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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2014

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

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Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips #194, December 2014

Happy Holidays to you and yours!



  1. Winter Pilgrim in on a new long hike
  2. Raindance does a Pacific Crest Trail "yo-yo"
  3. 6-year-old sets PCT record!
  4. Chosen Hiker completes an additional 4,000+-mile journey
  5. Free Camino guide
  6. Travel—Euros or US currency?
  7. Changes: Getting or renewing a passport
  8. Cathedral in Santiago getting needed repairs
  9. Avoid holiday weight gain
  10. More poop!
  11. GoLite and Ray Jardine
  12. Wild opens December 5.
  13. Holiday gift: Karen’s Berger’s latest book
  14. Why we hike: Rousseau
  15. Regional, Bay Area: Backpacking Basics class
  16. Regional: Visit Angel Island for holidays
  17. Regional: George Miller Trail opens to public
  18. Regional: Hike with Berkeley Path Wanderers
  19. Regional: Camino: Letters from The Way events

Susan Alcorn is the author of  Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del PaineCamino Chronicle: Walking to Santiagoand We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers


#1. “Winter Pilgrim” is soon off on a new long hike. She has already walked the equivalent of around the world. Recap of Day 4, Nov. 26, 2014. “Brisk is a useful applicable word for the weather, very nice for walking.  I´ve only managed a measly 117 km since walking out of Estonian`s capital Sunday afternoon - the days are short and the nights particularly dark.  There`s a cute and logical obligation here that everyone who ventures out in the darkness must dangle a reflective badge at the level of the right knee so they can be seen by drivers.  Kind folks have given me a handful, including one shaped like an angel.  The sky brightens to a gray drab around 8:30 and dims into the drab clouds around 3. Time enough to scurry along... through the countryside blanketed beneath a thin coverlet of lumpy snow, packed powder on the sides of the icy pavement and on the bike trails near the larger towns,....” And she ends her post with “No problems - there`s always a place for a pilgrim to comfortably stay - hot shower, mattress, heat, food... everything else is luxury.” Follow her at:

2. On November 15, April Sylva posted: “Today, I am honored to announce that fellow hiker and friend, Raindance, has completed a Yo-Yo of the Pacific Crest Trail.” A yo-yo means that you hike a trail one direction, and then turn around and retrace your steps. In the instance of the PCT, that means that Raindance hiked approximately 5,300 miles—from the Mexican border to just inside the Canadian one—and then back to the California/Mexican border! Sylva continues, “She is the first woman to accomplish this amazing fete. She remained true to the thru, and hiked with determination, perseverance, endurance and grace!” Raindance hails from Hampshire, England.

#3. Renee Glenn SheDino Swicegood  posted this amazing headline on Facebook, “6-year old Buddy Backpacker, now the youngest PCT thru hiker!!” She Dina continues, “You are amazing Christian [Thomas], we are so incredibly proud of you! For my non-hiking friends, this young man hiked the entire Appalachian trail with his father in 2013 to become the youngest thru-hiker for that trail. A thru-hiker is someone who hikes a long trail in a single year. This year, he hiked the Pacific Crest trail which runs from Mexico to Canada in the western states. Canada.

On Trailjournals, you can read entries that Buddy's parents made along the way; the family started on Apr 24, 2014. Read more at:

The profile for Christian Thomas:
Age: 6 Years Old
Likes: Hiking, Helicopters, Skiing, Pancakes, Firetrucks, Wii Fit, Chess, Bubbles, Superman
Dislikes: Spicy Food, Time Outs, Stinky Socks

His parents, Dion Pagonis and Andrea Rego, are in their late twenties and currently live in Crested Butte Colorado.  We are putting our years at a desk behind us and are making life choices based on the things we want to learn and making sure happiness is our main goal. Christian can easily hike over 10 miles and thoroughly enjoys it. Rego says, “A normal life to Christian is traveling and not seeing the same people every day. Dion and I are his home.” 

#4. Chosen Hiker posted info about her latest hiking adventure. “Today, at 10 AM, I walked my last 2 miles of road walk to my last blue blaze at Lake Logan, Ohio – completing my hike of the North Country Trail, from North Dakota to New York/Vermont. Chosen Hiker made this hike in memory of her daughter, Rebecca, who died of brain cancer. "Becka’s Hike,” was from March 16, 2014- November 27, 2014.

#5. Camino: A reader writes, “please allow me to introduce to you. It is a website I created myself to help pilgrims along their Camino: In the website pilgrims will be able to find detailed information about the Way of St. James, its different routes, logistical tips, walking times, all hostels and other travelers' reviews.

Our website is not for profit, free from any form of commercial advertisement and it is meant to be used by anyone for free. We would greatly appreciate if you would share it within your network and if those who have already walked the Way of St. James would share their experience on our website. This website has been launched few weeks ago, and any feedback and tips for improvement are more than welcome! Free Guide for Hikers on the Way of St. James

#6. For Camino and other travelers. You may wonder when you are paying for your room or dinner whether it is best to pay your bill in US $ or euros (and other currencies). “Travel Q & A” (Catharine Humm, LA Times: 11/20/14) says that charging you in American dollars vs. the currency of the place you is “called ‘dynamic currency conversion,’ and it is not your friend. “The merchant is banking on the fact that you don’t know what the exchange rate is. If you did, you would know that the rate is probably lousy. You should choose the currency of the county you are visiting—whether euros, pounds pesos, or whatever”—not the US currency.

#7. Reminder: check the expiration date of your passport. Though adult passports are good for 10 years (five for kids), many countries require that there be at least six months on it before the expiration date. To find out where to renew your passport locally, go to

If you already have a passport, you can generally renew it by mail. Allow 4-6 weeks (though it usually is processed more quickly. For an additional fee, you can apply for expedited service. About 20% of applications encounter problems. Your old passport will be returned to you.

There will be some changes in passports starting in 2016. They will have a polycarbonate page with an imbedded chip with your info—that will help in case your passport gets bent, wet. The pages will be numbered. Some countries won’t allow you in with fewer than four pages remaining, but presently you can add pages (HOW?). You can order either of two models now—the standard 28 page, or the 52 page. (There is no additional charge for the 52 page, but apparently supplies are limited.)

#8. Camino: The restoration of the Cathedral of Santiago runs until 2021. Priority is to be given to the dome, chapels, and more. The translation from Spanish in the link here is a bit difficult to understand, but you can get the gist of what is happening. Apparently the north tower has already been restored, but there are leaks in the dome that are seen as the “most urgent objective” of the upcoming work.  This work, to be undertaken next year is estimated to cost one million euros.” However there is much more to be done to halt and repair water damage that has previously happened. It is expected to take until 2021, the next Holey Year, to complete all necessary repairs and restoration. Pilgrims can expect to see scaffolding and other signs of this work when they visit the cathedral. Click here

#9. Early Festive Spirit Causes an Average 5lb Weight Gain by New Year - Time to Get Walking! by Alex Gillham, Nov. 24, 2014. “The British Dietetic AssociationBritish Dietetic Association estimates that the modern extended Christmas period sees an average person increasing their calorie intake by 500kcal a day, resulting in a weight gain of up to 5lbs by the New Year.  Christmas weight gain poses a more significant impact every year as the festive season extends and holiday cheer results in up to 500 additional calories being eaten every day during the period.

"Aspects such as early Christmas work parties and extended time away from work over the Christmas period have been noted as reasons why the British public begins to celebrate the season of good will earlier and earlier each year. Supermarkets stocking special offers on chocolates, cakes and other high calorie treats with festive packaging ahead of December are also thought to be contributing factors in kicking off Christmas festivities earlier. Temptations of festive cheer are already emerging on the high streets. London’s Oxford Street boasted Christmas decorations from mid-October simply waiting to be switched on, whilst coffee shops started offering mince pies to purchase alongside a sugary '"festive' versions of our usual tea and coffees.

view1"To counteract an additional 500 kcal intake on a daily basis, a person would need to walk for 2 and a half hours just to maintain their weight.

“Christopher Knowles, owner of walking holiday provider World Walks says ‘Over the festive period, wrapping up and getting out and about on foot is a great way to combat the excess associated with this time of year. Choosing a scenic walking spot and making a day of it means you’ll soon burn off those extra calories.’

“Christopher added ‘Autumnal days when the air is crisp and the sun is bright make for ideal walking conditions where picturesque areas are often at their most beautiful. A trip to a popular walking spot can be a great way to burn off the calories without spending a fortune, welcome news at this expensive time of year. It’s also a great activity for the family to enjoy.’ Combatting indulgence over the festive season with regular walks as well as other physical activities will avoid the dreaded weight gain and subsequent crash dieting in January."

Check out the website for helpful ideas on how to fight the good fight against weight gain. 

#10. More poop! (discussed in the last issue). Marcy writes, “....and a comment on pooping....I don’t carry a trowel....too much space....I use the heel of my boot....6 inches is easily attained with the heel of the boot.  I was told that one shouldn’t bury much beyond 6 the dung beetles that break it all down need the air in the soil.  You should cover your offering with dirt, but don’t pack it down too tightly, for the beetles to do their best work.  I try to leave the site as original as possible, so no one can see anything disturbed there.  “…people who cover their offering with rock....that is so disgusting!  Poor wilderness manners! Leave [your] camp as wild looking as possible, for the next wilderness seeker.”

#11. Learning that  is going out of business (bankrupcy), I was curious how Ray Jardine (who at one time was associated with the folks that started this business) is doing. Jardine, the “Guru” of light-weight backpacking, has recently updated his important book, Beyond Backpacking, and the new title isTrail Life. 

Jardine came up with an important innovation for mountaineers called The Friend (a device that revolutionized rock climbing in the 1970s.) Jardine never does anything halfway—his achievements and activities have included mountaineering, backpacking, kayaking, bicycling across the U.S., sky-diving, snow kiting, and more. His wife, Jenny Jardine, has accompanied him on many of his challenging trips.

Checking out his website, I found that his most recent adventure, which ended Thanksgiving Day, was to undergo a cleansing fast—drinking only pure water for 40 days. He lost 35 pounds, but more important to him was getting rid of toxins from the poor diet he had while touring the country on his motorcycle. This mention is not a recommendation to follow his example, but to follow his progress. To learn what this remarkable adventurer is doing, you can find more here.

#12. The long awaited movie, Wild, based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, opens in select theaters on December 5, 2014. “Cheryl Strayed spent a summer hiking 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail — from Southern California to the southern border of Washington State. Now we will get to see Reese Witherspoon re-create Strayed’s journey this December when Wild, adapted from the hiker’s memoir of the same name, hits select theaters on Dec. 5.” Nicole Sterling wrote a headline that I thoroughly enjoyed, “Reese Witherspoon gets 'Wild' in rugged, makeup-free role.”

#13. Karen Berger’s new book America’s Great Hiking Trails reportedly has climbed, Berger reports, "to 2,800 in Amazon's ranking of ALL books, which is a pretty big deal for an expensive niche coffee table book. It is # 4 in nature and ecology reference, #2 in hiking and camping excursion guides -- and, inexplicably, #1 .... in fishing. (Fishing????) And it has all 5-star reviews. Bad news: It is also out of stock. But if you order now, it's HALF OFF -- there should be plenty of time to get it for the holidays." 

#14. Marcia Powers re-posted (from Jonathan Stalls) this quote from Rousseau: “Never did I think so much, exist so vividly, and experience so much, never have I been so much myself, if I may use that expression, as in the journeys I have taken alone and on foot. There is something about walking that stimulates and enlivens my thoughts. The sight of the countryside, the succession of pleasant views, the open air, a sound appetite, and the good health I gain by walking, the easy atmosphere of an inn, the absence of everything that makes me feel my dependence, of everything that recalls me to my situation, all these serve to free my spirit, to lend a greater boldness to my thinking, to throw me so to speak, into the vastness of things, so that I can combine them, select them, and make them mine as I will, without fear or restraint.” - Rousseau (wanderlust, page 19)

#15. Regional: Bay Area. Inga Aksamit will be giving a Backpacking Basics class at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Sonoma, where she volunteers as a Park Steward, this spring. She writes, "If you, or anyone you know, would like to get on a mailing list, please direct-message me [on Facebook] with your email and I'll add you. I don't have dates yet but I'll be doing a 2-hour classroom class with a presentation and gear demo, then a couple of weeks later I'll be leading a guided hike to a new backcountry site we're opening. You all are probably experienced hikers but maybe you have a friend who has always wanted to go backpacking but didn't know how to get started. Details to follow as this takes shape." 

#16. Regional: Christmas Angel Lands on Angel Island. “Angel Island State Park will host a series of family-oriented Christmas adventures this December. Here's more: Christmas on Angel Island. Angel Island’s first Christmas Adventure occurs each December weekend prior to Christmas Day.  The holiday event includes roundtrip ferry transportation from Tiburon or San Francisco, gingerbread cookie decorating for kids, a visit with Santa and his elf, a decorated and lit Christmas tram that tours the island, hot chocolate for kids and mulled wine for parents.  Cost is $36/adult, $22/Kids 6-12 and $7.50/Kids 3-5. Reservations are available online at

#17. Regional: Bay Area: East Bay Regional Park District dedicates the George Miller Regional Trail. “After more than 20 years of negotiations and planning, and one year of intensive repairs, a popular roadway-turned-trail was reborn and reopened to the public on Saturday, November 8 by the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD). About 300 people, including officials, bicyclists, hikers, and park supporters, cheered as the beautifully restored trail was officially dedicated honoring retiring U.S. Congressman George Miller, a ranking member in the House of Representatives. Congressman Miller came out with his family to share in the excitement as he cut the ribbon to inaugurate the George Miller Regional Trail on the site of the old Martinez Intermodal to Crockett, closed in 1983 due to landslides.” Miller is retiring at the end of 2014.

The trail segment is also part of the San Francisco Bay Trail. It was formerly a road that linked the small towns of Crockett, Port Costa and the city of Martinez, with trucks transporting wheat and other products back and forth. Later, the winding road known as Carquinez Scenic Loop became a commuter link for people living and working at either end of the road. The 1.7-mile renovated trail segment was renamed to honor Congressman Miller for his almost four decades of work and for his crucial support to secure funding for the restoration of the old county road.

“This segment completes 340 miles of the San Francisco Bay Trail, a planned 500-mile loop of hiking and bicycling trails that will circle the San Francisco and San Pablo Bays and will run around the shoreline of the nine counties and 47 cities that represent the Bay Area. It will also serve as a key link in the Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail, crossing two toll bridges and all the shoreline communities of two counties. The new George Miller Regional Trail is located along the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, near Crockett Hills Regional Park and Martinez Regional Shoreline.” The George Miller Regional Trail is open to the public from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm seven days a week.

#18. Regional: Bay Area. Berkeley Path Wanderers: Description: “hit the dirt in lovely Strawberry Canyon [in the Berkeley hills]. Plan on 3 to 3 1/2 hours to complete this 7.5 mile route, starting with a mile-long steep ascent, up hilly streets and stair paths, to Grizzly Peak Blvd. The rest of the route is more moderate, with some gentle downs, and a few short ups on flatter trails and streets, and some stairways. At Lawrence Hall of Science, we'll begin our descent on three miles of fire trails with some lovely Bay views. The boys have warned us that their pace will quicken on this segment. We'll return via campus. No dogs, please.”

#19. Just saw a new book, with photos, about the Camino, Letters from the Way, by Barbara V. Anderson. Anderson is doing two Bay Area events shortly--a book signing at Thomas Reynolds Gallery, 2291 Pine St., San Francisco on Thur. Dec. 4, 6:30 pm, and Book Launch at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA on Sat. Jan 17 at 7 PM. (Please confirm times and places.).

Photos by Susan Alcorn--1 & 2 from the Pacific Crest Trail, photo 3 the ferry to Angel Island. 


Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips #193 November 2014

Happy Halloween! This issue is coming out a day early because a couple of events posted are happening on November 1.

fall color 2Contents:

  1. Regional: Bay Area: Party and hike on Nov. 1 for hiker trash!
  2. Regional: Bay Area: 11/1 Northern California Camino lunch and welcome back
  3. More about Bat Week!
  4. At the ALDHA-West Triple Crown ceremony
  5. An ambitious Pacific Crest Trail attempt
  6. 40 compelling reasons…
  7. Poop in 4 steps
  8. November 11, Veterans’ Day—Free entry to our National Parks
  9. A new Trail Pirate Story J
  10. Backpack45’s Musings…
  11. Marcia Powers in the news
  12. Fall leaf color guide from Poimiroo
  13. Climbing at altitude
  14. Camino Hospitalero training—only 3 spots remain!
  15. Camino statistics
  16. Correction: Kansas info

#1. November 1, 2014Hikes and a Hiker Party. Shroomer writes, “If you live in Central CA, particularly the SF Bay Area, and would like to meet other long distance hikers, I’m throwing a Hiker Party on Saturday, 11-1-14, followed by a killer hike on Mt. Diablo on Sunday. Either are great ways to meet fellow trail trash from the area and learn and share hiking stories, techniques and gear. Prior thru and section hikers of the PCT, CDT, AT, Camino and many other great trails will be here. We’re kicking off the winter training season and saying goodbye to one of our regulars who’s moving home to NC soon, Atlas, AKA Chris Laster. He successfully thru hiked the PCT this summer and was a great training buddy to many of us for the past few years. Wooo Hooo Atlas!!! 

I’ll smoke up a mess of ribs, and grill veggies and tofu and you bring something potluck to share and we’ll have a bonfire and heaters going if it’s cold. If you want to visit John Muir’s home, the National Historic Site is across the street and is open and free all weekend. Hiking is also possible Saturday as the Bay Ridge Trail touches down at my driveway.

If you’re interested in meeting other long distance hikers, or joining us on future training hikes, (winter is the best training season in Coastal CA) shoot me a personal message including your email address and I’ll send you the details. You can email Shroomer at

#2. Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014. “The Welcome Home to 2014 Pilgrims, Hospitaleros, and Amigos !! The NorCal Chapter invites all returning pilgrims and old timers to the 3rd annual Welcome Home Potluck. Event is 10:30 am to 3:00 pm; at the Church of the Resurrection, 399 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. Come and share your experiences, joys, and pains” and a potluck offering.

#3. More about National Bat Week, October 26 – November 1, 2014 (the October issue of this newsletter listed several facts.) (“Spotlight: Bats — Heroes of the Night,” by Jolene Hall, and Cynthia M. Sandeno, USDA Forest Service). 

“There are more than 1,000 species of bats living throughout the world—one-fourth of all mammals—and many of these live in the U.S. There are very few “vampire” bats. Only three species of bats feed on blood (none in the U.S.). An anti-coagulant enzyme in vampire bats’ saliva may one day help stroke victims. The Bumblebee Bat, with a 6-inch wingspan is the world’s smallest bat and the Flying Fox, with a wingspan of 78 inches, is the world’s largest. The pallid bat of western North America is immune to the stings of the scorpions and centipedes on which it feeds. Read the entire article on the site. Article is “Spotlight: Bats — Heroes of the Night” by Jolene Hall, and Cynthia M. Sandeno, USDA Forest Service. Link here

#4.The hikers’ Triple Crown Award is given by the American Hikers Long Distance Assoc.-West organization. (ALDHA-WEST) to those who have completed the Appalachian,  Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide trails. The following is a blog post by Erin “Wired” Saver, who just received recognition at the award’s ceremony of the October celebration. “The day was great fun and I did my best to talk to everyone I could while we had this brief overlap again. It was an overload, but also such a great time. Everyone is just really supportive and connected and it was pretty much perfect! After dinner was the main event and this year's Triple Crowners were recognized.

“With the rise in popularity of hiking and the trails becoming more traveled and accessible, there was a record number of Triple Crowners this year. The cutoff date is Sept 1st, so you will notice many who Triple Crowned last season after the Sept 1stcutoff date included in this class. There were 34 hikers in this class and a record number of 19 hikers were present to get recognized. That brought the total of all time (recognized since 1994, but also awarded to any previous year) Triple Crowners to 230 hikers. I'm sure that actual number is much bigger as this is just those who took the time to apply for the recognition.” A note about this year’s class is the great number of women in this group. I've been told there are 30-40 women in that group of 230 Triple Crowners, so it's great to see almost as many women up there as men. Yeah!” Erin’s blogposts are here:

#5. How’s this for pushing the envelope--adventurers Justin “Trauma” Lichter of Truckee and adventurer Shawn “Pepper” Forry of Midpines, Calif., are attempting to complete the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail in winter. There is no recorded report of this having been done previously. It’s a controversial plan—but many say that if any can do it, Lichter and Forry would be the ones because of their extensive backpacking and backcountry ski experience. Lichter has done more than 35,000 miles of distance hiking and Forry has more than 15,000 miles. Ned Tibbits, director of the non-profit Mountain Education, a wilderness safety and training center, said "This guy [Lichter] is asking for a death sentence."

The original plan was for the two to set out from Campo, Calif (at the Mexican border)--northbound. Then Pepper wrote on his blog (10/19) that the team had changed direction—literally. They are now planning to start from the northern end of the trail—in Manning Park, in Canada and make their way south.

For more background about the quest, start with the Oct. 25 article in the Reno Times Gazette. Click here.

Then read the controversy, reported Oct. 27, click here

#6. I totally enjoyed an article by thru-hiker Kimberlie Dame in her “40 Truly Compelling Reasons to Hikethe PCT.” All are true; here are a couple to whet your appetite 17. See beauty you couldn’t possibly describe. And #30. Learn how strong you can be. 

7. The new blog page of PCTA has other compelling reasons to read it: you’ll find Basic Skills: Pooping (click here) in four steps; an interview with Wild’s author, Cheryl Strayed; and a trailer of the film Wild that will open on Dec. 5, and more. October 22, 2014 fun PCT stuff

#8. November 11, Veterans Day, is the final free Entrance Days in the National Parks. “America's Best Idea - the national parks - is even better when it's free!”

#9. The incorrigible Switchback the Trail Pirate is at it again. With his permission, I am reposting his latest tale: Romantic PCT Dinner.

“One day PCT Grizzly and his wife, Trail Dust, were down at a local fine restaurant having a romantic dinner.  At the table next to them a nice looking man and woman were seated to have the same thing too.  The lighting, music, and mood were perfect for everyone there. Grizzly and Trail Dust noticed how lovingly the new couple was gazing at each other. They whispered quietly as they held hands across the table.  Periodically, the man would kiss his tablemate’s hands.  It was all very touching between sips of fine wine.

“The server was at Grizzly’s table, when everyone noticed the woman at the other table suddenly slip under the table.  The man stared straight ahead as if nothing had happened.  It was bizarre and may be risque.  The woman was completely out of sight. The server thought this behavior might offend the other diners.  She tactfully went over to the other table and said, ‘Pardon me sir, but I think your wife just slid under the table.’

“The man calmly looked up at her and said, ‘No, she didn't. She just walked in [the door]’"

Your obedient servant and trail rascal, Switchback the Trail Pirate

#10.  Your newsletter editor invites you to visit her blog. “Odds and Odds is indeed an scattering of safety tips, hints, and odditires for your to enjoy. Click here

If you’ve ever had muscle cramps or pain, you might find “Hikers have you heard of rolling pin therapy” to be helpful. Click here

fall color 1In Trigger Point Therapy: will it solve my woes? 

I talk about round 2 of trying to solve my leg pain problem—with a therapy that is showing some positive results.

#11. Marcia Powers in the news.

#12.  John Poimiroo gives a weekly Leaf Peeper report on fall color throughout California. Go here to read this week’s report. (Photo: Red Oak, Plumas County, by Jeff Titcomb.) 

#13. An interesting report for those climbing at altitude. “An UnofficialAcclimatization Guideline for JMT Hikers:Things to consider when planning your JMT hike. Leslie Rozier (DNP, APRN, FNP-BC), Kenny Meyer.

#14.  American Pilgrims on the Camino: Hospitalero Training. 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 offering its final 2014 Hospitalero Training Course in mid-November! The sessions are in Los Gatos, California. Training begins Friday, November 14 at 4 p.m. – ends on Sunday November 16 at 5 p.m. 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.

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. Presentation Center, 19480 Bear Creek Rd., Los Gatos, CA 95033. Cost is $275 and there are only three spots remaining.

The weekend training includes all instruction, meals and lodging. All linens (bedding, towels) will be provided.  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. You will receive a confirmation when registration is received. Register:; for questions.

#15. The latest report relayed from Johnnie Walker tells who has traveled the Camino network of trails leading to Spain’s Santiago de Compostela.

Pilgrim numbers for Jan 1, 2014 – Sept 30, 2014.   

The numbers are of those who registered at the Pilgrims´ Office (not everyone does!). Total number was 208,007-- an increase of 9.6% over the same period in 2013. The growth rate of the USA was up 8%--9,257 pilgrims.

The 5 most popular routes:

Routes                           Number of pilgrims

Frances-Camino de       140,584 (67,59%)

Portugues-Camino         31,787 (15,28%)

Norte-Camino de           12,857 (6,18%)

Via de la Plata                7,675 (3,69%)

Primitivo-Camino        7,421 (3,57%)

The countries of origin (top 5)

Countries                    Number of pilgrims

Spain                           101,898 (48,99%)

Italy                                18,764 (9,02%)

Germany                        14,143 (6,80%)

Portugal                         10,633 (5,11%)

United States                   9,250 (4,45%)

Method of transport

Method                      Number of pilgrims

On foot                         183,350 (88,15%)

Bicycle                           23,191 (11,15%)

Horseback                       1,372 (0,66%)

Wheel chair                         94 (0,05%)

Reasons for making the pilgrimage

Reason                                    Number of pilgrims

Religious and spiritual          103,766 (49,89%)

Religious                                89,651 (43,10%)

Not religious                          14,590 (7,01%)


Age                                        Number of pilgrims

30 - 60                                   114,943 (55,26%)

< 30                                          60,743 (29,20%)

> 60                                          32,321 (15,54%)

Starting point                        Number of pilgrims

Sarria*                                     52,225 (25,11%)

S. Jean P. Port**                     22,902 (11,01%)

Tui***                                     10,557 (5,08%)

León                                        10,252 (4,93%)

Oporto****                              9,329 (4,48%)

Cebreiro                                   9,239 (4,44%)

Ponferrada                               7,164 (3,44%)

Roncesvalles*****                 6,846 (3,29%)

Editor: *Because Sarria is a large city near the 100 K point (which entitles pilgrims to obtain the compostela), it enjoys much popularity. **St. Jean de Port is just over the Pyrenees on the French side. ***Tui, Spain and ****Oporto, Portugal are on the Portuguese. *****Roncesvalles, is in the Pyrenees on the Spanish side.

#16. Correction for October newsletter: Marcy’s trip to MushroomRock State Park in Kansas did not include camping, but there was a picnic spot. They did find camping at Castle Rock. She also recommended visits to Monument Rocks (to see fossils); to Tall Grass Prairie....which was wild...except for the cows; to the EXACT center of the lower 48 states and the center of North and South America. Best of all she remarked, “there just were NO people!” Check out the photos! 

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips #192, October 2014


  1. Rock Climbing Bears
  2. Success with Yosemite bears
  3. Bats about bats?
  4. Walk to School Day
  5. Grand to Grand Ultra
  6. Camino: Pilgrim accommodations in Portugal
  7. Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago gets an update
  8. Camino: New recommended book
  9. Camino: Visit to Finisterre (end of the world) for pilgrims
  10. Regional: Kansas: Camping at Mushroom Rock State Park
  11. Regional: SF Bay Area: GG Audubon walks
  12. Great Old Broads plans 10th annual auction
  13. Regional: Nor Cal Fort Ross volunteer project & free camping
  14. Grizzlies talk at REI Berkeley; many programs elsewhere
  15. Regional: Ridge Trail/Walk SF event
  16. Regional: Solano County:  walk in Rockville Trails                                                                                               


img1 #1. Don’t miss this short video on youtube—Rock Climbing Bears by Stephanie Latimer Go to link:

#2. Yosemite bears are now safer—and so are you! In “Yosemite solving bear problem by educating animals — and humans” (Paul Rogers; San Jose Mercury News, Sept. 27, 2014), we are updated on the tremendous progress that has been made in solving the bear “problem” in Yosemite. Actually, as Rogers points out, it is primarily humans who have been the problem.

“Black bears used to terrorize Yosemite National Park.”  In 1997, black bears broke into more than 600 cars in the park, searching for human food and occasionally injuring people. “But today, in one of Yosemite’s most remarkable wildlife-success stories, the bears are behaving better. Reports of bears damaging property or injuring people in the park have fallen 92 percent — from 1,584 in 1998 to 120 last year. And the number of bears that park officials have had to kill because they pose safety problems has fallen from about 10 a year in the 1990s to one or two a year now.”

“Have you ever been in a vehicle or house that a bear has been in it? It’s not pretty,” Mike Tollefson, a former Yosemite superintendent said. “They just don’t poop in the woods. The big ones weigh 400 pounds.”

Yosemite has between 300 and 500 black bears. Thousands more live in the rest of California and other Western states. However, there has never been a recorded incident of a black bear killing a person in Yosemite, or anywhere in California.

Public attitudes toward how to treat bears has changed dramatically. From the late 1920s to the early 1970, rangers allowed visitors to feed the bears and the garbage dumps were accessible. During the 1980s and 1990, the number of visitors to the park increased dramatically and the bear incidence mushroomed. Then changes were instituted: overnight visitors were instructed to remove food and toiletries from cars. Campers were required to place items in steel, bear-proof lockers. Rangers patrolled campgrounds and other areas to chase bears away—using small bean bags shot from paintball shotguns when necessary. Bears were collared so there whereabouts could be monitored. Backcountry campers were required to carry approved bear-proof containers.

“What we found was that the diets of bears changed dramatically after 1999,” said Jack Hopkins, lead author of the study and a research fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Nowadays, bears are once again learning to rely on their more natural and healthy diet of acorns, grass and berries. “Damage from bears in the park has fallen an astounding 99 percent — from $659,569 in 1998 to $7,508 last year. Seven people were injured by bears in 1998, and nobody has been injured in the past two years.”
#3. Celebrate National Bat Week, October 26 – November 1, 2014. In “Spotlight: Bats — Heroes of the Night,” by Jolene Hall, and Cynthia M. Sandeno, USDA Forest Service, one can learn a lot about bats. For example: "Bats can consume more than half their body weight in insects each night.

"All but four of the 47 bat species in the U.S. and Canada feed solely on insects, including many crop and forest pests. The remaining four North American bat species feed on nectar, pollen and the fruit of cacti and agaves growing in southwestern deserts. "Bats are not blind. They use echolocation—“bat sonar”—to navigate. 

"Some well-known places to see bats emerge are Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico; Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama; or at the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. [They also are found at] Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho. Big Bend National Park, Texas. Campers who stay up late have a good chance of seeing them flying around at: Lava Beds National Monument, Pinnacles National Monument or Point Reyes National Seashore, California; Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky; Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico; Nickajack Lake, Tennessee; and Big Bend National Park, Texas."

More about bats next issue. Or, you can read the entire article here.

#4. Walk to School Day is Wednesday, October 8. Your editor just learned that Walk to School Day is an international event with more than 40 countries involved. Our local group, WalkSF, writes (click here): 

"If you're looking for new ways to incorporate health and fitness into your children's lives, introduce them to walking or rolling to school as part of Walk & Roll to School Day. Kick off a healthy, life-long habit at this annual celebration, and whether you walk on a monthly, or weekly basis - by making walking to class something your children can look forward to doing with you on special occasions, this simple form of exercise becomes an activity the whole family can enjoy and relish.

Most importantly, studies have shown children who walk to school enjoy important health benefits and academic advantages, as well as getting more quality bonding time with YOU. Additionally, the sense of independence your child feels by walking to school will help build self-confidence and give them a sense of accomplishment.

To help you connect with parents near you, or join your school's walking school bus or bike train, download KangaDo -- a free app for your iPhone or Android, which lets you securely share your trip for Walk & Roll to School Day, and every day! Ready to get started at your child's school? First, see if your school is one of the 80+ already participating (list here). If not, contact Genaro Escarzaga at 415.431.9255 x5 or, via email with your school's Safe Routes to School coordinator information (e.g. parent, teacher, or principal volunteer). Get FREE prizes (limited number); complete the Walk & Roll to School Day Request Form. 

#5. The Grand to Grand Ultra is a footrace that's held in the SW in September. The 170-mile course with 6 stages, which extends through a 7-day period, starts on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (AZ) and ends on the Grand Staircase in Utah. Congratulations to the Bay Area's Triple-Crown and "Grand Slam" hiker/backpacker Marcia Powers for her participation. Though she (and about 20 others) did not finish, this was a course that challenged even elite runners from around the world. This competition was different from others because the participants were required to carry all of their own gear and food. Only water (in rationed amounts), electrolytes to prevent dehydration, and communal tents were supplied by the organizers. The overall winner was Michele Graglia of Italy, who finishing time was 31:25:03. Chantas Van der Geest of the Netherlands had the best women's time with 36:53:00. Whew! 

Read more about it on, click here. And if you live in the SF East Bay area, be sure pick up a copy of one of the Bay Area News Group newspapers (Oakland Tribune, West County Times, San Jose Mercury and more) on Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014 for a The Good Life article on the remarkable Marcia Powers!

#6. Camino: Laurie (Peregrina2000) “Another albergue opened relatively recently, this one in Grijo. It's a long slog from Sao Joao de Madeira to Grijo, so this will be especially nice for people who don't enjoy 30+ km days. She also writes, “I think our first go-to place in checking out the current state of affairs for albergues between Lisbon and Porto should be the ViaLusitana website. To the ones maintaining this site, she writes, “Thanks guys, wherever you are!" Click link here  (found on Ivar’s blog 9/30/14.)

#7. Camino: We have just updated the “how to” section of your editor’s book, “Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago.” Ralph says, “if you already have a copy, you don’t need to get a new one, but if you have friends who are interested….” You can find it on Amazon, click here.

#8. Camino: Sandra Nicholls checks in with this recommendation of a Camino book. “Two weeks ago I heard Mary O’Hara Wyman speak … about her solo trip on the Camino in 2010. She was really entertaining and I loved reading her book.” Grandma's on the Camino: Reflections on a 48-Day Pilgrimage Walk to Santiago.” The book is organized as a chapter a day, for each day of 48 days of walking and each chapter also represents a message to the author’s five-year old granddaughter.

#9. Camino: Visit Finisterre. Sylvia Nilsen (9/30/14) wrote “If you want to do a quick trip to Finisterre and spend a couple of hours there, share a taxi with an English speaker - Jose Manuel Caneda Mareque He will do day or night trips. Taxi takes 4 people and return trip is €124. Recommended”

#10. Marcy just sent word of a trip to Kansas which included a stay at the campground in Mushroom Rock State Park. The park is only five acres in size, but it has some awesome rock formations. I also enjoyed the info on the park’s management, which is from Kanopolis State Park, 200 Horsethief Rd. Marquette, Kansas 67464. Check out the photos!

#11. Regional, S.F. Bay Area: Golden Gate Audubon outings: Wednesday, October 8, 8:00 – 10:00 a.m. North Beach/Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. Experience North Beach and Telegraph Hill in a different way in this walk for birders of all ages and levels. Beginners are especially welcome! We’ll start at the Coit Tower parking lot and make our way around Telegraph Hill, including, possibly, a descent and ascent of the Greenwich and Filbert Steps. We’ll look for resident and migratory birds while taking in some great views of two stunning bridges. 

Meet 8:00 AM at the Coit Tower parking lot. You can park your vehicle here but you may have to wait until DPW finishes their 8am street cleaning. Street parking is available on the way up to Coit Tower.  Note that the 39 bus does NOT run this early. The 30, 45, and 8x buses stop at Washington Square and from there it’s about a four block walk uphill. Carlo Arreglo, 415.533.7081,

Friday, October 10, 8:30 am- 10:30 am. Tilden Regional Park, Vollmer Peak, Berkeley (2nd Friday bird walk). Vollmer was once the best known police chief in America and served on the EBRPD Board of Directors. The last bit of the trail is steep; clear skies will provide great views! Some “Double Ten” lagniappe also! Meet at the Tilden Steam Train parking lot, corner of Grizzly Peak Blvd and Lomas Cantadas (link to Google Maps: Restrooms at the start; bring water. Alan Kaplan,, or (510) 526-7609 for messages. For information on upcoming birding classes, monthly speaker series and other events, go to:

#12. Great Old Broads is requesting items for its next auction. Great Old Broads’ at 10th annual on-line auction goes live on November 3 and it’s time to get serious about pledging and listing donations. “This is our major fundraiser of the year, with a goal of raising $75,000 for our work to protect wilderness and wild lands. Do you have something you can donate to help reach our goal? We love homestays, vacation rentals, a unique service, a guided outdoor adventure, or any outdoor gear you bought but never used. Be creative. You can get ideas from the categories and current listings on our auction site. See more at, click here

#13. Regional: Northern CA coast. Saturday, Oct 11, 2014, d10am to 3 pmd.  Fort Ross State Historic Park (Sonoma). Work project and camping with California State Parks Foundation. Volunteers will help prepare for the Harvest Festival by making signs, transporting materials and supplies, sprucing up exhibits, and maintaining trails. Kids 10 and up welcome with a legal guardian. Free tent camping available Fridayd and Saturday at nearby Salt Point State Park. To sign up for this trip or more, visit and sign up. 

#14. Most, if not all, REI stores have calendars filled with activities, classes, and presentation in their Outdoor Schools. Some are free. This is a sample from the REI Berkeley store; go to for events in your area. 10/16/2014 7:00 - 8:30 PM — Grizzlies on My Mind: Uncovering the Wildness of Yellowstone with Michael Leach. Berkeley REI. "Description: Join presenter and wilderness advocate Michael Leach, author of Grizzlies on My Mind for an inspiring presentation about grizzly bears, wolves, bison and Yellowstone. Grizzlies on My Mind is a celebration of the wild heartbeat of Yellowstone Country. Reliving his time as a bear education ranger in Yellowstone National Park, Michael shares the Yellowstone story, stirring those who already know and love Yellowstone to re-visit this rugged and majestic region, while motivating others to discover the raw power of North America's most iconic landscape."

#15. Regional: Bay Area: Tunnel to Tee: A Taste of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Sunday, October 5. 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Space is extremely limited, RSVP required, for October's Walk SF event. You’ll be guided by Bob Siegel of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council. Celebrate the month of Walktober and the 25th Anniversary of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council and explore the 13-mile segment through San Francisco, of what is currently a 350-mile long loop, which connects residents of nine Bay Area counties to the natural habitats surrounding the trail.

October's walk will begin at West Portal Tunnel (intersection of West Portal and Ulloa Avenues) and follow the Ridge Trail through the West Portal neighborhood to Stern Grove. There will be a stop at the historic Trocadero Inn and from Stern Grove, the walk will continue past Pine Lake, down Sunset Blvd. and end at the intersection of Lake Merced Blvd. and Harding Road. Four-mile walk, minimal elevation changes; Wear good walking shoes; Bring sunblock, water, and personal snacks. Please arrive promptly by 10:00 a.m. to sign in. This walk is free for Walk SF and Bay Area Ridge Trail members; $10 for non-members. Go to, click here

#16. Regional Bay Area, Solano County: Monday, October 13, 8:30am – 12:30pm. Free Columbus Day Power Hike at Rockville Trails Preserve. "Join Solano Land Trust docents Richard and Cathy Christo for a quick-paced hike through the oaks and grassland with some hill climbs. We'll take a few short breaks to enjoy the views and catch our breath. Enjoy this beautiful open space while getting in shape! Take advantage of this special opportunity if you can because Solano Land Trust's Rockville Trails Preserve is otherwise closed.

"Advance registration is required.  Learn more and register by visiting, the events calendar at, or by calling Cathy at 707-745-1913.  There is no drinking water, and there are no bathrooms or parking lots at Rockville Trails Preserve.  In order to protect wildlife, free-range cattle, and rare plants—and for your pet's safety—dogs are not allowed.  Since the preserve is otherwise closed, the entry and exit gate will be locked except for the start and end times of the hike.  Park and meet your guide promptly by 8:30am at the big red "Ice House" building on Suisun Valley Ct., near the intersection of Rockville Rd. and Suisun Valley Rd., behind La Barista Espresso.  Be ready to immediately carpool or caravan from there to the trailhead.  High fire danger or heavy rain cancels.  Call Cathy if conditions are uncertain.

Bring a backpack with plenty of water and snacks. Wear hiking boots or sturdy closed-toe shoes with good tread, as well as long, sturdy pants and layered clothes that provide protection from the elements such as sun, wind, and fog.  Hiking sticks, bug repellent, binoculars and a camera are also recommended. >Learn more at

Happy trails,

img2Susan Alcorn
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn
Shepherd Canyon Books, Oakland, CA and

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips #191, September 2014


  1. Wild—the movie                                                                           
  2. Ursack news
  3. How about the LuminAID?
  4. Another ID idea
  5. Camino de Santiago statistics
  6. Just swimming along…
  7. Charges made against man for 2013 Rim Fire near Yosemite
  8. New supported Pacific Crest Trail record set
  9. Opportunities for Women adventurers
  10. How to: Use a GPS for hiking
  11. Volunteer in Santiago’s pilgrim office
  12. Regional: Visions of the Wild in Vallejo Sept 3-6
  13. Walk the Bridge of the Gods
  14. PCT Days at Cascade Locks, OR – Sept 5-7
  15. Chinese Woman walks PCT
  16. New book: “Walkabout Malibu to Mexico”
  17. New group permit for hiking the Grand Canyon


#1. To see the trailer for the movie “Wild” with Renee Witherspoon, which will be out December 5, go here.

#2. Bear-Resistant Products. Congratulations to the folks at Ursack! It’s been a long journey to get their Ursack approved by the powers that be at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Finally, in July, Ursack was able to have their product be IGBC certified. Approval of the Ursack is a big deal because it weighs 7.3 ounces (made of Spectra fabric) compared to something like the Bear Vault (a hard-sided polycarbonate container) that weighs 2+ pounds.

The testing of a bear-resistant product is quite a process. Here’s how Ursack described their container’s test: “At IGBC insistence, we baited an Ursack S29 AllWhite, knotted it securely and placed it on the ground with no aluminum liner and not tied to a tree. The first two grizzlies went at it for an active 57 minutes. One of the bears was nick-named ‘The Destroyer,’ but neither he nor his sister were able to compromise the Ursack. The Grizzly Wolf and Discovery Center rotates bears in and out at approximately one hour intervals. So the Destroyer went back to his quarters and five, count 'em, five more grizzlies came out to work on the same Ursack. The IGBC testing protocol requires a total of 60 minutes of active bear encounters, so even though we needed just a few minutes more to pass the test, there was no way to get the Ursack out until the five bears finished their shift. Not to worry. Ursack made if for another hour. A total of seven grizzly bears and two hours of active clawing, biting and scratching--yet Ursack survived. After washing the Ursack one could barely (bearly?) tell that it had been attacked.” (April 18, 2014) More info here

Some agencies, or rangers, may not be up-to-date on this new approval, so backpackers who are using the approved models of the URSACK, can print out the regulations here. 

We used our Ursack on many PCT and other trips in the Sierra where they were legal. This was always our preference because of their weight, easy packing, and ease of opening (I find the Bear Vault almost impossible to open!)

#3. LuminAID--Has any of you tried this product? If so, I’d love to get your feedback. Why on the Ursack website I also saw a product called “LuminAID” ($19.95). This is the description, “The LuminAID Solar Light is a solar-powered inflatable light that packs flat and inflates to create a lightweight, waterproof lantern. It can double as a pillow. There are two setting: 15 and 30 Lumens. It provides up to 16 hours of light and fully charges in 7 hours of full sun. Waterproof to 1 meter, puncture resistant. Weighs only 2.9 ounces.”

#4. Contributor Marcy writes with a suggestion for an easy, inexpensive way to carry your ID.  She picked up a tiny shiny metal (maybe titanium?), like a pill box...screw top container “at the Army Surplus Store. Inside was a water-tight place to put a small piece of paper with all vital info written. “It swings from my backpack.  And it's red.”

I also see a product called the Witz badge holder for $6.95 online that holds an ID, some cash, and a key. The point is: it’s a good idea to find a way to have ID with you when you want to hike or backpack without carrying a bulky wallet. 

#5. Camino stats:  Bob Holm forwards, “All the pilgrim numbers from Santiago Jan 1- July 31, 2014.”

“During July 39,581 pilgrims arrived bringing the total for the year to date to 122,330 pilgrims who have registered at the Pilgrims' Office. This is a growth rate of 9.1% which is down on the rate of 11% in the same period last year. Is the growth in the number of pilgrims slowing down? Time will tell.

2“The number of American pilgrims continues to grow. And in July pilgrims from the USA leapt into 3rd place for the first time. Click here to see the full analysis.

#6. “Switchback the Trail Pirate” of PCT fame is at it again—telling one of his entertaining tales: “One day PCT Grizzly was over at his neighbor’s cabin to return a tool he had borrowed.  His neighbor was a senior widower and an old wise hiking buddy.  His neighbor was doing some chores out back. He told Grizzly he wanted to go down to his pond to get some fresh spring water.  As they approached the pond through the trees, they heard some laughing and giggling.

“It was a beautiful pond with ducks, fish, trees, and cool water not too far from the PCT.  He often lets hikers camp there on their journey along the trail.

 “As they arrived at the pond, they saw a group of women hikers skinny-dipping.  As Grizzly and his neighbor came closer the swimmers went to the deeper end of the idyllic pond.

One of the ladies yelled, "We're not coming out until you leave!"

Grizzly’s neighbor yelled back, "We didn't come down here to watch you pretty ladies swim naked or wait until you get out of the pond without any clothes on."

Holding his bucket up he said, "We are here to feed the alligator." (forum 8/5/14)

#7. From the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region. News Release: Tuolumne County man indicted for starting Rim Fire

FRESNO, Calif. - A federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment today, charging Keith Matthew Emerald, 32, of Columbia, with starting a fire that eventually burned more than 250,000 acres, including large areas in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore announced. The Rim Fire, which burned for nine weeks, was the largest fire in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in recorded history.

“According to court documents, Emerald was rescued by helicopter from the extremely remote Clavey River Canyon area of the Stanislaus National Forest near the origin of the Rim Fire about an hour after the fire was reported. Emerald was carrying bow hunting equipment with him and advised authorities that he had been on a solo hunting trip.”

“Emerald is expected to appear soon federal court in Fresno. If convicted of setting timber afire or false statements to a government agency, Emerald faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. Leaving a fire unattended and violating a fire restriction order each carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.”

Read Susan Alcorn's take here.

#8. Joe McConaughy was setting a pace of up to 55 miles aday as he hiked, and ran, the entire Pacific Crest Trail. He was also honoring the life of a young cousin and raising money to help families of others facing cancer. All donations go to CancerCare.

On August 10, 2014, McConaughy reached the Canadian border at 12:02 p.m., setting a new record for covering the entire 26,600 miles, supported. His 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes beats the record set in 2013 by Josh Garrett, a 30-year-old from southern California. Garrett’s time was 59 days, 8 hours and 4 minutes. Helping in his speed-record try were three friends who meet him at strategic spots along the way with food and other supplies. Read more here

Heather Anderson, a Michigan native and Bellingham, WA resident, still holds the record for the “unassisted” through hike. Her 60 days, 17 hours, 12 minutes was completed without others bringing her food and supplies. 

#9. New adventures for women adventurers: Sierra Club’s National outings for next year include two trips I found of particular interest: Women Backpacking the wonders of the Grand Canyon. A route along the Tonto trail with vistas and views. March 30-April 4, 2015. Trip #15405A. $995.

Service trip: Women Weeding in the Wild in the Anza Borrego Wilderness, CA. Feb. 21-28, 2015. Removing invasive weeds (I learned last year while doing a similar project in the Mojave with Wilderness Volunteers, that they have a serious Sahara Mustard invasion in Anza Borrego. The good news is that this weed is usually easy to pull). Enjoy breathtaking desert flora and fauna. #15435A $595.  Go to for more info and signups.

#10. Denise M. wrote to share a hiking page that her daughter Lily found while helping research hiking blogs. She thought this website on hiking using a GPS would be helpful. Click for Fleetmatics

#11. Peregrinos!! Helena writes, “Ultreia! Para quem estiver interessado (For any of you that might be interested.) about volunteering in the Pilgrims' Office January/February 2015. For the winter season we already have volunteers to complement the work of the permanent staff from October 2014 - first week in January 2015 and again for the months of March and April 2015.

3“There is therefore a vacancy for the period second week in January 2015 to end February 2015. Applications are invited from experienced pilgrims who can spend at least two weeks during this time welcoming pilgrims, issuing the final stamp of the Cathedral and writing the Compostela. Ability to speak English and Spanish is essential.

“Training and excellent accommodation is provided. Volunteers meet all of their other expenses. Further information from:  and

#12. Regional: A celebration of the Wilderness Act in Vallejo, CA this week, Sept. 3-6! Read more here in Susan's article.

#13. This weekend at the Bridge of the Gods: “For a peaceful half hour beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, the iconic Bridge of the Gods connecting the PCT in Oregon and Washington will be closed to motorized traffic so pedestrians and bicyclists can celebrate its breathtaking views.

“Explore what it's like to cross the bridge as a hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail. Celebrate the bi-state connection of Gorge communities and economies. Learn about the efforts to make the bridge safer for pedestrians, bikes, and horses.

“In the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, hub of world-class hiking and bicycling, the Bridge of the Gods sits at the convergence of The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, three National Historic Trails and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. The Bridge is a beautiful asset to residents and visitors alike.

4“At the same time, many long-distance hikers and equestrians refer to the bridge as the most treacherous part of the PCT. Despite the fact that pedestrians, horses, bicyclists, and even casual tourists are permitted on the bridge, there’s no shoulder. The narrow lanes must be shared with constant two-way traffic.

“A gorge-based coalition is working to identify options to improve the safety of non-motorized bridge users. The addition of a non-motorized pathway across the Bridge would radically transform the experience of countless cyclists, commuters, history buffs, photographers, students, families and sightseers. The initial fundraising target is $18,000 for an engineering cost analysis. Contributions from four organizations currently total $13,000. The coalition hopes to fill the $5,000 gap with a public awareness presentation and fundraiser during the bridge walk event. While enjoying the Gorge views from the Bridge Walk, visitors should consider donating a voluntary ‘walker bridge toll’ toward long-term safety efforts for non-motorized users.

“The walk begins at 9 a.m. Meet earlier at the Bridge of the Gods PCT trailhead area, near the tollbooth. Park vehicles in the Marine Park or downtown Cascade Locks. Please, no pets. Use extreme caution with children. Following the Bridge Walk event, enjoy the PCT Days festival occurring on Thunder Island in the Marine Park.”  Dana Hendricks, PCTA Regional Representative.

#14. Outdoor Viewfinder Presents PCT Days in Cascade Locks Sept. 5-7. “During the 8th Annual PCT Days event, you can learn about the latest in outdoor products, attend a class or join a work party on the PCT. It’s a great way to connect with the larger PCT community and enjoy the wonderful setting close to the trail.

“On Friday night, join the welcome party. On Saturday night, there will be a gear raffle and auction with proceeds going to PCTA and ALDA-West. Cap the evening with a movie and slide presentation. Several vendors will be serving dinner. Camping is free. For more information about the event, go to the PCT Days website.”

#15. The article, “Chinese Woman Hikes Through North America,” recognizes the challenge of completing the Pacific Crest Trail. “Zhang Nuoya, 23, a woman from southwest China's Sichuan Province, arrived at the No. 78 monument in Canada on August 19 after walking 4,200 km in the past 137 days.”

“In advance, Zhang spent US $1,000 buying food including bread, energy bars, nuts, chocolate, beef jerky, salmon/tuna, dehydrated vegetables and more.” She had 29 resupply places and eighty percent of her food was shipped ahead, 20 % was purchased in the towns through which she passed.

“Zhang experienced snowy mountains, desert, forest, meadows and also suffered through blizzards, heavy rain and strong winds.” Her father said, on the popular Chinese social network, 'My daughter always endures hardship, thinks carefully and makes thorough plans; she may not be the cleverest but she is the most diligent child.' August 29, 2014 Editor: Wendy Zhang (Source: /Translated by Women of China)

#16. Tom Courtney’s newest book, Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast is now available! The concept is brilliant, a walkabout that stretches 200 miles from Leo Carrillo State Beach (near LA) to the border of Mexico. There are seven chapters describing multi-day hikes and each day ends at a coastal inn with a comfortable bed, shower, and hot meal available. Doesn’t ending a day’s hike at an inn in such beautiful places as Malibu, Santa Catalina, and La Jolla sound delightful?

#17. New (group) permit needed for Grand Canyon trail. This just out—Starting Sept. 15, a permit will be needed by groups that are going rim-to-rim or rim to canyon bottom and back. It applies to groups that have “advertised the trips publicly” and includes charitable events. Group size will be limited to 30 people or less. Permit is $175, More info here.

I hope you have enjoyed this issue chockfull of items and that you will add to the conversation by sending in items of interest to the hiking & backpacking communities here and abroad.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips #190. August 2014



  1. Great progress with hip replacement surgeries
  2. Dead bug?
  3. Don’t neglect: ROAD ID
  4. American Long Distance Hiking Assoc (ALDHA West) for Gathering
  5. Backpacker Magazine tour dates
  6. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act – Vallejo, CA events.
  7. Pays Basque with the Wayfarers
  8. New Walkabout Book: 200 Miles on the Southern California Coast
  9. Mendocino, CA—always a treat
  10. Hiking poles class – free.


#1. Progress with hip replacements: Someone you know (even you) may be considering having hip replacement surgery—if so, this sounds like good news. Dr. Christopher V. Cox writes that hip replacement surgery has been around for decades, but the results have vastly improved from the earliest ones. Whereas in the 1980's, the average hospital stay was two weeks; nowadays, it is more likely two days. In addition, the lifetime of the replacement was 10-15 years, now it is 20-30 years. The fact that the life of the replacement is now longer means that younger patients might choose to have the surgery earlier—relieving their pain sooner. Cox also mentions that the surgery is often so successful at relieving painful symptoms that patients forget which hip they had the surgery on. ("Replacing hip likely to expand function, ease pain," (Dr. Christopher V. Cox in Health: S.F. Chronicle, July 2, 2014.)

#2.You may think about dead bugs in relationship to the “dead bug pose” in your yoga or Pilates class, but this time around we are referring to dead bugs we might see on the trail. Q. Why do bugs always seem to die on their backs? (Leslie Yates, Riverside, CA.) A. “It’s a matter of physics. As the bug nears death, normal blood flow ceases causing the legs to contract inwardly. Without the support of the legs, the body becomes top heavy, and usually falls upside down. (Gary F. Hevel, entomologist, Natural History Museum. Smithsonian magazine. July/August 2014.)

#3. Hiker and friend Dave Woods sends word about an item that hikers, backpackers, bicyclists, and more should have—ID! How many times have you gone on a walk or run and not been carrying any identification? I plead guilty. So check out ROAD ID’s website and for $20-30, get an ID  bracelet or other item that may save your life in case of a medical or other emergency (and may bring some piece of mind to your friends and family.). RoadID’s website, click here


#4. The 21st ALDHA-West Gathering will be held September 26th-28th, 2014, at The Mountaineers Meany Lodge at Stampede Pass, WA only 1 1/2 hours from Seattle. The site is a...

Online registration for the gathering is up. Register early, spots are limited. The full weekend includes dinner Friday and Saturday, breakfast Sat & Sunday & lunch Sat. Price: $135 for current members, $155 for non-members. (Note: If you are attending just Saturday, Saturday only does not include lodging or camping as are rate this year is based on facilities usage not just meals.)

Saturday programs:

Jean Ella – Presenting the story of hiking the Projected CDT in 1978.
Cam Honan “Swami” – Hiking Mexico’s Copper Canyon, one of the world’s most rugged, beautiful & lawless regions.
Liz Thomas “Snorkel” – The Inman 300, an urban thru-hike of the city of Los Angeles.
Ryan Sylva “Dirt Monger” – Presenting the Vagabond Loop: 3,500-miles around the Four Corners of the U.S.

ALDHA-West’s current newsletter is up, click here

Related events: 8th Annual PCT Days, September 5th-7th, Cascade Locks, OR

#5. Backpacker’s authoritative advice comes in the form of 50+ events with in-depth retail workshops and presentations that inform and inspire active and aspiring outdoor women while covering the unique challenges women face while hiking, camping and backpacking, the specialized equipment designed specifically for women and the current state of fashion in the outdoor industry.        

Tues., Aug 5     REI      8300 W Emerald St, Boise, ID 83704;
Thur., Aug 7     REI      222 Yale Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109;
Tues., Aug 12   REI      7410 SW Bridgeport Rd, Tigard, OR 97224;
Fri., Aug 15      Backcountry Gear       1855 W 2nd Ave, Eugene, OR 97402;
Tues., Aug 19   The Sports Basement  1590 Bryant St, San Francisco, CA 94103;
Wed., Aug 20   REI      1119 Industrial Rd, San Carlos, CA 94070;
Thur., Aug 21   Bass Pro Shops            1356 Bass Pro Dr, Manteca, CA 95337;
Tues., Aug 26   A-16    11161 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064;
Wed., Aug 27   REI      2962 El Camino Real, Tustin, CA 92782;
Thur., Aug 28   A-16    4620 Alvarado Canyon Rd, San Diego, CA 92120

#6. Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act with “Visions of the Wild.” This weekend of events will be held September 3-6, 2014. Visions of the Wild will connect people to nature and wildness through various forms of cultural expression. The goal of the festival is to bring the values of wilderness to a diverse urban community. The theme is: "Connecting Nature, Culture and Community." "Vallejo is the most ethnically diverse city in the United States," explained Miessner. "Our historic downtown is the perfect location for the festival."


On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act establishing our National Wilderness Preservation System. The Act allowed for the preservation of wilderness for the American public, and it now encompasses more than 100 million acres of land. The festival is a partnership among conservation and arts organizations, local governments and businesses. For a schedule of events for the festival go to: Visions of the Wild Program Overview.  Click here for more information and registration.


On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act establishing our National Wilderness Preservation System. The Act allowed for the preservation of wilderness for the American public, and it now encompasses more than 100 million acres of land.


#7. The Wayfarers, who offer European walking tours, is offering one that sounds marvelous in the Basque country—SW France and NW Spain. It starts in Biarritz, France; transfers the hilltop village of Aïnhoa; next to Sare, Saint Jean de Luz, as stay in the parador (historic building now restored as a Spanish hotel) in Hondarribia, a fascinating walled city… and so forth. Go here for the itinerary.              

Dates are October 19-25. Rated: Moderate to Energetic. Alpine and coastal trails with moderate climbs and steep descents, inviting village tracks. 9-12 miles walking per day. US$4195.00 per person double occupancy (single supplement US$635.00)

#8. New Walkabout Book: Tom Courtney’s new book “Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast” is due to be released this month.  To find out more, go to  Tom will be presenting a slideshow on the joys of inn-to-inn hiking in California at REI Reno on August 20. REI. 7:00 P.M. Free, but register at Website here

“The Walkabout Malibu to Mexico vacation guidebook makes it easy to plan and enjoy self-guided inn-to-inn hikes along 200 continuous miles of magnificent coastline from north of L.A to the border with Mexico.  Stroll seductive beaches. Explore wildlife preserves teeming with shorebirds along the Pacific Flyway.  Hike the coastal bluffs and rocky shores of isolated peninsulas.  Walk miles of secluded shorelines where your only companions may be migrating whales, pods of dolphins, harbor seals, and sea lions.  Discover crystalline coves and pocket beaches.  Enjoy charming coastal villages, great art scenes, wild people-watching, fun nightlife, and delightful inns.”


Mendicino Coast#9. Mendocino: always a treat. Ralph and I have been to Mendocino twice in the last month—once as guests in a luxurious room at Heritage House Resort (setting for the movie Same Time Next Year) and once on a less luxurious, but still fun camping trip to Van Damme State Park with our granddaughter. I’ve posted two articles about hiking in that area recently and there will be more in the near future. Go to the Jug Handle State Natural Reserve write-up and the Glass Beach post. (photo is at Point Arena lighthouse)

#10. Regional: Berkeley REI.  Jayah Faye is giving her “Using POLES for Hiking & Outdoor Exercise” class on August 7, 2014, 7:00 - 8:30 PM.  There are only a few seats remaining, so if interested, register now to hold a seat for yourself until the scheduled start time. Seating may be available at the door, even if registration is closed. Free.

 “Participants who arrive before the start of the clinic will receive and be able to use loaner poles for practice during the clinic! You may also use your own poles, but rubber tips are required for indoor practice (multiple brands available for purchase in store).” Click here to go to the REI Berkeley page and then click on Register.

Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips #189, July 2014

Happy 4th of July! How privileged we are to have the millions of miles of trails and square miles of parks, monuments, and wilderness areas to enjoy in this country. Welcome to the new “subscribers” who we met at the Livermore Armchair Travelers presentation about Patagonia in June.


  1. Hikers’ first aid kit
  2. Keeping your feet happy
  3. No bedbugs allowed!
  4. Recommended book: Yosemite Adventures
  5. What about that lizard?
  6. Things that can get you when hiking or backpacking
  7. More sex?
  8. Regional: Northern CA Pilgrims.
  9. For women only


#1. How to assemble a first aid kit: Indeed you can buy one at an outdoor supplier’s, but IMO it makes more sense to put one together for yourself that you will carry because it’s fine tuned for your needs and not too bulky or heavy. Via Magazine (May-June 2014) suggested an assortment of bandages and gauze, athletic tape, pain relievers, antibiotic gel [we use Neosporin], sharp-pointed tweezers, and latex-free gloves to keep “splinter surgeries germfree.” 

Our kit contains a large amount of Omnifix tape and a narrower (3/4”) breathable cotton tape because I do a lot of blister preventative taping. This is probably getting beyond first aid and into medical supplies, but we also carry an assortment of anti-diarrheal meds: Pepto Bismol, Imodium, and Cipro. Likewise, we carry pain meds starting with aspirin and Ibuprofen and graduating to Vicodin. It’s not as if we often use the stronger medications, but when we are days from “civilization,” we need to be prepared. 

#2. “Keeping your feet happy” in the Washington Post reviews proper foot treatment including training carefully, footwear, and cross training. Although it is oriented towards runners, I doubt there are many of us hikers who don’t know someone who has suffered with plantar fasciitis or other foot problems. Story click here

#3. Bedbugs: Friend and hiker Annie Gardiner posted on Facebook, “Just spent the afternoon with a friend who recently attended a class on bed bugs as part of her work. Some new travel tips that I'll be using: 1) Carry your suitcase into your room and place it in the bath tub or on the tile floor in the bathroom. 2) Keep your shoes on and go to the bed and pull back the bedding and inspect the mattress very carefully. 3) If you see a bed bug, leave the room with your suitcase immediately, ask for your money back and go to another hotel.”

#4. A while back, I received a copy of Yosemite Adventures: 50 Spectacular Hikes, Climbs, and Winter Treks by Matt Johanson for review and I finally had a chance to spend some time with it yesterday. Highly recommended! While there are many Yosemite hiking books available, this one is laid out beautifully, is very easy to understand, and describes treks both in Yosemite Valley and in the high county. Each of the featured trails has the important logistics: distance, level of difficulty, time required, elevation, best season, where to park, and whether a trail permit is needed or not. A topo map and color photograph accompanies each route. Also if the change in elevation is significant, a profile is given.

I have completed some of the hikes Johanson has chosen, and have backpacked along some of the high country routes while backpacking the John Muir Trail, so I can attest to the beauty of the featured trails. I was pleased to see a section on cross country skiing and snowshoeing routes, and what I--a non-climber--found extremely delightful was the section on climbing. His descriptions of the routes near Tuolumne Meadows such as “Pick Your Poison,” “Family Fun,” and Christmas Tree,” for example, were inspiring. While Johanson doesn’t say that one should attempt any climbing casually, he describes routes that are reasonable for novices with the basic skills such as “tying into a rope and belaying” and that have the appropriate gear. How I wish that I still had the knees to do these!

#5. “Ask the Naturalist" Michael Ellis in Bay Nature (July/Aug 2013) takes on the topic of how male and female lizards differ. Here in the Bay Area, the most common lizard seen is the Western Fence Lizard. That’s lucky for us if we want to figure out which is the male, because the other types around here—including the northern alligator lizards, etc. aren’t easily identified.

Here are some differences: brighter coloring—the male will have a metallic blue colored belly a dark blue throat. Under the rear limbs it will usually have bright yellow or orange coloration. Also the male is usually more active and even though these lizards of both sexes do pushups, the male is more energetic. Pushups are often related to courtship strategies—the healthy male’s coloration is brighter and those colors will show more when he is flexing his muscles.

#6. Things that can get you when hiking or backpacking. Sometimes your editor finds it amusing to consider the things that can get you when hiking, camping, or backpacking. I hasten to point out that driving to and from the trailhead is probably statistically the most hazardous exercise we’ll do during our trips, but we tend to obsess instead about everything from bears and bugs to avalanches to falls. Of course, it’s always best to realistically access both our fitness level and our intended route to see if it’s a good match. 

Here’s another consideration—extreme heat. Jane Brody in The New York Times recently reported that “hot weather kills more Americans than all other natural disaster combined.” The article, "Too Hot to Handle” (6/23/14) continues on to say that even with decades of warnings, the number of people who succumb to heat stroke, heat prostration, etc. continue to grow. Now that we are seeing worsening hot spells due to global climate changes, scientists are predicting that we will see even more illnesses and deaths caused by extreme heat. “Especially at risk are the very young, very old, and athletes of all ages, and weekend warriors.” The relationship of temperature and humidity is important. If both are high, the risks are greater because the body’s ability to cool itself by sweating is compromised. (In Wilderness Emergency Care by Steve Donelan, he states that “even at 70% saturation (relative humidity) sweating is ineffective.”

Prevention includes such measures as wearing clothing that allows sweating (loose weaves, etc.), wear a hat to protect your head and a bandanna to protect your neck, use an umbrella, dunk your clothing in water; use sunscreen – applied early and repeatedly; hike in the cooler times of day; when possible, choose a route that is more shaded; and stay as hydrated as possible. As most hikers know, it’s very hard to stay hydrated on extremely hot days, but you stand a better chance of doing well if you drink liquids before you start out instead of trying to play catch up. Drink frequently—don’t wait until you are thirsty.

Know the signs and what to do:

Heat exhaustion: The person will be sweating profusely and may show signs of faintness, dizziness, and headache, nausea, and muscle cramps—all related to poor blood supply to vital organs. Move the person to a shaded location and rehydrate. This may include giving electrolytes (recipe follows).

Heat stroke: This is an extremely serious condition—cells are breaking down, the heart is not getting enough blood, other organs can suffer damage – and the person can die from pulmonary edema in a very short time. Signs can include those of heat exhaustion, but may also show an unsteady gait, confusion, and disorientation. (It is categorized by a body temperature of over 104 degrees, but since most of us won’t be taking anyone’s temperature (and the “patient” may not be cooperative), we will be relying primarily on other signs.) Therefore, it is very important to pay attention to symptoms and cool the heat stroke victim quickly. 

There are many kinds of electrolyte mixtures or beverages available at sporting goods stores or you can make you your own--as we did for many years. This recipe is from Wilderness Emergency Care: Add to a liter of water: ½ teas. Table Salt (sodium chloride); ½ teas. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate); and ¼ salt substitute (potassium chloride). They add sugar or honey to taste (we didn’t).

#7. Health magazine (October 2013) reported that a survey by Brooks Running Company indicated that 62% of women runners and 71% of males say they have sex more often when they run with their significant others. (ed. Hmm, I wonder if this holds true for hikers?) 

#8. Camino Pilgrims: Bay Area regional--2 items: Reminder: First Saturday hikes around Lake Merritt, Oakland. Next date: July 5. “The NorCal Chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino wants to encourage more frequent contact and communications between our email list membership. Rather than invent something new and exciting, we've decided to steal an idea from the Portlandia chapter, i.e. a regularly scheduled, casual walk about. In time we hope to establish these regular events in different locations throughout the large geographic area our chapter serves.

“The initial offering, open to everyone, will be a monthly walk around Lake Merritt, followed by coffee or beer or wine or lunch, depending upon the group's wants and needs. This will take place on the first Saturday of each month, rain or shine, one person or a hundred attending. No rsvp is required and leadership will vary if leadership there is :)

A circuit of Lake Merritt is approximately 3 miles of flat terrain. Reach Lake Merritt by exciting the GrandAve/Lakeshore exit of Hwy 580. Parking is available underneath 580 at the exit ramp BUT there is a farmers market going on so an alternative will be local streets. Alternatively the 19th Street BART exit is a 3 block walk from the Lake. Meet at 10:30 at the Pavilion located on the east end of the lake, about 200 meters from the parking area. We leave at 10:45, no excuses."

More pilgrims doings: Set aside time to join the Chapter July 26th for a St James Day potluck. “More to follow," say coordinators, Rennie and Bob, of the Northern California chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino. if you are not already on their list. Alternatively, follow the chapter’s events on Facebook under "Peregrinos - Northern California."

#9. For women only: pee matters (con’d from April 2014 issue). Some of you may remember reading in We're in the Mountains Not over the Hill, Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers about one of the hikers/backpackers (Jeannine) who used to live in the LA area and did extensive hikes there... anyway, I once asked her where she found to pee when she was out all day in the neighborhoods. She told me she ducked behind houses or hedges, etc. The problem I am finding now is that everyone is getting surveillance cameras and I'm afraid of getting caught. Thank goodness for the occasional construction site port-a-potties! The other day a private security firm's car slowed to a crawl to take a good look at Ralph and me when we were walking in the hills near us--I guess walking is highly suspect nowadays!

In addition to my recommendation for taking an empty quart yogurt container when backpacker so you don’t need to get out in the rain or cold during the middle of the night, I also recommend that you keep up doing your kegel exercises. If you haven’t been doing them recently, you might want to get started because it takes a couple of months for them to be fully effective. Here is a website that gives directions. 

Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking/Hiking Tales and Tips, #188, June 2014 


  1. How Wild will it be?
  2. Do you need travel insurance?
  3. European Peace Walk in July
  4. What happened to May?
  5. Lightning and safety
  6. Truckee lodge gives backpacking clinics
  7. Alcorn’s June Patagonia event in Livermore
  8. Camino: Regional Bay Area. First Saturday walks+
  9. Tom Stienstra names names
  10. Volunteer opportunities with the Pacific Crest Trail Assoc.
  11. Climbing Half Dome talk with Rick Duetsch
  12. Free backpack give-away


#1. It’s almost time to get Wild. Cheryl Strayed recently announced on Facebook the film version of her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, will be released Dec. 5. The movie stars Reese Witherspoon. Cheryl also revealed that her daughter, Bobbi, is playing the role of young Cheryl.

#2. Ed Hasbrouck, Practical Nomad, a colleague of mine in Bay Area Travel Writers, has a comprehensive article about travel insurance:

#3. The European Peace Walk is set to launch this summer on July 28th from Vienna City and cross 5 European countries, all the way to Trieste, Italy. Word is circulating among various U.S. Camino chapters, but anyone can sign up for the European Peace Walk that launches on July 28. Important to note that it launches July 28, but groups of hikers will continue to set out over the following two weeks. According to the website, there are still openings for those wanting to walk starting 31th July up until the 11th of August and

There will be budget accommodation for its walkers along the route to make the experience as easy and as enjoyable as possible. Registration is required because accommodations are limited. If you follow Facebook, you can look under European-Peace-Walk and see day by day write-ups and photos about the stages. 

#4. What happened to May? I’ve been publishing this newsletter ever since 2005 and I think (but could be mistaken) that this is the first time I have skipped a month. What was so important that I missed putting one out—a three-week trip to the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador. Although the tour that we were on did involve some hikes, they were relatively short with frequent stops to observe and learn about the flora and fauna. However, I guess you could say there was some cross-training because we also spent time snorkeling and kayaking.

Rather than reprint the articles here, I’m providing links to the blog postings I’ve made recently about those exotic and fascinating archipelago.

#5. Lightning safety tips from NOLS lecturer, Mike Casella. Go here:

#6. Backpacking programs set for Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee, Calif. Pacific Crest Trail has forwarded info that Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee, Calif. is featuring the PCT as part of their #HowDoYouTahoe speaker series. “Proceeds from the events benefit PCTA.”

Program one is “The Mind, Heart and Soles of Thru-Hikers,” Tuesday, June 17, will feature an inspiring film that spotlights the zany characters who have answered the call of adventure from the Pacific Crest Trail. Hear from a panel of experienced thru-hikers featuring Liz Thomas, Nancy Huber, Justin Lichter, Bill Parnell, Henry Shire and Larry Hillberg. They’ll answer questions like: What’s the underlying impetus that inspires people to head out for a 2,650-mile hike? How do you mentally and physically prepare to hike up to and more than 20 miles in one day – possibly day after day?

Program two is “Beer + Gear: Spotlight on Ultralight Backpacking,” Tuesday, July 22, is a short film about how you can lighten your pack to record levels? You’ll gain insights from Glen Van Peski, Founder of Gossamer Gear. Van Peski has developed innovative designs and commitment to sharing the “way of enlightenment.” And has hiked most of the California and Oregon sections of the PCT. 

The Cedar House Sport Hotel is located at 10918 Brockway Road in Truckee, Calif. Programs are from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tickets: $20/ person register here.  For more information or to order tickets, visit It’s recommended that tickets are purchased in advance.

#7. The Alcorn’s Patagonia program is coming to Livermore on Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 1:30 P.M. The Armchair Travelers, a monthly program, takes place at the Livermore Civic Center Library. Adults are invited to these free programs on the second Thursday of each month in the Community Meeting Rooms of the Civic Center Library, 1188 S. Livermore Avenue, Livermore.  For additional information please call 925 373-5500.

#8. Camino Pilgrims: Bay Area region. First Saturday hikes around Lake Merritt, Oakland. Next date: June 7. “The NorCal Chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino wants to encourage more frequent contact and communications between our email list membership. Rather than invent something new and exciting, we've decided to steal an idea from the Portlandia chapter, i.e. a regularly scheduled, casual walk about. In time we hope to establish these regular events in different locations throughout the large geographic area our chapter serves. 

“The initial offering, open to everyone, will be a monthly walk around Lake Merritt, followed by coffee or beer or wine or lunch, depending upon the group's wants and needs. This will take place on the first Saturday of each month, rain or shine, one person or a hundred attending. No rsvp is required and leadership will vary if leadership there is:)


A circuit of Lake Merritt is approximately 3 miles of flat terrain. Reach Lake Merritt by exciting the GrandAve/Lakeshore exit of Hwy 580. Parking is available underneath 580 at the exit ramp BUT there is a farmers market going on so an alternative will be local streets. Alternatively the 19th Street BART exit is a 3 block walk from the Lake. Meet at 10:30 at the Pavilion located on the east end of the lake, about 200 meters from the parking area. We leave at 10:45, no excuses."


#9. Tom Stienstra, author of several camping guidebooks and columnist for the S.F. Chronicle, occasionally writes about people trashing the outdoors. A while back he wrote, “At a campsite last week, I saw a campfire ring where a picnic table had been uprooted, turned on its side and set in the pit, and then partially burned as if it were firewood. As April arrives and spring takes hold, the ‘Idiot Alert’ has been sounded at parks, trails and lakes across the Bay Area and Northern California.”

The PCT forum recently has been abuzz about a reported incident of hikers leaving trash along the trail. Stienstra suggests that some people simply don't seem to know any better. I doubt that’s the case with people burning up picnic tables, but it could be that some don’t know the Leave no trace ethics. You can go here to review the Leave No Trace principles.

A few other things that Stienstra mentions that also really bug me are: hikers who cut switchbacks because it causes erosion and silt in hills downstream; bicyclists who ride on trails illegally; and people in campgrounds who run generators or party late at night. I’ll add one of my pet peeves: campers who wear headlamps and continually allow the beams to splash across other peoples’ tents and campsites. 

#10. Love the Pacific Crest Trail; give back to the trail. “The Pacific Crest Trail Association is seeking volunteers to join our 2014 trail maintenance projects. Interested, but don't have much experience? No problem! Experienced crew leaders teach you the necessary skills to tackle each project.  Join any of our work trips this season for free.” Check their schedule here. 

Here are a few of the upcoming projects: June 6-8: Middle Fork of the Feather River Trail Tread Repair; June 22-27: Lassen NF/ Domingo Springs; July 23-27: Blue Lakes Tread Maintenance; August 15-16: California Alpine Club Echo Lakes Maintenance; and September 28 - October 2: Sierra Buttes Realignment #5.

#11. Regional: Berkeley REI. “Half Dome in a Day: Tips for a Successful Hike” by Rick Deutsch. June 4, 2014, 7:00 - 8:30 PM. Free. Rick Deutsch, author of "One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome," and who has climbed Half Dome 40 times, will give information on this spectacular day hike. 21 spots left. Click here for registration and more info. Rei-Berkeley.

#12. Backpack freebie from your editor. I have a backpack that I want to give away; all I ask is that you reimburse me for the postage (which shouldn't be much because this pack doesn't have a frame. It's a front loading model from Six Moon Designs that has never been used (I just can't give up my Granite Gear Vapor Trail!). I've had it for several years. Send me an email if you are interested. (backpack45 "at sign here" and I will send the backpack to the first person who responds.

Photo at top: Ralph and Susan Alcorn at the southern end/starting point of the Pacific Crest Trail (2005);  

Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips #187, April 2014



  1. Does coffee count?
  2. More about Winter Pilgrim
  3. Wilderness Volunteers and the Mojave Ntl. Preserve
  4. PCT Open House coming up soon
  5. New albergues in Spain’s Galicia and Compostela stats
  6. July Peace Walk in Europe -- invitation
  7. Join Litterati and help Build a Litter Free World
  8. Tom Courtney returns to the Bay Area
  9. Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago coming to Victoria BC
  10. John Vonhof knows feet! 
  11. Plant your poles and hike 
  12. Alcorn's June program
  13. Review the Leave No Trace principles
  14. For Women Only: Pee matters 
     (photo to right: the Old Kelso Depot in Mohave National Preserve, CA)


1) Does coffee count toward our daily water intake? “This has been brewing for a while,” says an article in the April 2014 UC Wellness Letter, and a “recent British study in Public Library of Science (PLOS ONE) finds that moderate amounts of coffee do not cause dehydration.” We have often been told that caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and cola don’t count as part of our daily needs for liquid intake. In fact, because caffeine is a diuretic, we’ve previously read that they increase urination. According to this study, none of this is true.

The study looked at 50 young men, “all habitual coffee drinkers. They consumed 4 cups of either black coffee or water a day for three days. After ten days they switched beverages for another three days. The researchers found no differences in body water, urinations, or other measure of hydration between the periods when the men drank coffee and when they drank water. This bears out what the Institute of Medicine said in 2005; ‘Caffeinated beverages appear to contribute to the daily total water intake similar to that contributed by non-caffeinated beverages.’”

d32) More about Winter Pilgrim? In previous issues of this newsletter, I have suggested that you follow the amazing journeys of an equally amazing woman, Winter Pilgrim, Anne Sieben. Her most recent long walk was from Patagonia to the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City. This was a pilgrimage of 13,008 kilometers (8,083 miles) “across 12 countries in 11 months.”

Here’s an update on her current activities: She's now a “pilgrim in residence at the Santuario de Chimayo, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her newest blog is about her life there, click here. (Santuario de Chimayo pictured left)

Registration is closed, but those who are attending the gathering of the American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) this week will no doubt enjoy meeting Sieben when she kicks off the event with stories “of her pilgrimages through the fiercest of landscapes. Sieben is scheduled to appear this Thursday, April 3rd from 745 pm – 815 pm in the Conference Center. "Sieben is a former nuclear engineer turned fulltime pilgrim. She has walked the Camino and hiked from Canterbury to Rome, crossing the Alps in winter. And she walked alone in the winter from Kiev to Patras, Greece through Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania, while following the path of St. Andrew, a distance of over 4,400 kilometers. She will share her philosophy of pilgrimage and faith in the kindness of strangers." (La Concha Winter 2014.)

d43) Ralph and I recently worked with Wilderness Volunteers in the Mojave National Preserve pulling an invasive plant—Sahara Mustard. It was definitely a “win-win” situation. We put in some hours paying back for all the trails and parks we’ve enjoyed and we were rewarded by a sense that we had made a contribution. We also enjoyed the camaraderie of the group, the park itself, and the food. Wilderness Volunteers is a very well organized group and I highly recommend that anyone who wants to payback consider WV’s opportunities. I’ve written two recent blogs about our particular project, which I hope you will enjoy. (photo on right: team removing Sahara Mustard)

4) The annual meeting of the Pacific Crest Trail Assoc. will be Sat. April 14, 2014. From 3:00 – 4:15 pm Annual Meeting; 4:15 – 5:30 pm Open House at PCTA Office. RSVP or questions to Leslie Sabin at 916-285-1852.

5) Camino interest: New albergues opening: The government of Galicia opened a new albergue in Betanzos last year, with plans for the next albergue opening in Carral on the Camino Inglés. The Xacobeo reports that more than 500 beds have been added in Galicia since 2010.

And--reportedly, 215,929 Compostela were issued in 2013—an increase of 12% from 2012.

6) The European Peace Walk is set for July 28. Chapters of the APOC have been invited to join the walk. writes,”

Dear US Friends of the Camino,

The European Peace Walk is set to launch this summer on July 28th from Vienna City and cross 5 European countries, all the way to Trieste, Italy. Go to   Similar to the Camino in Spain, the EPW is free to participate in, and will have budget accommodation for its Walkers along the route to make the experience as easy and as enjoyable as possible. Please could you circulate the attached PDF to members on your mailing list? More info: 

7) Join Litterati to Help Build a Litter Free World. Litterati is an international community that seeks to eliminate litter from the world. Joining in is easy, just follow these four steps.

1.Find a piece of litter.

2.Photograph it with Instagram.

3.Add the hashtag "#litterati"

4.Throw away or recycle the litter

Since its inception, Litterati has removed over 35,000 pieces of litter from the world's streets, parks, and monuments. With your help, it can do even more.

Which part of "recyclable, reusable" don't you understand?” they ask!

8) S.F. Bay Regional: Tom Courtney, author of Walkabout Northern California - Hiking Inn to Inn will be presenting at the Walnut Creek Library, 1644 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek 925-977-3340 on Monday April 14 at 6:30; and at El Macero Country Club, 44571 Clubhouse Dr., El Macero (near Davis)(530-753-3363) on Wednesday, April 16 at 7:00. Stayed tuned for Courtney's new book--which he hopes will be out this summer.

9) Camino Regional: “Opens May 21 for 4 days only! The excellent documentary "Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago" comes to Victoria British Columbia. To be held in Cinecenta, Student Union Building. Please reconfirm times later in May at:

10) John Vonhof of “Fixing Your Feet” fame sends word that “Blue Steel Sports Anti-Chafe Cream is a white non-sticky and non-greasy cream that spreads evenly and leaves a protective smooth, almost silky feel to the skin.”

11) Camino Regional: The northern California chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino has arranged a special meeting with Jayah Faye Paley to “Learn How to Use POLES for Hiking, Walking & Outdoor Exercise.” This event will be on Sunday, April 13 from 10 to about 3.  

"POWER, Endurance & Performance – PEP with Poles! Join us for a class designed specifically to help our group prepare for and more fully enjoy our journey. Learn and practice techniques make uphill and save your knees on the downhill. Discover how to recruit your core muscles to help preserve your joints! Improve posture, balance, upper body strength and performance AND confidence on the trail.

"A variety of top-quality poles will be provided so you can explore which poles fit you best and will help you achieve your hiking, walking and travel goals.

The pilgrim group will meet at the instructor’s home in Pacifica where participants will get outfitted and cover some basics.  Then they'll hit the trail and practice skills and techniques on a coastal hike over varied terrain. Sign up by emailing:

Participants are encouraged to include any concerns and/or body issues in the email.  This limited-participation small group class is for us and the instructor will be able to cater the learning so that each individual has the opportunity to receive some personalized instruction.

Once you get confirmation of your email from the instructor, then you can send your check for $35 to: 180 San Jose Avenue Pacifica, CA  94044. “Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed.  If you’re not completely happy, you’ll get a full refund of the course fee,” says Paley.

Ed Note: Paley is a fairly regular presenter in the Bay Area.  There are currently classes being offered by REI and East Bay Regional Park District ( if you can’t make the one offered by Nor. CA. APOC.

d212. Reminder: The Alcorn’s Patagonia program is coming to Livermore on Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 1:30 P.M. The Armchair Travelers, a monthly program, takes place at the Livermore Civic Center Library. Adults are invited to these free programs on the second Thursday of each month in the Community Meeting Rooms of the Civic Center Library, 1188 S. Livermore Avenue, Livermore.  For additional information please call (925) 373-5500. (photo left: Torres del Paine, Patagonia)

13) Review the Leave No Trace principles. Click here,

14) For women only: pee matters! A correspondent and I recently had an exchange of emails about solutions to—what I’ll call—the “pee problem.” (I’ve done some minor changes in the text to spare embarrassment to anyone.)

Susan to Anon: Some things never change, do they! I have a friend who used to hike extensively in San Francisco. Once I asked her where she found to pee when she was out all day in the neighborhoods. She told me she ducked behind houses or hedges, etc. The problem nowadays is that everyone is getting surveillance cameras and it would be easy to get caught. Thank goodness for the occasional construction site port-a-potties! The other day a private security firm's car slowed to a crawl to take a good look at Ralph and me when we were walking in the hills near us--I guess walking is highly suspect nowadays!

Anon replies: “I used the ‘Lady Jane’ on Kilimanjaro....very useful, as, at that altitude, it took so much energy just to unbutton or unzip...that the funnel kept me from having to pull everything down and I could pee standing up....of course, the first time I used it....didn't get it [in place] correctly and wet all down my leg.  But my guide said, "Don't worry Mama, it will dry."  In the tent on Kili....I used a P-GREEN Nalgene.... quart sized! ...  they kept us so hydrated, always checking to be sure we drank enough, that one night...the quart wasn't enough!... and yes....  it did freeze into a yellow puddle on the ground, under my tent vestibule the next morning.”

I hope, ladies, that you enjoyed your laugh for the day!

Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips #186, March 2014

  1. Lightning strikes—avoid them!
  2. Pacemaker causing problems—any solutions to offer?
  3. What Makes Olga Run?
  4. Most Pacific Crest Trails (PCT) hikers follow a formula
  5. Camino Pilgrims’ Prayer
  6. Trail Angel offers to help hikers along the PCT in South-Central Oregon
  7. Health: Women helping women
  8. “Backpacking Basics class” at REI Saratoga
  9.  Tyvek is your friend
  10. TSA and your prescriptions
  11. PCTA making changes
  12. (PCT) The walkway across the Bridge of the Gods
  13. Scott Herriott’s showing of "Wayfaring - A Jaunt along the Camino de Santiago"
  14. Alcorn’s Patagonia program is coming to Livermore


1). An excellent article by NOLO (National Outdoor Leadership School) about lightning—the science behind it and what to do when you are out in it: “Backcountry Lightning Risk Management” by John Gookin, Curriculum & Research Manager. Go here to read:

2). A Scottish couple that we met while on the Camino several years back has asked that readers send any helpful advice on their backpacking problem. Here’s the situation:

“My wife has had a dual-chamber pacemaker fitted and it is causing a lot of pain/discomfort. The day to day pain can be coped with but she cannot take any kind of strap across the pacemaker, the car seat belt is held with a peg to avoid putting pressure on it. Mostly it is because of her slim build and the bulk of the pacemaker.

“Do you know of anyone who has found a solution to the problem of a pacemaker or a guard/device to cover the pacemaker on her chest so that the shoulder strap and or chest straps do not put pressure onto it? We realize a knapsack over one shoulder could be used for a very light bag but any advice would be welcome.

“A shoulder strap of almost any size is pushing with its edge against the chest where the bulge is. The local physio-therapist has not seen one standing out so far before and he's been working for over 20 years.

“The pacemaker is put into the muscle below the collar bone and quite far around, as a result it sticks out quite far from the surrounding area and makes it difficult to avoid having any pressure on it. The usual size ones go between the layer of fat and layer of muscle but due to her build there was not enough fat over the muscle and they had to cut in, being double sized makes it more difficult (but the alternative is worse).”

Readers: If you have any suggestions, please mail them to me at backpack45 “at sign” and I will forward them.

3) I’ve seen several mentions and recommendations for the book “What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives," by Bruce Grierson Marcia Powers commented, “She took up track and field events when she was 77! I want to know Olga's secrets, too.”

4) Northbound thru-hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), plan their departure time from southern California carefully in order to enter the Sierra at a safe time, and to finish Washington’s Cascades before snow comes in the fall.

PCT Forum poster, Eric, recently wrote out some formulas that PCT backpackers often use:
Start: traditionally end of April, +2 or -3 weeks.
Entering the Sierra [at Kennedy Meadows]: traditionally early June,+/-2 weeks.
End: traditionally mid-September, +2 or -3 weeks.

He adds, “There are people who hike outside these constraints, of course, but it typically becomes more difficult when you do so.” 

5) Many of the people for walk the Camino de Santiago (Saint James’ Way) enjoy going to Pilgrim Mass as they make their way along the ancient trail. The following is an ancient prayer that is commonly read at the end of the Pilgrim Mass entitled "A Pilgrim's Prayer to St. James."

"O God, who brought your servant Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans, protecting him in his wanderings, who guided the Hebrew people across the desert, we ask that you watch over us, your servants, as we walk in the love of your name to Santiago de Compostela.
Be for us our companion on the walk,
Our guide at the crossroads,
Our breath in our weariness,
Our protection in danger,
Our albergue on the Camino, 
Our shade in the heat,
Our light in the darkness,
Our consolation in our discouragements,
And our strength in our intentions.
So that with your guidance we may arrive safe and sound at the end of the Road and enriched with grace and virtue we return safely to our homes filled with joy.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. Apostle Santiago, pray for us. Santa Maria, pray for us."

6) New trail angel for PCT Hikers: Peggy Grimler writes, “Hi women, thanks for the addition to the group, and hope to be of service and friendship to all PCT hikers this coming season of 2014. My partner Mike Chase and I have an old family cabin up here in S. Central Oregon just a few miles from Shelter Cove/ Willamette Pass/PCT along Hwy. 58 on Odell Lake, and he's the friendly guy (Indie look-alike, lol) who works at the local store and post office, The Odell Sportsman Center (Crescent Lake, OR, 97733). For the last couple of years, we've been ferrying and hosting hikers very informally; this year we're planning a local web page and hiker/angel service with rides, rooms/board, etc. I'm right at the planning stage, but our area has zero trail angels listed and only a few people like us even willing to drive hikers in need. Feedback welcome, blessed be and hike on! Contact Grimler here:

7) Excellent article by Trinity Ludwig of feminine hygiene while on the trail.  Posted here by Andrew Skurka  

8) REI programs. Note: Go to the Berkeley REI site—click here--and find the listings of classes and events for all of the Bay Area stores.

A class for new backpackers. REI will "take the mystery out of backpacking with an overview of planning, preparation and gear. Learn how to choose a pack, select proper clothing and footwear." Happening at Saratoga, Berkeley, San Carlos, Corte Madera, Dublin, and Santa Rosa stores this month. All sessions are from 7:00 - 8:30 PM. Free. Registration advisable.
Saratoga REI store: WAITLISTED. March 4th
Berkeley store on March 6.
San Carlos and Corte Madera on March 12.
Dublin on March 15.
Santa Rosa on March 25.

There are many more types of classes coming up: Lightweight Backpacking Basics; International & Adventure Travel Basics; Hiking and Backpacking with Your Dog—as well as sessions on how to climb Mount Whitney and Mount Lassen.

This is a perfect time of year to plan your next big backpacking adventure. All of the above listed classes are free.

9) Backpackers, Tyvek is your friend. For those who don’t already know about the advantages of using Tyvek as a ground cloth—here goes. It’s waterproof (contractors wrap houses with it), it’s lightweight and strong. However, it’s often sold in large rolls. I saw a suggestion that you go to Lowe's or a similar building supply store and ask an employee for a scrap (it’s often wrapped around the lumber they receive). Wash it before you use it to soften in and eliminate the noise factor.

10) TSA could seize improperly packed prescription medications. Ralph and I have never had a problem with this (on our dozens of flights), but I can’t guarantee that will always be the case. Here’s how one person packed her meds. “{I used] small containers:  Prescription drugs should be labeled to prevent seizing by TSA, etc.  To avoid carrying several pill bottles, I ordered small ziplock parts bags from an industrial supply business.  The pharmacy printed up new Rx labels for me to put on the bags. I carry a small supply of meds I might need and also have copies of the prescription in case I need a refill along the way.”

Susan adds: I also use ziplock bags to carry my OTC and prescription medications. However, I write out the name of the meds and the dosage on slips of paper.

11) The Pacific Crest Trail Association reports: “Goodbye to Trail Fest” The PCTA is retiring the Trail Fest and planning to create “smaller regional events that will allow our community to gather more often and in more intimate settings to talk about PCTA’s work to protect, preserve and promote the Pacific Crest Trail.”

“Beginning this fall, the new events will be held quarterly in conjunction with our board meeting weekends. We are envisioning an evening gathering that will allow people to come and socialize, hear about current PCTA happenings and ask questions, and discover opportunities to get involved in our work. This event will also be an opportunity to honor our valued volunteers and partners with our annual awards. Since the board meetings are held in different cities and towns along the trail, more of our members will have the opportunity for a short trip, allowing us to engage more rather than fewer people, one of the main problems with Trail Fest.”

12) A walkway for the Bridge of the Gods? According to the PCTA, “Many long-distance hikers and horseback riders have referred to the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington as the most treacherous part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Despite the fact that pedestrians, horses, bicyclists, and even casual tourists are permitted on the bridge, there's no safe shoulder. Narrow lanes must be shared with constant two-way vehicle traffic.”

Studies are underway to add a lane. “While other options were not ruled out, adding an overhanging path alongside the existing structure was assumed most likely feasible.” Contact Michael Newton at for more information.

13) Saturday, March 8, 2014. 2:00 P.M. at the Green Valley Community Club hosted by Casa de Luna at 39118 Calle Bonita Santa Clarita, CA 91390. This may well sell out (the Portland showing did). “Come join varied and sundry Hiker Trash for Squatch's new film about his adventures on the Camino de Santiago last year.” A potluck BBQ will precede the extravaganza! So bring a side dish, beverage, desert, or whatever, and come early if you want to play some disc golf. Info: (661) 270-0155 or (661) 904-1955.

14) The Alcorn’s Patagonia

program is coming to Livermore on Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 1:30 P.
M. The Armchair Travelers, a monthly program, takes place at the Livermore Civic Center Library. Adults are invited to these free programs on the second Thursday of each month in the Community Meeting Rooms of the Civic Center Library, 1188 S. Livermore Avenue, Livermore, CA.  For additional information please call 925 373-5500.

Happy trails to you!
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips #185. February 2014

Welcome to our new subscribers from the Sierra Club Dinners groups of the East Bay and San Francisco. We invite you to send in items of interest to the hiking and backpacking communities—that includes questions, tips and tales. Thank you!


  1. Traveler warning: “Lotions set off alarms”
  2. Fixing Your Feet revisited
  3. Couple bicycling and hand-crack bicycling reach Ecuador
  4. Grand to Grand Ultra
  5. Marcia and the Hefty bags
  6. Golfers’ Vasculitis
  7. the 16th Annual SF Bay Flyway Festival
  8. Giving back: Hospitalero Training
  9. Bay Area Regional: No. Cal Camino pilgrims to meet
  10. Bay Area Regional: presentation on the Camino de Santiago
  11. Pacific Crest Trail Days 2014

google2#1. Interesting recent column by Ellen Creager in the Detroit Free Press: “Lotions set off alarms.” Creager relates a passenger’s story of having her hands swabbed by TSA agents because her hands tested positive for explosives. The woman was then given an extra search. “The agent told me that the Lubriderm hand lotion I used set off the false positive.  Creager explains further: Lubriderm like many hand creams and lotions, contains glycerin, which is from nitroglycerin, which is often used in explosives. Some other products that can raise alarms include: nitroglycerin heart medication and various fertilizers and mining products.

Looking further into the situation, I found a blog by a woman who was detained for a second search for setting off the alarm. Apparently another ingredient which can be used in explosives is ammonium nitrate and trace amounts of it could turn up in in lotions and shampoos, as well as fertilizer. mapivsra

Advice: don’t slab on the hand lotion before going through security.

Photo: Sheep--on the crossing of the Pyrenees

#2. Fixing Your Feet – 5th edition. Author John Vonhof writes, "I love reading the unsolicited email and testimonials from athletes who have discovered Fixing Your Feet. They help motivate me to keep going. Here are two. The first is a simple sentence. The second is a personal story I received last week. Thanks everyone who has passed along their story. I’m pretty sure Fixing Your Feet has saved most of us at one point. ~ an email from Deb Bosilevac.

"Then Billy Pearce (husband, father of 3 boys, nurse and ultrarunner) shared his story: My many years of ultrarunning with a three shoe size difference in feet caused by a traumatic injury as a child has always been a challenge with shoes and blisters. So I choose ultrarunning as my passion! I have had two DNF’s in the Australian classic Coast to Kosci 240km beach to Australia’s highest peak. So this year my attempt to get a finish was one of real attention to where things had gone wrong before. This year I had my podiatrist and friend on my crew, (Brad White, from Footcare Woden, Canberra ACT Australia). I attend his clinic monthly as routine and we have planned all year for this race. Brad is also a gifted runner. Best footcare ever. In over 42 hours 26 minutes of running I needed two stops to attend to feet – totaling less than 15 minutes for both stops! I gave him a copy of Fixing Your Feet and I think we have created a new passion for him.

"I found your work after a 48 hour race when my feet become so bad I was reduced to painful shuffle for last 24 hours then weeks of healing. I am now able to race 24 hours on a track without a scratch and as we say, 'If you do not have a plan for your feet, you do not have a race plan.' Thanks heaps for the help and advice you give so freely.

"Do you have the 5th edition of Fixing Your Feet? Last summer while working on feet at the Michigan Bluff aid station of Western States, a runner’s crew member came up to ask me if I’d sign his copy of Fixing Your Feet. While I signed it, I told him he had a very outdated book the 2nd edition! Every edition has gotten better and larger with a lot of new and updated information. Maybe I am biased, but the 5th edition is the best ever. If you have older editions, you owe it to yourself to invest in the 5th edition. You can purchase it through my website, Zombierunner, and most online bookstores. At Amazon, it’s available in either print or Kindle formats."

#3.  A recent article in the National Geographic Traveler magazine “Freedom Riders—from paralysis to Patagonia on a bike,” caught my eye. Seth McBride and Kelly Schwan set out to hand-cycle and bicycle ride on a 10,000-mile journey from Portland, Oregon to Patagonia. The two met in Beijing where Schwan was working as a volunteer with Team USA during the 2008 Paralympic games where McBride was participating in the rugby team competition. His team brought home the gold, and he brought a new travel companion. McBride and Schwan have already traveled and biked in Europe, New Zealand, and Asia.

You can follow their travels on Facebook, but to update—the pair reached Mexico, but then hit the wall. Mc Bride has medical issues that add to his challenges—diabetes and neurological  damage. He was suffering from heat-related issues that began near Mazatlán and so, shortly after Christmas, they decided to go to “Plan B.” They flew to Bogota, Columbia--bypassing Central America,  but planning to do additional miles in Patagonia to get to Ushuaia, Argentina. They are currently in Ecuador—and appreciating some relief from the heat. Follow this amazing pair at: or or in their blog

#4. We heard from Marcia Powers recently. Marcia and her husband Ken are amazing hikers who, among other things, have been awarded the Glam Slam for completing the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide and the American Discovery. They also were inducted into the Outdoors Hall of Fame in 2010 as "No. 1 hiking expedition couple in the nation."

google3Marcia is training for the “Grand to Grand Ultra,” which will be September 21st - 27th, 2014. It is 6 stages/7 days and is a self-supported foot race of 170 miles (273KM). The race goes from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and ends at the summit of the Grand Staircase (Escalante).

Marcia said she’d like to see other thru hikers enter and entries are still open. “The Grand to Grand provides all the support; that's part of that very large entry fees. To keep this feeling of remoteness no spectators or family are allowed on the course.” She adds, “I also think that it might be interesting to point out the number of thru hikers that are now becoming ultra runners: Anish (Heather Anderson), Onion (Garret Christensen), Toots McGroot (Robin Grapa), Brian Frankel and Flyin' Brian (Brian Robinson). An ultra, you probably know, is any distance over a marathon. These hiker/runners are racing 50 or 100 milers!”

photo: A late afternoon in November at the Grand Canyon's south rim

#5. Marcia gives one of her hiking hints involving a black Hefty garbage bag. When she goes into a laundromat while on a long distance hike, she likes to be able to wash all [most] of her clothes all at once. What to wear while doing the laundry? Some people have been known to strip naked [ed: not recommended!]. Marcia cuts a hole for her head, and a couple for her arms, and slips a black Hefty garbage bag over her head.

#6. Maybe it’s Golfer's Vasculitis? "Rambler" wrote on the Camino forum about a “red leg rash that looked like an allergic reaction to something. In Sarria I stopped at the hospital and they gave me a cream that seemed to make it go away. It appears to have been Golfer's Vasculitis.”

I get this rash, too. It doesn’t itch; it just looks bad. Very common with hikers—especially during hot weather and high humidity. I have found that rolling or folding my socks down works fine for me. Other suggestions include cooling the area with water (or ice) or taking Ibuprofen (exercise caution—always take with food to avoid stomach problems!). Do you have this problem; have you found a solution to this problem? Please let us know.  

#7. Bay Area Regional: A great event for those who enjoy nature—particularly bird life—is the 16th Annual SF Bay Flyway Festival that will be Feb. 7-9. "This popular, free event, produced by Mare Island Heritage Trust, offers more than 60 guided hikes as well as tours, exhibits, live bird visits, educational presentations, art and optics vendors, and an art show. Some of the wildlife viewing areas that will be featured are not open to the public other times during the year. Our Bay wetlands are home to or visited by more than 1 million shorebirds and hundreds of thousands of waterfowl annually. Location: 500 Connolly St, Vallejo, CA 94590, Phone: 707-557-9816." Click here.

#8. American Pilgrims on the Camino is offering Hospitalero Training. “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 has a hospitalero training coming up Feb 2014.  Join us and learn what it takes to support other pilgrims on the road to Santiago.

“The two day training includes all instruction, meals and lodging. All linens (bedding, towels) will be provided.  Participants are required to stay on site to simulate Camino living and to attend the complete training. 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. 

“All trainees must attend an entire training. Please plan your travel to accommodate the training timing. Although the February training session in Los Gatos, CA is full (and has a waiting list), there is still some room in the session April 1-3 in Belleville, IL (across the river from St Louis, MO). This is just before the Gathering there.

“The two day training includes all instruction, meals and lodging. All linens (bedding, towels) will be provided.  Participants are required to stay on site to simulate Camino living and to attend the complete training. 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. “All trainees must attend an entire training. Please plan your travel to accommodate the training timing. 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.

Contact for questions.

#9. The Annual Chapter Meeting, Shell Ceremony, & Potluck with the Northern California Chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino will be Saturday, February 22, 2014, 10:30 am. "Mark your calendar and plan to join your fellow Northern California pilgrims for our Annual Meeting and potluck. Come and share memories and enjoy a fantastic meal as we plan our activities for the year. As part of this Annual Meeting, we are pleased to announce our third annual Blessing & Shell Ceremony! The purpose of this ceremony is to confer a blessing and present symbolic scallop shells to those who will be walking or cycling on the Camino during 2014 for the first time. If you would like to take part in this ceremony, please include the names and departure dates of those wishing to take part when you RSVP.

We will gather at The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, 399 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to

#10. Pilgrims event. Tuesday, February 18, 2014, 7:00 - 8:30 PM. Bob & Rennie (Northern California Chapter Co-Coordinators of American Pilgrims on the Camino) are giving a program for those of you who are yet to travel the Camino de Santiago and are either actively planning your trip or are just looking for more information.  These presentations will cover the historical and cultural background of the Camino, the practicalities of walking the routes, modern support infrastructure (lodging, eating, etc.), and what to bring.  These talks are free, but due to limited seating, we strongly recommend you reserve a seat in advance. Santa Rosa, REI Store, 2715 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95407. 707-540-9025 Reserve a seat at: REI. There are only 5 spots left.

#11. Pacific Crest Trail Days 2014. Info is starting to come out about the 8th annual Pacific Crest Trail Days, which will be held September 5-7, 2014 on Thunder Island of the Marine Park in Cascade Locks, Oregon. Details will emerge from January until the event occurs. Save the date! Stay tuned for updates on PCT DAYS....there is some exciting news and great things planned for this year's event, which will be announced in February and until the event occurs on Sept. 5-7, 2014. Save the date! To follow the updates check the Pacific Crest Trail Days page on Facebook. Jason Waicunas, Outdoor Viewfinder Event Director, PCT DAYS


Happy trails to you!

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips #184. January 2014


  1. Shuttle service for John Muir Trail hikers
  2. Sawyer Squeeze filtration system
  3. The rest of the story: Vasquez Rocks along Pacific Crest Trail
  4. Alcorn’s Patagonia program comes to East Bay (Berkeley) in January
  5. Photographing the night sky
  6. Wheelchair hiker, Bob Coomber sets Kearsarge Pass (John Muir Trail) goal  
  7. Backpacking opportunities: Expert backpacking instructor, Andrew Skurka, offers trips
  8. Camino: What is American Pilgrims on the Camino
  9. Camino local: February meeting on Northern California pilgrim group
  10. Camino: Annual Gathering of Pilgrims in Belleville, Illinois in April
  11. Camino: Be an amigo in Santiago de Compostela.
  12. G.G.G. West. See the greatest gear and gadgets for backpackers; enjoy the camaraderie!



#1. Just got an email from Paul Fretheim of East Side Sierra Shuttle who writes that he has "been operating a shuttle service for trekkers here in the Eastern Sierra for the past two summers." I inquired on Facebook and had these helpful responses.

John Ladd: “In late August this year, Paul drove me to Horseshoe Meadow from Whitney Portal (where a friend picked up my car and shuttled it to Yosemite Valley, leaving his at WP). Service was on time, pleasant and very reasonably priced. I've also heard from several others who used Paul without problems. I have yet to hear of an instance where he didn't show up.”

Michelle Amber Evans: “We were hitch-hiking from Kearsarge into Independence and he stopped and picked us up. Was good conversation during the ride and didn't charge us since we were thumbing. He gave us his card and we gave him a tip. Pretty legit man.”

Tim Anders: “Paul took us from Onion Valley to Bishop Pass T.H. he was on time and very interesting to talk to along the way. I'll call him again.”

Paul Fretheim is at or email or phone 760-878-8047

#2. Thought I would mention the latest water filtration device we have tried—on the John Muir Trail this summer—the Sawyer Squeeze. $60, 4 oz. It is ultralight and affordable, but Ralph said it was really hard to squeeze the water through.

#3. PCT hikers: Interesting article in Sunset Magazine about Vasquez Rocks (near Agua Dulce in SoCal), which was named after Tiburcio Vasquez.  Was he California’s Robin Hood or a murdering bandit?  Vasquez was born in 1835 in Monterey, CA. to a well-to-do family; he did not take easily to the arrival of the “Americans.” Charged with murder, which he denied, but he was hung in Monterey in 1875.

The Vasquez Rocks County Natural Area was one of his favorite hiking places—and the PCT and several other trails run through the park. 10700 V. Escondido Canyon Rd.

#4. Patagonia program in the East Bay. Thursday, January 23, no-host cocktails/social hour—6 pm, dinner—7:00, program—8:00, Berkeley Yacht Club on the Berkeley Marina, one block north of the west end of University Avenue (ample free park­ing is available in the Marina parking lots).

With its majestic peaks, hanging glaciers, turquoise lakes, and soaring condors, southern Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park offers hikers some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in the world. Join Susan Alcorn, author of Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine, for a digital presentation of her recent backpacking trips with her husband on the park’s classic routes–the “W” and the “O” circuit. Susan will also share highlights of their adventures exploring Chile’s picturesque Lake District, penguin-watching in the Magdalena and Marta Islands, day-tripping in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, and enjoying the vibrant cities of Santiago and Buenos Aires.

Cost of dinner and program is $27, including tax and tip. For a reservation, please send your check, payable to “Sierra Club,” with your name, your telephone number, and the names of your guests, to: Jane Barrett, 170 Vicente Road, Berkeley, CA 94705. (510)845-8055.

Attendance is limited to the first 115 reservations received. Reserve early, as these programs do fill up. Reservation deadline is Fri., Jan. 17. There is no admittance for program only.

#5. Master Class: "Take Better Night-sky photos" by Ray Fox. From Backpacker Magazine (August 2012). "You’ve found the ideal starry sky. Now, shoot the sparkling display—without investing in a new camera. Use these composition and setting tips from award-winning photographer Ben Canales." Follow the link, click here.

#6. Wheelchair hiker, Bob Coomber, sets Kearsarge Pass (John Muir Trail) goal: Bob Coomber, who has climbed many local peaks and the White Mountain Peak at 14,250 feet, made an attempt to cross Kearsarge Pass (11,700 ft) in August, but had to turn back because he “hit the wall.” Among other things, his insulin pump wasn’t working. Coomber has not always been in a wheelchair—he landed there in his thirties because his unchecked diabetes caused severe damage to his body. At age 38, the bones in his lower body became too weak to support him, and he went to the wheelchair for good.

However, Coomber had always been an active and determined individual. He was not interested in giving up hiking, which had long been one of his passions. He gradually increased the length of his excursions on the city streets of Hayward (where he lives) and is now often seen on the hilly slopes of East Bay Regional Parks. Coomber was honored in 2008 by President George W. Bush with the country’s highest physical fitness award. His goals for the future include going over Kearsarge Pass, doing a trans-Sierra hike, and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro!

#7. Andrew Skurka invites hikers and backpackers to join a learning-intensive 3, 5, or 7 day guided backpacking trip in the new year.

  • Level 1 - Backpacking Fundamentals: 3-day/2-night, 7 regional locations
  • Level 2 - Southwest Canyon Adventure: 5-day/4-night
  • Level 3 - Winter Backpacking: 3-day/2-night, held in Colorado
  • Level 3 - High Sierra Adventure: 7-day/6-night
Registration is currently open for the Winter Backpacking (2 spots left) and the Backpacking Fundamentals courses in Texas (2 spots left on Texas A trip). Registration for all other trips will open to the public on Monday, January 20th. If you would like a personal email reminder once these trips go live, please submit your info. Historically, demand for the 5 and 7-day Adventure trips is very high; if you hope to sign up for one, I'd advise you not to delay. I do offer a wait list for any trips that are full upon your registering for them. In the event a client cancels we will contact persons from the wait list. Info: click here. Email skurka, click here.

#8. About American Pilgrims on the Camino from Carlos Mentley, Chair. “Pilgrims helping pilgrims. That is the unwritten rule of the Camino, underscoring how we are all connected in so many ways…  members of “American Pilgrims allowed us to help pilgrims in many places and many ways…and the common thread was American Pilgrims serving other pilgrims.” Highlights of 2013 activities included:

“Supporting the Amigos Welcome Service, an international program in the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago de Compostela – pilgrims welcoming pilgrims.”
“Awarding more than $30,000 in grants, including $6000 to each of four albergues in Spain. Supporting the formation of 18 regional Chapters to better meet the needs of U.S. pilgrims.” “Training two dozen new hospitaleros and sending 30 American Pilgrim hospitaleros to serve in albergues on the Camino.”

Go to APOC website to find further information and to join.

#9. Camino local: Bob and Rennie, chapter co-chairs of the Northern California pilgrim group write: Be sure to reserve February 22, 2014 as the date for the chapter annual meeting, potluck and 2014 pilgrim shell ceremony.  It will once again be at the Church of the Resurrection, Pleasant Hill.

#10. The 2014 Gathering of American Pilgrims on the Camino will be held April 3-6, 2014 at Our Lady of the Snows National Shrine, Belleville, Illinois, which is just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri.  Registration for “Fierce Landscapes: The Inner and Outer Camino” is now open, click here. at Gathering 2014 Registration.

The 2014 Gathering will offer a number of opportunities in a gorgeous natural setting to explore the topic of personal change through pilgrimage.  We invite you to explore the schedule posted on our website where you’ll find exciting new presentations and familiar favorites.  Of course, there will be ample opportunity to connect with many others who share your passion for the Camino. Hospitalero training will be offered April 1-3, 2014 immediately prior to the Gathering.

#11. Invitation to Camino friends from the Board of Directors, American Pilgrims on the Camino:  “If you received a Compostela from the Pilgrims' Office in Santiago between May 1 and October 15 during the past two years, you surely saw and likely benefitted from the assistance of one or two blue shirted Amigos. You might have thought you'd like to be an Amigo yourself. American Pilgrims on the Camino has joined once again with the Irish Society of the Friends of St. James, the Confraternity of St. James in London, the Dutch Het Nederlands Genootschap van Sint Jacob and the Canadian Company of Pilgrims to sponsor the 2014 Amigos Welcome Service in the Pilgrims' Office in Santiago de Compostela.

“Amigos welcome and assist pilgrims as they arrive to receive their Compostelas.  Primary tasks include greeting pilgrims, managing the line into the Pilgrims’ Office and selling tubos for Compostelas.  Amigos should be prepared to be on their feet for up to 5 hours per day.  Depending on the month, Amigos may be dealing with as many as 2,000 pilgrims arriving each day in a fast-paced environment. Former pilgrims from the U.K., Ireland, the U.S. and Holland will be chosen to serve in the Pilgrims' Office in Santiago for set two-week assignments of 5 hour shifts during May to November. Shorter periods and altering the beginning and ending dates are not available. Factors upon which applications will be evaluated in Santiago include availability, experience on the Camino, experience as a hospitalero, degree of involvement in your pilgrim association and language skills in English, Spanish and preferably one other language.

“Amigos are responsible for their transportation to and from Santiago as well as food and other personal expenses; however, housing in a centrally located shared apartment is provided by the program. If you would like more information about the Amigos Welcome Service as well as details on how to apply, please send an email to  We will respond to your email with the 2014 application packet electronically beginning the week of January 6th.

“Applications must be emailed to Santiago for review not later than February 22, 2014.”

#12.  The G.G.G. West is a Gathering of Gear Geeks for hikers! It will take place on January 24 - 26 (Friday through Sunday) and is being organized by Ken Thompson. “Started in 2008 as a way for hikers to get together during the winter season to help get us out of our offices and houses and spend some time out around a campfire for a weekend.” Location: Henry W. Coe State Park, a 23,300-acre wilderness area located in central California. Henry Coe HQ address: 9100 E Dunne Ave, Morgan Hill, CA 95037.

The G.G.G. West activities include lots of time spent around a campfire telling tales, talking about gear, meeting up with old friends, and making new friends and hiking partners. Limited Availability: There are a limited amount of available camping slots provided by Henry W. Coe State Park for this event, so register early to make sure that you get a spot!

Tick alert: Susan Alcorn: I can attest to the following message from gggwest organizers because in 2013 we visited Henry Coe. It is a wonderful park, offering strenuous and beautiful backpacking, but on one path (narrow with overhanging grasses) that we followed, we had to literally stop every few feet and brush off the accumulated ticks. 

google1GGGwest: “California is quickly becoming one of the hot-spots in the USA for ticks. Last year there were a number of reported human-tick encounters of the Western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus - responsible for causing anaplasmosis and Lyme disease in humans) and at least one encounter of the Argasidae (aka: soft ticks) and multiple sightings of them. So, plan accordingly... it might be January and freezing, but they are still out there waiting for us! Be sure to have a pair of Pro-Tick tweezers - or the Tick Key - and if you are into using chemicals spray your shelter and clothing with some Sawyer Permethrin before you leave.”

Happy New Year and many happy trails to you!

Susan Alcorn

. 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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