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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2012

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Shepherd Canyon Books
25 Southwood Court
Oakland, CA  94611
Toll free number 866-219-8260   email backpack45 at

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

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Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #170, December 2012 

1. Ten gifts for the hiker in your life
2. Camino bound? Where to explore in the gateway city Madrid
3. Cleaning out the hikers' closet during the off-season.
4. Camino guide service
5. New: Falcon Guides 
6. Regional event: Cheryl Strayed, author of WILD
7. Regional event: Susan and Ralph Alcorn (Camino de Santiago)
8. Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine

Contents: #1. Ten items under $20 for hikers/campers/backpackers in your life

  • Susan Alcorn’s new book: Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine (see item #8 below for more details).
  • Utility cord—for clothesline, securing a tent, strapping down anything…
  • The “Dynamo Flashlight” by Coghlans. Tiny, lightweight, and bright. Crank one minute for 30 minutes of light. #1202
  • Black Diamond headlamp (19.95)
  • pSwiss army multi-tool knife (starts 14.95)
  • Colored Titanium spork (spoon/fork combo) – 9.95 at REI.
  • Bananagrams. A game that is sort of a combination of anagrams and scrabble. (Because of weight, probably suitable for campers only)
  • Injinji toe socks. (these have been on my suggested list many times). Less rubbing = fewer blisters. I really love the striped ones. Some models are discontinued, so some bargains might be found.
  • Tyvek wallet. Extremely lightweight, thin, and fairly undestructable. Cute patterns (14.99)
  • Individual sized packages of trail mix—wide variety of types and prices.
  • Falcon Guides (see item #5 below) for the trail
  • Assemble a combination pack of mosquito repellant, sunscreen, Campsuds, lip balm. 

#2. In Madrid (photo in Retiro Park by Susan Alcorn)

Pamplona bridgeThose spending time in Madrid on their way to the Camino and otherwise, should not miss these three major museums in city center: The Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Reina Sofia. I also recently found out that the Royal Palace (Palacio Royale), with its 2,800 rooms, is open to the public—although you won’t be able to see all of the rooms. 

Some of the neighborhoods and sections not to be missed are the narrow streets of Barrio de La Latina (with a Metro stop) and the Plaza Santa Ana. Both are great for mingling with locals and visitors sampling the tapas and wines.

The 700 year-old Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is the largest bullfighting ring in Spain. If you don’t want to see the bull-fighting, you can take the guided “Tauro” tour of this Moorish style arena.  

Finally, don’t miss Parque del Retiro (Retiro Park). Perhaps my favorite spot in Madrid next to the center square. In its 350 acres you can find areas of tranquility or of great activity. On the weekends, the park is filled with families and others enjoying the carousel, street performers, artists, concerts, restaurants. It’s much quieter during the week and a perfect place for a quiet stroll. 

#3. Cleaning out and donating

As you are digging out the holiday decorations and winter gear, consider clearing out the no-longer-needed, gently used camping gear. Most communities have some organizations that collect old tents, jackets, and so forth to pass on to scouts or the homeless.

Here are some places that collect gear in my vicinity; google to find those in your area:

A16’s stores at

Sierra Club email for info

Nike’s Reuse-a-shoe program turns old shoes into playground and athletic flooring

The California REI stores in Corte Madera and Dublin are collecting backcountry gear and clothing for Bay Area Wilderness Trailing (BAWT), a nonprofit helping urban youth get into the wilderness. Most needed are tents, backpacks, sleeping bags and pads, stoves, bear canisters, tarps, healmps, snow pants and boots, hiking boots, rain genar, synthtic long underwear. In useable condition and CLEAN. Donations are tax deductible. Runs until Dec. 23, 2012.

REI Concord (CA) is teaming with other nonpprofts to collect gently used coats, scarves, gloves for those in need.

Backpacker Magazine Nov. 21012 ran an article in their "Heroes" section about Ken John. John founded a non-profit called Homeless.Gear and  started collection campng equipment that he thought might be useful to the homeless. He's at  (you can also email ken at

#4. Unique service for Camino hikers (photo of Puente la Reina by Nancy Reynolds, guide)

Patagonia Chronicle coverI’ve written a series of articles about what I believe to be a unique service for Camino hikers. Nancy Reynolds has started a guide service to get new pilgrims started on the Spanish route. She offers help in planning for the hike and then walks with her clients for a few days to get them started out on the right foot (no pun intended)  from the French village St. Jean Pied du Port on their way into Pamplona. Please note that I am providing this information to those that may be interested, but I have no personal experience, or financial interest, with her service.

Here are the links to the articles:,

#5. Falcon Guidebooks  Interactive Guidebooks Bring Outdoor Recreation Planning into the Future

FalconGuides®, the premier publisher of outdoor recreation content, is proud to announce the release of the first 12 titles in a new line of interactive outdoor guides developed in partnership with Inkling, the industry-standard platform for interactive learning. The guides are available for download at, and gift cards with download codes can be purchased via, or in select REI stores this holiday season. 

The initial launch includes some of FalconGuides most popular titles, including: Hiking Acadia National Park; Hiking Colorado; Hiking Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks; Hiking Shenandoah National Park; Hiking Yellowstone National Park; Hiking Yosemite National Park; How to Rock Climb!; Training for Climbing; Hiking Grand Canyon National Park; Trail Tested; Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’; and Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks. Books are available at (use Safari or Chrome for the best experience). MSRP varies by title from $14.99 to $18.99. 

For one download price, readers get expert content optimized for the iPhone, iPad, and Web, with features that bridge the gap between apps and ebooks: Slideshows are loaded with high-resolution images not found in the print edition; guided visual tours make content engaging  and fun to use; hyperlinks connect directly to URLs; and smart search makes it quick and easy for users to find the information they need, whether it’s a list of hikes that are great with dogs, or the name of that river that crosses the trail halfway to the summit.

Further enhancements vary by title, for example: Hiking guide users can make and share notes about their experiences, alerting fellow hikers to poor trail conditions or calling out can’t-miss photo ops. Rock climbing instructional guides include stop motion animation to demonstrate proper technique, along with self-assessments so readers can set and achieve goals for their training." (press release 11/14/12)

#6. Bay Area Regional event: A featured event at The Lafayette Library and Learning Center

Sunday, January 06, 2013, 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM. "AL!VE with the LLLC" presents Cheryl Strayed, Author of Wild. 

Cheryl Strayed is the author of #1 New York Times bestseller WILD. Her book recounts her 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail walk at age 26 in the wake of her mother's unexpected death. Designed for: Adults (18+), Teens (12-17). A Special Fundraiser for the LLLC. Acalanes Performing Arts Center, Lafayette, CA. General Admission: $35; Reserved Seating, including Meet & Greet Reception: $75. For reservations go to: or call 925-283-6513 x101

#7. Alcorns' Camino de Santiago program for January 2013. 

Monday, January 28. 7 p.m. -- a digital slide show on the Spanish Camino de Santiago at the meeting of the Delta-Sierra Group of the Sierra Club. Central United Methodist Church, 3700 Pacific Ave., Stockton (in the Fireside Room, across from the UOP (University of Pacific) Tower).

#8. Patagonia Chronicle

Madrid bullfight statueReminder: Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine is available at and Barnes and $17.95, discounts available online. Our other titles, Camino Chronicle and We're in the Mountains not over the Hill are available in both paperback and Kindle versions. 

Patagonia Chronicle combines the author's journal entries of her trek of Torres del Paine's challenging Circuit Trail with tantalizing information about the culture, history, environmental concerns, and natural history of the wild and woolly southern regions of Chile and Argentina. Helpful visitor information about not only Patagonia, but also the gateway cities of Santiago and Buenos Aires, is covered.  

Patagonia Chronicle is now available at in paperback; the Kindle version should be available mid-November. Please tell your friends and libraries that this book is available.

Happy trails and Happy Holidays,

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking/Hiking Tales & #169, November 2012 issue 

1. Susan Alcorn’s new book: Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine
2. Major breakthrough in camping/hiking gear: Waterproof down
3. Mony Dojeiji provides us with this month’s tale
4. Saved by a sock—really?
5. Trail bikes on the Pacific Crest Trail
6. Discover the Appalachian Trail
7. Winter hiking in Death Valley
8. Request for reviews of Camino Chronicle
9. Slight correction: notable young hikers
10. Regional: No. CA pilgrims hike in Santa Cruz area
11. Yellowstone’s Old Faithful
12. Regional: SF Bay Area. Berkeley Path Wanderers
13. Regional: Portland, OR and Seattle, WA screenings of Lydia Smith's Camino Documentary 

   1. Patagonia Chronicle

. Susan Alcorn announces the publication of Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine.

Patagonia Chronicle by Susan Alcorn"Patagonia. Its very name evokes wanderlust in hikers, climbers and intrepid travelers. It's surely near the top of our bucket lists. In Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine, Susan Alcorn, veteran hiker of the arduous Pacific Crest Trail, John Muir Trail, and Spain's Camino de Santiago, takes the plunge with her husband to explore one of the world's most primeval and least traveled regions." Brandon Wilson, explorer/Lowell Thomas Award-winning author of Along the Templar TrailOver the Top & Back Again: Hiking X the Alps and more.

Patagonia Chronicle combines the author's journal entries of her trek of Torres del Paine's challenging Circuit Trail with tantalizing information about the culture, history, environmental concerns, and natural history of the wild and woolly southern regions of Chile and Argentina. Helpful visitor information about not only Patagonia, but also the gateway cities of Santiago and Buenos Aires, is covered.  

Patagonia Chronicle is now available at in paperback; the Kindle version should be available mid-November. Please tell your friends and libraries that this book is available.

#2. Waterproof Down

Recently a couple of ads for down jackets have caught my eye. One model was too pricey for me to consider, but the LLBean model (lightweight, 850 fill), that sells for $179 has been added to my “wish list.” What is new and different about these jackets is that they are said to be “water-repellent.” As you know, down jackets and sleeping bags are lighter in weight than synthetic ones that provide the same warmth. However, when down gets wet, it loses its insulating qualities and can even become a sodden mess requiring days to dry. This is not what you want when camping or in the rain. So the idea of down being able to stand up in wet conditions has great appeal.

Backpacker Magazine article explains the process of creating these water-repellent items entitled, “The Science behind Water Repellent down.” They say also say that “Two companies, 'Sierra Designs and Down Decor', have devised ways to coat individual feathers with a molecular-level polymer that creates a hydrophobic finish on each plume.” After extensive testing, they have given the “Editors’ Choice Snow Awards to the Sierra Designs Tov and the L.L. Bean Ultralight 850.” Click here for the article. 

#3. Mony Dojeiji, author of Walking for Peace: An Inner Journey,provides us with this month’s tale:

“An old man was sitting at the entrance of a town. A young man approached him and said: "I am not from here. I come from far. Tell me old man, how are the people of this town?"

Instead of replying to him, the old man asked back: "And in the town from where you come, how were the people?"

The young man, responding temperamentally, blurted, "Egotistic and wicked, so much so that I could no longer take it. That is why I preferred to leave!"

The old man said sympathetically: "Pity, my dear. I shall advise you to continue on your way. People here are equally wicked and all are egotistic." 

A little later, another young man approached the same old man and said: "Greetings to you who is wise with age! I should like to settle down in this place. Tell me, how are the people who live in this town?"

And, the old man asked him: "Tell me first, where from do you come, and how were the people there?"

The young man said in an enthusiastic voice: "Honest, good, and welcoming! I had only friends there, and oh how I was pained to leave them!"

The old man said: "Well, here, you will also find only honest people, welcoming, and full of kindness."

A merchant who was watering his camels not far from these exchanges and had heard all, asked the old man: "How is it possible, old man, who I know to be wise, to give two truthful, but diametrically opposite, replies to the same question? Is it a case of April Fools?"

"My son," said the old man, "Each one carries, in his heart, his own universe. And, that is what he will find every place he goes." (** or, "Therefore, regardless where he goes, that will always be what he finds.")

Mony Dojeiji adds, “I'm a woman. I've walked the camino more than once, and have done other longer pilgrimages. Have I had some unpleasant experiences? Of course. My personal challenge, however, was to not judge an entire country based on one person's ignorant actions, and not to allow it to taint my experiences. That's my work, and has nothing to do with the place I'm visiting. I could have the same thing happen at home, and the work for me would be the same."

#4. Saved by a sock—really? (Oct. 2012) recently ran “Saved by a sock: 7 more reasons to pack an extra pair” by Kristin Hostetter. When I read it, I went, “Hmm, sort of a stretch.” One of the seven reasons included “Fill a sock with mud or wet clay (left), then wring out every drop of moisture.” I couldn't think of many occasions to try that one out.

Another hint suggested filling a sock with rocks and using your new weapon to club small game. As I commented online, by the time I learned to do that, I would have starved to death. Add to that the low probability that any small game would wander by at the appropriate time…but perhaps if I dumped the crumbs out of our empty food storage bags I could lure rodents toward the tent. One hint, however, to use your socks as mittensis a practical one that I have used it several times. You won’t have the dexterity that gloves or mitten provide, but you may prevent frostbite. Similarly, a few times I have put plastic bags over my mittens to keep them dry and my hands warmer.

Backpacker Magazine article.

My addition to the list use of socks when backpacking (and no sillier than some of the above): tuck a pair of socks along under the rim of your fleece hat for added insulation. And finally, when you don’t have a packtowel or bandanna handy, use a pair of socks to wipe up condensation inside your tent.

Readers: If you have any additional ideas about using socks in helpful ways, please send them in so we can share with our other readers!

#5. Trail bikes on the Pacific Crest Trail

There has been a great deal of discussion lately on Facebook about the possibility of allowing mountain bikes on the Pacific Crest Trail. Without getting into the controversy here—in part because I haven’t figured out how likely this “threat” is—I would like to ask that if you have had any incidents involving hiker or backpacker vs. bicyclist that you reportPCT bicycle conflicts here. You can also post them on Facebook (Save the PCT or John Muir Trail),:, or send to me (and I will forward them to whoever rises to collect them.  The PCTA’s recent statement is at the end of this newsletter.

#6. Discover the Appalachian Trail

From the Appalachian Trail Conference "In celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the completion of the A.T., the ATC will be hosting a membership drive called “DISCOVER THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL” across the USA. The event will feature the National Geographic film America’s Wild Spaces, the Appalachian Trail. Several special guest speakers will also share their story of the Trail and free prizes will be awarded to the public. All proceeds will go directly to preserve and protect the Appalachian Trail. Here are the events scheduled in the south:

October 27, 2012 from 11:30am — 1:30pm Knoxville, TN - Halls Cinema 7.
November 7, 2012 from 7:30pm — 9:30pm Charlotte, NC - The Charlotte Crownpoint Theater,
November 8, 2012 from 7:30pm — 9:30pm. Raleigh, NC - The Raleigh Grande Theater 
November 9, 2012 from 7:00pm — 9:00pm. Blairsville, GA - Union County Historical Society
November 14, 2012 from 7:30pm — 9:30pm. Tampa, FL - Muvico Starlight 20."

Appalachian Trail Org.

#7. Winter hiking in Death Valley

We are entering the time of year when travel catalogs and emails entice us to far-flung adventures. This one is from Bay Area-based “Call of the Wild," which specializes in hiking and adventure trips for women only. Discover Death Valley Hiking Trip. February 23 — 27, 2013

 “Experience one of the United States most unique National Parks – Death Valley.  Known for its vast salt flats, beautiful sand dunes, and maze-like canyons, Death Valley is a surprise discovery for most visitors.  This land of extremes is home to the lowest point in the USA at – 282 feet below sea level, while off in the distance you will see the highest point in the park covered in snow reaching to over 11,000 feet.

"Each day we will hike [3-5 hours] through canyons and valleys, and over dunes, exploring the park in the moderate springtime temperatures. We’ll stay at The Ranch at Furnace Creek inside the park, providing a restful place to sleep after each day’s hike. Our breakfast and dinners are taken in local restaurants, while we will enjoy a trail-side or picnic lunch each day." Call of the Wild

#8. Camino Chronicle reviews

A favor to ask. If you have read and enjoyed Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago, I’d appreciate your positive review on As small publishers, we don’t have access to many professional reviewers and pretty much depend on individuals to put in a good word or two. Thanks!

#9. Correction on dates of young PCT hiker

Slight correction to dates, and added info about a couple of amazing girls.  Heather Burror (Mama Bear) sent me a note about her daughter Sierra's PCT thru hike. “I wanted to let you know the dates of our hike were April 22 to September 23. We posted a journal at but the final post is dated September 24 because we didn't have internet at Manning Park. Also, after looking at your site I thought I would mention one more notable young hiker, Sunshine (Reed Gjonnes), who hiked the entire PCT in 2011 at age 11.”

#10. Northern California Pilgrims hike

Just got the details about a hike for those in Bay Area/Santa Cruz (sponsored by American Pilgrims - Northern California Chapter). Fall Creek Hike, Felton, CA. Saturday November 17, 2012, 9:45 a.m. 

"Join your fellow Northern California pilgrims for a hike in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. Alan Lemke and Susanna Rather will lead a moderate three-hour hike through the isolated Fall Creek Unit of the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park located northwest of Felton.  For park information, click here."    

"We’ll meet at the San Lorenzo Valley High parking lot at 7105 Highway 9, Felton, CA at 9:45 and start our hike at 10:00.  We’ll walk, talk and have some fun. Come enjoy the beautiful redwoods and get a little exercise with fellow pilgrims.  If you are yet to experience the Camino, bring your questions so you can get advice from seasoned pilgrims on how best to prepare for the Camino.  Dress for the weather and bring a lunch and water. [Alan says the hike will go rain or shine because the redwoods provide [some] shelter.

For directions, click here and then and click on "Get Directions"

Bob & Rennie, Northern California Chapter Co-Coordinators of American Pilgrims on the Camino, Please RSVP to by Monday, November 12th.

#11. Yellowstone live cams

Yellowstone has a couple of live cams—here is the link to Old Faithful, where you can watch living streaming video of the geyser and the nearby buffalo. Once you get to the video, click the little black icon lower right of the display to enlarge the image. 

#12. Berkeley Path Wanderers

Regional: Berkeley, CA. Coffee Constitutional with Berkeley Path Wanderers on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 10:00 a.m. with Jacque Ensign.

Meeting at Peet's Coffee, inside the downtown Berkeley BART Station, 2160 Shattuck Ave. Transit: BART or numerous AC transit buses (including 1, 7 and 18). "Level and Leisurely. Description: Accompany us on this low-impact, leisurely morning walk. We'll meet underground in the Downtown BART station Peet's Coffee and stroll up Center Street. We will continue through the UC Berkeley campus and along Strawberry Creek. RAIN CANCELS. No dogs, please." Info: click here

#13. Camino Documentary screening by Lydia Smith

. “For those of you that are interested - we are having a rough cut screening/fundraiser for The Camino Documentary in Portland on Nov 2nd and in Seattle on Nov 13th. Go here for details.   

Pacific Crest Trail Association’s statement on mountain bikes: 

"PCTA issues statement regarding mountain bikes 10/11/12

To our members and supporters:

"We are receiving many inquiries from you about information being posted online about mountain bikes and the PCT. We want to assure you that we are well aware of this growing campaign to open the PCT to bicycles. We are monitoring the decision-making process and we are working on a strategy to thoughtfully address this issue.

"The U.S. Forest Service has been contacted by a group of citizens requesting a review of the bicycle prohibition but has not made a decision regarding a review process. Public notification and an environmental analysis would have to take place before any change in the bicycle prohibition would be considered.

"The Pacific Crest Trail Association opposes bicycle use on the trail. We will be reaching out to all of you when we know more about the process and what influence we, as hikers and equestrians, can have. We will keep you informed of our progress and your potential role in this important matter for the PCT.

"Thank you for your support of the PCTA and for all you do for the trail."

Happy trails
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #168, October 2, 2012

  1. News: Nine-year-old hiker, “Monkey,” completes the entire Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)—sets record.

  2. Turn one amazing trail snack into a lifesaving fire starter. 

  3. ALDHA gathering soon in West Virginia

  4. Who is the oldest woman to have completed the PCT

  5. Hospitalero training coming up

  6. Report of ALDHA-West 2012

  7. West Nile Disease

  8. Switchback’s story of the month

  9. Regional hike: American Pilgrims on the Camino’s Fall creek hike. 

#1. Nine year old completes PCT, sets record

On their hiking day #155, otherwise known as Monday, Sep. 24, 2012, "Mama Bear" (Heather Burror) and “Monkey” (Sierra) completed their thru-hike of the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail. That made 9-year-old Monkey the youngest thru-hiker on record. The trail, which runs through California, Oregon, and Washington—from the Mexico border into Manning Park, British Columbia, is a true test for anyone of any age.

Backpackers typically encounter such challenges as rattlesnakes, scorpions, clouds of mosquitoes, and black bears; snow and ice, hail, lightning, and forest fires; limited water in the deserts and dangerous stream crossings in the mountains. They have to climb over, under, or go around dozens if not hundreds of trees that have fallen on the trail. Temperatures can dip into the 30s and climb to over 100. Isn’t it amazing that to learn that Sierra was only eight years old when she and her mom began the trek in April!

“Monkey” was in the 3rd grade when the hike began. Her mom, Heather, is a 2nd grade teacher in Lone Pine, California, which made it possible for Monkey to keep up with her school work while on the trail. Lessons on the trail included studies in botany, geology, and astronomy. She carried a Kindle and kept up on math and language lessons and is now a 4th grader.

Heather and Sierra kept a blog:, which has daily notes and photos of their adventures. They are proud of the fact that the accomplished their goal—hiking the entire PCT without any shortcuts or flipflops (passing by a section and returning later to dot it—usually because of snow or forest fire). They hiked between 10 and 24 miles every day.

#2. Turn one amazing trail snack into a lifesaving fire starter

This idea from is not only cute, but practical—maybe even lifesaving. You can learn how to make a cheese wax candle that will burn for hours. Entitled “Turn one amazing trail snack into a lifesaving fire starter.” Online at: The accompanying article about which cheeses work best for backpacking is worth reading also.

#3. ALDHA-East gathering soon in West Virginia

Ralph and I just returned from the ALDHA-West gathering (more later), but the 2012 ALDHA-East Gathering (back east) is coming soon. The 2012 ALDHA gathering will be at Concord Concord University, 1000 Vermillion Street, Athens, West Virginia 24712 on the weekend after Columbus Day, Oct. 12-14. The ALDHA work trip will be on Monday, Oct. 15.

On Saturday, Oct. 13th, “Six Million Steps” is showing on 1:30pm until 2:45pm in EDT in the Admin 237 room.  More:

#4. Who is the oldest woman to have completed the PCT

“It’s not over until it’s over.” Ralph maintains a list on this website of various record holding hiking feats. In so doing, he recently heard from Mary Davison (trail name “pastor mary” with questions about the oldest woman to complete the Pacific Crest Trail.

It turns out that Mary, who completed her section hike of the PCT July 24, 2012, was just short of turning 71. So that means that she is not the oldest woman to complete the trail (but might be the second oldest). Mary thinks that honor might go to Tough Old Broad, who she thinks was farther into her 70s when completing her hike. Mary also writes that she has met several women in their 70s who are still hiking the Appalachian Trail either in whole or in part.  

Mary is now working on the Continental Divide. She has completed 800 miles and hopes to return next year with Old Broad who will then be 75. If you have any records to report, please email me and let us know.  

#5.Hospitalero training coming up

A new opportunity to pay back with American Pilgrims: Be a hospitalero! “If you have been looking for a way to say thank you for all that the Camino has given you, look no further:  American Pilgrims on the Camino is pleased to announce the Autumn 2012 Hospitalero Training Course!

"Join us in Portland, Oregon and learn what it takes to support other pilgrims on the road to Santiago. Training begins Friday, October 19 at 4 p.m. and concludes on Sunday October 21 at 5 p.m. The weekend training includes all instruction, meals and lodging. Participants are required to stay on site to simulate Camino living and to attend the entire training. Please plan your travel to accommodate the training timing.

"Instruction addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of pilgrims, as well as the daily routine of being a volunteer innkeeper, including cooking, house cleaning, and self-care.

“Anyone who has walked at least 100 km (or biked 200 km) of the Camino, and is a member of American Pilgrims on the Camino, is eligible to attend. Registration information and both mail-in forms as well as online registration at:

“If you have any questions, please contact hospitalerotraining “at sign”"

#6. Report of ALDHA-West 2012

Ralph and I have just returned from the 17th annual American Long Distance Hikers Association, WEST, and what a fine event it was. We were at Camp Arrah Wanna, Welches, Oregon—about 40 miles east of Portland—and near beautiful Mount Hood.

One of the highlights of the ALDHA-West is the recognition of those who have earned the “Triple Crown Award.” The Triple Crown is awarded to those individuals who have hiked the entire: Pacific Crest Trail (2,650), Continental Divide Trail (approx. 2,800), and the Appalachian Trail (2,160)--for a total of approx. 7,610 miles. This year there were 20 who earned this recognition, and 10 of the recipients were at Camp Arrah Wanna! I find being in the company of such accomplished hikers somewhat intimidating, but in reality they are all friendly and, no pun intended, down to earth.

Some of the other events included a panel with representatives from three small companies which were started in an attempt to make lightweight backpacking/camping gear obtainable to those who don’t want to make their own tents and backpacks. We had Ron Moak of Six Moon Designs, Grant Sible from Gossamer Gear, and Henry Shires of Tarptent fame. I was interested in the comment that one of the reasons that REI does not carry very much in the way of lightweight gear is because such gear is generally much lighter, but also of more delicate materials that would impact REI’s extremely liberal return/refund policies. However, from personal experience, I know that the three companies mentioned above, have also often made repairs or given replacements when their gear has failed.  

One of the other events at the ALDHA west gathering “Stories from the Trail”  organized by Lawton "Disco" Grinter reading from his book,“ I Hike: Mostly True Stories from 10,000 Miles of Hiking As you may well imagine, hiking thousands of miles of trail provides plenty of humorous stories. After Disco read a couple of stories, other hikers joined in with their adventures.  I also appreciated hiker “Condor” telling how he turned back from a long hike instead of continuing out of misguided sense that one has to continue on when that decision might have led to his demise. Ralph and I enjoyed the opportunity of giving a talk and slide show on Patagonia and our presentation was met with interest.

The efficient board of directors has already set the date for the 2013 gathering, which they hope will take place in the Tahoe/Sacramento CA area. Mark your calendar for Friday, September 27, 2013!

#7.  West Nile Disease

For some reason Ralph became concerned when I came home from a hike in Brentwood, CA, which is not far from our home, with a mosquito bite. Brentwood, like many other cities, has been spraying to eliminate the mosquito population. He decided to look up the symptoms for this growing threat:

Here’s what he found about West Nile:

About 80 out of 100 people who have West Nile show no symptoms.

When symptoms do appear, they begin 3 to 14 days after the mosquito bite. In mild cases of West Nile, symptoms usually last for 3 to 6 days. Symptoms may include: include: fever, headaches, body aches, or pain in your eyes. A rash, usually on the chest, back, and arms. Feeling very tired. Not feeling hungry. Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up. Less often: Swollen glands (lymph nodes). 

#8. Switchback’s story of the month

Switchback has a good story to share, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished on the Trail.” 

"Some rough and tough nobo [northbound on the Pacific Crest Trail] PCT thru-hikers were banging along the trail past Rae Lakes.  A few miles later they come to the Wood Creek Bridge. The water is high and rushing dangerously under the bridge. 

“A group of people are standing at the end of the bridge with a Ranger talking to a girl standing in the middle ready to jump into the raging water and oblivion. Finally, Grizzly, the meanest and toughest of the thru-hikers calmly walks past the crowd and Ranger. He approaches the girl and says, ‘What are you doing?’  She replies, ‘I am going to commit suicide.’

“Thinking quickly as thru-hikers do, he didn't want to miss a be-a-legend opportunity. ‘Well, before you jump, why don't you give me a kiss?’

“So, with no hesitation at all, she leaned back over the railing and did just that ... and it was a long, deep, lingering kiss followed immediately by another one.

“After they finished the second kiss, everyone is cheering and applauding Grizzly. She just might change her mind about jumping.

“Grizzly says, ‘Wow! That was the best kiss I have ever had Honey! That's a real talent you're wasting Sugar Shorts. You could be famous if you hiked with me. Why are you committing suicide?’

‘My parents don't like me dressing up like a girl.’

It's still unclear whether she jumped or was pushed.”

#8.5 Pilgrim Statistics Sept 2012

Pilgrims from the United States requesting Compostelas in Santiago for the period 1 January 2012 – 30 September 2012, comparing to former years, the same period. (posted on FB by Paul Baumann). We suspect this might have something to do with the popular movie that Emilio Estevezdirected, and in which Martin Sheen starred, “The Way.” 2009 -> 2,145; 2010 -> 2,693; 2011 -> 3,111; 2012 -> 5,546.  Growth 2011-2012 = 78%

#9. Regional hike: American Pilgrims on the Camino’s Fall creek hike

Felton, CA (near Santa Cruz). Hike with American Pilgrims on the Camino, Northern California group. From the American Pilgrims site: "Fall Creek Hike. Saturday, November 17, 2012, 9:45 a.m. (Please note date change). Mark your calendar and plan to join your fellow Northern California pilgrims for a hike in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. Alan Lemke and Susanna Rather will lead a moderate three-hour hike through the isolated Fall Creek area of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park located northwest of Felton. Details to follow."

If you Facebook, you can join the groups: American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) AND the Peregrinos -Northern California.

Dolmen, France

Photo of ancient dolmen or portal tomb seen along the Arles, FR route (2008).

Happy trails,

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #167, September 1, 2012 

1.      Forget Vaseline, try Glide and similar products

2.      Margaret Fuller, 77

3.      Backpacking after 50

4.      Scott Williamson attempting to once again break Pacific Crest Trail record

5.      Paying it forward (Camino hospitaleros)

6.      Grizzly kills hiker in Denali (Alaska)

7.      Wolf staying unusually close to No. CA fire.

8.      Lydia B. Smith in Portland with Camino documentary “rough-cut”

9.      Regional: Mark calendar for long walk with BPWA

10.   Regional: No. CA “Welcome home party for pilgrims”

11.   Stats--Americans on the Camino

12.   Bay Area fans: Continuing coverage of Bay Area hikes and trails

13.   California State Park Association news

#1. Forget Vaseline, try Glide and similar products

Foot care from an expert: “Lubricants – One Bad and Lots of Good” by John Vonhof (Aug 4, 2012) Vonhof comments on a Backpacker magazine article about preventing, “Blistered feet during a high-mileage trek.” “The tip was to, ‘… protect against hot spots by applying a skin lubricant like Vaseline to high-friction areas…’” And Vonhof states, “I’m sorry, but I think Vaseline is a bad choice.”

Vonhof explains that in the 1982, there was not much else available to marathoners—so he and many others used it. Many still do in spite of the fact that as he says, “its stickiness helped it collect dust and grit, sand and dirt….”

Our choices have increased and Vonhof, who treats marathoners’ feet at races throughout the U.S., says that Vaseline is a bad choice for a lubricant, and these are good choices:  “Sportslick–Skin Lubricant (tube, solid stick, or pocket stick); Body Glide–the Original Anti-Chafe Balm, FootGlide Foot Formula,             Ant-Chafe with SPF 25 Balm, BodyGlide Anti-Chafe for Her, Liquefied Powder, and WarmFX Anti-Pain Balm;  BlisterShield, Powder, Roll-On, Towelettes; RunGuard–Powder, Roll-On, Towelettes,  Anti-Chafe Stick, Anti-Chafe Stick, Sensitive Formula; Hydropel Sports Ointment; Bag Balm.” John Vonhof’s Fixing your Feet.

It’s not just ultra-runners who can benefit from these products, hikers can also. I haven’t tried the other products, but I have used Glide and recommend that women who find themselves with prickly heat type rashes in the bra area or on their thighs try it.

#2. Margaret Fuller, 77

Margaret Fuller, 77, who was recently featured in Backpacker Magazine (9/12., pg. 96) certainly gives those of us who are a wee bit younger hope for a lengthy hiking lifestyle. When Fuller and her husband started backpacking with their 18-month-old son in 1957, she used a wood plank attached to her pack to carry the toddler. As their family grew to seven, they hiked extensively in the Sawtooth Mtns. of Idaho.

In time, Fuller decided to write a book about the hikes they had done and Trails of the Sawtooth and White Cloud Wilderness was launched. It is now in its fifth edition and was updated in 2011. Other books following including one to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

Fuller has shortened her miles and reduced her pace, but she still hikes, backpacks, and llama-packs both for the pleasure of it and to keep her guidebooks up-to-date.  Inspiring, no?

#3. Backpacking after 50

Jorgen Johansson spells it out and offers help: “I'm over 50 and my body can no longer do some of the things it could when I was 25. Surprisingly enough this does not hold true for my favourite pastime, backpacking. When it comes to backpacking, even long distances over rough country, I feel just like I have always felt. And this is not because I have super-human abilities. It is because I have adapted my backpacking to changed circumstances.”

“One example: I was not particularly fit when I was backpacking at 25, just young and pig-headed, which goes a long way. Today I am comparatively much better trained, which compensates a lot for stiffer joints and less springy muscles. So training certainly peels some years away.

“Another thing that helps me walking towards the far horizon is using much lighter gear than I did when I was 25. I have taken some 12-13 kilos off the weight I was carrying then, when on longer overnight hikes. This also helps me to feel younger.

I have summed up all the tricks I have learned and used to go lighter in many ways and thus enhance my experience in the outdoor. This knowledge I have put down in my new book Smarter Backpacking after 50, which is now available at Amazon's Kindle Store. PS. And you'll find my previous book "Smarter Backpacking" as both hardcopy and Kindle here and more info and

[Susan's disclaimer: I have not read this book, but the reviews are very good.]

#4. Scott Williamson attempting to once again break Pacific Crest Trail record

  Reinhold Metzger recently posted on the PCT forum that “the cat is now out of the bag.” Scott Williamson is once again doing a thru hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. He is attempting to break his current record (set last year) of doing the trail, unsupported [picking up his own supplies] of 64 days, 11hrs., 19 min. This will be his 14th hike of the 2,650-mile trail—including two “yo-yo” trips. I can’t even imagine averaging 41 miles a day on the PCT, or any other trail, but I find it inspiring that anyone would set such a goal and have the ability and perseverance to do it.

Camino Mozarabe statue of boy at fountain(Photo from Camino Mozarabe hike-2010) 

#5. Paying it forward (Camino hospitaleros)

Becoming a host on the Camino de Santiago."If you have been looking for a way to say thank you for all that the Camino has given you, look no further:  American Pilgrims on the Camino is pleased to announce the autumn 2012 Hospitalero Training Course!  Join us in Portland, Oregon and learn what it takes to support other pilgrims on the road to Santiago. Training begins Friday, October 19 at 4 p.m. and concludes on Sunday October 21 at 5 p.m. The weekend training includes all instruction, meals and lodging. Participants are required to stay on site to simulate Camino living and to attend the entire training. Please plan your travel to accommodate the training timing. Instruction addresses the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of pilgrims, as well as the daily routine of being a volunteer innkeeper, including cooking, house cleaning, and self-care.

"Anyone who has walked at least 100 km (or biked 200 km) of the Camino, and is a member of American Pilgrims on the Camino, is eligible to attend.  Registration information and both mail in forms as well as online registration is available on our website  If you have any questions, please hospitalerotraining "at sign"

#6. Grizzly kills hiker in Denali (Alaska)

The recent death of a backpacker, Richard White of San Diego, after being mauled by a grizzly in Alaska’s Denali National Park was the park’s first known fatality. It’s sad all the way around—both the hiker and the bear are no more. A backpacker was mauled to death by a grizzly in Denali NP. Details here

The rules that are now in place including the one stating that hikers should stay a quarter-mile away from grizzlies and back away if they find themselves any closer were not in effect when I spent some time in Denali in 2006. My story was recently in Section Hiker, click here to read.    

#7, Wolf staying unusually close to No. CA fire

California's lone wolf is staying unusually close to the Plumas County “Chips fire.” Speculation is that the wolf, known as OR7 is staying close to the fire, rather than fleeing, so that he can pick off other animals fleeing the fire. (“OR7 is so named because he was the seventh wolf radio-collared in Oregon, crossed the California state line in December, causing an international sensation, and has now zigzagged through Siskiyou, Lassen, Shasta, Modoc, Butte and Plumas counties.” Read more here.   

#8. Lydia B. Smith in Portland with Camino documentary “rough-cut”

Portlanders’ opportunity to see the “rough cut screening” of Lydia’s B. Smith’s Camino documentary is on Wed Sept 19th, 7pm at Whitsell Auditorium at the Portland Art Museum.

“Portland filmmaker Lydia B. Smith has been making television documentaries for more than 25 years. Tonight, Smith will present a work-in-progress screening of her latest project, a film about the Camino de Santiago—a sacred path in Spain that stretches westward to the city of Santiago de Compostela. Millions of people from all over the world have traveled this trail for more than 1,000 years. In 2010 alone, more than 270,000 people attempted the arduous trek, each one a seeker, spiritual or otherwise, of something. The Camino Documentary (working title) follows pilgrims from all walks of life and motivations as they attempt to cross an entire country on foot with only a backpack, a pair of boots, and an open mind. (75 mins.)”

Whitsell Auditorium 1219 SW Park Avenue Portland, OR 97205. Admission: $9 General, $8 PAM Members, Students, Seniors, $6 Friends of the Film Center. Tickets are now available online or donativo at the door.

#9. Regional: Mark calendar for long walk with BPWA

Bay Area Regional: Mark your calendars for the October 6 Long Walk with Berkeley Path Wanderers. It will begin at the Orinda BART station and cross the hills to the Rockridge BART station. Visit to get more info.

#10. Stats--Americans on the Camino

Camino count from Jose Luis Sanches: 1,275 pilgrims from USA where received at the Accueil St Jacques in Saint Jean Pied de Port in 2011. In the first 6 months of 2012 already 1,424 USA pilgrims received.

#11. Regional: No. CA “Welcome home party for pilgrims”

Northern CA Regional: American Pilgrims, No. CA chapter: "A Welcome Home Party! Quite a few people from Northern California have or are currently walking on the Camino of Santiago during 2012. Those of you who read all your e-mail will remember that the Chapter held a send off for many of those pilgrims that included a pilgrim's blessing, music and of course a party. Parties, it's a pilgrim thing. We have decided to hold a Welcome Home party to complete the circle in 2012. The Chapter will gather October 27th at 11:30 AM, at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Pleasant Hill for a potluck lunch celebrating our returning pilgrims. All are welcome." RSVPs will be appreciated. norcalchapter "at sign" 

#12. Bay Area fans: Continuing coverage of Bay Area hikes and trails

Please follow me on to get my (usually) weekly columns on Bay Area hiking and trails, click here.  

#13. The California State Park Association

Send word “Over the last few weeks, thousands of Californians have sent messages to their legislators urging them to allocate the recently-identified and unspent state park funds back into the state park system. As a result of the strong outpouring of support, lawmakers recently introduced and have just passed Assembly Bill (AB) 1478 which will appropriate the $20.6 million of the recently identified State Park and Recreation Fund funding to keep parks open. AB 1478 also includes several other important provisions:

“Prohibits the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) from closing or proposing the closure of a state park in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years. Strengthens the State Park and Recreation Commission to improve their ability and capacity to provide oversight and a more meaningful connection between the public, park stakeholders, and the parks department. Provides a one-time appropriation to support costs associated with the ongoing internal and external investigations of the Department of Parks and Recreation are fully funded.

This legislation is now in the hands of Governor Brown for a final decision. Your help is needed to make sure that the Governor hears from Californians on AB 1478. Please use our online system to send a message to Governor Brown urging him to sign the legislation on his desk- AB 1478.” 

Happy trails,

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn


Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #166, August 2, 2012

“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins. Not through strength, but by perseverance.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr. author of Life's Little Instruction Book.

  1.      Credit card tip for foreign travelers

  2.       Oprah magazine and aging

  3.       Technical clothing care

  4.       California State Park's Finance Fiasco

  5.       Lessons learned from 2007 Mountain lion attack

  6.       John Muir Trail (JMT) shuttle

  7.       Regional: S.F. Bay Area Camino presentations

  8.       Regional: Seattle, WA. American Pilgrims Puget Sound Chapter Second Sunday Strolls

  9.       Regional: Felton, CA. American Pilgrims Northern CA chapter walk

  10. .   Regional: Portland, OR. Camino event by Heather Knight

  11. .   Regional: Santa Cruz, CA Melissa West’s art show

  12. .   Yogi says, what happens on the trail stays on the trail.

  13. .   Catra Corbett’s goes for JMT record   

#1. Credit Card tip

Ralph Alcorn says, “Credit card heads up. We just got back from France. Used our credit card for hotels and food ok, but subway machines, train ticket machines etc. rejected card because it didn't have the chip used in Europe. We complained to Citicards when we got back, and they said they now have a card with the European chip, available on request.”

#2. Oprah mag and aging

In The Latest Science on Aging” by Ava Feuer (Oprah magazine, May 2012) we are told that “stroll six miles a week and you could stop memory decline in its tracks.” These were findings of a study partly funded by the National Institute of Aging. Participants of the average age 78, who walked at least 6 miles per week, had a 50% lower risk of developing memory problems. We can add this to our growing list of the benefits of walking/hiking/backpacking at any age.

#3. Technical Clothing Care

If you have a Goretex jacket or fleece pullover or any number of clothing items that need specialized care when washing, etc., read this article to find out the proper care.  Very good article on care of technical fabrics (Goretex, fleece, etc.) OR click here

#4. California State Parks Fiasco

On July 21, 2012, Elizabeth Goldstein, the President of the non-profit organizationCalifornia State Parks Foundation, send this via email. “We apologize if this is a duplicate email. Many people reported errors with our previous message, so here is what we meant to say about recent events involving the Department of Parks and Recreation..."

"Yesterday's revelation that the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) had two hidden funds totaling over $50 million is both disturbing and appalling. We are frustrated to learn about these hidden funds during the present state park crisis. We are angry on behalf of our members, our donors, our partners, but most importantly on behalf of the people of California. Californians have a right to expect honesty from the government systems that serve us and, in this case, the parks department has let us all down. We are calling on the next director to work diligently to not only correct this inexcusable situation but also to achieve a culture of openness and transparency that will prevent this from happening in the future.

"Despite this news, the crisis that our state parks face is still very real. Budget cuts to state parks over the years have decimated the system. In just the past four years, DPR's General Fund allocation has been reduced by 33 percent. On top of that, the system is suffering under a growing $1.3 billion deferred maintenance problem.”

"What does all of this mean for CSPF? As you know, CSPF is an independent nonprofit that works with, but not for, DPR.” “We pride ourselves on operating in a highly visible, transparent and independent way, which is evidenced by our four-star rating on Charity Navigator.”

 #5. 2007 Mountain Lion Attack

In January 2007, Jim Hamm, 75, survived a mountain lion attack in Northern California’s Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. His wife, Nell, fought the animal off with an 8-foot log. The couple was on a walk in the park when Jim heard a noise behind him and turned to see a mountain lion jumping at him. Jim jumped; the lion missed him, but turned to strike again.

Jim stuck out his arm, hoping the lion would go for it and that he could then use his other arm to fight it. Instead the lion grabbed his arm dragged him to the ground. Then the lion grabbed his head. Nell screamed for Jim to fight and picked up a tree limb and began hitting the lion on its body and then its head.

The lion turned and focused on Nell. She raised the branch over her head and started screaming; the lion got up, gave one last look at them, and walked away.  

The whole episode lasted only six minutes, but it seemed an eternity to the couple. They gathered themselves together and left the area to find help. The lion, a female, was later found and destroyed (tests confirmed that she had Jim’s blood on her claws).  

Article byPeter Fimrite (6/23/12) 

Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare. According to Backpacker Magazine (09/12), mountain lions are opportunistic hungers—they attack vulnerable prey. There have been 46 recorded human fatalities. Keep kids close, hike with others in areas where pumas roam, and don’t run if you see one. Stand tall, open your jacket or hold your hiking poles over your head to look bigger, pick up children (without stooping over), talk loudly to the lion and back away slowly. Fight if you have to—using whatever tools are at hand—rocks, sticks, even bare hands have been used successfully to fight off lions.

#6. John Muir Trail shuttle service: Vermilion Valley Resort how has a shuttle servicebetween VVR and Fresno (or Mono Hot Springs & Fresno, Florence Lake & Fresno).

#7.  S.F. Bay Area Camino presentations.

Ralph and Susan Alcorn are in the midst of giving Camino presentations at area venues: Trekking across Spain on the Camino Francés. Tonight’s (8/2/12) program, at REI Dublin, is full (with a waiting list) and other recent shows have been full, so we recommend you make a reservation at the REI venues.

A.    Armchair Travelers, a monthly program, will take place at the Livermore Civic Center Library, 1188 South Livermore Avenue, Livermore, CA. 925-373-5500 on Thursday, August 9, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

B.     REI Fremont, 43962 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94538. (510) 651-0305. Tuesday, August 14, 2012. 7-8:30 pm. Reservations recommended (14 spots remain) Go to link

Independent travelers Susan and Ralph Alcorn have walked more than 1,800 miles in Spain, France, and Portugal on ancient routes of the Camino Francés (St. James Way). This is the 500-mile pilgrimage route from the village of Jean Pied du Port in France to Santiago de Compostela, the reputed burial site of the Apostle Saint James, in northern Spain. Come walk with the Alcorns across the mountain passes of the Pyrenees, through the Basque lands of Spain, across the fertile red soils of the Rioja region, and finally to the green Galician Hills.

#8. Regional: Seattle, WA.  American Pilgrims Puget Sound Chapter Second Sunday Strolls

Rain or shine, no RSVP needed! If you are interested in walking with fellow pilgrims, consider joining the Puget Sound Pilgrims for Second Sunday Strolls—a walk in the park. This is designed as either a 3 mile or a 6 mile walk from the Ballard Locks to Discovery Park, around the park and back. If you want to walk six miles, we'll meet at 1:00 pm at the entrance to the Ballard (aka Chittenden) Locks, and depart at 1:15 pm for a stroll over to Discovery Park. If you want to walk only three miles, then join us at Discovery Park. We'll arrive at the main visitor center and meet by the drinking fountain at around 2:00 pm. We'll then leave from the visitor center at 2:15 pm on a 3 mile loop.

Second Sunday Stroll dates remaining in 2012 are: August 12, September 9, October 14, November 11 and December 9. More info: emails to:

#9.  Regional: Felton, CA. American Pilgrims Northern California Chapter announces a Fall Creek Hike

Saturday, October 20, 2012, 9:45 a.m. This will be a hike in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. Alan Lemke and Susanna Rather will lead a moderate three-hour hike through the isolated Fall Creek area of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park located northwest of Felton. Contact Robert Holm at email : bob.callholm "put at sign here" 

#10. Regional: Portland, Oregon. Camino Presentation

Thursday, August 16, 2012, 7:00 p.m. by Heather Knight at Next Adventure (426 Southeast Grand Avenue, Portland, OR). She will be discussing the history of the Camino, along with more practical things like what to pack, how to get there and daily life on the Camino. More information can be found at

#11. Regional: Santa Cruz, CA. Melissa West invites you to a reception

Friday, August 3, 6 - 8:30pm. celebrating her new exhibition of prints based on her Camino pilgrimage on the Via de la Plata. The reception is at the Michaelangelo Gallery and Art Studios, 1111-a River Street, Santa Cruz, California 95060 Phone 1 (831) 426-5500 August 3 – 26.

The author writes, “This group of prints celebrates the 499 kilometers I walked on the Via de la Plata in Spain in May of 2011, from Seville to Salamanca.” The exhibition “499k: A Long Road in the Sun” runs August 3 – 26. Melissa adds, “I'm very excited about these prints, because while they include two of my enduring passions - Spain and linoleum block prints - they take off in all sorts of new directions. I had a lot of fun creating these. I hope you can come to the reception this Friday.”

#12. Yogi (Jackie McDonnell) suggests “What happens on the trail stays on the trail.”

The concern, which is currently being discussed on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) forum (, is that people should not broadcast information about the whereabouts of other hikers who are on the trail. The central question being raised is whether notes and signatures that hikers put in trail registers should be considered private or public.

Yogi, who is well known in the hiking community not only because she is a Triple-Crown hiker (PCT, AT, CDT), but also because of her trail guidebook on the PCT states, “When I kept an online journal, I purposely delayed my entries by about two weeks.  I didn't want readers to know exactly where I was.  Many women delay their journals like this.” That’s good advice whenever you hike. And don’t advertise on social media—in effect to the entire world—when you will be away from home. 

#13. Catra Corbett goes for another JMT record

If Catra Corbett's attempt to smash speed records goes according to her schedule, her attempt to set a women’s record for completing the John Muir Trail, unsupported, will be set this weekend. She took off on Sunday, July 30th, and she hopes to complete it in less than six-and-a-half days. Ultra-runner, 47-year-old, Catra Corbett of Fremont, Calif., is a former addict who is using the JMT and other runs this month to raise money for Heroes Project, a charity that connects wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with extreme mountain climbing trips around the world. .

In her 20s, Corbett, abused drugs and alcohol, and was arrested. A night in jail scared her straight and she found that running and the outdoors worked for her. On this current quest, Corbett will be going unsupported, which means she’ll be carrying all her supplies and won't have any assistance.  

Happy trails,

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn


Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips. July 1, 2012

1. New challenge for you: Sweden’s Fjällräven Classic
2. No. CA Pilgrims: Saint James Day Celebration: Saturday July 21, 2012
3. Shin splints
4. Reminder – PCTA Trail Fest
5. Postholer’s dad hits the Pacific Crest Trail
6. Clinic at Berkeley REI on how to climb Yosemite's Half Dome
7. Alcorns’ Camino presentations this summer
8. CA: Weekend Sherpa
9. Bay Area Regional: Title Nine Run
10. Military given free entrance to many U.S. museums and parks

Note: This is a new format of this Google group. I hope the links work, but I am leaving them in the text, too, in case they don't and you need to cut and paste. Please let me know if you have any difficulties with this newsletter.

#1. New challenge for you: Sweden’s Fjällräven Classic

I’ve been corresponding with Jorgen Johansson, who is the author of “Smarter Backpacking,” which is about lighter and smarter backpacking. He has piqued my interest with his description of a trail in the Lapland region of Sweden. The Fjällräven Classic is an annual event that follows part of the Kungsleden (aka King's Trail or Royal Trail). The King’s Trail is 430 kilometers; the Fjälläven Classic is 110 kilometers.

Here are some more details. “The Fjallraven Classic is a sort of competition, where people spend 3-5 days hiking along a beautiful tundra trail. Most people have no ambition to compete, however, the event has proven to be one of the most successful ways of getting people to backpack in the mountains for the first time.”

“Elevation is no problem. The trail for Fjällräven Classic follows valleys; you only have one pass of significance. For someone used to walking in the Pacific Northwest this will only be considered a bump. The trail is very well suited for beginners that way, and leads through some very beautiful scenery. The Swedish mountains in general are rainy and chilly in summer. You always have to expect rain and the odd frost night. However Abisko (the endpoint) is in rain shadow and one of the driest parts of Sweden.

"Normal" hiking weather is 8-20 degrees Celsius and water is plentiful, you do not have to carry almost any. Nor do you have to treat the water, it is pure.

"The biggest difference between this trail and those in the US and Canadian hikes ones is that you are above timberline most of the time. “You would probably have to go to the Brooks Range to experience > something similar in America. However, compared to northern Alaska it is reasonably populated with a lot of huts open to tourists, well maintained trails etc.

I usually hike in a merino shirt and if it is a bit chilly add a wind shirt on top. As long as you move this will keep you warm. For breaks a light down or Primaloft jacket will be enough.

Jorgen's (note: Fjällräven is a major producer of outdoor gear, big in Europé and also with a presence in the U.S.)"

This link is Jorgen’s son’s hike. 

A link to a book, in English, about the trail, is here

#2. Northern California Pilgrims St. James Day

If you live in No. Cal and are interested in the hikes and other gatherings the group Northern California chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino has, you can keep up with the events by joining the Facebook group, “Peregrinos – Northern California” or letting Bob Holm, co-coordinator, put you on his e-mailing list

Here’s the next event: Saint James Day Celebration: Saturday July 21, 2012

“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 PicaroTapas Restaurant (  The quality and reasonable price of the authentic Spanish food, and the warm atmosphere of this delightful restaurant, will pleasantly surprise you.

“For history buffs, come early and spend some time exploring Mission Dolores.  Founded on June 29, 1776, it is the oldest intact building in the City of San Francisco (  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 parking is at a premium, so if you’re driving, allow time to find a parking place.

“Experienced and future pilgrims can register for this event or request further information; please RSVP by July 15th.” Bob & Rennie Chapter Co-Coordinators of American Pilgrims on the Camino

#3.  Shin Splints

I recently had a problem with my leg and wondered if I had shin splints. It turned out not to be the case (had a skin infection which has since cleared up), but in the process of trying to resolve my situation, I got advice from several people. Shin splints (pain along the shin) is a condition I’ve heard about a lot from Appalachian Trail hikers because of the straight up and down course the trail often takes. It’s also a problem for many runners.

Medically known as “medial tibial stress syndrome” it results, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website, from too much force being placed on [the] shinbone and connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone.” It’s often an overuse injury—too much too soon—but also can result from sudden turns and stops such as those that basketball and tennis players make.

When I called Kaiser for advice, it was suggested I try the RICE treatment, which is Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

Here is another idea from Spring (trail name) who has experienced shin splints:

“Back in the years before fire was invented I was a runner and had trouble with shin splints. I then bumped into a wonderful coach (Jim Fulton) who recommended the following exercises, which have always worked to help relieve the pain. Try them; they are free.

“Sitting on the ground, with your legs stretched out in front of you, concentrate on your large toes. Bring them up towards your knees as tightly as possible, and hold that stretch for about 15 seconds. Then try to 'push' them away from your knees for a similar time. Then do the same exercises, except this time concentrate on your smallest toes. Keep your hands under your knees, or holding the map you need to study. Do these several times, probably before starting hiking and anytime you rest. Easier to do with your shoes off. The point is to feel the stretch in your shins.”

#4. Reminder: The Pacific Crest Trail Fest

will be at Big Bear, CA July 27-29. Go to link for more info. Some highlights: Friday evening: The Pacific Crest Trailside Reader, authors reading their writings from the book. Saturday: Trail class sessions, gear and information fair. Sat. evening: Keynote Speaker Justin "Trauma" Lichter; National Geographic: Pacific Crest Trail movie, followed by Trail Fest’s tradition of Trail Stories. Sunday: PCT Trail Maintenance Project and family activities at the Big Bear Discovery Center. 

#5. Postholer's dad hits PCT

PCT hiker, Postholer, wrote, “My father, John Casterline, began his hike to complete the Pacific Crest Trail this week. For details of or to follow him on his adventure click  To contribute to the charity he has set up with theAmericanLung Association, go to

#6. REI Clinic on Climbing Half Dome

Half Dome in a Day: Tips for Successful Hike. I suggest you go to this program if you want to have a successful Half Dome hike. On July 11, 2012, 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., Rick Deutsch, author of “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome,” is giving a presentation at REI Berkeley, 1338 San Pablo Ave (near Gilman), Berkeley, CA 94702.  (510) 527-4140. Program is free, but registration is recommended. Go to  

“…Half Dome is Yosemite National Park's signature landmark. With proper preparation and motivation, nearly anyone can complete the 16-mile hike to its summit and back, in one day. Join Rick Deutsch, for slides and information on this spectacular day hike. Find out about acquiring permits, which are now required for any Half Dome hike, every day of the week. New for 2012, permits will be made available by pre-season and daily lottery only. Don't miss the chance to learn how to prepare for this unique adventure from a seasoned hiker, who has made it to Half Dome's 8,842-foot summit 31 times!”  From REI website. Rick’s website is

#7. Alcorn's REI Camino de Santiago presentation

Berkeley REI — Hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. July 26, 2012. Berkeley REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave (near Gilman), Berkeley, CA 94702.  (510) 527-4140. Program is free, but registration is recommended. Go to to register.  Time: 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. (PDT). Presenter: Susan Alcorn.

Description: Since 2001, independent travelers Susan and Ralph Alcorn have walked more than 1,800 miles through France, Portugal, and Spain, following ancient pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela, the reputed burial place of the disciple Saint James. Susan will give a digital presentation of their five-week trek along Spain's most traveled route, the 500-mile Camino from Roncesvalles to Santiago, and will share a few highlights of their days on pilgrimage paths in France. Come walk with Susan through quaint medieval towns in the high mountains of the Pyrenees, across the fertile red soils of the Rioja region, to the lush green Galician Hills. Don't miss Susan's pointers for planning your own Camino adventure, including gear, expenses, lodging, and life on this centuries-old trail! Following the program, Susan will sign copies of her book "Camino Chronicle: Walking to 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.

Ralph and I will also be giving this program at several other Bay Area REI stores. All programs will run from 7 pm–8:30 pm:

  • Wednesday, July 18 at REI San Carlos
  • Tuesday, July 24 at REI Saratoga
  • Thursday, July 26 at REI Berkeley
  • Thursday, August 2 at REI Dublin
  • Tuesday, August 14 at REI Fremont

#8. Weekend Sherpa

I’ve started following a new website called  WeekendSherpa (, which is a free weekly email newsletter giving you the scoop on a variety of outdoor pursuits exclusive to California. There are two “editions” – northern CA or southern – and it comes out every Thursday. Take a look at

#9. Bay Area Title Nine Run

The BayArea Title 9K Run 2012 will be at Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area. Sunday, September 16, 2012 @ 9:00 AM. Registration Closing Date. Thursday, September 13, 2012 @ 12:00 PM PST

Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area is at 2100 Isherwood Way Fremont, CA. Women Ages 18-69, $45.00. Women 70 and over $0.00; Girls under 18, $20.00; Mother with Baby Jogger, $45.00.

Why am I posting this? Because in a weak moment, I registered for it! I figured I can participate free; I can walk rather than run if I want to, and I will get some exercise, have fun, and get some free goodies. I hope some of my readers will join to.    

Here’s more info: “Whether you love to run, jog, walk, stroll or skip, we want you to join us for our Third Annual Bay Area Title 9K. So grab your gal pals and join us for a morning of running and funning. This is a fairly flat 9K in the Quarry Lakes Park on almost all dirt trails, with a fun Expo to celebrate your accomplishment at the end.”

“Women of all ages are invited to come run with us! Our main division is the 18-69 year old group. If you've passed beyond that category, our 70 and over ladies run for free! Young gals under 18 get their own division, too. And we didn't forget you Moms who need to push your very young one in the baby jogger; you get your very own special category.”

There are 1500 spaces. You get a custom, woman's fit t-shirt; you will also get a reusable tote bag filled with samples from race partners. It’s suggested that you pick up the T-shirt, goodie bag, and bib at one of the Bay Area Title Nine stores the week before the event. Although the 9 K event is for women only, husbands, partners, friends, and kids are invited to cheer participants on and to join in the post-race festivities. There will be music, kid activities and some treats at the post-race Expo.

#10. Military free pass to federal museums and parks

I wrotemore extensively about this recently on, but it bears repeating: active members of the military have been granted free access to every national park in the U.S. The annual pass, which is normally $80 provides access to more than 2,000 parks and wildlife refuges. In addition, more than 1,600 museums across the country have offered free admission to active-duty military and their families this summer.

Happy 4th of July!!!

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn


Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #164,  June 2012 issue

1.      50%
2.      Practical Camino websites
3.      Weigh in on “Ultralight backpacking will make you soft.”
5.      Pilgrim walk set in Sacramento
6.      Stephanie Dorado progress on the El Camino de Real
7.      Susan and Ralph giving REI Camino presentations
8.      Alcorn’s talk to Livermore Armchair Travelers.
9.      New albergue on the Camino (St. James Way).
10.     20 Uses of a Bandanna
11. and Susan’s hiking articles

#1.50% by a gun 8% by bear spray

According to Outside Magazine (Mar. 2012, pg. 37), Your odds of being killed or injured by a grizzly while defending yourself with a gun is 50%, with bear repellent, 8%.

#2. Practical Camino websites

New website of the Pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela. You’ll find daily counts of arrivals, articles for planning your hike, a list of services available from the office, etc. (Thanks, Helena, for sending the info!)

A second site, found by Lydia Smith, also looks useful. It has a great deal of Camino information—including accommodations along the path.

#3. Weigh in on ultralight backpacking makes you soft

Giving us food for thought, author Phillip Werner warns against always going ultralight when backpacking.  If you always carry a light load, then you will not be in condition for more challenging hikes.


Couchsurfing: I have recently heard about this website (thought previously it was just a concept) and it looks very intriguing. You can find places to stay, free, at travel destinations worldwide. It’s also a site where you can sign up to host. It’s for travelers wanting a more in depth visit in a particular city or country and for hosts wishing to meet world travelers and promote cultural awareness, etc. Reviews of both hosts and guests are provided. Most hosts that I saw when I very briefly looked at the website were in their twenties, but you can filter your preferences by age, gender, keyword, etc.  www.couchsurf.ORG

#6. A Woman With A Mission:

Stephanie Dorado blazing a trail connecting California Missions. Southern California Pilgrims turned out to greet Stephanie on her Pilgrimage on the Camino Real de California. The Santa Barbara News-Press article, cleaned up, with functional links. A_Woman_With_A_Mission.pdf

#7. Susan and Ralph Alcorn to give presentations at REI.

Hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain : Since 2001, independent travelers Susan and Ralph Alcorn have walked more than 1,800 miles through France, Portugal, and Spain, following ancient pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela, the reputed burial place of the disciple Saint James. Susan will give a digital presentation of their five-week trek along Spain’s most traveled route, the 500-mile Camino from Roncesvalles to Santiago, and will share a few highlights of their days on pilgrimage paths in France. Come walk with Susan through quaint medieval towns in the high mountains of the Pyrenees, across the fertile red soils of the Rioja region, to the lush green Galician Hills. Don’t miss Susan’s pointers for planning your own Camino adventure, including gear, expenses, lodging, and life on this centuries-old trail! Following the program, Susan will sign copies of her book Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago.

If you register for this free presentation at, they will hold a seat for you until the scheduled start time. Seating may be available at the door, even if registration is closed.
7 pm–8:30 pm, Wednesday, July 18 at REI San Carlos
7 pm–8:30 pm, Tuesday, July 24 at REI Saratoga
7 pm–8:30 pm, Thursday, July 26 at REI Berkeley
7 pm–8:30 pm, Thursday, August 2 at REI Dublin
7 pm–8:30 pm, Tuesday, August 14 at REI Fremont

#8.  Livermore Library Armchair Travelers Camino presentation

The Alcorns will also give the Camino presentation for the Livermore Library’s Armchair Travelers on August 9, 2012. The program will start at 1:30 p.m. and run about an hour. Livermore Civic Center Library is located at 1188 South Livermore Ave., Livermore, CA 94550-9315

#9. New albergue on the Camino just before Portomarin

Speaking of accommodations on the Camino, I received this email from Gordon Bell telling of his new albergue. “Where shall I start? We are a small albergue catering for only 10 people per night. We have a bunk room for 8 people on comfortable bunks and mattresses and as required in Galicia we provide a pillow a blanket and disposable bed linen.  We also have a private room with two large beds to sleep two people.  This comes with full bedding and a towel. Prices….in a bunk 10 euros and the room for two costs 30 euros per night and comes with breakfast (Tostados and coffee).  The building itself is an old house (500-1000 years old) that we lovingly restored keeping as much as possible the appearance of a casa rural.  We provide meals 9 euros for a set pilgrim meal (menu del dia) or 4 for a half pilgrim meal. We have a washing machine and charge 2 euros for a load.  Internet is free and if someone wants to connect to the wifi that is OK too.  We have a couple of nice lawns out front and quite some space under roof for stretching out. To find us you walk on the trail from Sarria to Portomarin and we are just two km before Portomarin.  Watch the waymarks that display the distance to Santiago.  About 400 meters up the trail from us is 92 and it is called Vilacha.  When you enter our village after a couple of bends you will look straight into our entrance, a large red door surrounded by three flags, Spanish, Galician and South African.  If you reach the 91.5 stone with a largish yellow post box atop, then you are about 50m too far.  At our front door is a table that has for years sold drinks fruit and buns on an honesty box system.” Best regards, Gordon Bell E-mail: "Gordon Spain" <

#10. 20 uses of a bandana

I recently bought a new bandanna and noticed that the packaging had a list of uses, so I played with their list and came up with these 20 ways you could use a bandanna while on a hike. 1.      Head covering
2.      Scarf
3.      Belt
4.      Headband
5.      Bikini top
6.      First aid bandage
7.      Face mask
8.      Sweatband
9.      Trail marker
10.     Measuring device
11.     Preliminary water filter
12.     Handkerchief
13.     Napkin
14.     Tablecloth/placemat
15.     Ground cloth when sitting
16.     Towel
17.     Diaper
18.     Neck ornament
19.     Dog’s collar/kerchief
20.     Container for snacks
Can you think of some additional ways? If so, send them in!

#11. Susan's articles

Susan Alcorn writes regularly about S.F. Bay Area hiking for The next articles up will be about 1) A “Thru-hike and Ride” on the Bay Area Ridge Trail; 2) Hiking and Rattlesnakes; and 3) A local hike in the Berkeley, CA hills that explores Indian, Mortar, and Grotto (climbing) Rocks. If you don’t want to miss these upcoming articles, either cut and paste the following link to find them as they appear over the next few weeks, or subscribe to have them emailed to you as they are published. Link is: You can also find previously published articles by googling “Susan Alcorn” and “”
Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #163, May 1, 2012

“There are twelve months in all the year,
As I hear many men say,
But the merriest month in all the year
Is the merry month of May.”
---from the ballad “Robin Hood and the Widow’s Three Sons”

1.      Hospitalero News (Camino)
2.      Learn how to build hiking trails with Pacific Crest Trail
3.      Walking the California Mission route
4.      Pacific Crest Trail Trailfest 2012
5.      Halt to horse packing in the Sierra?
6.     Francis Tapon shares Eastern Europe
7.      Alcorn’s Camino de Santiago talks at REI stores
8.      Trail Challenge at Pt. Reyes
9.      Skurka’s Ultimate Hiking Courses
10.     East Bay Regional Park is a real success story
11.     Cal Academy shakes things up again
12.     Mt. Hood Chapter and PCT 2010 hikers event

#1.Hospitalero News

Marlena Lambert, Volunteer Coordinator of the American Pilgrims on the Camino, has just forwarded the new edition of “Hospitalero News” – a semi-annual newsletter for all things related to one of the primary functions of the organization—training volunteers to help other pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Read the April 2012 edition at

The next hospitalero training is scheduled for this fall in Portland, Oregon, October 19 – 21. More info will be coming soon. If you have any questions about becoming a hospitalero, please write:

#2. Learn how to build hiking trails with Pacific Crest Trail

The Tahoe Trail Skills College, July 21-22, 2012, is going to be a happening event for all hikers, equestrians, and volunteers: The Pacific Crest Trail Association in partnership with the Tahoe National Forest and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit invites you to the third annual Tahoe Trail Skills College. This is a free, two-day trail maintenance training event available to all skill levels. Come learn or refine your trail maintenance skills at the Trail Skills College. All are welcome to attend!

The training will be at the Prosser Family Campground outside of Truckee, California. The campground will serve as headquarters and have camping available to attendees throughout the weekend. Classes will take place on local trails that are within a short vehicle commute. Three, two-day tracks are available to choose from. Track 1: Basic Trail Maintenance (Beginners); Track 2: Drainage & Restoration (Intermediate); Track 3: Drainage Waterbars & Checks (Intermediate/ Advanced)

Preregistration is open to PCT volunteers and PCTA members starting Tuesday, May 1. Registration will open to the general public on Tuesday, May 15. To register, please contact Merrit Hoeh at 916-285-1838. More Pacific Crest Trail info at

#3. Walking the California Mission Route

A new group, including Lin Galea, Martha, Ben, and Jean McCoy, set out Sunday, April 29, on a Mission walk through California. Their plan is to walk from San Francisco’s Mission Dolores to Mission San Luis Obispo (de Tolosa). Although a great deal of the original Camino Real – linking the California missions - is no longer walkable because it’s covered over with buildings, crisscrossed by highways, or privately held, their intent is to follow the original route as much as can be reasonably done. Follow their journey on Facebook:

If you are interested in following Stephanie Dodaro’s progress, whose Mission to Mission hike I mentioned last issue, you can find her latest updates at or go to her website at

#4. The Pacific Crest Trail “Trail Fest 2012”

Will be held July 27-29 at Big Bear Lake, California. The events will take place at the Northwoods Resort & Conference Center, 40650 Village Drive, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315. “Come enjoy the camaraderie of old and new trail friends. Sit in on some interesting classes and learn about using a GPS on trail, Horse packing or the Geology of the PCT. Learn what the PCTA has done and is continuing to do to promote and protect our favorite trail!” Check out the events at

#5. No more horse-packing?

In a ruling that sent shock waves throughout packer stations in the Sierra, horse packing is currently on hold in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks because of a San Francisco judge’s ruling in late March. He said that the parks are “violating the federal Wilderness Act.” The issue will again be considered on May 23. Meanwhile, no permits are being released and packers are no doubt fuming and hikers who are looking forward to having reduced loads to carry on their Sierra trips are awaiting word.

#6. Francis Tapon shares eastern Europe

Francis Tapon, who we had the pleasure of meeting at his recent book release party in Los Gatos, CA, is continuing his U.S. tour with several more S.F. Bay appearances as well as visits to Massachusetts and Georgia. Tapon, who is a Triple-Crown hiker, has just returned from three years in Eastern Europe and his book, "The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us" reflects his first-hand knowledge of what's happening there.

#7. Camino de Santiago talks at REI in SF Bay Area

Ralph and Susan Alcorn will be giving a series of slide presentations on the Camino de Santiago at local REI stores in July and August. Although most of the images will be of the pilgrimage route across northern Spain, there will also be some discussion of alternate Camino routes. All events start at 7:00 P.M. Register with the individual stores to secure your place. Wednesday, July 18 in San Carlos Tuesday, July 24 in Saratoga Thursday, July 26 in Berkeley Thursday, August 2 in Dublin Tuesday, August 14 in Fremont

#8. Trail Challenge at Pt. Reyes

The Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA) has announced its Trail Challenge. It’s a new program designed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Point Reyes National Seashore! The Trails Challenge is a self-paced exploration of our amazing park that will inspire you to spend more time outdoors while raising funds to support much-needed trails and wildlife projects. The Challenge is to support the newly established Trails Trust. Over the next five years they plan to raise $2 million to improve the park's trails and protect wildlife habitat.

There are five categories: All Park 150 Mile Challenge; 50 Miles for the 50th; Family Challenge; Five Habitats Challenge; Equestrian Challenge. Registration is FREE, and you will earn a Trails Challenge T-shirt and other premiums with a minimum of $50 in pledges. Info: (415) 663.1200 x 310

#9. Skurka’s Ultimate Hiking Courses

Andrew Skurka is teaching several wilderness courses this summer; this is an opportunity to learn from an expert. Choose between a 3-day/2-night introductory-level course where you can learn about and apply the gear, supplies and skills that make hiking fun, not work. Or, take 7-day/6-night trip into Greater Yellowstone or Yosemite National Park with an intimate group. Designed for intermediate backpackers and ambitious beginners. Master basic skills like campsite selection and foot care, and develop advanced skills like off-trail navigation and snow travel. Courses: May 18-20: Northern California; June 2-4: Western North Carolina; June 9-11: Shenandoah National Park; July: Greater Yellowstone (2-3 trips); Aug 17-19: Rocky Mountain National Park; Aug 24-26: White Mountains, NH; Aug 31-Sept 2: Porcupine Mountains, MI; September: Yosemite (2-3 trips).

#10. East Bay Regional Park current and planned trails map

We are very proud of our East Bay Regional Park District, which is the largest largest urban regional park district in the United States. This link shows current trails in blue, but also shows planned and funded trails:

#11. Cal Academy shakes things up again

Cal Academy, in S.F. Golden Gate Park, is opening a new exhibit. “Prepare to be moved by the Academy's newest exhibit and planetarium show! Earthquake opens to the public on May 26, with members-only previews starting May 24 (see below for details). Visitors will enjoy 1) a walk-in earthquake simulator; live baby ostriches (yes, there's a surprising connection between earthquakes and ostriches!); a 25-foot-diameter model of the Earth— plus, a new Earthquake planetarium show will launch you on a breathtaking tour over and into our restless planet. For a sneak peek, watch the trailer:

#12. Mt Hood and PCT 2010 hikers event

Just received this notice from Sandals and Sheepdog (trail names) from the Mt. Hood (Portland) area. “Greetings, PCT 2010 hikers!! Feeling trail sick?  Want to renew friendships you made on the trail?  Want to give something back to the trail community. With the assistance of the Mount Hood Chapter of the PCTA, we are organizing a week-long ‘class of 2010’ trail maintenance project, to be held September 8th-15th in the vicinity of Trout Lake, Washington. We selected this area due to its proximity to Portland and its airport, which should make it easy for out-of-towners to participate without using excess vacation time getting to and from the trail.  We expect to gather at the trailhead at 2:30 PM on September 8th, and to be off trail by late afternoon on September 15th. “We’re looking for a dozen volunteers, which would make us a complete trail crew.  Anyone who hiked any portion of the PCT in 2010 is welcome! Volunteers will be responsible for arranging their own transportation to the trailhead (However, if you make it to Portland, we’ll find a way to get you to the trailhead), and for providing their own backpack, tent, sleeping bag, eating utensils and personal gear. The PCTA will provide the food, the equipment, and skilled leaders to guide our work during the week. We’ll work between 6-10 hours each day (with breaks), but will have the evenings to relax and swap tall tales about our 2010 adventures. No special skills are required to volunteer; the work performed will likely include clearing overgrown trail, improving drainage, or repairing damaged trail tread.” Or, E-mail to
Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #162, April 1, 2012

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”> St. Augustine.

1.      Earth Day & volunteer opportunities
2.      Camino: Leon albergue to close
3.      Measuring for a proper fitting backpack
4.      Companion website to PCT Trailside Reader
5.      Cancer survivor on the Pacific Crest Trail
6.      Barn owls webcam
7.      Regional: Historic hike underway—Mission to Mission

#1. Earth Day volunteer opportunities

Earth Day is coming up soon, April 22. Hope that you will either
sign up to help a regional group with cleaning up or trail building, etc. However, you have lots of alternatives—you could start by picking up litter near your home, introducing a child to the outdoors on a pleasant walk, or even volunteer for a future project. The American Hiking Assoc. has 50-60 “Volunteer Vacations” open to you. How about Mt. Baker—Snoqualmie National Forest—in July (#51) or Denali National Park, Alaska—in August (#3).

#2. Leon albergue to close

Rebekah Scott posted news that the Leon municipal albergue is slated to close, due to the city’s financial problems. The article, “Adiós al albergue, al laboratorio y a dos guarderías” explains that the albergue is a "non-essential service" in a cash-strapped city and states that the costs of maintaining the shelter are approximately four times the revenue it generates.

Paul Baumann offers these suggestions, “The [Leon] albergue of the Benedictine nuns is called ‘Carbajal’; it is near the cathedral, but not easy to find and nobody understands when you ask about Benedictines. ‘Carbajal,’ they all know. The albergue is big, you can join the nuns’ evening prayer and you can get breakfast in the albergue too. He writes of the ‎"Donativo" [donations for lodging]. “For me always 10 Euro in the box - except Tiebas, a dirty old school house with fife [?] mattresses on the floor in one former classroom - and even they got 5.- in the box. If everybody would act so there would be no problem with the albergues, and I think for most of the pilgrims this would not be a problem.”

"But in the Codex Calixtinus (11th Century) it is recommended to pilgrims not to take any money with them to keep thieves and robbers and murders away from the way - in this times it must have been free (and the churches and monasteries must have had more money than today)." Rebekah adds, the "nuns’ albergue" now charges 5 euro per person. They couldn´t meet expenses with the 1 to 3 euros average they were getting on the donativo system. In Sahagun, the Benedictinas there also have gone off donativo, and let out their splendid little albergue space to a subcontractor that charges 15 Euro per night!”

#3. Selecting a backpack to fit your body.

From Granite Gear website, “What torso length should I get? To find your torso length, measure the distance between your seventh cervical vertebra and the shelf of your hipbones. Do this by standing up straight with your feet shoulder- width apart. Tilt your head forward and place your hands on your hips, thumbs to the back. With a flexible tape, have someone measure from the most prominent vertebra at the base of your neck to an imaginary line drawn between your thumbs. This will be your torso length.”

I was looking at Granite Gear’s website because I had heard that the Vapor Trail that I use has been discontinued and a new model brought in. “Crown V.C. 60. The successor to the cult classic Granite Gear Vapor Trail, with upgrades! Introducing the Crown 60, with Vapor Current Suspension technology. Weighing less than the Vapor Trail at 2 lbs., 2 oz. (1 lb. 13 oz. with frame removed), the Crown 60 is a top loader with a secure roll-top closure that provides easy access. The simple lidless design can be upgraded with our optional LineLoc lid.” I haven’t decided whether the changes make a trade-in worthwhile or not.

#4. Companion website to PCT Trailside Reader

Rees Hughes, co-editor, passes word along that the Pacific Crest Trailside Reader now has a companion website at Rees has “been posting photos, drawing, and stories from the PCT that [they] were not able to include in the Readers or have been submitted by PCT walker/writers subsequently.  It doesn't sell anything; it really is an effort to continue to collect people's stories from the trail.

#5. Barn Owl webcam

Sulphur Creek Nature Center in Hayward, CA has set up a webcam for watching the hatching of barn owls. If you go to The first baby owl hatched at 6:01pm on Tues. March 27, 2012! Second owlet hatched 12:53 pm on Thursday March 29, 2012. Look for Owlet #3 to hatch on Saturday March 31! There are three to go. “This pair of Barn Owls began courting in January 2012. The female began laying her eggs on February 25th.  A new egg was then laid every other day until her clutch was complete. She now has six eggs that she is incubating, turning, and protecting. Her mate continues to visit her during the night and brings her presents of food: rats, mice, voles, moles and gophers.  Incubation times range between 26 and 33 days.” “The eggs are laid on different days so they won’t all hatch at once. This sequential laying insures that those born first will survive if food becomes scarce. The incubation period is from 29‐34 days; the female does most of the sitting, with the male helping only occasionally. These owls are usually found in pairs throughout the year. Some interesting tidbits: “A family of seven young owls requires over 100 rats and other small rodents daily as food. The soft edges of the owls’ feathers are uneven on the edges, acting like a comb to cut the air, so as it passes; the wing is silent, allowing the owl to sneak up on its prey without warning.”

#6. Cancer Survivor on the Pacific Crest Trail

John Casterline (trail name ”Postholer”) writes, “Interested in a story about a 69 YO 5 year survivor of stage 4 lung cancer, 1.5 year survivor of prostate cancer and throat cancer  who hiked 1000 miles of trail last year and hopes to finish this year?  I had to come off the trail because of a severe infection last year.”  I am hiking the trail because I love it and for my charity, the American Lung Association. I truly want to do as much as I can to help end cancers.  I don't mind the publicity so long as my web site is mentioned,

#7. Regional: Mission to Mission hike taking place

Connecting the dots of a mission to mission hike. Stephanie Dodaro, who previously has hiked a major portion of the Camino de Santiago, is setting off on a unique hike-- to walk from Mission Solano in Sonoma to Mission San Diego—visiting all 21 California missions. “The Camino Real is known as a trail founded by the Spanish to connect the missions. But it likely traced footpaths followed by indigenous peoples. And before that, was possibly part of the migration path from Asia.” "However, the trail has been paved over to form freeways and highways, so I'll have to map a route myself. All told, I'll cover over 800 miles in about 55 days. After I complete the walk, I'll create and publish a free, online trail guide, so anyone that wants can walk as much or as little of the route as they like." The first day of the walk is the leg from Sonoma to Petaluma (approx. 16 mi), which was scheduled for Sat. March 31. Stephanie invites you to follow her progress and join her on the walks. Donations, which will make the trip and the trail guide possible, are welcome but not req'd.”

Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #161, March 1, 2012

1.      The demise of king-sized candy bars?
2.      ADZPCTKO 2012
3.      Andrew Skurka's presentations
4.      Victories for land conservation groups
5.      Portuguese albergue reopens
6.      Camino gathering: "Roads less traveled"
7.      Story of the Yellow Arrows
8.      Camino stats at Wikipedia
9.      Travels with My Donkey
10.     Mountain Lions and You
11.     Boots McFarland
12.     Regional: Bellevue
13.     Regional: S.F. Bay Area
14.     Regional: Bay Area: "Walkabout Northern California - Hiking Inn to Inn"

#1. Demise of king-sized candy bars

Rats, what will they do next! The Mars Company--manufacturer of such treats as Snickers, 3 Musketeers, and Milky Way bars--are going to reduce the calories in their bars to 250 or less. That means that their king-sized bars are going to disappear from backcountry stores, convenience stores, etc. This doesn't seem like a huge loss, and it isn't under most circumstances--but what are we long-distance hikers going to do for sustenance (only kidding!) Actually, they can consider this more rational approach. "You'll see 'how to optimize nutrient quality, while minimizing the weight/bulk of both the food and fuel carried,' a look at how the body's requirements change and at the nutritional needs when backpacking (particularly when hiking long distances)

#2. ADZPCTKO 2012

Important dates for hikers: The ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off) will be at Lake Moreno County Park, near Campo, CA. April 27-29, 2012. This is a great opportunity to meet new and old friends of the PCT. Many of the participants are there to get last minute information and to begin their thru-hikes of the 2,650-mile trail ahead! Registration is required and will begin in early March. Other calendar items: PCTA Trail Fest - Northwoods Resort - Big Bear Lake, CA - July 27-29, 2012. ALDHA-West Gathering - Welches, OR - Sept. 28-30, 2012.

#3. Andy Skurka's presentations

Andrew Skurka's (excellent) website) gives these dates and places for his presentations and book signings for this spring. Andrew Skurka is an accomplished adventure athlete, speaker, guide, and writer. The 30-year-old is most well-known for his solo long- distance backpacking trips. He is the author of "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide".
Monday-Tuesday, March 5-6. Sunrise Mountain Sports, 2455 Railroad Ave., Livermore, CA. Mon, 7pm: "Circling Alaska & Yukon/ Tues, 7pm: "Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills". $5 admission, $2 for Boy Scouts in uniform. Wednesday-Thursday, March 7-8. Sports Basement - Bryant Street (in the Presidio), 1590 Bryant Street, San Francisco, CA. Wed, 7pm: "Circling Alaska & Yukon"/Thurs, 7pm: "Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills". Free admission Mon & Wed, April 16 & 18. The Mountaineers, 7700 Sand Point Way Northeast, Seattle, WA Mon: "Circling Alaska & Yukon/." Wed: "Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills" $8 for members, $10 for non-members, $5 for Boy Scouts in uniform.
You get the idea--Skurka is making a nationwide tour in March and April. Other venues--too many details to post here--are in Bellingham, WA; Hood River, OR; Golden, CO; Boulder, CO ( 2 venues); Minneapolis, MN; Pinellas Park, FL; Louisville, KY; Lafayette, LA; Knoxville, TN; Asheville, NC; Winston-Salem, NC; Lexington, VA; Paramus, New Jersey; Seekonk, MA; Tyngsboro, MA; Kirkwood, MO; Iowa City, IA; Kalamazoo, MI; Portage, MI;  Go to Skurka's website for details.

#4. Victories for land conservation groups

One of the interesting things that seems to have occurred during our economic slump is that various trail organizations have been able to acquire new parklands because of reduced land costs. Here are three examples:
The Pacific Crest Trail Association and the Anza-Borrego Foundation are pleased to announce the joint purchase of 40 acres within the Anza- Borrego Desert State Park. The once privately held parcel, located next to the Pacific Crest Trail in Section B at the top of Nance Canyon near Anza, CA, will be preserved as open space and set aside for public use.
The efforts of two non-profits--the Sonoma Land Trust and Land Paths have led to the protection of the Bohemia Ranch, in western Sonoma County (No. CA), from development. They have struck a deal to create a conservation easement and plan to provide public access with trails, camping, educational programs and so forth.
Sempervirens Fund has protected 412 acres of redwood Forest, 1,400 old-growth trees, and two Girl Scout Camps in the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. This is also an example of purchasing conservation easements. Here's how Sempervirens explains the process: "A conservation easement is a valuable tool for land conservation groups. It is a legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows landowners to maintain ownership and use of their land and to sell or pass it on to heirs if they choose to do so. Even if ownership of the land changes, however, the easement remains in place, assuring that the resources on the land are protected..."

#5.  Portuguese albergue reopens

Helena had sent news that the Albergue de S. Pedro de Rates in the Portuguese Camino closed, but that closure was brief. On Feb. 17th, she sent word that it had reopened--but not with the volunteers who had run it for years. For more info:

#6. Camino gathering: "Roads less traveled"

The 2012 Gathering of Pilgrims, with the theme of Roads Less Traveled, still has openings.  The gathering will be Tuesday, March 27 through Monday, April 2, 2012 at the San Pedro Center, Winter Park, Florida. The gathering is composed of three components. The hospitalero Training will be Tuesday, March 27 - Thursday, March 29, 2012. The 2012 Gathering of Pilgrims will be Friday, March 30 - Sunday, April 1, 2012. A Spiritual Retreat will be held Sunday, April 1 - Monday, 2, 2012.
Just a taste of what will be offered, "This year's Opening Reception, on the evening of Thursday, March 29, will feature a Spanish tapas menu with a Valencian flavor. The reception will be followed by a performance of classical Spanish guitar music played by Joshua Englert. Friday evening sees the debut of a new attraction, the Pilgrim Open Mike session: with a few pictures to illustrate your story, tell us in five minutes about your best--or worst--Camino experience. And, of course, Camino Cabaret returns on Saturday night."
The last day to register is March 12, 2012.

#7. The Story of the Yellow Arrows

(reposted with permission of Paul Baumann). When you are on the way [the Camino de Santiago] there are 100.000s of "fleche amarillos" or yellow arrows, who guide you to Santiago and on to Finisterre and Muxia. Everybody knows them, but not many people know where the idea for these arrows came from. In the 12th or 13th century there were millions of pilgrims on the way, but the number decreased by the division of Catholics and Protestants in 15th Century, wars in 16th and 17th century, the big world wars I and II and the time after them. In 1970 68 pilgrims arrived in Santiago, in 1971 (Holy Year) 451, 1972 67 pilgrims, in 1977 only 31, and in 1978 there was the absolute minimum, only 13 pilgrims arrived in Santiago. Many people were thinking about this, one of them was Don Elías Valiña Sampedro, the priest of the church on O Cebreiro. He wrote the first modern Pilgrim's Guide Guia del Peregrino in the 1980s, and he had the idea with the yellow arrows. In the beginning he went himself with a bucket of yellow paint and a paintbrush. There is a story reported that he was asked by the guardia civil what he was doing, and he said: "I am making way for a giant invasion!" Don Elias was right, the pilgrims' office in Santiago counted about 272.000 pilgrims in the Holy Year 2010 - one of them was me :-) When you are on O Cebreiro beside the church there is a statue of Don Elias, who died in 1989. Make a rest and say "Thank you!" to him! (posted Feb 10, 2012)

#8. Camino stats at Wikipedia

Camino numbers continue to rise. You can find the official statistics (and lots more) on Wikipedia.

#9. Travels with my donkey

Camino read recommended by Terry Sweetland. "My wife and I are going for a second time to do the Camino this April. I am reading a very funny book on the Camino and would like to recommend it to everyone who would like to see the humor of this British writer.  It's irreverent and funny.  "Travels with my donkey" by Tim Moore. [I agree! ed.]

#10. Mountain Lions and you.

Mountain Lions are not just found in the wilderness. I recently saw photos with of a cougar at the visitor center of a nearby reservoir. Interestingly, the lion was perched in a tree, not lurking in the grass or hiding behind rocks! What to do and what NOT to do if threatened: Face the lion, yell loudly while raising your arms (with your hiking poles if you have them) above your head in order to look large and unafraid. Do NOT run. If you are attacked, FIGHT as hard as you can. Do NOT play dead. Info from Sierra Magazine, M/A 2012. Andrew Hughan, wildlife specialist, with CA Fish and Game.

#11.Boots McFarland

Sign up to receive a free cartoon adventure from PCT hiker Geolyn every week. Follow Boots McFarland.

#12. Regional: Bellevue

Seattle area, WA Six Million Steps invites you to "Pacific Crest Trail Film Night." Pacific Crest Trail Film Night. Friday, March 9 at 7:00 p.m. Location: South Bellevue Community Center. Are you attending? The South Bellevue Community Center at Eastgate Park will have an evening showing of a Pacific Crest Trail hiking documentary- Six Million Steps: A Journey Inward. Tickets are $8 General admission, $7 Mountaineers Members and Bellevue Residents, $10 day of event (cash only). Doors open at 6pm and the film starts at 7pm. The crew will not be in attendance for this event but come out, bring your friends and have a good time.

#13. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area.

This is the time of year when the hiking season opens. A great way to learn about new trails is by taking on the East Bay Regional Park's Trail Challenge. It's a self-directed challenge to hike 26.2 miles (or 5 of the featured trails) and you'll find hikes suitable for everyone in your family.

#14. Regional: S.F. 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 check out the storess websites and register in advance. All of the presentations go from 7-8:30. March 6, Tues. REI Saratoga; March 15, Thur. REI Brentwood; March 27, Tues. REI Fremont.
Happy trails,
Susan "backpack45" Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #160, February 1, 2012

1.      ALDHA-West preliminary info on Fall 2012 gathering
2.      Camino gite in Pyrenees
3.      Camino gatherings national and Bay Area
4.      CDTA has to close up shop
5.      Animal profile: Wild pigs
6.      Shoes with GPS!
7.      Celebrity wolf website
8.      PCT Trailfest announced
9.      Regional: Napa Valley Vine Trail (NVVT)
10.     Regional: Ken and Marcia Powers present: On the Colorado Plateau
11.     Regional: Ridge Trail happening: Ridge to Bridge

#1. ALDHA-West preliminary info on Fall 2012 gathering

Just wandered over to the ALDHA-West (American Long Distance Hikers Assoc.) site and noticed that the gathering this year is September 28-30 in Welches, Oregon (about halfway between Mt. Hood and Portland, OR). Ralph and I are planning a slide presentation on one of our international trips, details will come later.

#2. Camino gite in Pyrenees

Camino accommodation between St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Roncesvalles. Luiza Garner “The Hunto Gite is about 6 kms uphill from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France. The pilgrim office in SJPP will call ahead and make a reservation for you. Hunto Gite has many spaces so you need not worry. This gite has offered its services to pilgrims for decades and serves a delicious evening meal. You can form friendships here that will continue on as you walk the way ....” Heather Knight “…try to stay at Espirit du Chemin in SJPdP your first night. Reservations can be made online and be sure to do the dinner/ breakfast option. They'll even pack a lunch for you too, for extra, of course. It was one of the best places I stayed at and a great way to start my Camino.”

#3. Camino gatherings - National and Bay Area

Camino happenings: The annual (U.S.) Gathering of Pilgrims this year will be held Tuesday, March 27th through Monday, April 2nd.  If you’ve been to a Gathering of Pilgrims, you know it’s a fantastic experience.  Don’t miss this one!  Mark your calendar and plan to attend.  Information, visit: Locally, the northern California group is having a potluck and annual meeting on February 18, 2012 in Pleasant Hill. Potluck lunch at 11:30.  “This is a great opportunity to meet and share experiences with your fellow pilgrims.  If you are yet to travel the Camino, bring your questions.  If you are an experienced pilgrim, bring your photos and memories to share. Please accept this invitation to participate. Rennie Archibald and Bob Holm, Chapter Co-Coordinators. Go to and email if you want to attend the Feb. 18th event.

#4. CDTA Closed

The Continental Divide Trail Alliance (CDTA) has closed its doors, primarily because of a lack of revenue. This is sad when you consider the tremendous amount of time, money, and energy that volunteers, staff, and agencies have put into creating new data books and maps, building and maintaining portions of the trail, and providing support to hikers. Each year increasing numbers of hikers have discovered the trail’s existence (it runs from Canada to Mexico – Montana to New Mexico.), but it seems that this “new kid on the block” (compared to the better known Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails) has run up against our challenging economic times. However, such sites as and Lynne Whelden’s still have information available and we hope that hikers will be able to find needed resources to tackle this extremely challenging National trail.

#5. Wild pigs

The wild pigs that can cause so much damage to some of our regional parks, golf courses, farmlands, and woodland are found in most of California, except the highest mountains. According to the CA Dept. of Fish and Game, the Spanish and Russian settlers introduced domestic pigs to California as livestock in the early 1700's and many became feral. Then, in the 1920's a Monterey county landowner introduced the European wild boar, a wild subspecies of Sus scrofa into California, which bred with the domestic pigs. The result of these introductions is a wild boar/feral domestic pig hybrid.” Wild pigs forage for grass, acorns, berries, bulbs, bird’s eggs, carrion, and small vertebrates. They commonly have two litters per year, each of 5-6 young. Predators for the young include mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes; the adults can be seasonally hunted.

#6. Shoes with GPS

Not sure what I think of this, but it might have its uses.  There is now a shoe with a built-in GPS device that will keep track of a person’s whereabouts. The shoes come in both men and women’s styles and retail for $299 (plus month service charge). I don’t expect to see these on the major trails, but the families of Alzheimer’s patients who wander off might find the shoes a worthwhile investment.

#7. Celebrity Wolf website

You can follow the movements of the celebrity wolf, OR-7, on a website established by California Fish and Game. You can find more info in our previous newsletters or our website, but basically OR-7, a two-year old male, began his journey in NE Oregon, entered California in December 2011, and is now hanging out east of Redding in  Lassen County, CA.

#8. PCT Trailfest

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) Trailfest will be in Southern California this year. It’s at the Northwoods Resort, Big Bear Lake, CA. July 27-29.

#9. Napa Valley Vine Trail

The Napa Valley, world-renowned for its wine, is constructing a 44- mile multi-modal trail (NVVT) through the valley. It will start in tiny Calistoga and reach the Vallejo Ferry Terminal, where users can catch a ferry to San Francisco.  Efforts are ongoing to raise funds through private and federation sources.

#10. Ken and Marcia Powers present on the Colorado plateau

Regional: S.F. Bay Area. Ken and Marcia Powers are doing several presentations on their latest adventure-exploring the red rock canyons of the Colorado Plateau. From the REI description: “Since 2000, Ken and Marcia Powers have walked most of our country's premier long- distance trails-Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail, American Discovery Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, Arizona National Scenic Trail, and more. Join this intrepid duo for a digital presentation of their latest adventure-exploring the red rock canyons of the Colorado Plateau. Ken and Marcia will take you on some canyon hiking classics, including a backcountry loop in Bryce Canyon National Park, a rim-to-rim day hike in Grand Canyon National Park, and a photo tour of Antelope Canyon. They'll also show you the rich hues and fantastic sculpted walls of some of the more challenging and remote slot/river canyons, such as Round Valley Draw, Dark Canyon, Buckskin Gulch, and Paria Canyon-all in Utah. Learn what it takes to safely explore the red rock backcountry, where drinking water is scarce, rain leads to quicksand and flash floods, and temperature swings are the norm.”

Note: If you register for this free presentation at, REI will hold a seat for you until the scheduled start time. Seating may be available at the door, even if registration is closed.” Register for one of their free talks/slideshows at the REI stores. To register, you need to go to the individual store’s website and enter the requested info. All start at 7 pm. START here to enter your address or zip code of the store you want to visit: Dates: Fremont - 2/7; Brentwood 2/9; Concord 2/15; Dublin 2/23; Corte Madera 2/29; Mountain View 3/15; and Berkeley 3/22.

#11. Bay Area Ridge Trail annual Ridge to Ridge

Regional (S.F. Bay Area). The Bay Area Ridge Trail is having their Annual Ridge to Bridge 2012 on Saturday, April 28th. You can enjoy an invigorating day hiking, biking, or riding your horse in Marin County with spectacular views of the pacific, Marin Headlands, Golden Gate Bridge, etc. Go to for details on this fundraising event.

Happy trails,
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking/Hiking Tales & Tips #159, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

1.      Wolf on the move
2.      Prime time for a wilderness first aid class?
3.      Camino and other travelers heading to Paris
4.      Payback time on the trail?
5.      Sierra Club Ntl. outings
6.      Acorn Woodpeckers as model citizens?
7.      Regional: S.F. Bay. East Bay Regional Park District’s Free Trail Challenge
8.      Regional: Richmond plans link in the Bay Trail
9.      Regional: Point Reyes, Marin County Environmental classes
10.   Best Hikes with Kids: San Francisco Bay Area
11.     Do you have questions, comments, or stories to share?

#1. Wolf on the move

In case you missed the latest on gray wolf # R7, he has now crossed over into California south of Klamath Falls, OR. Reportedly, conservationists are happy, farmers apprehensive about this event—the first wild wolf in the state in almost 100 years. The mother of this lone male was seen in Wallowa County (NE Oregon) in 2009. She was part of a pack that lives in that live in that area. There are four packs in the area that made their way to that corner of Oregon from the release of Canadian wolves into Yellowstone and Idaho in the mid-1990s. R7 left his pack in September 2010 and his whereabouts have since been tracked with a GPS collar. Wolves are protected by the endangered species act. Although many ranchers, and others, are nervous about wolves returning to California, many experts believe that the degree of concern that many people have about wolves is excessive. R7 appears to have been living on carcasses rather than livestock and they’ve never been known to hunt humans. For now, we can be thrilled that the northern part of our state is wild enough that a wolf can survive here, but since there aren’t any other wolves in the area, R7 will probably move back north to find a pack and mate.

#2. Prime Time for a Wilderness First Aid Class

If your hiking is curtailed during the winter, you might use some of the time for learning wilderness first aid. The Sierra Club, Berkeley Chapter, is offering a class on January 28-29, 2012 at the Chapter Office, 2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. Fees start at $50 and vary depending on whether you are a member, which sessions you want to attend, etc. Call Office manager Deirdre Ashby at 510-848-080 ext. 315, or email questions to  If you’re interested in classes elsewhere, check with your local Sierra Club chapter, REI, or similar organization to see if you can find a course.

#3. Camino and other travelers to Paris

Camino hikers or other travelers planning to visit Paris and who want to know how to get from the Charles De Gaulle airport to the center of Paris—you have a choice (in order of increasing cost) of: train, bus, taxi. The train is a bit complicated, but at you can get the low-down. The train is apparently twice as fast as the bus, and slightly cheaper (about 9 euros). The bus to L’Opera is about a 60-minute ride and costs about 10 euros ($13). (click to the English translation). Taxi is about 50 euros.

#4. Payback time on the trail

American Hiking Society, the nonprofit that promotes and protects our U.S. trails, has lots of opportunities to “give back.” There are presently about 57 volunteer vacations scheduled, most lasting about 5 days. Trips are rated easy to strenuous because you could be doing trail maintenance while staying in a cabin, or sawing downed trees while staying in a backpacking camp. Meals are included in your fee. Contact: American 800-972-8608 X206 for info.  Examples: Sky Meadows State Park, Virginia in April, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Ntl. Forest in July, Either Denali (Alaska) or Hawaii in August; or Appalachian Trail in September.

#5. Sierra Club outings for 2012

The outings schedule is online at or call 415-977-5522. Examples include Arctic Refuge on a Budget, Arctic Ntl. Wildlife Refuge. Alaska, June 5-17. Backpacking in a beautiful region with grizzlies, wolves, Dall sheep, and caribou. $2,495. Rated 5, most difficult, 12011A Women’s Backpacking in the Grand Canyon, AZ. April 1-7. Descent into the canyon on the Tanner Trail and travel along the Colorado on the Escalante Route. Rated 4. $995. 12041A Basecamp—hike, soak and float in Big Bend Ntl. Park, Texas. March 3-10. 12445A. $1,045. Service—Big Sur, Julia Pfeiffer Burns state Park, CA. March 31-April 6. $515. 12441A International— Tuscany and Umbria, Italy. A Creative Experience for Women. June 11-21. $3,195-$3,895 depending on number of participants. 12620A

#6. Acorn Woodpeckers - model citizens?

Acorn Woodpeckers. Zoologist Walt Koenig, who has studied acorn woodpeckers for 35 years, says that acorn woodpeckers have a remarkably complex social structure—perhaps the greatest of any of the vertebrates, humans included. “They do all the important stuff—food, marriage, sex, and childrearing as a community.”(Oct. /Nov. issue of Bay Nature). Their preferred food is flying ants and other insects, but when those disappear in the fall, the woodpeckers start collecting acorns. They pull the acorns off the branches and stick them, pointy end in first, into a snag (commonly oak or conifers). All members work together on this project and the granary may have up to 50,000 acorns, which will be shared by all.

#7. Regional: S.F. Bay. East Bay Regional Park District’s Free Trail Challenge.

An excellent way to follow through on your intentions or resolutions to maintain or improve your fitness is through hiking some of the featured hikes in this annual “challenge.” You do this at your own pace and on your own schedule. This is the 19th year of this program, a partnership with Kaiser Permanente. I don’t know the specifics of this year’s “challenge,” but previously it has been to complete 26.2 miles (the length of a marathon) on featured trails within the year. Find complete information and online registration beginning January 18th. #8. The Bay Trail, the concept of which is simple, the implementation of which is a formidable project—to circle San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun bays with a 500-mile network, has a go-ahead to add an important 11-mile link. Point Richmond and Point Molate will be officially connected rather than requiring bicyclists and hikers to go through a maze of city streets to get from one area to another. Bruce Beyaert, chairman of the Trails for Richmond Action Committee, says that users will be able to walk or bicycle “three miles of vacant shoreline with spectacular views of Mt. Tamalpais and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. You can follow the progress at

#9. Point Reyes Field Institute schedule out

Point Reyes Field Institute (Point Reyes National Seashore Assoc. in Marin County) has their new schedule out. Winter offerings include kayaking, birding, wildlife tracking, poetry and photography courses. For example, Winter Wildlife Tracking at Abbot’s Lagoon with Richard Vacha is offered on January 15th; Jayah Paley is offering “Fitness for the Trail & for Life, on February 26. or 415-663-1200 x 373.

#10. Best Hikes with Kids - San Francisco Bay Area

If you like to hike with kids, check out my interview with Laure Latham, author of "Best Hikes with Kids: San Francisco Bay Area".

#11. Items of interest

. I’d love to include your success stories and other items of interest with the hiking/backpacking and Camino communities. I encourage you to send them to me at for consideration.
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

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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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