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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2015

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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 Hiking & Backpacking Newsletter #204, December 2015

  1. Fantastic news for Pacific Crest Trail hikers
  2. Jennifer Pharr Davis – AT record holder 
  3. New, honest, helpful and inspiring JMT book
  4. Winter Pilgrim sets out again
  5. When does your passport expire? 
  6. Do people and cattle mix?
  7. Jane Blanchard’s “The Hadrian Wall Path”
  8. Camino: Opportunity for tour organizer
  9. Camino: Bay Area Regional events
  10. Trail Mavens–learning while having fun

#1. For nearly twenty years, Donna and Jeff Saufley helped Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers at what was called "Hiker Heaven." As did thousands of others, Ralph and I enjoyed the Saufley’s hospitality when we were on the trail. Actually, we stopped there more than once–one time to meet someone who shuttled us to a trailhead, another time as we were backpacking through the area.

When one stays at the Saufley’s, which is 454 miles north of the trail’s start in Campo, CA (at the end of section D and start of Section E), you can pick up your resupply of food from the garage where Donna has stored dozens of similar boxes; ask her to do your laundry (which she brings back to you folded!); borrow some clean hiker clothes for after your shower and before the laundry is returned; watch TV, use a computer, use the phone; cook some food, and spend the night.


However, after the 2014 hiking season, Donna gave notice that she was closing Hiker Heaven. She had received complaints that offering help at their home was causing backpackers to bunch up and created a bottleneck that subsequently affected the communities and accommodations for miles ahead. She let hikers know that there were alternate resources in the tiny community of Agua Dulce, including a KOA campground. Hiker Heaven stayed closed for the 2015 season. (More background info here

Now, however, PCT thru-hikers have cause to celebrate again. Donna, on Nov. 27, 2015, announced that Hiker Heaven is reopening in 2016. Her letter read, “To all our friends far and wide, old and new, and those yet to be met: Hiker Heaven will re-open in April 2016. We will be hosting hikers, accepting packages, and providing the same array of services as in years past (pretty much the exact same format). We’re going to need help from the hiking community to start back up again since we gave almost everything away to other hosting venues along the trail. What we didn’t give away or lose was our love for hosting hikers.

“We want to start a fundraising effort to replace and/or repair what was given away or is falling apart, and could use some direction on how best to do that (GoFundMe or Kickstarter, for example). Also, there are some physical things that will need replacement (i.e., laptops, bikes, loaner clothes etc.). And, of course, we’ll need our beloved volunteers to help make it happen once more – because it can’t happen without their help and support.

“We enjoyed the break we had this year, as it has helped us look forward to hosting again with renewed enthusiasm. We can hardly wait for the 2016 season to get underway!” Their is currently under construction, but there is a Facebook page for Hiker Heaven.

#2. It may seem a small point to some, but to serious long-distance hikers and their supporters, the difference between “supported” and “unsupported” backpacking is quite important. In the story on women and long-distance hiking, link here, Jennifer Pharr Davis–AT record holder–explains that important distinction and also delves into why women hold their own on long-distance hikes.  

#3.  Highs and Lows on the John Muir Trail by Inga Aksamit is now out and live on Amazon (click here). It is currently available on Kindle and will be available softcover in 2016. Here is the publisher's description, “An honest account of a woman’s trek on the John Muir Trail is captured in this lively trail journal. Celebrate her joy as the beauty of the High Sierra in California is slowly revealed, feel the comradery of trail friends she meets along the way and sympathize with her when all she wants is for the trail to end. Along the way, hikers of all ages, but especially mature hikers, will see how she and her husband met challenges head-on, lightened their load, planned meals and managed daily logistics for more than three weeks on the trail. Written for those planning to hike the John Muir Trail, Sierra hiking veterans who want to relive the trail and armchair adventurers, this is a story that brings the trail to life.” 

Inga has a couple of blogs, including Inga's Adventures that describes the backpacking classes and trips that she offers. And her About Me blog has a wealth of information about this talent travel writers' many, many outdoor adventures.

#4. Winter Pilgrim is once again on the trail, this time she started from Denver, CO onNov. 1 and hopes to reach Basilique Sainte-Anne de Beaupré (near Québec City) by Easter. Winter Pilgrim continues to amaze me–she has previously walked through Latin America, through Eastern Europe, along the Via Francigena, and other major routes. As her name implies, she hikes in the winter. She hikes alone (for the most part) and she finds help while on the trail from the townspeople along the way. 

A brief sample: “Day 14 - There were 20 miles to Ogallala..." 

"There were 20 miles to Ogallala when the 'blizzard' hit... such advanced warnings, such turmoil and discussion... bah, that was no blizzard!  A tad of blowing snow in the morning, turning to slush when it hit the ground... all rather pedestrian, a strong northerly wind, ok, but the sun was out by mid-afternoon....”

“…many of whom have never heard of a pilgrim before….   She stopped “in Sutherland where there is a local newspaper, to give them the opportunity to write a little story about why a little woman carrying snowshoes is walking across their communities...” Her blog, click here

#5. Important passport reminder: Do you know when your passport expires? A friend recently got some bad news when she arrived at the airport baggage in tow. Her passport’s expiration day was only five months away and it needed to be valid for six months from the date she was traveling. The airline would not let her travel. Her destination, Indonesia, trip was one of the countries that require that length of time. Others include Russia, Mongolia, Thailand, and more.

The US Passport services says, “Many international travelers may not realize that having an unexpired passport is sometimes not enough to enter certain foreign countries. U.S. citizens traveling on passports that expire in fewer than six months have increasingly been denied airline boarding or been detained upon arrival in certain foreign destinations, including popular European travel destinations in the Schengen area. This is not a new requirement, but it is only recently that the requirement has been more strictly enforced.” Also keep in mind that children's passports are only good for five years. Check here for more info on passports, visas, and more. 

#6. “People and cattle can share open space” report  UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) experts. When a hiker on a San Francisco Bay parkland unknowingly walked between a cow and her calf, the mother came over, knocked the hiker down and stepped on him. In another incident, a woman walking her dogs off leash was chased by cows. She slipped and sprained an ankle.

Such incidents, though rare, prompted UC ANR experts to write guidelines for people who hike, cycle or ride horses in natural areas where grazing cattle are used to manage the land.  The four-page publication, Sharing Open Space: What to Expect from Grazing Livestock, is available for free download from the UC ANR online catalog. 

“Areas that were traditionally rangelands, especially in urban counties, are more and more often becoming parklands,” said Stephanie Larson, UC ANR Cooperative Extension livestock advisor in Sonoma County and lead author of the publication. “State parks generally remove grazing, but we didn’t want to see that at regional and county parks.”

"Cattle grazing can provide important services to these working landscapes, like managing the vegetation, reducing fire hazards, increasing water capture, and promoting the diversity of plant life. With education, Larson believes, people who hike, bike and horseback ride can coexist peacefully with the cattle.

Cattle may seem intimidating because of their size, but they are vulnerable to attack by coyotes and other predators. As prey animals, cows naturally experience and express fear and protective behavior, especially when unfamiliar people and animals are near and to protect their young.

"Cattle can feel threatened by dogs, which they will perceive as predators. The guidelines recommend keeping dogs close and under complete control at all times. Just like people, dogs should never get between a cow and her calf. The guidelines detail typical cattle posture when relaxed and when agitated, their response to intrusions into their personal space (or “flight zone”), and reactions to loud noises.

“Unless you need to move cattle out of your way, such as move them off a narrow trail, it’s best to give them plenty of space and avoid their flight zone altogether,” the guidelines advise. Injured cattle should be reported and left alone. The guidelines suggest people never approach a cow from behind, make quick movements or flap their arms, or try to 'rescue' calves that seem to be separated from their mothers. 'The mother may be off drinking or eating, and will return to the baby,' the authors write. 'She may even be watching you.'" Co-authors of the guidelines with Larson are Sheila Barry, UC ANR livestock and natural resources advisor in the Bay Area, and rangeland management consultant Lisa Bush. (Article forwarded by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, 2801 Second St., Davis, CA, May 7, 2015)

2041 #7. More cow talk. In Jane V. Blanchard’s book, Hadrian’s Wall Path, she states, “In the U.S., these cud-chewers kill approximately twenty  people annually, and she refers to an article by Palash Ghosh entitled, “Trampled to Death By Cows: It Happens More Often Than You Think.  International Business Times. M.p. n.d. (Web) 11 Sept 2014. Incidentally, Blanchard's book about Hadrian's Wall Path would be an excellent gift  for anyone you know who plans to travel to England to walk along this ancient Roman wall.  

 #8. Helena Bernardo, who Ralph and I on the Camino several years back, has been helpful several times when I, or others, have wanted  information about the Camino Portugues. Helena is now living in Spain and she has some new information to share. “I have a Portuguese pilgrim  friend, living here in Oviedo [which is on the Primitivo Camino route] who, together with his wife, also a pilgrim, started a Camino tour company  that has tours both in Spain as well as Portugal (including Fatima). His name is Rui and her name is Yolanda. It is a family owned business with  lots of heart and true Camino spirit. This is their web page.  

After this initial introduction, Helena wrote again to mention that Rui, the owner of Ultreia, is looking for another collaborator in the US. Then Rui wrote the following, which I include here for anyone interested in forming groups interested in doing the Camino and/or leading such a group. You would have to communicate with Rui to find out more about this enterprise. Edited: “I'm Rui, the co-founder of Ultreia y Suseia. ..we are a small Camino start up project that is searching for pilgrims of the Way of St. James who might relate with Ultreias´ values and, like us, has true passion for the Camino and the need to share it with others; someone that is ecologically responsible and believes in conscious economy.


“We are looking for a  limited number of collaborators from the most varied angles of activity, religious or not, that feel that Ultreia can give them something that they haven´t already found and, in exchange we ask for their passion and commitment to the Camino de Santiago, to the environment and the surrounding community. The idea is for the person to use their contacts to gather groups, be it like we have right now, through a local parish or simply through Camino contacts and friends. The collaborator, if interested, can accompany the group as an extra guide.


“Additionally let me tell you we will be working on a commission’s base and, if all goes well we will create a US Ultreia company where the collaborators will become partners in the company if they wish to do so.” If interested, contact Rui at


#9. Regional: upcoming events of the Northern California Chapter--American Pilgrims on the Camino from Rennie, Lin and Cybele

Saturday, December 5th. The monthly Lake Merritt walk will meet up at the east end of the lake by the Greek Pillars at 10:30, rain or shine. Experienced Camino adventurers and folks who want to discuss future Camino adventures are invited.

Saturday, December 12th.  Hike in Redwood Regional Park in the hills above Oakland. “Meet at the Canyon Meadow Staging area at 10AM.  Bring plenty of water and a picnic lunch.  The hike begins with an ascent to the ridge, but then becomes more moderate. 8 miles.

“There are several entrances to Redwood Regional Park. The main entrance, Redwood Gate, is on Redwood Road in Oakland about two miles east of Skyline Blvd. In Oakland on Highway 13, take the Redwood Road exit and go east (uphill). At the top of the hill you will cross Skyline Boulevard and pass the Skyline Ranch Equestrian Center on the right. Farther along you will pass Piedmont Stables on the left.  There are two parking areas inside the main gate.  Meet in the staging area/playground.  If those lots fill and you park somewhere else, we will be walking the East Ridge Trail counter clockwise and then the Stream Trail [note from Susan: the ladybugs are out!] These are all marked on maps available at the entrances and on the website below.  We can all catch up during lunch.”

For more information and maps see this page, click here. Let us know if you plan to attend, click here

#10. Regional: I just learned about an organization called Trail Mavens which offers hiking, camping, and backpacking trips for women (only). The trip’s cost generally covers park entrance fees, instruction, and food. Tents are shared as are food prep and other camp chores;  cookware and lanterns are provided. Sleeping bags and pads are available if needed. There is an emphasis on Leave No Travel ethics. Upcoming trips are to Tahoe, Big Sur, and Point Reyes. These trips offer the opportunity to learn the skills needed to be safe while exploring the outdoors while having fun with other women in the backcountry. 

Happy holidays everyone!

Susan Alcorn’s Hiking & Backpacking Newsletter #203, November 2015

Dear Friends
I hope this finds you well -- and maybe with your own outdoor adventures to report. Send items of interest to me at backpack45 "at sign here" 

There was no October issue of this newsletter because Ralph and I were hiking on one of the Camino routes -- the Norte. (More in item #1) 


  1. Camino Norte (Spain) report
  2. Reminder: Camino route closed for winter
  3. Adventures of the Trail Scrooge –  book review
  4. Day hikes can turn into overnight stays!
  5. Camino: How to reach starting points
  6. Follow-up on Appalachian Trail brouhaha
  7. Report of the ALDHA – West events
  8. A Shell for Denise
  9. Regional: Bay Area hikes: El Cerrito
  10. Regional: Bay Area North Calif. Pilgrim events
  11. Regional: Yosemite area

image 2Articles:
#1. This will be a slightly shorter newsletter than usual because Ralph and I have just returned from a 5-week hike on Spain’s Camino Norte. We, like many others, did not realize when we did our first Camino trip (in 2001 on the Camino Francés – aka “The Way” or “St. James Way”) that there were dozens of Camino de Santiago routes in Europe that led to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela. The Norte route, initially along the Bay of Biscay, is a wonderful alternative to the now-so-heavily-traveled impacted Camino Francés.

While I am working on a longer piece, Ralph (whose trailname is “Timecheck”) has posted a very helpful trip report. In the excerpt below, he sets the stage for our hikes of the Norte. After this introduction you will find very helpful logistics: about the trail, the transportation options (blablacar), the weather, and so forth.

From Ralph “Camino trails have been an almost annual event for us, but in 2014 a mysterious period of severe leg pains struck Susan, limiting her walking to a hundred yards or so for a while. Throughout 2014 and early this year, she has gradually been extending her distance, more thru ibuprofen and walking through the pain than anything else. When she was able to do nine miles, we decided we were ready to attempt another Camino trip, with no commitment as to how far each day, or how far we would get. Camino Norte looked possible, with short enough stages so that we keep most days at 20 km or less, and a max of 25 km. Rest days would be taken whenever we thought appropriate. That's the background. This post is about the facts of the trip you might need to know….”

#2. Camino: A reminder: Very important warning for those who want to hike the Camino de Santiago in the winter.  

“Given the increasing number of interventions by emergency teams to rescue pilgrims attempting to cross the mountains in winter, as well as the recovery of the bodies of pilgrims who have died in the attempt, authorities have declared that the Lepoeder Pass on the Route Napoleón is closed to pilgrims from 1 November to 31 March.

image 1"For this reason, passage through this variant of the Camino de Santiago in its first stage in Navarra is restricted. From 1 November to 31 March, all pilgrims are required to follow the Valcarlos route from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles, unless express authorization to use the Route Napoleon is given by the Emergency Agency of Navarre." This closure can be extended if conditions warrant. 

Here is a link to the original article in the local press (in Spanish) for those that can read it:
Se restringe la entrada de peregrinos por la variante este del Camino de Santiago en su primera etapa, a la entrada por Navarra

(The snowy photo was taken in Aubrac, France while on the LePuy route in April, 2004) 

#3. Appalachian Trail: I received an email from Chris Quinn, a young man who at age 25 set out to hike the AT in 2013. Quinn asked if I would like to read, and possibly review, his book about his hike, Adventures of a Trail Scrooge. I have read a few books about the AT, but nowhere nearly as many as I have read about the PCT or the Camino, so I was interested. I also looked forward to listening to the perspective of a relatively young hiker –  we need interest in our national trails to keep them flourishing.

Though the book is not the most literary work I have read, it does have some important things to say –  things to which any long-distance hiker can relate. ”Physically, it was an experience like none I’ve ever had. I like many, tend to romanticize grand acts of physical endurance. “ “…noble pursuits in which we conquer that which seems impossible.” Once on the trail, reality dawned. “I found myself grasping for the last once of energy to make it off the exposed ridge in pouring rain.”

#4.You may have read the news about the woman who was lost and then rescued previously, but the message here is to be prepared when hiking. Jane Baack sent this several weeks back, “You may have read about the woman who recently survived nine days alone in the mountains after falling when returning alone to the trailhead while on a Sierra Club-led day hike.  SAR teams looked for her and when she finally heard a team nearby she used her whistle to signal them.  If she had not had a whistle she might not be alive today.  Whistles don't weigh much and are small and easy to add to your daypack or backpack.  Maybe you could add a whistle to your list of what to always carry. [editor adds: at least add a headlamp or flashlight to your daypack also – we have had the experience of being caught without a light when our day hike turned into a nighttime hike – potentially dangerous.]

“I think you would find it very interesting to read the full story of Miyuki Harwood [a 62-year-old hiker from Folsom], the woman found [near Courtright Reservoir] last weekend in the Sierra [after missing for nine days]. Jane summarized from a story in the Washington Post on Aug. 31. “Many other news sources have had the story including the Chronicle. I had heard the group was on a dayhike but now I believe they were on a Sierra Club backpack trip of many days, but the one day she fell and became lost they were on the day hike.  She had no food with her.  The Rough Fire was only a few miles away, with rescuers at one time only three miles from the fire.  She crawled with a broken leg to a creek to get water.” 

#5. Camino: Transportation options for getting to St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees vary – on Facebook (9/6/15), American Pilgrims on the Camino, I found these suggestions offered:

*1.5 hour taxi ride from Pamplona

*€22 bus ride from Pamplona

*Bus from Biarritz. Jose Luis Sanches Easier from Biarritz says, "Leave the (small) airport, public urban bus to Bayonne Train Station (La Gare). 7 km, around 4.5 miles. It's the Bus Chronoplus nº 14, one each 30 minutes, price 1 Euro. At the Train Station buy a ticket to SJPP. There are a few a day, timetable can change till next June. Anyway you can search the French Rail Web Site - . No need (not even possible) to buy the tickets in advance." Simeon Allison Fully agrees with Jose Luis. "Have done this same way twice in June. It really is quite simple. Arrive BIQ, 20 minute bus to Bayonne train station, 1.5 hour train/bus combo (until rail gets fixed) w/same ticket about 11euro, beautiful ride."

*Start your Camino walk from Pamplona

*Bus Pamplona to Roncesvalles, (6 Euros).

#6. More about the Appalachian Trail: In the last issue of this newsletter, I wrote about the controversy kicked up when ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek set a new record for the AT –  46 days. Along with his celebration, he received citations from rangers for allegedly violating three park rules. It also led to Baxter State Park director Jensen Bissell commenting that the park might reroute the AT away from Maine’s highest peak, 5,268-foot Katahdin. 

Bissell’s comments were not just in response to what was seen as the poor behavior of Jurek  and his group. Bissell wrote that while only three percent of the parks’ visitors are thru-hikers, they take up a much larger share of the park’s resources.

As one would expect, many hikers have responded suggesting moderation. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is setting in motion an educational campaign hoping to discourage hikers from broke rules against littering, drinking, and hiking with a large group, the park director says. Bissell, in a Facebook entry, also made it clear that he did not approve of the commercial aspects of Jurek’s journey. Click link here. More here from Backpacker Mag

#7. Scott Williams reports on the American Long Distance Hikers Assoc - West(ALDHA) events. “The September Gathering [at Oregon’s Mt. Hood] has gotten better and better…. “Allgood’ [trailname] has done a fabulous job of getting presenters that are just riveting and his overall positive personality is really infectious. Next Sept. it'll be back here in Nevada City (Northern CA).  But we voted to try and bring in more of the Western States and we're going to Estes Park in CO in 2017!  Talk about a gorgeous spot in late Sept. 

“Presentations ranged from a talk on the Pacific Northwest Trail, to a woman who rode the Pacific Crest Trail in 1968 and 1969 as a child with her family, just after it had been designated a National Scenic Trail by Congress; Jean Ella … slide show and talk about her hike of the Continental Divide Trail in 1971; a talk by Trauma and Pepper, who completed the first ever mid-winter transit of the Pacific Crest Trail last year.”

#8. A Shell for Denise. Many of you may be aware that Denise Thiem, an American from Arizona, was murdered this year while walking the Camino (an arrest has been made). Link here if you want to read the details. 

The pilgrim community has organized “A Shell for Denise,” as a way each pilgrim can mark Denise’s death. Their suggestion is that each traveler on the Way of St. James can carry along an extra seashell as a remembrance of Denise’s unfinished journey. They add: “You can inscribe it as you like, and once you arrive at Santiago de Compostela, you can present your memorial seashell at THE PILGRIM HOUSE at 19 Rua Nova. Faith, Nate, and their crew of managers will care for the collection until plans are finalized for a more permanent pilgrim memorial.” Alternatively, if you are not on the trail, you can send your name and a message to, and a scallop shell will be inscribed for you and added to the Memorial Collection.

The shells for the free email project are provided by Johnnie Walker of the Camino Chaplaincy. The Memorial Committee is composed of: Ivar Rekve and Grayland (Ed Tennyson) of; Camino Chaplaincy (JohnnieWalker); Pilgrim House (Nate and Faith); and Peaceable Kingdom Moratinos (Rebekah Scott)

#9. Regional: S.F. Bay Area: Hike. Saturday, November 7, 11 am to 1 pm or so. Kensington and El Cerrito Hills Ramble. Join Dave Weinstein and explore urban paths in Kensington and El Cerrito, enjoy some unusual architecture, and see several trails that have been blocked over the years and need reopening. Portions will be steep. Two hours-plus.Meet near Semifreddi’s bakery, 372 Colusa Avenue, Kensington.

Then on Saturday, November 21, Dave Weinstein will lead a hike in the Fairview Open Space. No details yet but he'll have much to say about this interesting, but imperiled locality. This 2 hour hike meets at the corner of Tamalpais and Fairview at 11 am. Look for more details on our website and in next month's newletter. If you have any questions, or if you would like to lead a hike of your own, contact us

image 3#10. Regional: S.F. Bay Area: Northern California Chapter - American Pilgrims on the Camino has two events coming up soon:

November 7th, 2015. Welcome Home Party: Hola Peregrinos! The NORCAL Chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino invites you to our annual “Welcome Home” potluck and party held for those of us who have returned from a Camino experience this calendar year.  So returnees, and the rest of us happy to see them home, should set aside.  

We'll gather at the Church of the Resurrection, 399 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill from10:30 to 3:30.  Bring food, stories, and attitude!  Wine is good too.  These have been great events in past years.  RSVP so we can be certain to have a chair for you. Buen Camino -- Lin, Cybele, Rennie -- Chapter Coordinators

December 12 hike: Norcal Chapter is planning a hike in Redwood Regional Park in the hills above Oakland on December 12th.  Meet at the Canyon Meadow Staging area at10AM.  Bring plenty of water and a picnic lunch.  The walk is about 8 miles in length and not too difficult after the ascent to the ridge.

There are several entrances to Redwood Regional Park. The main entrance, Redwood Gate, is on Redwood Road in Oakland about two miles east of Skyline Blvd. In Oakland on Highway 13, take the Redwood Road exit and go east (uphill). At the top of the hill you will cross Skyline Boulevard and pass the Skyline Ranch Equestrian Center on the right. Farther along you will pass Piedmont Stables on the left.  There are two parking areas inside the main gate.  Meet in the staging area/playground.  If those lots fill and you park somewhere else, we will be walking the East Ridge Trail counter clockwise and then the Stream Trail.    These are all marked on maps available at the entrances and on the website below.  We can all catch up during lunch.

For more information and maps see this page:

#11. Tioga Road/Pass – (Hwy 120 through the Yosemite Park and over the Sierra is temporarily closed due to snow. Check current road conditions/chain restrictions by calling  209/372-0200 (then dial 1, 1).

Happy trails and Happy Thanksgiving,

Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Hiking and Backpacking Tales & Tips #202, September 2015

Enjoy your Labor Day hikes and other activities!


  1. PCT backpacker Carvin bikepacks Nevada’s American Discovery Trail
  2. Preview of “A Walk in the Woods” film
  3. New record: First PCT horse packer
  4. Yosemite’s expert basket maker Julia Parker retires
  5. We  honor the firefighters and regret recent fatalities
  6. Lumbersexual?
  7. Camino: Santiago’s botafumeiro
  8. Next hospitalero training dates
  9. Climbing Japan’s Mount Fuji 
  10. Great Old Broads makes offer
  11. Golly, do rattlesnakes actually bite?
  12. S.F. Bay Area hiking 1
  13. S.F. Bay Area hiking  2


#1. When Geolyn Carvin and her partner Tom Grundy decided to bikepack the Nevada section of the American Discovery Trail (ADT) -- and became the first to do so – they brought with them years of backpacking experience. Carvin is the creator of the popular backpacking cartoon featuring the adventurous, “Boots.”

Your editor recently wrote a two-part article about Carvin and her partner’s adventures on the ADT. Among other things Carvin mentioned in her interview, was that knowing to carry lighter camping gear, knowing how to pace oneself in order to avoid bonking or heat exhaustion, and “feeling really comfortable in remote areas” comes with experience. 

Read about it here: PCT backpacker Carvin bikepacks Nevada’s American DiscoveryTrail (part 1) and 

PCT backpacker Carvin bikepacks Nevada’s American DiscoveryTrail (part 2)

3#2. "A Walk in the Woods" opens in theaters nationwide today, September 2. “Check out this exclusive behind-the-scenes interview from the film "A Walk in the Woods." Travel writer Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) takes a long-lost old friend (Nick Nolte) for a hike along the Appalachian Trail, which stretches more than 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine.” Click here for the YouTube video

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy team writes, “With an award-winning cast that includes Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson, this movie will likely result in a surge of hikers along the Appalachian Trail. We've put proactive measures in place to manage this increase. Visit to learn more.”

#3. Tamara Hamilton (trailnames Dorothy & Toto 1988) sent some interesting news to us for our website’s listings of various trail firsts. “I stumbled on your website, and saw that you have a first horse-packer listed, and would like to suggest Jim McCraeof Aldergrove, BC as the first person to complete the PCT in one season onhorseback. He had two horses and one mule in 1988. One of his horses was injured in Washington and had to be trailered home, but he completed the remainder of the journey with Shiloh and Duke. Jim shoveled a path through the High Sierras, as that year the trail was not melted when he went through. Previous horse packers had taken alternate, lower, routes. Jim stuck to the crest. Tamara Hamilton (Dorothy & Toto 1988)

#4. Julia Parker, who has demonstrated her fine basket making at Yosemite for many years, has retired. "Parker is a Coast Miwok-Kashaya Pomo basket weaver who studied with some of the leading 20th century indigenous Californian basket weavers. Over the last 40 years, Parker has become one of the pre-eminent Native American basket makers in California. A respected elder of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and long-time resident of Yosemite Valley, Parker is prolific artist, teacher, and storyteller.

"Julia Parker was born in Marin County, California. Her father was Coast Miwok, and her mother was Kashaya Pomo. They both died when Parker was still young, so she and her siblings were sent to a Native American boarding school. In 1945, when Parker was 17 years old, she married Ralph Parker. Ralph is the grandson of Lucy Telles, he is thought to be the last fullblood Mono Lake Paiute. The couple moved to Yosemite, where Parker began her studies of basketry with Telles."  A celebration of her 68 years at Yosemite was held as she retired on the grounds of the Ahwahnee Hotel on July 17.

#5. Scott Williams, wildly experienced PCT and Camino hiker, recently wrote this in his newsletter and want I want to echo his thanks and other sentiments: “After leaving the High Country, we stopped in at the Ranger Station in Lee Vining overlooking Mono Lake and I noticed that the flag was at half-mast and asked who had died.  I learned that 5 firefighters have been killed so far this season, two in California within the past month and three more just a few days ago fighting a fire in Central Washington State.  Wow, it really puts in perspective the risks and bravery of such folks, whether Firefighters, Search and Rescue or anyone coming the aid of others in the wild.  My thanks go out to the number of you who are on this list for all the training you do yearly and the risks you entail to keep us all safe in the bush.”

#6. Maybe you are hearing this here first? I just received a query about products for the "lumbersexual" and learned, that “the term “Lumbersexual” has emerged in the men’s style world to describe guys who may not frequent the great outdoors, but like to look like they do. Boots, flannels, camo, and fully-grown beards are just a few of the typical trends they incorporate to achieve this look.  But for the real men who actually camp, hike, fish and everything in between, this all comes naturally.” Wikipedia describes the term: Lumbersexual is a portmanteau, derived from lumberjack and sexual, coined in 2014 describing a man who has adopted a retro fashion style resembling a .... Comments welcome, men!

1#7. Camino: Saco shared this info on the famous botafumeiro in the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The Botafumeiro (translated to “smoke spreader”) is a censer. “The Botafumeiro is suspended from a pulley mechanism in the dome on the roof of the church. The current pulley mechanism was installed in 1604. It’s made of an alloy of brass and bronze and is plated by a very thin 20 micrometre layer of silver. The current Botafumeiro was created by the gold and silversmith José Losada in 1851.”

The Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro is one of the largest censers in the world, weighing 80 kg and measuring 1.60 m in height.” In the cathedral it is lifted into place and started swinging by eight men called tiraboleiros.

‪#8. Camino: Daniel DeKay forwarded the following schedule for hospitalero training.  Participants must have completed a Camino and be paid up members of American Pilgrims on the Camino.  Let us know if you wish to participate. Dates are: November 13-15, 2015 in Winter Park, FL; Feb 5-7, 2016 in Los Gatos, CA; April 5-7, 2016 (annual Gathering) in Belleville, ILL." 

#9. Climbing Mount Fuji: Marcyn, who I first wrote about in We’re in the Mountains, Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips of Seasoned Women Backpackers wrote, “It's been a month now, since I summited Mt. Fuji, with a great deal of assistance, thank you Jesus, from my strong, capable guide.  He literally hauled me up that mountain!  One step at a time.  Grabbing my arm, hoisting my backpack, a hand under my pack to lift, or suggesting I hold the rope and use my arms to help with the steeper steps.  The only trail open at that time (7th and 8th of July) was the Yoshida Trail.  You could climb the other trails, but there was still a lot of snow and the supporting huts on the other trails were not open.  So we went with all the other people wanting to climb it...mostly young people.  A steady stream going and coming.

“It was a heavy mist when we started out, but got heavier as we went.  By noon we were both drenched.  My rain gear did nothing to keep me dry....only warm.  There was 2 inches of water in my boots.  Mainly because I stupidly put my gaiters on OVER my rain pants, instead of under them, and the water ran down my rain pants straight into my socks and boots. 

“The trail is very steep.  In 4 1/2 miles it goes up 7 thousand feet.  The worst part is between the 7th and 8th stations.  It is over lava rock and boulders.  I was climbing with sticks dragging, with hands and feet, pulling myself up from boulder to boulder.  You had to wait sometimes for folks to pass, going or coming.  They sometimes waited for us, if they needed a breather.

“We had planned to overnight at the 8th station.  But there are 5 of them.  At the first one the guy was really sweet and invited us to stay there, but we wanted to try and go a little higher still.  It was only 2 pm.  The second one we stopped at, the head manager was quite rude.  We didn't like him.  We were soaking and there was no drying room.  The 3rd place, they were very nice.  They had compressed air and tried to blow off as much water now streaming off us, as possible.  They also did not have a drying room.  None of the huts had them, it turned out.  (In the Western Alps, where we stayed the first few days, ALL the huts had them, and it was nice to dry your boots overnight, and wet rain gear.)

“But we stripped off wet outer gear, stuffed them in plastic bags, and took them with us as we tiptoed in wet wool socks to our sleeping spaces.  Just sleeping bags on a wooden pallet in a bunk room, mostly empty, with 3 tiers.  After some hot Udon soup, I went to bed at 3:30 pm, Chris, my guide, piled another sleeping bag on top of me, as I was shaking cold.  I opened two hand warmers and put them on my wrists, and plugged in my c-pap to the battery, and fell asleep.  At 6 Chris woke me and we went in and had dinner.  With a room full of young chattering hikers.  Then at 6:30, I crawled back inside the wet sleeping bag, thankful for my wet wool sweater.  Chris said to me, "We will see how the weather is in the morning, and make a decision about if we will summit or not."  I pulled his shirt toward me and in a low voice, into his ear, I said, "Chris, I have not come this far, not to summit."  He said, "That's it, then." 

“And we both went to sleep.  When we HAD summited, and Chris and I were sitting eating our soup for breakfast, he mentioned we should go see the crater.  "Because," he said, with a wicked grin, "I have not come this far not to see the crater."  So we did go see the caldera...but I couldn't see the bottom....because of the strong wind and I was afraid to go any closer.  Chris took care of the finances, so I don't know how much it cost for dinner and overnite at the hut.  He had supplied me with a pocket full of $2 coins (?200 yen) for the toilets.  Each time you use the toilet, you put the coin in the "voluntary" offering box.

“At 4:30 in the morning, they came in and woke us, "If you want to catch the sunrise on top of Fuji-san, you better get up now."  I had no intention of catching a (non-existent, as it was still overcast and misting) sunrise, anywhere.  So Chris took my camera outside and took photos of a faint pink streak to the east, while I stowed everything back in my day pack, gulped down my vitamins, wolfed up some energy stuff, and we started the steep grind.  We summited by 7:15 am.  The wind was blowing like a Grimm's fairytale gale.

“But Chris bought me some more Udon noodle soup and a pin, and a postcard they would mail at the top, and we went to see the crater overlook, took photos of us and Runty....and turned back.

“That downhill part was faster, but very trying to walk downhill on snow, the pumice pebbles rolling away under you but not when you expect it.  I have one bruised toenail still.  We did not go the same way down as up, but went the way the supply cat/trucks go to re-stock the stations and the top.  The top has flush toilets, a cafe, a post office, a curio shop, a place you can get your hiking pole wood burned with the logo of the mountain on it, (and no, I didn't get one!)  an observatory (we decided not to hike the perimeter, very up and down, but one can AND VENDING MACHINES!

I'm glad I did it.  Chris is too.  He's lived there 30 years and never climbed it.  Been to the 5th Station (end of the road, and big tourist destination) to take clients birding, but never went to the top.  BECAUSE NOW WE'VE BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, WE DON'T EVER HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN!  (Am I shouting?)

“There was surprising little trash, but we did pick up what we could along the way.  We collected odd gloves, energy bar wrappers, eventually Chris found 5 bear bells and gave them to me.  I'll wear them proudly in the Sierras.  He also went way off trail, on very unstable ground, to bring me back a daypack rain cover that just fits my daypack!  In day-glow green.  (My duck's back cover I took is for my backpack, and was way too big for my day bag.)  So we cleaned up.”

“Runty was happy just to get in the picture.  I kept him covered up most of the time, even though he IS washable.  He is the only toy Labrador puppy in the WORLD to have summited Mt. Whitney, twice, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and now Mt. Fuji.”

#10. Great Old Broads, New Broad - 25th Anniversary Special Redux! $25.00. Back by Popular Demand! As we move into our 26th year of amazing Broadness, we continue to celebrate with this special $25 membership rate for new members! All Broads memberships include: 3 issues of our Broadsides newsletter, Special discount rates on events, E-Alerts and notifications, Membership in your local Broadband.

“Great Old Broads for Wilderness: Working to preserve & protect wilderness since 1989. Great Old Broads for Wilderness is a national organization that engages and ignites the activism of elders to preserve and protect wilderness and wild lands. Conceived by older women who love wilderness, Broads gives voice to the millions of older Americans who want to protect their public lands as Wilderness for this and future generations. We bring knowledge, commitment, and humor to the movement to protect our last wild places on earth.”

2#11. Man tries selfie with rattlesnake, gets snakebite for $150,000. Just in case you missed hearing about this crazy stunt in July (and its unintended consequences) here goes. A San Diego man, Todd Fassler, thought it might be an idea to take a selfie with a rattlesnake. Fassler picked a rattlesnake out of the brush and thought he might record the event. The snake bit him [a “duh” moment]. KGTV's Dan Haggerty tweeted Fassler's bill -- for $153,161.25. Of this, more than $83,000 was for "pharmacy." His case reportedly depleted the anti-venom supplies at two local hospitals.

Observers have commented that maybe Fassler learned that his 30 seconds of fame wasn’t worth, say, his five-day hospital stay. On the other hand, wasn’t it just last month that we were reading about  people approaching bears too closely in Yellowstone in order to get selfies?


12. S.F. Bay Area Regional: Ridge Trail has a new challenge for you. “Make Tracks” is a new incentive program, free to Ridge Trail members, $10 donation asked of non-members, “to get outside, explore new places and enjoy the trail you are helping create.” Signing up is simple – plug in your name, your email, and the number of miles or number of outings you want to do before year’s end. Each month, Ridge trail will send you an email with volunteer-led outings and suggestions for self-guided Ridge Trail adventures.

13. S.F. Bay Area Regional: the All-Paths Walk III. “Sunday, September 20 @ 7 a.m.Leaders: Zeke Gerwin and Jacob Lehmann Duke. Meeting Place: The Marin Circle near Fountain Walk. Contact: This fast-paced, difficult walk will crisscross Berkeley: from Tilden in the East to the flats in the West; from Summit Reservoir in the North to the Claremont Hotel in the South. The route consists of five 6- or 7-mile sections, so you can join for one or more of them and then take a bus back to your starting point. Click here for detailed information.

“Note: This is not an official Berkeley Path Wanderers Assoc. walk and will not be staffed by us. It will, however, be a great adventure, whether you do all 34 miles or only some of them.”

Note: Please send in items of interest to the hiking community. The next issue will be in November. 

Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn AKA backpack45

Susan Alcorn’s Hiking & Susan Alcorn’s Hiking & Backpacking Newsletter #201, August 2015

  1. Patagonia with SYMG
  2. Progress reports on Yosemite’s Black Bears 
  3. Step lively when crossing fields with livestock12
  4. Altitude adjustment
  5. ALDHA-West gathers in September
  6. “Wild” phenomena impacts Tuolumne Meadows post office
  7. PCT Trail Days at Cascade Locks
  8. Appalachian Trail record – and its controversy
  9. Girl Scouts want to help newbie hikers
  10. Camino: Very important notice for winter pilgrims
  11. Film based on Bryson’s book, A Walk in the Woods, hits theaters this September
  12. Camino: Regional events in No. California

#1. Colby J Brokvist, General Manager and Senior Backcountry Guide for Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (SYMG), is quite taken with Patagonia – as all are who have been there or considered being there – and his company is offering some interesting trips: Hidden Patagonia and Classic Torres del Paine. Colby says, “We have 2 offerings, one classic trip along the W circuit and one very special trip in the northern reaches of Patagonia. I'll let the itineraries speak for themselves. We ran one departure of each trip this past February and they were fantastic. We're offering 2 departures of each for 2016 and the trips pair together to make an unforgettable 14-day romp through Chilean Patagonia. " Go to this link for info.

4SYMG was chosen "Best Outfitter on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure Magazine and "Best Adventure Travel Company" (800) 231-4575 

#2. The Yosemite Conservancy gives a brief history of black bears in the park and applauded the progress made in reducing bear-to-people encounters.  

“'Seeing a wild bear in its natural habitat is one of the most exhilarating aspects of my job. I'm over the moon when I see wild bears doing wild things,' Ryan Matthew Leahy - Biologist, National Park Service"


“In the late 1800s, when John Muir roamed Yosemite, black bears lived wild and shy. In the 1920s, to steer them away from human food, park managers created special feeding platforms where they left garbage for the bears. In the early 1970s, the park shut down its last feeding area. But trash-eating bears had only become more drawn to human food — which made up about a third of their diet.


Since 1994, Yosemite Conservancy has funded more than 2,000 bear-proof food-storage lockers throughout the park.” You can rent them at the wilderness centers.


"In 2014, a new study found Yosemite bears’ diets today consist of almost 90% wild food! Human food in bears’ diets dropped dramatically once donors helped the park introduce lockers, canisters, and electronic tracking programs to monitor bears’ movements. So far in 2015, visitor-reported bear incidents are down 31% compared to the same time last year — and 90% since 1998!


Bare facts about wild bears: "A bear's wild diet typically consists of grasses, berries, acorns, and grubs and ranges from 4,000 to 20,000 calories a day.

Adult male black bears weigh an average of 300 to 350 pounds and females weigh 200 to 250. Cubs start out weighing less than a pound.

Black bears eat the most in fall when they gorge on acorns and other seasonal foods to gain fat for winter. After emerging from winter dens, bears feed largely on meadow grasses, which are low in nutrition but sustain them until berries ripen and other foods abound. Bears also eat ants, termites, and insect larvae ripped out of logs or dug from the ground. With their keen sense of smell, bears can detect food up to three miles away."

#3. Interesting sign on the Camino Norte. Along the northern route, where there are several places where you have to walk through fields, opening and closing gates as you go, an intriguing sign was noticed by hiker Angulero. It reads, “Advertensia si a usted le parace que puede cruzar la finca en 8 minutos, my toro 'Bringo' lo hace in 4. Quico y a. lana  .....

and for those who don't speak Spanish, Angulero's notice reads:

Warning: If it seems to you that you are able to cross the field in 8 minutes, my bull 'Bringo' can do it in 4." Keep to the path....


1#4. Roleigh Martin has some knowledge about adjusting to altitude. “For 7 years I've organized groups to do the [John Muir Trail (JMT). We'd always stay 2 days in Yosemite Valley at the start, or for some of us, we'd be in Mammoth Lakes Ca the 2nd day before, take Yarts bus into Valley, and be in the Valley the night before the hike). We'd hike much slower the first 8 days before arriving at Reds Meadow. The first night we'd only camp at either LYV or Illouette Falls. I know the new permit
rules change things.” [Permits for the JMT have been drastically reduced.]

"I recently did Wheeler Peak NV [lead a hike there]. We had someone from Washoe County Search and Rescue hike with us; he's been on 100+ SAR missions. He told us
the way to acclimate to altitude was to hike so slow you do not need to take hardly any breaks [Note from Susan – on Kilimanjaro, they often reminded us to “Pole, pole” – slowly, slowly], and as you hike, you relax your leg not climbing (to release the lactic acid in that leg), and to take deep breath exhalations to empty your lungs before inhaling again. We took 5 hours to get to the peak which was 4.4 miles up, and 2.5 hours to get back down.

“All 9 of us started and finished. Yes, we had done a bunch of pre-hikes but it was the most compressed high altitude hiking adventure I had ever done. “Facebook has a nice High Altitude group led by Inga Aksimit and others (from this group). "

#5. Reminder: American Long Distance Hiking Association-West (ALDHA-West) holds their annual gathering Sept 25th-27th at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis camp in Oregon. This is a fun, informal weekend with speakers, slide shows, and other activities including awards to those who have earned the Triple Crown Award [for those who have completed the entire PCT, Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail]. The Martin D Papendick Award will also be given to provide recognition for the outstanding Trail Angel of the year.


#6.  Record numbers of PCT re-supply packages have overwhelmed the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office in Yosemite. (6/10/15). Undoubtedly as a result of the popularity of the film Wild, the number of PCT thru-hikers hopefuls has mushroomed. Last year, 1,450+ permits were issued and 425 people completed the trail – nearly 200 more than in 2013. Mike, postmaster of the Tuolumne Meadows Post Office says he has never seen so many re-supply packages for PCT hikers in his 10 years on the job. They have run out of room.

#7. Whether you hope to hike the PCT or not, you can get a taste of the Pacific Crest Trail by going to the ninth annual PCT days in Cascade Locks, OR the weekend of Aug 28-30. “You’ll find the latest in gear from exhibitors, take free classes, enter raffles, maybe take a hike or two, and camp on Thunder Island.

#8. Scott Jurek has set a new record for completing the Appalachian Trail. According to Runners World, Jurek did the 2,189 miles in 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes. He left Springer Mountain, Ga., at 5:56 a.m. ET on May 27 and ended at the top of Maine's Mount Katahdin at 2:03 p.m.on Sunday, according to Runner's World. “The 41-year-old ultra marathoner averaged almost 50 miles a day.”

Jurek broke Jennifer Pharr Davis, the previous unofficial record holder for the fastest supported thru-hike, Davis' 2011 record by about three hours. Jurek has set many speed records, but “his professional career had slowed down recently… but he intended for the Appalachian Trail speed record to be his 'masterpiece,' as he called it, the ultimate finale to an incredible career."

Controversy arose, however, when Jurek celebrated his ascent of Mount Katahdin on Sunday, July 12.  A  Baxter State Park ranger was there to meet his with a summons. Jurek was handed three citations for violating park rules during the festivities atop Maine’s highest peak. He was cited for “consuming alcohol within the park, hiking with a group larger than 12 people, and littering, which occurred when champagne sprayed into the air on the 5,268-foot summit hit the ground.”

While this may sound amazingly petty, the point that park official Bissell wanted to make was that “… as trustees of the park it is important for us to protect that wilderness experience. These folks who came to the park, that’s not really their priority at all.” Bissell also believes that it is important to prevent the commercialization of a natural resource that can occur with corporate support of hikers and runners. A race vehicle was used to support Scott – that and his headband displayed his corporate sponsorship. 

#9. Cindy, a Girl Scout leader, recently sent a very friendly message to us and gave us a link to a resource for those new to backpacking.


My [Brownies] and I wanted to express our gratitude by writing a little thank you note for your helpful page. I'm a troop leader aiming to help get my scouts their "Hiker" badge. I've been using your page, to help them out.

“As another small token of our appreciation, we thought it would be nice send along a helpful resource that we came across. It's and it's a great beginner's guide to hiking.

“If you decided to add it to your resources, I'd love to show my troopers that their suggestion was up and running to help others out with hiking safely. It would also help the girls feel that they contributed positively to the lives of others. We do our absolute best to follow the Girl Scout slogan of "Do a good turn daily.":) Please let us know what you think and thank you again!”

Best Wishes,
Cindy and her Brownie Scouts

#10. Very important warning for those who want to hike the Camino de Santiago in the winter.  

2 "Given the increasing number of interventions by emergency teams to rescue pilgrims attempting to cross the mountains in winter, as well as the recovery of the bodies of pilgrims who have died in the attempt, authorities have declared that the Lepoeder Pass on the Route Napoleón is closed to pilgrims from 1 November to 31 March.

"This decision was made after consulting with town officials of the village of Luzaide-Valcarlos; the Association of Friends of the Camino de Santiago in Navarre; the Departments of Culture, Tourism and Institutional Relations and Rural Development, Environment and Local Government; the General Council of Pyrenees-Atlantiques and the Provincial Police of Navarre, after consultation with the Navarra Emergency Agency, which coordinates rescue efforts throughout the region.

"The route is well marked, but it can nonetheless be difficult to follow in adverse weather conditions. While great effort is constantly being made to improve waymarking and the incorporation of new technologies such as emergency GPS tracking and localization, the number of rescue interventions by emergency personnel, both professional and volunteer, continues to increase, often motivated by imprudent or poorly-informed pilgrims who undertake the crossing without adequate physical preparation and/or the necessary equipment for confronting the difficulties of this this route.

"The situation is particularly serious in the winter, with very difficult conditions for rescues, including situations of risk for life-saving teams, given the terrain and climate of the area, and the serious difficulties of access, location and evacuation.

"For this reason, passage through this variant of the Camino de Santiago in its first stage in Navarra is restricted. From 1 November to 31 March, all pilgrims are required to follow the Valcarlos route from St. Jean Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles, unless express authorization to use the Route Napoleon is given by the Emergency Agency of Navarre."

Here is a link to the original article in the local press (in Spanish) for those that can read it:
Se restringe la entrada de peregrinos por la variante este del Camino de Santiago en su primera etapa, a la entrada por Navarra

#11. Bill Bryson’s popular book, A Walk in the Woods, hits the big screen September 2, and moviegoers will see Robert Redford and Nick Nolte hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT).  Whether you have hiked the AT or not, you’ll enjoy tramping through the lush wooded landscape of the Great Smoky Mountains and more.

#12. A. Regional: Northern California peregrinos in Sacramento. Informal meet for tapas at Tapa the World on J Street on Thursday, August 6th at 6pm! New and old and itinerant pilgrims welcome.

B.Join other hikers and pilgrims to complete a section of the Mission Trail. This is the portion of the trail between Mission San Francisco de Asís and Mission Santa Clara. Wednesday, August 19th, 9:05 a.m.  Meet at Menlo Park Caltrain Station... in the sitting area of the station.

The rest of the message, “Join us for a mid-week walk. The last 2 months we started walking from Mission Dolores towards Mission Santa Clara. We will set out from the Menlo Park Caltrain station and end at Mission Santa Clara.” Look on Facebook under Peregrinos  – Northern California.


Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Hiking & Backpacking Newsletter #200, July 2015


  1. Barcelona first, then Camino Norte
  2. Waterproofing your rain jacket
  3. Warnings re. Mosquitoes and ticks!
  4. Removing a tick
  5. El Camino Real of California
  6. Camino hospitalero training
  7. Warning about spray containers when camping
  8. Regional Bay Area monthly walk
  9. Bear Attack forces closure in Great Smoky Mtns.
  10. Do not rely on water caches!
  11. Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) volunteer projects
  12. PCT gatherings
  13. ALDHA-West happenings

#1. Ralph and I spent the later part of May and early part of June in Spain. We had two goals — to visit Barcelona and to hike a portion of the Camino Norte. The following is from my first blogpost about our trip. “Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia and Spain's second largest city with a population of approximately 1.6 million, is a great city for exploring on foot -- tiring of that, there is an extensive public transit system. Before husband Ralph and I arrived in that beautiful city on the Mediterranean Sea, I had drawn up an itinerary that was fairly dense, but also allowed time to just sit and people-watch. I expected the weather to be on the warm to hot side, so before we left I looked at a thrift shop for a couple of lightweight skirts that I could wear for our four days in Barcelona, but then leave behind to save weight for our hiking days on the Camino Norte.”

The rest of that post is click here.

The Camino Norte is considered one of the most difficult of the Camino trails – at least the beginning stages. It starts just inside the Spanish border in Irun, goes through San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander and more. Some pilgrims continue on Norte all the way along the Bay of Biscay to the west coast of Spain, others branch off the Norte at Oviedo to take the Primitivo down to Melide where it joins the Camino Frances. The Primitivo route, as its name suggests, was the first route to Santiago de Compostela and it was developed because the Moors controlled most of Spain in the ninth century.

#2. Excellent video about how to waterproof your rain jacket narrated by Kristin Hostetter, Backpacker Gear Editor. Click here. I thought I knew all about it, but there were some things to learn. Check it out!

#3. Mosquito concerns: “Products containing DEET are effective at 15% or greater concentration and it is not necessary to have a concentration of over 30. In high concentrations it “can cause rashes, disorientation, and seizures” [no info is given on how high the concentration would be.] CR suggests that picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are good alternatives at 20% picaridin and 30 % oil of lemon eucalyptus and that they are safer. (Consumer Reports, July 2015. pg. 35)

They suggest that picaridin is a better choice for kids.

As with many previous reports, CR says that citronella, lemon grass, and rosemary are not effective enough — their protection may only last only up to an hour. They also recommend against wristbands due to their poor performance.

Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula Picaridin, a pump spray, was rated #1 overall. They found Skin So Soft ineffective. They remind us that products such as Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, which combines sun protection with repellent, is not a good idea because one needs to apply sun protection frequently and should not apply repellent more than necessary.

Read more from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) here

Published data indicate that repellent efficacy and duration of protection vary considerably among products and among mosquito species. Product efficacy and duration of protection are also markedly affected by ambient temperature, level of activity, amount of perspiration, exposure to water, abrasive removal, and other factors. In general, higher concentrations of active ingredient provide longer duration of protection, regardless of the active ingredient. Products with <10% active ingredient may offer only limited protection, often 1–2 hours. Products that offer sustained-release or controlled-release (microencapsulated) formulations, even with lower active ingredient concentrations, may provide longer protection times. Studies suggest that concentrations of DEET above approximately 50% do not offer a marked increase in protection time against mosquitoes; DEET efficacy tends to plateau at a concentration of approximately 50%. CDC recommends using products with ≥20% DEET on exposed skin to reduce biting by ticks that may spread disease.

Recommendations are based on peer-reviewed journal articles and scientific studies and data submitted to regulatory agencies. People may experience some variation in protection from different products. Regardless of what product is used, if travelers start to get insect bites they should reapply the repellent according to the label instructions, try a different product, or, if possible, leave the area with biting insects.

Ideally, repellents should be purchased before traveling and can be found online or in hardware stores, drug stores, and supermarkets. A wide variety of repellents can be found in camping, sporting goods, and military surplus stores. When purchasing repellents overseas, look for the active ingredients specified above on the product labels; some names of products available internationally have been specified in the list above.

CR also says, West Nile is now found in 467 states and killed 85 people in the U.S. A new mosquito-borne disease, Chikungunya, has appeared in Florida and is spread by the Aedes mosquito. There were no reported deaths from it last year, but it is a growing concern.

Susan adds: Do not apply repellents under clothing; do not spray faces — spray into your hands and then apply to the face avoiding eyes. When applying it to children, also avoid putting it on their hands because it is likely to end up in their mouths; wash treated areas before going to bed. According to what info I could find on line, DEET does not “go bad,” but Off gives a shelf life of 2 years. I suggest that you test it before your next big trip.

#4. Reader Patricia Patricia Schaffarczyk forwarded a video that might be helpful: "Intact Tick Removal with Cotton SwabGo here to watch

#5. Stephanie Dodaro, who was the first person to walk this route (in modern times), has put together a website on the El Camino Real of California. Go here

#6. Camino: American Pilgrims Members are invited to give back to the Camino community as hospitaleros. American Pilgrims on the Camino offers the next set of training courses Friday, August 28th through Sunday, August 30th, 2015 in Hendersonville, North Carolina, about 30 miles south of Asheville. Last day to register is Friday, August 14 or when all the openings fill. In order to take part in this training you must have walked at least 100 km (or biked 200 km) on the Camino and you must be a member of American Pilgrims on the Camino.

“The cost is $275, which includes the training, two nights' accommodations and all meals Friday evening through Sunday lunch.

Some details: 
Towels and linens are provided.
You must stay at the training facility. No off-site lodging.

Go to Click on the shell button “Hospitalero training through American Pilgrims.” For more info, contact the hospitalero training coordinators at

#7. Backpacker Mark Machesky learned a big lesson first hand and has sent this important reminder/warning regarding bug repellent. This was posted on Facebook.

“Last Tuesday evening I wanted to burn down a small brush pile back of our small farm. After 3 days of rain I felt lighting this would be a good idea. Mosquitoes are quite prevalent this time of year thus, I decided to spray down my legs just prior to going out back to light the fire. A quick flash of the torch ignited both the brush and instantly a flash of flame to both my legs, it happened so quickly, as I ran patting the burning flesh off my legs I reached a garden hose on a nearby outbuilding and began flushing my legs for about 20 minutes to ease the pain.

“A visit to the ER proceeded in the stripping off of the remaining flesh, an application of bacitracin and wrapping of dressing to be repeated 2 x daily. My referral to the Burn Clinic at Metro was today and included a scrubbing with dial soap and final removal of damaged tissue with a Meplex topical antibiotic wrap for the next 7 days. Painful- yes!!!!,”

“Please learn from my ignorance and please use caution and common sense when using these products around a fire. Recommendation is to wait at least 5 minutes or until dry after application of these products before getting near any type of open flame. Hopefully my story will prevent potential injury to you and especially our children who may be unaware of the potential danger that exists with bug repellents and open flames.

#8.Regional: SF Bay Area. The next “First Saturday” meet up and walk around Lake Merritt in Oakland will be on Saturday, July 4th (yes, on the holiday). This is an opportunity for experience and inexperienced Camino folk to interact and share experiences and advice.  Meet at the east end of Lake Merritt at 10:30 next to the Greek pillars.  The walk is 3 miles and perfectly flat). Chapter Coordinators Lin and Rennie suggest that “it would be a good thing if folks in various geographic areas, i.e. Sacramento, South Bay, and Marin, established a similar routine walk.  Once established, it runs itself and does not require a particular leader each month.  If interested, give us a shout and we'll help organize the walk.”

#9. Bear attack on the east coast. Several trails have been closed in the Hazel Creek section (Hazel Creek Trail, Jenkins Ridge Trail, Bone Valley Trail, Cold Spring Gap Trail and campsites 82 through 88 are closed.) of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after a bear attack. On June 27th, at about 10:30 p.m., a 16-year-old male from Ohio was pulled from his hammock by a bear. The young man and his father and son were on a multi-day backpacking trip. Both were sleeping in hammocks approximately 10 feet apart and had all equipment, food, and packs properly stored on aerial food storage cables.

According to officials, the victim's father was able to drive the bear away from the campsite. Then the young man and his father hiked to the lake's shore where they were transported to a boat dock by campers and then to a hospital by emergency service workers. The young man is in stable condition after sustaining multiple injuries including laceration to his head.

#10. “Cache 22 on the Hat Creek Rim is no longer being maintained” reads the item in today’s PCT Trail Dirt. “For 29 miles along the Hat Creek Rim, there is no water. It’s one of the longest dry stretches of the PCT. Hikers and riders have come to rely on the water cache known as ‘Cache 22.’ However, the trail angel who stocks this cache may not be supplying it consistently. Consequently, PCT users should NOT depend on Cache 22, or other caches, quite frankly.”

In recent years, particularly with the release of Wild, increasing numbers of backpackers have come to count on water caches supplied by others. This is a very risky practice.  


#11. The PCT loves, and needs, volunteers. This month’s Volunteer Spotlight in the Trail Dirt is Bill Carpenter. “The people are Carpenter’s favorite aspect of volunteering. ‘You rarely get grumpy volunteers. They all have a good attitude.’ He also enjoys ‘that feeling of giving something back to the trail and to the wilderness area.’ Cutting and clearing a tree that was four-feet in diameter and rerouting a segment of the PCT are two of the highlights of his volunteer hours.

“Carpenter plans to lead maintenance crews nine out of the 12 weekends this summer, and he often stays an extra day to do more. One of the most difficult challenges he faces is finding new volunteers. He now teaches at the Trail Skills College and speaks at R E I and to other groups with the hope of recruiting more help. His son and daughter have joined him on maintenance trips, but ‘I’d like to just do some hiking on the trail,’ outside of his sections, Carpenter said. His dream hike would be through the mountains of New Zealand. To volunteer with Carpenter for volunteer work in mid-Oregon, contact him by


Volunteers are needed in the Goat Rocks and Mount Adams wilderness areas in August and September. All meals are provided. Crew members even get a half-day off mid-week to take in the sights, hike, or relax in camp. No previous experience necessary, but volunteers must provide their own backpacking gear. Sasquatch Volunteer Vacation Cispus Pass; Sasquatch Volunteer Vacation - Mt. Adams I; Sasquatch Volunteer Vacation - Mt. Adams II. Volunteer application,click here

#12. Two PCT dates to note. 1) On July 24, Trail Dirt Live is the place to meet other PCTA members, local volunteers, staff and board members and our agency partners. This get together at the Ashland Hills Hotel is a celebration of all you do for the trail. Come learn about how your involvement matters. Doors open at6:30 p.m. No RSVP required.

2)  PCT Days is coming Aug. 28-30 to the Marine Park in Cascade Locks, Oregon. It’s free and family-friendly. There is a small fee for overnight camping on Thunder Island. This event is produced by Outdoor Viewfinder, and all raffle proceeds benefit PCTA and the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West. Camping registration for PCT DAYS is now open. Get in on classes, a gear fair and the PCT community. Book now, click here, since space is likely to fill up.

#13. American Long Distance Hiking Association-West (ALDHA-West) holds their annual gathering Sept 25th-27th at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis camp. This is a fun, informal weekend with  speakers, slide shows, and other activities including awards to those who have earned the Triple Crown Award [for those who have completed the entire PCT, Appalchian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail]. The Martin D. Papendick Award will also be given to provide recognition for the outstanding Trail Angel of the year. Go to: click here

1Happy 4th of July! 
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Hiking & Backpacking Newsletter #199, May 2015 

Hi! A fantastic weekend hiking and playing near Yosemite caused this slight delay in this month’s issue; enjoy this shot of Half Dome from Glacier Point Road! 

  1. Luci Solar Light
  2. Book recommendation: Nature Noir
  3. John Muir Trail &Pacific Crest Trail hikers: added shuttle service
  4. Camino hikers: luggage storage in Santiago
  5. PCT “Crest Runners” aid in Southern California
  6. Patagonia adventuring
  7. Camino: Mass schedule for Santiago cathedral
  8. Environment: Patagonia brand offers repairs to hiker clothing
  9. Via Francigena numbers to increase
  10. Camino: Biking option
  11. Camping with kids – hints
  12. Latest on Rim Fire case – witnesses die & charges dropped 
  13. Tom Courtney shares Walkabout California: Inn to Inn 
  14. Participate in a JMT survey 
  15. For women only 


#1. On our April volunteer trip in Pinnacles with Wilderness Volunteers (yay!), I learned about a great new piece of camping/backpacking gear: the Luci Outdoor Solar Light. It is so cute that I couldn’t resist buying a couple. You put them in the sunlight to charge them, blow them up with a couple of breaths, and voila, you have a cool light to sit on your picnic table after sundown.

From the literature: “Luci is an inflatable, waterproof bright L.E.D. solar lantern that goes wherever Mother Nature takes you. This solar lantern can be used for many adventures such as hiking, camping, fishing or boating….” 10 L.E.D. lights with 65 lumens, 3 light settings: low, high and flash mode, Up to 12 hours of light on a full 8-hour charge, weighs only 4 ounces. They are sold on Amazon; we purchased them at Big 5 with a 20% off coupon ($15 – $3 = $12.)

#2. Good read — Nature Noir. Nature Noir, a Park Ranger’s Patrol in the Sierra, by Jordan Fisher Smith, is a captivating account about the author’s 14 years in the canyons of the American River. S F Chronicle mentioned it as best book of the year. When Smith starts out as a ranger, he hopes to spend his time observing and enjoying nature and introducing it to park visitors. Instead, since he is sent into a doomed stretch of land slated to be underwater after the Auburn Dam is constructed (which has not happened), he spends the majority of his time dealing with miners trying to eke out a living, druggies and other partiers. Every trip down an overgrown curvy road to reach an encampment is a risky proposition. Yet throughout the book we see the beauty of the land and admire the dedication of the group of rangers who patrolled and protected this Sierra Nevada landscape. (Thank you, Amy Racina, for this recommendation.) 

#3. PCT hikers: Update on New Transit Services from Fresno (posted by: groundhogsteve). YARTS service Fresno to Yosemite is slated to begin Memorial Day. Fresno County Rural Transit Agency service from Fresno to Kings Canyon to run Memorial Day to Labor Day. This fills a gaping hole in accessibility, since there are services to Yosemite, Mammoth/Devil's Postpile, all along the eastern Sierra, and Sequoia Shuttles, but nothing on the west side between the VVR shuttle to Lake Edison + MTR and Sequoia.

#4. Camino: Luggage storage in Santiago de Compostela. You may realize that after a few days of walking that you have brought too much. What to do? You send Ivar, who hosts the Camino forum, your luggage/excess stuff that you find out that you do not need while walking. Just stop by any post office and you can send it from there. They have boxes that they sell (less than €5,-) he stores it for you, and you pick it up once in Santiago.

Ivar says: If you write your e-mail address on the box/parcel, I will send you an e-mail once I have received your parcel. Where do I ship my parcel?
Send your parcel to: Ivar Rekve
Att: [your name goes here]
Travesía da Universidade 1
15704 Santiago de Compostela
A Coruña

Sometimes they ask for my contact phone number. If so, please use: (+34) 603 466 490

Once you arrive in Santiago, stop by my office (at the same address as above) and pick it up.
My storage fees are:
Small box (32 cm x 21 cm x 12 cm): 15 euros for 60 days storage.
Medium box (39 cm x 29 cm x 19 cm): 20 euros for 60 days storage.
Large box (59 cm x 39 cm x 39 cm): 25 euros for 60 days storage.

Activity on the Camino forum each day to your inbox

#5. The PCTA “Trail Dirt” 3/31/15 wrote: "Crest Runners hit the trail in Southern California. A new U.S. Forest Service program designed to improve visitor experiences along the southernmost 100 miles of the PCT is underway. As thru-hikers head out, two “Crest Runners” are patrolling the trail from the Mexican border to Warner Springs, providing information and encouraging positive trail experiences for hikers, horseback riders and volunteers. This is a pilot program that will be evaluated at the end of the season to see if it will continue.

"Spencer Bleadorn, Recreation/Lands Officer for the Cleveland National Forest, is supervising the program. He said the Crest Runners started March 8 and March 23 and will be patrolling and monitoring the PCT until about mid-July. “After that they will transition to other recreation positions, however, they will periodically go back to the PCT to see who is using the trail in those later summer times,” he said.

"Modeled after the traditional Ridge Runner programs widely used in the east, the Crest Runners were born out of a desire to minimize the effects of an increasing number of PCT thru-hikers starting at the southern border during peak spring season.

"In this area, the PCT passes through a fragile desert ecosystem. Because of the general scarcity of water, vegetation and organic soils, desert lands are particularly susceptible to damage and are slow to recover. To spread out large groups, the Forest Service limited the number of long-distance permits issued in 2015 to 50 per day, but only for trailheads in this area.

"The Crest Runners are Leave No Trace specialists who will provide information about minimizing the effects of travel and camping and proper techniques for washing dishes, gathering water and safely using fire. They also will help monitor visitor impacts to campsites, water sources, and riparian areas. They will hike and camp along the trail." 

#6. Patagonia travel: Reader Janis writes, “I just wanted to tell you that we just spent 3 weeks in Patagonia in January and February — probably one of the best trips we’ve ever taken. We heard your talk about your trips in Torres del Paine at the Sierra Club dinner in San Francisco and bought your book which was a great resource for our trip.

“… we have wanted to go to Patagonia for many years and were pleased that we could still do quite a bit of hiking, but not as rugged as your trips. The smartest thing we did was have one of the travel agents, Gabrielle Venturi, at Vaya Adventures here in Berkeley, put together a trip for us, stringing together all the places we wanted to go. They specialize in South American travel and all 6 agents spend most of their time in South America. As you can see by her response, they don’t generally arrange backpack trips, but they clearly have good contacts for setting up great trips. You can check their webpage and see several “typical” trips at: We strongly recommend them.
Thank you again for your inspiration and your book.

Gabrielle Venturi at Vaya Adventures writes, “We don’t generally specialize in “backpacker travel,” for example, we don’t work with traditional backpacker-style accommodations like youth hostels, but we can certainly set up active trips for those who want to do a lot of hiking and active excursions."  

#7. Camino: Johnnie Walker, frequent contributor on Ivar’s Camino forum, sends this info: The cathedral of Santiago welcomes all to Mass in English daily at 10:30 am and 6 pm from May 4 to October 16, 2015.

#8. PATAGONIA MOBILE WORN WEAR TOUR: IF IT’S BROKE, FIX IT. Patagonia’s nationwide Worn Wear Tour kicked off in April, encouraging customers to make their clothes last a lifetime. “Extending the life of our garments is the single most important thing we can do to lower our impact on the planet. In keeping our clothes in use longer, we reduce overall consumption. 

“As part of the tour, we’re bringing repair staff from Patagonia’s repair facility in Reno, Nev., on the road to offer free repairs on busted zippers, rips, tears, buttons, pulls and more – in addition to teaching people how to fix their own gear. Used Patagonia items will be for sale. The tour will be stopping at a myriad of locations such as retail locations, coffee shops, farmers markets and trailheads.”
The dates remaining on the tour are:
Tuesday, 5/5 Raleigh, NC (Great Outdoor Provisions)
Wednesday, 5/6 Drive Day (5.5 hours)
Thursday, 5/7 Fayetteville, WV (Water Stone Outdoors / American Alpine Campground)
Saturday, 5/9 Brooklyn, NY (Pilgrim Surf)
Sunday, 5/10 NYC - SoHo, NY (Storefront)
Monday, 5/11 Drive Day (4.5 hours)
Tuesday, 5/12 Boston, MA (Storefront)

“There is nothing we can change about how we make clothing that would have more positive environmental impact than simply making less,” notes Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. “Worn Wear is a celebration of quality products and their relationship to our lives. It’s a simple but critical message: keep your gear in action longer and take some pressure off our planet.”

#9. Via Francigena: “The announce[ment] of 2016 as extraordinary Holy Year represents a great chance for the development of Via Francigena: in the nineties, the jubilee increased the number of pilgrims on the Camino the Santiago from 9.000 to 99.000. Will Via Francigena experience the same boost? It is estimated that from the 8th of December 2015 to the 20th of November 2016 almost 25 millions of people will flow to Rome: let’s hope that most of them will choose to follow the steps of ancient pilgrims, walking a part of Via Francigena to reach Saint Peter Square.

“If you want to be among them, do not wait: contact us, we will help you to organize your walk to Rome, from the accommodation to the detailed maps, as well as your indispensable pilgrim credential. Visit the website and plan your Camino to Rome!”

#10. the walk of stars by bicycle. “The cycling route from Roncisvalle [sic] to Muxia, more than 800km fully tran-sitable on a mountain bike packed with bags: this is what the innovative new website has to offer, proposing an itinerary which follows the walking one as much as possible, deviating only in the non-cyclable parts to follow secondary, alternative roads. On the website interactive maps of the cycling and walking route are also available, with the possibility to print detailed maps and download GPS tracks.”

#11. Camping with kids by Helen Olsson: Read her tips here
Bring “Travel-sized games (dominoes, chess, checkers, Scrabble, Boggle, Blokus, Apples to Apples), [and I like this addition!] “Lengths of rope for knot tying.”

#12. Rim FIRE: Remember the disastrous Rom Fire of 2013—the one that burned 257,000 acres of forest land in Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite? Well, the suspect, Keith Matthew Emerald, saw the four counts against him dropped last week because two of the witnesses have died—one in a work related accident, the other from a heart attack. According to a statement made earlier, Emerald had told his friend (witness Olsen) that the fire had started from his campfire. The federal court judge officially ruled that the charges had to be dropped because the witnesses’ earlier statements would now be considered “hearsay” evidence. It is still possible that charges could be made in civil court. dber+

#13. Walkabout California: Many people in the U.S. who have taken long walks in Europe (such as the Camino) have asked where they can find similar walks in the U.S. Walking the routes suggested by Tom Courtney in his guidebooks takes you to beautiful surroundings for 2-3 days and each night you reach delightful overnight accommodations. “Join Tom Courtney for stories and a slideshow of California hiking from inn-to-inn. Tom is the author of Walkabout California: Hiking Inn to Inn and Walkabout Malibu to Mexico: Hiking Inn to Inn on the Southern California Coast.”
Two events:
May 14, Livermore Library, 1:30 – 2:30 and May 26, REI Saratoga, 7:00 – . Both events are free. RSVP for the REI event at:

#14. John Muir Trail Research: John Ladd, from San Francisco, is again conducting a survey about hikers of the JMT. If you want to participate, go to and sign-in. It you want to follow the results, the best place is: for FB members or for others.

#15. For Women only: I recently read a blog post, “Insider Information for Adventurous Women; What No Girl Wants to Talk about” that had worthwhile info to share. “If you are an outdoor-loving lady, chances are, you have had a visit or two from Aunt Flo while enjoying some time with Mother Earth.… Being the responsible person that you are, and in an effort to respect and protect our planet, you have probably had to become pretty creative at leaving no trace. A product, MaskIT, is “designed to be placed on your hand before use, cleverly creating a barrier, and making the whole change-out process easier and so much more sanitary. MaskIT works similar to a hand puppet and has a special pocket to hold your items. You simply turn it inside out, expose an adhesive strip and fold over the flap to permanently seal it up. No leaks and no odors. Just throw it back in your pack and forget about it.”

Heather Anderson, trailname Anish Hikes, and world record holder for the fastest unsupported completion of the Pacific Crest Trail said that “I am beyond stoked to use them backpacking! The MaskIT pouches are indeed easy to use, don’t leak, are odor proof and opaque.” Read her full review of the MaskIT pouches here.

Illustrations here: Rated #2 on a Top 10 New Products List at Winter OR

+++Please note: Your editor is taking a break from the newsletter, so there will not be a June issue of this newsletter. You’ll her from us again in July! Meanwhile, please send in items of interest to the hiking community. Thanks!

I hope you have plans to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style! 

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking & Hiking Newsletter #198, April 2015

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking and Hiking Tales & Tips #198, April 2015

Welcome spring; Happy Easter!

...and welcome to my new subscribers including those who joined at our South San Francisco Library program on the Camino de Santiago in March.


  1. Backyards for campers
  2. Trail etiquette/Right of Way?
  3. Statistics on the Camino de Santiago
  4. Book announcement “Hadrian's Wall Path: Walking into History
  5. Camino app—where to stay
  6. American Pilgrims on the Camino APOC report
  7. New YART route—Fresno to Yosemite
  8. Launch of ‘Rock the Park” programs this weekend
  9. Camino: Did you pack too much?
  10. Earth Day—April 22nd.
  11. After the long walk…
  12. Exciting news: Bighorn sheep released in Yosemite


#1. Backyards for campers. I think I mentioned this previously, but with new subscribers and new trips planned, thought it might be helpful to connects house dwellers and their backyards with adventurous campers. (The majority of them are in Europe.) Jeo Leo of the LA Times wrote about this recently and mentions that there are prank listings—such as one for skidrow in Los Angeles.

#2. Trail Right of Way? This is a compilation of various comments on an REI forum recently—what to do when a pack team or anyone on horseback approaches you while you are hiking. “I always take a few steps to the DOWNHILL side of the trail and find a comfortable place to stand, well before a pack train reaches me. As the train approaches to within 20 or 30 feet, I say [something] to the lead rider, in a very low, calm voice, shift my weight from one foot to another at about the rate of once as each animal passes, no more movement than that, and vocalize something, ‘hey mule,’ ‘good boy,’ something they are used to hearing a hundred times a day, every two or three animals…” “… being quiet is something you don't want to do. I've seen horses on the trail get startled when they realized someone was there when they weren't expecting it, and sometimes the people on the horses are inexperienced. You are supposed to talk to the people in a calm voice so that the horses following will hear you.” Ralph learned from his father, who used to be a ranger/naturalist in Yellowstone, that “The person on foot is supposed to step off the trail on the downhill side. That way, if a horse or pack animal is startled, it will move to the uphill side saving both you and the horse/pack team from falling from the trail.”

#3. Camino numbers: 237,886 pilgrims received the traditional certificate in 2014. The majority of the recipients started in Sarria, which is approx. 100 Km (62 miles away). The Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago de Compostela welcomes all pilgrims arriving in the city who have walked or travelled by horse or bicycle to the Tomb of Saint James. “In this office we issue the final stamp of the Cathedral of Santiago on official pilgrim credenciales as well as the traditional certificate, the Compostela, to those who qualify.

“The Pilgrims’ Office is run by the Cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela. The Director of the Pilgrims’ Office is traditionally a Canon of the Cathedral. The present Director is Don Segundo Pérez López.” At this link, you will find the statistics maintained by the office:

For further information for Pilgrims, the offering of the Botafumeiro and reservation of Private Masses: Tel: +34 981 56 88 46. For more information regarding the Cathedral please visit 

Note: At the recent pilgrim potluck (see item 9), we heard that for $600 you can arrange a special botafumeiro ceremony.

Also heard that pilgrims on the Camino can get a special rate to mail packages ahead to Santiago. This might be worth checking out at a Oficina de Correos (post office) along the way.

#4. Just Released! Hadrian's Wall Path: Walking into History. The second book in the "Woman on Her Way" Series by Jane V. Blanchard, author. In Hadrian's Wall Path: Walking into History you can sense the presence of the ancient Romans and feel what it was like to live on Rome's most northern frontier. Vivid descriptions and 130+ photographs and illustrations of northern England and the archaeological remains depict life on The Wall—now and then. Discover what encompassed the Hadrian’s Wall defense system. Find out about the 84-mile-long National Trail. Learn about the current English culture and lore. Understand why so many people visit this World Heritage Site each year. And perhaps, you too will be transported by into back into history.

There are three versions of the book. The first is an e-book. The other two are printed, one with black and white photos, the other in full-color. All can be purchased at your favorite on-line book store. For more information and a free recipe for Roman Bread, visit our web page, 

#5. Camino app: “I am writing to let you know about the new “Camino Places” mobile application that was released today. It is only for forum members, and will help you find places along the Camino de Santiago recommended by other Camino Forum members. It is for iOS devices only (for now) and can be downloaded here: 

I also have some more information about the application here:

Uses GPS to find closest lodging alternatives, places to eat, pharmacies and bus/taxi stops.
Read and leave comments and photos on each place to help pilgrims walking behind you.
List of places around you can be seen as a list or on a map.
Use the "Search" tool to search for places that is not close to you (for planning purposes).

Only Camino Forum members can use the app (same login), so you will recognize their avatar and username from the forum.

3If you leave a comment on a place, and another forum member (that also is using the app) is close by (within 60km), the app will let you know that there are pilgrims "Nearby". If you do not want to show up here, this can be turned off in the app settings. A private Conversation (using the forum) can be sent to pilgrims "Nearby" from the app. Comments you make in the app about a place, is posted to your profile page in the Camino forum. This way, you will have a list of places you stopped at in your forum profile. (This can be turned off in app settings). 

An internet connection is needed to use this app (Wifi or mobile data). This app is an extension of the Camino Forum. To access and join Ivar’s Camino forum go to this link:

6. How American Pilgrims supports the infrastructure of the Camino. “We want you to know how dues paid to American Pilgrims are used. The goal is to encourage membership and giving back to the Camino we all love.  This is taken from the National website: “In 2014 American Pilgrims on the Camino was pleased to make the following awards, providing over $24,000 in funds to support the Camino both in Spain and in the U.S. 

Grants for Infrastructure: Asociación de Amigos del Camino de Santiago de Astorga y Comarca, Astorga: $5,000 for upgrades to the dining room and internal walls in the albergue. The Astorga albergue serves more than 22,000 pilgrims annually.

Asociación Jacobea de Jaén, Jaén, Spain: $6,000 to refurbish an unused wing of a convent as the first albergue in the city of Martos on the Camino Mozárabe. Our funding was used to construct two new bathrooms, reconfigure walls and install electrical outlets.

Associação Espaço Jacobeus, Braga, Portugal: $6,000 to renovate rooms of the formerly abandoned Varião Monastery on the Camino Portugués near Vila do Conde. This albergue was opened last year in an area that previously had no other albergue. Our funding will help renovate rooms to accommodate groups of pilgrims and establish a small Camino interpretation center.

L'association des amis des chemins de St Jacques des Pyrénées Atlantiques, St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France: $6,000 to purchase a support vehicle to patrol the high country on the Camino over the Pyrenees. Its volunteers are now able to search for, rescue, and potentially save the lives of pilgrims in distress on the Camino.

Grants for Gathering, Information and Encouragement: College of William and Mary Institute for Pilgrimage Studies, Williamsburg, Virginia: $1,000 for the 2014 Symposium on Pilgrimage Studies. In addition there were numerous mini-grants awarded to our local chapters for their programs, totaling more than $1,500.

21Our mailing address is: American Pilgrims on the Camino, 120 State Ave, #303, Olympia, WA 98501-1131. web: (soon to be org)

#7. Fresno to Yosemite Bus Service Summer 2015. The YARTS System - Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System, which already brings passengers from Mariposa to Yosemite and other locations, will be adding a new route from Fresno to Yosemite.

The Fresno stops will include the Amtrak Station and Fresno-Yosemite International Airport. The service will make stops in Coarsegold, Oakhurst, Fish Camp, Wawona, and Yosemite Valley. Thanks to YosemiteJames for passing this info along! 

#8.  “Four upcoming episodes of the daytime Emmy-nominated family-friendly series “Rock the Park” will feature California National Parks, based on a partnership with Visit California (formerly known as the California Travel & Tourism Commission) Tune-in to the upcoming Death Valley episode, the first California National Park episode, on Saturday, April 4 at 10:30 a.m. ET. “Rock the Park” follows hosts Jack Steward and Colton Smith as they come face-to-face with some of the most awe-inspiring places on Earth.

In addition to the Death Valley episode on April 4, “Rock the Park” will feature; Joshua Tree National Park on April 11; Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area on May 16; and Sequoia National Park on June 13.

#9. At last Saturday’s spring potluck and blessing ceremony for pilgrims held in Pleasant Hill by the Northern California chapter of American Pilgrims, I was asked if there was anything that I had brought on our pilgrim walks that I didn’t need/wished I hadn’t brought along. (note: Facebook page is “Peregrinos – Northern California”)

To answer: We have gone on 11 Camino walks on 5 different routes: St. James Way from Roncesvalles to Santiago;  LePuy to Logrono; Arles to Puente la Reina, Geneva to LePuy, Mozarabe from Granada to Cordoba, Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago—probably 2,100 miles or better. I can’t think of anything that we brought that I regretted (except for the blister-causing boots on the first trip; we now wear trail runners).

There have been items that I could have left home—such as my skirt, neck scarf, and dressy sandals, but I like having something dressier to change into when reaching town and when in starting points such as Madrid and Paris. I figure if I stay under 15 pounds, I am okay.

Some things that we carry are optional on the Spanish route (or any route) depending on the season and weather. The sleeping bags that we carry aren’t necessary for the most part, but when we are on a route with limited accommodations—considering that we don’t want to do 20-mile days—we think of them as insurance. If I didn’t already have a 2-pound sleeping bag and was in the market for a sleep system for the Camino, I would explore the sleeping bag/quilt options—especially when I hear that there are some that are only 1 pound ( During the warm season, you can probably get by just fine with a silk sleep sheet.

Likewise, the 1-pound tent that Ralph carries nowadays would be totally unnecessary for most people on the Spanish route, but could be necessary for us on a route such as the Camino Norte in case we couldn’t find accommodations within the distances we want to walk each day.

Also optional for some, but important to me: lots of raingear. Once again, unnecessary during the summer on the Spanish route, but wonderful (mandatory?!) in the spring in France. I wear a Gore-Tex Mountain Hardware jacket, Marmot Precip rainpants, and a Packa (covers both body and backpack). I have found that flimsy ponchos are awful when it is windy—the Packa stays in place. I have found that packcovers leak—especially where the straps of the back go through.

lightweight umbrella (Ralph’s GoLite weighs about 6-7 oz.) is wonderful in the rain, maybe even nicer when it is hot in such places as the Meseta.

Hiking poles: I have found my poles to be invaluable. I give them credit for saving my neck a time or two, especially in the Sierra on the Pacific Crest Trail, but also on the Camino trips. Some people love a  walking staff—and they are more romantic--but a pair of poles offer advantages that a single pole doesn’t--namely pushing you uphill, or even along flat stretches at a faster pace. Poles take weight off of your lower body. I do not advise trying to carry your hiking poles onboard the plane. You may get away with it, but I personally would not take the chance. We pack them in a very light duffle bag that we then leave in our hotel (ask in advance!) until our return (assuming we are flying in and out of the same city) or we carry when hiking. 

And the little things: extra-large safety pins (diaper pins) instead of clothes pins; a broad-brimmed hat (such as Sunday Afternoons) rather than a baseball cap for greater coverage; underwear that dries quickly (such as ExOfficio); a bandanna.

#10. Help celebrate Earth Day—volunteer and enjoy our outdoors on Wednesday, April 22nd. There are thousands of organizations that can use your help. One local group is The Golden Gate National Parks Volunteer Program, which is a cooperative parkwide effort of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the National Park Service, and the Presidio Trust. 

#11. After the long walk. As many have noted, coming home from an extended walk—whether on one of our national trails such as the PCT or the AT, or on a pilgrimage route in Europe, or another place—can be unsettling. It takes time to fit back into our “normal” routines, to reassess our priorities for daily life, and to process what our recent experiences have taught and shown us. To quote author Cindy Ross, “Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; you have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.” 

#12. Just in: If you have a Twitter account, you can go to the US Dept of Interior and see something really cute: “Watch endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep get released into Yosemite National Park.” Yay!

Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Newsletter #197, March 2015

  1. New Pacific Crest Trail accomplishment
  2. New PCT record set
  3. Important changes to PCT permitting process
  4. Pilgrim Office in Santiago is moving
  5. Strikes at Spain’s airports?
  6. Camino presentation with Susan Alcorn
  7. Nancy Reynolds prepares pilgrims for their Camino trips
  8. Are you ready to payback?  
  9. Passport expiration dates
  10. APOC -- American pilgrims’ newsletter
  11. California Mission Walkers
  12. Recommending reading
  13. Feedback welcomed
  14. Pilgrim Spring Potluck and shell ceremony
  15. Are pilgrims behaving appropriately?
  16. Camino Nor Cal Chapter First Saturday hike
  17. John Muir Trail changes have big impact
  18. Backpacking classes available

#1. A new PCT accomplishment: Justin Lichter and Shawn Forry are believed to be the first documented duo to complete 2,650-mile trail in winter. On Sunday, March 1, 2015, Shawn "Pepper" Forry and Justin "Trauma" Lichter reached the PCT’s southern terminus at Campo, a border town in Southern California. There last miles were muddy ones because they were during a desert downpour.

The two started their hike on October 21, 2014 –making it for a total of 132 days. “My heart is still racing," said Forry, 33, moments after touching the trailhead marker. "It is a pretty joyous moment." (“PCT: The joyous, muddy end of an epic Pacific Crest journey. Benjamin Spillman, March 1, 2015)

#2. And a new PCT record! A walk on the wild side: Dubliner Olive McGloin was the first woman to walk the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada – and back (Feb. 4, 2015 Irish Times). McGloin, a 44-year-old from Dublin, set out to “yo yo” the Pacific Crest Trail—2,650 miles each way. That feat put her in the record books.  She started with her husband, Darrell Johnson, from the southern end of the trail, near Campo California, on April 25th. On August 3rd they touched Canada and immediately turned around and started walking back to Mexico.

Olive (Raindance) and Darrell (Chimp) walked on average 27 miles per day.  “She took the trip on for herself but also in memory of her father, Paddy McGloin, who would have turned 80 the day they set off.” Unfortunately, on the return trip, Darrell got injured in a fall. He tried to carry on for a couple of days, but the pain was too intense and he needed to seek medical help. They parted at the Bridge of the Gods, the metal bridge that crosses the Columbia River from Washington to Oregon. He insisted, however, that Olive should continue.

It was not an easy decision for Olive, nor was it as safe as having a hiking partner, but she persevered. She reached the southern border on November 5, 2014.

#3. “Improvements in Southern California aim to protect visitor experiences and the PCT environment,” by Jack "Found" Haskel (2/4/15). Abbreviated. “Improvements to the northbound permit system. To help spread people out, the U.S. Forest Service is instituting some changes to the PCT Long-Distance Permit process that aim to protect the sensitive desert ecosystems of the southernmost part of the PCT.

“For northbound starts, a newly streamlined online application system includes a calendar that will allow permit seekers to see how many people have been issued permits for a given day. We hope that people will use this information to start their hikes during less popular times and locations.

“A maximum of 50 permits will be allowed each day for long-distance hikers and horseback riders starting at or near the Mexican border. This limit will naturally spread start days. When days fill up, you’re encouraged to still follow your dreams to hike the PCT – but please do so at less popular times and locations. Consider an alternative thru-hike: perhaps starting elsewhere and then flipping around to complete the trail in a unique way.

“While long-distance hikers remain a small percentage of overall PCT users, in some sections they are likely the largest user group. More than 15,000 people visited PCTA’s long-distance hiking page in December 2014. That’s up 340% from the year before. 

“The vast majority of thru-hikers head northbound, starting in the spring. In the past two years, the number of permits issued has been on the rise.
Year     Total # of permits issued        Thru-Hiker      Section-Hiker  Completions reported

2013     1879     1042     837       258* (*low number probably due to snowfall)

2014     2655     1468     1187     425

“In the past, large numbers of people would start on the same day, and relatively few people started the day before or the day after. In 2014, 113 people asked to begin PCT trips at the southern terminus on April 1. But the day before that, only 8 people wanted to leave the border, and on the day after, 13 wanted to start. An online calendar showing these trends would have allowed users to see that April 1 was probably not the best day to start their journey if they were looking for a little solitude and hoped to travel lightly on the land.

“The Pacific Crest Trail passes through a fragile desert ecosystem and continues on through many more sensitive locations. Because of the general scarcity of water, vegetation and organic soils, desert lands at the southern terminus are particularly susceptible to damage and are slow to recover. Traveling lightly, in this case, spreading out and not gathering in very large groups, allows all of us to act on behalf of the places and wildlife that inspire – in deserts and beyond.


“Large numbers of people have impacts, even more so when they’re all grouped together. Real, negative impacts are noted. Highlighting three: Improperly disposing of human waste is a problem on the PCT. Social campfires in Southern California, where wildland brushfires can start quickly and spread all too close to homes; Water source concerns – big gatherings build ever larger campsites at water sources.


im3"Plants in rare semi-riparian areas get trampled and have no time to recover. Wildlife that depends on the water becomes even more displaced. Notably, the rare arroyo toad’s breeding season overlaps northbound thru-hiker season. In recent years, some previously closed campgrounds were re-opened during “toad season” for thru-hikers. It’s important that thru-hikers travel lightly so this access remains and frogs can breed.

There are many other reasons to address overuse: protecting the benefits that come with a sense of quiet and solitude and having more reasonable numbers of hikers in small towns at any one time are good examples.


“Join us in spreading the word about protecting the trail. It’s on us – all of us – to protect the Pacific Crest Trail through our actions and our words. The staffs of the U.S. Forest Service and PCTA cannot do it alone. 


“Jack "Found" Haskel is the PCTA Trail Information Specialist. He works to connect people to the PCT. He's involved with a wide variety of projects that help the trail, the trail's users and the community that surrounds the experience. He has thru-hiked (Pacific Crest Trail in 2006; Colorado Trail in 2008; Continental Divide Trail in 2010) and is an obsessed weekend warrior.”


#4. Camino: Sylvia Nilsen posted on Facebook, Mar. 1. “A reminder that the pilgrim office will be moving to new premises around June to 29 rua [street] Carretas. It is about 300m from the Cathedral in the opposite direction to the present office.”


#5. Camino: Revisited: The Spanish Airport Strike mentioned in the last newsletter was cancelled [2/20/15], but there is a chance that the Spanish baggage handlers and ramp operators will go on strike. Dreaded Swissport baggage handlers will strike at [various airports]. There are too many dates and airports and airlines to list here, but many of the dates are 24-hour strikes in March and April. Speculation is that airlines will have a contingency plan in place, but advice is to call closer to the dates. This could involve peak Easter travel. Follow the news here:

#6. Camino program by the Alcorns: Saturday, March 21, 2015. 2 PM. Narrated slide show of the Camino de Santiago across Northern Spain. Program is 2:00 Pm. Join independent traveler Susan Alcorn who will present a digital slide show of her five-week 500-mile trek along Spain's ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the legendary burial place of the disciple St. James.

"Come walk with Susan and her husband Ralph through the Pyrenees from France to Spain and then down through the fertile red soils of the Rioja wine-growing region, across the plains known as the Meseta, and into the lush green lands of Galicia. Susan will give you pointers for planning your own Camino adventure, including gear, expenses, lodging and what to expect about life on this centuries old trail.

More from the announcement: “Susan and Ralph are Bay Area residents. They are long-distance hikers who have section-hiked the entire 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, walked almost 2,000 miles of pilgrimage trails in Spain, France, and Portugal, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and completed the Circuit Trail in Torres del Paine, Chile.”

Event is here: San Francisco Main Library, 840 West Orange Ave. South San Francisco, CA 94080. (650) 829-3860 Map/Directions, click here

im1#7. Camino: Ralph and I were blown away by the amazingly thorough and enjoyable Camino presentation that Nancy Reynolds gave at our local REI in February. Luckily, she has some additional classes scheduled for March. REI Santa Rosa, Wednesday, March 4; REI Fremont, March 19; REI San Francisco, April 1;
REI Sacramento, April 15. All classes are from 7:00pm to 8:30pm. Here are all the dates for Bay Area REI Camino classes, with links to register.

#8. Susan Alcorn’s latest article gives suggestions on how you can return the favor—for all that has been done for you on your hike and backpack trips.

#9. Passport: 8 months lead time! I was just browsing the Wilderness Travel catalog (we went with them to Galapagos last year) and reading the details about a trip to Italy and Turkey and found this: “A valid passport is required for the countries visited on this trip.  Be sure to check the expiration date.  Your passport must be valid for eight months after the conclusion of your trip. It is a good idea to carry photocopies of your passport photo page in case your passport is lost or as an additional piece of identification, as well as two extra passport photos."

#10. Camino: The first 2015 issue of La Concha, the quarterly newsletter of American Pilgrims on the Camino is here,  

Camino American chapters now number 28.  A link to interactive map showing where those chapters are. 

#11. California Mission Walkers has a Facebook page. On it, you will find that Steven Woody and Martha Lopez, along with a lot of others, have recently put together the first California Mission Walkers newsletter.

#12. Good reading: Footsteps of Gopal. This interesting new book to review appeared in my mailbox mid-January and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Author and backpacker Elaine Pike tells the story of a challenging hike that she, her husband, and their guide Gopal make in the Everest region of Nepal. Twenty-two days, 100 miles, going over three Himalayan passes that are over 17,500 feet. Their route sounds somewhat more challenging than the traditional hikes to base camp, and the sights of Everest sound thrilling. The book not only tells us about the scenery, trail and accommodations, but also about the warm friendships and caring teamwork that form.

#13. Another good read and a request: I had a note from Mary O'Hara Wyman, author of the inspiring and enjoyable Grandma's on the Camino, after we listed her book on our website, and she suggested I ask the following so here goes: “I wonder just how many people who came to your presentations actually walked the Camino.”  If you are reading this, and you are among those who did, we would love to hear about it.

#14. Spring potluck and shell ceremony for departing pilgrims is Saturday, March 28th. “It's time to celebrate those of us who will be walking the Camino de Santiago in 2015.  This will be the fourth year we've gathered as the Northern California Chapter of American Pilgrims to bless outgoing pilgrims and present first time pilgrims with a scallop shell, the symbol of pilgrimage.

“The event will be a potluck lunch.  Bring the good stuff!  Lunch will be followed by the Pilgrim's Blessing and gifting of scallop shells, all ably managed by Bill Sewell.  We will follow up with a Q&A so new pilgrims can glean whatever small wisdoms veterans can provide.  Lastly, I'd like us to brainstorm activities and hikes that the chapter is interested in pursuing in 2015.  Be warned, we will also be looking for folks to lead some of these activities.

"We will meet at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, 399 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill from 10:30 to 3:30.  We would appreciate your RSVP and please include the number of people in your party.  Also let us know if you will be a first time pilgrim so we can have enough scallop shells on hand. RSVP to: Peace and Buen Camino, Lin Galea and Rennie Archibald, Chapter Coordinators

#15. Are we considerate or are we spoiled pilgrims? Reader Jan Levet Le Pouvoir, who commented on Pacific Crest Trail hikers last issue, also had some comments to make about pilgrims of the Camino. Jan is quite knowledgeable about the historic routes. She has completed the Camino Frances, walked  major portions of the Via del la Plata, served as hospitalero in Nájera, and worked in the Pilgrim’s office in Santiago (through APOC Amigos program).

I would imagine she saw it all. Food for thought? “Anyway, yes, I was amazed at the sheer magnitude of walkers passing through our processing station on a daily basis – an average of 1500 every day, which, according to the full-time Spanish employees alongside whom I worked was astronomically higher than in the several years they’d been employed there.”

“One particularly irritating complaint of ours while hospitaleros was pilgrims complaining that the hot water had run out before they had a chance to get in to shower…….   Oh, and I could go on about showering!  I think I managed to be happy with one shower weekly while out there.  Again, many more hikers and walkers today are WAY too fussy, pampered and demanding about what they should receive.  Whatever happened to heeding the ‘pilgrims accept what’s given; tourists demand?’”


#16. Regional: Camino: SF Bay Area Northern CA group: The next First Saturday Lake Merritt walk is March 7th. All are welcome, rain or shine. We meet up at 10:30 at the pillars at the east end of the lake nearest to 580. Parking is difficult so come early.

#17. Reminder to Yosemite and John Muir Trail hikers! Yosemite has made their official announcement about permit changes and it’s important for backcountry users to sort through these big changes! Announcement issued Jan 29, 2015 12:01 pm (PST). Click here. 

#19. Reminder to backpacker newbies: Backpacking classes: As mentioned in early issues of this newsletter, Inga Aksamit is teaching some backpacking classes this spring. “Sugarloaf Ridge State Park will be offering two types of backpacking-related offerings, a two-hour backpacking class (no actual hiking or backpacking involved, just classroom instruction) and an overnight guided backpacking experience this spring. Two-hour backpacking class:  April 4, 2015 and May 17, 21015, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm> (same class offered twice). Overnight guided backpacking experience: June 6-7, 2015, 11 am Saturday to 12 noon Sunday (one night)

See for more information about the class. To register for any of the classes please email John Roney, SRSP Park Manager at Thank you to those who have registered early.”

Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Newsletter #196, February 2015


  1. Spanish airport strikes scheduled
  2. Big changes in Yosemite/JMT trail permitting
  3. How to waterproof a rain jacket
  4. Adventurous Marge Prothman passes away
  5. Backpacker Magazine tour focuses on winter activities 
  6. Trail Angels -- impact on trail experiences 
  7. Maps of the PCT--free 
  8. Hiker Heaven closure
  9. Four bears die near bear trap
  10. Avoid altitude sickness
  11. How big should your hiking shoes be?
  12. Regional:  Camino presentations by Reynolds and Alcorns
  13. Regional: Camino 1st Saturday hikes in Oakland
  14. Regional: Inga's backpacking classes

#1. Camino readers: Take note of the scheduled strikes at Spanish airports 2015! The strikes are  about the forthcoming privatization of AENA. We hope these do not happen, but be prepared for the possibilities. The strikes will take place in all areas of AENA (the Spanish airport authority). Dates posted on Facebook by Sylvia Nilsen on Jan 30, 2015. Note these times are based on the 24-hour clock.

2February: On the 11th from 10 to 13 hours. 
March: The 10th from 15-24 hours. 24-hour strike on 19 and 22.
April: The 1st from 15-24 hours. 24-hour strike 2.5 and 6. On 30 15-24 hours.
May: 24-hour strike on 14 and 17 (affects only the centers of Madrid).
June: On 3 from 15-24 hours. 24-hour strike on 4.7 and 30.
July: Strike 24 hours on 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 15 and 31.
August: Strike 24 hours on days 1, 2, 14, 30 and 31.

#2. Yosemite and John Muir Trail hikers! Yosemite has made their official announcement about permit changes and it’s important for backcountry users to sort through these big changes! Probably the biggest impact will be on those who would prefer to exit the JMT over Donahue Pass--there is now a quota system in place. Announcement issued Jan 29, 2015 12:01 pm (PST).

#3. Backpacker Magazine Video: How to“Fix it: Waterproof a [rain] jacket.” Click here.

#4. A loss of an inspiring hiker. Marge Prothman, who was in her eighties, passed away recently. Hiker, skier, painter, writer, weight-lifter...and worked with Mother Teresa. We did not know Marge, but we were inspired by her backpacking accomplishments on the PCT. and for an interesting glimpse at her adventures go to this link.

#5. BACKPACKER and SKIING magazines are finishing up a tour of their 1st annual GET OUT MORE TOUR-WINTER EDITION a one-of-a-kind mobile tour that brings BACKPACKER and SKIING's authoritative four-season advice to life. In-depth retail workshops covering winter camping, backpacking, mountaineering, and alpine touring designed to inform and inspire active and aspiring outdoor enthusiasts while focusing on the skills and equipment needed for successful cold weather pursuits in the outdoors. Upcoming:  

2/2/15 - 6:30 PM        REI      1416 Platte St., Denver, CO
2/4/15 - 7:00 PM        Steamboat Ski and Bike          442 S Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs, CO
2/5/15 -           2/6/15 Winter Carnival          Steamboat Springs, CO
2/7/15 - 5:00 PM        REI      3285 E 3300 S, Salt Lake City, UT
For more information please visit

#6. In the last issue of this newsletter, I referred to some of the ways that “Trail Angels” try to help Pacific Crest Trail backpackers. If you follow some of the hiking forums, you know that the whole concept of trail angels is somewhat controversial. Being the beneficiary of trail angels' goodness a few times, I pretty much have loved them, but with the recent increase in hikers and in “impromptu cafés, food caches and water supply drops water caches,” I can understand why reader Jan Levet Le Pouvoir is concerned (comments following) about this proliferation. 

Jan has the credentials to know whereof she speaks; she completed the PCT in the  early ‘80’s; has been a PCTA Trail Crew Leader – Carson to Sonora Passes; was a Desolation Wilderness Volunteer and Trail Crew Leader; and was a Backcountry Wilderness Ranger –  1991-1997 John Muir and Desolation Wildernesses. She welcomes a dialog on this subject! Sent your comments to your editor at

Be forewarned: Jan is not an advocate of what we often suggest-- “HYOH,” (Hike Your Own Hike), but before (some of) you get upset, consider the reasons for her strongly held opinions. It was probably the item in the last issue about Hank’s setting up a café at Sonora Pass that made Jan feel compelled to write.     

“I can only think that the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hiker of today is so horribly in need of pampering, and so lazy in the art of logistical planning as to cash in on impromptu cafés, food caches and water supply drops along the way of the trail.  So-called ‘trail angels’ more and more are developing into an institution of sorts for the hiker to enable himself to escape, if only briefly, from the true calling of the trail – that of independently managing for himself his food drops, his logistics in planning food and fluid carries from Point A to Point B, and his reliance upon himself in completing a journey of the magnitude that the PCT requires.

"To arrive, for example, at Sonora Pass and NOT find Hank and his “café” there would for me represent one of the greatest days on the trail:  true, I couldn’t avoid a highway crossing of Hwy 108, and true, I’d need to traverse a small parking lot to return to trail tread, but my sense of PCT spirit and desire to be one with the trail – and not one with cookies and milk -  would not have been sullied by the intrusion of unwanted civilization – newspapers, china on a table cloth, and WiFi for gosh sakes?!  What, in heaven’s name, are today’s PCT’er’s in search of?!  Ditto goes for Carson Pass and the plethora of chalet volunteers who dole out water (in unforgivingly unsustainable plastic bottles) and baked goodies by the score.  And what of the hundreds of gallons of water left alongside the trail in southern California’s drier climes?  Ever think how long those gallon jugs hang around there after being emptied?  I smell a garbage dump here.  (Hey, if the “trail angel” can leave plastic gallon jugs here, I guess I can leave my empty plastic bags and food wrappers, too.)   Evidently today’s hiker sustains himself with thoughts of elegant chow-downs and hearty hugs from pass to pass, from road crossing to road crossing – to the detriment of fulfilling a portion of his soul which clamors for fulfillment of self-reliance and independence.

"I urge anyone contemplating a long-distance journey along the PCT – or any other, CDT, AT – to ask himself what his true purpose may be in treading the trail.  I urge him to spend a good deal of time, ahead of the game, looking within and questioning his motives…and ask himself how he wants to feel – emotionally - following his completion of his planned journey. Same goes for those who have gotten the “bug” from Strayed’s Wild."

#7. Maps for PCT hikers: A source of free, quality PCT maps of the entire trail are available here:

#8. Four bears die of chocolate overdoses in the New Hampshire woods; expert proposes ban. In September, four bears, two female adults and two cubs, were found dead within 50 feet of where a hunter had put down 90 pounds of chocolate and doughnuts as bait at a trapping site. 

Andrew Timmins, the state Fish and Game Department's bear project leader, told a commission that the best way to prevent this happening again is to remove chocolate from the woods. A necropsy and toxicology reports performed at the University of New Hampshire had confirmed that the bears “died of heart failure caused by theobromine, a toxic ingredient in chocolate.”

The death of a black bear cub in Michigan in 2011, was linked to theobromine. “Timmins said the amount of theobromine varies by type of chocolate used, but all can be toxic depending on how much an animal eats.”

1Another man who was at the meeting, Dave Nickerson, “was skeptical of the cause of the death. He said chocolate has been used at many sites, and has been used in many states. He asked if the lab had tested for antifreeze. ‘This is the first time we've had four dead bears at one site," Nickerson said. ‘It highly suggests that poisoning could have occurred.’" Information from: Concord Monitor, 

#9. Inga Aksamit’s article on altitude sickness is click here and in the article is a link to the “Lake Louise Guide” which is a simple guide to remind you of the symptoms. 

#10. Sad news for fans of Hiker Heaven (including us). Donna "L-Rod" Saufley, who with her husband Jeff, have hosted thousands of PCT hikers over the past 18 years, announced recently that they are closing their well-known Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce. Going to the Saufleys to stay overnight on the grounds, or in one of the cottages of Hiker Heaven, has been a rite of passage. You are welcomed, usually by a pack of big friendly dogs and Donna Saufley—who has been probably the best known trail angel of Southern California, if not the entire PCT. You drop your backpack and find the box of resupply food, etc. that you mailed to Hiker Heaven beforehand. You figure out where you are going to sleep, take a shower, and then drop your stinky and dirty clothes into a laundry basket that Donna has supplied. She washes and dries your clothes and returns them to you—folded in my experience. If you have lost a teeshirt, or part of your zipoff pants, you are likely to find a replacement in one of the big plastic bins of such items that sits nearby. You can spend the rest of your time watching TV, or a video, maybe using the computer to catch up on emails. You might want to look at the items on the bulletin board—reports on water conditions ahead, detours, etc. Sometimes there is a car available that you can borrow and drive the mile into town.  There’s a kitchen so you can prepare your meals and usually there are plenty of other hikers so you can compare notes. All of this is free, but many leave a donation.

Because Ralph and I hiked the PCT in sections, it was a few years before we made it far enough north to stay at Hiker Heaven—but I couldn’t wait to meet these kind people. It is hard to imagine giving so much time, effort, privacy, and so forth to the hiking community for so many years--but sad that that era has ended. The Hiker Heaven’s website is down, but Donna provided this info to hikers: “The Acton KOA has graciously offered to accept packages for hikers instead of Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce. All packages will be forwarded to the KOA. They can accept all carriers (USPS, FedEx, DHL, UPS). Packages and letters should be sent to:

c/o Acton KOA
7601 Soledad Canyon Road
Acton, CA 93510

The KOA offers showers, laundry, camping, and has a small store. The town of Acton is nearby with two grocery stores, several restaurants, and a US Post Office and” 

Donna is looking forward to a new chapter in her life--enriched by her new grandchild and the prospect of more free time to enjoy her horses and bikes. I treasure the memory of meeting Donna and Jeff and staying at Hiker Heaven.

#11. Shoes, shoes, shoes: When buying shoes, allow for the volume needed to accommodate Superfeet or orthotics. Jeff Olson (PCT hiker) wrote, “I've also found that I really like the feeling of my forefoot being really loose in the shoe, and the laces being tighter over the arch. I tie a double knot just below the high point of the arch so that the laces are really loose over the forefoot and I can adjust the tension over the arch. Tighter for going downhill, looser for flats and uphill...” One of the key points here—you can adjust your shoelaces beyond how you might normally tie them at the top. 

“I've also found that when I get a new pair of hiking shoes it really helps to run a piece of high quality duct tape from the sole, up the inside back of the shoe and over the top and down.  the tape starts underneath the insole.  This really cuts down on heel blisters. Blisters are caused by a combination of heat, moisture and friction.  The duct tape gets rid of the  friction.” Your editor adds: If you have a rough spot or seam inside your shoes that is bothersome, put some duct tape on it to smooth it out.

Shoes a size larger? On both the Camino and PCT forum, the question about shoe size often arises. The following sums up my experience: “I didn't run into a single person last year on the PCT that complained because their shoes were too large.  I ran into several who were in various shades of pain because their shoes were too small.”  Timberline (PCTer)

Ken Powers (Gottawalk), who with his wife Marcia has hiked thousands of miles (including the American Discovery Trail across the United States), adds, “Pay attention to the last of the shoes; pick a last that fits your feet. We have found that New Balance's last SL-2 fits our feet better because it is a straight last. Nike and many other shoe companies use a curved last. (That means the shoe curves in on the big toe side of the foot.) We get much less friction from the straight lasts.” He also supports the notion of buying a large shoe for long-distance hiking because their feet by at least one full size during their super long hikes.

#12. Bay Area Regional: Camino programs. Wednesday, February 25, 2015. Your editor will be helping Nancy Reynolds with the Q & A after her Camino presentation at REI Berkeley. Program is 7:00-8:30 PM; this program will fill. Make advance reservations at REI Berkeley, 1338 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702. 

(More classes by Nancy: REI has added a second Camino class at their Santa Rosa location, since the one on February 24 is full (waiting list). The second class is on Wednesday, March 4. Here are all the dates for Bay Area REI Camino classes, with links to register:

Camino program by the Alcorns: Saturday, March 21, 2015. Narrated slide show of the Camino de Santiago across Northern Spain. Program is 2:00 pm. "Join independent traveler Susan Alcorn who will present a digital slide show of her five-week 500-mile trek along Spain's ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the legendary burial place of the disciple St. James.

3"Come walk with Susan and her husband Ralph through the Pyrenees from France to Spain and then down through the fertile red soils of the Rioja wine-growing region, across the plains known as the Meseta, and into the lush green lands of Galicia. Susan will give you pointers for planning your own Camino adventure, including gear, expenses, lodging and what to expect about life on this centuries old trail.

More from the announcement: “Susan and Ralph are Bay Area residents. They are long-distance hikers who have section-hiked the entire 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, walked almost 2,000 miles of pilgrimage trails in Spain, France, and Portugal, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and completed the Circuit Trail in Torres del Paine, Chile.”

San Francisco Main Library, 840 West Orange Ave. South San Francisco, CA 94080. (650) 829-3860 Map/Directions, click here.

#13. Regional: SF Bay Area: First Saturday Lake Merritt walk is February 7th. Free. Show up at 10:30; walk starts at 10:45. Meet at the pavilion on El Embarcadero (between Grand and Lakeshore). Easy 3 mile walk with opportunities for coffee or lunch afterwards.Chapter Spring potluck and shell ceremony for departing pilgrims is March 28th. More to follow.

#14. Regional: Backpacking classes: As mentioned in early issues of this newsletter, Inga Aksamit is teaching some backpacking classes this spring. Dates are now set. From Inga, “We have set dates for the two-hour backpacking class and the overnight guided backpacking experience at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Two-hour backpacking class:  April 4, 2015 and May 17, 21015 10:00 am – 12:00 pm and 10:00 am – 12:00 pm (offered twice). Overnight guided backpacking  experience: June 6-7, 2015 (one night). >To register, for any of the classes please email John Roney.  at and let him know which class you're signing up for. Later we may establish a more formal registration system, but for now you can do it by email. See for more information about the class and how to register. Let me know if you have any questions. Inga 415-470-1812.

Happy Valentine's Day,

Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Newsletter #195, January 2015

Happy New Year!

  1. American Pilgrims plans
  2. Pop up café at Sonora Pass
  3. Trail angels help Pacific Crest Trail hikers
  4. The filming of Wild
  5. ‘Wild’ package available at The Resort at The Mountain in Welches, Ore.
  6. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Backpacking Class-Spring 2015
  7. Delaware North claims “Ahwahnee” and “Yosemite Lodge” names
  8. “Grizzly” (joke) strikes again
  9. S.F. Bay area regional: Nancy Reynolds giving Camino talks
  10. S.F. Bay area regional: “Letters from the Way” (Camino) launch date
  11. S.F. Bay area regional: Reminder: Northern Pilgrims first Saturday hikes
  12. Trek with TRAC—Bay Trail blazers in Richmond, CA

1). 18th Annual Gathering of Pilgrims. The 18th Annual Gathering of Pilgrims will come to Northern California for the first time this spring. The events will be held at the Vallombrosa Center, a retreat center in Menlo Park, March 12 – 15, 2015.The Gathering theme, Ever Ancient, Ever New, will explore the Camino’s legendary places and people and give us new perspectives on the Camino today.


Thursday evening, March 12 will be the opening reception focusing on the Camino Portugués with a Portuguese dinner and lively fado music.
On Friday and Saturday, there will be several speakers talking about various topics including Maryjane Dunn speaking about origins and legends of the Camino; Lee Sandstead, aka the “world’s most fired-up art historian,” telling us about the anatomy of ancient Camino churches; Emilio Escudero showing us sites that are among the hidden treasures of the Camino; Rob Nickerson updating us on technology being used on the modern Camino; and Bill Edwards offering a session on a medieval precursor of the pilgrim’s credential.

“National Geographic photographer Michael George will offer a photography workshop (preregistration required), and practical sessions on packing gear, first aid, and volunteering on the Camino will offer opportunities for Q&A. Camino Cabaret and Camino 5 X 5 storytelling will give the entertainers and raconteurs among us an opportunity to shine. A Shell Ceremony will once again launch first-time pilgrims on their way.” There will also be time for visiting with friends, going for walks, and attending receptions. Attendees arriving by plane can fly into either San Francisco or San Jose airports. Public transportation is available from both airports.

Registration information is on the American Pilgrims website

Members: Gathering with Lodging: $375; Gathering without lodging: $220
Non-Members: Gathering with lodging: $400; Gathering without lodging: $245

“Gathering Chair Carlos Mentley and the American Pilgrims board of directors cordially invite you to the Gathering. It will be fun and a great opportunity to meet new friends and renew acquaintances with old ones.”

2). From your editor: I remember reaching Sonora Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail and at that time there was no food available. It was pretty much the outhouses, parking lots, and the natural landscape. I guess we were either there the wrong weekend or the wrong year! Now it appears there is a trail angel, Hank Magnuski, who sets up a pop-up café to help hikers several weekends during the hiking season. Sorry that I missed it!

Long distance hikers of the PCT need to resupply food along the way and they do generally do so by going into a nearby town to pick up items at a grocery or gas station (or whatever else is there) or by picking up a package that they have mailed to the local post office. The food is mostly of the freeze-dried variety.

When hikers come upon food or beverages put out by a trail angel, they are usually pretty excited about it. Going into a picnic area and finding gourmet coffee, chocolate cake, fresh fruit and other goodies is heavenly. This trail magic is being worked at Magnuski’s at his pop up café that he calls the Sonora Pass Cafe. Magnuski (trail name: the Owl) is a Silicon Valley engineer, as well as a hiker. During his numerous times on trail crew in the area, he knew that this would be a welcome addition to the area, which previously had only an outhouse and the natural landscape. Now Magnuski brings china, camping chairs and newspapers and rigs up a temporary Wi-Fi . On a nearby tree, he hangs a dartboard he calls Hikers Revenge, with a picture of a mosquito in the center. To read "A Pop-Up Cafe Caters To Hikers Along The Pacific Crest Trail" by Lisa Morehouse. Click here

3). Your editor has long extolled the virtues of trail angels; it's nice to see them get some recognition outside the trail community as in "Trail Angels help Keep Pacific Cresst Hikers on the Path," by Chris Erskine in the LA Times. Click here to read about these wonderful people.

4). The ‘Resort at The Mountain’ in Welches, Oregon has a package going that is tied to the Cheryl Strayed memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” and the film “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon, which is now in theatres.

Nate Seifert, The Resort’s Nature Concierge, explains, “This package is perfect, fans get to hike [a bit of] the Pacific Crest Trail and stay at the same resort as the cast of the film.” Guests will work with Seifert to create a self-guided Pacific Coast Trail hike to fit their individual experience level. Then follows a Swedish-style massage,  a cocktail of choice at Altitude Lounge, an overnight room of choice, and a copy of either the “Pacific Crest Trail” data book 5th Edition or one copy of “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.” In addition, 10% of the package purchase price will be donated to the Pacific Crest Trail Association which helps preserve the trail.

The Resort at The Mountain is at 68010 E. Fairway Avenue in Welches, Ore., at the western base of Mt. Hood.  For reservations, call toll-free (877) 439-6774.  Contact The Resort at The Mountain directly at (503) 622-3101 or visit

#5. When filming the movie ‘Wild,' Tim Neville writes, (12/5/14) “Ms. Witherspoon hadn’t hiked up for more than an hour, as I had, from the Mirror Lake trailhead near Government Camp, about 50 miles southeast of Portland. She had taken a chairlift at Mount Hood Ski bowl, a small ski area on a Mount Hood foothill, opposite the better-known Timberline Lodge….”  Her way made more sense, after all. She was acting in the new movie “Wild,” and there were cameramen and sound guys and fake blood and prosthetic toenails to put in place. Audiences needed only to believe she had arrived there the hard way.”

Neville goes on to explain that “Wild” was primarily filmed in Oregon—and only two scenes were the actually on the Pacific Crest Trail. Nancy Haecker, the location manager for “Wild,” said, “Most of the time you just can’t send a movie crew out into some of these places. You need locations that are accessible, cinematic and can serve several purposes so the crew doesn’t have to pack up each day.’”

#6. As mentioned in the December newsletter, Inga Aksamit is planning some backpacking classes this spring in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park (Sonoma County). Inga’s update: “Goal: The goal of the class is to introduce participants to modern backpacking techniques and equipment, which have generally reduced the expected weight that must be carried to enjoy a wilderness experience. If you have never backpacked before, or if it has been decades since you backpacked, or if you’ve read the book, “Wild” and are inspired to start backpacking this class is for you. Tips for all age groups will be provided, from backpacking with children to considerations for seniors.

There will be two parts to this offering. They can be taken separately or together.

Class: A two-hour class at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park will be offered on a Saturday. We’ll go over some introductory information in the first hour and look at some examples of backpacking gear in the next hour.  The instructors will bring a fully packed backpack, then unpack it so you can see what’s in it. ($10 fee)

Overnight guided backpacking experience: Guides with extensive backpacking experience will lead a small group into a backcountry camp at Sugarloaf on a weekend. The mileage will be less than five miles but it will be a wilderness experience designed to give you the skills you need to start backpacking on your own. You may bring your own gear, rent from REI in San Francisco or other supplier (on your own) or we can provide gear: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad only.

($50 fee if you bring your own equipment; $150-200 fee if we provide equipment-subject to change [two week notice required if we provide gear])

Dates: TBD. The class will probably be offered in early April with the overnight in late April/early May 2015.

Inga Aksamit writes regularly for “Sierra Travel in San Francisco.” Click here: “She is an outdoor enthusiast and California State Park volunteer who is passionate about exploring backcountry trails safely and encouraging others to push their limits. She’s done the John Muir Trail, High Sierra Trail, Chilkoot Trail (Alaska), many trails in the Tahoe Sierra and has paddled 450 miles of the Yukon River (Canada) in a canoe.”   She discovered backpacking in middle-age and loves seeing seniors, solo female backpackers and young kids in the backcountry. On the John Muir Trail kids from 2-86 were spotted on the trail.

Steve Mullen, California State Park volunteer, has been backpacking since he was a teenager in upstate New York….” After an absence from the trail “the new, lightweight gear, great California weather and the lure of backcountry adventures got him back on the trail.”

You will receive more information when we have dates confirmed. You can also visit the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park website, the Sugarloaf Ridge SP Facebook page or Inga’s Adventures where details will be posted. Call Inga Aksamit at 415-470-1812 or John Roney, SRSP Operations Manager, at 707-833-5712 with questions.

#7. In a move already stirring heated discussions, Delaware North—concessionaire for many of National Park properties nationwide—“has sent letters to park officials at Yosemite saying it owns the names of the places under its watch.” Delaware’s contract with Yosemite is nearing the end of its contract. It has now saying that it bought the names earlier and if another company wants to use the famous “Ahwahnee Hotel” and “Yosemite Lodge” names, it would cost as much as $51 million to release those names. Among other options, the Park Service is considering changing the names of its landmark lodges.

Park officials vehemently disagree that Delaware North has ownership of the names and attorneys are preparing to defend Yosemite National Parks right to continue using the names no matter who takes up the concession when it comes up for renewal in 2016. The names of these historic places below to the American Public and have been in use much longer than the 20 years that Delaware North has run the properties.  Link here. Among other options, the Park Service is considering changing the names of its landmark lodges.

#8. The latest tale from hiker97: “One Sunday PCT Grizzly was outside the cabin working.  He was coming along nicely on his project and was feeling good.  The gentle sun and blue sky made for a perfect day.  Plus, the family was over for a big lunch after church with all the grandkids.  Presently, he notices one of his young granddaughters approaching him.

“’Grandpa, what is couple sex??’

“This really startled him and at first did not know what to say.  Finally, after he composed himself, he decided he better answer the question in the best way he could.  He did not want her to ask her friends or her parents and shock them.

“Grizzly slowly starts to explain human reproduction and the joys and responsibilities of this very personal relationship.  After he was done he was kind of proud of himself for how he handled this, but noticed his granddaughter had the look of shock on her face and her mouth was open.

“Seeing her astonishment Grizzly asked, ‘Why in the world did you ask this question, honey??’

“The little girl replied, ‘Grandma says that lunch will be ready in just a couple secs.’"

#9. #Nancy Reynolds will be giving Camino presentations at several Bay Area stores this month:  Here they are: January 14, Saratoga; January 20 SF Marina; January 28 Corte Madera; February 11 Concord; February 24 Santa Rosa; February 25 Berkeley. Reservations required (although no shows sometimes occur).  This link says Berkeley store, but when you scroll through you will see that events for all the stores are listed.

Description: Learn about walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain from experienced walker and Camino Guide, Nancy Reynolds. You will get a sense of the challenges and rewards of walking this ancient path, plus practical information for planning your own pilgrimage. Whether you are looking for adventure, a fitness challenge, or a spiritual pilgrimage, you will learn enough to know if the Camino de Santiago is the walk for you. You will also get some expert tips and tricks for getting the most from your Camino experience, whether you will walk for a week, or plan to take every step along the 500-mile path.

#10. Your editor has now seen, “Letters from the Way” by Barbara V. Anderson—a beautifully written coffee table book, with gorgeous photos, of her Camino walk from LePuy, FR to Puente La Reina, Spain.  Anderson’s book launch will be Sat. Jan 17 at 7 PM at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA

11. Regional: Bay Area hike with TRAC, the Trails for Richmond Action Committee” Friends of the Bay Trail in Richmond. TRAC, the Trails for Richmond Action Committee continues to work hard to increase awareness or complete the San Francisco Bay Trail in Richmond. Richmond now has over 32 miles of Bay Trail built -- more than any other city on this planned 500-mile hiking and biking route encircling San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. You may receive news about Bay Trail events and progress directly at no cost by emailing

Upcoming walks include: Monday, January 11, 9 AM to Noon: Birds of Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline. Join EBRPD Naturalist Anthony Fisher for a birding walk along the San Francisco Bay Trail with beautiful bay views in this historic park. Meet in the first parking lot on left side of Dornan Drive after passing thru Ferry Point tunnel. For info, phone 544-2233.

Saturday, January 17, 10 AM to 2 PM>: Bay Trail Plant Restoration.  Join Tom and Jane Kelly to help continue their ongoing native plant restoration project along the Bay Trail next to Point Isabel Regional Shoreline.  Where: Point Isabel next to the dog park - just off I-580 (take Central to the bottom of the I-580 overpass. At the stop sign (Rydin Road) turn right and come down to the end of the street.) Contact info: Tom Kelly (510) 684-6484 or  Please do RSVP – it will help them coordinate tools with the East Bay Regional Park District. And remember to wear long pants, bring hats, sun screen, water, and family and friends. They will supply gloves, tools, and refreshments.

#12. Northern California group of American Pilgrims on the Camino is continuing its 1st Saturday walks around Lake Merritt. It’s informal, no RSVP needed, just show up at 10:30 AM for a 10:45 departure. Meet up at the east end pavillion closest to HWY 580. Easy 3 mile walk with opportunities for coffee or lunch afterwards.

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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