 There are additional readings scheduled--Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Menlo Park, Pt. Reyes Station--go to  for additional information on the book, the authors, and their events.

#11 Final reminder about this weekends' book events by Ralph and Susan Alcorn.

April Programs on Women's Backpacking and the Camino de Santiago: Friday, April 17, 2009. Sierra Club, Yokuts Chapter (Modesto). In her program "Hiking Odyssey," Susan Alcorn will present a digital slide program with photos from her hikes in the Sierra, Europe, and (perhaps) Patagonia. Location: Community Room at the Modesto Police Department (600 - 10th St). Refreshments and socializing begin at 6:45 p.m. The meeting and program start at 7:00 p.m. Non-members always welcome! (510-339-3441).

Sunday, April 19, 2009. "Journeying in time and place". Margaret Murray reading from " ", a magical novel of the ancient Anasazi and post-9/11 Silicon Valley. Susan Alcorn, reading from "Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago", a travel essay of adventure in Spain. Free. Bird & Beckett Books & Records, 653 Chenery Street, San Francisco. (415) 586-3733. 2:30-4:00, followed by reggae music by Heartical Roots ($5-$10).

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #123, April 1, 2009.

1. Trekking in Patagonia Report
2. Blog entries on Patagonia
3. Camino Construction Poses Threat
4. Views of Mt. Kilimanjaro
5. Earth Day Activities
6. New Address for Fixing Your Feet Newsletter/Blog
7. Regional: Reminder about EBRPD Trail Challenge
8. Butterfly Invasion Welcomed
9. Regional: Berkeley Walks in April
10. Opinion: Wysi Wipes
11. A Solomon's Seal Advocate
12. Backpack45's Upcoming Programs

#1. Patagonia Report

Ralph and I have just returned from three weeks in Patagonia (both Chile and Argentina). If I had my druthers, I'd still be there! What an incredibly beautiful, interesting, and varied region of the world it is. Briefly: we flew into Santiago, Chile, then went to Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine National Park, El Calafate, El Chalten, El Parque Nacional Los Galcieres (including Fitz Roy), and ended in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Both Santiago and Buenos Aires are north of Patagonia, but are where most flights of the U.S. fly. From those cities, you make your way south by shorter flights, bus, etc.)

Our main objectives were to see the penguins near Punta Arenas and to hike in Torres del Paine. Most hikers to Parque Torres del Paine have a relatively short period of time available and hike all (or part of) the so-called "W" route, which takes you to some of the higher viewpoints in the park for viewing the Towers of Paine, the Horns of Paine, and Lago and Grey Glacier. Depending on the parts of the "W" hiked, this could take 1-5 days. Our plan was to spend more time and get into the less visited regions of the park by trekking a 9-10 day circuit around the park.

Day Three of the trek: We woke, at Camp Dickson, to gray skies. No surprise there, most days looked that way with no hint of what was to follow. We ate in the refugio--the cornflakes, scrambled eggs, toast with jam, juice, and tea--as usual. It was the fifth day of the same breakfast menu and I was beginning to feel my stomach turn when I saw eggs.

By the time we were ready to go, it was drizzling. We put on our wet weather gear (an interesting combination of rainjacket and pack cover) and set out. Our path was soon into beech forest. The trees were a help because they buffeted the wind and rain, but every time I thought the rain had stopped and threw back my hood, the water-laden branches would drop cold water down the back of my neck. Yet it was a pleasant walk and lunchtime was spent watching the antics of several nearby woodpeckers.

We were gaining elevation, but not unduly fast. On some of the steeper parts we found steps that made the going easier, but most of the time was slow going because the trail was quickly turning into a watercourse and we had to look for solid ground amongst the puddles. Occasional stream crossings added both challenge and excitement. Do I wade through, attempt to jump, or trust the logs others had dragged into position?

For some reason, probably because of the large amount of time spent avoiding watertraps, our ascent that was supposed to take four hours took almost twice as long as we expected. We had allowed time beyond what the guidebook suggested on each of the previous days because we hike slower than most people, but we hadn't been very far off the mark. Nevertheless, we had plenty of time to cover the miles.

Eventually we reached the uppermost heights of the forest--timberline-- and stood looking at a glacial moraine and the glaciers and peaks around us. Our next task was to get over the bank of moraine. The wind was whipping through as we tried to pick out the path. Fluorescent pink markers indicated some of the twists and turns, but seemed to disappear at the times most needed. Numerous faint trails of others led various ways, but we settled on a course. I began to tire from my struggle against the wind and having to contend with the blowing ice from nearby ridges. Finally I did what seems in retrospect to have been a dumb move, I sat down. Dumb because getting up was even more difficult. All I knew was that I was getting increasingly exhausted from my exertion and I was not making any progress.

I sat on the slope of the moraine contemplating my near future. All I imagine was spending my night there exposed on the rock, because I couldn't see any escape. Not a good moment! Ralph, who was ahead, could see where we had to go, but came back to help. He decided to take his pack on ahead, leave it on the other side of the rocky barrier, and come back for mine.
After making it over that obstacle, we were less in the blast of wind and continued on a bit higher and on to Camp Perros. Just before we reached camp, we met the camp host who was coming downhill. I asked how much further it was and thought he said, "It's only 40 minutes." That was not what I wanted to hear, but in a short time we were in camp and I realized that what he really had said was, "only 40 meters further." What a world of difference.
We dumped our gear in a campsite. Ralph began to set up the tent and I went over to the warming hut expecting to be the only people there. I opened the door of the green-painted metal hut and was hit with a blast of warm air and the sight of two dozen people sitting at picnic tables cooking dinner or standing by the woodburning stove. Clothes were strung everywhere around the perimeter. Everyone--Germans, Dutch, Chileans, Spanish, and Americans--was speaking English. Meeting everyone and sharing stories made it one of the best nights of the trip.

#2. Patagonia Blog

Ralph has posted information several times about how we planned our Patagonia trip. If you are interested, go to his blog and read through.
He has also posted a very short, and funny, set of clips of the Magallenic Penguins that we saw on Isla Magdalena (near Punta Arenas). 

#3. Camino Construction Threat

Construction threatens the integrity of the Via de La Plata route of the Camino de Santiago (Spain). Helena, a pilgrim friend from Portugal, sends the following: "Camino friends, Some sad news from the Camino. Proponents of the "BALBOA REFINERY," seek government permission to build directly on the Via de la Plata, the proposal is currently in the environmental impact assessment stage, this has raised the voices of those who oppose the refinery. A protest march that took place on the Via de la Plata, between the towns of Santos Maimona and Villafranca de los Barros, on March 7th 2009. More information can be found on the website of the Galician Friends of the Camino de Santiago:  (It's in Spanish, but you can translate it by using Google features).

#4. Kilimanjaro WebCam

Tusker Trails, the outfit that Ralph, Grace, and I--and later Marcy-- went with, to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro sent a webcamera address so that all can enjoy seeing the mountain.  Tusker Trails, Tel USA: 1.775.833.9700, Fx: 1.775.833.9704,

#5. EARTH DAY activities and opportunities abound

Here is a sampling: CALIFORNIA State Parks Foundation ( On Saturday, April 25th thousands of Californians will visit their local state park and show their commitment to our planet and parks by participating in CSPF's 12th Annual Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup.
CSPF will fund environmental improvement projects at 29 state parks across California. Volunteers are being sought to help plant native trees and plants, restore trails and wildlife habitats and clean up beaches and parklands.
Last year, 3,245 volunteers statewide pitched in on Earth Day to make a difference in our parks, including nearly 1,400 Pacific Gas and Electric Company employees, friends and family. The grants provided by sponsors, and the volunteer labor, play an essential role in alleviating the strain faced by state parks due to continuing budget cuts and staffing shortfalls.
Earth Day provides an opportunity to get involved in your local community, while helping state parks with long overdue maintenance and improvement projects. Please take a look at the 29 project sites throughout California and come out and join us! 50 Francisco St, Suite 110 San Francisco, CA 94133 714 West Olympic Blvd., Suite 717 Los Angeles, CA 90015 1510 J Street, Suite 120 Sacramento, CA 95814 Go To
EAST BAY REGIONAL PARKS: Washington Park, Alameda: Music, exhibitors, games, and crafts guarantee an action-packed visit to Alameda's family-fun Earth Day Festival. Improve Earth's' health: pledge to pick-up 75 pieces of trash in honor of EBRPD's 75th anniversary during a 1/2-hour Naturalist-led beach walk at 1pm! Visit Crab Cove Visitor Center at 3:15pm: see over 20 bay organisms in five aquariums being fed while you watch. Parking fees apply where charged. Disabled accessible. This is a drop in program; no registration is required. For information, call (510) 521-6887.
Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline: Restoration Project. Join other volunteers in helping to clean up our beautiful bay! The Park District, Save the Bay, the Audubon Society and other groups are co- sponsors of this special work effort. Volunteers will remove trash and non-native vegetation at Martin L King Jr Regional Shoreline in Oakland. Bags and gloves are available. Meet at the Damon Slough Staging Area. Ages 6+. For more information call (510) 544-2515.
Ardenwood, Fremont, CA: Let's make a difference by rollin' up our sleeves and getting to work! Come help us improve the overwintering site of our monarch butterflies by planting eucalyptus trees in our grove. Learn why this particular habitat is so important to these fascinating insects. Reg. Required: 1-888-EBPARKS (1-888-327-2757). Option 2,3. Ardenwood admission fee applies.

#6. FixingYourFeet new addr

John Vonhof, author of "Fixing Your Feet," has created a new Fixing Your Feet Blog at www.FixingYourFeet. com. This blog will replace his previous Fixing Your Feet Ezine and result in one web location for all of his content related to foot care, footwear, product reviews, articles, editorials, and photos. If you wish to subscribe to the new Fixing Your Feet Blog, sign up at 

#7. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area.

East Bay Regional Parks Trails Challenge 2009 has begun! This year, it will be a year-round program, focusing on seasonal hiking. The challenge remains the same: complete 5 of the 20 trails in the book, or 26.2 miles before December 1, 2009 to receive your commemorative pin.
"Do to our efforts to make Trails Challenge more eco-friendly, the program is completely online. Visit and click on the Trails Challenge logo to learn more or sign up for the program. Sign up by Sunday, April 12 to receive your free organic T-shirt." Trails Challenge is brought to you by the East Bay Regional Park District, Regional Parks Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente.*

#8. Butterflies Fluttering By En Masse.

Marianne, of El Cerrito, sent an article from San Jose's Mercury Times (Lisa M. Krieger, 3/30/09),"Vast butterfly migration reported in the Bay Area."
"Like autumn leaves blowing across a spring landscape, millions of small orange butterflies are fluttering through the Bay Area." These are painted ladies and this year has brought a spectacular migration to the delicate creatures.
According the experts, painted ladies hatch from eggs laid in the deserts of southern Californian and of northern Mexico and have to fly three days to reach the Bay Area. Their migration begins as their food supply to the south dries up and they head here seeking feeding plants such as thistles, mallows, and fiddleneck. They will fly as long as their body fat (that's what makes the yellow splotch on your car's windshield) holds out--that's their fuel. They will also mate during their migration and it is their offspring who will continue up the Pacific Coast to Oregon and Washington.
Last year, when Ralph and I were backpacking in August near Crater Lake, Oregon, we saw their mass migration. As we were heading north on the trail, a constant stream of butterflies fluttered by us headed south. They were in such great numbers that the Klamath Falls newspaper reported on the phenomenon.

#9. Regional: Berkeley Pathways:

Saturday, April 11 Rose Walk and Tamalpais Road, led by John Underhill 10 AM to Noon. Members- $8; Non-members- $10. BHS. members' season pass- $30. For reservations and starting point, call (510) 848-0181.
Tour a historical "Hopkins Terrace Number Four" neighborhood, Mason- McDuffie's "Most Beautiful Upland Residence Park." Discover some of the history, architecture and geology of the neighborhood, including Codornices Park, Berryman Reservoir and Rose Walk. There are some very difficult and STEEP stairs to negotiate. Not recommended for folks with walking or balance challenges.
Saturday, April 18 The Radical Sixties and People's Park, led by Dale Smith 10 AM to Noon. Members- $8; Non-members- $10. BHS members' season pass- $30. For reservations and starting point, call (510) 848-0181.
The Sixties and Seventies were tumultuous times, especially in Berkeley. What happened here had a profound impact on the nation. On the day before the 40th anniversary of the building of People's Park, we will wander through history, starting with the Free Speech Movement, taking note of local landmarks that speak to those times.

#10. Product reviews:Wysi Wipes

I originally mentioned Wysi(tm) Wipes in the March 1 newsletter. Claudia had written, "I'm writing to share a nifty little cleaning aid for those long stretches on the trail between showers: they're called Wysi Wipes, they're the size and weight of an Alka-Seltzer tablet, they unfurl to lovely chemical-free cleaning clothes! They are super cheap: 100 are $12. (Skin Care for Athletes is a wonderful co.) They are biodegradable, although I pack them out as required in sensitive areas." Claudia bought them at: "Each individual wipe weighs 2 grams each and comes in re-sealable bags of 12 for $2.50 or 100 for $ $11.95 (so doing the math, the larger bag weighs about 7 oz.)." You can order from the website above, at Container Stores, or from many Bed, Bath & Beyond stores. ]
Susan: The company sent me some samples, which I took on our Patagonia trip. I have mixed opinions about them. I liked them because they were a good size and because they are biodegradable. On the other hand, when I need a washcloth, I normally would just use my bandanna. When you want soap, you have to add some to the Wysi Wipe, which seems a bit inconvenient to me. My conclusion is that a few are a nice addition to the pack, but I'm not ready to trade my babywipes quite yet.
Another thing I took on our trip was a Smartwool long underwear top and I am a new advocate. I've almost always carried some kind of long underwear, but they were made of synthetic fabrics. Need I tell you how smelly these garments get? Not so with the Smartwool--you can wear these garments for days without getting stinky. When you do wash them, they dry surprising quickly.

#11. Solomon's Seal.

 The following was submitted by a reader. I'm not recommending it because I haven't researched it, but I am presenting it FYI. SOLOMON'S SEAL TINCTURE AND ITS DIVERSE HEALING BENEFITS By Tricia Clark-McDowell & Forrest McDowell PhD For many users, Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) is a lifeline that restores them to an active and/or pain-free life. In our experience with herbs and natural remedies, rarely does a plant like Solomon's Seal come along that is so quickly and profoundly effective in healing such a variety of serious conditions. A retired athlete, who has suffered for years from the devastating effects of countless injuries, finds himself miraculously pain free. A once active middle- aged woman with badly pronated ankles and knock-knees finds in a few weeks time that her knees and ankles are now straight, eliminating the need for surgery and enabling her to hike, garden, and mountain-climb as she did in her youth. A devoted musician and avid gardener experiences the healing of severe "tennis elbow". An elderly woman with debilitating back and knee problems finds long-term relief and the return of her quality of life. A senior with a twenty-year low back problem and a shoulder injury from high school is back to normal within one week and finally able to sleep comfortably through the night. Such stories of lasting healing through the use of Solomon's Seal tincture are commonplace. The average amount of time required to achieve good results is from one to three weeks. Occasionally, positive effects can happen overnight, while other users report gradual improvements over periods of one to two months, depending on the severity of symptoms. Solomon's Seal has been used and praised for centuries throughout Europe and Asia, where it is native. It is also native to woodlands in the eastern and mid-western United States. Well-known herbalist Mathew Wood, author of The Book of Herbal Wisdom, deserves credit for bringing this remedy into the public eye here in the U.S. He writes: "I have finally come to view Solomon's Seal as the single most reliable, useful and foolproof remedy that I have ever come across." The root of the plant is macerated in alcohol to create a tincture. A typical dose might be 5-10 drops, or less, taken 1-3 times daily. Tinctures are effective because the alcohol draws out the medicinal qualities of the plant. In addition, tinctures are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system. A very partial list of the benefits of Solomon's Seal includes the following:  Harmonizes, feeds, lubricates, and tightens or loosens (as needed) tendons, ligaments, attachments and joints  Strengthens and harmonizes entire muscular/skeletal system  Helps calcify and strengthen bones and decalcify unhealthy deposits  Can be used before resorting to surgery or to speed the healing after surgical procedures, especially in cases of broken bones and damage to tendons, ligaments or soft connective tissue  Helps cartilage to regenerate through adjusting connective tissue tensions on joints  Speeds healing of bruises from blows and falls  Produces a "plastic response" wherein diseased or injured tissues return to their original quality  Is a valuable connective tissue anti-inflammatory and can help moderate osteoarthritis symptoms  Is useful in various female problems such as vaginitis, pelvic weakness, painful menstruation, and menstrual cramps (PMS) Runners, cyclists, gardeners, musicians, athletes, carpenters, physically active individuals, the elderly, among others, and those who suffer from acute or chronic injuries such as those listed above, may benefit from the use of Solomon's Seal. It's worth considering. For further information about the broad healing effects of Solomon's Seal, to read testimonials, or to purchase Cortesia Solomon's Seal Tincture or salve, go to the website:  or call toll-free (866) 837-5854. For more information about Cortesia Sanctuary and the McDowell's broader work, visit their inspirational website: . Bio: Tricia Clark-McDowell and Forrest McDowell PhD are the owners and stewards of the 22-acre Cortesia Sanctuary in Eugene, Oregon. They are speakers and authors (The Sanctuary Garden, Creating a Place of Refuge in Your Yard or Garden (Simon & Schuster/Fireside); Home Composting Made Easy and Gardening For Optimal Nutrition (Cortesia Press) and creators of Cortesia Flower Essences, Cortesia Solomon's Seal Tincture, and Cortesia Solomon's Seal Healing Salve. The McDowells have been dedicated organic gardeners and wellness practioners for over thirty years.

#12. April Programs on Women's Backpacking and the Camino de Santiago:

 Friday, April 17, 2009. Sierra Club, Yokuts Chapter (Modesto). In her program "Hiking Odyssey," Susan Alcorn will present a digital slide program with photos from her hikes in the Sierra, Europe, and (perhaps) Patagonia. Location: Community Room at the Modesto Police Department (600 - 10th St). Refreshments and socializing begin at 6:45 p.m. The meeting and program start at 7:00 p.m. Non-members always welcome! (510-339-3441).
Sunday, April 19, 2009. "Journeying in time and place". Margaret Murray reading from "", a magical novel of the ancient Anasazi and post-9/11 Silicon Valley. Susan Alcorn, reading from "Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago", a travel essay of adventure in Spain. Free. Bird & Beckett Books & Records, 653 Chenery Street, San Francisco. (415) 586-3733. 2:30-4:00, followed by reggae music by Heartical Roots ($5-$10).

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #122 March 1, 2009

1. Susan's April Programs
2. Avoiding Overuse Injuries (Part II) by Dr. Kristinn Heinrichs
3. Great Old Broads
4. Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights
5. Pika Profile
6. Webcam at Ano Nuevo, CA
7. Vonhof on Foot Care
8. Regional: Bay Area Ridge Trail Events

Dear Friends and Family, Please note that the next issue of this newsletter will be April 1, 2009.

#1. Susan's April book and hiking talks:

Friday, April 17, 2009. Sierra Club, Yokuts Chapter (Modesto). In her program "Hiking Odyssey," Susan will present a digital slide program with photos from her hikes in the Sierra, Europe, and (perhaps) Patagonia. Location: Community Room at the Modesto Police Department (600 - 10th St). Refreshments and socializing begin at 6:45 p.m. The meeting and program start at 7:00 p.m. Non-members always welcome! (510-339-3441).

Sunday, April 19, 2009. "Journeying in time and place". Margaret Murray reading from "", a magical novel of the ancient Anasazi and post-9/11 Silicon Valley. Susan Alcorn, reading from "Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago", a travel essay of adventure in Spain. Free. Bird & Beckett Books & Records, 653 Chenery Street, San Francisco. (415) 586-3733. 2:30-4:00, followed by reggae music by Heartical Roots ($5-$10).

#2. Avoiding Overuse injuries Part 2

Last issue (Feb. 16) we ran Part I of Dr. Kristinn Heinrichs's article on avoiding overuse injuries when hiking. As in that portion, this second half of her article is addressed to pilgrims, but her info should be of help to any long-distance hiker or backpacker. Dr. Kristinn Heinrichs (who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, can be contacted at kiheinrichs at hotmail dot com). If you missed Part I, you can find it on our website  (left hand column under newsletters for the Feb. 16 issue.)

"BEFORE your departure. Lightweight wool socks did the trick for me. I only had blisters on the third day (I attributed this to the steep descents) and once I continued with meticulous foot care, I had little/ no problems. The conventional wisdom holds that running shoes are usually good for 300-400 miles before they should be replaced. Your favorite walkers may get you through your Camino, but probably not much more. Other common errors related to shoes include excessive pressure on the Achilles tendon by the shoe (this is why running shoes have a cut out on the heel), loose-fitting heel counters (the part of the shoe that "grabs" your heel), and a too-narrow heel base (more of a problem with running shoes)."

Before you leave, you should visit an orthopedic physical therapist, podiatrist who specializes in foot and running mechanics or orthotist to evaluate your feet for the proper shoes. This doesn't even include what happens at the knee and hip because of the poor foot posture--and the days and weeks of the camino will bring these problems to the surface. Custom foot beds in the form of orthotics will help you prevent many of these problems. Some off the shelf heat moldable orthotics may be useful—and in fact recent studies have shown these orthotics to be equally effective as much more expensive custom- fabricated orthotics. These should be comfortable nearly immediately and your only adjustment should be because it is a new sensation, not painful. You might try superfeet or SOLES footbeds (I've seen them at REI)."

STRUCTURE: There are 65 joints between your spine and your toes—a person weighing 150 lbs. places 120 tons of force through each extremity per mile (1.65 km) walked! This is another great argument for carrying a minimalist pack. If your foot structure tends toward excessive pronation or supination, those abnormal forces will be transmitted upward from your feet—potentially causing tendonitis as your muscles try to control the abnormal motion."

STRETCH: Injuries often occur because of an imbalance on either side of the joint. A muscle group could be weak on one side and the muscles on the other side of the joint (antagonists) will often be tight in order to stabilize the joint. Appropriate flexibility is the key. The typical patterns of tightness that respond well to stretching include the hamstring, hip flexor, and low back. The ideal would be to warm up by walking briskly to increase overall blood flow and then perform focused gentle stretching by moving into the stretch— never bouncing. I recommend you focus more on easing into the stretch over a period of a minute or two rather than sets and repetitions."

STRENGTH: Frequently, the lack of strength and muscular endurance is the cause of many injuries to runners (and distance walkers). In particular, weakness in the hip extensors (gluteus maximus) will cause the hamstrings to work overtime in an effort to compensate for the weakness."

I hope you'll find these suggestions helpful—I've really just scratched the surface here. Most importantly, pace yourself and listen to your body. The Camino isn't a race--and I found that I got to Santiago just as quickly with a slow and steady pace as my colleagues who went at much faster (sometimes double) my pace. Besides, you might hurry by some very valuable lessons or miss what the Camino has to show you when you slow the pace of your walking, thinking, and simply live for the joy of the moment!" Buen Camino! Dr. Kristinn Heinrichs

#3. Great Old Broads

Great Old Broads is an advocacy group that knows how to have a good time while doing good work. They have several trips going this year--here are a few.
Colorado's Hidden Gems Broadwalk, Dates: July 9-13, 2009
Location: Based at Bogan Flats Group Campsite, between Carbondale and Redstone, CO in the shadow of the Elk Mountains. Cost: members $110/ non-members $135

A. Great Old Broads for Wilderness is working with members of the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign seeking designation of major new wilderness additions on the White River National Forest and nearby Bureau of Land Management lands. The White River NF is the country’s most visited national forest, and along with nearby BLM lands, it straddles an ecologically vital portion of the Upper Colorado River watershed. These public lands contain a critical stretch of a continent-scale wildlife migration corridor while providing core habitat for Colorado’s recently reintroduced lynx population.
Most of the existing designated wilderness in Colorado is of the high- elevation, “rock and ice” variety. Still unprotected are the Hidden Gems targeted in this campaign, which exist at the more ecologically diverse middle elevations and provide some of the most important habitat for imperiled species. Designating these areas as wilderness will add valuable biodiversity to our nation’s wilderness legacy.

Hikes to experience some of the gems of the Hidden Gems, speakers from the local grassroots organizations and involved land management agencies, and a service project will connect us with these special places. Cost includes camping at the Bogan Flats Group Campsite, delicious breakfasts and dinners each day provided by a camp cook, speakers and more. Hikes will be led by local activists who know the area well.

Space is limited. To register, send full payment to Broads office at PO Box 2924, Durango, CO 81302. For more information, contact Rose at 970-385-9577 or rose at greatoldbroads dot org.

B. Main Salmon River Trip FUNdraiser, Location: central Idaho. Dates: July 23-28, 2009 Cost: $1,429 pp ($250 pp is a tax deductible contribution to Great Old Broads for Wilderness)

Join other Broads and Broads’ staff on this outstanding Idaho wilderness rafting trip down 95 miles of the Main Salmon River through the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho. Free flowing Class III whitewater provides excitement for any age/ability while the white sandy beaches, forested campsites, deep canyons and mountain scenery combine to provide an ever-changing river experience. Experience historic mining camps, Native American rock art, abundant wildlife and riverside hot springs. There is plenty of time to swim, hike, and relax while the experienced staff of K-Bear River Adventures tends to your needs and serves up wholesome and delicious Dutch oven cooking. Trip includes dinner and pre-launch lodging at Corn Creek on July 23. We launch on the river July 24 and take off mid-day on July 28. Travel arrangements to/from the river (air taxi, car shuttle, rides) will vary according to your needs and are not included in the trip cost but may be arranged for you by K Bear.
Space is limited so reserve your trip now by contacting Mason Kiebert at 1-877-672-7437, mason at raftkbear dot com. More information is at .

C. Escalante Broadwalk - Great Old Broads for Wilderness 20th Anniversary Celebration. When: October 1-5, 2009. Where: Escalante, UT - Where it all began - Based at Escalante Outfitters Cost: Member $155/non-member $180.

We're going back to our roots in the mysterious and spectacular canyons and plateaus of the Escalante Region of southern Utah to celebrate 20 years of wilderness advocacy. There'll be hikes for all abilities, workshops, volunteer projects, special guests including some of our founders such as Susan Tixier and Ginger Harmon, speakers from local organizations and agencies and more! Come join Broads, old and new, to experience the energy and Broadness of our wilderness family. America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act would ensure permanent protection of these incredible landscapes. Your support is needed. Cost includes camping at Escalante Outfitters, use of the bathhouse, scrumptious breakfasts and dinners each day, speakers and more. Hikes will be led by experienced volunteers.

To register, send full payment to Broads’ office at PO Box 2924, Durango, CO 81302. To book a cabin (instead of camping) call Dana at Escalante Outfitters (cabins will show unavailable on their website) at 866-455-0041. Check out their website at . For more information, contact Rose at 970-385-9577, rose at greatoldbroads dot org.

Great Old Broads for Wilderness.
607 East Seventh Avenue
PO BOX 2924
970-385-9577 Fax 970-385-8550  E-mail: broads at greatoldbroads dot org

#4. California's governor Arnold Schwarzengger's signing the "Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights" reminds us that we have an obligation to our children. The Children's bill promises a place to:
* Discover California's past
* Splash in the water,
* Play in a safe place,
* Camp under the stars,
* Explore nature,
* Learn to swim,
* Play on a team,
* Follow a trail,
* Catch a fish,
* Celebrate their heritage."
[Ed.: I have no idea what kind of funding is involved with this Bill of Rights, but it's a great reminder that kids need to spend time outdoors.]

#5. Pika profile:

One of my favorite creatures that we see in the high Sierra (including Yosemite) is the mountain pika (it's also found in the Great Basin). This tiny furry relative of the rabbit weighs only about 1/3 pound, but it makes a loud squeak that can be heard at quite a distance. Now we learn that it is under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for protection from the harmful effects of global warming. If it is decided that such protection is warranted, the pika will join the polar bear as mammals needing to be covered under the Endangered Species Act.

The pika is extremely sensitive to heat and can't survive outside of its burrow if the temperature exceeds 80 degrees. The pika must gather 60 pounds of grasses and flowers during the already short summer season in the mountains. Rising temperatures further shorten the window of time that the pika can gather a food supply to last through the long winters.
#6. Tom Stienstra, Chronicle Outdoors Writer, recently provided info about a website with a webcam of Ano Nuevo State Reserve.  As luck would have it (and Tom predicted), there have been problems with the video. You may go there and find the camera is down (my initial experience was there was no image, but the sounds of the gulls, elephant seals, and water were for real) or you may find that there's a video recording.

In today's Chronicle, Stiestra relayed info from Parks deputy director Roy Stearns explaining the situation. It seems that 70mph winds knocked the camera out of commission, and they are waiting for the opportunity to send someone out on a small boat and make the repairs. The Reserve is using a solar-powered camera and when all works well, you will be able to see elephant seals engaged in such activities as mating, giving birth, tussling, and sleeping. The parks website can also be reached through , "Visit A Park," scroll to Ano Nuevo State RESERVE, and then (on the left side) click on HD Sealcam.

Tom notes that there are presently about 2,000 elephant seals at the site right now, so if you missed going on a tour, this will be a great way to see what the excitement is all about! Ano Nuevo is off of Hwy 1, south of San Francisco.

#7. John Vonhof Blog

John Vonhof, the author of "Fixing Your Feet," has been consolidating his blogs on footcare. If you are not receiving his posts, or would like to start reading his informative postings about footcare, go to  and register.

He recently wrote this, "Many athletes have used Duct tape on their feet. Newer and better tapes have become my favorite, but I know many still patch their feet with or pretape with Duct tape. Now 3M Duct Tape Bandage has come out with a Nexcare 3M Duct Tape Bandages made of real duct tape with a medical grade adhesive. The heavy duty durability of duct tape is a plus. These are a bit longer length for large fingers (or toes). The bandages are latex free, sized at 1 in. x 3.60 in. – 20 to a pack. Retail price is $4.99."

"I could see these as a temporary patch over a hot spot or blister. My only concern, common to all Band-aids, is that the area of the gauze is the weak point with such a small bit of tape on the outside edges. I will get a box and try them. In the meantime, I see these as a good choice to put in a baggie to carry in a fanny pack on the trail, or pin one or two your bib number in a race – just in case you need a quick blister patch."

#8. Regional: S.F. Bay Area

News of upcoming events of Bay Area Ridge Trail posted by Janet McBride, Executive Director, Bay Area Ridge Trail Council. /

"Get Ready, Get Set... Ridge to Bridge Advance Registration is About to Open!" Saturday, April 25th is our 13th annual Ridge to Bridge in Marin. Hikers choose from 13, 21 or 30 miles — we take each group north to their starting point and hike back to the Golden Gate Bridge. Cyclists can choose from 2 rides, an ~26 mile ride that includes a bus shuttle to the start of the ride, or a shorter loop ride of ~12 miles, both with a good amount of climbing. Along the way, enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific coastline, the Marin Headlands, Sausalito, the Bay, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge."

"Advance registration for current members opens on Monday, March 2 and the fee is $40. Please be advised that members may register no more than 3 additional guests. General registration starts on April 1 and the fee will be $50. Event attendance is limited so don’t delay! Last year, most hikes sold out before general registration opened to the public. The registration fee includes: shuttle to the start, a buffet lunch, water, snacks along the way, maps and more."

"This event also raises funds for the Ridge Trail through the ATHON. Invite friends and colleagues to sponsor you at $1, $5, or $10 per mile and earn a chance to win great prizes including REI and Mountain Trail Bikes gear, and Mountain Play theater tickets, while supporting the Ridge Trail."

"Make a Weekend of Ridge to Bridge - Stay at Cavallo Point Lodge Special “Green Rate” for Ridge Trail Members! For many participants, Ridge to Bridge extends from “dawn to dusk” – but everyone gets a good workout. So, how great would it be to stay over before or after at the luxurious new Cavallo Point at Fort Baker – just steps from the Ridge Trail and the end of the Ridge to Bridge hike?"

"We’re excited to announce we’ve secured a special “green rate” for Ridge Trail members at this beautiful national park eco lodge at the Golden Gate: $205 per room/night (plus fees and valet parking, if driving). A limited number of rooms are available at this rate and you must reserve by March 7 (although you can stay in April or beyond). To reserve call (415) 399-4700 and mention the “green rate.'"

Other Ridge Trail events:
3/14 Rockville Hills Flower Walk, Fairfield
3/07 King-Swett Ranch Hike, Vallejo
3/07 Sunset & the Spire, SF Presidio: Interpretive walk, poems & a
visit to Goldworthy’s Spire
3/21 King-Swett Ranches Volunteer Restoration, Vallejo: Help prep a
future Ridge Trail segment!
3/28 Healthy Trails Hike, South San Jose"

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #121 Feb 15, 2009

"I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?" -- Aldo Leopold from his essay, Wilderness (submitted by Rose Chilcoat, Associate Director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness

1. PCT's Hiker Heaven 2009--correction on shipping info
2. Pacific Crest Trail Association's TrailFest 2009
3. Ken and Marcia Powers will present "Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail"
4. Avoiding Overuse Injuries
5. Wysi Wipes
6. Staying Clean
7. Statistics of the Camino routes 2008
8. Ridgetrail's Spire
9. Coastwalk Calendar

#1. Hiker Heaven Shipping

 "L" writes, "please note that DHL does NOT do domestic shipping any longer. They are now only an international shipper .... as they were prior to being purchased by DPWN."

#2. PCTA Trailfest 2009

Join the Pacific Crest Trail Association in beautiful Portland, Oregon, for Trail Fest 2009. It's held March 27-29, 2009. Trail Fest is an opportunity to learn more about the Pacific Crest Trail and how to get the most out of your recreational and volunteer PCT experiences. This weekend-long event features trail classes, guest speakers, an exciting vendor fair, and more.

You can register online. Pre-registration is required For an event schedule, fees, discounted accommodations and more, visit . Location: Mirror Lake, Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center, Portland-Lloyd Center, Portland, Oregon.

Friday, March 27, 2009, there will be an evening Presentation 7:00 p.m. by David "The Runner" Horton, Ph.D., who ran the entire 2,650- mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2005; running more than 40 miles per day for 66 consecutive days to complete the PCT in record time. Horton is Professor of Health Sciences & Kinesiology, at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and featured in the award-winning documentary, The Runner. His presentation to be followed by Trail Fest's annual tradition of Trail Stories.

The Saturday Awards Dinner will be at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, March 28, 2009, $45 PCTA Members; $60 non-members. Keynote Speaker, Mark Larabee, 46, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The Oregonian, Oregon's largest daily newspaper. In 2005, Larabee and photographer Ian Malkasian walked across Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail to chronicle the environmental and financial challenges facing the trail. His 13-part series and daily blog captured the beauty of the wilderness, the kindness of people, and the incredible mental challenge of long-distance hiking. $45 PCTA members/$60 non-members.

Trail Classes and Vendor Fair
Doors Open 8:00 a.m. Saturday, March 28, 2009
Advance Tickets: $20 PCTA Members; $25 non-members
Walk-In Registration: $25 PCTA Members; $30 non-members

"Learn how to survive the PCT's breathtaking but challenging Southern California deserts, how to prepare for the magnificent High Sierra, and how to savor the treasures of the Cascades no matter what the weather. Lighten your load with trail-tested techniques from gear designer and lightweight trekking guru Glen Van Peski. Get face-to- face advice about the latest gear and guidebooks from top vendors. Or, whet your appetite for adventures further afield with a presentation by Suzanne Wilson, Pacific Crest Trail Regional Representative, about Siberia's Great Baikal Trail."

Local Outings on Sunday, March 29, 2009. Pre-registration is required.
Eagle Creek Hike $40 per person (cost of lunch not included) Enjoy spring woodland and open slope wildflowers, and waterfalls tumbling down side canyons as we hike the beautiful Eagle Creek alternate PCT route (a 5 mile easy to moderate hike). After lunch in Cascade Locks, we will travel the Historic Columbia River Highway stopping as time permits on our return to Portland. A minimum of 25 registrations must be received by February 25th or the Eagle Creek outing will be cancelled."

Portland Urban Hike $20 per person (cost of lunch not included) Experience Portland's urban wonders! Join us on Portland's MAX light rail as we travel from the Doubletree Hotel to the World Forestry Center and Hoyt Arboretum. Enjoy a guided hike through the arboretum and an on-your-own tour of the World Forestry Center. On our way back to the Doubletree Hotel, we'll stop for lunch and a bit of shopping along the way."

#3. Ken and Marcia Powers present

"Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail," Bay Area residents Ken and Marcia Powers are thru-hikers extraordinaire; in the last nine 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. (REI description). Free.
The times and dates:
WEDNESDAY, February 18. 7 - 8:30 pm, at REI Concord: The Willows Shopping Center, 1975 Diamond Blvd., Suite B-100, 94520. (925) 825-9400.
THURSDAY, February 19. 7 - 8:30 pm pm, at REI San Carlos: 1119 Industrial Road, Suite A, 94070. (650) 508-2330.
TUESDAY, February 24. 7 - 8:30 pm, at REI Fremont: 43962 Fremont Blvd. 94538. (510) 651-0305
WEDNESDAY, February 25. 7 - 8:30 pm, at REI Mountain View: 2450 Charleston Road, 94043; (650) 969-1938.

Ken notes, "The REI people warned me that Google maps and Map Quest give incomplete/incorrect directions to the Mountain View store. Here are the easiest directions: 'Heading north on 101 (from San Jose/ Highway 85): Exit San Antonio. Make a left at the light off the freeway. Make a left on Charleston. The store will be on the left side, about two blocks down. * Heading south on 101 (from Peninsula/ SF): Exit San Antonio Road South. Make a left on Charleston Road. The store will be on the left about two blocks down.'"

#4. Avoiding Overuse Injuries

Kristinn generously provided this article on avoiding overuse injuries when hiking. In this article she is addressing pilgrims but her info should be of help to any long-distance hiker or backpackers. Dr. Kristinn Heinrichs (she lives in Phoenix, Arizona, you can contact her at kiheinrichs at hotmail dot com)
Part I.
Greetings fellow Pilgrims:
"Too fast, too hard, too soon" is what gives most pilgrims overuse injuries (tendonopathies, blisters, toenail problems, joint pain, etc.). I treat these types of injuries for a living (as a sports/ orthopedic physical therapist and biomechanist): questions about training, orthopedic injuries, and most of all, prevention come up every day and the Camino was no exception. I talk about the 6 "Ss of injury: speed, surface, structure, shoes, stretching, and strengthening."

As I walked my own Camino, I discovered several things: first most of us, young and older alike, were not specifically trained for walking such long distances day after day, week after week. Second, at the end of the day, regardless of my individual pace, I often met the same people with whom I had shared breakfast or an evening meal a few days before. In fact, I met a fellow walker in a small bar in O'Cebreiro after having seen her for the last time in Puente la Reina four weeks earlier as she offered water to help me through a bout of heat exhaustion. The point is that regardless of the pace we choose (or impose on ourselves), we all typically meet in Santiago within a day or two of each other. The key is to find your own rhythm and your own pace—and this means you must listen to, and trust, your body. "

1. SPEED. Pace is THE single most important consideration: most injuries are due to the fact that the walker is traveling at a pace too fast for what you have (or, in most cases that I encountered, have not) trained for. This results in an overload on the tendons and joints, multiplied by hours and days. Early in your Camino, planning a slower pace and shorter distances will pay a great dividend in preventing many of the overuse injuries. If you recall the descent from Col de Lepoeder to Larrasoaña (900 meters and a few more hills over 34 km), you will likely recall the muscle soreness and the foot pain from your toes hitting the front of the shoe. The descent typically causes the most problems because it relies on eccentric (negatives for those of you who frequent the weight room) muscle action to decelerate the body. This selectively loads the tendinous attachment of the muscles. Combine this with the fact that the faster you travel, the greater the load on the same tendinous attachment. Repeat this loading thousands of times, step by step, as you walk the Camino and you have the makings of a tendinitis, purely from overuse. When you begin to experience tendon pain, think, "what motions did I have to control, decelerate, or slow down?" and you will have the answer as to the mechanism of your injury."

How do you treat a tendonitis? Remove the biomechanical irritant (foot structure, load on the tendon) by slowing down, ice, controlled eccentric exercise, "relative rest" from whatever activities caused the injury to begin with. Climbing hills or mountains (i.e. going up) places less stress on the muscle-tendon junction, but it does require more heart-pumping cardiovascular action--consider this type (concentric) muscle action to be responsible for accelerating the body. Every movement is a coordinated dance between concentric and eccentric muscle actions on each side of the joint. The best solution/ prevention is to pace your walking (even small reductions in your walking pace can result in up to 25% reduction of the load on your joints) and, if you find yourself with the beginning signs and symptoms of overuse tendonitis, rest and cryotherapy."

If you begin your Camino in less than the optimal physical condition, be sure to take your time--and the better part of valor is to put fewer kilometers on the shoes early on. Second, take a break every hour, take your shoes and socks off, dry them off, and give them a bit of a massage—even if you don't feel it necessary to do so."

2. SURFACE. Aside from carefully picking your way over rocky trails in places, the more forgiving the surface, the less force is transmitted through your feet to your legs, knees, hips, and spine. Ranked in order from least to most forgiving is concrete sidewalks, asphalt, gravel roads, dirt paths, and grass. Assuming you are not running a race, it is best to choose the most forgiving surface. Anything you can do to minimize the impact loading through your feet will pay great dividends. In addition to properly fitting shoes, off-the-shelf inserts will help reduce the forces through the heel and foot. Full- length insoles with additional gel cushioning in the heel cup will help this. There are a number of good off-the-shelf options and your local mom-and-pop running/walking shop will be able to help you select a pair. I alternated between two pairs—well worth the additional weight in your pack. Shoes are so important that they deserve their own "S"!'

3: SHOES. When the foot hits the ground everything changes—and many ankle, knee, hip, and spine problems have their origin in how your feet hit the ground. I've seen everything on the Camino from open sandals to sneakers to high top hiking boots. Boot weight is definitely a consideration, but you should weigh the support vs. the inherent weight of the boot/walking shoe. My ankles are unstable (and I joke that I only "teach coordination but can't practice it myself") after multiple ankle sprains so I opted for the support at the expense of the weight. Regardless of the shoe type, it must fit you correctly. I found that I had to have shoes a size and a half larger than I normally wear."

Second, be sure you purchase the right shoe for your foot type (motion control for pronators; cushioning for supinators). How do you know if you are a pronator or supinator? If you tend to supinate (high arched foot), you will tend to have a rigid foot and more likely toward stress fractures because your feet don't absorb the shock as well as they should OR if you tend to pronate (flat foot), your foot will be excessively flexible and the muscles of the leg and foot have to work harder to control the motion, more frequently leading to overuse problems. Running/walking shoes are designed for each foot type so it is crucial that you have the correct shoe for your foot type. You can visit a knowledgeable running shop (usually the mom and pop shops who are actively involved in the running community are good places to start), an orthopedic/sports physical therapist, or podiatrist to determine your foot type, and hence what type of shoe/hiking boot you should purchase. Finally, when purchasing shoes, you should plan a sufficient break-in period to be sure they are the right shoes for you."

#5. Wysi Wipes

Claudia wrote to recommend Wysi™ Wipes. "I'm writing to share a nifty little cleaning aid for those long stretches on the trail between showers: they're called Wysi Wipes, they're the size and weight of an Alka-Seltzer tablet, they unfurl to lovely chemical-free cleaning clothes! They are super cheap: 100 are $12. (Skin Care for Athletes is a wonderful co.) They are biodegradable, although I pack them out as required in sensitive areas." Claudia bought them at:  Each individual wipe weighs 2 grams each and comes in re-sealable bags of 12 for $2.50 or 100 for $ $11.95 (so doing the math, the larger bag weighs about 7 oz.). [ed.: I have written the company and they are going to send some samples for me to try (and review). In the meantime, if you want to try them you can order from the website above, at Container Stores, or from many Bed, Bath & Beyond stores. ]

#6. Staying Clean

Here's the link to my Backpacker Magazine article on keeping clean while hiking. It really should be entitled keeping cleanER, because keeping clean while backpacking is next to impossible! 

#7. 2008 Camino Statistics

Helena, a Camino friend from Portugal, sent the following statistics of the Camino routes released by Asociacion Jacobea Paso a Paso. The first number is for 2008, the number in parentheses is for 2007. Many thanks to Helena!
"Compostela-earning pilgrims by month:
(year 2007) year 2008:
January (350) 306;
February (666) 703;
March (1,680) 5328;
April (8,112) 5,655;
May (12,898) 15,988;
June (15,157) 15,860;
July (20,108) 20,989;
August (27,140) 29,747;
September (15,1898) 17,298;
October (9,434) 9,881;
November (2,496) 2,301;
December (796) 2 ,085;
TOTALS (114,026) 125,141.

Pilgrims from Spain (55,326) 61,112
Pilgrims from outside Spain (58,700) 64,029

Females (47,246) 52,205
Males (66,780) 72,936

Under 12 (1,070) 1,093;
13 to 18 (10,338) 10,403;
19 to 35 (37,689) 41,123;
36 to 65 (58,631) 65,364;
66 to 97 (6,298) 7,158.

Bicycle (19,702) 21,143;
Horseback (364) 290;
On foot (93,953) 103,669;
wheelchair (7) 39.

Solely religious (43,581) 50,732;
Religious/cultural (60,944) 63,598;
non-religious (9,501) 10,811.

Out of the 133 countries where from they hailed, those who numbered more than 1,000 pilgrims were, in descending order, the following: (2007 figures in parenthesis)

Germany (13,837)15,746
Italy (10,275) 10,707
France (6,982) 6,618
Portugal (4,001) 4,341
U. S. A. (2,229) 2,214
Canada (1,850) 1,933
Holland (1,655) 1,864
Austria (785) 1,847
United Kingdom (1,696) 1,559
Ireland (1,090) 1,535
Brasil (1,395) 1,365
Belgium (1,332) 1,291
Switzerland (1,136) 1,246
Poland (867) 1,102
Australia (785) 1,022
Africa (318) 316
South America (2,569) 2,571;
Asia (946) 1,533
Europe (104,568) 114,688;
Oceania (983) 1,184.

Routes followed:

French Camino (91,872) 98,729
Portuguese Camino (8,110) 9,770
Northern Camino (5,871) 7,035
Via de la Plata (4,193) 5,104
Primitive Camino (2,569) 2,719
English Camino (1,085) 1,451
Ad-hoc Caminos (147) 229
Muxia-Fisterre (179) 104

#8. Ridgetrail's Spire

The Bay Area Ridge Trail has an extraordinary work of art alongside the trail in the San Francisco's Presidio -- but it is designed to disappear. The 90-foot-sculputre, designed by British artist Andy Goldsworthy, was installed in October north of the Presidio Golf Course Clubhouse. It was created with 37 cypress trees that had been removed by the Presidio Trust because the trees were in poor health. The trust has been removing dying trees throughout the forest and is replanting two to three acres each year "to create an uneven-aged forest." They have planted 2,000 trees so far. Right now if may be easy to spot the sculpture, but as the newly planted trees grow, it will become part of the forest and disappear.

#9. Coastwalk Calendar

Coastwalk [California coastal walks] has posted their 2009 backpacking/hiking trips. Here's a partial listing:
2009 Summer Walk Program:
Santa Cruz Island Backpack, April 14-17. Exclusive guided backpacking on wild and wonderful Santa Cruz Island (Channel Islands).
Santa Monica Backbone Trek May 2 - 9. Catered camping and hiking traversing 67 miles along the Santa Monica Mountains.
Lost Coast Backpack. June 13 - 21. Challenging guided backpack in southern Humboldt County
Marin Backpack. June 15 - 18. Backpacking exploration of Pt. Reyes National Seashore
Humboldt Classic. June 21 - 27. Hiking and camping adventure from the Redwoods to Trinidad Head
Sonoma Family. June 24 - 27. Camping and family fun at Ft. Ross and Salt Point State Park

There's lots more--Catalina Island, Mendocino Coast, Sonoma Coast from Jenner to Bodega Bay, Monterey Bay Family Adventure, San Francisco/Angel Island Family Adventure, Santa Barbara Riviera, Marin Headlands Adventure, and Marin Classic Adventure. Visit their website at: 

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #120 Feb 1, 2009

1. Nictitating eyelids
2. San Jacinto
3. Camp hygiene skills
4. PCT's Hiker Heaven 2009 updates
5. Wisdom from an Elder
6. Why You Should Walk on the Wild Side
7. Mark Barry and Cycle Oregon
8. Bay Area Ridge Trail Contest and Hikes

#1. Nictitating eyelids demystified.

In January Ralph and I went on a great hike with Bay Nature Magazine, which was lead by East Bay Regional Parks naturalist Mike Moran. We were looking for raptors, but since we were pretty much in a dense fog for the entire time and could see little beyond the edge of the trail, we didn't see many birds. It still was a worthwhile hike because everything was fresh and green, and also because Mike told us a lot about raptors.

After the hike, he emailed the following, "Turns out this membrane [nictitating eyelid] is quite common on birds. Not only is it useful as a sort of safety goggles (even as protection when feeding hungry, pecking chicks), it also allows the bird to clean and moisten its eye (s), the benefits of a blink, without actually having to blink and lose light/vision. Although birds do indeed blink, albeit infrequently, with their eyelid, they probably do much more so with the membrane. Some may keep it "closed" most of the time. It is clear- ish in most birds, opaque in owls (haven’t found out why yet). It curls up toward the inner ("nasal") corner of the eye, then sweeps across horizontally to perform its duties. Diving ducks, loons, and auks (murres, puffins, etc.) have a clear "lens" in theirs that can be bent to compensate for light refraction underwater, giving them clear views below and above water. Some mammals (sea lions, polar bears) and reptiles have them. Humans have a remnant in the nasal corner as well. Michael Moran, Naturalist/Docent Coordinator, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, East Bay Regional Park District, 510-544-2753 desk, 925-757-2620 office, mmoran at ebparks dot org

#2. San Jacinto

Jeannine sent this item: Did you know that San Jacinto Mountain just outside of Palm Springs (and near the Pacific Crest Trail) is the steepest mountain in North America? This is according to Huell Howser on TV program, "CA Gold."

#3. Camp Hygiene

Here's the link to my Backpacker Magazine article on keeping clean while hiking. It really should be entitled keeping cleanER, because keeping clean while backpacking is next to impossible!

#4. Hiker Heaven 2009

Hiker Heaven, a great place to stopover a night, or a bit longer, when hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, once again invites backpackers to check in. Trail angels Donna and Jeff Saufley sent this info.

"Hiker Heaven (mile 454.4 - Agua Dulce Section D/E) will be open for our 13th season from April 1 through June 30 and September 1 through October 31, for those hiking the trail. Hikers may stay up to three- days and two-nights, and we sincerely hope that everyone will treat themselves to a zero and two near-o's here. Non-hiking visitors are very welcome though not for overnight stays. For the first time in our years of hosting, we will be instituting a limit of 50 hikers per night on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations accepted or required.

Agua Dulce has a grocery, general, and hardware stores, three restaurants, and a great deli in the market. Everyone here looks forward to your arrival. Denatured alcohol is donated by the hardware store and is available at Hiker Heaven to all hikers, whether you're staying here or not. Same goes for water reports and information regarding trail conditions ahead.

Mail and packages should be sent to:
Your Name
c/o The Saufley's
11861 Darling Road
Agua Dulce, CA 91390

All courier services (FedEx, DHL, UPS, etc.) deliver here. Please do NOT require a signature for delivery. If you mail your package almost anywhere else in the area, it comes here anyway. There is no post office here and no other locations in town holding packages for hikers at this time. We have a new mail lady this year and she says she's been warned about what happens here, but we'll see how it goes and do our best to keep her happy.

Another big change this year is that we will not be loaning vehicles to hikers as we have in the past. We've had a really wonderful long run of good fortune in lending our vehicles to hikers, and nothing catastrophic has happened. We're grateful for that. But you don't have to be a genius to understand the risk involved with this practice, and we've decided not to continue taking these risks any longer (I hear the silent cheer rising up from those of you who thought we were nuts to do this in the first place and told us so)."

My plan is to contact local transportation companies to see if they are willing to run shuttle vans from here to the post office, gear retailers, train stations, doctors, and other services for a reasonable cost to the hikers, hopefully not much more than they would pay for gas. Anyone who has ever had to split the cost of filling Big Red (our Suburban) knows what I'm talking about. I hope for something that makes sense. If something reasonable cannot be achieved, I will put out the call for volunteers to help drive the hikers into nearby larger towns this season. We may be able to work with the gear retailers to set up an overnight delivery; and you can always order online for delivery here or ahead. Stay tuned for more to come on this topic." I'll repost this with a link to our website once it's been updated and I have additional information." Donna Saufley "L-Rod"

#5. Wisdom from an Elder

hiker97 on the PCT forum sent the following story, which he calls, "Wisdom from an Elder." "TrailDust was driving home from one of her hikes in the Grand Canyon with Meadow Ed and friends. As she was driving away from the Canyon and thinking what a scalawag Switchback was on the trip, she saw an elderly Navajo woman walking on the side of the road. She stopped the car and asked the Navajo woman if she would like a ride." With a silent nod of thanks, the woman got into the car. Resuming the journey, TrailDust tried in vain to make a bit of small talk with the Navajo woman. The old woman just sat silently, looking intently at everything she saw, studying every little detail, until she noticed a brown bag on the seat next to TrailDust." 'What's the in bag?' asked the old woman." TrailDust looked down at the brown bag and said, 'Ohhh, it's a couple of bottles of wine. I got it for my husband, Grizzly.'" The Navajo woman was silent for another moment or two. Then speaking with the quiet wisdom of an elder, she said, 'Good trade..…'"

#6. Why You Should Walk on the Wild Side:

The British mental health charity Mind commissioned a study, which was researched at the University of Essex (in the UK), of the effects of walking in green spaces such as parks and nature preserves and walking in such places as the mall or on city streets. The study found that people who walk for an hour in the green places were more relaxed, energetic, and confident than those who walked in the more urban settings. They concluded that exercise in green areas may be as effective as drug or other therapy at treating mood disorders.

#7. Cycle Oregon 2009

Mark Barry of Portland, Oregon writes, "Backpacking is my first passion, but I also cycle." Enclosed is info about "Cycle Oregon 2009" that he sent. We don't usually run articles about cycling, but it is a great way to exercise, which is something to consider when the mountain trails are covered with snow. January 16, 2009

"Last September, I had one of the most enjoyable weeks in recent memory doing the weeklong Cycle Oregon bike ride. Even though this was my third time doing Cycle Oregon, this year was particularly pleasant for a variety of reasons, including shorter miles, staying in many wonderful small towns, the motivation to get in shape during the summer, hooking up with some great people, and interacting with a wide variety of people.

Cycle Oregon is an annual event that has been taking place since 1987. Please consider joining me and 2,000 other bike riders this year on the weeklong adventure. Some of the specifics are:

2009 Dates: Saturday, September 12th to Saturday, September 19th Miles Covered: You typically will do 45 to 70 miles per day. Last year, we had one 80-mile day, but the rest of the days were manageable. The elevation varies widely. Route: This year’s route will be announced on Thursday, February 5th at the Cycle Oregon kickoff party to be held at the Nike campus. The route changes every year, but is typically a loop type route where you start and finish in the same town. This makes the transportation easier. The emphasis is on smaller towns in the more outlying and rural parts of the state. The rumor has it that this year’s route will be in the southern part of the state, and may even cross into California and get to the coast and the Redwoods. Biker Profile: The average age is about 50, and it is about two thirds male. The group tends to be in good shape, fairly tolerant since you will be using porta potties and sleeping outside, educated and traveled.

Registration: The registration opens up immediately after the kickoff party on February 5. However, Cycle Oregon typically will sell out in the first 30 to 45 days. The more rural routes tend do sell out faster. The approximate cost is $850. This covers all meals, entertainment, services, organization, etc.

Physical Conditioning: Cycle Oregon is a great motivator to stay the course in the Spring and Summer, and get in shape for the weeklong ride. However, you have all day to complete the course, and get from one town to the next. The miles won’t be too bad if you get yourself in reasonable biking shape ahead of time. I personally am not much of a cyclist, but I love Cycle Oregon. I only did about 100 miles all last summer in getting ready, but did lots of spinning classes and Stairmaster.

Cycle Oregon Venues: Cycle Oregon makes all of the arrangements with the local communities. You typically will be staying in small towns, and camp out in city parks, athletic fields, state parks, high school/ middle school facilities, farmer’s fields, etc. Cycle Oregon provides the bathrooms (porta potties), mobile showers, covered tent areas for eating, and all of the support services. The whole event is exceptionally well organized, as they have the drill down, and use many volunteers from the local communities. They also have vendors with bike gear/repair services, yoga classes, a massage tent with many masseuses, lectures on the local geography or history, other things to keep you occupied.

Typical Day: A typical day for me was waking up in my tent at around 5:30 to 6:00 am, heading off to breakfast, and coming back to pack up my duffle bag to be delivered to a nearby semi truck, which would bring it to the next town. I usually got on the course by 7:30 am. There were organized stops every 10 to 15 miles for rest, snacks, bathroom breaks, and lunch, which usually had some local entertainment. I would try to get into the next town or venue by 2:30 to 4:00 pm. I would then pick up my duffle bag, set up the tent and sleeping area, shower, rest, read, see the local town, go to yoga class, meet someone in the beer garden, listen to the local entertainment, have dinner, hear some of the evening announcements, and be in bed by 9:00 pm.

Other: People do Cycle Oregon in a variety of ways. Denise joined me last year, and we spent two nights at Wallowa Lake Lodge. I also stayed one night on a friends ranch in the wonderful community of Halfway. Some people skip one or more of the biking days, and others go out to dinner or stay with friends on the route. Some people bring a support person, who is typically a non-riding spouse to help out and join in the fun. Some groups get together and ride to raise funds for a charity. There are lots of options. One person described the ride as "a circus on wheels," while another described the camps as "a cross between a frat party and a rock concert."

More Information: Cycle Oregon has a great web site that provides all of the details, and can be found at .

8. Regional: Bay Area Ridge Trail "2009 Trail Events and Photo Contest.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and we are convinced that photo images can evocatively communicate the Ridge Trail story. Do you have great photos to share of people, wildlife or scenery along the Ridge Trail? We’d love to see and share them. Each month we will have a different theme. The best pictures will be featured in the following month’s e-news as well as on our website. Please see our website for more details and instructions on how to submit your photos." 
February events open to the public include a hike, "Grasslands and Live Oaks" on Saturday, February 14, 2009. Location: Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. This will be a 6-mile, moderately strenuous hike, offering views of mountain ponds, ridges and canyons stretching west to the Pacific. For more information on the hike, please see the District's Outdoor Activities listing.

Future hikes and events:
* Ridge to Bridge - Saturday, April 25
* Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail event - New! Sunday, May 31
* National Trails Day - Saturday, June 6
* East Bay Hills Ride & Hike - Wednesday, Sept 2 to Monday, Sept 7
* Ridge Trail Cruz - Saturday, Sept 12
* Tour de Fat - Saturday, Sept 26
* Presidio Solstice Hike - Sunday, Dec 20 (tentative)

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #119 Jan 15, 2009

1. Kilimanjaro Climb Remarkable
2. Health Care for Camino Walkers
3. More on health care in Spain
4. Recommended Websites for Hikers and Camino walkers
5. An Inspiring Quote and Book.
6. Another Route for Hikers Via Francigena Pilgrims
7. Raindrops Keep Falling…
8. Susan B. Komen Cancer Walk Report
9. Get Out. Give Back (American Hiking)
10. Wilderness Foxes Hikes offered in Tennessee
11. Climbing Mt. Whitney (Trip with Call of the Wild)
12. Featured events at U.S. Pilgrims' Gathering

#1. Kilimanjaro Climb Remarkable.

I've been reading on-line the story of a remarkable woman, Sarah Doherty. Sarah, who has only one leg, recently set out to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. She was using a Sidestix, a shock-absorbing sports device, that she and her partner Kerith Perreur-Lloyd invented to help her surmount the 19,340' peak.
Sarah has previously summitted Mt. Rainier and Mt. McKinley (in Denali Ntl. Park, Alaska), but that was in the mid-’80s. For those climbs she used forearm crutches and when she summitted McKinley she became the first amputee to summit McKinley without the aid of an artificial limb.

The team wanted something easier on the joints than crutches. Sarah tested a prototype shock system with a 500-mile walk across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago in 2006. After encountering mud on the Camino walk, Doherty and Perreur-Lloyd exchanged a rubber tip for interchangeable baskets of metal and plastic. Because of the stigma attached to the term "crutch," Doherty avoids using that word and calls it a sports device.

This year, on January 6, their small party started their ascent of Kilimanjaro. It was Sarah and Kerith, Sarah's twin (Susan), and their friend Ellen Clemence, and their guides. Sosha, the head guide, was with Sarah. Unfortunately Sarah soon encountered a (new) problem -- she could not use Diamox, which helps with the extreme altitude. On January 10th, the "real" ascent began as the group started the steeper climb for Horrombo Camp. Things went well enough the next day, but then, at 16,500 feet, Sarah's sports device broke. Hours were spent trying to fix it that day and Sarah climbed another 1,000 feet.

It had been previously agreed by all members of the group that it was okay to split up and that those who could go on to the summit, should go for it. On January 11, Sarah and her guide continued slowly upwards, and Susan, Ellen, and Kerith went on ahead. The latter three reached Kili's summit -- Uhuru Peak: 19,340'. Meanwhile Sarah "climbed, hopped and scrambled up the hardest part of Mount Kilimanjaro" to 18,711 ft. and Gillman's Point on the edge of the glacier. She had accomplished an amazing feat and may well have gone on, but time for making her way to Uhuru had run out. You can read more about Doherty's amazing story through her blog at .

#2. Health Care for Camino Walkers

Rosina recently posted on the Camino forums: "This past summer there were two people sort-of-patrols up and down the French and other Caminos; they visited albergues. tourist information offices and so on, to make sure that there weren't any pilgrims in need of medical, or other help. For the past few years the University of Madrid has sent about 40 podiatrists, and podiatry students, to the Camino to help pilgrims with foot problems; in Santiago itself those red- jacketed volunteers routinely approach a limping pilgrim to make sure that s/he is getting proper care.

Unfortunately their function is not always understood. When I asked a pilgrim, on crutches, why she wouldn't talk to them she told me that she thought they were looking for a donation or something like that. Fortunately in 2009 the Pilgrims Office will hand out information about pilgrims' facilities and services, heretofore available only in Spanish, translated into several languages; this should minimize such misunderstandings."

#3. More on health care in Spain

In the Jan. 1st newsletter, I wrote about a frightening experience that a couple (Wes and Rita) had while walking on the Camino last year. Wes developed what was later diagnosed as pulmonary thrombosis -- quite possibility as a result of his sitting for so long on their flight from the U.S. to Spain. When Wes first started having problems, the couple didn't know what was going on, but they knew that they needed medical help. They flew back home and received treatment there.

I'm providing this background information because the story raised several questions and issues relating to Wes and Rita's choice to fly home rather than seek medical treatment in Spain. They wrote in later that it was sheer panic that led them to fly home. They added that they didn't know much Spanish and that they had a doctor back home that they had great confidence in.

Several people sent in comments to correct the impression (which many Americans, and some Canadians seem to have) that medical care in Spain and France is second-rate. In reality, they say, it is at least as good as what we would find here -- if not superior!

Comments include:

*Europeans do not have to worry (as Americans might) about personal bankruptcies because of medical conditions. *Medical care in France and Spain is first-rate. *Medical care in Spain is mostly free because of government subsidies. *Many in the medical profession speak English. Most physicians speak at "least some English." *You are not entering a "medical wilderness" when you enter Spain or France. *Treatment is easy to come by, standards are high.

#4. Recommended websites for hikers and Camino walkers:

For women backpackers:

For Camino hikers: Rebekah Scott at: .

#5. An inspiring quote and book

"We roll out our sleeping bags in the grass and lie down looking at the sky. We're not in a five-star hotel, but instead in a thousand star one..." (From a wonderful book of adventure and inspiration: "Spark Your Dream" by Candelaria and Herman Zapp, pg. 161)

#6. Another Route for Hikers Via Francigena Pilgrims

In June and July of 2006, five South African women (average age 55 years) walked ± 700kms along the old VF pilgrimage trail from Switzerland to Rome. They raised over R50 000 for Homenet Children's Charities. Their story of the towns and villages along the way is at

#7. Raindrops Keep Falling

Did you know that a large raindrop can fall at speeds of almost 20 mph? (Roberta Gonzales, CBS 5, weather Anchor).

#8. Susan B. Komen Cancer Walk Report

Most of you have heard of the popular and important breast cancer walks held by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I thought you might be interested in my friend's (Sue) experience participating in the event, and to learn how successful these fund-raising events are. If ever you have considered doing such an event, I hope this will encourage you to do so.

"Dear Friends and Relatives,

Thank you! Thank you very much for your wonderful support. Without your support I would not have been able to raise the $2,200 needed to participate in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk in San Diego November 21-23. With your help I was able to raise over $ 3,700.00. My team, the North Bay Street Walkers raised over $ 50,000 and the 4,500 walkers in San Diego raised over $ 10,000,000."

"The experience of being a Susan Komen walker is incredible. The collective spirit of the walkers and well wishes of compassion, hope and goodwill. It makes a person feel privileged to have participated. To know that by walking and raising money we are helping others."

It began on a chilly, overcast Friday morning at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The 20.1 mile route took us trough Kellogg Park at La Jolla shores, the pink balloon arch at La Jolla Shores Hotel, the seals at The Children’s Pool and the San Jose Bike Cops were there with us the whole way. We settled in to camp at Crown Point Shores in Mission Bay Park."

Saturday’s 19.6-mile day also started out foggy and chilly, but it couldn’t dampen our spirits. The beauty of the Pacific Ocean along Sunset Cliffs was inspiring. There was lots of community support throughout the weekend, including the South Beach Bar and Grill handing out water and soda, Clowns for the Cure, Pink Panther, friends, family and many locals. Bonita Cove was a beautiful spot for lunch, and we were greeted by Miss Teen USA. The UC Davis band gave a great show to keep us walking."

Sunday’s 14.3 mile route skirted through Mission Bay, with beautiful. Sunny weather. Bustin Out Billy kept us laughing. A friendly Mexican restaurant in Old Town handed out snacks to fuel our climb up the Juan Street Hill, and the National Charity league of Moms and Daughters cheered us up the whole way. It all ended with a celebratory Closing Ceremony at Petco Park." Thank you, Sue

#9. Get Out. Give Back (American Hiking)

The American Hiking Society has a new catalog out with Volunteer Vacations for 2009. "Get Out. Give Back" describes trips throughout the U.S. The catalog rates the difficulty of the trips as moderate, difficult, or strenuous. All are priced at $220 (registering before Feb. 28) - 245 for members, $250-275 for non-members (reduced for second and subsequent trips). Examples: the John Muir Wilderness, Kearsarge Pass (CA) project is August 2-8; rated very strenuous. Iao Valley, Maui is Sept 1-6; rated moderate (HI). Register at .

#10. Wilderness Foxes Hikes offered in Tennessee

Wilderness Foxes has several intriguing trips in Tennessee this year. "Outdoor Experience for Women over 40" is their motto. Trips include the Savage Gulf Greeter Falls Trail described: "[the place where] we will be hiking is full of history and beauty. Savage Gulf is like the fingers of a hand carved out of the Cumberland Plateau. It is one of the true wildernesses still remaining in Tennessee. The Plateau’s rocks were created 250 to 325 million years ago and there is still virgin forest within its 16,000 acres of preserved park area. The Chikamaka Indians passed through the South Cumberland Plateau and their camp was in the area until 1838 when it was forcibly removed. Many Indians hid in the hills and coves of the region and many local natives are descendents of this tribe. The Savage Gulf Greeter Falls Rim Trail features some of the best views in the area. The Greeter Family sold the land to the state to preserve the natural area. Greeter Falls, on Firescald Creek near Altamont, drops over a 15-foot upper ledge and plunges over a 50-foot lower ledge into a cold, clear pool. The Blue Hole swimming hole is just minutes away from the falls and is a stimulating dip or just a wading spot on a hot summer day. The flora of Savage Gulf rivals in number and variety to any the Great Smoky Mountains has to offer.

#11. Climbing Mt. Whitney (Trip with Call of the Wild)

The beginning of the year is always an exciting time to consider all the backpacking possibilities for the year. Call of the Wild's new schedule is now out and once again they are offering a trip to summit the tallest peak in the lower 48 states -- Mt. Whitney.

"July 24 - 31, 2009, Join Call of the Wild on this spectacular 8 day backpack adventure to 14,495 feet! We allow for plenty of time to acclimatize as we make our way to the base of the mountain, before summitting with daypacks. En route, you will enjoy breathtaking California scenery, gourmet backcountry meals, and yoga at 10,000 feet!

They are offering many other trips including " Sequoias & Snowshoeing" Feb. 6 - 8th, "Gourmet Hiker" Jul. 31-Aug. 5th, and "Half Dome Summit Yosemite Backpack" Sep. 10-16th. For more information or to register, call the office at 650-265-1662 (Outside CA: (888) 378-1978) or go to .

#12. Featured events at U.S. Pilgrims' Gathering

We have more details on the programs scheduled at the American Pilgrims on the Camino 12th Annual Gathering of Pilgrims in Albuquerque, NM on March 11-17, 2009

"WALK IN SPIRIT: On Friday, we will hold our usual Q&A panel session for new pilgrims, this year with Camino author and film-maker Sue Kenney, and Camino veteran Luana Duggan. Daniel De Kay will present his ever popular workshop on Camino first aid."

We are delighted to welcome Phil Cousineau, well-known author of The Art of Pilgrimage, to our Friday program. Phil will present an afternoon workshop on the "Great Round of Pilgrimage." With story- telling, sketching, and exercises in awareness, Phil will help you transform the adventure of your Camino journey into a deep pilgrimage [additional fee]."

Saturday sessions include one with Arthur Boers, teacher of theology and spiritual disciplines, and author of "The Way is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago". Also, "Steve Raulston from the University of San Francisco will focus on the spiritual meaning of church architecture; Mike Hammer, from San Francisco State University, will talk about Camino miracle tales, and Tony Cardenas from the University of New Mexico will introduce us to important Camino manuscripts."

Dolly Sanchez de Riviera, of the Albuquerque community, will show us simple yoga postures. Dug Corpolongo, Master Instructor of Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong, and a long-time teacher in Albuquerque, will introduce us to walking practices from the Tai Chi tradition…"

Sue Kenney will be the after dinner speaker at our Saturday banquet. She will present My Camino, a stage play adaptation of her book of the same name, which has already received excellent reviews across North America."

For more information and to register, go to . You can contact us at gatherings at americanpilgrims dot com with all your registration questions and to have the forms emailed or mailed to you. "Registration deadline is February 21, 2009. You MUST book your own room at the Rio Grande Inn before February 12, 2009 in order to receive the discounted rate."

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #118 Jan 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

1. "Tom Stienstra Challenge"
2. 2009 Gathering of Pilgrims
3. Camino: Pilgrim Passport/Credential
4. Airlines Travel Health Reminder
5. Ray Jardine's New Book
6. How Safe to Hike Alone?
7. Letterboxing

#1. Tom Stienstra Challenge

Tom Stienstra, outdoors writer for the S.F. Chronicle, always writes a fine column, but we are partial to the ones that talk about the trails. His recent column (12/28/08), entitled, "Don't Join a Gym, Join the Fun" suggests that the way to keep to your New Year's resolution to get/keep fit, is to trick yourself. If you select an activity that you enjoy, you are much more likely to stick with it.

He points out that one of major difficulties with losing weight and/or getting in shape is that there is no short-term payoff. [ed.: eating, on the other hand, has an immediate "reward."] Stienstra continues with his recommendations--and provides a list of 20 destinations that require getting off the sofa and going for a hike or a bike ride--that will provide immediate gratification. And, "The outdoors quickly becomes addictive," he adds.

Recently while Ralph and I were on a hike in the neighborhood (we live near Sibley Regional), we decided that we would take on what we immediately dubbed the "Tom Stienstra Challenge" for 2009 -- 5 hikes, 5 hikes to waterfalls, and 5 hikes to see wildlife. We've done the East Bay Regional Parks District's Trail Marathon/Challenge for years, but we decided that completing his suggested hikes would be yet another way of exploring new trails and feeding our addiction.

Even if you don't live in the S.F. Bay Area, you might find one of Tom's other books about the outdoors (Washington Camping, The Complete Guide to Tent and RV Camping; Tom Stienstra's West Coast RV Camping, and several books he's written for Moon publications) useful. 

#2. 2009 Camino Gathering

Camino Gathering 2009, the annual gathering of American Pilgrims on the Camino, will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, March 13-15. From their website, "Join past and future pilgrims in exploring the deeper and higher meanings that lie within the road to Santiago. Our Gathering will engage your body, mind and spirit as we share stories, thought-provoking presentations, and festivities to celebrate the pilgrim in all of us."

The gathering is one part of this year's events. WALK IN SPIRIT includes hospitalero training (March 11-12); the gathering (March 13-15); and a retreat (March 15-17). For more information as well as registration forms, go to  "events."

#3. Camino Pilgrim Passport

Translating Credential/Pilgrim Passport info. When walking the Camino de Santiago, most people carry a "credential" or "pilgrim passport," which they have stamped at least once a day with a "sello" (rubber stamp) indicating where they have passed through or stayed. The passport is required to stay in the refugios (pilgrim hostels) and will be needed when going to the Pilgrim Office if one wants to obtain the Compostela (certificate of completion) when arriving in Santiago de Compostela at trip's end. Effective Jan. 1, 2009, "Generally one sello per day is sufficient but the Confraternity of Saint James reports a message from the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago stating that pilgrims starting from points inside Galicia should obtain two per day. This would be starting from O Cebreiro or points west of there." (  )

In addition, there's been a rather confusing thread on at least one of the Camino forums lately about changing requirements for pilgrim's passports. The question has been will pilgrim passports issued outside of Spain be accepted when hiking in Spain? What we plan to do is bring our pilgrim passports obtained from American Pilgrims on the Camino (similar ones are offered by other pilgrim organizations in other countries) when we travel to Spain. Then, if we encounter any problem having them accepted, we will obtain the church issued ones in Spain.

#4. Airlines Travel Health

Because we like to use our frequent flyer miles, or to otherwise economize when flying, Ralph and I usually don't end up with non-stop flights when we go on our hiking trips in Europe. However cattle-car seating does not mean that you have to fly for 20 hours without moving. You should do the weird little stretches recommended in the in- flight magazines -- you'll never see the other passengers again. And, get up at least every hour and walk around. Rather than sitting side- by-side on long flights, Ralph and I often take seats on the aisle across from each other so that we can get up easily.

The following story from Rita and Wes should serve as a warning: "Here's our tale of a (near-tragically) abbreviated Camino. We left Massachusetts on September 8, 2008. Wes and I arrived at the Madrid airport…caught a train to Pamplona and shared a taxi to Saint-Jean- Pied-de-Port with another peregrina.

"…it seems that Wes had developed a blood clot on the flight from Boston to Madrid. He didn't feel it until that first day walking over the Pyrenees. He couldn't catch his breath on hills that were less steep than those we'd been walking at home. Apparently the clot had traveled to his lungs -- only we didn't know what was happening!"

It was, as it turned out, pulmonary embolism. Luckily, Wes survived, and he and Rita plan to return to Spain. Their advice, " On long flights, GET UP AND WALK AROUND -- frequently. And they add, "take an aspirin before a flight."

#5. Ray Jardine's new book

Ray Jardine, considered by many to be the guru of lightweight backpacking, has published a new book, "Trail Life", which is an updated and expanded version of his earlier book, "Beyond Backpacking."

"'Trail Life' covers the essentials of packweight and equipment, clothing and footwear, nourishment and physical conditioning, and the myriad topics that contribute to these basics. There are chapters on the safety of lightweight hiking and on pack-weight evolution. There are several gear chapters, including Backpack, Tarp and Tent, Quilt and Sleeping Bag."

There are chapters on wilderness skills such as Stealth Camping, Campfire and Cook-fire, Knots for the Hiker. Jenny [his wife] has written a chapter for women hikers, from a woman's perspective. There are chapters on foot care, creek fording, snow travel, snakes and bears, to name just a few."

#5. Squirrel Meat

On Nov 11, 2008, "Squirrel Meat" (aka Aaron Richardson) interviewed me about long-distance hiking in his first-ever podcast. You can find him at www. or go directly to my interview at: *Exclusive Release: My First Interview."

When Aaron first called to interview me, I didn't know who he was, but he sounded legitimate, interesting, and sincere. I did a bit of research and confirmed that he was a backpacker himself -- he hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2003 and southbound hiked much of the Pacific Crest trail in 2007.

After the interview we had a little more time to talk off the record. Ralph and our friend Lorinda were with me and she was curious how he got the trailname, "Squirrel Meat." Later I wrote back to Aaron and he sent me to read his Trail Journals entry (, then click on "Trail name."

"After my third day of southbounding the AT in 2003, I found a shelter, removed my hiking shoes and put on my Teva's. The terrain in Maine is mainly a pain. Some other sobos happened to be there and I decided to strike up conversation. While standing in front of the shelter and telling a story to three hikers, a squirrel was fast approaching from a nearby stump. Expecting some dropped morsels, it evidently thought my toe was trail mix. The other hikers watched while the squirrel hopped right over and began to nibble on my toe. Fresh in the woods, I freaked out which caused an uproar from my new hiking friends. The squirrel quickly retreated, barking loudly all the way. After a few options were presented, the hikers soon decided that 'Squirrel Meat' was the name since I was certainly the squirrel's meat that afternoon."

#6. How safe to hike alone?

Is thru-hiking on the Pacific Crest trail safe? I am often asked this question when giving talks about backpacking on the PCT and the Camino. I thought Eric Lee's response to the question on the pct-l forum (12/17/08), was excellent.

"If you start anywhere around the end of April, you'll actually find it difficult to achieve being alone for any serious length of time. There are lots of other thru-hikers around. Choosing a partner before starting the trail usually doesn't work out. Once you're on the trail, there will be plenty of people to pick from. It will be very easy for you to fall in with a few other hikers of similar habits and hike with them if you want to, or if you want to keep to yourself but find that you need emergency help, there will likely be someone along shortly."

If your goal is to reassure your family, then just explain to them that there are several hundred people who start the trail around the same time every year, so you'll be in plenty of good company. You won't be alone in the way they're afraid of. You'll know people and other people will know you, and even if you're not actually with someone all the time, your "tribe" will keep track of your whereabouts. You'd have to be pretty anti-social to avoid that, actually."

You asked if thru-hiking alone is actually safe. I suppose, objectively, that being within sight distance of someone else at all times is *slightly* safer than hiking alone. Certainly I can imagine some rare scenarios where having a companion would make a difference. But I really think the difference is slight. Of all the accidents, injuries, and fatalities I can think of hearing about on the PCT, I can think of only one at the moment (John Donovan) where being with someone else would have likely changed the outcome. My (unproven) belief is that in the vast majority of trail emergencies, you either die instantly or you can afford to wait around for awhile until someone comes along to help you."

Of course, talking to your family about "dying instantly" on the trail probably isn't going to help. :-) Instead, you might point out the fact that in terms of objective risk, hiking is a very safe activity compared to other things that we take for granted. You're more likely to get injured or killed driving to the mall than you are to get injured or killed hiking on the PCT. Yet that doesn't stop our Christmas shopping, does it?"

Yes, hiking in the wilderness for five months is an unfamiliar activity, and therefore seems scary to some, but it's really not particularly dangerous if you take basic common sense precautions. Know your physical limits. Know your gear. Be ready and willing to stop, wait, or turn around if the conditions warrant. Be prepared for all reasonably foreseeable circumstances, but don't worry about freak accidents. Freak accidents happen anywhere - in your home most of all."

#7. Letterboxing

Ralph and I usually start the New Year with a walk with friends. Yesterday, we went with a small group that Marianne and Jim put together. We left our home where it was dripping wet from fog all day and headed down the peninsula south of San Francisco. Amazingly, we managed to escape the fog and to enjoy some sunshine!

When we arrived at the trailhead, Marianne and her sister were deeply engrossed with sorting through the contents of a small box. Looking over their shoulders, I was introduced to the intriguing new hobby of letterboxing.

As it turns out, "Letterboxing North America" ( ) has 36,500 members. Their website explains the concept: "LETTERBOXING is an intriguing pastime combining navigational skills and rubber stamp artistry in a charming "treasure hunt" style outdoor quest. A wide variety of adventures can be found to suit all ages and experience levels."

There's a second group with a site at: . What appealed to me as a hiker, is that it offers another excuse (if you need one!) to set off for new places to explore and hike!

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

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

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