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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2011

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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 Tales & Tips #158. December 1, 2011

1. Sheep in Madrid?
2. Wolves in Oregon?
3. Bridge of the Gods walkway?
4. Pacific Crest Trail through Glacier Peak Wilderness Reopens
5. Some California State Parks Saved
6. Polar Pure problems
7. Stocking stuffers
8. Balance better
9. “The Way”
10. Regional walks in Berkeley

#1. Sheep led across Madrid?

I certainly wish that I had been in Madrid, Spain, on Sunday, October 30th of this year because that was the day that shepherds led their flocks of sheep across the city “in defense of ancient grazing, migration, and droving rights,” that are threatened by urban sprawl. Reportedly, about 5,000 sheep and 60 cattle were driven across the city on routes that existed way before Madrid became the capital. There are two north-south routes through Madrid—one of them goes through Puerto del Sol—the city’s major Metro stop and a very popular plaza. For the last 18 years, the shepherds have exercised their rights to continue going through the heart of the city. The shepherds have rights to 78,000 miles of paths in Spain for seasonal migrations of their livestock — a system called “Transhumance”— that in Spain involves almost 1,000,000 animals. Mostly sheep and cattle are moved from the higher elevations in the winter for warm conditions, and from the lower-lying regions in summer for the cooler temperatures in the mountains. Some of the routes are more than 800 years old and the shepherds are determined that their rights are retained.  (Associated Press in S.F. Chronicle)

#2. Wolves expanding range in Oregon?

A 2-year-old wolf, which was part of the Imnaha Pack in Wallowa County [NE Oregon], has been identified in the Umpqua River drainage in western Oregon. The male was identified by its transmitter collar, which showed that he left the east on September 10, 2011; he reached Douglas County on October 28, 2011. Although this is the first confirmed sighting of a wolf in the vicinity since 1946, Russ Morgan, coordinator of Oregon's wolf program, has said that it is likely that other wolves, without collars, have also made it into western Oregon. To reach the vicinity of Medford (or other parts of western Oregon) from Wallowa County requires that animals cross the Cascade Range. Hikers and backpackers of the Pacific Crest Trail may one day be treated to another sighting!

#3. Bridge of the Gods walkway

I noted in the PCT [Pacific Crest Trail) TRAIL DIRT of 10/18/2011, that there is a study underway to consider the feasibility of adding a pedestrian and bicycling path to the Bridge of the Gods. The bridge crosses the Columbia River connecting Cascade Locks, Oregon and Stevenson, Washington. My goodness, what will we PCT hikers do for fun if we can no longer take our life in our hands by sharing vehicular lanes while crossing the bridge over the Columbia!?! Anyway -- The Federal Highway Administration awarded the Port of Cascade Locks a $20,000 grant to study the matter. “Port Director Chuck Daughtry said that while pedestrians, including PCT hikers & equestrians, are welcome to walk the bridge today, a walkway would make it safer, especially for bikes.” Actually, the $20,000 is only part of a $500,000 grant going to Stevenson, WA. According to Daughtry, the city and port have “mutual economic development interest in the walkway.”  Cascade Locks is developing a network of trails and the Oregon Department of Transportation is developing a 50-mile long bike trail from Troutdale to Cascade Locks.

#4. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is finally open through Glacier Peak Wilderness

Since 2003, when several bridges through the wilderness area were wiped out, hikers of the PCT have had to take a detour through the area. The most infamous river crossing for the last few years has been the crossing of the Suiattle River. When Ralph and I crossed the raging river last year, we had to scoot across on a very long log. Now that the repairs have been made, adding 5 miles to the PCT, hikers won’t have to choose between walking across the log (many have fallen in!) or scooting across the river (which is less glamorous, but safer!). The PCT Association reported that nine bridges have now been repaired and three miles of new trails constructed at a cost of $1.1 million. Gary Paull of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest said, "The PCT is the backbone of the trail system through the Wilderness,” Paull said. “Getting it back in useable condition was very important. There is a generation of hikers in the Pacific Northwest who haven't experienced the Wilderness due to the floods of 2003."

#5. Some California State Parks saved

Approximately 70 of California’s State Parks are still threated with a severe reduction in hours open and services or closure due in part to the state’s continuing financial problems. It is gratifying to hear that some non-profits are stepping up to the plate. The latest good news is that Mono Lake State park will remain open. The Bodie Foundation, which already has programs that help support Bodie State Historic Park and Grover Hot Springs State Park, has agreed to collect fees at Mono Lake. Mono Lake, on the east side of the Sierra, is the site of bizarre tufa outcroppings in the super- saline lake. Other partnerships supporting State Parks include the National Park Service’s agreeing to collect fees and patrol Tomales Bay, Samuel P. Taylor, and Del Norte Redwoods state parks.  We need more!

#6. Polar Pure problem

What’s in the water? Metallurgist Bob Wallace, 88-years old, had a pretty good cottage industry going until the Feds and State stepped in recently. Wallace, who lives in Saratoga, CA. had no idea that the Polar Pure water purification crystals that he sold to backpackers and other adventurous travelers could also be used for the production of methamphetamine. It turns out that Polar Pure contains crystalline iodine, which is effective at purifying water and never expires, can also be “cooked” into meth. The drug enforcement agencies have demanded that  Wallace pay various new fees, obtain additional permits, establish a first- rate security system and keep a comprehensive customer list – until then, he won’t be able to buy the raw materials for his product.

#7. Stocking Stuffers

I recently posted an article with ideas for stocking stuffers for hikers, which you can read here. Here are a few more: The Appalachian  Trail Conservancy ( has a safety hankie – blaze orange, 22” square with safety tips related to the AT hike. #322 $6.95 Mountaineers Books has a new deck of cards, “Don’t Die Out There Deck.” It’s a set of (56) playing cards with survival tips on each. $7. And while you are at the Mountaineers website, check out Laure Latham’s “Best Hikes with Kids: San Francisco Bay Area. 288 pages, $18.95 list. .

#8. Balance and hiking

Balance is not just an issue for aging folks; it can be an issue for hikers. Crossing streams, walking on narrow paths, or descending steep terrain is much safer if your balance is good. UC Wellness Letter (Nov. 2011) has soon suggestions that may help athletes maintain better balance. (Some of the items suggested might make good holiday gifts, too.) They include: tai chi, balance boards, large exercise balls, walking on cobblestones mats (if you don’t have cobblestones nearby!); and mini-trampoline. In all cases, start any of these measures cautiously – check with your doctor/have a spotter/stand near a counter or doorway so you can grab hold. Add to the previous: stand on one foot (eyes closed) for up to 1 minute; Chi gong.

#9. The Way

We have recently seen Martin Sheen in “The Way,” a wonderful, fictionalized, story about a pilgrimage across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Sheen’s son, Emilio Esteban, directed the movie and had a cameo role. It was fun to be back on the St. James Way and recognize many of the landmarks. However, as I tell our friends, there is one important difference between the movie and real life -- the movie lasts less than two hours, the hike itself lasts most people 4-6 weeks. AARP the Magazine recently had an article entitled, “My Road to Truth” written by Martin Sheen. It was interesting to learn that Sheen had grown up hearing about the Camino de Santiago from his father. Francisco Estevez was from the Galicia region of Spain and had taught his son about the pilgrimage to Santiago. Sheen’s walk of portions of the Camino with his grandson Taylor in 2003 inspired Emilio to make “The Way.”

#10.  Regional Walks in Berkeley

Regional” San Francisco Bay Area: Berkeley Path Wanderers has a few cool hikes this season: “Coffee Constitutional” Wed. December 7 at 10:00 a.m. Leader: Jacque Ensign; Contact: Keith Skinner (510) 520-3876. Meeting Place: Peet's on Domingo Ave. across from the Claremont Hotel, Berkeley, CA.  Transit: AC buses#49 and#51B Description: Meet at Peet's over a coffee then explore the Claremont area on a low impact, leisurely walk. Well-behaved dogs on leashes permitted.

And, “Ukuleles for Peace.” Sunday, December 18, 2011. 3:00 p.m. Contact & Leader: Keith Skinner (510) 520-3876. Meeting Place: Top of Fountain Walk on Marin Circle, Berkeley, CA. Transit: AC buses#7, #18, and #25. Description: Join us for a non-secular, non-political show of peace and goodwill as the Berkeley Ukulele Club strums up a storm and we send out positive vibes to our neighbors and the world at large. The pace will be moderate with frequent stops but some hills. Well- behaved dogs on leashes permitted.


Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #157, November 1, 2011

1. Scott Williamson’s sets new PCT record
2. Domino Ireland’s song list
3. Roam the Woods
4. Naturalight LED Lamp & Flashlight
5. Current Camino de Santiago statistics
6. Yogi’s new edition of the PCT Handbook
7. National Geographic “Appalachian Trail” now showing
8. Protect Yosemite National Park
9. Tom Courtney’s blog about the Camino de Santiago

#1. Scott Williamson has set another speed record for the Pacific Crest Trail

. On October 11, 2011, he finished his southbound, unsupported, hike of the 2,650 mile trail in 64 days, 11 hrs. and 19
minutes. In so doing, he broke the record he and Adam Bradley set in 2009! The two completed the PCT in 2009 in 65 days, 9 hrs., and 58

#2. Domino Ireland's song list

 Domino submitted an entertaining song list for Camino hikers who carry IPods (but applicable for many long trails):
500 MILES - The Proclaimers
CRAZY - Gnarles Barkley
WANDERLUST - Mark Knopfler
THE PROMISE - When in Rome
Domino Ireland posted this in American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC)
Aug 23, 2011.

#3. Roam the Woods

I heard from Rosie Enos, who is the Co-Owner of Roam the Woods ( and was impressed with her enthusiasm for the outdoors and her desire to empower other women by offering backpacking trips.

“I co-own a women's focused backpacking company that offers one, two, and two+ week backpacking courses all over the United States.  We utilize National Forest, National Parks, and Wilderness Areas as our classroom.  Our main goal is to offer an empowering experience for women that develops essential outdoor skills while building their self- confidence.  After a course with us, we want women to go out on their own outdoor adventures, solo or with others and share with them what they have learned!”

#4. Naturalight LED Lamp & Flashlight

. I recently did a review of a product that I liked. When compared to a Coleman lantern (which is what we usually take when car camping) it had a couple of advantages. First of all, it was brighter in the lamp mode. Secondly, it had a more focused beam so that you didn’t have to create as much light pollution at your campsite. Here’s my review: The Naturalight LED lamp & flashlight is a useful and versatile product for use at home, in the car and outdoors. It quickly opens to be used on a table or any flat surface or to be held and used as a flashlight. The combination lamp & flashlight delivers up to six hours of light with 28 LEDs when in lamp mode and six LEDs when in flashlight mode. The LEDs never require replacement; 3 AA batteries are required (not included). As an outdoors enthusiast I was primarily interested in evaluating the Naturalight LED lamp & flashlight for its usefulness when camping and backpacking. Although the unit is too bulky for backpacking, its light weight and versatility make it great for tent or RV campers. When set up as a lamp, which you easily accomplish by flipping the unit open, I was impressed with its brilliant output. It would be perfect for setting up camp, cooking the evening meal, or playing a game of cards at the picnic table. Because the lamp’s beam can be angled and adjusted, you don’t have to worry about blinding others nearby, which makes for being a considerate neighbor.
When the light is in flashlight mode, which you convert to by twisting the lens, it provides enough light to find your way to your tent, the restrooms and so forth. There’s a strap attached to the unit that enables you to hang the lamp on a hook if needed. (If more light is needed than the flashlight provides, you can use the lamp’s greater beam.)

Disclaimer: I received the Naturalight LED Lamp & Flashlight to review, but I would not give my recommendation unless I found a product worth having. I liked the Naturalight LED Lamp & Flashlight and will definitely take it on my next car camping trip.

#5. Current Camino Statistics

Just how many people are on the Camino in the fall? “During the month of October 2011, 16.238 pilgrims were received at the Pilgrim's Office. The number of pilgrims in the past Holy Year, 2004, during the same period was 14.556. Of those pilgrims, 6.781 (41,76%) were women and 9.457 (58,24%) men. 14.214 (87,54%) pilgrims arrived on foot, 1.966 (12,11%) by bicycle, 52 (0,32%) on horseback, and 6 (0,04%) pilgrims on wheel-chair. Pilgrims' Age: 3.320 pilgrims were younger than 30 years old (20,45%), 9.596 were between 30 and 60 years old (59,10%), and 3.322 were aged above 60 years old (20,46%). Pilgrims' Motivation: Religious: 6.801 (41,88%), Religious and Cultural: 8.415 (51,82%), Cultural: 1.022 (6,29%) Pilgrims' Nationality: Spanish: 6.911 (42,56%); Most of the pilgrims came from Madrid: 1.265 (18,30%); Andalucía: 910 (13,17%); Cataluña: 894 (12,94%); Galicia: 827 (11,97%); Comunidad Valenciana: 678 (9,81%); Castilla León: 436 (6,31%); Pais Vasco: 300 (4,34%); Asturias: 298 (4,31%); etc. Foreigners: 9.327 (57,44%); Most of the pilgrims come from the following countries: Alemania: 1.688 (18,10%); Francia: 1.024 (10,98%); Portugal: 773 (8,29%); Italia: 668 (7,16%); Canadá: 502 (5,38%); Estados Unidos: 492 (5,28%); Brasil: 346 (3,71%); Reino Unido: 328 (3,52%); etc. Starting Points: Most of the pilgrims received in this period started their Way to Santiago in: Sarria: 2.948 (18,15%); S. Jean P. Port: 2.772 (17,07%); Cebreiro: 993 (6,12%); Roncesvalles: 831 (5,12%); León: 804 (4,95%); Oporto: 669 (4,12%); Tui: 660 (4,06%); Ponferrada: 579 (3,57%); etc.

The Chosen Routes: Most of the pilgrims chose Frances-Camino de: 12.152 (74,84%); Portugues-Camino: 1.957 (12,05%); Norte-Camino de: 784 (4,83%); Via de la Plata: 731 (4,50%); Primitivo-Camino: 379 (2,33%); etc.
Recent Camino statistics:

#6. New edition of Yogi’s PCT Handbook.

 This represents Jackie’s first  major revision since the handbook was first published in 2004. The book has a new set of contributors - 19 hikers from 2008/2009/2010 – who share their hints and experiences of the trail. The contributions from Billy Goat and Scott Williamson have been retained in the current version. The hikers who contributors are 22-61 years old and range in experience from never hiked before, to Triple Crown hikers. Yogi’s PCT Handbook provides lots of information that the official guides do not – including info about the where to stay, get groceries, eat, etc. in the trail towns along the way; how to find trail angels that can help you with a lift or an emergency situation. From Yogi’s website: “TRAIL: Historical data of every Data Book water source from Campo to Kennedy Meadows (“the desert”); Historical data of all critical water sources from Kennedy Meadows to Canada; Where to go at confusing trail junctions; Sierra-specific information: tips for crossing the passes, bear box locations, canister-required areas, Sierra Public Bus information; Detour information…” 13-time PCT thru- hiker Scott Williamson has contributed his comments regarding water availability and places few people know about.” More details about the book can be found here:

#7. The National Geographic film - American’s Wild Spaces: Appalachian Trail is hitting the theaters.

 All funds raised will go to protect and maintain the Appalachian Trail. Admission to view this breath-taking film includes a new membership or gift membership to the ATC. Both current members and non-members are welcomed to attend! “Discover the A.T. during a showing of the National Geographic film, “America’s Wild Spaces:  the Appalachian Trail”.  The film tour is coming to Midtown Arts Cinema in Atlanta 7:30 Nov. 3, and to The Carolina Asheville theater 10:30 a.m., Sat. Nov. 19. The Asheville showing will include giveaways such as an ENO hammock, and will be followed by a short hike.  Get your ticket online at a $5 discount using promo code SORO11. Details and tickets, cut and paste link:

“For more than half of the U.S. population, the Appalachian Trail is less than a day's drive away. Yet despite its proximity to many major cities like Atlanta and Boston, few truly know the splendor of this national treasure. National Geographic takes viewers off the beaten track to discover the remote and often unknown corners of the 5- million-step journey.” Further dates: Times Square, New York, NY - AMC Theatres, November 12, 2011 from 11:00am - 12:30pm; Harrisburg, PA - Colonial Park 4,  November 13, 2011 from 10:30am - 12:00pm; Shepherdstown, WV - National Conservation Training Center, November 17, 2011 from 7:30pm - 9pm; Asheville, NC - The Carolina Asheville, November 19, 2011 from 10:30am - 12:00pm Don’t forget to enter Promo Code: ROADTOUR11 and receive an additional $5 off your reservation!

#8.Yosemite Planning Session

 If you love Yosemite, you might want to attend an upcoming public planning session or a webinar this month to weigh in on plans for the park. The goal is to come up with a plan that will balance public access with strict protections of the designated “Wild and Scenic” Merced River that runs through the park. In other words, how do we provide services for visitors (parking, food, lodging, activities) without ruining the environment! There is a meeting scheduled for November 9, 2011, 5-8 p.m. The Palm Room, San Francisco Film Centre, San Francisco. Webinar, November 14, 2011, 6:30-8 p.m. at

#9. Tom Courtney's Camino Blog

Tom Courtney, who I wrote about recently in conjunction with his book “Walkabout Northern California - Hiking Inn to Inn,”  is hiking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela of Northern Spain.  He invites you to read about his pilgrimage at

Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #156, Oct 1, 2011

1. Susan and Ralph’s whereabouts
2. 7-year old climbs highest peak in the lower 48.
3. Camino Mandala workshop
4. A bit of good news about CA State Parks
5. New book! Pacific Crest Trailside Reader: California
6. Pacific Crest Trail humor
7. “The Way” is on its way
8. First TransPanama Trail completion
9. Name your hike
10. Bay Area Regional: Exploring Patagonia
11. Bay Area Regional: Hiking locally

#1. Susan and Ralph's whereabouts

Just in case you’ve been wondering about the delay of the newsletter, it’s because we have been traveling. We have just returned from a trip back east, with plans to hike the Connecticut section of the Appalachian Trail (all 62.5 miles of it), but life intervened. In the weeks preceding our departure, we followed the weather reports and the news about Hurricane Irene. We scoured hiker’s postings and read the Appalachian Trail Conservancy updates. From those sources, we learned that the AT in Vermont was (and still is) largely impassable and short sections of the trail in Connecticut were underwater or required serious river crossings. We were prepared to do a large amount of road walking if necessary. The day before our flight to Connecticut, we learned that a storm was due in momentarily and it was suggested that we rework our schedule to put us on the trail later in that week when the weather forecast was for sunny days. We went to Plan B. I won’t belabor the saga, but after we made all of these adjustments to our schedule, I had a medical emergency (I'm fine now), which made it unadvisable to go backpacking. We were able to do a few short hikes— just enough to make us determined to return and get a bigger dose. But instead of backpacking on the AT for a week, we spent our time driving all over New England and Quebec looking for fall color (It was beautiful, but we were too early for maximum color.)

#2. 7 year old climbs highest peak in lower 48

Amazing seven-year old. On our website, , Ralph posts various trail records such as “youngest person to complete the Pacific Crest Trail;” “oldest man currently on the trail”, etc. Here’s a new one for the record books--a seven-year-old boy, Tyler Armstrong of Yorba Linda, CA, has just set a new record. Tyler reached the top of Mt. Whitney on July 26, 2011. According to the Associated Press, Tyler and his dad reached the 14,496’ peak in seven hours, 50 minutes from base camp at Whitney Portal. Tyler wants to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, but since regulations require hikers to be at least 10 year old, he may have to wait a couple of years to do that.

#3. Camino Mandala workshop

. Eva Stramer Nichols, a Camino hiker and artist from Truckee, CA, is leading a workshop in the Bay Area on Saturday, November 5th from 12 Noon to 4 PM. It will be held at Rennie Archibald's house, 3227 Withers Ave, Lafayette, CA. There will be a material fee of $15 per person. (If you have your own art materials, please feel free to bring them instead of paying the fee.) Her letter gives the details: “We are less than month away from the scheduled Camino Mandala workshop and we still have a few openings, so now is the time to let me know if you are interested in participating. No previous painting experience necessary. Please don't hesitate if you are not "creative" or "artistic" - let your ‘inner artist’ come out and play! “I will bring all the essentials, (watercolors & acrylics, glues, brushes and paper & board, etc.), but for those that might want to do a collage, please bring your own photos if you want to incorporate them. I will bring some magazines that can be used as well. “Creating a Camino Mandala. What's your Camino Story? Sometimes it is difficult to express in words. Try creating it using the international language of art! This workshop builds on the ancient painting tradition of the Mandala, which is the Sanskrit word for circle and symbolizes wholeness. Mandalas are frequently rich in religious, traditional and personal symbolism. Mother Nature herself must like Mandalas, as she has created many—from the beautiful simplicity of a daisy to the compelling intricacies of the eye's iris. Is it any wonder that we call the eyes the "windows to the soul", being as they are our own, unique, God-given Mandalas? After a brief introduction to the Mandala and painting as well as collage technique, you will create your own Camino story using your personal creative language to express your journey!” Eva points out that you don't have to have walked the Camino yet, it can also be a vision of the Camino you are planning to embark on. You can call her at 530-414-1289 and see samples of her art at .

#4. A bit of good news about CA state parks

It’s piecemeal, and the threats have not ended, but there has been some good news recently about the fate of California State Parks threatened with closure. The Cal Parks Association writes, “On Tuesday Gov. Brown signed AB 42. This was a huge accomplishment, and this bill certainly traveled a long and winding road. Some of you may recall visiting your legislators in the capitol to tell them about this bill way back in March. Well thankfully your hard work, and the work of those who signed petitions, sent letters and made phone calls, paid off! Thank you guys for supporting this bill all the way through. “So what does it mean to have this bill in place now? (Maybe you even want to read the bill, which you can do here.) It means we have new options for keeping state parks open. Now, instead of asking, “Can you provide money to keep this park open?” we can ask questions like, “Can your nonprofit run the campsites in this park?” or “Can your nonprofit operate this ENTIRE park?” The pool of resources just got a whole lot bigger, which is exciting. “Thursday. Earlier today, more good news came through the wire. California State Parks announced in a release that three of the state parks on the closure list are going to remain open thanks to the National Parks Service (NPS). Operations of Tomales Bay, Samuel P. Taylor, Del Norte Redwoods will now be supported by NPS. If you know these parks, you know this is a great partnership because of the close proximity of these state parks to national park land. We are very happy to see NPS continue its long history of working closely with California State Parks and step up once again to take care of these parks that are such an integral part of those areas. “

#5.New Book - Pacific Crest Trailside Reader

 I’ve very happy that the Pacific Crest Trailside Reader, California which has been compiled by Rees Hughes and Corey Lewis and is being published by Mountaineers Books can now be pre-ordered at Amazon or from Mountaineers. ( )  Don’t miss my short story about a strange encounter with a deer!!!

The artwork for the cover and each section are block prints done specifically for The Reader by backpacker and artist, Amy Uyeki. We are all committed to returning all of our profits to the trail. Already $4,000 has been contributed to the protection and preservation work of the Pacific Crest Trail Association. It all depends on book sales

#6. Pacific Crest Trail:Humor

 You always know when the hiking season on the PCT is almost over—the “interesting” comments on the forum begin. An example from Reinhold Metzger is the naming of a very common complaint among long distance hikers, as “MHD” otherwise known as “MORONIC HIKING DISORDER.''

#7. The Way is on its way

Because we have been bouncing around so much this season, we have yet to see the new Camino movie, The Way, with Martin Sheen. You can find out where it’s playing by going to this website. Peter, backpacking friend, writes, “Last night I saw the hiking movie with Martin Sheen….I enjoyed all the scenes of the churches, the trail route and the towns as well as the story of the bonding of the hikers. Plus it was a pretty sympathetic view of long-distance trekking, not a subject that Hollywood takes up very often. I bet it produces a surge in Americans doing The Way, just like after Bill Bryson's Walk in the Woods for the AT.” Don’t forget (shameless promotion), Shepherd Canyon Books has an excellent book entitled Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago available.

#8. First TransPanama Thru-hike Completed

Just got word about this accomplishment from Sue Freeman of Footprint Press, Inc. “On the 23rd of September, 2011 at 5:30 PM history was made. Rick Morales completed the first thru-hike border to border across Panama on the TransPanama Trail. Rick and his team arrived at the border with Costa Rica, having started on the border with Columbia on June 26th. Click here to see a map of the route and photos from the expedition: . Rick Morales can be contacted via email at (he speaks English fluently). Also available for interviews is Mike Esquivel, Executive Director at

#9. Name your hike

I have to admit I have a soft spot for Call of the Wild.  Even though I have never gone on a trip with them, I have followed their progress since their earliest days (33 years!) of offering adventure travel for women. Just learned that they will let you have a personally designed 2012 vacation. “The possibilities are endless for your own private or custom adventure with Call of the Wild! Ideas include: Hiking in legendary Yosemite National Park; Lodge-Based Trekking in Death Valley or Olympic National Park; Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru; Yoga & Hiking in Hawaii; Day Hiking in the Eastern California Sierra Mountains.” Call (650) 265 – 1662. Outside CA: (888)378-1978, or email to learn more and to explore the endless possibilities. The World’s Longest Running Adventure Travel Company for Women -

#10. Regional Bay Area: Exploring Patagonia

By Wayne Bernhardson – an informational program at Berkeley REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. October 25, 2011. 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. (PDT). Free, but you should register at:  “Description: Patagonia is an outdoor adventurer's paradise. Join Wayne Bernhardson, author of "Moon Handbooks: Patagonia" and other guidebooks on Chile and Argentina, for a digital presentation on great destinations in this magnificent region for trekking, touring, rafting, and watching wildlife. Come hike among the majestic granite peaks of the Torres del Paine and Fitzroy ranges, tour the loneliest highways in the Americas (Argentina's Ruta 40, Chile's Carretera Austral), paddle whitewater in northern Patagonia, and watch penguins on Peninsula Valdes and the Falkland Islands. Don't miss Wayne's tips on cultural adventures in Buenos Aires and Santiago! If you register for this free presentation, we will hold a seat for you until the scheduled start time. Seating may be available at the door, even if registration is closed. Additional dates: 10/56 (SF), 10/31 (Saratoga), 11/1 (Fremont)”

#11. Bay Area - Hiking Locally

Check out some of Susan’s latest articles about hiking in the San Francisco Bay Area on

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #154 Sept 1, 2011

1. Jennifer Pharr Davis sets Appalachian Trail record
2.  Lottery for Yosemite’s high country camps now open
3.  Camino interest: “The Way” with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez is
coming soon
4. Camino: The Big Bad Wolf?
5. Looking for trail angels for the Continental Divide Trail (CDT)
6.  Camino hospitalero opportunity
7. New trail, the TransPanama!
8. Footprint Press
9. Camino art
10. Hostels in the Pyrenees
11. ALDHA-WEST gathering
12.     Skurka at ALDHA (east coast) gathering
13. Susan’s Oh, Deer! to be published in collection by Mountaineers
14. Store luggage while in Santiago de Compostela
15.    Hiking in the San Francisco Bay Area – Susan

#1. Jennifer Pharr Davis, age 28, now holds the Appalachian Trail thru- hike speed record

After 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, Jen finished the 2,181 mile trail on July 31, 2011. Her daily average was 46 miles.

In 2008, Jennifer set a record for “supported” Appalachian Trail Record hike. (57 days and 8 hours - an average of 38 miles per day.) Part of why she was able to shave about 10 days off this time was that she started later (June 15th) and so the days were longer.  Jennifer is also the author of an adventure memoir, Becoming Odyssa.

#2. Lottery for Yosemite High Camps now open

The lottery for Yosemite’s high country camps in 2012 is now open and continues until November 1. Applications will be available online from September 1, 2011 through November 1, 2011.  Rates are $146-151 per adults, which includes the tent cabin stay, breakfast and dinner.

#3. The Way with Martin Sheen arriving soon

“The Way,” (about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage) with Martin Sheen, directed by Emilio Estevez is arriving via bus tour in selected cities around the US. ttp:// The movie, which is now playing in U.K. and Ireland, will be in movie
theaters in the U.S. and Canada starting October 7. OCTOBER 7th! ONLY IN THEATERS!

#4. Camino:- the big bad wolf

“Sheepherders in the French Alps are bemoaning the return of wolves, which were eradicated in the regions in the 1930s. EuropeanUnion laws forbid anyone from killing the canines, even though they have slaughtered at least 1,330 animals, mostly sheep, so far thisyear in France.” (S.F. Chron. Compiled by Steve Newman, week ending Aug. 5, 2011)

#5.Looking for CDT Trail Angels

Jon Pierson of Continental Divide Trail Alliance (E-mail: forwards a request from Keith (el coyote) and Mary Deming, of New Mexico who are gathering info and creating a spreadsheet of trail angels (help for hikers) along the CDT.  “If you are a trail angel, or better yet have a substantial spreadsheet of CDT trail angels, please contact me.  Important information to include: name, location, email, phone number, services offered, and if they are available to transport/shuttle hikers (as well as fees if one is requested).Thank you for your help.  This information will be used to assist future section and thru hikers who request it. We have NM covered - it's the other states "up north" where they are needed.” NM Field Program Coordinator, PO Box 35457, Albuquerque, NM 87176, tel:505-659-7364 Visit

#6. Camino hospitalero training

Camino: Bob Holm of Northern CA chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino asks, “Have you ever considered serving as an hospitalero? Those who have served as hospitaleros will tell you that helping a steady stream of peregrinos in need of a welcoming place to stop and renew themselves is a very rewarding experience.  To learn more about being an hospitalero, visit” But before you can serve as an hospitalero, you’ll need to complete a sanctioned training course.  To enable you to meet this requirement, Daniel De Kay, our Hospitalero Training Coordinator, wants to know who is interested in a training course this winter.   If interested in learning more, please contact Daniel and let him know the city in which you live and the month you’re available for a weekend training course.”

#7. New Trail - the TransPanama

Sue, trail name Blueberry, wrote to inform us about a new trail and a friend who is doing the first ever thru-hike of the TransPanama. Sue, who is a long distance hiker and author explains, “Birth of the TransPanama Trail Every long hiking trail begins with one person’s dream, followed by the ceaseless labor of a small group of volunteers. To become reality, that small group must grow into an army of volunteers. It sounds impossible, but it has been done. The Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail are two examples in the USA. You can hike the Coast to Coast Trail across England, and the Trans Canada Trail is in the works, spanning the width of Canada.”The vision and the labor of building a long trail are well underway in the small Central American country of Panama. A small team of volunteers is dreaming of building a trail from Columbia in the east, lengthwise to Costa Rica in the west – the TransPanama Trail. The western half opened to hikers in June 2009. It spans mountainous regions with gorgeous scenery. Maps and photos can be found at

Now, to begin mapping the eastern half, Rick Morales has set out on the first ever TransPanama Trail thru-hike, beginning at the Columbia border. Others will join him for sections. Rick left from theColombian border on June 26, 2011 and plans to take 3 months to hike the 800 KM to Costa Rica. His journey is being documented on the blog: A digitized SPOT track of the journey is at

A branch of the TransPanama Trail will leave Panama City in the center of the country and veer toward the Caribbean Sea, following the Camino Real, a route developed in the 1400s by the Spanish to carry their pillaged gold and silver across to their galley ships. But, that’s an endeavor for the future. Right now, Rick and the other volunteers are focusing on the lengthwise route.”

Of course, as with any trail building endeavor, the Panamanians have to deal with land rights issues. It’s never an easy or quick process. In Panama there are regions that are populated by indigenous tribes such as the Kuna and Embera. Part of the lure of hiking the TransPanama Trail will be the cultural experience of hiking through indigenous communities. In return, low impact tourism will help these communities remain self-sustaining. Other allures will be the varied scenery, including views to the Pacific Ocean, plentiful crystal clear streams and waterfalls, and hiking through the tropics with its unique vegetation and animals.”

As the first thru-hiker, Rick Morales is a true pioneer in the spirit of people such as Earl Shaffer (AT) and Eric Ryback (PCT). He is building a legacy that those of us who enjoy long-distance hiking will benefit from in years to come.”

#8. Footprint Press

Sue Freeman of Footprint Press, Inc. has a useful blog entitled New York Outdoors. Even if you don’t visit New York for hiking purposes, you can still find useful information. I was very interested in her experience with the Marmot Precip rain jacket, for example, because I too have experienced that jackets can fail at unexpected times. Check out her blog at

#9. Camino Art

Camino inspires art: Main Gallery, North Tahoe Arts. Friday, September 16th, from 7 PM - 8 PM. "Walking under the Milky Way" will showcase Eva Nichol's 500-mile trek along the ancient pilgrimage trail--Camino de Santiago in Spain. She painted her way through beautiful landscapes, forlorn villages and spectacular ancient cities meeting people from all walks of life and many countries.”

The show runs until October 3rd, 2011. For more information please contact North Tahoe Arts, 380 North Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, CA.  Phone: 530-581-2787.  Spanish fare and wine for donation will be served.” Eva’s info: www.beautyonlocation.comand

#10. Hostels in the Pyrenees

Camino accommodations between France’s St. Jean Pied de Port and Spain’s Roncesvalles. “Crossing the Pyrenees is wonderful on a beautiful sunny day and awful in bad weather (snow, sleet, rain, wind). Staying at Hunto or Orisson is a great idea and both take reservations. Hunto: (0033) 05 59 37 11 17 or Orisson: 05 59 49 13 03 or mobile 06 81 49 79 56 website:

#11. ALDHA-West Gathering

American Long Distance Hikers Assoc. WEST Gathering this year will be at Lake Wenatchee, Washington, September 23-25.  Go to for info and registration. After Aug 31, these are the prices for members/non-members. Total Full Attendance includes Friday dinner thru Sunday Brunch $105/$120; One Day Attendance includes three meals $55/ $65; Weekend Attendance with no meals $67/$82.

This is a low-key event, lots of fun. You’ll have a chance to meet up with hikers you met long ago on the trail, hear about some amazing long distance hikes from those who have completed them, etc.

#12. Skurka at ALDHA (east coast) gathering

The gathering of the American Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) back east, is going to be held in North Adams, MA this year October 7-9th. The amazing backpacker, Andrew Skurka, who recently completed the 4,679-mile circumnavigation of Alaska (article in Mar 2011National Geographic) is going to be giving a presentation at the 30th Annual ALDHA meeting.  <>

#13. Susan's Oh Deer to be published

Many months back, I contributed a story, “Oh, Deer,” to Rees Hughes and Corey Lewis, Editors, who were putting together what has become the “Pacific Crest Trailside Reader: California,” and the book is being published this fall by The Mountaineers. The artwork for the cover and each section are block prints done specifically by backpacker and artist, Amy Uyeki.

I am very excited about his upcoming book and if you’d like to get it hot off the press, you can pre-order it at Amazon or through Mountaineers.  Visit

Rees and Corey are committed to returning all of their profits to the trail. Already $4,000 has been contributed to the protection and preservation work of the Pacific Crest Trail Association and we hope that much more will follow. Profits will depend upon book sales.

#14. Camino baggage storage option

Learned from Carol J. Hammer on the American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) Facebook forum that “… upon arrival in Santiago, at the place where one gets the Compostela, you can leave your luggage, backpack, bike, etc. there until 8 p.m. for one Euro a day. I used this the day I had the overnight train to Madrid so I could walk around without the pack (feeling very strange indeed).”

#15. Susan continues to write articles for on hiking

-primarily in the San Francisco Bay area. She is currently doing a series on hiking the 31-mile East Bay Skyline National Trail.

Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #153 August 1, 2011

Recently saw this wonderful bumper sticker: “Well-heeled women seldom make good hikers.”

1. Grizzly attacks>  Black bears are too smart!
3. Post office closures under consideration
4. Camino: Documentary to entice you
5. Swimming along the Camino de Santiago
6. Camino: Codex stolen
7. Poodle Dog Plant: Warning!
8.  Yosemite fatalities
9. Walkabout California
10. Secret Stairs: East Bay – book event Friday, walk Saturday
11.     Great Old Broads Swampwalk

1. Grizzly attacks

You've perhaps read or heard about these recent attacks, which ended in the death of one man and life-threatening injuries to two young men. The July 7, 2011 attack was in Yellowstone National park, WY on the popular Wapiti Trail near Artist Point. Reports were that Brian Matayoshi, 57, of Torrance, Calif. and his wife, Marilyn, who escaped serious injury, saw the bear twice. The first time was without incident, but the second time was when the sow charged them.

Ms. Matayoshi started to run and called 911 for help. When the bear charged her, she dropped to the ground. The bear picked her up by her daypack, but then dropped her.  Park rangers did not plan to kill the bear because it was seen as acting on instinct to defend its cubs. This was the first fatal injury inside the park in 25 years, but there have been two other fatalities in the region within the last year.

Keep in mind that Yellowstone Ntl. Park had 3.6 million visitors last year.

The second recent Grizzly event was near Talkeetna, south of Denali National Park, Alaska. In this case, 7 young men were on a hike nearing the last few days of their 30-day National Outdoor Leadership School training program. The hikers at the front, Joshua Berg, Sam Gottsegen, Noah Allaire, Victor Martin, were mauled.

Although the teenagers had been advised to play dead if they encountered a grizzly, they panicked and ran. They had been making noise to alert any bears on the trail, but it’s possible that their voices were drowned out by the stream they were crossing. They stated that the attack was so sudden that they didn’t have time to pull out their bear spray. Authorities think the attack came because the sow was defending its cub, but the young men did not see a cub.

They activated the locator beacon they were carrying. When rescuers came, they airlifted the two most seriously injured out to medical care and then returned for the remainder of the group. Read more:

Grizzly precautions: Officials urge hikers to take the following precautions:
Stay on designated trails
Do not hike alone; do not run
Make noise in places where a grizzly could be lurking – near food
sources, streams, and as rounding a curve
Carry bear spray
Most charges turn out to be bluff charges, but if an attack is
imminent, use your spray, drop to the ground, lay face down with your
arms over your neck, play dead.

#2.Black Bears are too Smart

 Amy Racina, of Angels in the Wilderness fame, while researching the BearVault at, came across this disclaimer at the end of the specifications: "There is a bear [black bear] in the Marcy Dam area of the Adirondacks in upstate New York that has learned to open BearVault food containers. BearVaults are approved for use everywhere except the area encompassing the Lake Colden/Marcy Dam corridor and the Johns Brook valley in the Adirondacks."

#3. Post office closures

Closures under consideration by the U.S. Postal Service would pose tremendous difficulties to Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trail hikers. The postal service is looking for more ways to cut costs and is considering closing about 10% of its U.S. retail offices. Since thru-hikers of the PCT, AT and other long-distance trails need 4-6 months to complete the 2,650/2,200 miles, they need a means of getting resupplied with food and other crucial supplies. Most hikers box up many resupply parcels before they set out on their hikes to take care of their anticipated needs.

If post offices in some of the more remote places close, hikers will have it even tougher than it now is. Stehekin, WA, which is the northern most post office on the PCT, is on the list of possible closures. Losing the post office at Stehekin, which can only be reached on foot, by float plane, or by boat, would be like cutting off a lifeline to PCT hikers.

#4. Camino Documentary

Camino de Santiago: There’s going to be a PBS Documentary Trailer Screening / Q&A. Hosted by Polly Firestone Walker & Melanie Eckford- Prossor on Friday, Aug 19, 2011 (5:30 PM to 7:00 PM) at Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church, 1825 Alamo Pintado Rd., Solvang, CA. More info at(805) 252-7634Melanie's More info on this documentary at

#5. Swimming Along the Camino

Added Camino: in an essay entitled, “My Favorite Pools,” Andrew Brown of Salem OR wrote about the wonderful public “oasis-like swimming pools” in some of the towns along the Camino including Hontanas, Hospital de Órbigo, and Portomarín. Brown reminds us that “piscina” is Spanish for pool. Caps, which most pilgrims would not be carrying, can be purchased at minimal cost. Brown’s favorite pool is the one in Portomarin, which has a beautiful view and is free. From La Concha, publication of the American Pilgrims, July 2011.

#6. Camino - Codex Stolen

Codex Calixtinus manuscript stolen from Santiago de Compostela. This priceless 12-century illustrated manuscript, which contains what has been described as Europe's first travel guide, has been stolen from the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, apparently by professional thieves. Although the manuscript was believed to have been stolen on July 3, its disappearance was not noticed by staff until Tuesday of that week. The original was seldom removed from the vault and scholars wanting to study the document were usually loaned a copy.

The 225 parchment pages include a guide to the pilgrimage routes to Santiago, believed to have been written by a French friar, Aimeric Picaud. They also contain the story of how St James was transported from Judea on a boat “without oars or sails” and which crossed through the Strait of Gibraltar to end up on the shore of Galicia.

#7. Poodle Dog Plant?

 Unbreakable (trailname) sends a warning. It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t! Beware this dreadful plant along the trail and learn from Unbreakable’s painful experience. “We were hiking on the PCT putting some miles in towards PCT hike no.2 but close to Mill Creek Ranger Station (Southern California) we got into the Poodle Dog Plant and it put us off the trail. It resulted in a condition much worse than poison oak. After steroid pills and a shot I am doing much better. It looked like I had 2nd degree burns on most of my body.” Spread the word. Go online and take a look – it’s an attractive lavender-colored plant that sometimes pops up after wildfires have swept through an area.

#8. Yosemite fatalities:

The recent deaths in Yosemite – two hikers being swept over Vernal Falls and now a young woman, Haley LaFlamme, falling while climbing Half Dome are very sad. This brings it to 14 fatalities in the national park this year. It is likely that the record snowfall followed by high waterflow has contribued to the large number of accidents. It is also a reminder that when we venture into the wilderness, we have to keep in mind the power of Mother Nature.

#9. Walkabout California

Regional: Bay Area. Tom Courtney, author of Walkabout Northern California - Hiking Inn to Inn will be speaking at three REIs this month.  The events are free, but they may fill up, so it is good to go to the store's website and register in advance.  All of the presentations go from 7-8:30. August 4, Thursday - REI Santa Rosa August 10, Wednesday - REI Corte Madera August 17, Wednesday - REI Concordr>
I’ve read Courtney’s book, and think the hikes and overnight stays he covers sound like a wonderful way to spend some time. As he says, “Hike the wilderness trails of California stopping each night for a comfortable bed, a good meal, and a glass of wine.  Savor the journey and the destination."

#10. Secret Stairs - East Bay Event

Regional: Bay Area: Los Angeles writer Charles Fleming, who has just published Secret Stairs: East Bay, is leading a (stairwalk) hike in Berkeley on Saturday, Aug. 6th.  Charles’ hike will begin at 10:00am on the Berkeley-Oakland border, just south of the corner of Claremont Avenue and Ashby Avenue, in front of the lovely Star Grocery. “We'll march into the Claremont Uplands and take on the stairs. The walk should last about an hour and a quarter, cover 2.5 miles, take in 8 staircases and include 350 steps -- most of them going up. The walk has a difficulty rating of 3.5 out of 5, so it will be energetic but not too tough. The walk is free and open to all. Bring a friend! I'll try to have copies of Secret Stairs East Bay on hand for folks who want them.”
On Friday, August 5th, at 7:30 p.m.,  Charles Fleming will introduce his just-published "Secret Stairs East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland", at Pegasus Books (1855 Solano Avenue, Berkeley).  The book contains 36 loop walks in the hills of Berkeley, Oakland, Piedmont, Kensington, Albany, and El Cerrito. The routes, which Berkeley Path Wanderers helped to "road test," feature many public stairways.  Colleen Neff, BPWA president, will introduce Charles. Charles Fleming. [I have also just read this book and find it to be a terrific resource for local hikes!]

#11. Good Old Broads Swampwalk

Good Old Broads announce “Big Cypress Swampwalk” (Florida). Nov 10 – 14, 2011 The Big Cypress Swampwalk will take place near Everglades City, FL. Cost: members $225/non-members $250. “Our custom weekend includes 4 nights camping or slumber party lodging at photographer Clyde Butcher’s swamp retreat, breakfasts, dinners catered by Camillia’s restaurant, a guided swampwalk, and more. We’re heading south to the unique, mysterious, and secretive environment River Trip Broadwalk of the Big Cypress Swamp. Difficult to explore and understand, swamps are easily bypassed for more friendly terrain but their rich biodiversity and ecological importance needs to be experienced and understood.” Join us for a truly one-of-a-kind weekend experience and let local naturalists unlock the mysteries of the swamps. Learn about the issues and challenges faced by the National Park Service as they manage Everglades National Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve. Fabulous birding, botanizing, and general mucking about with like- minded Broads ensures this will be a Broadwalk to remember. Register by sending payment to Broads office or go to our on-line shopping cart.” More info: 605 E. Seventh Avenue or P.O. Box 2924, Durango, CO 81302. Phone:970-385-9577 | E-

Happy trails and be careful out there!
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking/Hiking Tales and Tips #152, July 1, 2011

“From every mountain side, let Freedom ring,” from “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” aka “America,” by Samuel F. Smith. Happy 4th of July weekend!

1. More about volunteering
2.  Leave word where you will be hiking using
3.  Fellow Long-Distance Backpacker seeks hiking partner
4.  “Ask a bear”
5. Who’s bringing the tent???
6.  Collecting used backpacks
7. Gourmet backpack in the Sierra – Women’s trip
8. Save that wrapper – recycle backpacking food packaging & profit
9. Susan’s notes about Camino Mozarabe.
10. Regional: Tom Courtney's Northern California Hiking: Inn to Inn
author events
11. Regional: S.F. Bay Area Camino events past and present
12. This about the birds, not for the birds…
13. articles about Bay Area backpacking and hiking

#1. More about volunteering

American Hiking magazine had this to say about volunteering in response to a comment ‘“Plenty of people volunteer on trails, so I don’t need to.’ Many people don’t consider how hard many volunteers work to provide us the simple joy of hiking a well-maintained trail.” Visit to help protect the trail you love.

American Hiking lists many 2011 Volunteer Vacations — here are some: August 21-27, Iao Valley, Maui, HI (#22); September 11-17, Green River Conservation Center, Kentucky (#27), and October 9-15, Gila National Forest, New Mexico (#41). These are only a few examples; check out the current choices at www.AmericanHiking.ORG

#2.Leave word where you'll be hiking on

After the incident with Aaron Ralston (the hiker who amputated his own arm after being trapped by a boulder in Blue John Canyon) occurred, Brandon Price and Richard Visokey created is a free online trip itinerary service for hikers and other outdoors people.

“Ralston had not notified anyone about where he would be and when to expect him back. Perhaps if he had, he would not have been trapped for four days. allows users to post a trip profile, give destination, schedule, etc. Users can give email addresses of those they would like electronically notified if they (the hikers) do not return on time.” Price and Visokey hope that this service will shorten the time that lost hikers are missing before help arrives.

#3.Hiking partner request

Got a personal request from Jim Nee (trail name Tazul) for a hiking partner. Jim, who gave permission for me to extend this invitation, is looking for someone who would like to hike this August on the PCT north about 200 miles from Snoqualmie Pass (in WA) to the Canadian border. Jim is 74, an experienced backpacker, and plans to backpack 10-12 miles per day. If you are interested, contact Jim at or call 831-464-7340.

#4. Ask a Bear

(a regular feature in Backpacker answers “Why is black bear and grizzly bear behavior so different?”

#5. Who's bringing the tent?

If you like to go camping with friends and/or family, you will be interested in this new website that will help with the group’s logistics – who’s bringing the cooler and who has a stove – for example. Our neighbor, Bart, whose family spends considerable time outdoors, developed this. First you go to the website, and then enter the beta code: backpack45. 

#6. Collecting used backpacks

If you have an old backpack…. “I’m writing on behalf of Crossing Rivers Support Group. Our organization is local volunteer community based support group for people dealing with many aspects of Mental Illness / Depression / Abuse / Suicide Awareness & Prevention. Our serving population is from youths to the elderly and veterans. Our main goal is to let people know that someone is there to listen. We are currently planning a Mental Health / Suicide Awareness & Prevention display called “Packing Up the Silence”. The goal of this display is to have as many backpacks (new or used) we can representing people with the above issues, they will then be displayed on both sides of the bridge crossing the Menominee River from MI to WI, and we are willing to work hard to raise the amount of backpacks needed.”

We, CRSG really need your help with our upcoming Labor Day Packing Up the Silence Event to benefit Mental Health / Abuse / Suicide Awareness & Prevention. We need backpacks to help provide the awareness that mental illness / depression / suicide is a growing problem. We’d appreciate a donation of a backpack (NEW OR USED) with or without a personal note or your company logo, Your donation will help us achieve our goal for suicide awareness. This will be a traveling display that CRSG would use around the area for other events. To learn more about our group or our event, Or would like a copy of our brochure please contact Steve Nelson at 715-938-7348 or 715-735-9046, Steve Nelson, Gabrielle (Hipke) Salfai & CRSG Board, 1404 Mary St., Marinette, WI 54143” 

#7. The Gourmet Hiker

 – Women’s hike. “Looking for a fun summer hiking vacation that leaves the backpack at home?  Then look no further than Call of the Wild's August 30 - September 4 Gourmet Hiker Basecamp trip in the California Sierra Mountains. $1,025.

Horses carry your gear into our camp in the mountains while we hike with our daypacks.  Each day, your guides will take you to nearby alpine lakes, meadows, and peaks, exploring the spectacular John Muir Wilderness. Be sure to bring your camera! You'll learn about the area's flora and fauna, all the while enjoying Call of the Wild's legendary backcountry cuisine. 

#8. I’ve received some information about TerraCycle, Inc

. which is “an international upcycling company that takes difficult to recycle packaging and turns it into affordable, eco-friendly products.” Founded in 2001, TerraCycle ( is the world’s leader in the collection and reuse of non-recyclable post-consumer waste. TerraCycle works with over 30 major brands in the U.S. (and in a growing number of other countries) to collect used packaging and products (chip bags, candy wrappers, juice pouches, pens, toothbrushes, etc.) that would otherwise be destined for landfills. It repurposes that waste into new eco-friendly materials and products that are available online and through major retailers.

The waste is collected through TerraCycle’s Brigade programs [collection “teams”], which are free fundraisers that pay schools and non-profits for every piece of waste they collect and return.” TerraCycle pays for the shipping, so signing up and sending in waste is completely free to participants.

TerraCycle makes a few products from the recycled material that might be useful to campers – including firestarters.,

This might be a very good fund-raising activity for Scout groups, schools, and other non-profits. Go to and then click on “send your waste.” 

#9. Susan’s comments on hiking in Southern Spain on the Camino Mozarabe (late April 2011)

.Granada, the starting point of this Camino route, is off the beaten track. Our flights were San Francisco to Paris, Paris to Malaga and from Malaga we took a bus to Granada. Even if you are itching to get on the trail, do not take off right away – take a full day, at least, to visit the fabulous Alhambra. (Luckily we had been advised to order tickets (online) ahead of time).

The Alhambra is an amazing and beautiful site with a mosque, palaces, gardens and fountains, and fortress built by the Moors in the 1300s. It remained under their control until the Christian conquest of 1492, when Ferdinand and Isabella came to power.

The hiking: Our original plan was to hike from Granada to Merida, about 258 miles (416 K) in 20 walking days. We knew that there would be few options as far as places to stay because of the remoteness. (We saw only two other hikers while on our journey). One of the “stages” was about 30 miles between accommodations, so we carried a lightweight tarp for the one night that we expected to camp out. However, sometimes “Plan A” does not pan out.

Day 1 of hiking took us from Granada to Pinos de Puente (18K). Day 2 from Pinos to Mochin (12K). Days 3-5 were 15-mile days and took us to Baena. The first day started with nice weather/some clouds and fairly level terrain. Views of the Sierra Nevada were wonderful. Unfortunately the trails were very muddy from recent heavy rains and made hiking slow going in spots. My knee, which I had injured shortly before the trip, started hurting.

Day 2 was an interesting one with some climbing through an area with many dirt trails and infrequent trail markers. We took one set of directions from our guidebook literally and proceeded to “go dead ahead” by clambering straight up a hillside. I lost my footing and tumbled back down the hill. Nothing broken or hurt, but I was amazed at how my momentum (with pack on) kept me rolling such a distance. Sobering!

On Day 3, we had to walk on the shoulder of a secondary highway most of the day. The trails were so muddy – did I mention that it had been raining right along – that we sank several inches with each step and our poles became like pendulums.

By Days 4 & 5, we were in olive plantations most of the time. Very beautiful to see – particularly this time of year when the red poppies and other wildflowers carpet the fields. The rain stopped and the temperatures climbed rapidly into the 80s.

At this point, my knee had become so painful that it hurt day and night. We had to decide whether to continue hiking or leave the trail. We knew we were at a point where the highway (our means of support and exit) veered far away from the trail. We assumed that the trail ahead was very muddy, perhaps underwater, and that streams and a river that we’d have to cross would be in flood. The waterways that we had been seeing had carrying huge amounts of silt.

We made the painful decision to cut short our hike and our trip. We turned tourist and visited Cordoba (highly recommended), Seville, Cadiz, and Madrid. Nice trip, just not as originally planned! 

#10. Regional: S.F. Bay Area:

Those who lament the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have the infrastructure of accommodations along hiking paths that the European Camino routes do should get a copy of Tom Courtney’s Walkabout Northern California - Hiking Inn to Inn. Tom “will be speaking at Books Inc. Opera Plaza in San Francisco on July 14 at 7:00 and at the Berkeley REI on July 26 at 7:00.  Hike the wilderness trails of California stopping each night for a comfortable bed, a good meal, and a glass of wine.  Savor the journey and the destination."

 #11. Regional: S.F. Bay Area: Northern California American Pilgrims

Chapter -- past and future activities. The past: “Fifteen Camino veterans and soon to be veterans met on Mt Tamalpais in Marin, California on June 18th for a walk, food and great companionship.  It was an opportunity to hang with pilgrims and revisit the ‘thing’ that makes us all Camino addicts.  We enjoyed a lovely walk on dirt tracks looking down on the marine cloud cover, watching the hawks and vultures circle and viewing, in Camino slow motion, the mountain flora.  Is it the slowness of the Camino juxtaposed to our western lifestyle that makes the experience so valuable?”  Veterans had the pleasant opportunity to mentor Jacqueline, a new member, about all things Camino.  Jacqueline was leaving in 3 days for her pilgrimage to Fatima and then along the Portuguese route to Santiago.  She was excited and we were all excited for her.  We will be reporting her journey later this summer.”

This idea of local APOC chapters feel right.  As much as I enjoy the annual Gathering, I'm an addict and I need more.  The ability to hang with Camino amigos is a good thing.  I heartily recommend other regions establish chapters.” Rennie

FUTURE event: Saint James Day Celebration, Saturday, July 23, 2011. “Celebrate Saint James Day early by joining fellow pilgrims for a walk in San Francisco’s Mission District on the Saturday before St. James Day.  We are starting our walk at 3:30 from historic Mission Dolores and will follow yellow arrows over a hill to Saint James Catholic Church (approximately one mile) where we will be recognized at the late afternoon mass.”

Following the church services, we’re going for some excellent Spanish food and the opportunity to share Camino experiences over a glass of wine at the Picaro Tapas Restaurant (http://  The quality and reasonable price of the authentic Spanish food, plus the wonderful atmosphere of this delightful restaurant, will pleasantly surprise you.”

For history buffs, come at 2:00 and spend some time exploring Mission Dolores.  Founded on June 29, 1776, it is the oldest intact building in the City of San Francisco ( visitor.html).  The suggested donation for entrance is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens and students.”

Mission Dolores is located at the intersection of 16th and Dolores Street and is easily accessible by public transit. The 16th and Mission BART station is 3 blocks to the east, the J Church streetcar stops one block to the west, and the 22 Fillmore bus stops at the corner.  Please note that neighborhood parking is at a premium, so if you’re driving, allow about 20 minutes to find a parking place. Register by July 18th, or obtain more info, with Rennie or Bob, Chapter Co-Coordinators E-mail: 

#12. Regional: The following classes and their descriptions are given
by the Golden Gate Audubon Society

. Peeps to Phalaropes: The Shorebirds of California Saturday, August 27, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., local walks and presentation; Sunday, August 28, 2 – 5 p.m., field trip. Eddie Bartley, By late August, hundreds of thousands of “wind birds” have winged their way from their northern breeding grounds to San Francisco Bay, one of the largest peep food suppliers in North America. In this new class, we will focus on the identification, amazing evolutionary adaptations, and life histories of the 30-plus shorebird species that reside here, pass through in migration, or overwinter in California. On Sunday’s field trip, we’ll have more opportunities to view and focus on this order while not ignoring the myriad of other birds along the shoreline. Saturday’s class is cosponsored by Literacy for Environmental Justice. Fee: $50. Class meets at the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park, San Francisco.”

Saturday, September 10. 9 AM – 3 PM. This is the fall Burrowing Owl Docent Training. If you plan to participate in the docent program please sign up in advance [immediately] for the training by emailing “Western Burrowing Owls inhabit parts of Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley. They arrive in the fall and leave in the spring. As they overwinter at the park, Golden Gate Audubon sends out trained docents to show people the owls, and talk about the plight of this locally endangered bird.” 

#13. Susan’s latest articles

 have been about backpacking in the Bay Area’s Ohlone Wilderness and hiking in Sunol Regional Park. Links:

Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking/Hiking Tales and Tips #151, June 1, 2011

1. Turn Your Backyard into a Campground, June 25
2. Yesterday’s email from Susan
3. “Walkabout California – Hiking Inn to Inn” book launch
4. National Trails Day, June 4, 2011
5. Volunteer opportunities: PCTA
6. Volunteer opportunities: American Hiker
7. Funky tent revival of a non-religious kind
8. California State Parks threatened
9. Hint for Pilgrims on the Camino
10. Another example of why hiking is good for you
11. Andy Skurka, amazing hiker/athlete, and the ALDHA gathering.
12. Eva Nichol’s Camino art
13. Geolyn’s Cafepress items
14. Great little guide to the Camino (free PDF download)
15. ALDHA- WEST gathering
16. Susan and Ralph hike on the Camino Mozarabe of Spain
17. National Parks for free, June 21

#1. “Turn Your Backyard into a Campground” on June 25

 Open the door and sleep under the stars. Roast marshmallows. Sing camp songs. REI is joining with the National Wildlife Federation in the Great American Backyard Campout: a one-night event that brings together thousands of families, friends and neighbors to rediscover outdoor fun. Here’s the URL:

#2.Yesterday's email from Susan

Yesterday’s email from me with no subject and no message was an error -- call it “operator error.” Sorry if it caused any inconvenience or confusion! I thought I would put this this item near the top so it wouldn’t be missed. Please send stories, questions, hints, and other items of interest to the hiking community so we can share the wealth.

#3. Walkabout California

Just got word from Tom Courtney, author of “Walkabout Northern California – Hiking Inn to Inn,” about a fun event coming up later this month. “Join us for the Grand Launch Party June 26– Free Beer! We're throwing a party! Walkabout Northern California-Hiking Inn to Inn is now on book shelves. We're going to celebrate the launch of the book on Sunday, June 26th from 5:30-7:30. Come join us at the Crissy Fields Sports Basement [in San Francisco] for free snacks and beer, fun people, and great pictures with stories of inn-to-inn hikes in California. Save the Date!

#4. National Trails Day, is Saturday, June 4

 – a reminder of the importance of our trails. Whether you volunteer to help maintain or build a trail, or take a hike on one, be sure to reflect on the value of our pathways.

#5. Volunteer activities PCTA

If it’s payback time for you, there are all sorts of ways that you can support our trails – here are a couple: The Pacific Crest Trail Association has volunteer projects in Washington, Oregon, and California. Go to Examples sent by Jan Le Pouvoir of projects she will be co-leading include: Carson Pass northbound (June 18); .Blue Lakes Road north (July 25-6) and Blue Lakes Road south (August 20-1.)

#6. Volunteer through American Hiking Society:

At (301-565-6704), you can access volunteer projects near and far. “Exotic destinations/budget travel at its best.” Examples of the YEAR-round possibilities: July 26-31, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, CA (#14); Sept. 10-17, Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, WA (#67); Dec. 3-10 Virgin Islands, St. John (#55).

#7. Funky tent revival

Kristin Hosteletter on answered the following question: “If a rain fly has a few areas of mildew will it still work to repel rain, or do I need to get a new fly? (Johanna - Aberdeen, SD) “Yes, a mildewed tent should still repel water—the smell is just gonna gag you when you’re hunkered down for hours in a storm. Here’s how to deal with those mildew patches: Grab a bottle of McNett Mirazyme. Mix about a half-ounce into a gallon of water and use a nylon-bristled vegetable brush to scrub the gross spots. (If mildew plagues your whole tent, dissolve a full ounce of Mirazyme into a bathtub and scrub down the whole thing. Set the tent up outside in the shade to let it dry. Now mix 1 cup concentrated lemon juice (the type that comes in those little plastic lemons), 1 cup of table salt, and a gallon of hot water. Use a sponge to bathe the whole tent. Then let it dry thoroughly before packing. This treatment should resolve the stink issue, but it won’t remove any mildew stains…you’ll just have to live with those. But let them be a reminder! Mildew can be easily prevented: Just make sure it’s thoroughly, completely, 100% dry before storing.”  

#8 Hiking is good for you

Just in case you have been hiking in the wilderness without access to media for a few decades and have not heard that walking is good for you, there are many studies that indicate that it is! Here’s another way that it promotes good health: “Walking can help older people maintain or improve memory function.” So says the UC. Wellness Letter, May 2011. The reason in part is that it prevents age-related brain shrinkage. Study in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compared 120 sedentary people (55-80) and those who walked briskly three times a week for 40 minutes or did yoga and strength training. The group that walked came out ahead (!). Their hippocampus had increased at year’s end, while the other group had the normal amount of shrinkage expected with aging.”

#9. Andy Skurka at ALDHA

Andy Skurka, the amazing hiker. On the PCTA forum, "Ate Tuna" wrote, “Skurka helped me win an argument with a guy that insisted an 8- pound pack was necessary to complete a long trip without the pack falling apart, especially in his Alaskan backyard. He changed his mind real quick once he checked out Andrew's 4,000 trip in Alaska using a 2- pound pack.” Reminder: the March National Geographic Magazine has an article about Andy's 176 day, 4679 mile Alaska journey on foot, raft and skis in 2010. Now that Skurka is back in the lower 48, he is giving wilderness training and guided hikes as well as public speaking about his Alaska adventures. His speaking schedule in June has him in Boise, ID. In September, he is featured at the ALDHA annual conference, which is Oct. 7-9, 2011, at the in Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA. Another PCT contributor wrote, “When I first learned about Andy's Alaska plan I thought...."BOY"...."WE MAY NEVER HEAR FROM ANDY AGAIN.....HE MAY NOT SURVIVE THAT ONE". I was wrong.....he did survive and is here to talk about it. He is an American ''Hiking Icon'' and one of my heroes. BTW....if any of you are planning to hike the "Sierra High Route," I highly suggest you get Andy's "CD - MAP" for the route.” JMT Reinhold

#10. CA State Parks under attack – again!

Last month, “the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) released a list of 70 state parks that will be permanently closed to the public as a direct result of the $22 million budget cut enacted by Governor Jerry Brown and the Legislature earlier this year. Although closure lists have been released in the past in response to previous budget cut proposals, this is the first time in the 100 year history of California’s state park system that state park closures will be implemented.” Permanent park closures will begin this September. Among the many state parks that will be off-limits to the public with will be Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Henry W. Coe State Park, Pio Pico State Historic Park, Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and many more. The full list is devastatingly long and includes 40% of all state historic parks in CA . This unprecedented plan will close the doors to 25% of California’s state park system and will impact all regions of our state. As you know, park closures will have very real impacts on the people of California, the resources our parks protect and our economy.” Go to to get updates on how things are progressing and to find out how you can register your concern.

#11. Hint for pilgrims on the Camino

On the new Facebook group, Americans Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC), Chris Reinecke posted a helpful hint for hikers of the famous pilgrimage trail. “If you plan on leaving well before the sun rises, take a walk past your albergue in the late afternoon. This way you will know how to find your way in the dark without hunting for arrows on sidewalks, buildings, etc.”

#12. Eva Nichol's Camino Art

"Walking Under the Milky Way" will showcase Eva Nichol's 500 mile trek along the ancient pilgrimage trail--Camino de Santiago in Spain. She painted her way through beautiful landscapes, forlorn villages and spectacular ancient cities meeting people from all walks of life and many countries. Eva’s show runs until July 4th. Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada, 780 Dell Monte Lane, Reno, NV 89511.

#13. Geolyn's Cafepress items

Geolyn, whose Boots is an adventurous hiker/backpacker, now has many styles and colors of T-shorts available featuring Boots at Cafepress.

#14.Free Camino pdf guide

The Xacobeo now has their very nice brochures on the Camino Frances available on PDF files and free. This is the website: there are three brochures, one for hikers, one for bicyclists, and one with general hints about making your Camino hike a bit easier.

#15. ALDHA-West Gathering

Hikers on the west coast have their own gathering. The ALDHA- West, American Long Distance Hiking Association’s Gathering 2011, will be September 23-25 at Lake Wenatchee YMCA Camp, Lake Wenatchee, Washington. These are great opportunities to spend time with other hikers, including having some reunions with people that you met on the trails. More details later.

#16.Ralph and Susan on Camino Mozarabe

Ralph and I just returned from 3 weeks in Southern Spain, part of that time was on the Mozarabe route of the Camino. I will try to have a report in next month’s newsletter, but in the meantime, if anyone wants information on this ancient Moorish trail out of Granada, Spain, sooner, you are welcome to contact me.

#17. National Parks Free Day

Every national park will offer free admission on June 21, 2011, the first day of summer. You’ll save up to $25 on your carload.  

Happy trails, Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips # 150, April 27, 2011

1    We’re in the Mountains not over the Hill now available on Kindle.
2. 80-year Old Runs PCT! Can you help?
3.  Wilderness Medicine Course offered
4. Added to the list of ways that walking is good for you!
5. Avoid Hiking Disasters
6. Hiker Icon: Andrew Skurka
7. Alligator Lizards Get a Grip
8. Boots McFarland T-shirts in color!
10. Regional: Visit Gardens at Alcatraz

#1.We're in the Mountains available on Kindle

It wasn't the easiest thing in the world to make happen, but I am very happy to report that “We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers” is now available on Kindle. Travelers of all kinds like to travel light, so this will make it more convenient to read while you are on a plane, train, or trail.  Link to the Kindle edition.

#2. 80-year Old Runs PCT!

 It’s not every day that a request such as this comes across my desk, “80-year Old Runs PCT! Can you help?” I hope that at least one of you can help this hiker. Reader and hiker Janice Le Pouvoir wrote, “I’ve a friend, Bob Holtel, who at age 79-80, has chosen to run, for the second time, the PCT. His first completion was at the age of 54-56 when he section-ran the Trail over three summers, chronicling his adventure in “Soul, Sweat and Survival on the PCT”.  Last summer, at age 79, he ran from Lassen VNP to Manning PP, and this June he’s re-commencing at Lassen VNP and heading south to Campo – to arrive at the border the day he turns 80.”  This is exactly 25 years later than his first run. “Bob is attempting to be the oldest person to run the PCT>”

Bob is in dire need of assistance along the way – particularly the stretch from the vicinity of Squaw Valley south to Carson Pass. ‘Assistance’ translates as driving gear around for him from road access to road access, backpacking in supplies, offering a night or two of a real bed, and return car trip to the trail.”

Examples of help Bob desperately needs at this point, for which he has no volunteers to-date:
• June 24-26: Buck’s Lake to Quincy-La Porte Road.
• July 7:  Help slack pack for him = drive his pack from Squaw Valley to Barker Pass.
• July 8:  Help slack pack for him = drive his pack from Barker Pass to Eagle Falls on Hwy. 89 – backpack his pack the four miles to Middle Velma Lake.
• July 9:  Help slack pack for him = backpack his pack back out to Eagle Falls, and drive to Echo Lakes Resort to meet him and offer him a place to spend the night.
• July 10:  Rest day for Bob = can you help?
•   July 11:  Drive Bob back up to the PCT Snow-Park on the south side of Highway 50.”
Go to bobholtel.comor call him at 310-378-6616. Or you can contact Janice Le Pouvoir at] or 530-644-7295

"Bob’s no neophyte when it comes to persistence and tenacity:  198,000 miles of lifetime running; numerous Western States 100-mile finishes; three traverses of the John Muir Trail; Rim-to-Rim Grand Canyon Trail run three times; nine one-day running ascents and descents of Mt. Whitney; extensive trail running in all countries, but two, of Europe; coaching State and National distance champions; a quarter of a century of trail maintaining, including 17 years as Backcountry Wilderness Ranger…and more."

#3.NOLS Wilderness Medicine Class at REI Sacramento

"Join REI Sacramento May 14th-15th in collaboration with theWilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS as we offer a comprehensive two day course that will teach you the wilderness medicine skills you need to recreate with confidence on day trips or short adventures in the backcountry. From the Patient Assessment System through traumatic, medical, and environmental emergencies, you'll experience a wide variety of topics designed to prepare you to act if an accident occurs. This course teaches what to do with a medical emergency when help is miles away and calling 911 isn’t an option. We prepare students for emergency situations that involve prolonged patient care, severe environments and improvised equipment."

This 16 hour course over two days at 9am each day and runs through 6pm, with a one hour break midday. You’ll have both in store classroom time and hands on practice scenarios. Practice scenarios may take place outside in various weather conditions. Please be prepared by inclement weather. No prerequisites required. This course may be used to recertify Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness Advanced First Aid and Wilderness EMT (wilderness portion only) certifications if you hold a current/in grace year WMI certification, or a current (unexpired) SOLO or WMA, WFR or WAFA. Participants using the WFA to recertify their WFR need to pass both a written and a practical test." For more information and to sign up visit

#4. Added to the list of ways walking is good for you

Just in case you have been hiking in the wilderness without access to media for a few decades and have not heard that walking is good for you, there are many studies that indicate that it is! Here’s another way that it promotes food health: “Walking can help older people maintain or improve memory function.” So says the UC. Wellness Letter, May 2011. The reason in part is that it prevents age-related brain shrinkage. A study in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compared 120 sedentary people (55-80) and compared those who walked briskly three times a week for 40 minutes or did yoga and strength training. The group that walked came out ahead (!). Their hippocampus had increased at year’s end, while the other group had the normal amount of shrinkage expected with aging.

#5. Avoiding Hiking Disasters

 Seth Levy’s article “Avoid Common Hiking Mishaps,” is a list of 10 items that remind us that even seasoned hikers make mistakes – perhaps by becoming too complacent?
Here are a few in condensed versions:
1) If you are lost, don’t keep wandering. Stop and double check your map and reconstruct your path.
2) Bring essential gear on every hike, not just the big ones. That means flashlight, matches or lighter, etc. every has a list of 10 essentials.
3) Purify all water you drink – you can’t SEE bacteria.
4) Don’t rely on electronic gear, bring a map, too.
5) Don’t depend on your cellphone for help; leave a note with someone “back home.”
6) If you haven’t been hiking for a while (or a season), don’t overdo the first time out.

#6. Hiker Icon Andrew Skurka

Andrew Skurka: Hiking Legend of Our Time. A couple of hikers recently wrote their thoughts about Skurka’s accomplishments on the PCT forum. "Ate Tuna" wrote: “(Andrew) Skurka helped me win an argument with a guy that insisted an 8-pound pack was necessary to complete a long trip without the pack falling apart, especially in his Alaskan backyard. He changed his mind real quick once he checked out Andrew's 4,000-mile trip in Alaska using a 2 pound pack.”

Reinhold Metzger wrote, “The March National Geographic Magazine has an article about Andy's 176 day, 4679 mile Alaska journey on foot, raft and skis in 2010. When I first learned about Andy's Alaska plan I thought....’BOY’....’WE MAY NEVER HEAR FROM ANDY AGAIN.....HE MAY NOT SURVIVE THAT ONE’. I was wrong.....he did survive and is here to talk about it.”

Skurka has a few events coming up:
May 5: Itasca Community College, Grand Rapids, MN
May 6: Trailfitters, Duluth, MN
May 7-8: Superior Hiking Trail Annual Meeting, Finland, MN
May 18-19: GoLite Sale, Santa Fe, NM
August-November events in OH, AK, ME, MA and CT

Be sure to pick up a copy of National Geographic, March 2011 issue to find out more about his epic Alaskan adventure. And you can visit his website

#7. Alligator Lizards Get a Grip.

In this entertaining article (that I had recently ran into in my saved pile of things to read when I have some spare time) by Dave Brian Butvill, I learned about his first encounter with an alligator lizard. He begins, “I greeted the foot- long rough scaled creature with a flat palm, trapped it, and lifted it off the ground. It greeted me by performing a curious ‘crocodile role,’ the spiral motion a crocodile does to dismember its captured prey – and aggressively smearing excreta across my palm and wrist.” Who would have known that alligator lizards are so intriguing? The story continues. “For self-defense, it strategically positions its tail between its head and its attacker.” If necessary, it discards its tail (it will grow a new one). Beyond that, to defend itself from raptors, it will wrap itself around a branch by holding its tail in its mouth so that it can hang on.  (California Wild, Winter 2001, pg. 42.)

#8. Boots McFarland TShirts

Geolyn, who brings us entertaining cartoons featuring hiker gal “Boots McFarland,” now has a wide variety of T-shirts available at Cafepress.


Way off the subject, but I can’t resist. You can test your brainpower and send free rice to the hungry online. Go Choose art, geography, math, etc. and answer increasingly difficult questions about the topic. Each correct answer sends 10 grains of rice. This is a nonprofit site; rice is donated to the U.N. World   Food Program. No gimmicks, it’s fun.

#10. Regional San Francisco Bay Area

. There isn’t too much hiking involved in a visit to the Gardens of Alcatraz, but the gardens are so beautiful this time of year that I can’t resist passing word on:

Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips # 149 Mar 31, 2011

1. Half Dome permit, call fast on April 1!
2. Profile of the black bear
3. Beer Story
4. Soles4souls effort
5. Older women take to the trail
6. Beverly R. LaFollette
7. A Canadian and Australian find adventure in Spain
8. Last call for ADZOPCTKO
9. S.WE.A.T. Crew
10. S.F. Bay Regional: Hike in Solano County Saturday
11. S.F. Bay Regional: Ridge to Bridge

#1. Half Dome permit call fast!

If you want to climb Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome, you will need a permit this year no matter which day of the week it is. On March 1, within FIVE minutes all permits went for May and June. Tomorrow, April 1, the permits will no doubt go at least as quickly.
Permits for the upper part of the trail, will go on sale at 7:00 AM. PST, tomorrow for the month of July. IF, you get through, you will be eligible to get permits for up to 4 people. To apply, be sure that you have already created a profile on line. The reservation website is (Trying to get a permit by telephone is not likely to work!) (info from Tom Stienstra, S.F. Chronicle Outdoors Writer)

#2. Profile of the black bear

The black bear, ursus americanus, lives in swamps, scrub, and forest. He is a capable swimmer and will enter the water not only to bathe, but also as a means of going from one place to another. Their diet composed of plants, fruits, nuts, honey, insects, salmon, carrion, and small mammals. (Nature Conservancy, Spring 2011. And as we know, they can become quite opportunist and used to human’s food.

#3. Beer Story

Chuck Chelin, aka Steel-Eye, posted the following St. Patrick’s Day “beer story,” on the PCT forum: “On the occasion of St. Patrick’s Day I’ll tell a PCT beer story. On a short, but dry, section I carried a bottle of beer with me as the ultimate day’s end treat. I had the idea to put the bottle in a creek near my proposed campsite and by the time camp was ready the nirvana would be cold and waiting. Just before camp, as the trail crossed a rocky hillside, I misplaced a step and tumbled down about 8 ft., hitting every bump and point on the way. After picking myself up and determining my bones were still intact I suddenly felt something wet running down the back of my leg. My immediate plea was, “Oh Lord, please let that be blood!”

#4. Soles4Souls

 John Vonhof, author of “Fixing Your Feet,” alerted me to this effort: “Soles4Souls Preps Response to Victims of Earthquake and Tsunami in Asia.” Nashville, TN -- Soles4Souls Inc., the shoe charity, announced it is assessing the international damage from the earthquake in Japan only hours after the 8.9 magnitude quake set off more than 50 tsunami warnings from the Japanese islands to the west coast of the US. The charity, along with its partners in Indonesia and throughout Asia, has staged relief aid containers in preparation for the possible widespread devastation.” Individuals interested in supporting Soles4Souls’ relief efforts are encouraged to visit to find the nearest shoe drop- off location in their area or to financially sponsor pairs of new shoes to be sent. Individuals can also text the word SHOES to 20222
to donate $5.”
The charity will keep a close eye on the increasing need and respond accordingly, with as many as 100,000 shoes allocated for the quick response. According to Wayne Elsey, Founder and CEO of Soles4Souls, a pair of decent shoes is absolutely necessary in order to participate effectively in rescue and rebuilding efforts among broken glass, twisted metal and raw sewage. #5. “It’s Just a Number: Older Women Take to the Trail” is a recent article that appeared in the Pacific Crest Trail’s magazine, the communicator. Kathy Fritts has several inspiring examples: Ginny Benware, who after deciding that she needed an adventure, gave herself a 60th birthday present – quitting her job and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Another example was learning about a group who call themselves FLAB “Fun Loving Adventure Broads. ( ).”

#6. Older Women take to the trail - Beverly R. LaFollette

While on the topic of older women, I’ve been working on some updates to my book, “We in the Mountains not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned W omen Backpackers,” and wanted to see who currently holds the record for oldest woman to complete the Appalachian Trail in sections. When I published my book in 2003, that record was held by Irene Cline (who I interviewed) who completed her section hikes as the young age of 77. But, in 2004, that record was broken by Beverly R. LaFollette, whose trail name was “High 5-R;” her hike spanned from 1993 to 2004. (info from Laurie Potteiger Information Services Manager, Appalachian Trail Conservancy)

#7. A Canadian and Australian find adventure in Spain

This email just arrived from author Ron Hannah and although I haven’t read his book, it sounds interesting. If you too are interested, you can go to Amazon’s website and get a free preview of the book. “I am the author of a small book entitled ‘Over the Hill (and Far Away) Backpacking: A Guide and a Tale’, which may be of interest to your membership.” “It is an account of, and practical advice, from a retired couple, Canadian and Australian, who set out in 2002 to see the world. It is full of tips on cheap travel, health, food, what to take, border crossings, money, beggars, theft, etc., as well as many amusing, and appalling, anecdotes. Over seven years we worked, volunteered, Wwoofed, Couchsurfed, hosteled, wandered and freecamped in many countries of SE Asia, in China, in Australia and New Zealand, and down the length of Central and South America, gradually paring down our "stuff" until we were left with a backpack each and an ever growing thirst for adventure. A typical stay in a country might, over the course of a month or more, involve all of those: working on an organic farm, staying with friends or with local families in their homes, housesitting for a few days or weeks, camping out in national parks or hidden along local roadways, and end by getting deliberately bumped from a flight and put up for a night in a star hotel - for free! This is how we did it, and on a very small pension at that - under $1500/ month! Yes, it can be done.
Forget your "stuff", forget your "Security", and step out into a world of generous and incredible people. There are bad ones too of course, by far the minority, and we did not get away unscathed. But then, neither had we been unscathed in our homelands. The most profound lesson that I have taken away from it all is that the Universe is truly bountiful and all that is necessary is to Trust. I hope to encourage others of my age (or any age) to do the same, to step out leaving fear behind, and experience the wonder that's out there!
The book is available as an Amazon Kindle eBook, and you can get a free “sample” to preview:  Or, you can get it as: pdf eBook, or as Print-on-Demand book:


If you are planning to attend the annual fun Spring event for PCT hikers and supporters and are not yet signed up, you may be out of luck. The event is ADZPCTKO 2011(Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off). It’s April 29-May 1, Lake Morena County Park. Although the event is now listed as full, the website says that that they will find a place for thru-hikers, and there is a waiting list for others.

#9. S.WE.A.T. Crew

Great Smoky Mountains and S.W.E.A.T: During the summer Crew season, S.W.E.A.T. volunteers meet a paid leadership staff at the Basecamp Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hike into the backcountry for a week of work. The ATC pays for everything: your food, your tools, and your safety equipment. All you have to do is show up and have fun! Dates are posted below. S.W.E.A.T, Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail crew, is a group of hiking enthusiasts who work on and play hard on the A.T. The success of the S.W.E.A.T. crew has led to an exciting partnership between the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) and the USFS. In late May we will hold the Southeast's first Wilderness Trail Stewardship Conference, a training opportunity for volunteers and crew leaders to train in Leave-No-Trace, Wilderness First aid and Cross-cut saw certification. There will also be programming on Wilderness regulations and the history of federally designated Wilderness. This opportunity is offered free of charge for S.W.E.A.T. crew volunteers on a first-come first serve basis. For more information please contact Andrew Downs

#10. S.F. Bay Regional: Hike in Solano County Saturday

Read Susan Alcorn’s most recent article to find a wildflower hike this weekend! Go to:

#11. Regional: S.F. Bay Area: The Ridge to Bridge event!

 The Bay Area Ridge Trail Association’s goal is to complete a trail around the Bay along the hilly ridges. One of the big events is all about having fun while raising money to complete the trail. 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. You can participate in the hike, bike, or equestrian events as follows: HIKE: •31 miles, arrive 5:30 AM - ALMOST FULL! •20 miles, arrive 5:30 AM - SOLD OUT, waitlist open! •13 miles, arrive 9:00 AM o13-mile 8:00 AM is SOLD OUT! •9 miles, arrive 9:45 AM •Families with children under the age of 10, enjoy a kid-friendly 4- mile hike with a National Park Service Ranger to the Beach and back to lunch. Arrival time 11am. PEDAL: •35-mile endurance ride (over 5000 feet of climbing!), arrive 7:45 AM •28-mile advanced ride, arrive 8:15 AM
•12-mile intermediate ride, arrival time 9:45 AM

HORSEBACK: If horseback is your preferred method, trot along for 9 miles in the equestrian ride, with plenty of trail for additional miles! Arrival time TBD. Horses not provided. To register, go to: Volunteers needed! Email:

Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips # 148 Mar 1, 2011

“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in
a fruit salad.”

 1. How Pacific Crest Trail hikers must cross U.S./Canada Border
2. Seattle Mountaineers program on PCT
3. Spring hiking gear cleaning
4. Spring hiking gear shopping
5. Want to climb Yosemite’s Half Dome – You need a permit!
6. REI talks by Half Dome expert – Rick Deutsch
7. Last call for American Pilgrims Annual Gathering’s registration
8. New Northern California chapter of American Pilgrims formed
9. Backpackers: fuel and stove info
10.     Natural rodent control
11.      Fixing Your Feet author giving local talks
12. S.F. Bay Regional: Walk bayside with BPWA
13. Susan is the San Francisco Hiking Examiner

#1. Canadian Border Crossing rules for PCTers

Thanks to the Pacific Trail Association for this information: As planning season is underway for PCT hikers and equestrians, water sources, food supplies, and town stops always top the list of considerations. But it’s also very important to understand the laws and regulations for the lands that you are traveling across. U.S. Customs and Border Protection no longer allows hikers and horseback riders to cross the international border from Canada into the United States.  People who cross the border at places other than a designated Port of Entry are breaking the law and risk criminal penalties of up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine, as well as a civil penalty of $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for each subsequent violation. You should take these regulations seriously as hikers in 2010 were fined for violating these Port of Entry requirements.

Hiking north into Canada is allowed with a permit. The application takes three months. For more information on these regulations, see ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ at  Beth Boyst, PCT Program manager, U.S. Forest Service.”

#2. Seattle Mountaineers program on PCT

 Seattle Mountaineers has scheduled two nights of films about the Pacific Crest Trail. The films will be “Walking the West” and “America’s Wild Spaces.” The first will be on April 1, 2011, 7:30p.m. at Crossroads Community Center 16000 NE 10th St., Bellevue. (6:15p.m. Panel Discussion). The second event will be April 15, 2011, 7p.m. at The Mountaineers Program Center 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Magnuson Park, Seattle (6:15 p.m. PCT Alumni Panel Discussion). Advance Tickets: General Admission, $6; Mountaineer’s Members, $5. Day of event, $8 (cash only). For tickets and information: If you live in the Seattle area and want to hike the PCT for a day, week, or season, be sure to look into the excellent programs provided
by Seattle Mountaineers.

#3. Spring Hiking, Gear Cleaning

This is a good time of year to mend, clean, weed out, replace, etc. your hiking and backpacking gear. First step in taking care of your sleeping bag is to air it out and then determine whether or not it needs spot cleaning or washing. If it’s really grimy and has lost its loft, here’s how to wash (never dry-clean!) your sleeping bag. By hand -- turn it inside out and put it in your bathtub with warm water
and an appropriate cleanser (a specialized non-detergent such as Nikwax (I sometimes use Ivory Snow)), swish it around in the water, let it soak for 10-15 minutes, and then drain the tub. Refill the tub; swish the bag around again gently squeezing out the soapy water. Repeat as needed until the water is clear. (Drying directions will follow.) By machine – After putting your bag, inside out, into a front- loading washer that allows for the expansion (might have to be a commercial one) choose the cold water, gentle/hand wash cycle. Use a non-detergent sleeping bag cleanser.

When the washing cycle is completed whether by hand or machine, gently squeeze out excess water. Support the bag with both hands as you hang it to dry, lengthwise, on a line or rod. (I personally lay it on our open-mesh metal picnic table so that the weight of the wet bag is even more evenly distributed). “Backpacker Magazine” suggests you let the bag drip for about 15 minutes and then put it in the dryer. Set the dryer at low or air. Adding a tennis ball can help break up the clumps
of down -- or you can manually stir them up every 20 minutes or so.

After the bag is dry and you remove it from the dryer, let the bag continue to air for a couple of days before storing it. And remember – don’t store your sleeping bag in a compression bag. Store it in a roomy container such as a big cloth bag like the ones some manufactures provide or in a pillow case.

#4. Spring Hiking Gear Shopping

If you are in the mood for some new hiking clothing, you might consider some of my all-time favorites. Smartwool long underwear is warm, non-itchy, and non-STINKY! The tops can be worn as outerwear; they don’t need to be reserved for undergarments. Still love my Sunday Afternoons Adventure hat. It has a wide brim and covers the neck as well. It’s really been worth its weight in gold; I often use it to sit on, too. Ex Officio is my favorite brand of underwear for backpacking and they have just come out with a new line of women’s underwear – the Women's Give-n-Go® Lacy™ briefs, etc. They are cute, but certainly pricey at $18 and up. But who knows, it’s not so bad to feel sexy while on the trail. I’ve done a lot of experimenting with socks over the years. Depending on my mood and the terrain and climate, I might wear the double- layered Wrightsocks or a combination of Injinji toe socks with light-
weight liner socks over. and

#5. Permits to Climb Half Dome

Climbing Half Dome? You need a permit! The National Park Service has decided that Half Dome hikers now need a permit EVERY day of the year. Permits to hike to the top of Half Dome are now required seven days per week when the cables are up.  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. A maximum of 400 permits will be issued each of these days (300 of these permits are available to day hikers). (Before the permit system was implemented in 2010, about 400 people used this trail on weekdays, while about 800 people used this trail on weekends and holidays, on average.)

In 2011, permits are available up to about four months in advance only through  (see below for exact dates). 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  processing the permit; Yosemite does not receive any money). Permits are not available in the park or on a first-come, first-served basis. However, any canceled permits may be available until midnight the evening before the hiking day through . If you have a permit that you won't use, please cancel it so others may use it.
(You may cancel your permit as late as midnight the evening before the hiking day.) Note: Backpackers with an appropriate wilderness permit can receive a Half Dome permit when they pick up their wilderness permit with no additional reservation required. Rock climbers who reach the top of Half Dome without entering the subdome area can descend on the Half Dome Trail without a permit.

The Half Dome Cables are usually in place and available for use the weekend before Memorial Day, conditions permitting. The last day to use them usually is Columbus Day Monday. We cannot guarantee the cables will be available on any given date. If you choose to get a permit for dates in May, early June, or October, there is an increased chance the cables will not be in place. If you are unable to hike Half Dome for any reason (including weather, cables not available, illness, etc.) on the day you have a permit, we will not be able to provide a permit for a different date.

To get a permit:
Go to (recommended); call: 877-444-6777. Permits are not available by mail.

Hiking dates:   First day to call
May or June    first day to call March 1, 2011
July    first day to call April 1, 2011
August first day to call May 1, 2011
September first day to call June 1, 2011
October    first day to call July 1, 2011
Remember: the permits will go in minutes!

#6. REI talks by Half Dome expert Rick Deutsch,

Author of “One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome” (Wilderness Press), will be giving several presentations in Bay Area REI stores in March:
Mar 8   REI Fremont 43962 Fremont Blvd, 7 pm
Mar 16 REI San Francisco, 840 Brannan,  7 pm
Mar 22 REI Marina, 145 General Stillwell Drive, 7 pm
Mar 24 REI Brentwood, 2475 Sand Creek Road, 7 pm

#7. American Pilgrims Gathering Last Call 2011

The 14th Annual Gathering of Pilgrims is less than a month away! Register no later than Saturday, March 5th. “Join us at the Old Mission Santa Barbara March 25 - 27 for a weekend of camaraderie and inspiration, with more than 15 presentations and events, including keynote John Dagenais, with a computer re-creation of the Santiago cathedral as it appeared 800 years ago when it was first consecrated, and a concert of early renaissance music by Ciaramella.”

Come early in the week for Hospitalero Training, March 22 – 24. Hospitalero Training March 22 - 24, 2011 (available only to members of American Pilgrims.) “ “The popular two-day hospitalero training program is scheduled to precede the 14th Annual Gathering of Pilgrims being held next month at Old Mission Santa Barbara.  Training begins Tuesday, March 22nd, with dinner and an initial session, continues all day and evening Wednesday, and ends Thursday, March 24th, in the late afternoon.  The $195 registration fee includes training, meals (Tuesday dinner - Thursday lunch), and lodging in double occupancy rooms. Once you’ve completed your training, you’ll be given contacts and information on how to volunteer in Spain.”

To register for any of the events, go to:

#8. Northern California Chapter of American Pilgrims formed

On January 22 of this year, Ralph and I went to a meeting where we all discussed establishing a Northern California Chapter of the American Pilgrims. The organizational meeting was held at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Pleasant Hill CA and was organized by Bob Holm, Rennie Archibald, and Zita Macy. More than 25 people attended from as far away as Carmel and Sacramento.  After introductions, we broke into groups and discussed what we would like from such a group. There is going to be a Facebook page (or search Facebook for APOC-NorCal) and webpage with activities as they are planned. If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in the Camino – either planning to hike it, or as a veteran, go to Rennie Archibald & Bob Holm are going to be the co-oordinators of the chapter, but it will be up to members to plan the events. E-mail for info:

#9. Backpackers: Fuel and Stove Info

One of the frequent questions backpackers have when embarking on a long hike is which kind of stove to use and how much fuel to carry. Triple-Crown winner Ken Powers recently answered some of those questions on the PCT forum.  “A couple of ideas on extending your canister fuel usage: If you are going to heat water in the morning, pre-warm the canister by putting it in your warm sleeping bag. A warm canister is much more efficient. After your water comes to a boil and you add it to your food, turn off your stove and wrap your pot of food in a jacket [ed. Or a pot cozy].

#10. Natural Rodent Control

We all know about the importance of keeping a balance between predators and prey. In “Guess who’s coming to dinner”, (S.F. Chronicle Jan 23, 2011) writers Joe Eaton and Ron Sullivan gave this suggestion of how you can reduce, perhaps get rid of, burgeoning rodent populations. “Barn owls offer natural rodent control. Barn owls are great neighbors and often nest in urban areas. They will use provided nest boxes. Best part may be that over 95% of their diet consists of rodent populations. “In one study, a brood of six owlets consumed 600 field mice during a 10-week span.” They also noted that Red-tailed hawks are also particularly fond of ground squirrels. They build their own nest, but they will use perches that allow them to spot prey.

#11. Fixing Your Feet author giving talks in SF Bay Area

S.F. Bay Regional: Berkeley REI — “Foot Care for Any Sport: Fit, Blisters & More.” John Vonhof, expert of foot care and author of “Fixing Your Feet,” is giving a presentation at Berkeley REI, 1338 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA Phone: (510) 527-4140, on March 26, 2011. 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. It’s free. You’ll “learn about fit, insoles, socks, toenail care, calluses, hot spots, preventing and fixing blisters, properly taping your feet as a prevention/treatment measure, and more.” Limit 70 people. You can register at

#12. Walk Bayside with Berkeley Path Wanderers

S. F. Bay Regional: Walk with Berkeley Path Wanderers Association on the Albany Bulb Photo Walk. It’s scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 4:30 p.m. Meet at: Bay Trail Sign, Parking Area at the very west end of Buchanan St., Albany. Transit: AC buses #52 and #25. “Description: Explore the art, ecology and vistas of The Bulb with camera in hand. We'll arrive in time for good bird opportunities and end close enough for sunset and the golden hour, if you want to extend your stay. Bring good shoes, warm clothes, and gear. Rain cancels. No dogs, please.”  Call leader, Keith Skinner, at 510 528-3246 for more info. No reservations required. BPWA is now on Facebook.

#13. Susan is the SF Examiner Hiking Examiner

Susan Alcorn’s most recent  article is entitled, “Run for the Seals event for walkers, race-walkers, and runners.” Check this and all of her Examiner hiking articles starting at

Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips # 147 Feb 1, 2011

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-three today and we don't know where the hell she is.”
Ellen DeGeneres

1. “Voices of the Camino” -- Camino gathering 2011
2. CA State Parks reservations open for August
3. CA State Parks site for trail info & NEW, free App
4. 20 Trails for every hiker
5. Camino fatalities in 2010
6. 5th Edition of Fixing Your Feet is now out!
7. John Muir Trail Yahoo group helps hikers plan
8. ADZPCTKO 2011 (re: Pacific Crest Trail kickoff event)
9. Regional: EBRPD Trail Challenge
10., S.F. Bay area hiking, subscribe free.

#1. Camino Gathering 2011

"Voices of the Camino: Past, Present and Future" is the 2011 American Pilgrims gathering. This year, which marks the 14th annual gathering, will be held March 22 - 29, 2011 at the Santa Barbara Mission, California. The “gathering” is actually composed of three distinct elements – the Hospitalero Training; the Gathering, and the Spiritual Retreat.

The Hospitalero Training, March 22-24, is for those interested in serving as hosts in designated refugios (hostels) along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. (The usual commitment is to host for two-weeks.) The Gathering itself is March 25 – 27, with an Early Arrival Reception scheduled for Thursday, March 24th. The reception will feature a Spanish tapas menu, wine and music. Day I (Friday) of the gathering .will have a morning workshop entitled “Walkabout Language Learning: Experiencing the Camino in the local language” and afternoon sessions on such topics as Camino past and present and Camino in winter. Saturday sessions are also varied and include first aid and Camino art history. The keynote address will celebrate 2011 as the 800th anniversary of the consecration of the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. A group walk is planned for Sunday.

American Pilgrims also posts that the Santa Barbara Mission has made many improvements since their gathering there in 2008.  The letter reads, “The dining hall, Clare’s Room (the library), and Bonaventure Hall have all been upgraded and/or remodeled. Wireless internet is now available on the lower campus, too!”

Registration is now open at

#2. CA Parks reservations open for August

A reminder from our cash-starved California State Parks that there is an additional way to support our parks while planning a vacation. Campsite booking for August 2011 will open February 1 at 8am! If you reserve your California state park campsite through their website, 50 cents for each newReserveAmerica account will come back to CSPF. This new option is made possible by a wonderful partnership with The Active Network.

#3. CA Parks new website and APP

Another message from Elizabeth Goldstein, President of CSPF about a way to support the parks and ease your travel planning is to visit Calparks website’s NEW Travel Center. There you can find hikes in different state parks and see membership discounts. In addition, you can book your travel through the Travelocity Partner Network. Rent a car, book a flight and make hotel reservations so getting to your favorite state park is now easier than ever! 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! But remember, you have to start from the Calparks website.

And for those with even more of an appetite for California’s State Parks, you can now download the new FREE CalParks iPhone App and explore your California state parks with even more information! “While there is no shortage of park information available in print or online, it can be difficult to take that information along without cumbersome workarounds such as printing, emailing web pages, and lugging paperwork. But this new app by CSPF and EveryTrail offers visitors a detailed, media-rich, interactive, and location-aware experience, complete with guides to over 45 parks (more coming soon!). It is light-weight and always up-to-date with the latest park information. Users can download the app in the App Store today or find it on iTunes.”

“The app not only has trail guides, but you can also upload your own trips, discuss your favorite state park adventures and see photos from our online photo contest of the state park you are about to visit!”

#4. 20 Trails for every hiker

Reader Harriet Gordon invites you to visit her blog to read “The 20 Hiking Trails Every American Hiker Must Try.” This is a good way to find some inspiration for your hiking days and you can provide feedback on the trails she mentions and tell her about your favorites.

#5. Camino fatalities 2010

Rosina sent a solemn message to various Camino groups – a list of pilgrims who died on the Camino in 2010. The list is from the Archdiocese of Santiago that held serves in the honor of the following: ..Steffan Anters from Germany, 26 years old. Died in January in Serguda (A corunha)
..Manuel Jimenez from Madrid, 78 years old. Died in April in Navarrete (La Rioja)
..Linus Gillis from Canada, 62 years old. Died in May in Terradillos de los Templarios (Palencia)
..Adrianus C. Jacoba van Gol from Holland, 71 years old. Died in May in Leon
..Guido Lucci from Italy, 31 years old. Died in July in Ibaneta (Navarra)
..Carmelo Arnaiz from Spain, 68 years old. Died in July in Aviles (Asturias)
..George Kollen from Germany, 67 years old. Died in October in Portomarin
..Giulio Ricusani from Italy, 26 years old. drowned in Fisterra in August after having completed his pilgrimage walking all the way to Santiago from Tui.

Two of the deaths were attributed to being hit by vehicles while walking on the highway (new highways guards, traffic lights, etc. have since been installed). The rest, except for the drowning, were caused by heart problems.

Rosina also reports that Santiago’s Cathedral received about ten million people during the 2010 Holy Year!

#6. 5th Edition of Fixing Your Feet

John Vonhof sends word that the FIFTH edition of “Fixing Your Feet” will hit the shelves February 1.  John says, “With each edition, I make changes, add new chapters, and tighten up the content. This edition has a new chapter on Barefoot & Minimalist Footwear, and another on Getting the Most out of Fixing Your Feet.”  Every chapter has been updated and most have new content. All products and their websites have been verified. The Taping chapter has been extensively reworked and includes a series of photos that show taping. It’s 369 pages in length.” Anyone with feet needs this book.

#7. John Muir Trail Yahoo Group

John Curran Ladd of San Francisco writes that there is a John Muir Trail yahoo group.  You can view their collection of files and links as well as join them at:

#8. ADZPCTKO 2011

 2011 AZDPCTKO (Annual Zero Days Pacific Crest Trail Kick-off) will be held April 29-May 1, 2011 at Lake Morena County Park (in Southern CA near Campo, CA.) Organizers promise “Extreme presentations”: Including an exclusive showing of the not-yet-aired Pacific Crest Trail episode of America's Wild Spaces from National Geographic Channel--a show that uses the word extreme dozens of times.” It’s a three-day weekend designed to help and support those hikers who are about to set out to thru-hike the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Section hikers, trail angels, and friends and family of the hikers are also welcome. “The primary focus of the gathering is to help shed those butterflies that inevitably precede a life-altering experience like hiking the PCT by showing you the broad spectrum of strategies that have been successful in the past….  Additionally, it provides a low-key gathering in which you can begin the friendships that inevitably evolve from such a journey. Dinner will be served to all on Friday and Saturday evenings, and breakfast nosh is available on Saturday and Sunday mornings.” (from last year’s online description)
Other happenings:
• Annual Great Pacific Long Distance Hiking Gadget and Invention Revue--known more commonly as the Gear Contest • Informational presentations about water caches, snow conditions, trail detours, and other things you'll need to know if you expect to make it to Monument 78 • Trail maintenance • Auction of lightweight gear and cool collectibles Registration usually begins in February or March. Check back here for updates, or follow on Twitter (@adzpctko).

There will be a ride board for those who need transportation to the kickoff or to the trailhead. There’s already been one ride offered from the Bay Area: “I am planning to rent a mini-van and drive it from the Concord/Walnut Creek SF Bay area to AZDPCTKO at Lake Morena and return.  I hope to leave the Bay Area around 6:00 am on Friday morning, April 29th and return on Sunday evening, May 1st around 8:00 pm.
I should have room for four more people with all their gear. Gas and mini-van rental is my trail-angel treat, but you may have to help with the driving. First priority to those whom I can most easily pick up and who respond first. If no takers, then I will be flying to the San Diego Airport on 4/29 morning and providing rides to and from the airport, Lake Morena, and Campo. Please feel free to respond on the linked Facebook events webpage or via email.” Happy Trails, “Symbiosis”

#9. EBRPD 2011 Trail Challenge

S.F. Bay Regional: One good way to stay with your plan to hike more often or to get ready for even bigger hikes or backpacking trips is to vary where you hike. East Bay Regional Park is once again offer the FREE trail challenge. All you have to do to complete the self- guided marathon 26.2 miles, over time and you join the winners’ circle.

While you are looking at the EBRPD’s website, check out a few of the upcoming activities – llama packing, kayaking, hikes for all ages, and native plant sales are among the dozens of listings  in the March & April schedule.

#10. Susan Alcorn's articles

Get the latest news and information on San Francisco hiking, including local information on Local Getaways at

Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Hiking Tales & Tips #146 January 1, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR! And here’s to many wonderful hiking adventures in the new year.

1.Rare foxes in Sierra Nevada
2.Recommended book “Three Hundred Zeroes (Appalachian Trail)
3.Sierra Club Outings for 2011
4.2011 Volunteer vacations
5.Survival in the Santa Cruz Mountains (CA)
6.Reservations at California State Parks
7.Whopping big snowflake!
8.Creekwalks to see Coho Salmon
9.Link to San Francisco Bay Area hiking articles by Susan Alcorn

#1. Rare foxes in Sierra Nevada

The presence of Sierra Nevada Red foxes, a red fox subspecies long thought to be extinct, has been confirmed by Federal wildlife biologists have confirmed. This fall a male and a female were captured on remote camera in Stanislaus National Forest (near Yosemite National Park). They are believed to be related to another female who was spotted this summer in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest near Sonora Pass.
Scientists say that the DNA samples suggest a breeding possibility and that a fairly healthy number of the animals may be living in the rugged mountains about 90 miles south of Reno. Though the Sierra Nevada Red foxes were once widespread throughout California's mountains, the only other known population is of fewer than 20 foxes that live near Lassen Volcanic National Park. ( US.Rare.Sierra.Fox/ for more)

#2. Three Hundred Zeros

I recently received a copy of Dennis R. Blanchard’s “Three Hundred Zeroes: Lessons of the heart on the Appalachian Trail” and initially thought it would be just like the other AT books I had read – not bad, but predictable. However, I thoroughly enjoyed Three Hundred Zeroes, and posted my review on Amazon.

“Hard to add to the reviews already given, so I'll echo a few of the remarks -- this book was fun to read! I learned a lot about the experience of hiking the AT; Blanchard has a wonderful way of bringing the trail to life without getting bogged down in the details. In addition, it was heart-warming to read his descriptions of the interactions he had with the hundreds of people that he met along the way.

“I am a long-distance hiker, too, but I don't think that this book's appeal is limited to hikers: it's also a good read for those who want to vicariously travel the Appalachian Trail.”

#3. Sierra Club 2011 Outings

Sierra Club (National) has hundreds of backpacking and hiking trips lined up for 2011. Here are a few brief descriptions (call 415-977-5522 or go to for more info): Beginner trip! Women’s backpack for fit beginners, Yosemite National Park. July 28-Aug 2. Rated 3 on a scale of 1-5. $525. Trip #1112A.

Women Backpacking in the Grand Canyon, AZ March 20-26. Moderate pace, rated 4 on a scale of 1-5. $895. Trip #111440A.

Women’s Beginner Backpack, Comanche Peak Wilderness, Colorado. June 26- July 2. Rated 3. $875. Trip #11150A

Family Fun in a Marine Paradise, Channel Island National Park, CA. July 24-29. “Often referred to as North American’s Galapagos, Islands…” Minimum age: 12. Activities include hiking, snorkeling, and sea kayaking. $995 kids, $1,095 adult. #11231A.

#4. 2011 Volunteer Vacations

“2011 Volunteer Vacations” published by the American Hiking Society, gives 73 opportunities to “Get out, give back.” Go to  for more information (including prices and contact info of the organization sponsoring the “vacation.”

Here are some examples:
Alaska: Denali National Park and Preserve. August 13-21. Backpacking 5 miles to basecamp. Strenuous, trail building. Leadership by the National Park Service. Among the rewards –“Wildflowers in the summer, blueberries in the fall.” (trip #4)

Maine: Appalachian Trail. July 24-30. Maintaining the boundary line of the NPS lands that demarcates the AT corridor. Rated: difficult
Training in map reading and compass navigation, pruning, painting and bushwhacking. Among the rewards – hiking, backpacking, canoeing and swimming and the summit of gorgeous Saddleback Mountain area. (trip #29).
Rated easy-moderate. North Dakota. Dakota Prairie National Grasslands North County National Scenic trail. June 12-18. Improving the signage on a 38-mile segment of the trail. Also some projects such as planting stream bank vegetation and removing invasive species. (Trip #44).

#5. Survival in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Regional: Northern California. Debra Collins, a runner, survived 6 days in the woods before a man and his son, part of the large rescue operation looking for her, found her December 4, 2010. Joachim Deguara and 7-year-old son Dylan joined the search team looking for his neighbor. Deguara found Collins near Lost Camp, an unmarked, almost- abandoned trail in the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park. Collin was suffering from hypothermia. Collins, who is a triathlete, had been on one of her routine runs that she does in the area, when she lost her footing and twisted her ankle. She took shelter in a nearby ravine, but couldn’t get back out. She had no food, but was able to use a plastic bag as a cup and dip from the creek alongside her. She had several layers of clothing with which to keep her warm.
One of Collins’ friends, Saviano, also deserves credit for helping with the rescue. When he did not get a call back from his phone call to her, he notified the sheriff’s office in the Santa Cruz area. Search efforts were hampered by the fact that Collins had not left a note or notified friends where she was going or when she would be expected to return.

#6. Reservations at California State Parks

California State Park Foundation (CSPF) has set up a way to reserve campsites in the California State Parks online. When you use this new service, 50 cents of every reservation will come back to CSPF. Campsite booking for July 2001 will open on January 2 at 8 AM.

#7. Whopping big snowflake

Thanks to American Hiker (winter 2010) magazine, I’m reminded that alcohol is NOT a good way to warm up on a cold trail. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, which may make you feel warmer, but more warmth is escaping from your body because the blood vessels are nearer to the surface. Instead drink hot chocolate, tea, or cider. If you need more warmth close to your skin, put your bottle of hot beverage in your pocket or on a carbiner inside your jacket. Save the warm brandy until you are back sitting in the ski lodge.

I also learned that the Guinness Book of Records lists the largest snowflake as a 15-inch specimen which fell in Montana in 1887. The reported observation was confirmed by several witnesses.

#8. Creek walks to see Coho salmon

Regional: Marin County, CA. Spawn (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) is leading short hikes to learn about and see the animals and habitat of the Coho Salmon of the Lagunitas watershed in Marin County, CA. You can celebrate the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011 on one of these special walks this New Year’s weekend. The Lagunitas Creek Watershed currently supports California's largest wild population of Central Coast Coho salmon, but the species continues to be threatened by habitat loss even with though it has been listed as endangered. It’s estimated that the annual Coho and steelhead population in the Lagunitas Creek Watershed was about 6,000 sixty years ago. Human impact during the intervening years has been substantial – dams, roadways, barriers to migration, and other developments have reduced the available habitat by almost 50%.

Considering the years of dramatic decline in the number of Coho Salmon in the Lagunitas watershed, this season’s reported observations – of at least 136 Coho adults and 71 redds in Lagunitas and San Geronimo creeks – is very good news. Join in the celebration of what all hope is a recovery:

The remaining hikes this weekend are: New Year’s Day, January 1st at 1PM; Sunday, January 2nd at 10AM and 1PM!  However, the season continues, so check SPAWN’s website for other weekend and holiday outings.

SPAWN invites interested parties to join one of their trained naturalists on a Creekwalk. You’ll learn how to spot a redd (the salmon’s nesting place) and all about the habitat and life cycle of this wonderful species! You may well see the endangered Coho salmon spawning in the Lagunitas watershed. A donation of $10 per adult and $4 child is suggested, but no one is turned away for lack of funds. Naturalist’s reports at

#9. Susan Alcorn's San Francisco articles

Check out Susan’s hiking articles for online at

Happy trails!
Susan Alcorn

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

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