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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2010

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Shepherd Canyon Books
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Oakland, CA  94611
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Publisher of "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill--Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers."

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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #145 Dec 1, 2010

1.Beautiful new book on Mt. Rainier
2. The skies will soon be alive – with the Geminids!
3. Foot care – plantar fasciitis
4. Foot care – nail fungus
5. How to help our CA state parks
6.Pacific Crest Trail Guides will continue
7. Bay Area Regional: Walk San Francisco
8.Regional: Carquinez Strait Birding Guide (free)
9. Susan Alcorn writes about Bay Area hiking at

#1. Book on Mt. Rainier

Marcy Del Clements, who contributed a poem and stories to my book,
“We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from
Seasoned Women Backpackers,” sent word that she has teamed up with a
friend of hers, Sally Vogel, to produce a beautiful book entitled “The
Mountain: Mt. Rainier National Park.” You can preview the entire book
at Vogel’s site: and
also place an order there. It’s a dazzling collection of color photos
and poems and anyone who loves the Northwest would enjoy revisiting

#2. Geminids coming

The most reliable meteor showers of the winter, the Geminids, come December 4-16, with the peak on December 13, around midnight (morning of the 14th), after the moon sets. Expect a fine show of yellow, blue, red, and green streaks in the wee hours.  According to Audubon (Nov/ Dec.2010), the “show” has been 4.5 billion years in the making. Find a comfy place away from city lights, bundle up, let your eyes adjust for 30 minutes minimum. Hot chocolate or coffee might be good, too!

#3. Foot care. Item 1 Plantar Fasciitis

John Vonhof has some important updates on the treatment of acute plantar fasciitis, which is the most common cause of pain on the bottom of the heel. “A new study compares two treatment methods for acute plantar fasciitis. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons just issued a press release about the study. According to a new study from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, patients with acute plantar fasciitis who perform manual plantar fasciitis stretching exercises, as opposed to shockwave therapy, had superior results and higher patient satisfaction.”

“Patients in the stretching group were told to perform stretching exercises three times a day, for eight weeks. Patients were given follow-up evaluations at two, four and fifteen months. At both the two and fourth month evaluation, 65 percent of patients who performed the plantar fascia-specific stretch reported total satisfaction with treatment or satisfaction with treatment with minor reservations. Only 29 percent did so after shockwave therapy.”

One of the key points made by John Furia, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in Pennsylvania and one of the study authors was that those who develop plantar fascia pain should begin non-operative treatment promptly. He added that shockwave therapy is very effective with chronic cases (more than 6-8 weeks), but acute cases respond more quickly to the stretching.” How to do the stretch: According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), this stretch should be performed in the seated position. Cross your affected foot over the knee of your other leg. Grasp the toes of your painful foot and bring your ankle up and your toes up. Place your thumb along the plantar fascia and rub it to stretch it. The fascia should feel like a tight band along the bottom of your foot when stretched. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat it 10-20 times for each foot.”

Dr. Furia and Dr. Judy Baumhauer, orthopaedic surgeon and president- elect of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) recommend that this exercise be performed initially in the morning, before getting out of bed and after any long periods of sitting. If there is a sharp pain in your heel when getting up, a stretch should have been done before standing or walking. More than 80 percent of patients… will improve within 10 months of starting simple treatment methods.”

John Vonhof’s 5th edition of Fixing Your Feet is due for release Feb. 2011.

#4. Foot care –item 2 Toe Fungus

A couple of years ago, I noticed when I removed the nail polish from my toenails that there was what seemed to be a whitish residue of the polish. It took a while before I realized that it was really a nail fungus that the polish had hidden. My doctor said that the oral medications that one would take can have serious side effects (liver damage) and didn’t really recommend taking them if I could live with the condition.

Nail fungus is related to athlete’s foot, but very difficult to cure because it’s under the nail. Since it’s basically buried, most topical foot treatments can’t get to it. I had read John Vonhof’s description of Tea tree oil some time back and decided to investigate using this natural product.

I found mixed reviews online from people who had tried it, but I decided (and Vonhof concurred when I emailed him) that trying it was worth a try and at least it didn’t cause harm. So I have been trying it. After reading the comments of others, I put together my plan -- sanding down (thinning) the nail (I used an emery board), stop using toenail polish, wear sandals or other open toe shoes when possible, and apply the Tea tree oil twice a day.

At first I was diligent about painting it on my toenails twice a day; then I slacked off for a while, but have now resumed using it. I have noticed a significant reduction in the amount of discoloration due to the fungus. Nails take almost a year to grow out, so I expected progress to be slow, but I have seen good results so far. Anyone else out there dealing with this?

#5. California State Parks

Even though the measure failed that would have funded California State Parks, we haven’t given up on saving our parks. California State Park Foundation has come up with a win-win situation for campers and the parks to help out.

“Now you can help CSPF by doing what you love: camping! We are happy to announce that you can now reserve your California State Park campsite through our website, and 50 cents of each camping reservation will come back to CSPF. This new option is made possible by a wonderful partnership with The Active Network. Campsite booking for May 2011 is now open. At their Travel Center, , you can find hikes and camping spots at all of the state parks.  In order to make your reservation, first go to and find the state park you want to visit. If you are a CSPF member you can also get up to 10% off your camping reservation by going through the Calparks website.

#6. Pacific Crest Trail Guidebooks will continue

I received a Letter to the Editor about the Wilderness Press Pacific Crest Trail guidebooks stating, “However the rumor got started, it's not true that Keen Communications, the new ‘parent’ of Wilderness Press, will cease updating the WP PCT guidebooks. Those guidebooks are definitely on WP's front burner, says a Keen spokesperson ("

Bay Area Regional:

#7. Walk San Francisco party

San Thursday December 9, 6-8 pm is the Walk San Francisco's Annual Meeting (and Greeting!). Walk San Francisco is San Francisco's Pedestrian Advocacy Organization. They are having a holiday-party where you can have a glass of good wine (donated by Bi-Rite Grocery), sample tasty snacks, and meet the members. SPUR Penthouse, 654 Mission Street at New Montgomery, 4th floor. Special guest speakers are State Senator Mark Leno and SF Board of Supervisors President David Chiu.

“Join us to meet with fellow members, our new executive director, and our board.  At this informal gathering, we’ll have brief updates on Walk SF’s work over the last year and what we see coming in the next year, and plenty of time to chat. This is an opportunity to get together to celebrate our successes in 2010, and look ahead to how we can improve and explore our city in 2011.”

The event is free for members.  For more info on how to join and attend, go to:

#8. Carquinez Strait free birding guide

A new colorful birding brochure for the 50-mile Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail is hot off the press — and it’s free online at “Both the Ridge Trail and Bay Trail converge around the Carquinez Strait, presenting a unique opportunity to create a shared loop trail. The sweeping vistas, as well as the diversity of habitats found in the area—tidal marshes, open bay, grassland, and riparian woodland — offer abundant birding opportunities.” The brochure features nine areas along the trail (and just off the trail) and offers access information and tips on endemic and visiting species to watch for at different seasons. Find out where you might spot a Spotted Towhee or spy a soaring Golden Eagle.”

#9. Susan’s Examiner articles

Check out Susan’s hiking articles for online at www.

Happy trails and happy holidays!
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #144 Nov 1, 2010

1. Dare I say it – Vote!
2. Wines of the Camino de Santiago
3. Walking now could boost brain later, study shows
4. Tips: Take care when Fall hiking
6. Tip: Protect your eyes
7. Tip: Take care of your feet
8. Partnering with Nature wins award
9. Website about the Pacific Crest Trail
10.Art show:  Celebrating the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

11.“Killer Goat” in Washington
12.California Wine Hikes
13.Regional: Trail of 4 cities

#1. Calif Prop 21 Vote

As you know if you’ve been a subscriber very long, I don’t usually take a political stand in this newsletter, but it’s beginning to feel like our California State Parks are an endangered species! I urge you to “Vote Yes on Prop 21” to provide funding for them. (And remember, in off-term election years, usually fewer people vote so your vote will have more clout!) Details at:

#2.  Wines of the Camino de Santiago

This is a fascinating blog posting – especially for those planning a trip on the Camino de Santiago “Wines of the Camino de Santiago- Wine Tasting along the Way of Saint James”

#3. Walking now boosts brain later

An interesting article, “Walking now could boost brain later”, gives yet another reason to get out and hike regularly – walking may help maintain memory and cognitive function for years. A  recent report of a study of 299 men and women, average age 78, who were followed for 9 years. Brain scans showed that the more the participants walked at the beginning of the study, the greater the volume of their brains at the end of the study. Researchers found that walking 72 blocks (6-9 miles per week) was the magic number – more walking did not further increase brain volume.  (Jeannine Stein, LA Times) newpaper article,

#4. Tips: Take Care when Fall Hiking

Call of the Wild (, a great company that leads hikes and backpacking adventures for women, had this to say about fall hiking in their recent newsletter:
•Plan ahead for your hike and know your route.  The days are shorter with less daylight, making it important that you get back to the trailhead before sunset.  Take extra precautions and bring a headlamp if you are planning a big day hike. Fall is hunting season in many parts of the USA.  If you are travelling through areas that allow hunting, be sure to wear bright colors and talk loudly on the trail so you don’t sound like a deer, turkey, or other animal.  Better yet, hike in areas that don’t allow hunting.
•Fall usually means cool mornings, warm afternoons, and brisk evenings.  Dress in layers so you can stay comfortable throughout the day.  Rain also is common, so a waterproof layer is important to bring, even if the forecast calls for no rain.
•As trees loose their leaves, it can make trails slick.  Add a little rain on top, and it can feel like walking on ice.  Make sure to bring your trekking poles and boots with a good tread.  If you are on your bike, watch your speed in the corners.


I just found a helpful website, still growing, but with photos of campsites – primarily in the west. Could be useful if you are planning a camping trip and would like to see what an unfamiliar campground looks like.  Starting today, you can make campground reservations for May 1-31, 2011. “Look before you book:

#6. Tip: Protect your eyes

Why didn’t I think of this! Actually, this is a modification of what the Native Americans did in the far north --  made their own sunglasses. Jason Stevenson in Backpacker Magazine (Oct. 2010) writes “For every 1,000 vertical feet gained, UV exposure increases by five percent; and snowfields reflect 90 percent of the sun’s glare. To prevent snowblindness, always wear sunglasses.” To make today’s version of the homemade sunglasses, “fold a one-foot piece of duct tape in half to cover the sticky side. Cut eye slits one-inch wide and ¼-inch tall; punch holes in the ends; and tie them with a cord.” (ed. You can easily carry duct tape when you are hiking — just wrap a short piece around your hiking pole.)

#7. Tip: Take care of your feet

John Vonhof’s blog, “Fixing Your Feet,” often has helpful advice for hikers. Though John’s specialty is treating runners – many of whom seem to regularly neglect and abuse their feet – his information is valuable to most anyone with feet.

“Quite some time ago I wrote about the ‘Little Toe Triangle.’ Working recently at Badwater, I was reminded again about this little appendage. A runner had completed the grueling 135-mile Badwater race through Death Valley and had come into the medical room for foot care.”

He really had pretty good feet. With one exception … a callus on the bottom of the [little] toe had evolved into a substantial blister that had ruptured.”

“If you look at your little toes, your toes may be well rounded and soft. Or they may have the often-typical triangle look where the skin on the bottom of the triangle is hard and callused. The skin on the bottom of the toe forms the point of the triangle. The problem is that on many of our little toes, this bottom point is hard and callused skin. The hard skin is prone to blisters forming underneath as pressure creates friction. Often this hardened skin is partially under the skin of the next toe, another pressure area. The outside of the foot, the little toe area, is often more wet and damp than the inside of the shoes, leading to macerated skin. Once softened, this skin can easily blister underneath, or worse yet, the skin can separate, leading to major skin problems.”

“One of the best ways to tame the callus on the bottom of the little toe is the Heel Smoother Pro. I reviewed this great tool last November.  It comes with two tips. The smaller one is shaped like a little Christmas tree. The curved sides are perfect for toes. This is the best callus tool I have ever seen.”

“The little toe is so small that it is hard to patch well. The use of Micropore or Kinesio tape is a good choice. Even better, in my opinion, is reducing the hard callused skin. Injinji toe socks can also be helpful. Good shoes are vital too. Shoes with a good toebox that allows the toes room to wiggle are good. Once the skin has blistered, 2nd Skin is good to use as a patch. Cut it to fit the blister. Too much and it becomes bulky and rubs on the neighboring toe. During a race or hike, be watchful of your little toes. This small but potentially troublesome triangle of skin deserves special care.” People can sign up on my blog page in the subscription box at

#8. Partnering with Nature wins award

Catriona MacGregor’s "Partnering With Nature" has just received the “2010 Best "Social Change Book" Award. "Partnering with Nature" is a simple book with a powerful message that illuminates the fact that our connection to nature, animals, and the earth is a vital part of our existence. To Learn About Catriona's Vision and Nature Quests and Spirit Animal Journeys go

#9. Website about the Pacific Crest Trail

Great write up about the Pacific Crest Trail, with map, photos, etc.

#10.  Art Show - Celebrating the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

Jim Eychaner,  Chair of American Pilgrims on the Camino writes,
Dear Fellow Pilgrims,
This fall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is presenting a wonderful series of events, “Celebrating the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.” On Sunday, November 14,  José Suárez Otero of the Xacobeo, Professor John Dagenais of UCLA, and others will headline a day of special presentations about the Cathedral and the pilgrimage. Next year marks the 800th anniversary of the completion of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.”

#11. California Wine Hikes

California Wine Hikes at  offers a great way to enjoy both! At the site, you put in the price range, length of hike, and level of difficulty and you are given some suggestions for a wine and hike adventure. There are plenty of options—everything from hiking in to a winery for a tasting, to going on a guided hike with a gourmet lunch provided.

#12. Killer Mountain Goat in Washington

Talk about bizarre, and sad -- Robert Boardman, 63, or Port Angeles, was gored to death October 16, 2010, while hiking in the Olympic National Forest. According to news reports, the goat had previously shown aggressive behavior (such as following hikers or not backing off the trail), but rangers who had been tracking several goats said they had never expected this kind of behavior.” Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes, said, “There is no record of anything similar in this park.” The goat was shot and study is underway to determine if the animal was suffering from any disease that might explain this unusual behavior.

 #13. Trail of Four Cities

Bay Area Regional: Ralph and I recently went on a terrific urban hike with 4 leaders – one from each of 4 local hiking groups: Oakland Urban Paths, Berkeley Path Wanderers, Kensington Improvement Club, and El Cerrito Trail Trekkers. Participants explored dozens of hidden pathways and stairways in the East Bay hills.  I’ve written an about our "Trail of Four Cities" trek that you can find here: You can follow our 13-mile route (or part of it) on your own by using the map link in the article. Or, you can buy a copies of the cities’ walking maps and put together your own adventures. It is definitely more interesting to move about neighborhoods on foot than by car.

Susan’s article, “Trail of 4 cities” at

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #143 Oct 1, 2010

"How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a
whole box to start a campfire?" (unknown origin, sent by Sheila)

1. Notes from the field -- Susan's report on the Washington section ofthe Pacific Crest Trail.
2. PCT Completion Award
3. San Francisco Hiking Examiner -- hikes for you!
4. Hiker Shoots Himself in the Rear (Darwin award nominee?)
5. Gear of interest "LightCap 300)
6. Brandon Wilson's newest book is hot off the press
7. Who has the right of way on trails
8. Question about mothballs repelling bears
9. Triple Crown Awards presented at ALDHA-West
10. How "pure" should our long-distance trails be?
11. Regional: BPWA announces ambitious 4-cities hike

#1. Washington PCT

If it seems like a while since you've seen this newsletter, you're right. We took a 5+ week time off to complete the last 460+ miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. We started where we left off last year -- Panther Creek Campground (in Washington State) and ended inside the Canadian Border at Manning Park, BC.

Here are a couple of emails that I sent home while we were on the trail. Communication, by the way, was rather difficult -- we found few places where we could get cell phone reception or Internet access.

(Email 1) Subject: Susan and Ralph on the PCT Washington (Wednesday, August 18, 2010). This will be relatively short because I am exhausted (as usual). This has been a very, very difficult hike for me. Washington's Pacific Crest Trail shows no mercy to backpackers!!! We are overnight at Howard Johnson here at Snoqualmie Pass (another ski center as was the last resupply at White Pass/Packwood. Amazing considering its only about 4,500 ft.

We are on schedule, though not sure how we are going to sustain that with even--everyone agrees--harder miles ahead. We are somewhat over 200 miles of our 460+ to do.

Did have a few magical moments yesterday. I will tell one here. Had been hearing some kind of military jet flights the last few years. Flying much lower than commercial airlines. Anyway, yesterday, just as Ralph and I came out of a forest into an open swath with shrubbery under huge power lines going down the mountain into Seattle, we heard and saw a jet flying towards us, up the mountainside about 50 ft. above the power lines. About 50 yards before he was over our heads, he flipped over, flew a few hundred yards upside down, and then righted himself and flew on. Nothing like a personal Blue Angels-type moment!!! We certainly whooped and hollered!

The second great moment yesterday was finding a hiker cache "trail magic" where someone had left two coolers full of ice cold sodas and beer trailside. Little things mean a lot.

Next time I write, I'll try to tell you about making it over the "Knife" passage in Goat Rocks. Ah, and yes, we saw about 70 goats while making our way around Mt. Adams. Beautiful hiking.
Happy trails, Susan

(Email 2) Report on the Pacific Crest Trail. (Sep 13, 2010) Well, we are now home and happy to be enjoying our own bed and food as well as reconnecting with friends and family. We are thrilled to report that we have now completed the 2,660+ miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (almost 500 miles of that on this latest trip through Washington.)

As I mentioned earlier, this was a challenging trip for me -- physically and mentally. Washington certainly has lots of forest and mountains -- very few miles are flat! Ralph will confirm that on more
than one occasion I yelled "Get me out of here."

Fortunately/unfortunately, there usually wasn't any easy way out. At this point, I compare the experience to childbirth -- lots of pain, but the negative stuff is soon forgotten and you have a wonderful outcome! With hiking, this tends to lead to planning another hike before you have even unpacked from the most recent one. Ralph calls it an addiction, but if it is, at least it's a healthy and rewarding one.

I promised to explain about "the knife edge" of Goat Rocks Wilderness, so here goes. As you know if you have read any of my previous stuff, I am inclined to be a worrywart. In this case, the WA section, I worried a lot about the trail through the Goat Rocks Wilderness of So. WA. I ENVISIONED a narrow trail of several miles on a ridge with nothing alongside to keep me from sliding down its steep slopes to certain death. (Imagine an inverted "V" with the top flattened.) I'm not particularly afraid of heights, but I do like to have firm ground underneath.

The reality was not quite that bad, but I have to say that I am VERY glad that I never have to do it again. Although the trail generally had something of an edge on one side or another, and although it was somewhat more than the two feet wide that I had imagined, I still had to watch my every step. Ralph kept pointing out that I am able to walk down our hallway and not fall, but that ignores the fact that falling in our hall would not be life threatening!

And while other people were disappointed that views were curtailed by the fact that the valleys below us were filled with fog, I was happy because I couldn't look down and see the hundreds of feet that I could slide down -- perhaps leading to my demise!

So, while Goat Rocks wasn't quite the disaster I anticipated, it was a nerve-wracking experience. (Others (fool-hearty types?) described it as a great adventure!) And that was not the end of the fun events of that day -- we also had to stomp our way over snowfields (where a slip could be serious) and then got hit by a late afternoon hailstorm before we reached our campsite.

The other thing that I had been anxious about was the crossing of the infamous Suiattle River. It seems that in 2003, 7 footbridges in the Northern Cascades were knocked out by spring flood waters/glacier melt, etc. and some have not been replaced. (The bridge over the Suiattle River is slated to be replaced in 2011.) The PCTA and Forest Service subsequently recommended that hikers take a detour around the many miles affected, but most hikers ignore that recommendation and do the traditional route even though it has not been properly maintained
since 2003.

So here we are, about 4 weeks into our trip, about 5 days out from our last resupply and we finally reach the river. Out next resupply (and warm shower, etc.) is 2 days away. Hmm!

Complicating the matter, I knew of at least two people who fell in the river last year and of another friend who broke her arm when falling in a year or so earlier. And this year, we met a hiker (southbound) who fell in the river -- wearing his backpack -- and was swept downstream about 40 yards before he managed to get himself out. Sound promising?

So we approach the river through a wide stretch of boulders and take a look. Several people have told us to cross using the log upstream, so we make our way upriver to find it. Macho and sure-footed types walk across, but I've also been told (thank you Yogi and Ladybug) to forget my pride and scoot across the log (straddle it). Since my preferred way of crossing lesser streams is to wade across because I don't want to fall, I don't have much experience crossing rivers using logs. In this case, I would never have considered walking across.

I take a look at the river (heavy with silt from glacier melt) and know that wading, swimming, etc. are not options; the river is cold, deep, and swift. This is a river I do NOT want to fall into!! Ralph scoots across with his backpack, puts it on the far shore, and comes back to take my backpack across. As I climb onto the log, I keep my eyes glued on his back or the far shore the entire time; I do not want to look down at the water again.

When we get to the middle of the log (and river), we have to maneuver around a big branch, but since I am hanging on for dear life, it's really not a problem to lift myself slightly off the log by standing on a limb on one side and throwing my other leg over the troublesome branch. Truth be told, it was a piece of cake.

SO, once I got past considering our trip not as a vacation -- or a walk in the woods -- and started considering it as an adventure, my perspective got better. Things like having a mouse join us in the tent at night and days of drizzle, rain, and snow became manageable.

So that you won't think I am crazy for doing something that is both physically and emotionally challenging for me, let me explain some of the things that I love/loved about the trail -- something new (and usually beautiful) around every corner; wildlife (bear tracks, deer, marmots, birds); trail angels (people--both strangers and friends) who help by giving a ride, putting out a cooler full of beer, soda, candy bars, etc.); other hikers (some of whom become long-term friends); being part of something bigger than me/completing an epic journey; trail crew (who make the trail passable!); overcoming my fears (or at least managing them!); getting stronger and more fit; and observing
Ralph continually do things to make the trip safer and easier for me.

#2. PCT Completion Medal

If you've completed the entire Pacific Crest Trail (either in one season or as a series of section hikes) you may sign up to receive a PCT Completion Medal. "The medal is 3 inches in diameter and is made of solid brass, weighing in at 9 ounces. It is engraved with an image of the Trail on the front and your name, trail name and completion year on the back. The medal comes with a custom-designed lanyard. Thanks to a generous donation from 1970 thru-hiker Eric Ryback, these medals are completely free to PCTA members. Non-members pay an administrative fee of $5."

We just received ours yesterday and I'm proud to have the memento of this amazing trail. You can request your medal by following this link:

#3. San Francisco Hiking Examiner

I invite you to check out, and/or subscribe to my articles on hiking that I post on
While I am officially called "S.F. Hiking Examiner", I write about not only the S.F. Bay Area, but other trails we're familiar with -- Camino trails and the Pacific Crest Trail, for example. One big advantage of reading about the hikes on  is that there are photos, whereas I have no way to include them in this newsletter.

#4. Hiker shoots himself

In "Hiker accidentally shoots himself in the rear" we learn that there are more ways to injure yourself on the trail than we might have expected. WENATCHEE, Wash. (The Associated Press, Tuesday, August 31, 2010; 7:35 PM) "A hiker on Blewett Pass shot himself in the butt when he put a handgun in his back pocket. The Chelan County sheriff's office said the 52-year-old Snohomish man had moved his .40-caliber handgun from its holster to his back pocket Saturday to see if that position would be more comfortable.

"The Wenatchee World reported the gun fired the bullet down his left buttock and left leg, coming to rest just above the knee. He was treated at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee."

#5. LightCap 300

This is a new product that a friend sent word about. I haven't tried it, but it looks very intriguing

"The LightCap 300 is a renewable lantern, a one liter water bottle and a waterproof container for valuables. It also has our own custom wide mouth bottle with a 50% wider opening than standard bottles for easier cleaning, mixing, drinking and storing contents. The LightCap 300 is now BPA free! Weighs: 9.7 oz (275 grams) for bottle and cap. Brighter! Four super-bright white LEDs plus a red LED for use as a nightlight. New lens system creates bright, uniform light dispersion. FastSolar™ technology, super high efficient solar charging; no batteries to replace.

#6. Over the Top & Back Again: Hiking X the Alps, by Brandon Wilson

Will be available on Amazon and may be ordered from all the usual
suspects beginning this weekend. A good story - just read it.

#7. "If you meet a horse…"

Although I find that most hikers/bicyclists/ equestrians on long distance trails know who has the right away, that's not so true of those we run into locally. The right of way goes to equestrians, hikers, then bicyclists. The East Bay Regional Parks gives these tips, which were provided by Tilden Wildcat Horsemen's Association.

"What to do in East Bay Regional Parks if you encounter a horse… Be calm – most trail horses are used to encounters with hikers, runners and bikes and will pass you with little fanfare. However, horses are flight animals and may exhibit surprising fear of things like umbrellas, backpacks with children in them, large hats, plastic bags, flapping coats, strollers, bicycles, wheelchairs, etc. If you have any of these things - or anything unusual - on the trail with you, please approach horses with caution and patience."
"A few steps you can take when you meet a horse:
*Speak to the rider – the sound of your voice will reassure the horse.
* Try to step off the trail on the down-hill side in a place where the horse can clearly see you
* Get all members of your party on the same side of the trail if possible
* Stay back from the horse unless the rider indicates it is okay to

If you have a dog with you:
* Call your dog to you and hold him – he can be severely injured if the horse kicks him out of fear or surprise.
* If your dog has never or rarely seen horses, be prepared for him to act fearfully or aggressively
* Be calm – an excited owner can create an excited and difficult to control dog
* Let the rider know if you need time and/or space to retrieve your
dog – riders are animal lovers and will be patient

If you are running or riding a bike
* Call out when approaching a horse and rider from behind make sure the rider knows of your approach.
* Talk to the rider about the best way to pass the horse on trail.
* Exercise caution to avoid surprising the horse."

#8. Mothballs and bears

I just read an inquiry in a Backpacker newsletter in which someone asked if mothballs would be effective in keeping bears away. (answer was no). Moreover, we shouldn't be using mothballs at all -- the EPA states on their website that naphthalene (the main ingredient in mothballs) is classified "Group C, possible human carcinogen."

#9. 2010 Triple Crown Awards

Congratulations to the recipients of the Triple Crown Award for hiking The Triple Crown Award is recognition of the dedication, commitment, and achievement of those who have completed the three major National Scenic Trails; the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. At the 2010 ALDHA-West gathering last week, the following amazing hikers were awarded plaques noting their achievements:

David Arrington "Thermo," Adam Bagerski "Panda" ; Michele Champion "Northern Light; Ted Derloshon "ted d. bear;" Jim Eagleton "Rambler"; Sam Gregor "Reststop"; Selena Leonard "Wing it"; Andrew Linger "Skygod" and "Bruiser"' John Paton "Scotland"; Allmuth Perzel "Curly"; Jonathan Rose "Jon." Kevin Sedgewick "Special K"; Brian Tanzman "Buck 30": Mark Warnes, "The Brit; Shane Wohlken "The Gimp."

Produced by Greg Hummel "Strider" and edited by Ryan Christensen "Pro Deal." The music, "I Don't Mind," performed by Tobasco Donkeys (© Peter Bingen), is super!

#10. How "pure" should the national trails be?

Hikers fall on a continuum as far as their opinion of how much our long-distance trails should be made or kept "user-friendly" -- how much signage should be on the trail, and the biggie -- should water caches be allowed. This article is related: An Arizona Act of Kindness Water Drops for Immigrants: Kindness, or Offense?

#11. Trail of Four Cities

Regional: S.F. Bay Area. Berkeley Pathfinders (BPWA) had its first daylong trek, "Trail of Four Cities." "If you like the challenge of a long walk (about 5 hours), plan on joining us for our covering paths in Oakland, Berkeley, Kensington and El Cerrito. This walk will begin and end at BART stations." You can join their Sunday, on October 10, 2010. Walk starts at 9:00 a.m. sharp!

This all day walk departed from Rockridge BART station (NE Corner of Keith and College) and  ended at the El Cerrito BART. It visited four separate path systems in (Oakland, Berkeley, Kensington and El Cerrito). With volunteers from Oakland Urban Paths, Berkeley Pathwanderers, Kensington Improvement Club and the El Ccrrito Trail Trekkers.

Membership in Berkeley Pathfinders is a bargain. "The basic annual household membership is still just $5.00. Many members also include a contribution with their membership fees. Your membership and donation are tax deductible. Join, renew, and donate through our web site, or send a check made out to Berkeley Partners for Parks (our fiscal sponsor) and mail to: Berkeley Path Wanderers Association/BPFP, 1442A Walnut Street, Box 269, Berkeley, CA 94709. There's also a Berkeley's Pathways Map available.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #142 August 1 2010

"Now I see the secret of making the best persons, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." Walt Whitman

1. National Parks free entrance dates
2. Important CPR reminder
3. If you don't like airline baggage fees…
4. National Geographic Pacific Crest Trail DVD
5. PCT Distance hikers food resupply
6. Two bear incidents
7. PCT Trail Days 2010 in Oregon
8. Southbound Pacific Crest Trail hikers' requirements
9. Camino: Martin Sheen film clips: The Way
10. Camino: News about the Camino Portuguese
11. Camino: Albergues should be open
12. Camino: Holy week festivities
13. articles by Susan
14. Regional S.F. Bay Area: REI classes in Learning to Backpack and
Wilderness First Aid
15. Regional: Berkeley Path Finders upcoming hikes
16. Regional: Bay Area Ridge Trail "Ridge Trail Cruz"

#1. National Parks free entrance dates

Our National Park Service in going to waive its entrance fees on August 14 and 15 - enjoy a "fee-free weekend"!

#2. CPR Reminder

Here's a Youtube version of doing compression ONLY of CPR (no mouth to mouth required for most causes) 

#3. If you don't like airline baggage fees

Check out traveler Jeanine Barone's video of how she traveled for 5 nights carrying only a purse to avoid paying airline carry-on charges.  .

#4. National Geographic PCT DVD

According to Russ Gardner, if you missed the National Geographic special about the Pacific Crest Trail, you can see it on DVD. It's available at the National Geographic Store. $15.95 plus $5.95 shipping and handling with a ship date of 7/30.

#5. Muir Trail Ranch resupply costs

Ned Tibbits, who runs a mountain education program at Tahoe (ned at phone 888-996-8333) recently explained on the PCT forum why it costs so much for hikers to have Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) hold mailed ahead resupplies. MTR hiker liaison Patt says, "By the time a hiker resupply arrives at our door, it has been personally handled by our staff as many as four times already." Basically, they have to go out from the ranch to a post office to retrieve (your) package, bring it back over bumpy dirt roads, take it across the lake, drive it to the ranch…. [I think you get the idea.] 

#6. Bear Incidents.

 Perry Rosenbloom today posted a story about a fatal grizzly bear attack near Yellowstone National Park. This is the first fatal attack in Montana since 2001. "Last night at around 4 AM, a grizzly bear attacked and killed one camper in Soda Butte Campground, a Montana campground where families were camping in family camping tents." -

Recently there was a grizzly bear attack warded off in Glacier National Park by celebrity Jack Hanna, who used bear repellent to ward off a grizzly bear he encountered while exploring Glacier National Park hiking trails. At this link, you can read what to do if your encounter a grizzly -- and it doesn't include shooting it! grizzly-bear-attack

#7. PCT Days 2010

Outdoor enthusiasts can celebrate the Pacific Crest Trail at the PCT DAYS 2010 in Cascade Locks, Oregon [this is where the PCT crosses the Columbia into Washington.] during the weekend of August 27th - 29th, 2010. The fundraiser benefiting the trail will include gear demonstrations, a gear raffle, and lots of free goodies, music, an outdoor photography slide show, and a screening of a PCT documentary.

Friday's activities at noon can hike or bike in town. Saturday will have the above activities and also the opportunity to do some trail work. To participate, contact work party leader Dana Berthold at least 2 weeks before event at dberthold at or call 541.844.9133. On Sunday (8/29), "participants are welcome to continue enjoying the splendors of the Columbia River Gorge…." Cost ranges from $10-$15 minimum, plus fees for camping. Volunteers and 2010 thru-hikers may attend for free (including camping and more. To volunteer or learn more. please contact Jason, event coordinator at: jasonsvision at

#8 Southbound PCT border crossing from Canada

In June, the U.S. Border Patrol notified the Pacific Crest Trail Association to warn Pacific Crest Trail hikers that people who hike across the border from Canada into the United States are committing a federal crime, and risking a year in jail and a $5,000 fine unless they cross at a designated port of entry. This is the first time that this warning has been delivered to the PCTA.

The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the U.S. border from Washington in the Pasayten Wilderness and continues for about nine miles to the Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia. The nearest port of entry is 50 miles to the west, at Sumas, Whatcom County, or more than 50 miles to the east, at Nighthawk or Oroville, Okanogan County.

Beth Boyst, a U.S. Forest Service manager who oversees Pacific Crest Trail issues, is looking into ways to determine the best ways to comply with security needs while accommodating hikers. As it stands now, most thru-hikers of the PCT cross the border south to north and can meet requirements of entering Canada by downloading a form from the PCTA website. Then, most thru-hikers either take bus or other transportation home -- which means they should be carrying a passport for reentry. 

#9. Martin Sheen Camino movie

Camino interest: Trailers of "The Way" with Martin Sheen sent by Helena Bernardo of Portugal. 

#10. Lisbon based Portugal Camino society

Helena (above) also sent a message with a link of their new Lisbon based association - Associação de Peregrinos Via Lusitana (sorry it is still in Portuguese, but it will be in English soon) - . She adds that they all speak English so if someone requires information on the Portuguese Camino they can always email questions.

We have recently joined forces with Centro Nacional de Cultura that has the responsibility of the Camino de Fátima (marked with blue arrows), and have completed remarking both Caminos, as you know they coincide. We have also been working on the hospitality side of the Camino and I am happy to inform you that the first albergue south of Porto has opened, it is near Coimbra and another one is opening soon just south of Coimbra.

#11. Camino church open policy

 Rosina of New York posted this news [as many of you have experienced, the churches along the Camino are usually closed] "The Camino powers that be have stated that the churches throughout the Camino Frances will be open every day, with attendants to assist those pilgrims and visitors that may have questions and the like, and to provide seals. But, the statement adds, since the attendants must have one day off, there will be none on duty on Mondays. Nevertheless, the churches will have a small table to the right of the entrance with the appropriate seal and an ink-pad so that pilgrims may help themselves to a seal when the attendants are not there." Good news!

#12. Rosina's Holy Day photo links

Rosina also sent links to photos of the festivities (los Feugos) on Holy Day, in Santiago de Compostela, Sunday, July 25, 2010.  "The King and Queen, with the infantas Leonora and Sofia, were watching from a nearby balcony. The projections meant to illustrate the saga of the Santiago phenomenon, from the "translatio" of the (beheaded) body of James the Elder to Galicia, to the unfathomable Camino life-presence inside all of us, millions of pilgrims, dead and alive. The fireworks, and the projections, will be repeated for six days, until the 31st of July."

Rosina also posted a link to some typical photos of pilgrims arriving in Santiago, but #17 shows a group of pilgrims arriving on CAMELS! 

#13.  articles by Susan

I have been posting articles about our last hike -- from France into Spain on the GR3 -- which was a beautiful hike.

Interesting that bullfighting has just been made illegal in the Catalonian region of Spain -- spurring a fair amount of controversy. (Chronicle, 7/29/10)

#14. --Regional: San Francisco Bay Area hiking backpacking events:

 Berkeley REI is offering a class entitled, "Backpacking Basics," for 8/4/2010 at their Berkeley store. 7 PM - 8:30 PM. Free. Leader: REI Camping Specialist Andy Miksza Group Size: 70. What to carry, how to select gear, etc.
Wilderness First Aid Class with Wilderness Medicine Institute
8/14/2010 – 08/15/2010.
REI Saratoga. $200 REI members, $220 nonmembers. "REI is partnering with the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS to offer a comprehensive two-day course that will teach you the wilderness medicine skills you need to recreate with confidence in the backcountry. This course can be used to recertify a Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness Advanced First Aid, or the Wilderness portion of a Wilderness EMT. No prerequisites required. Advance registration is required. For more information and to register, visit  or your local REI Customer Service Department. Additional Date: 9/25-9/26 at REI San Carlos"

#16. 5th annual Ridge Trail Cruz

 on Saturday, September 11 by Bay Area Ridge Trail. This is a fully supported multi-sport event gives you the opportunity to enjoy more of the Ridge Trail. This year we are offering even more options so you can saunter with your friends and family or challenge yourself with more mileage and elevation."
Hikers choose from 5 hikes of varying distance: 5 to 26 miles. This year the family hike will visit the Daniels Nature Center (by bus). Afterwards, hike back to lunch, or bus back and hike Horseshoe Lake. Equestrians select 10 or 23 miles."
Cyclists will again have a rare opportunity for a special preview ride through Sanborn County Park, which is not yet open to cyclists! You have 4 options ranging from intermediate to advanced skill and endurance – all will feature the preview ride through Sanborn."
As usual, we bus hikers and cyclists to the start and provide all the fuel and liquid you need to keep your energy up on the trail. Volunteer sweeps and guides lend support."

Registration is open! Early bird rates apply through Aug 14: $40 for hikers and cyclists, $30 for equestrians (since no bus!), and $25 per family for the family hike. General registration starts on August 15 and fees will increase. Attendance is limited, so don’t delay!" Details

We are taking a summer break; the next issue of this newsletter will be the October 1st issue.
Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #141 July 1, 2010

Enjoy your Independence Day celebrations wherever they take you!

1. Susan and Ralph complete the Camino Aragones
2. Ralph's youtube of our latest French/Spanish walk
3. Mr. Half Dome updates Yosemite Cables Permit progress
4. Camino driving map available
5. Where in the world is Marcia Powers
6. National Geographic Episode on the Pacific Crest Trail to air 4th
of July!
7. Weekend
8. Knapsack Tour of Yosemite
9. Call of the Wild and their exciting trips
10. Regional: Berkeley Rock Walk
11. Regional: New EBRPD park and trails in Dublin area.

#1. Susan's report of the Camino route

Ralph and I have been "working" on completing a pilgrimage route, called the GR653 in France and the Camino Aragones in Spain for the last three years. In fall 2008, we began this route in Arles, France and hiked to Dourgne, FR., In 2009 we hiked from Dourgne to St. Oloron St. Marie, FR; and this year we hiked from Oloron St. Marie to Logrono, Spain. Mileage this year 180, total 450-480 depending on the source referenced.

Although each of the segments had its high points, this one was our favorite. The scenery was more varied -- approaching Somport Pass and going over the Pyrenees; the "Badlands" (moonscapes of a sort) near Artieda, SP), songbirds in the forests, and the freshness of spring. We loved the contrasting colors of the fields -- carpets of yellow, lime green, jade green, and red poppies. We admired the monastery of San Juan de la Pena (slightly off the route) which is carved into the solid rock (included in Ralph's YouTube, see item #2); A special treat was actually seeing the storks in their nests with the young ones. And I suppose there was some exhilaration about completing a route that had been so long in the making.

The route was uncrowded with just enough people to keep us company. It was interesting to us that there weren't crowds wherever we went. There were more people when our trail joined the St. James Way, just after Obanos, but still not the crowding that we anticipated. I raised the question to the GoCamino forum and learned that indeed the huge numbers of pilgrims anticipated has not arrived. Some people speculate that it had to do with the weather -- very late snow in the Pyrenees at the St. Jean Pied du Port to Roncesvalles -- and much more rain than usual. Indeed there was major flooding in southern France (vicinity of Cote 'd Azur) and in Spain.

Other people speculate that the numbers are even less this year than last at some points along the route because of anticipated crowds -- some people decided not to go during Holy Year.

It was obvious that Spain has invested a lot of time and energy in readying for the expected numbers. We found new bridges, new or "improved" trails, and many more places to stay or eat. Obviously there are a lot of disappointed merchants, but it was convenient for us.

We had two major issues with the route and the trail itself -- first, that these so-called improvements appear to be beneficial to bicyclists (who we saw in larger numbers), but to hikers, these wide paved trails are very hard on the feet and certainly the charm is lost! Secondly, the increased commercialization (notices of albergues ahead, etc.) is annoying, but then if the Camino had never happened, there probably would not have been the towns and villages that we presently enjoy.

We highly recommend this route!

#2. Ralph posts youtube of the trip

 Ralph notes, "I haven't got the trip report together yet, but I did put together a video of our walk from Oloron-Sainte-Marie to Logrono that we just finished. If you have walked it, I think this will bring back memories"

Ralph Alcorn

#3. Mr Half Dome updates Yosemite Half Dome permit process

Late in May, Rick Deutsch. ("Mr. Half Dome") wrote me that the cables to the top of Half Dome had not been installed as early in the season as anticipated. "Just too much snow - the trail crews cannot even get the poles and boards up Sub Dome to begin installing the cables. Oh well, it beats a drought!"

I mentioned in my previous newsletter that people who had obtained permits to climb would be able to get a refund. Rick corrected my statement because as it turns out, "You don't need to apply for a refund - they will be automatically credited to your credit card if you bought a permit for half dome."

Rick has more to report, "My website and blog have been up to date from the git-go. We have a nice community contributing info. The cables went up June 3 weeks late due to the heavy snow. Permits seem to be working...400 per day on weekends is way less than the 800-1000."

"I went up on last Wednesday...was pretty mellow (no permits needed). Cables were full by noon, but no line. I think it got busier as the day wore on. I'm going up again Sunday...camping at Little Yosemite Valley. We have permits so will go up the cables for #27."

Rick is the author of "One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome". - Hiking; - Speaking; - Daily
Blog. Cell 408-888-4752

#4. Camino Driving Map Available

Hello Susan,"I just returned from a driving trip of northern Spain and revisited St. Jean, where I found a new pocket map of the Camino by MICHELIN - the Camino Frances (the French Way."

[There is] one left and if your readers want to look at it they can find it on Amazon by looking up the ISBN number 2067148052 to view it. If they want to buy it directly from me I would cut the shipping cost in half $2.00. Please feel free to give them my e-mail. winetime at att dot net. Terry Sweetland. Phone 805 473 4913"
#5. I'm always intrigued with where Marcia and Ken Powers, hikers extraordinary, are going to hike each year. After all, they have completed the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, American Discovery Trail and much more over the years. This year, Marcia is hiking solo (except for her buddy, SPOT (a device that shows your locations, brings aid, etc.) on the Idaho Centennial Trail. Ken has decided that this is the year for taking care of deferred home maintenance, etc. Anyway, Ken sends word that you can follow Marcia's progress at:

#6. Pacific Crest Trail episode to air on July 4th

 The PCT episode is scheduled on National Geographic Television. More at:

#6.5. California State Parks Free Plant a Tree Program

California State Parks Foundation (newsletter 6/3/2010) has some helpful tips: Their Parklands newsletter explains how to plant a tree in a state park through the Odwalla's Help Plant a Tree in a State Park Program. "Helping the environment just got a little easier. You don't have to get down and dirty this summer to help plant trees in a California State Park (although, that’s fun also!). With the ease of a mouse click, the Odwalla Plant a Tree program allows you to donate a tree to our state park system with no cost to you! This is a nation-wide program, and as of this writing, California is third behind Texas and Pennsylvania." [Although the foundation wants you to vote for California, you can vote to plant in any state.]


And, go to and sign up for '"Weekend Sherpa', which is a short, free, weekly e-mail and website giving people insiders' recommendations on the greater San Francisco Bay Area's best outdoor pursuits and little-known adventures, many of which take place in our state parks! No matter where you live in the state, if you are planning a trip to the Bay Area, check out Weekend Sherpa’s website and their impressive archive of articles and suggestions." 

#8. Knapsack Tours of Yosemite (dayhikes)

I haven't been on any of Mike's Knapsack Tours, but he has been running this company since 1997. He has written to say that he is offering a Special Deal for readers of my newsletter. If you are interested in a guided hiking trip in Yosemite, this might be your opportunity. August 22 to 27, 2010 tour. Check it out.

"Come join Knapsack Tours for our 28th annual Yosemite on a Shoestring guided hiking trip. KT’s tour offers a perfect combination of daily moderate hikes in a casual educational setting. Yosemite on a Shoestring is priced at only $1,195 p/p (just $950 for readers of Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Newsletter)."

Tour Includes
All breakfasts, lunches, & dinners (Dinner 8-22 to Lunch 8-27)
5 days of spectacular guided hiking
Educational evening programs
Male and female dorms or bring your tent
Male/female bathhouse with flush toilets/hot showers
Transportation to the trails
Daily Happy Hours

Tour Cost Does Not Include Transportation to and from Yosemite National Park Full payment of $975 p/p check payable to Knapsack Tours - Be sure to mention Susan Alcorn! You can get more details from Mike Palucki at: Knapsack Tours 2586 Chinook Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94598 . Ph. 925-944-9435. kthiking at aol dot com

#9. Call of the Wild 2011 Trip Calendar.

 "Call of the Wild is finalizing our 2011 calendar. Many of our 2011 trips are already posted, but still to come include: Hiking the Cinque Terre in Italy; Mt Whitney Mule Pack; Inca Trail to Machu Picchu; Hiking Northern Patagonia."

I was also quite happy to read that the San Francisco Chronicle recently named Laurie Bagley, a Call of the Wild Guide, an "Outdoor Master". Laurie holds the speed record for her Mt. Shasta ascent & was a 2007 Inductee to the California Outdoors Hall of Fame.

The Worlds Longest Running Adventure Travel Company for Women - Since 1978 Phone: (650) 265-1662 |  | Outside CA: (888) 378-1978 PO Box 1412 | Mountain View, CA 94042.  

#10. Regional: Berkeley Rock Walk.

 On Saturday, July 17, 2010, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, Bay Nature and Greenbelt Alliance’s Bob Johnson and Ken Lavin are leading a rock-to-rock walk in the Berkeley hills. Free. [From the Bay Nature Newsletter} Leaders Bob Johnson of Greenbelt Alliance assisted by Ken Lavin, who knows the geology of the hills, will help hikers explore seven of the eight rock parks in North Berkeley.

Attendance is limited to 25. You must RSVP: hikes at baynature dot org or (510) 528-8550 x205. Hike starts by meeting near the top of Solano Ave; goes to Great Stoneface, Contra Costa Rock Park, Indian Rock, Mortar Rock, Grotto Rock, and then uphill to Cragmont Rock Park, and finally Remillard Park. Many stairs and a fair amount of climbing, but it's on trails. Bring a bag lunch and water, etc.

#11. Dublin Hills Regional Open Space Preserve

A new East Bay Regional Park District park in the S.F. Bay Area, officially opens July 22, 2010. I can't wait to see this new park.

"Dublin Hills Regional Open Space Preserve spans approximately 520 acres within an undeveloped open space corridor consisting of a main ridge that connects Donlan Point on the Preserve’s southern boundary to Wiedemann Hill located on adjacent private property to the north, interspersed with steep-sloped canyons. The parkland is bounded by Interstate 580 to the south, Schaefer Ranch to the southwest, private grazing land to the north, northeast and northwest, and California Highlands on the southeast."

"The Preserve’s trails, including a segment of the Calaveras Ridge Regional Trail, will provide excellent views for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians. The Calaveras Ridge Trail begins near the Schaefer ranch development and soon delivers you to a grassland area largely untouched since the 1800’s."

"Trail staging area is location just west of the intersection of Dublin Boulevard and Marshall Canyon Drive in Dublin, CA. 1-888-327-2757, option 3, ext. 4549." You can find more info at the  website.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #140 June 1, 2010

1. CA website for recreation
2. Yosemite enjoying lots of snow
3. Jordan Romero sets Everest record
4. Irene Cline — amazing hiking life
5. Ticks — be safe out there!
6. Monarch Butterflies
7. Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides' — Adventure trips
8. Camino route — Hotel in Portugal
9. Numbers huge on the Camino de Santiago
10. Pamplona, Spain — Running of the bulls
11. Running of the Nudes — PETA

#1. CA website for recreation

I recently went to the unveiling of a brand new website — the State of California's new website that shows recreation sites throughout the Golden State. ( FindRecreation is at ). It brings together data from over 15,000 parks, and information on 49 million acres of open space owned by 850 public agencies and non-profit organizations.

It includes all lands open to the public, not just state owned. The amount of detail available for hiking varies depending on what various agencies have available; CA State Parks plans to continue adding more information on hiking trails as it is made available by various agencies, but there is already a lot of information on campgrounds, etc.
Susan's article explains more:

#2. Yosemite enjoying lots of snow

Our unusual weather (heavier rain, more snow, and late in the season) is having a huge impact on Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers. Friends are sending queries and messages trying to find out where they can hike without postholing through even more miles of snow than they'd expect to find in a "normal" season.

Yosemite has been impacted, too. Tioga Pass, Hwy 120 through the park from east to west is still closed because of snow and may be so for another couple of weeks. Tioga Pass is usually open by Memorial Day, but I found that it did not open until mid-June in 2005 and 2006.

Currently campgrounds on the valley floor are open, but those towards Tuolumne Meadows (the higher elevation ones) are not. The cables for climbing Half Dome are not yet up and those who have reservations for the June 4-6 weekend will not be accommodated. They can apply for a refund. Rick Deutsch ("Mr. Half Dome") whose book, "One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome", I mentioned in the last newsletter, sent word that according to rumor, the cables should be up June 17th.

But things change, so you can check Yosemite Park conditions by calling 209/372-0200 (press 1 then 1) for the most up-to-date conditions. Or go to 

#3. Jordan Romero sets Everest record

Jordan Romero, a 13-year-old boy from Big Bear, California reached Everest's summit of 29,035 feet, on May 22, 2010. In so doing, he became youngest climber ever to reach the peak of Mount Everest. According to the Associated Press, the first thing he did when he reached the top was to make a phone call, "Mom, I’m calling you from the top of the world." he said.

Romero, who has now climbed the highest peak of each continent except Vinson Massif in Antarctica wants to do that one next. Some say that the Antartica climb will be the most difficult, but he and his team, which includes his father, plan to make their attempt in December.

#4. Irene Cline, Amazing Hiking Life

Irene Cline, who was one of the amazing women that I interviewed for "We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers" passed away on Sat. May 15, 2010. Irene was 89 years old. Although I never met Irene, I enjoyed the initial interview that we had and I looked forward to every Christmas receiving a card or photo of Irene on some new adventure trip.

At the time I interviewed her, she was able to claim that she was that she was the oldest woman hiker to section-hike the entire Appalachian Trail (the record was broken in 2004 by an 80-yr. old woman). Her daughter, Dora Coyne, sent the notice to me and I learned that Irene had fallen at home and died the next day.

Irene was also very proud of hiking the Ice Age Trail and memorials can be made in her name to the Ice Age Trail Alliance, 210 Main St., Cross Plains, WI 53528.

#5. Ticks, be safe out there

In case you have not read my latest column on (you can subscribe). I am reprinting here my column on ticks entitled "Trail safety: Avoiding ticks."

"Ticks, those nasty little critters that we all hope to avoid, are proliferating this time of year just as the wildflowers and grasses are. I've seen mention of them lately on Facebook and my husband Ralph recently managed to pick one up, so they've been on my mind."

So, even though I have personally had only one incident where I've had to have a tick removed -- and I've hiked thousands of wilderness miles — I thought I'd share what I've learned about these minute arthropods."

Knowing a bit about how ticks operate can provide us with some ideas on how to avoid them. Ticks that we might expect to encounter in the S.F. Bay Area usually will be found hanging from the top of tall grasses, sitting amidst a pile of leaf litter, or on a log waiting for a host to pass by. When ticks sense carbon dioxide as well as the heat and movement of people (or other animals) going by, they grab hold with their extended front legs

Stay on established trails rather than traveling cross-country and avoid overhanging grasses along the trail.
Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when hiking, preferably of a light color so that the dark ticks will show up against the fabric. In addition, tuck your pants' cuffs into your socks or boots.

Use repellent. For adults, use DEET (20 - 30% strength or more) on skin and clothing. Use Pyrethrum on clothing only for even greater protection.

When you return home, shed your clothes — preferably in the tub — and check for any hitchhiking ticks. The saliva of a tick often numbs the area where it has bitten, so many times people do not feel the bite.

According to many sources, it takes several hours or even days for a tick to attach itself. If you do discover one after it has imbedded itself into your skin, you should extract it carefully following the procedures given below. Applying gasoline, Vaseline, or holding a match nearby are not recommended.

To remove a tick, first put on rubber gloves or use a tissue to protect your hands and then use pair of sharp-tipped tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull gently and firmly without twisting to extract it. After extraction, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water and then apply an antiseptic. If possible save the tick in a stoppered bottle in case you need to have it identified at a later time.

There are a number of diseases that ticks can cause worldwide, but the disease that we hear most about in California is Lyme disease, which is transmitted by the tiny western black-legged tick. In 2008, the latest statistics available at the California Department of Public Health, the rate of incidence was 74 per 100,000 population.

Symptoms that may occur include a round red rash, and/or flu-like complaints such as headaches, sore muscles and joints, fever.
Most people who get a tick bite don't get Lyme Disease. However, if you experience the Lyme Disease symptoms 3 days to a month after you have been bitten (or think you may have been because you've been in an area with higher incidence or have been hiking or camping), seek immediate medical treatment because early treatment with antibiotics is best.

As always when hiking, enjoy your adventure, but go prepared and safely.

*Center for Disease Control and Prevention
*California Lyme Disease Association
*California Department of Public Health (CDPH)
*Printable brochure published by the California Department of Health Services  *Susan's article: 

#6. Monarch Butterflies:

 Interesting that monarch butterflies can travel 130 kilometers a day. Not sure about a human's distance for an entire day, but the Human Olympic Record for 42.195 kilometers is 2 hours, 6 minutes, 32 seconds. There is an important difference, however, the Olympian marathoner is one individual; the monarch's race involves multiple generations to complete their 4,000 kilometer journey.

#7. Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides' — Adventure trips

Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (1-800-231-4575) offers several Yosemite adventure trips. Here's a unique one that you might enjoy: the John Muir Trail Motion Trip, Sept 7-11, 2010. Level: Moderate hiking "Want to be on TV and hike in the "postcard country" of the John Muir Trail? This September we have a special adventure planned with the folks at Motion TV that is being led by the show's host and SYMG's own Greg Aiello. The route follows a section of the Sierra's classic John Muir Trail beginning at Agnew Meadows in the Ansel Adam's Wilderness and traveling northbound along the spectacular Ritter Range to finish in Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows. All of the gear and food will be carried by a team of mules, meaning you'll just wear a daypack and you'll eat like a king. The trip will be filmed by the Motion TV crew and will be nationally televised on the Live Well HD Network. The cost of the trip is also subsidized by the show's producers, making the opportunity to travel in style even more tantalizing! SYNG leads not only hiking, backpacking, climbing trips in the Sierra, they also lead trips in Central and South America (some of them women only)"

*****2010 is a VERY big year for the Camino de Santiago because it's a Holy Year. A Holy Year occurs whenever St. James' birthday, July 25, falls on a Sunday. The number of people on the trails and in Santiago de Compostela will be be much larger than usual. The following items may be of interest to pilgrims:

#8. Camino de Portuguese.

 When Ralph and I hiked the Portuguese Camino from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain in 2007, we had no problem finding places to stay along the way, but there are increasing numbers of people taking that route, so a new place for pilgrims is welcome. I just received an email from this hotel and have NO personal knowledge about it, but I am passing it along in case some of you are interested in checking it out.
"Dear Friends,
Portugalete is the eight etape of Northern Way of Santiago ’s Way, the second longest after The Silver Way and so old like the " French Way " but quieter and with less people."

"In 2010 we celebrate another Xacobeos´ Year and the " Gran Hotel Puente Colgante " would like to join to this celebration launching special offers for pilgrims (attached). All of them that enjoy these offers will receive a "Pilgrim’s Energetic Kit " which will help during the long way to Santiago de Compostela.
Don’t wait until 2021 for knowing Portugalete!!
Patricia Campuzano
Gran Hotel Puente Colgante
Reservas - RRPP (Gran Hotel Puente Colgante)"
Movil 0034 . 622 . 708 . 750
Telf oo34 . 94 4014800
Fax 0034 . 94 4014810
Mª Diaz de Haro nº 2
48920 Portugalete

#9. Numbers huge on Camino de Santiago

Johnnie Walker in May sent the following message entitled, "30, 000 young people arrive in Santiago during the first week of August," to various Camino forums.
"During the first week in August an estimated 30,000 young people will take part in the Spanish International Youth Pilgrimage. They will walk at least 100 kms using a variety of routes and will arrive in Santiago on the weekend of 7 & 8 th August. Those who qualify will have a Compostela sent to them by post. Tented villages, sport halls, community centre, church halls and schools are being opened to accommodate them. In the last Holy Year 2004 almost 20,000 young people participated. It is going to be busy folks."

#10. Pamplona, Spain - Running of the Bulls

For 600+ years, Pamplona, Spain has been the scene of a rather wild event — the running of the bulls. It's all part of the San Fermin Festival, which is July 7-14. Each morning at 8 AM, six bulls are let loose from the pens where they are held overnight and funneled into the streets where thousands of runners (supposed to be men only) await to race with them to the bullfight arena. Last year, one man, Daniel Jimeno Romero, died after being gored by a charging bull; it was the first injury in 14 years and brought the number of deaths to 15 since record keeping began in 1924.

#11. Running of the nudes 2010

 For several years now, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has held an event called the "Running of the Nudes" to protest the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. This year, they have elected to move their protests elsewhere (various major cities in Europe and America) because they don't want to encourage people to come to Pamplona for the bullfights or the running of the bulls. No dates are posted yet, but you can check their website if you want to register your protest against bullfighting. 

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #139 May 3, 2010

Quote for the day:
Iam ver egelidos refert tepores. (Now Spring restores balmy warmth). Catullus 87-54? B.C.

1. Building a Fire
2. Trail Days -- Appalachian Trail
3. How fast the sun sets
4. Yosemite's Half Dome by Rick Deutsch
5. Webcam Storks' nest in Spain
6.  Camino de Santiago news: Hospitalero Training
7. 50% time job opening with San Francisco Walks
8. Geocaching Class
9. Hikes Unlimited -- S.F. Bay Area, Central Coast, San Diego.
10. More Distant Backpacking & Hiking

#1. Building a fire

Unfortunately, I can't imbed links in these newsletters, but this one is definitely worth a cut and paste. A great story by Jack London, "Building a Fire".

Trail Days - Appalachian Trail

Scot Ward forwards an invitation to hikers during "Trail Days" in Damascus, VA, Friday, May 14, 2010, 11:00am - 12:00pm in the Laurel Building. At that time, he is giving "a one hour presentation on 'The Thru-Hiker's Manual for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail of North Carolina'. A 925 mile hiking trail across the state. I have hiked it 3 times in 2 years to help this trail become thru-hiker friendly. I want to share this journey with all of the thru-hikers who asked 'What's next?' when they finished the Appalachian Trail. It is a great adventure and worth checking out."

The Appalachian Trail Days annual celebration is from May 14-16, 2010. Info at  

How fast the sun sets

Denise Ladybug Hill forwards this hint for when you are wondering how long it takes for the sun to set (and how long you have to grab your camera to get a shot). "A hiker taught me to hold up my hand with my pinky at the top of the horizon. That would help count down the minutes until the sun sets. Fifteen minutes per finger and the thumb is not included. It's fairly accurate," she says.

#4. Yosemite's Half Dome by Rick Deutsch

Just received a review copy of Rick Deutsch's "Yosemite's Half Dome,"(Wilderness Press, third printing 2009). Rick has climbed this icon of Yosemite 25 times and has good advice for those who want to fulfill their dream of ascending the dome. If you (as he puts it) have "maintained an adequate fitness level and consider yourself in good shape and are not afraid of sweating." However the book is not only worthwhile for hikers, but also for those who are interested in the history of Half Dome and surrounding areas. You'll go back in time to when the Native Americans arrived in the area, learn of the first ascent -- George Anderson in 1875 -- and about the early system of cables put up by the Sierra Club in 1919. Readers will also have information about the different roads into the park and the types of accommodations available in Yosemite.

If you read Yosemite's Half Dome, Everything you need to know to successfully hike Yosemite's most famous landmark, you'll notice that as many pages are devoted to preparation as to the actual trail itself -- that's because good planning is key to a safe and successful climb. And then, the book accompanies us up the trail with suggestions as to where you might want to stop for a view otherwise missed, and where you'll want to remember to fill up your water bottles. Please remember that Yosemite is trying a new system with the cables to Half Dome this year (and perhaps 2011) for Fridays-Sundays and holidays -- permits are required. (If you missed my previous dates for making those reservations, refer back to my last newsletters or you can find them online at

The first batch of reservations went out in 9 minutes and I assume all others spots are now taken. However, you can still go Mondays- Thursdays or you may be able to get some permits elsewhere. Go to Rick's website if you are interested in finding out more about his book, his appearances, and to see if you can snag some of the Half Dome passes that he sometimes gives out as prizes.

#5. Webcam Storks' nest in Spain

Sil posted the following about a wonderful webcam site, "For the past week I have been watching a webcam on the roof of the Hotel Castillo in Zarragoza. It is focussed on a ledge and on a stork's nest. She has 5 eggs on her nest and they should be hatching any day now."

#6. Camino de Santiago news: Hospitalero Training

American Pilgrims on the Camino is trying to put together a weekend of hospitalero training in the San Francisco Bay Area July 23 through 25, 2010. In conjunction with the training, they are looking for people who would like to receive the training, people to host out- of-town pilgrims who come for the training, and for a suitable low- cost venue ~ a meeting place that can accommodate 20-30 people, with kitchen facilities. For the weekend training to occur, they need at least 15 participants by May 15, 2010.

This is an excellent way to "pay back" for the gifts you have received on your Camino walk and/or to become more involved in the pilgrim community. . For more information: e-mail to or to Lin Galea at lin at lingalea dot com or write: American Pilgrims on the Camino, 1514 Channing Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94303.

IF the hospitalero program takes places, members and friends of American Pilgrims will be able to join in a celebration on Sunday, July 25 (at the conclusion of the program) with  tapas and bebidas. It will be to celebrate both the commissioning of the new hospitaleros and the feast day of! St. James, a national holiday in Spain.

Space will be limited, so please notify us of your interest and make plans to submit your registration as soon as possible by contacting lin at lingalea dot com We will be sending out a follow-up email with more information shortly after May 15.

#7. 50% time job opening with San Francisco Walks

Walk San Francisco, San Francisco’s Pedestrian Advocacy Organization, is looking for a new Executive Director. It's a 50% position. Details at

#8. Regional: S.F. Bay Area. Geocaching Class.

 Sometimes you would like a walk with a bit of mystery and fun involved. Geocaching provides all that and is suitable for families as well. Here's a way to learn what it's all about. May 11, 2010. 6 PM. Fremont REI (Class) Geocaching Basics Class. Description: Discover the fun of geocaching! Learn strategies for finding a cache as well as how to hide one yourself. This is a great activity for families. This is an in-store class where you'll learn how to use a GPS to find geocaches and how to understand how to locate and log a geocache. 6 hours. Group Size: 15, Cost Member: $20.00, Non Member: $40.00.

#9. Hikes unlimited!

 I've been receiving numerous announcements about hikes occurring in places near and far. Here are a few to start you planning your next adventure.

REGIONAL: S.F. BAY AREA A. Saturday, May 8, 2010 - 10:00 a.m. with Berkeley Path Wanderers Association Contact: Keith Skinner (510) 520-3876. Meets at Firehouse, 463 51st St. (just east of Telegraph), Oakland Leaders: Sandy Friedland and Susan Montauk Transit: AC buses #1 or #12. BART to Macarthur station and walk (1/2 mile) or board AC #1. Walk through two historic neighborhoods linked by a whimsical new greenway and filled with public art, interesting architecture, and great restaurants. Optional lunch at one of Temescal's ethnic eateries. No dogs please. Clark Kerr Campus Power Walk

B. Tuesday, May 18, 2010 - 10:00 a.m. with Berkeley Path Wanderers Association. Contact: Keith Skinner (510) 520-3876. Meets Kerr Campus at the sign by the entrance (Warring St. at Parker St. Berkeley). Leader: Colleen Neff Transit: AC bus #51B. Get off at College and Parker. Walk 3 blocks east. An energetic, fast-paced spring walk along the trails of Clark Kerr campus, through sorority row, up to the stadium, onto the paths above it, and back. Well-behaved dogs on leashes permitted.

C. May 8, 2010. Bay Area Ridge Trail. "Dias Ridge Trail Dedication." 10 AM start. Join fellow trail enthusiasts for the dedication of 3.1 miles of NEW multi-use Ridge Trail in Marin. Meet at the Dias Ridge Connector Trail off of Panoramic Highway [Marin County], just north of Highway 1 (see Google map or download pdf). Travel down the trail and then enjoy refreshments and a ceremonial ribbon cutting at noon at the Golden Gate Dairy Stables, across the street from the Pelican Inn.  RSVP, email events@ridgetrail.org

D/E. May 8 and 16th Contra Costa County.. Wildflower hikes on Mt. Diablo. Both start at 10 AM and are open to the public. May 8th meetings at the overflow parking lot near Mt. Diablo summit, May 16th meets at the Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center. Go to or for more info.

REGIONAL: CENTRAL COAST CALIFORNIA. August 7 hike, but make reservations NOW for a California members–only hike through beautiful Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur.

"One of California’s iconic landscapes, Andrew Molera is also particularly special to the Conservancy—we were the first to protect this rich and diverse land, starting in 1965, and were proud to have had a hand in it becoming a state park in 1972. The park is a classic Big Sur beauty, and we’d like to share it with you!"

Sign up today to join us for this Conservancy-led hike to explore this majestic site. Our naturalists will guide us along a riverside walk through oak woodlands, redwood groves and stands of sycamores and madrones, and we’ll enjoy spectacular vistas from Molera Point. Along the way you’ll discover how your support is protecting nature."

To sign up for the hike, send an email to with your name and home address. On May 10, 2010, we’ll respond with a confirmation and logistics."

This hike is open only to members of the Conservancy." More info:
REGIONAL: SAN DIEGO COUNTY. May 20-24, 2010. Oak Grove, CA. Hike with Great Old Broads for Wilderness. Walk With Us On Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia -- Areas of Proposed Wilderness! North San Diego County Broadwalk, Oak Grove, CA about 25 miles east of Temecula on Hwy 79. Members $125; non-members $150 *  .

More Distant Backpacking & Hiking

Further afield: June 7-18. Western Brooks Range Ramble, National Petroleum Reserve. ALASKA. To backpack through the calving grounds of America's largest caribou herd. $2,695. Trip #1001A.

June 22-July 2. Hiking the ALPS of Bavaria and Tyrol, Germany and Austria.. Tour picturesque mountains and wildflowers meadows. Price. $3,675. Trip #10695A. Sierra Club trips: Info or register. 415-977-5522 or

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #138 April 3, 2010

1. Recognition for brilliant idea/amazing trail
2. Bay Nature highlights incl. Oat Mine/Palisades trails
3. Camino de Santiago's new albergue
4. Knees are made for hiking
5. Earth Day is officially April 22nd.
6. Motrin, aspirin, and other pain relievers
7. Meet the Alcorns!
8. California State Parks -- for good "measure"

#1. Catherine Montgomery - Recognition for idea of PCT

Interesting research being done by Pacific Crest Trail hiker and board member Barney Mann suggests that it was a woman, Catherine Montgomery of Bellingham, WA, who first conceived of the PCT back in 1928. Most sources credit Californian Clinton Clarke with this idea, but Mann has found that Clarke didn't start mentioning the trail until the early 1930s.

"Bellingham woman may be the 'mother' of the Pacific Crest Trail," explores Mann's findings and you can read more in the Bellingham Herald in the Dean Kahn's article (3/28/2010).  "Because of Mann's research, Montgomery was inducted into the Northwest Women's Hall of Fame at the Bellingham YWCA last Sunday, March 21."

#2. Bay Nature incudes Oat Mine/Palisades trails

One of my favorite regional magazines "Bay Nature: An Exploration of Nature in the San Francisco Bay Area". Not only does each issue contain beautiful photographs and illustrations, but also a variety of expertly written articles that go far beneath the hit or miss coverage of so much of today's media coverage.

For example, the current issue has an excellent article entitled, "Through the Eyes of the Lion," and gives readers some insight into how mountain lions can coexist with humans yet rarely be spotted along our wildlife corridors. There's also an article entitled, "Blowin' in the Wind," aimed at helping families explore and understand the role of pollen and plant reproduction. There's an in-depth look at our Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a 1,00 sq. mile area that it an important, much beleaguered part of California's eco-system. Visit Bay Nature at

Hike: Finally, there's a spread on my current favorite hiking area, Palisades and Oat Hill Mine trails, near Calistoga, CA. Land Trust of Napa County is leading two hikes on these trails on Saturday, April 18, 2010 -- both starting at 10 AM. One hike is a moderate, 5-mile, out and back hike; the second is a strenuous 11-mile thru-hike. Both require registering in advance (ASAP) Register: Judith hikes at or (510) 528-8550 x205.

For more info, you can read my article on 

Ingrid of Bay Nature recently sent word that the organization has an online events calendar, where readers can find out about local hikes, paddles, and wildlife. 

#3. New albergue along the Camino route to Finisterre

Pilar Gonzalez, at alberguelua at, sends this news, [along the route from] Santiago to Finisterre there is a new Albergue in Negreira. 40 beds, Internet, drinks, washing machine, dryer. price (2010): 9€/day. Reservations and info: alberguelua at Albergue Lua Av. de Santiago, 22 Negreira 15830 A Coruña Tel:+34629926802

#4. Knees are made for hiking

We all know that knees, like other load bearing joints, are subject to wear and tear as well as chronic conditions such as arthritis. I first had problems with my knees more than 25 years ago-- as the result of a skiing weekend. For a couple of years I was certain that my hiking days were numbered, but over time, my knees improved (I can go into more detail about this process in another issue). Lately however, I have been finding great success at keeping knee pain away even when making extremely lengthy trail descents (such as we experienced in our recent Patagonia hikes).

The backstory is that I have been working with a trainer, Jessica, at Oakland's Gym Class Fitness. She wanted me to step up and down on their step risers and I balked saying that it would hurt my knees. Her suggestion was to put the bulk of my weight on my heel (rather than my toe) when I stepped up. Amazingly it made a tremendous difference. We found that the same thing was true when doing various other exercises-- squats included.

So I kept this in mind when we were hiking downhill in Patagonia and it seems to be working for me. I am wondering if other hikers have found that changing the way they step when going downhill has made a noticeable difference. Please write and let me know what you've experienced.

#5. EARTH DAY activities

Wherever you are there are most likely numerous events celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Here's a sampling from the S.F. Bay Area. a) "Earth Day Marin 2010". Saturday, April 24th 11am–6pm. College of Marin, Kentfield Celebrate. Free, family-friendly, earth-friendly fun!

b) Ridge to Bridge 2010 is Saturday, April 10. The Bay Area Ridge Trail is a trail in progress. Plans are for a "550+ mile trail encircling the San Francisco Bay along the ridge tops, open to hikers, equestrians, mountain bicyclists, and outdoor enthusiasts of all types. So far, we have dedicated over 310 miles of trail for use by Bay Area residents, now and forever." (from their website at  )

Bay Area hikers can find out more about the trail, and register to go on various hikes, by visiting the website. One of the big events of the year is rapidly approaching. Most of the hikes of the "Ridge to Bridge" are currently waitlisted, but there is still room on the family hike and several of the bicycle events.

"The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council hosts its annual Ridge to Bridge in Marin County every spring, featuring spectacular views of the Pacific coastline, the Marin Headlands, Sausalito, the Bay, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

As of now, these events are still open: Family hike: Families enjoy a kid-friendly hike to the Beach and back from Tennessee Valley. $30 per person.

Bike rides: Pedal on a 35-mile endurance ride (over 5000 feet of climbing!), 28-mile Advanced ride, or a 12-mile intermediate ride. All rides include a bus shuttle to the start.

Equestrian: If horseback is your preferred method, trot along for 9 miles in the equestrian ride!

Event attendance is limited and fills fast. The registration fee includes: shuttle to the start, a gourmet buffet lunch, water, snacks along the way, guides, maps and more.  Thank you REI! The Ridge Trail Council thanks REI for sponsoring Ridge to Bridge 2010, and their ongoing support. Volunteers are needed; contact volunteer at

c) April 17th. California State Park Foundation and sponsor Pacific Gas and Electric Company are offering an opportunity to celebrate and volunteer at a state park. Plant trees, restore trails and wildlife habitat, or clean up beaches and parklands.

To find out where there is an event near you and to sign up, please visit their website - 

d) Golden Gate Audubon [  volunteer/]will lead or cosponsor the following workdays around Earth Day.
* Wednesday, April 14, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Golden Gate Audubon will take part in the Oakland Public Works Earth Expo with interactive bird games for all ages. The expo is held at the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall.

* Saturday, April 17, 9 a.m. – noon. White-crowned Sparrow habitat restoration. Participate in restoring habitat along Golden Gate Park’s bison paddock by planting natives, weeding established sites, and nurturing the area for local White-crowned Sparrows. Closed-toed shoes recommended. If you are part of a group of five or more, please RSVP to kimberly.kiefer at

* Saturday, April 17, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Wetland habitat restoration at the MLK Jr. Shoreline in Oakland. We will continue our work around Arrowhead Marsh and Elmhurst Creek. Join us for weeding—and for watching the foraging and diving waterfowl and shorebirds. Refreshments provided.

* Saturday, April 17, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Earth Stroll at the San Francisco Presidio. Enjoy a fun, interactive adventure and make strides to improve the health of the planet and your own health, too, at the many activity stations around East Beach and Crissy Field. You can play eco-games, visit with live animals, and engage in activities designed to help you connect with our local corner of the planet. Families are welcome.

#6. Motrin, aspirin, etc

According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, we should NOT be taking pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen before or during exercise either to enhance performance or to prevent pain. Using the non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs in such a manner can interfere with healing (as well as "increase the risk of stomach bleeding and possibly of cardiovascular problems").

The article points out that pain is part of our body's warning system and we should not try to eliminate the messages. They also state that it is okay to occasionally use these meds to treat aches and pains AFTER exercising. (UC Berkeley Wellness Letter (March 2010, pg. 8),

#7. Meet the Alcorns

Thursday, April 8, 2010. 7 PM. Larkspur Library, 400 Magnolia Ave. Larkspur, CA. (415) 927-5005. . As part of the Armchair Travel Series of Larkspur Library, Susan and Ralph Alcorn will give a narrated multi-media slide presentation on the pilgrimage trail of Spain, the Camino de Santiago. Call Shepherd Canyon Books, 510-339-3441 for program details.

#8.signatures for a ballot measure aimed at saving our California State Parks


California State Parks Foundation President Elizabeth Goldstein has urged registered voters to support the signature gathering and thanked volunteers for their efforts. "Over the past few months, hundreds of volunteers across California have been collecting signatures to help qualify the State Parks & Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act for the November ballot. As we head into the final weeks of signature gathering (it ends on April 15), volunteers will be ramping up their efforts to ensure the campaign reaches its goal of collecting at least 710,000 signatures!"

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

>Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #137 March 17, 2010

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
(traditional Irish blessing). Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

1. Torres del Paine or Bust!
2. PCTA Meetings
3. Camino and Holy Year updates.
4. Hike with Call of the Wild
5. Earth Day Vision Walks
6. Half Dome Readiness
7. Alcorn's Camino Talk in Marin


#1. Torres del Paine or Bust

If you are wondering why you are receiving this issue of the newsletter in the middle of the month instead of on (or around) the 1st, it's because we were traveling in Patagonia and far from computers much of the last four weeks. Here's a bit of the tale.

Last year when Ralph and I set out for Chile and Argentina, I considered that it was the proverbial "trip of a lifetime." That was before we knew how incredibly beautiful we would find the countryside AND before we were thwarted by Patagonia's notorious winds, and then decided to go back. In Patagonia, it's all about the wind.

Our main hiking objective of our trip in 2009 was to complete the circuit "El Circuito" around the Torres del Paine (it's not part of the Andes). Starting with the plan in Lonely Planet's guidebook, Ralph laid out an 8-day itinerary for our backpack trip around the mountains.

Our trip last year started out in a counter-clock wise manner (as recommended by most) from Hosteleria Torres with stops at Campamento Seron, C. Dickson, and C. Perros.

It was on Day 3, our hike to Campamento Perros, that the difficulty began. Our route that day took us over the glacial moraine of the Glacier Perros. The wind was so strong that I could not make headway against it. I made the mistake of sitting down in the hope that the wind would die down. It didn't and that made getting up again even harder. Finally Ralph came back over from the other side of the moraine, picked up my backpack to carry it along, and I managed to follow.

That night at camp in Los Perros, I considered the options. #1 was continuing on the trail as planned, facing the difficult Gardner Pass (the highest point on the trail) ahead. The guidebook had warned that 100-mile per hour winds were not uncommon. They also warned against going over the pass during rainy or snowy conditions….

I chose option #2, going back the way that we had come and not completing the circuit. It was actually not as disappointing a decision as I would have expected; it seemed the responsible thing to do. However, without ever really having to discuss it, Ralph and I knew that we were going to go back and give it another try.

I am THRILLED to report that this year we made it over the pass! It was not (entirely) wishful thinking that made this year's attempt go so well; it was a combination of factors:

a) Further research. Since last year, we've talked to or read the accounts of several people who completed the circuit. We had a more realistic picture of the trail.

b) Better training. Not only did we train for the hike, but also I started carrying a full pack before the trip. I also worked out for a couple of months with a personal trainer and a Pilates instructor.

c) Better weather. On our 2009 trip, we spent the hiking day before Los Perros in the rain and we knew the pass would be wet, slippery, and muddy.

d) Greater determination and more confidence on my part! Although I knew that I would again make the decision to turn back if conditions warranted, I was determined to go as far as we could safely go.

One of the problems with reading other people's (including guidebooks) accounts is that you don't know what their background is or who their audience is. The Gardner Pass section of the trail is rated as "Difficult," which it is, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's impossible or dangerous. In this case, for us, it meant allowing extra time. It means, as Ralph's niece wrote, "it's amazing what you can do by putting one foot in front of another!"

Or as the porters on Mt. Kilimanjaro said, "Pol-e, pol-e!" (Slowly, slowly!)

e) Luck! The notorious winds were absent on the pass (we found them later!).

More: And just a bit about the Gardner Pass--the day's walk began from the wooded camp in Los Perros on a bit of trail that was so steep that I wondered just what I had gotten myself into. The route was a series of footholds (defined as "a ledge, hollow, or other place affording a secure grip for the foot, as during climbing.") I couldn't imagine 7+ miles of this! Soon, however, the incline became more reasonable and we made our way gradually uphill.

We came upon a lengthy section of boggy trail. As best we could, we used pieces of wood that others had thrown into the muck to keep from getting mired down. The one time I missed my footing, the mud was up to my boot's top and my hiking pole went in at least 15". Slow going. (we wore boots on this trip, instead of our usual trailrunners).

Forest gave way to rocky areas--talus from mountains above. A couple more times of entering forested sections, crossing small streams, finally making our way up the slopes to the pass above timberline.

At the pass we found several small parties enjoying lunch AND the view we'd all been hungering for — the panoramic view of the icefields of the Glacier Gray, which extend for miles. Prayer flags decorated the summit and people had left behind various "offerings" of thanks — mostly well-worn socks it seemed to me.

Then it was down the mountainside, about 2,000', to Campamento Paso. It was actually the descent that I had most fretted about. Since my knees are not the knees of a teenager, I can't jog down a trail like they can. It's a challenging, slow, careful undertaking. However, I had been determined to do it, even if it meant sliding down what could have been a slippery slope.

I was reassured by the fact that a slip would not mean that I would end up on Glacier Gray, but I still didn't want to twist an ankle and have to be left as an offering to the condors. I had considered buying, or assembling, some pants with a leather patch on my butt, but in hindsight, that wasn't necessary. Thanks to my trusty hiking poles and the slender trees alongside the trail it was all possible!

I'll save the rest of the story for another time, but I guarantee that there is plenty of adventure in Torres del Paine for anyone who likes to hike — from the ladders into the gorges to the winds that can knock you off your feet….

That's it for this time, but if anyone out there needs more detailed information on the trip, you can email us. I've posted three articles previously about our 2009 trip on  and I probably will be writing further about our 2010 trip soon. 

#2. PCTA meetings

The Pacific Crest Trail Association is having its annual meeting this Sunday and it's open to all PCTA members. (There is no Trailfest this year.) If you want input into the association's workings, this is an opportunity. The annual meeting will take place on Sunday, March 21 from 12 - 1 pm at PCTA's new Sacramento office (address follows).

The announcement above is followed with this invitation, "The real party will be on Friday, May 14, when PCTA hosts an open house to show off the new Sacramento office. Please note that this event has been rescheduled from its original date of March 19 as published in the Communicator. "
PCTA Headquarters
1331 Garden Highway
Sacramento, CA 95833

#3. Camino and Holy Year updates

Pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago might take note that 2010 is a holy year and the number of visitors to Santiago de Compostela will be much larger than usual.

Rosina, on the Camino forums writes, "The Xacobeo Security 2010 commission informed that for the upcoming Holy Week the number of security and assistance agents in the Camino (including the Guardia Civil, the National Police and other agencies will triple in number and avenues of assistance)."

…"The commission stated that backpacks will not be allowed to be brought into the Cathedral from April 1st. on, and that the number of people in the Cathedral at any one time will be limited to its estimated maximum capacity of 1,200." "Pilgrims will need to leave their backpacks in the Casa del Cabildo, with facilities therefor to be made available also at the John XXIII and San Martin Penario buildings. There will be a fee for storing the backpacks but, it was assured, the fee will be 'very small.'" Rosina writes, "The Casa del Cabildo is a refurbished building located in Platerias right between the Pilgrims' office and the stairs leading up to Quintana square; that is, in front of the fountain with the horses.")

Rosina adds, "It would appear that the security measures will be augmented when the Pope visits Santiago in November, more so because King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia will go to Santiago to welcome him."

"All this portends an unbelievable number of people converging on Santiago in November. The good news is that because of the Pope's visit the powers that be are working 24/7 to finish the work on the Portico de Gloria so that it will be uncovered when His Holiness visits the Cathedral."

#4. Hike with Call of the Wild

Call of the Wild announces (the World's longest-running adventure travel company for women), "Day Hike the California Sierra Mountains Base Camp Hiking in the California Sierra Mountains with our Amazing Wilderness Cuisine - August 9 - August 14, 2010"

"Join Call of the Wild on this amazing day hiking adventure into the California Sierra Mountains. Horses carry our gear into our private base camp where we depart from each morning. Every day we hike with to remote alpine lakes and peaks, surrounding ourselves with the remarkable California scenery. Your guides will prepare some of Call of the Wild's legendary wilderness cuisine including freshly baked coffeecake, Pad Thai, and Chicken Piccata. You'll be shocked at what our guides can prepare at 10,000 feet!"

"This trip is perfect for anyone looking for a great week of hiking, camping, and laughter - without having to carry a backpack. For more information or to register click here, or please call our office at (650) 265-1662. Email trips at callwild dot com

Other trips: Beginner Backpack Weekend, July 09 - 11, 2010; Lake Tahoe Spring Hiking, June 18 - 20, 2010 Phone: (650) 265-1662 | ; Outside CA: (888) 378-1978 PO Box 1412 | Mountain View, CA 94042

#5. Earth Day Vision Walks

Catriona MacGregor, Visionary Nature Quest Leader, sends an invitation to Celebrate Earth Day's 40th Anniversary. Catriona is the author of "Partnering with Nature: The Wild Path to Reconnecting with the Earth."

"Celebrate, Honor and Connect with the Earth. Join for Two Special Earth Day Walkabouts. April 22, 2010 is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. With global warming and other rising environmental ills, the Earth is in greater risk than ever, but there is also extraordinary opportunity to turn the tide."

"Walkabouts are for everyone who wants to celebrate Earth day by connecting with and honoring the Earth. Two events are offered: a) Mt. Tamalpais Hike. Saturday, April 24, 2010. 10:00 am - 1:00 pm. Mount Tamalpais, Marin, CA. Cost: FREE

b) Grand Mother Tree Hike. Sunday, April 25, 2010 from 10:00 am - 12:30 pm. Samuel P Taylor Park, Marin, CA. Cost: FREE. Contact: Catriona MacGregor, catriona.MacGregor at comcast dot net See  for more information. Natural Pathfinder, 67 Rocca Drive, Fairfax, California 94930

#6. Half Dome Permits

In case you missed it last issue, there will be restrictions on Half Dome climbs on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays this year. Hikers will need permits and the schedule for making reservations is:
First day to make reservations
(7 am PT)
May March 1
June March 1
July April 1
August April 1
September May 1

On-line:  (recommended) Hours: 7 am to 7 pm Pacific Time (November through February) 7 am to 9 pm Pacific Time (March through October)
Phone: 877/444-6777
(or 877/833-6777 for TDD)
(or 518/885-3639 from outside the US & Canada)

Permits are not available by mail
You may only get four permits per phone call or website visit (you can call again or start over again to get additional permits).

In my  article, appears a more detailed set of suggestions for a successful climb including training, gear needed including snacks and water, planning, timing, etc.

Prepare for the climb 

#7. Alcorn's Camino Talk

Reminder: Thursday, April 8, 2010. 7 PM. Larkspur Library, 400 Magnolia Ave. Larkspur, CA. (415) 927-5005. .
As part of the Armchair Travel Series of Larkspur Library, Susan and Ralph Alcorn will give narrated multi-media slide presentation on the pilgrimage trail of Spain, the Camino de Santiago.

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #134 Feb 21, 2010

1. Half Dome Permit Needed?
2. Hiker Humor
3. Artist Outreach
4. Important! CA residents, State Park Petition to Save our Parks.
5. Rockies Ruck
6. Sierra Club Women's Backpack Trips
7. Western Wilderness Conference
8. Great Old Broads Event
9. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area: Ridge to Bridge walk
10. Alcorn's Present Camino Program in Marin
11. Reminder: American Pilgrims on the Camino Gathering

#1. Half Dome Permits

According to the National Park Service, hikers wanting to climb to the top of Yosemite's famed Half Dome will need to have a permit this year on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. "This is an interim measure to increase safety along the cables while the park develops a long-term plan to manage use on the Half Dome Trail," according to the NPS website.

Starting this spring (and perhaps into 2010), permits are going to be required and are available up to about four months in advance to one week in advance only through the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS).

Permits are not available in the park or on a first-come, first-served basis. Demand for permits will be very high; availability may last only a matter of minutes on the first day permits become available. Each permit has a service fee of $1.50 (which covers the cost of NRRS processing the permit; Yosemite does not receive any money)," according to the NPS. Permits are not available by mail.

The cables are usually in place by the third Friday in May (5/21/10) and remain in place through Columbus Day (Monday, 10/11/2010). However, if the cables are not in place, the weather is bad, or personal reasons do not allow the climb, you will not receive either a refund or an exchange.

A maximum of 400 permits will be issued. (Backpackers with appropriate wilderness permits can also obtain the Half Dome permit, and rock climbers who don't enter the subdome area and can descend without a permit.).

First days to make reservations
(7 AM, Pacific Time)
May - on March 1
June - on March 1
July - on April 1
August -- on April 1
September - on May 1

On-line: (recommended)
Hours: 7 AM to 7 PM, Pacific Time (November - February)
7 AM to 9 PM, Pacific Time (March - October)

Phone: 877/444-6777
(or 877/833-6777 for TDD)
(or 518/885-3639 from outside the US & Canada)
You may only get four permits per phone call or website visit (you can call again or start over again to get additional permits).

I have written a more detailed article on, which you can
find at (You can subscribe to writers and be forwarded links to subsequent articles.)

#2. Hiker Humor - Hiker Heaven.

[A little bit of background information --"Hiker Heaven" is a home and property in Agua Dulce (Southern California) where owners Donna and Jeff Saufley let backpackers of the Pacific Crest Trail stay. "Stay" is actually an understatement, because they also store food packages, do your hiking laundry for you, provide information, give rides into town, and so forth] {

This story is from the PCT forum, submitted by Switchback. "Our intrepid PCT hiking hero, Guppy, stopped into Hiker Heaven for a few days on his thru-hike to Canada. He was warmly greeted by Lighting Rod and Buzz Saw, the gracious hosts. He noticed the horses and many stray dogs they have rescued."

After spending a great afternoon chatting with the other hikers and L- Rod, the evening meal was prepared. However, Guppy noticed a film like substance on his dinner plate and questioned the other hikers."

'"Are these plates clean?' asked Guppy."

"L-Rod quickly spoke up, 'They're as clean as cold water can get 'em.' 'Yes', said some of the hikers, "The food's great. Just you go ahead and finish your meal.'"

"The next morning Guppy was ready for a great Hiker Heaven breakfast. Again, he was concerned about the plates as his appeared to have tiny specks around the edge that looked like dried food and asked, 'Are you sure these plates are clean'"

"Without looking up one of the hikers said, 'You were told you before, Guppy, those dishes are as clean as cold water can get them. Now don't you fret, just enjoy your meal.'"

"Later that afternoon, Guppy was leaving to go Santa Clarita to visit the REI store. All at once one of the dogs started to growl at him and would not let him pass."

"Guppy yelled, 'L-Rod, your dog won't let me get to the ride into to town!'"

"Without diverting her attention from washing hiker socks, she yells back, 'Coldwater, go lay down now and don't bother the hiker!!!'"

#3. Artist Outreach

Eva Stramer Nichols recently sent me the following info about art and the Camino de Santiago. Eva is interested in getting in touch with other artists who are painting from the Camino … to collaborate on a traveling art show celebrating the Jacobean Holy Year of 2010.

If you are interested or know of other artists or galleries who might be, Eva would like you to in touch through her email, eva "at sign", or via her website

You can read about her Camino experiences on her blog " "Eva Stramer Nichols, a watercolorist residing in California, walked and painted her way along the Camino de Frances in the Fall of 2009, and she is now working on finishing her series of paintings from the Camino."

#4. California State Parks Initiative.

Petitions are now being circulated, and volunteers are needed to help circulate, for the California State Parks Initiative.

From the  site, "The ballot measure would protect state parks and conserve wildlife by establishing the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund in the state treasury where, by law, it could only be spent on state parks, urban river parkways, wildlife, natural lands and ocean conservation programs. Funding for the Trust Fund would come from an $18 annual State Park Access Pass surcharge on all California vehicles, including motorcycles and recreational vehicles. Larger commercial vehicles, mobile homes and permanent trailers would be exempt. Vehicles subject to the surcharge would receive free, year-round admission to all state parks throughout the year. Californians will no longer pay day use fees at any state parks. In comparison, park visitors currently pay up to $125 for an annual pass or $10 to $15 per day at most parks. Out of state vehicles would continue to pay full entrance fees at parks."

To me it's a no-brainer; we need a way to financially support our parks that is not subject to the whims of the legislature. Another way to look at it, even if someone doesn't use the State Parks, they can consider that $18 a year is one way to reduce their carbon footprint.

#5. The Rockies Ruck

Feb 26th - 28th. Paul Magnanti posted the following information of the Ruck. "It is that time of the year again...time for the Rockies get together! There have always been Gatherings, Rucks, Kick Offs and Trail Days on the East and West coasts.... many of us here in Rockies felt it was time to do one in our neck of the mountains. For the past few years, we did!

The Ruck is a low key get together for those who enjoy the long trails. Does not matter if you are thru-hiker, a section hiker, day hiker or a just need to love the outdoors and the long trails!

More info on what a Ruck is all about:

This year, we are again having the Ruck at the Leadville Hostel in Leadville, CO.  in Leadville, CO on Feb 26th - 28th.

As with previous years, the cost will be ~$60 for a bunk, shower, four meals (2 dinners, 2 breakfasts). We'll do a potluck lunch on Saturday). There are LIMITED amounts of private/couple rooms, so if you prefer a room to a bunk, I suggest reserving early. You can do all the meals ala carte as well.

All reservations can be done at:  or (719) 486-9334. Tell the host, Bill, that your reservation is for the ROCKIES RUCK.

Past activities have included -- slide shows, checking what gear people carry in their packs, made stoves, have done a sewing demo. Opportunities for skiing/snowshoeing/boarding.

Any questions? Please e-mail me at pmags AT (replace the AT with an @)

#6A. Sierra Club (Ntl.) Backpack trip for Women

 August 1-7, 2010. "Women's Beginner Backpack, Ansel Adams Wilderness, California" Trip Number: 10113A Price: $ 525, Deposit: $100. Capacity: 12. Staff: Rebecca Bart Rating: L. Highlights: Learn to backpack in the High Sierra on an all-female trip. Enjoy a week of dayhiking, studying natural history, and just relaxing far from the crowds Ease into the wilderness experience with the support of like-minded women Includes: Instruction in backpacking basics, All meals on trip, Group cooking gear

#6B. Women's Beginner Backpack

To Thousand Island Lake, CA: July 25-31, 2010. Trip Number: 10109A Price: $ 545, Deposit: $100. Capacity: 13. Staff: Laura Bonds-Johnson Rating: L/M Highlights: Enjoy an introduction to backpacking basics and the wilderness experience in the company of like-minded women Explore the spectacular Thousand Island Lake area and revel beneath the Minarets, Mount Ritter, and Banner Peak Relax or ramble amidst the Sierra's grandest sights on two layover days Includes: Backpacking basics instruction. All meals on trip FOR INFORMATION on Sierra Club Ntl. trips, go to:  and search under the trip number. Note: Both trips are currently full, but have wait lists.

#7. Western Wilderness Conference 2010

UC Berkeley: April 8 – 11. Want to find out the latest on what's happening in the realm of wilderness protection -- sign up for this conference. "Wilderness preservation has never been more important - or more possible. In the last 4 years, wilderness advocates have succeeded in establishing more than 2 million acres of protected wilderness. Curious about what it takes to succeed on this scale and what new campaigns are moving forward right now?

"Sponsored by the California Wilderness Coalition, Sierra Club, and numerous organizations from all 13 western states, including Hawaii and Alaska, the Western Wilderness Conference 2010 highlights the theme of "The Role of Wild Lands in an Era of Climate Change."

"There’s a big emphasis on engaging young people in the effort to preserve wild places free from development. Meet new allies and discover strategic tips to strengthen your own environmental campaign. Together we can preserve the wilderness. Planning organizations include: Sierra Club, California Wilderness Coalition, Northwest Wilderness and Parks Conference The Wilderness Society, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Desert Survivors, Audubon California, Tuleyome, Californians for Western Wilderness.

Visit the conference website,  for information on speakers, program, outings, etc. And to register! Online registration is the way to go! Other questions? Contact Vicky Hoover, Vicky.hoover "at sign" sierraclub dot org.

#8. Great Old Broads is at it again!

2010 brings several interesting opportunities to learn more about protecting the wilderness while enjoying the camaraderie of women and men similarly occupied. One example of an upcoming event is the: North San Diego County Broadwalk, May 20-24, 2010, in Oak Grove, CA about 25 miles east of Temecula on Hwy 79. Cost: Members, $125; non- members $150 *

"Broads will join the Friends of the River, the Sierra Club and other members of the North San Diego Wild Heritage Campaign in supporting Rep. Issa’s bill to protect more than 21,000 acres of Beauty Mountain and Agua Tibia as wilderness."

"This is where Anza Borrego transitions to Beauty Mountain and its coastal sage coverings. It is home to scrub oaks right next to cactuses. Aqua Tibia is even more diverse, with oaks, chaparral and conifer forests of fir and pine. It is an evolutionary hot spot that has attracted a San Diego State University research facility. These 21,000 acres are home to burrowing owls, California gnatcatchers, golden eagles, prairie falcons, an unusual variety of rattlesnake – the northern red diamond – deer, mountain lions and bobcats. Beyond flora and fauna, this land holds the rock formations that are markers of geologic time. This is a classic Broadwalk with camping at the Cleveland National Forest’s Oak Grove Campground, North San Diego County Broadwalk."

If you need to contact Great Old Broads for Wilderness, here's the info:
605 E. Seventh Avenue
PO Box 2924 (81302)
Durango, CO 81301
970-385-9577 Fax 970-385-8550  E-mail: broads at greatoldbroads dot org

#9. Regional San Francisco Bay Area: Bay Area Ridge Trail

Holding their annual Ridge to Bridge event on Saturday, April 10. The challenge is to "Hike, bike or ride!" the course.

"Experience the stunning Marin ridgelines on foot, wheel, or hoof and enjoy a plethora of wildflowers as you take in spectacular views of the Pacific coastline, Marin Headlands, Sausalito, the Bay, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

"Hike 30, 20, 13 or 8 (NEW shorter distance) miles. We shuttle you to the start so you can enjoy a one-way hike back to the Golden Gate Bridge. Pedal on a 31-mile endurance ride, 26-mile intermediate ride, or a 12-mile loop. The endurance and intermediate rides include a bus shuttle to the start. All rides will test your stamina with a good amount of climbing. Or trot along for a 9-mile equestrian ride! A family option is also provided.

Registration opens to current members of Bay Area Ridge Trail on Monday, February 22. Fee $55. Please be advised that members may register up to 3 additional guests. Website:

General registration starts on March 8 and the fee will be $65. Event attendance is limited and fills fast. The registration fee includes: shuttle to the start, a gourmet buffet lunch, water, snacks along the way, guides, maps and more.

Ridge to Bridge is also a benefit. Participate in the Athon for a chance to win great prizes (and support the Ridge Trail)! Raise $150 or more and your registration fee will be refunded! Invite friends and colleagues to sponsor you at $1, $5, or $10 per mile.

Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, 1007 General Kennedy Avenue, Suite 3, San Francisco, CA 94129-1405. Phone 415-561-2595, Fax 415-561-2599

#10. Larkspur Library Camino show

Thursday, April 8, 2010. 7 PM. Larkspur Library, 400 Magnolia Ave. Larkspur, CA. (415) 927-5005. . As part of the Armchair Travel Series, Susan and Ralph Alcorn will give a narrated multi-media slide presentation on the Camino de Santiago. Please check back for further details and confirmation of this event, location, time, etc.

#11. American Pilgrims Gathering registration extended

American Pilgrims on the Camino has extended the registration deadline to March 1; registration can be found at . The gathering and other events take place Tuesday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at the San Pedro Center, Winter Park, Florida. If you missed my detailed info in the last issue, you can read my newsletters on our website --

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #133 Feb 1, 2010

1. Ken and Marcia Powers honored
2. Tips for travel and hiking in France
3. La Concha by American Pilgrims
4. Reminder: American Pilgrims annual gathering - hospitalero training.
5. Xacobeo 2010 (website with Santiago Camino info)
6. Follow me at
7. ADZPCTKO (the Pacific Crest Trail kick-off)
8. Western Wilderness Conference in April
9. Regional: Great Old Broads hike in Napa
10. Regional: EBRPD Trail Challenge (it's free!)
11. Regional: EBRPD Women on Common Ground hikes
12. Regional: Flyway Festival in North Bay (free fun and hikes)

#1. Ken and Marcia Powers honored

Two deserving hikers were recently awarded the California Outdoors Hall of Fame at a ceremony sponsored by the International Sportsmen's Exposition. At the January 16, 2010 Sportsman Expo in San Mateo, CA, Ken and Marcia Powers, who have hiked the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and the American Discovery trails (the Grand Slam) joined the ranks of other such notables as Galen Rowell, John Muir, Ansel Adams, Carol Latimer, Yvon Chouinard, and Brian (Flyin') Robinson

Tom Stienstra, Outdoors writer, made the presentation.

If you'd like to know more about this remarkable couple, my article can be found at 

#2. Tips for traveling in France

From our several hikes on Camino trails in France, we have gathered some tips that you might find handy when traveling there (and perhaps elsewhere):
a). Check where the light switch is when entering restrooms — many are on timers and have a great propensity for going out at inopportune moments.
b). The custom in France is to keep your hands above the table while eating, not in your lap. (I've heard that it's so that we know what you are doing with both hands.) I've observed that the knife is held in the right hand, the fork kept in the left (not switched to the right as in England).
c). In France, tips are usually already included in restaurants. (If you are not sure, ask.).
d). Learn the words for greeting people. Niceties such as "Bonjour," (good day) "Madame," "Monsieur," "Au revoir" (until next time) are expected in shops and stores and will go a long way toward receiving a warm welcome.
e). Bring a flat, rubber tub stopper (hotels rarely have them) and it's nice to be able to enjoy a long soak from time to time.
f). Shops' hours are usually quite different from what we are accustomed to in the U.S. In small towns, they may be closed both Sunday and Monday. They generally close for a couple of hours mid-day and reopen late afternoon. Finally, they may close a few minutes earlier than posted (to get the customers that are already inside out and to finish the day's business).
g). Ask your host (hotel, etc.) to call ahead for your next night's accommodations. The best times to reach someone at a bed and breakfast, etc. are usually 8-9 AM and 6-8 PM.
h). Enjoy the figs. They are wonderfully ripe and sweet in September in southern France. Bread and rolls are often used to sop up the extra gravy. (Perhaps not in Paris, but certainly in the countryside).
i). In Portugal, a basket or bread, or olives, etc. may be placed on your table, but do not assume that it is included in your meal. Inquire if you are not certain. We have not experienced this elsewhere (at least not that we were aware of!).
j). If you need to find a computer to use, ask at tourist bureaus, libraries, and where you are staying as well as cybercafes. There are, however, fewer cybercafes than there were a few years back. WiFi is everywhere. Convenient for those with their laptops, not so convenient for hikers.

#3. American Pilgrims La Concha newsletter

 American Pilgrims has just sent the current issue of "La Concha" to members. This new newsletter is reason enough to join the organization! There are, however, many reasons to join if you are interested in the Camino de Santiago — including the fact that you can easily obtain the pilgrim passport from them that you'll want when hiking the Camino. The newsletter and more info is available at (Annual family membership $50/$25 full-time students).

#4. American Pilgrims annual Gathering

Reminder that the American Pilgrims annual gathering will be held in Winter Park (near Orlando) Florida. The Hospitalero Training, (available only to members of American Pilgrims) March 16 - 18, 2010; the 2010 Gathering of Pilgrims, March 19 - 21, 2010; and a Spiritual Retreat, March 21 - 23, 2010.

#5. Xacobeo 2010

This organization in Santiago de Compostela, Spain has announced a new website in English at . There are two main areas — one for pilgrims, and one as a guide to the many cultureal events that will be taking place in Galicia throughout 2010 — this Holy Year.

#6. Susan Alcorn at

I have been writing as the Bay Area Hiking Examiner for several months now — with articles on hikes in the S. F. Bay area, the Sierra, Europe, Patagonia, and more. You can catch up at  If you subscribe online, you'll automatically receive word of subsequent articles. Thanks!

#7. ADZPCTKO - 2010

The ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off) 2010 will be held April 22-25, 2010. From the Pacific Crest Trail Association website, "We expect to be completely full again this year, so advance registration is required. As usual, registration will begin in late February/early March, so check back here then, or follow us on Twitter @adzpctko."

This event is an excellent way for thru-hikers and other PCT hikers to meet other hikers, be entertained with zany contests, enjoy photos and videos from previous hikes, and get last minute briefing on water sources along the trail, etc. A very informal camping out weekend with lots of hearty food and plenty of camaraderie.

#8. Western Wilderness Conference

April 8-11 in Berkeley, CA. The Great Old Broads are sponsoring the conference and will have a table to share the work of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness.

The Western Wilderness Conference 2010 will bring grassroots wilderness advocates together at University of California in Berkeley, CA, from all the western states. It’s time to launch the next round of western wilderness campaigns — building on the success of the 2009 Omnibus Public Land Management Act. And it’s time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the remote, but recently fought-over wild places in America — the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — a symbol of America’s will to set some special places aside from commercial exploitation.

Hear speakers like Doug Scott, Dave Foreman, Bruce Hamilton, Dr. John Harte, Dr. Steve Schneider, Chris Arthur, Sal Ramirez, Ann Ronald, Tom Killion, Roger, Kaye, Juan Martinez, representatives from federal wilderness management agencies, and more address the role of wild lands in an era of climate change and deliberate on how to gain new allies to the cause of preserving wild places.... See the film “Forever Wild” and enjoy music by Walkin’ Jim Stoltz and I See Hawks.

Any members of Great Old Broads that wish to volunteer for one or more of the days of the event can also get in free, no registration cost. Great Old Broads and the Sierra Club are actively seeking home stay volunteer hosts — local people (preferably located close to public transit) who can take one or more conference participants from afar into their homes for the Thurs to Sunday evening, April 8-11.

To volunteer your time to help at or before the conference contact Tina Thomas at (510) 304-7824. Especially needed are Home Stay volunteer hosts — if you have room in your home for a visiting participant — please give a call to Vicky Hoover, at (415) 977-5527.V

Go to for conference info and online registration ($100 early bird). Contact Vicky Hoover — vicky.hoover at sierraclub dot org, (415) 977-5527.
San Francisco Regional Items:

#9. Great Old Broads local hike

 "GOB will meet about 9:30 at the Starbucks at the corner of Imola and Soscol [in Napa]. The easiest way is to take Hwy 29 to Napa. take the Imola offramp and then cross the Napa River and turn left into the big shopping center (Home Depot, Raleys, Target, etc) at the corner. The park where we will hike (Skyline) has a $5 per car fee so we can leave a car or two in the mall parking lot. The main hike is 2 miles each way to Lake Marie. It's fairly easy with a gain of 650 feet.

Then, depending on the group, when we get to Lake Marie there are all sorts of side trails of varying difficulty. Since I don't know anyone's capability I think this is a good option. If people want to bring lunch we can eat at Lake Marie. for more info check out the web site: Skyline Wilderness Park, (707) 252-0481, 2201 Imola Ave, Napa, CA

If you are interested in this, or any other local Great Old Broads activities, contact: Contact: Christine Hagelin, 925-937-7610, cnature at astound dot net

And: Great Old Broads has a "Broadwalk" near San Diego on May 20-24. More details on website.

#10. East Bay Regional Park District Trail Challenge

East Bay Regional Park District with the support of Kaiser is once again offering FREE, their "Trail Challenge." Go to  for details of this hiking/biking list of featured trails.

#11. EBRPD Women on Common Ground hikes

For women-only hiking: East Bay Regional Park District Naturalist Programs, Women on Common Ground. For information: Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness, (510) 544-3240, svisit at ebparks dot org

"Women on Common Ground is a series of naturalist-led programs for women who love to hike, camp, or otherwise play in the out-of-doors, but whose concern for personal safety keeps them from enjoying the wonders within their own parklands. Activities celebrate natural and cultural history and are designed to help women reclaim the joys of wild places by day and night. Wear sturdy shoes with textured soles for hiking on slippery slopes, dress in layers, wear sunscreen and a sun/rain hat and bring water and a trail snack to share. Parking fees may apply. We meet RAIN or SHINE, but will moderate our adventure to accommodate the weather. We encourage and can often help arrange carpools.

Pond Hopping Hike, Sunol Regional Park. 10am-4pm Sunday, February 28. A five-mile, five pond foray with search for amphibians and other February frivolous signs of California spring. Lots of uphill. Meet at the Old Green Barn. Reservations required. Please contact 510-544-3240 or svisit at ebparks dot org by noon, Thursday, February 25. Naturalist Katie Colbert

Get Back on the Trail: Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park. 10am-1pm Sunday, March 14. Work out those sluggish winter muscles on a leisurely hike uphill, downhill and roundabout, on grassy and wooded slopes hopping with floral and faunal aerobics. Meet at the staging area on Foothill Road. Reservations required. Please contact 510-544-3240 or svisit at ebparks dot org by noon, Thursday, March 11. Naturalist Katie Colbert

Sunrise and moonrise from Flag Hill. Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness. 6-9:30am Sunday, April 4. Rise with the birds this morning for an invigorating uphill hike. Weather willing, we’ll watch the sun dance for joy on a distant ridge top. We’ll share a sunrise snack and wander back looking for wildflowers and other miraculous things. Meet at the Old Green Barn. Reservations required. Please contact 510-544-3240 or svisit at ebparks dot org by noon, Thursday, April 1. Naturalist Katie Colbert

#12. San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival

This Friday-Sunday, February 5-7, 2010. Thanks to Marianne for this item, "I wanted to make you aware of this wonderful and FREE festival coming up. It gives the public a chance to visit areas not open to the public at other times of the year. The festival headquarters are on Mare Island [along the lower Napa River and San Pablo Bay], an interesting place in itself, but there are outdoor outings all over the North Bay. We have attended for most of the past 14 years and really enjoy it."

There are also some nearby hikes--Cougar Mountain (Sear's Pt.)--for example and Marianne recommends taking the self-guided tour up Mare Island (a former Naval Shipyard).

Buen Camino,
Susan Alcorn

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

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

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

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