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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2016

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

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Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #215 December 2016

1Hi all,
This is a busy time of year, but also a beautiful season. I hope you will enjoy this issue of hiking news. In particular, I think you’ll enjoy the colorful story from Scott Williams. His sending it was a real gift and I appreciate him sharing it. The photos in this issue are from road trip that Ralph and I made in November to see friends in Chico, CA; Richland, WA; and Medford, OR. During our whirlwind tour of the west coast, we got in a couple of great hikes, but mostly I wanted to share the magnificent scenery that we found along the way: Gray Lodge Wildlife Reserve near Gridley, CA; part of the Cascade range in Oregon; Mt. Shasta, CA; Gray Lodge again.   

Happy holidays! Peace and love! Take time to enjoy the wonders of the season. 


  1. Adventures and a Cautionary Tale from Scott Williams
  2. Dragonflies
  3. Beginning Backpacking course with Sierra Club
  4. Wild Women Travel adventures
  5. Camino de Santiago news
  6. The many uses of a spare sock


#1. Hike Alert and a Cautionary Tale. Scott Williams, who is a very strong hiker that has hiked major trails in the U.S. (including the PCT and the AT), the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and who regularly hikes challenging trails in the Bay Area, recently sent a compelling story from which I am excerpting the following:  

“… and after a summer of travel and adventure, I’m ready for a winter of hiker training on our Northern California hills.  It’s been a great time, starting with a month in Rome, Sienna, Cinque Terre and a bare boat sail of the Magdalena Archipelago between Sardinia and Corsica, with Katie [his wife, and with friends]. 

“From Italy, I flew to Madagascar for 2 months of trekking, touring and adventuring with Francis Tapon, his wife, Rejoice, and Sym, “Symbiosis” Blanchard.  I’d love to have taken a lemur home, and the jungles they live in were simply beautiful!  Traveling by foot, taxibus, old narrow-gage railways and dugout canoes, we had the adventure of a lifetime.  

“When I got home in August it was just in time to head back East with Katie for 2 months of living in our Sprinter Van in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts to eat as many lobsters as we could stomach and watch the seasons change…. My hiking speed will be a bit slower than what I normally walk as I begin this winter’s training, for two reasons.  Firstly, six months of travel and fun, with as many mountains and trails as I could find, is still no match for the kind of training I usually do in the off season at home, and few trails anywhere match some of what we regularly knock out on Mt. Diablo.  So, I’m frankly out of shape.

“But secondly, and herein lies the cautionary tale, I suffered a Pulmonary Embolism shortly after returning from Madagascar.  Two days of taxis, airports and nearly 30 hours in the air was just too much for my old veins and arteries, and I’m still getting my lungs back to some semblance of health.  A pulmonary embolism, as far as I understand it now, is a  blood clot created somewhere in the body, in my case the legs, (deep vein thrombosis) that breaks away, is torn into pieces as it passes through the heart and then lodges in the lungs in many places, causing a sudden decrease in their ability to process oxygen.  

“So here’s the story.  Shortly after arriving in Madagascar, Symbiosis and I had a very long bus ride to the East Coast where we were to meet up with Francis and Rejoice Tapon to join their trek of the island.  Unfortunately for me, the seat I was given on that bus was broken and over and over again, slid forward, jamming into the back of my calves.  I fell asleep several times only to wake up with that damned seat cutting off the circulation at the back of my legs, and unknown to me at the time, causing a blockage, the beginning of what become a blood clot later, or maybe as early as that first week of travel in country.  

“When I got off the bus I could hardly walk, and for the first few days in Toamasina, I limped wherever I went.   When Francis and Rejoice and I set off into the bush, it was lucky for me, not them, that they were both suffering from ailments too that slowed their pace.  So we all hit the trail at somewhat of a personal disadvantage and took a nice leisurely first few days.  We traveled through jungles and high plains, took dugout ferry rides across rivers, and hiked along old railroad beds, which are often the best foot paths through dense tropical forest.  We ate whatever we could buy at the little villages we passed through, and were always the subject of interest as we were probably the first Westerners with backpacks many of them had ever seen.  What a hike! The pain in my calf decreased over the miles and I figured I’d just suffered an internal muscle bruise on the bus.  And at that point it might have been just that.  

“A month later, Sym and I hiked across Isola National Park in the southwest of the island, a place of dry uplands, whose exposed and weathered rock formations reminded us of the American Southwest.  All of this wonderful weathering towered above river carved gorges filled with tropical forests and crystal clear streams with the most beautiful swimming holes I’ve had the pleasure of bathing in.  Early in the day on a steep climb, however, I experienced a sudden loss of breath and energy to my legs like I’ve never felt before, almost as if the air had been let out of a balloon. I thought I was just not feeling well that day, and swimming or walking downhill seemed to revive me, but in hindsight, and after experiencing a much great pulmonary embolism once I returned home, I now think this was the breaking away of the first clot. 

“I returned home in August after an interminable number of hours in taxis, planes and airports and did a few local hikes before heading out for the U.S. Northeast with Katie.  I climbed Diablo on my favorite Burma Burn trail, did a 20-miler in San Francisco and several other good hikes over the hills in Martinez and was feeling like I could get back in shape pretty quickly.  

“Then one morning about 10 days after getting home, I met up with a group of fast walkers to do a simple hike of Briones Regional Park.  We set off at a brisk pace and I felt fine.  But about 100 yards down a flat trail, I began to lose steam and watched as my friends just zoomed by me.  As I tried to keep up, I found I could not move my legs any faster no matter how hard I pushed and I began to huff and puff desperately.  I finally sat down on a log to catch my breath.  Cyndi came back to make sure I was OK and I cavalierly waved her on, telling her I would hike at a slower pace this day, but assuring her that I was fine.  I got up and actually did try to hike, but at the first bit of uphill, found I just couldn’t do it.  This was all new to me.  I had no idea what was happening.

“I turned around and slowly walked back to my car and drove myself home.  What an idiot!  I should have called an ambulance, but I really didn’t get it till I got home and had real trouble walking up my driveway, which is not a big climb.  Katie heard me huffing as I reached the door and whisked me off to the Emergency Room. Over the next two days, yes, they admitted me, I was lucky enough to have nothing but wonderful doctors, nurses and clinicians of all stripes.  Thank you County Hospital!  After hearing my story of the recent long flight back from Madagascar, the Emergency Room Doctor diagnosed it correctly within just a few minutes.  And after numerous tests to confirm it, the ultrasound found the clot right at the spot of that early trip injury, at the back of my calf.  That broken bus seat had done some real damage.  The heart work concluded that other than the blood clot, I’m very healthy, a nice thing to hear when you’re hooked up to IVs and monitors.  

“I learned a lot about pulmonary embolisms over the next two days.  Common to people laid up in bed after a surgery, or during pregnancies, it also affects those who are involved in high level sports and travel around the globe on planes, busses, trains and cars to compete.  One of the clinicians equated our long distance hiking to an Olympic sport, and me, and all of us hikers by association, to Olympic athletes.  Wow!  Also something nice to hear when you’re in the hospital and quite immobile.  

“It turns out that pulmonary embolisms are somewhat common to this group.  An extreme athlete travels to another country to compete, then pushes 150 percent in their sport, causing many micro tears in their circulatory system, usually not a problem, but in this case, they have a long flight home during which these micro tears become the locus for a blood clot to form.  Back home and bang, pulmonary embolism soon after.  Although age is a factor in our proclivity to create clots, it often happens to very healthy young people too.  Just after my hospitalization, I learned that a very dear friend in her mid-twenties had suffered a PE just when I was having mine, brought on by bed rest after knee surgery.  She’s also an extreme athlete and in great shape, other than forming a blood clot. The good news is that these extreme athletes usually have complete recovery.  Thank God!  

“I was put on eliquis, an anti-coagulant drug, and after a few days at home, I got my doctor’s OK to drive across country with Katie and continue my summer’s adventures, but with a few caveats.  He wanted me back to my usual hiking as soon as I could do it.  In essence, to hike as hard as I could, as soon as I could, with the knowledge that the tiny clots in my lungs would cause this to be self- limiting.  I wouldn’t be able to go any faster than my degree of recovery had progressed.  I’ll be traveling differently from now on and have been for the past two months.

How to Lessen your Chances of a Pulmonary Embolism

  • Here’s the meat of this long story.  Keep moving as much as possible on long flights or train journeys etc. and to get the heck out of bed as soon as possible after surgery. 
  • When traveling long distances, wear full length compression stockings as they decrease the chances of your blood pooling.  
  • Don’t cross your legs or otherwise allow constriction of the circulation in the legs when sitting for long periods. 
  • If driving, stop every hour to take a short walk, even just running around the car a few times helps.
  • If in flight, get up as often as possible, stretching your legs, standing on tip toe, performing squats, anything to circulate the blood in your legs.
  • While sitting in a car, bus or plane, move your feet, stretching them back and forth and twitch as much as you can.  This actually helps keep the blood moving.
  • Take a baby aspirin before a long flight as this thins the blood.  While all the doctors I dealt with told me that there are no clinical studies to prove its effectiveness, they all said they do this before long flights.  I think I will too. 
  • The bottom line is to keep moving as much as possible.”  

Back to hiking in the Bay Area. An invitation from Scott: 
“For folks new to this list, these hikes are merely a meet up at trailheads; there is no “hike leader,” certainly not me. I’m simply a hiker who has a passion for acquainting people with some of the wonderful trails in the Bay Area that most don’t even know exist.  Quite an array of hikers meet me and we all hike at our own pace.  Many are long distance “thru hikers” who have completed one or more National Scenic Trail.  Trying to organize “thru hikers” is like herding cats.  Although we tend to start together, the line usually spreads out pretty quickly.  So everyone is responsible for their own safety and should be cognizant of the trail they come in on so they can back out if this becomes necessary, possibly alone.  Please come prepared to take care of yourself with food and water, first aid, maps and clothing appropriate for the weather.  

Shoot me an email or give me a call 925-768-4579 if you can make any of these hikes and I’ll see ya on trail! Scott “Shroomer” Williams (11-5-16).

3#2. Dragonflies. I’m certain that most of you have seen dragonflies skimming over their favorite habitats—streams, ponds, and lakes—and delighted in their movements and color. Dragonflies, as well asDamselflies are insects of suborder Zygoptera in the order Odonata. They have two pairs of wings and each pair works independently, which is why they can fly upward, downwards, and sideways. They are voracious eaters and their ability to rapidly accelerate comes in very handy for obtaining meals composed of other insects (including of their own kind).

When you notice dragonflies bobbing up and down along the shallow edges of waterways, they are likely laying eggs in the mud. The larvae that they produce will spend 8-9 months in the water before pupating—which is longer than they will live as adults. The larvae molt several times before climbing out of the water onto a nearby plant where further development takes place. Finally, the skin splits, the dragonfly backs out, extends its wings and flies off. 

#3. Beginners' Backpack Course. The S F Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club is offering a course on >Sunday, March 26, 2017. Time: >9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Leader: Thomas Meissner - Level: Easy (1AT/2BT) Cost:    The trip fee is $ 90. For participants age 12 – 22 a reduced fee of $ 45 applies. We will refund your money if we have to refuse your application due to physical or medical conditions, if the course is full, or in the event that the Sierra Club has to cancel. No refund will be given if a participant cancels.

Signup Restrictions: Families with children age 12 and older are welcome. Unfortunately the course is not suited for children under the age of 12. For all participants under the age of 18, who are not accompanied by a legal guardian, a minor release form needs to be signed. Contact Thomas Meissner for details.

Signup Instructions: Advanced sign up is mandatory. No drop-ins. For sign-up check the Backpack Section website: Email the completed form to: Thomas Meissner You will receive an application form per email. Please fill out the application form, and email it back to Payment: You will receive a PayPal invoice per email with instructions. Accepted participants will receive a confirmation and further information about meeting time and place for the indoor session and a trip roster for arranging carpools. Applications are reviewed in the order they are received. We cannot guarantee to consider applications that are received after >March 1, 2017.

Bring:  Writing material. Food (lunch, snacks) and drinks will be provided.

Location: Naturebridge Conference Center, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Carpool: Transportation to and from the indoor session and to and from the overnight backpack trip trailheads is the responsibility of each participant. A roster will be provided to each sign-up so that participants can arrange carpooling.

#4. Wild Women Expeditions is adventuring to the Galapagos Islands, India, Vietnam and Laos, Patagonia (Chile and Argentina), Mongolia, Spain, Tanzania and Alaska in 2017. More than 100 trips are available. Some are hiking trips, others are kayaking or multisport adventures.Wild Women has already launched their Wild Women trips in 2017. 

2Jennifer Haddow, Director, Wild Women Expeditions, writes, “And if my inbox continues to overflow with women asking for a Wild Women trek on the Camino de Santiago (por favor!), I may just have to go to Spain and set that one up in the spring. And a horse riding adventure in Spain would be fantástico as well, don't you think?”  

You can find stories from the Wild Women Magazine with a free download.  Contact: Tel: 1 888 WWE 1222 or Websites: and


#5. Camino events: Hospitalero training: The next opportunity will in in Los Gatos, California, Friday, February 3rd through Sunday, February 5th. Be watching for information and registration! (We won't accept registrations until the registration announcement.)

The 2017 National Gathering of Pilgrims: The details are being worked out, but mark your calendars for the 2017 National Gathering of Pilgrims in Hampden, Georgia, >Thursday, March 23 through Sunday, March 26. Registration will open early in January. Go to the National Gatherings page for more information.

#6. How to survive with a sock. Just in case you hadn’t thought of these…

4Happy holidays!

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #214 November 2016


  1. Missing PCT hiker, Kris Fowler
  2. Winter Pilgrim leaves for Japan 
  3. Camino (and other) interest: Sunflowers’ mystery solved 
  4. Ground search for Sierra Nevada hiker, Robert Woodie, called off  
  5. The Pacific Crest Trail: Exploring America’s Wilderness Trail (new book!)
  6. PCT Association announces: It’s photo contest time!
  7. Correction: It’s Tibbits (not Tibbets) 


#1.  Kris Fowler (Sherpa), PCT hiker, has now been missing for more than two weeks. Searches by family, community members, and law enforcement officials continue out of central Washington. Fowler, 31, “was last seen October 12 leaving the White Pass area and headed north to Snoqualmie Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Anyone with information is urged to contact Sgt. Briscoe at Yakima County Sheriff's Office.”

3A Facebook group has been established: Bring Kris Fowler/Sherpa Home) is intended to help organize the search for PCT Hiker Kris Fowler/Sherpa. If you are heading out to search, please post where you are going and the route you intend to take. Also please update with your findings. Feel free to contact Kimberly at the Packwood Inn as she is organizing a search using three experienced local hikers leaving tonight. They are leaving out of Chinook Pass and heading to Snoqualmie Pass. Kimberly is offering free rooms at the Packwood Inn to anyone that wants to join the search. Contact Kimberly at 570-505-5631.

#2. Winter Pilgrim blogs: “The long winter walk begins in Nagasaki [Japan] on Tuesday, November 1st, All Saints' Day.  I hope to arrive in Nagasaki after changing planes in Tokyo from San Francisco.  I'll make inquiries and take a guess and send my snowshoes on ahead to a monastery further north where I'll likely encounter snow before it gets too deep.  I've broken my journey into 15 stages between the shrines and cathedrals I plan to visit and -- insha'allah -- arrive back in Nagasaki for Easter.  Where will I find the snow monkeys?  Will they throw things at me like the monkeys in Central America did? (posted 28 Oct 2016) To follow her solo winter trek and adventures, go to

#3. Camino de Santiago and the sunflowers: If you have hiked through Spain, you have no doubt seen vast fields of sunflowers. Ever noticed how the heads seemed to move throughout the day? It was not your imagination.  Here’s the scientific explanation: Sunflowers “seem to have an internal clock that regulates their relationship with the sun. A study by UC Davis Plant pathologists found that during the day, the east side of the sunflower stems grew more than the west side and vice versa during the night, causing the face to track the sun.” California Magazine (UC Berkeley) Fall 2016

1#4. Field search for missing backpacker Robert Woodie has ended. Woodie, 74, an experienced Sierra Nevada backpacker who knew the South Lake and Bishop Pass area he planned to enter well, was last heard from via satellite message on October 15 during a storm. Crews searched for more than a week, but the ground search was called off as a severe storm approaching the area was expected to dump two-three feet of snow. Continuing the search would have jeopardized search and rescue teams and the storm would most likely have covered any tracks or other clues that Woodie might have left.  The effort to find Woodie will go to “limited continuous,” such as air searches, backcountry patrols, and outreach to hikers heading into the area. Link to story here

#5. Fine new PCT book: The Pacific Crest Trail: Exploring America’s Wilderness Trail. “In this new Pacific Crest Trail book, explore an in-depth history of the trail and more than 250 photographs that bring the trail experience to life in large, living color. The Pacific Crest Trail: Exploring America’s Wilderness Trail, published by the Pacific Crest Trail Association and Rizzoli New York, was released in October. PCTA Managing Editor Mark Larabee and Board Member Barney Scout Mann tell how this 2,650-mile trail from Mexico to Canada came to be. It’s a tale about the dedication of many volunteers and government land managers, as well as political will and just plain luck. Mark Larabee is the managing editor for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. “In 2005, he spent four months researching a 13-part series about the Pacific Crest Trail for The Oregonian newspaper in Portland, Oregon.

“Barney Scout Mann served as chair of the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s board of directors from 2012 to 2015. His first hike on the PCT was in 1965, and he thru-hiked the PCT in 2007. Cheryl Strayed, author of the best-selling Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, wrote the foreword. She introduces a gripping saga of how the trail came about—from a New York boxing ring where a future Chief of the Forest Service decks a future U.S. President to trail visionary Warren Rogers who chose between keeping the family home or lobbying for the PCT."

You can shop for the Pacific Crest Trail book at, Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The coffee-table sized book retails for $50.
Upcoming book events:
11/9/16: PCTA Book Release Event, REI, Yale Ave. N, Seattle, WA 98109 (North Meeting Room 222), 6:30 p.m. talk and slide show with Barney Scout Mann (RSVP please via website)
11/10/16: PCTA Book Release Event, University of Oregon, Knight School of Law Room 110, 1515 Agate Street, Eugene, OR 974035 p.m. talk and slide show with Barney Scout Mann (RSVP by November 7th)
11/22/16: PCTA Book Release Event, Powell’s Books, 1005 W. Burnside, Portland, OR 97209. 7:30 p.m. talk and slide show with Mark Larabee and Barney Scout Mann
11/29/16: PCTA Book Release Event, Mark Larabee and Barney Scout Mann in conversation with New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof. Rizzoli Bookstore, 1133 Broadway, New York, NY. 6 p.m. question and answer session
1/7/17: PCTA Book Release Event. Wrightwood Community Center, 1275 State Highway 2, Wrightwood, CA 92397. 1 p.m. talk and slide show with Barney Scout Mann

#6. PCT announces: It’s photo contest time! It’s time to start collecting images for the coming year. We use your amazing photos to promote the association’s work and remind the world about the beauty of the PCT. Please submit your photos by Feb. 27, 2017 and get a chance to win great prizes from our contest sponsor, LEKI. Further information and how to submit your photos at:


#7. Correction: It’s Tibbits (not Tibbets). In last month's edition of this newsletter, I mentioned Ned Tibbits of Mountain Education and included his assessment of trail runners vs. his favored hiking boots. Sorry I misspelled his name.   

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #213 October 2016


  1. New speed record for the Appalachian Trail                                  
  2. The Great Divide: Trail Runners or Boots 
  3. Tarantula Time
  4. Fitbit feedback
  5. Suggestion: Check your spam folder on occasion
  6. Hiking in the Cairngorms
  7. Camino: 2017 Pilgrim Gathering
  8. Camino: Hint
  9. Camino (S.F. Bay Area) Event
Note: All photos below by Susan Alcorn: 1-3 Cairngorms National Park, Scotland, 4. Breads of Santander (Camino Norte). 


2#1. “Karl Meltzer Breaks Appalachian Trail Speed Record” news. Super star ultra runner Karl Meltzer, 48, set a newsupported speed record for the Appalachian Trail on Sunday, September 18, 2016. He did the AT, southbound,  in 45 days , 22 hours, and 38 minutes. Meltzer averaged 47 miles per day, traveling 14-16 hours per day.

This beats the record, set by Scott Jurek last year, by 10 hours. Meltzer either slept along the trail or in a van driven by his father, Karl Sr. or “crew chief,” Eric Belz. Meltzer had previously attempt to set a record in attempts in 2008 and 2014. Payback time: Meltzer crewed for Jurek on the latter’s record-setting hike, and Jurek returned the favor, joining Meltzer’s support team along the way. A documentary film about this latest hike is expected in 2017.

#2. As many of you know, bringing up the topics of trail runners or hiking boots is almost as much a hot topic as Clinton or Trump in some quarters. Ralph and I are strongly advocates for the trail runner side of the fence, but when it comes right down to it, everyone’s feet are different and it is an individual choice.

Ned Tibbets, director of Mountain Education, a wilderness skills safety school, recently wrote from his perspective in a blogpost entitled, “52 years later, I tried Trail Runners.” 
“I'm a heavy leather boot fan. Always have been. But, I took a pair of trail runners out for a "test-drive" the other day.... First, a little bit about my trail experience: I did the PCT (1974) and CDT (1980) in the same boot (had to change soles only twice in nearly 6,000 miles while the uppers fit like a glove). A nice cost savings. For the past 34 years, I'm out on-trail an average of 150 days a year teaching wilderness safety skills in these wonders of durable design and they "work" great for me.

“In those 34 years I've purchased 3 pairs of new boots and have never gotten a single blister nor had to go through any sort of protracted boot "break-in" to make them ready for the trail. (However, back in 1974 when I did the PCT, the Vasque boots I used did require extensive pre-trail softening with oil and walking just to get them to flex. Thankfully, boots are built better these days!) Believe it or not, I actually like the weight on my feet! It adds what I call "swing-weight" to my leg action and I step farther...but I have long legs, anyway. Come April, when I transition off snowshoes and put on my hiking boots again, my legs get used to the weight over the first few days on trail and all feels good.

“On steep downhills with my heavy pack, I pound down on top of all sorts of big and little rocks, sharp pointy rocks, rock edges, branches, roots, and even slippery scree and don't feel any impact on my plantar fascia, balls of feet, or heels. The low, soft Achilles tendon panel sits just right so it doesn't dig into the tendon and cause tendonitis (this did happen once with one design and brought a trip to a sudden halt, sending me limping home).

1“Because I teach my students to "Look up" to enjoy the scenery we're hiking through, some of my attention is not focused on obstacles and hazards in the trail, so my feet tend to crash into things as demonstrated by all the gashes and punctures around the leather toe box. I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm partly out there for the view. Who wants to stare at the trail all day while walking...?

Creek crossings are simple. I walk right through them, have great traction, and don't worry about punctures or cuts. After changing sock sets on the other side, my boots dry out in a few miles, even when on snow. (You'll need to keep the outside of your boots waterproof and don't trust Gore-Tex in footwear).

“Most of my students don't get it. They firmly believe that trail runner footwear is the only way to hike! Other things encourage us to try the new fad (from my point of view), as well, 1. you read the pro-trail-runner rants on social media, 2. all the footprints on the trail are made by trail runners, and 3. you don't want to feel different. you read the pro-trail-runner rants on social media and all the footprints on the trail are made by trail runners.

“So, recently, I "test-drove" a pair of popular trail runners and this is what I noticed: The shoes were amazingly light and I felt like my feet could fly around in any direction. This was novel and fun, but I felt vulnerable. Every little rock impacted straight into my arch, heel, and ball of my foot. I had to watch the trailbed pretty closely to avoid anything protruding that could hurt my feet if I stepped on it. Basically, I had to be more careful about where I stepped and most of the time that took emergency "collision avoidance maneuvers." By the time the hike was over, my feet were pretty sore. (I think over a long hike you might get used to paying this kind of attention to the trailbed). Although the shoe had a Vibram sole, it was very flexible and could twist easily, so it couldn't hold an edge on rocks or snow. Where I had to step on steeply inclined rock or snow, the shoe would roll flat and tend to slip, especially on scree or snow. Where the trail became very narrow and tall-ish boulders lined the route, my exposed ankle bones got cut up pretty good. During one creek-crossing, the soft sole of one shoe got wedged between two boulders in thigh-deep whitewater and the shoe pulled off, mid-stream! Luckily it stayed there long enough for me to limp tenderly through the rest of the stream, avoiding some of the sharper rocks and pointy sticks on the creek bottom, to drop my pack on the other side and return into the creek to rescue the shoe. The soft uppers of the shoes did not do well with abrasion on granite, either, as some of the stitching and fabric panels showed small tears, especially near the little toes and along the sides of the toe box. Vulcanized rubber soles can either de-laminate from the uppers at the little toe flex area or separate from the mid-sole over time and miles. This did not happen to me on this maiden voyage, but I've seen it plague long-distance thru hikers in the past, forcing them off-trail to find a new pair. (Heavy leather boots often have their soles stitched via a "Norwegian welt" to their uppers, thus making sole replacement easily done by most any cobbler near the trail).

“What you choose to wear is a very personal decision. The only real way to find out what 'works' for you is to try out different designs, like with tents, stoves, sleeping pads and bags, and even food, then make up your own mind! These were my observations about hiking in trail runners in the high Sierra above 10,000 feet while carrying my usual "heavy-trucker" pack. I would imagine that if your pack was lighter, impacts to the plantar aspect of the foot and its tendons and fascia would not be so risky or painful. So, be picky! Test different styles and designs on trailbed similar to what you expect on the more rugged sections of the route you want to hike. Any shoe is going to feel great in a city park, but take it on a test-hike up to the weathered trails at 11,000 or 12,000 feet and see how it treats you. This way you won't go through the painful-feet stage at the beginning of most thru hikes and you can enjoy the journey from start to finish!” [Susan] Comments readers???

5#3. This is tarantula mating time—at least in these parts. September through October is the main mating time for tarantulas, so that is when you are most likely to see them on the trail. The spiders weave webs just outside the female’s burrow. Generally, if you see one of these large arachnids, it will be a male because the females spend most of their time indoors. If all goes well, “the male approaches the female’s burrow and taps on the web. If the female is willing, she will come outside and receive his sperm, which he deposits on a web that she then receives and use to fertilize her eggs.” The female can live up to 25 years, the male up to 8 (perhaps that is in part because sometimes the female eats the male after mating. Tarantulas are slow-moving, so it’s ok to photograph them, but avoid touching them or picking them up. (info from National Park Service).

#4. Fitbit comments: I heard from a few people and to excerpt a few comments: Kay Porter of Oregon, who coaches a marathon walking group in Oregon, wrote I coach a marathon walking group and decided to try a Fitbit. I liked it but it died while I was hiking the Rogue River trail. Too much sweating? Who knows! Many of my walkers use something similar too.

Then she “got a Garmin, and actually like it even better as it is much easier to read in the sun or at night. I also found that the Garmin is much closer in actual mileage than the Fitbit was. She found that when she and a friend used to walk together with the Charge HR, the step count and the mileage were never the same.”

Ralph and I have the same issue, but that could be because we have different strides. On the Charge HR (which both Ralph and I have) you are supposed to enter your stride length when you initially setup your device, but it is hard to calibrate perfectly because strides vary when on flat and hilly terrain.

In conclusion, Kay wrote, “My Garmin is the $150 model not a GPS model. I enjoy wearing it and it does motivate me to move even more than I do already.”

Lisa Clements wrote, “Yes I have a Fitbit. The thing I don't like about it is that it is NOT waterproof, so none of the swimming counts as steps, of course that makes sense. But oh well, I can track movement. 

#5. Geolyn, who does the entertaining cartoon on hiking the PCT featuring the intrepid hiker,  Boots McFarland, wrote, Just wanted to let you know your newsletter went into my spam folder (gmail).  It's never done that before and I haven't changed any settings so you might want to ask a few people if this happened to them as well.  I'd hate for you to lose part of your audience and not even know it.” [Susan] If you, reader, are reading this, the newsletter probably came to our inbox. However, if there are months when it doesn’t show up, it may be that it got into your Spam folder. This has even happened to my copy, which is pretty weird, wouldn’t you say!

#6. About the Cairngorms. When Ralph and I were in Scotland this September, we lucked out; the weather was pretty terrific. We had been warned about biting midges (tiny flying insects) that can appear in swarms. A friend, Chris MacKay, told us to get head nets (mosquito nets don’t work because midges are smaller) if needed. He said if we were to run into these pests, “It will be an experience you will not forget.” However, we didn’t encounter them—whether because of where we were—away from marshy areas or because there was sufficient wind to keep them at bay—we don’t know. What we do know is that spending time in Cairngorms National Park in Northeast Scotland was delightful. This is the largest national park in the UK. 

4Our favorite hike, and there were many options, was climbing to the top of Cairngorm Mountain. (We also rode the funicular that goes up the side of the mountain, but it doesn’t go as high.) The hike was wonderful, and there were some alternate routes with different degrees of difficulty. The 360-degree view from the peak was terrific, but the best part of all was finding ourselves in the midst of a herd of reindeer grazing near the path. They were quite used to hikers apparently because they passed by us unperturbed. Reindeer were native here several hundred years ago, but had been wiped out. Seven of them were reintroduced, from Scandinavia in 1952 and their numbers have grown considerably to about 150. (There is also a business, the Reindeer Centre, near the town of Aviemore, where a walks of various length with guides will take you to see them.) 

#7.  The 20th annual Gathering of Pilgrims, “The Camino Community: Past, Present, and Future,” will be Thur. March 23, 2017 to Sunday, March 26, 2017 at the Calvin Center in Hampton, GA (near Atlanta). The Hospitalero Training will be Tuesday, March 21 - Thursday, March 23, 2017. More info will be posted on

#8. Camino and other travelers. Helpful Hint from Darlene P. Grant, “Take an S hook to hang on the shower door for your clothes to hang on.”

#9. Camino: Northern California Chapter - American Pilgrims on the Camino. “Tastes of the Camino comes to the San Francisco Bay Area -  October 14 & 16 . American Pilgrims on the Camino member, Yosmar Martinez, has just published her first cookbook featuring foods about the Camino and she will be in the San Francisco Bay Area teaching a cooking class featuring recipes from her book as well as having a conversation about the foods of Spain. Please see below for all the details.

October 14, 2016, 6 PM . Back to the Table, 271 Lafayette Circle, Lafayette, CA 94549. 
Hands-on cooking class. The best cookbooks aren't just about cooking - they also bring together culinary passion and exploration. That description perfectly sums up Yosmar Martinez's exquisite Tastes of the Camino. Focusing on foods along an ancient pilgrimage route in northern Spain, the book reveals the luscious, amazing dishes of a food-rich region. Join Yosmar’s hands-on class and savor some of her favorites. The book will be available for purchase after the class.

Pan con Tomate y Jamón Serrano (Toasted Bread with Tomato and Serrano Ham)
Ensalada de Garbanzos y Tomates (Chickpea and Tomato Salad)
Paella Mixta (Chicken and Shellfish Paella)
Tarta de Santiago (St. James Almond Cake)

$95. For more information and to register, please click here or contact Back to the Table Cooking School at(925) 284-1120.

3 October 16, 2016 ,  12-2 PM . Tastes of the Camino at The Spanish Table, 1814 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA. Conversation about foods of Spain, Tarta de Santiago tasting, and book signing

Come listen to Yosmar Martinez talk about her cookbook, Tastes of the Camino, and the foods of Spain. Indulge in her famous Tarta de Santiago and have her sign your book. There is no cost to attend this event. The book will be available for purchase at the store.

"Please note that these events are not organized, endorsed or sponsored by American Pilgrims on the Camino; they are only being shared with you on a one-time basis because we believe it might be of interest to you as a pilgrim."

Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #212 September 2016


  1. Overnight backcountry users in Lassen must now use a bear canister (photo below of Lassen NP). 
  2. Fixing Your Feet clinics?
  3.  Ultra races
  4.  How to find shoes that fit you best
  5.  Early notice 2017 Sierra Club outings
  6.  Melting glaciers
  7.  Sky treats
  8.  Stay active = less dementia?
  9.  Ticks spread range in U.S.
  10.  Do you wear a Fitbit or similar device?
  11.  Why I use hiking poles 
  12.  Please spread the word...


#1. Bear canisters now required in Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA. From the National Park Service: “New!Bear Canister Bear AdvisoryOvernight backcountry users must use a bear canister to store food and scented items. This regulation is in response to increased negative bear and human interactions in the park. Visit thebear safety page for more information.
Food, toiletries, utensils, cookware, and other food-scented items must be stored in an NPS approved canister when not in use or unattended.
NPS approved bear resistant food storage containers include: Backpacker Model 812; BearVault 110b, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500; Bearikade Weekender MKII and Bearikade Expedition (1766 and higher); The Bear Keg; The Bare Boxer Contender (101) and Champ (202); and Lighter 1 Big Daddy and Little Sami.

#2. John Vonhof, author of Fixing Your Feet, is considering doing one-day foot care clinics in 2017. Here's some more info from him. “One-Day Foot Care Clinics
“Since the 6th edition of Fixing Your Feet came out and I worked Western States 100 and Badwater for another year, I’ve been thinking about putting on a few one-day foot care clinics in 2017. “I‘d like to do these around the U.S. – in Northern California, Southern California, Florida, maybe Texas and Oregon, and elsewhere if there is enough interest. If it were just me, I could teach 10 people. If I had a knowledgeable helper, we could teach 20 people. If there were enough in one area, we could do it twice in two days.

“My preferred audience would be athletes who want to learn the finer points of patching feet, taping, blister care, shoe modification, and more. I envision different sections: the basics, hot spots and blisters, toes, general taping, specialized taping, post event care, and more. This would be full hands-on training. Ideally attendees would like to learn and then share the skills with others – medical people, runners’ crews, those with a keen interested to learn but without the opportunities to learn. "Attendees would receive full instruction, watch and do the skills, get hands-on with the tools and tapes, handouts, copies of the presentations on CD, and a bunch of goodies I’d try to get from companies with relevant foot care products.

"If you are interested in this kind of foot care clinic, please send me an email and tell me where you are located. I’ll collect names and locations, and if there is enough interest, will get back to everyone in future emails.”

#3. Not for everyone, but what a couple of challenges! Registration for the 2017 Grand to Grand Ultra (6th Edition) has opened. This is a footrace from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the summit of the Grand Staircase. Event is  September 24 – 30, 2017.  Registration can be made online through this website:

2Also now open for registration is G2G’s new sister race, the Mauna to Mauna Ultra. Event is  May 14 – 20, 2017. “Conquer volcanoes, lava flows, rainforest, extreme altitude and weather conditions on Hawaii Island while you run on the largest and highest mountains in the world.  A life-changing week of survival that will test your endurance limits in the remotest place on earth.” Registration for this event is

#4. To find out how to find the perfect fit in your hiking boots (or shoes), check out this wonderful guide by Walsh Brothers Shoes

#5. I know it’s early to be planning trips for 2017, but since Halloween candies are already in the store and Thanksgiving displays must be up soon, maybe it's not. Anyway, Sierra Club Outings are now listed in their magazine and it’s not too early to sign up for such trips as: Patagonia (Jan 13-30) #17505A; Women’s Adventure in Costa Rica ( Apr 1-9) #17565A; Cinque Terre (June 1-12) #17625S; and Picos de Europa and Camino de Santiago (Aug 30- Sep 10) (Camino photo)


#6. UC Wellness Letter (June 2016) reports that “Older People who stay physically active have less age-related loss of brain volume than their sedentary counterparts.” This is from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 876 people over 65 yrs. of age participated. The active group expended at least 500 calories per day at such activities as walking, dancing, cycling, golfing and gardening. Measurements showed that the more active group had a higher volume of gray matter. Atrophy of gray matter has been associated with greater cognitive decline and dementia. (University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter).

#7. Sky treats. Hope you can find a place without competing light so you can see some of these September and October meteor showers: Oct. 7-10, the Draconids, peaks on the 9th. Usually a minor display, but Tom Stienstra in the S.F. Chronicle (8/14/16) reported that in 1946 it had 10,000 per hour! Oct. 2- Nov.7, peak Oct 21, is the Orionids. Forecast is for 10-20 per hour. Longer range: Dec. 4-16, peak Dec. 14th, is the Geminids, forecast is 100-120 per hour.

#8. Melting glaciers = growing concern. The Associated Press reports that the melting of such glaciers as the Pastoruri Glacier, Peru, not only can threaten the water supply of communities nearby over time, they also can cause disasters. Scientists say that a glog (a glacial lake outburst flood) can lead to a “sudden, dramatic tragedy.” A glog can result from the collapse of a weakened mountain wall—and the lake held back by the mountain wall is suddenly released and floods lands or creates landslides that affect whatever is downstream. One example of a glog occurred in 2013, when a lake in Bernardo O’Higgins National Park (Patagonia) rapidly drained. That one was in a remote area, but as more climate changes occurs, more glogs will occur and some are very near to more populated areas.  (S.F. Chronicle 8/17/2016.) (photo: glacier in Torres de Paine, Chile).

#9. Ticks. The blacklegged tick, which causes Lyme Disease, is widening its range. The CDC refers to a report in the Journal of Medical Entomology that says that these ticks are now in 50% of all U.S. counties. Lyme Disease affects more than 30,000 people in the U.S. annually. Lyme Disease is usually shown by a red, bullseye rash around the site of the bite; some people have flu-like symptoms.

According to, “Only a minority of blacklegged tick bites leads to Lyme disease. The longer the tick remains attached to your skin, the greater your risk of getting the disease. Lyme infection is unlikely if the tick is attached for less than 36 to 48 hours.” However, a tick bite can lead to serious complications, so if you think you have any of the symptoms, see your doctor.

#10. Request: If you wear a Fitbit
, or similar, we’d like to hear. Ralph and I wear Fitbits and really like them. Great to have a little nudge to get out and get those 10,000 steps (or more) a day. We also find them very helpful for keeping track of food and calories. If you wear one of the activity monitors, please send me an email with any comments you have that you would like to share and I will post a few.

#11. The many uses of hiking poles. Every so often I have fun thinking of all the ways we have used, or might have used, our hiking poles over the years. Here is my current list, maybe you have others ideas to tell us about:

Hiking: -- takes weight off lower body (legs, knees, ankles, feet), increases upper body strength.
-- allow you to go faster because you can propel yourself forward on uphill and flat terrain.
-- provides stability on uneven terrain – and crossing streams, etc.
-- prevents hands swelling (blood not rushing into hands as it does without poles)
-- something to lean against when you are exhausted
-- brushing spider webs out of the way
-- pushing shrubbery such as berry bushes out of the way (even poison oak or nettles if you very carefully clean the poles off later on.
-- depth gauge: how deep is the water, the mud, the snow?
-- signaling: I hold them several inches above my head to communicate to Ralph that there is a deer nearby, closer down to my head to indicate that there is a bear nearby. You can creative with this—discuss the signals with your hiking partner.
-- for fun: twirling them (like a cheerleader with a baton) as you walk along

Animal control: removes snakes from trail; 
-- potentially provides protection from dogs, bears, mountain lions, and other animals 

Camping: support for some kinds of tents

Other: knocking fruit out of trees

-- as a splint, if you should be unfortunate enough to break an arm or leg.

And, for fun, watch Eric Larsen on “Between Two Icebergs” demonstrate balancing a hiking pole on one finger AND playing oil drums with hiking poles.

#12. One last thing -- if you enjoy this newsletter, please pass word along to your friends that they, too, can subscribe (for free) by sending me an email at Thank you!

Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #211 August 2016

  1. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail section by section
  2. PCT Days in Cascade Locks - August 19-21
  3. Correction to coyote item
  4. Quick route to maps of our National Parks  
  5. How to get to the start of your Camino pilgrimage walk
  6. American Pilgrims – train for hospitalero service
  7. APOC Gathering for 2017
  8. Fires in the west – InciWeb info
  9. PCT warnings
  10. How to use hiking poles efficiently
  11. Happy news regarding Scott Jurek

#1. The Alcorns will be giving additional Pacific Crest Trail section hiking classes at REI through August. Not everyone can take the 4-5 months needed to thru-hike the entire 2,650 miles of the PCT, but it is certainly possible to do the entire thing as section hikes over many years (we did!). Join us at one of the following slide presentations and see how it can work for you.

33Tuesday August 2: REI Fremont 7-8:30 PM

Wednesday August 10: REI San Carlos 7-8:30 PM

Saturday August 13: REI Dublin 9:00 AM    (Note: morning start time!)

Tuesday August 16: REI San Francisco 7-8:30 PM

Wednesday August 31: REI Corte Madera 7-8:30 PM

#2. The 10th annual PCT Days takes place August 19-21, 2016 in Cascade Locks, Oregon -- near the Bridge of the Gods. It’ll be a fun weekend celebrating the Pacific Crest Trail. Join friends old and new for a few days of camping on Thunder Island, live music, a gear fair, games, hiking and more. This event is put on by Outdoor Viewfinder – for more information, visit

“Pacific Crest Trail Days is an annual 3-day festival that promotes outdoor recreation, with a focus on hiking, camping, and backpacking.  Attendees are able to check out the latest outdoor products from exhibiting sponsors, participate in activities & games, win awesome gear at the raffles, enjoy local food and beverages, listen to live music, and relax in the beautiful setting in the Marine Park of Cascade Locks, Oregon.  All raffle proceeds are donated to the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West.  PCT DAYS is free to attend, with a small fee for overnight camping on Thunder Island.  Don’t miss out on being a part of a great time at the 10th Anniversary Celebration of PCT DAYS!” Visit the event  Facebook  and  Twitter  pages for up-to-date news and special announcements!

#3. Correction to last month’s newsletter in the item about coyotes. I included information from a flyer entitled “Coexisting with Coyotes.” “Encountering coyotes: Coyotes are usually wary of people and bold behavior is unusual. Never try to feed or tame one. Walk dogs on a leash (pick up small dogs)."

And then I added, “If approached, be big and loud. Scare it away with a whistle, popping open an umbrella, throwing animalstowards it. What I meant to say was, throwing sticks towards it. Go to Project Coyote (project of Earth Island Institute) for additional information. ) Thanks to Marcy for pointing this out!

#4. National Park Maps is a site that “currently has 1,187 free high-resolution national park maps to view, save, and download.” The following link goes to the site and provides a much easier way of finding national park maps because here they are all in one place. You can view all parks alphabetically or sort by state and the downloads are free.  This is an amazing resource; thank you Joyce Bender for sending in this info.

#5. Laurie A. Ferris, whose popular blog, TheCamino Provides, provides useful information for pilgrims, recently came upon a very helpful website for anyone wanting to get to the starting point of their walk. Rome2Rio shows all sorts of public transportation options as well as costs.
#6. More Camino news: The next hospitalero training will be August 19-21 in Milwaukie (Portland area), Oregon. The American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) is planning another training in November; location and dates to be decided shortly. Please check the American Pilgrims website for registration details. You can also email

#7. In April of this year, the APOC had its annual gathering in St. Louis. Next year, it is planned for March 23-26, 2017, in the Atlanta area -- at the Calvin Center, Hampton, Georgia. The gathering is a good opportunity for meeting other Camino travelers, learning some history about the trail, and gathering practical tips for your own Camino.

#8. Unfortunately, here in the west there are many fires raging. Some are, or have been, near the Pacific Crest Trail – the Bybee fire at Crater Lake, Oregon comes to mind. It has resulted in a trail closure through the area. You can see current fire reports at

#9. Hikers also should keep track of warnings and precautions, which are issued to prevent more destruction. Currently, Alcohol stoves now banned in Inyo National Forest Fri Jul 29, 2016 9:09 am (PDT) . John Curran Ladd posted, “Inyo NF workers were posting new campfire restrictions at the Taboose trailhead as I exited on July 27.” Alcohol stoves, no;  Jetboils, Whisperlites and similar stoves are OK.


#10. I’m sure that you have seen people using hiking poles in a manner that seems terribly inefficient. If you are one who isn’t sure how to get the most out of your poles, you might consider a session where you can learn more about them. Jayah Faye Paley gives classes in the S.F. Bay Area; she has four courses open in East Bay Regional Parks this month. See . Then “Browse classes” on the right side of the screen and then enter “hiking poles” where you can search.     

#11. You may recall that Scott Jurek caused quite an uproar when he ended his record-breaking Appalachian Trail hike on July 12, 2015. He was in trouble with park officials for breaking three regulations – consumption of alcohol, littering, and too large a group (the latter two were dropped; he paid a fine for the first even though he said that he drank only a few sips of the champagne). He also upset some people in the hiking community who felt that his hike was more a celebrity stunt than a back-to-nature experience or an opportunity to bond with other hikers along the way. His setting what is claimed to be a new record also didn’t set well with those who think a clear distinction should be made between assisted and non-assisted hikes. Jurek set a new record, 46 days, eight hours, and seven minutes, beating Heather “Anish” Anderson’s 54 days record – but Jurek’s hike/run was supported -- his wife, Jenny, prepared his food each night and he slept in their van. Anderson was “self-supported.”

22However, Jurek and Jenny have other reasons to celebrate now – they had their first baby, Raven, in early June. (Jurek is on Facebook if you want to follow him). and “Walk Hard” by Steve Friedman, ( Jun 2016)

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #210 July 2016


  1. Alcorns giving Pacific Crest Trail section-hiking clinics
  2. Preventing overuse injuries
  3. Hiker/backpacker blogs to watch
  4. ZPacks for me
  5. Getting deals on airline fares
  6. Cardio fitness for hikers
  7. Crocks?
  8. Hospitalero training for the Camino
  9. Trail Angel Donna Saufley sets out for Canada!
  10. Inga Aksamit’s resources for hikers and her new book
  11. Coyotes of the four-legged variety.


Hi friends, 
Our long absence (and the reason that there was no June newsletter) was because we were hiking some new (to us) Camino routes in Spain. We hiked all of the Primitivo and the remainder of the Norte (which we had started last year).

#1. Good news! Ralph and I are giving a number of talks/slide presentations in July and August on section-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. 
“Not everyone has the time and inclination to thru-hike the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), but many dream of hiking part of it. Others would like to do all of it--eventually, but how? When Ralph and Susan Alcorn made their first hike on the PCT in 1989, it was really about climbing Mt. Whitney. They didn't plan to complete the JMT, much less the PCT, but after a few more Sierra trips, the bug took hold and they went on to complete both. They started doing two trips a year on the PCT--one in Southern California in early spring, and one in Northern California and points north in late summer. They continued doing 400 or so miles each year until, finally, in 2010, they made their final push and did their 400 miles through the Cascades in Washington.

The Alcorns will give an overview of the PCT--such as the route, elevations, and resupply info. Who is hiking? How difficult is it? What resources are available (such as water reports)? They'll share tips and best practices. Throughout, you'll enjoy images of the journey. The goal is to help you plan and prepare for your own adventures--whether for sections of a few dozen miles or of a few hundred.”

We are very excited about these events; please mark your calendars and join us. Events are free, but reservations at REI events are highly recommended. Details and signups can be found at

1.      Tuesday July 12: REI Berkeley

2.      Wednesday July 13 San Francisco Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA. 415-557-4539.

3.      Tuesday July 19: REI Mountain View

4.      Wednesday July 20: REI Concord

5.      Tuesday July 26: REI Saratoga

6.      Tuesday August 2: REI Fremont

7.      Wednesday August 10: REI San Carlos

8.      Saturday August 13: REI Dublin

9.      Tuesday August 16: REI San Francisco

10.  Wednesday August 31: REI Corte Madera

#2. At the winter Northern California Camino gathering, Scott Williams gave a session on overuse injuries. Laurie Ferris, author of the blog,  The Camino Provides, has made available a taping of the talk. Williams writes, “Along with the focus on trail injuries, I go into a bit of pole use technique and gear specifics that may be of interest to anyone going out on a long hike, or even just a day hike.  It’s in 3 You Tube videos.”   The fourth video here, takes you to Ferris’ blog about a challenging hike lead by Williams on Mt. Diablo (S.F. Bay Area) that Ferris went on. She was proud to complete, and happy that she survived to tell the tale!

Injury Prevention 1: 

Injury Prevention 2: 

Injury Prevention 3:

Burma Road Hike: 

#3. Scott Williams has a list of blogs to follow on his own blog for those who “want to follow people’s summer [backpacking] adventures.” Here are a few blogs that he lists as well as his own here, "If you’re interested in my Madagascar hike, this is the site I’ll use once I get going on it.  At this point it’s still got our hike of the Camino from last year.  So if you’re interested in a walk across Spain, it’s all still there."  

William’s photos are about a lot more than hiking; he brings us wonderful images of paintings, sculptures, architecture and other forms of art from wherever his travels take him.

from Scott's list:
Whitney “Allgood” Laruffa: Allgood, as he is known in the hiking community, is the president of the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West. He’s a great guy, a good friend and a terrific hiker. He’s recently begun a thru hike of the Continental Divide Trail, which begins at the Mexican border in New Mexico and follows the spine of the Rocky Mountains, 3,000 miles all the way to Canada, crossing our northern border at Waterton Lake in Glacier National Park.  The CDT was the best adventure of my life, and if you want to follow an exciting summer trail journey, this may be it.  


Tim Tim is the person who, while training for a summiting of Shasta, took me up the Burma Road on Diablo for the first time about 9 years ago, and nearly killed me! After collapsing on trail, I returned and have used that massive climb as the center of my weekly workouts ever since. Tim’s a great hiker and terrific guy whose been training with me for many years now. He began a thru hike of the PCT this year with Jerry Behymer. They’re over 550 miles up trail as of 5-9-16.  


#4. While on the subject of Scott Williams (see above), it is thanks to his recommendation that we took a look at products by Z-Packs. Though they are pricey (Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday?) they are of excellent quality and ultra lightweight. Ralph purchased a backpack that he finds more comfortable than any that he has had previously, and we both purchased their sleeping bags/quilts. The quilts are almost lighter than air; mine (rated to 40 degrees) weighs 11.4 oz. and takes up very little room in my pack. Perfect for Camino-bound travelers.

#5. Robert sent a very helpful comment related to airline fares (have you ever noticed that once you search for a fare, you are recognized and can never seem to get a better deal?) “I make it a habit to run CCleaner (it means Crap Cleaner) every two or three days. It is a free download and removes the cookies, and many other things including your passwords, meaning you must log on again every time after using it.​

However, my sister claims that on some sites for articles of clothing for example, the price was reduced by $10 or so upon returning a couple days later.

#6. Fitness CARDIO. Make Hiking More Fun! What you do before hitting the trail makes all the difference between pleasure and pain.This article by Maggie Spilner and Sarah Robertson gives exercises specifically for hikers/backpackers. 

#7. Marcyn (of We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill fame) sends this hint and jingle about bringing Crocks on a back pack:Crocks are no good on rocks!” 

#8. The August 2016 hospitalero training registration is open! If you've been looking for a way to say thank you for all that the Camino has given you, look no further than American Pilgrims on the Camino and its hospitalero training courses. American Pilgrims' next training session is Friday, August 19th through Sunday, August 21st, 2016, in Portland, Oregon and registration is now open!

The cost is $275, which includes the training, two nights' accommodations and all meals Friday evening through Sunday lunch. Towels and linens are provided. You must stay at the training facility. No off-site lodging. You must attend the entire training for certification so please plan your travel accordingly. Last day to register is Friday, August 5th or sooner if all the openings fill.

In order to be eligible for training as an hospitalero, applicants must have overnighted in at least three non-private (municipal, parochial or association-run) albergues on the Camino, must have walked at least 100 km (or biked 200 km) of the Camino, and must be a member of American Pilgrims on the Camino.

#9. I was happy to read that Donna L-Rod Saufley, the incredible trail angel of Agua Dulce in Southern California, has taken off to finish the Pacific Crest Trail. She posed on Facebook (July 1), “On the tarmac, waiting to push back from the gate. The planning and preparation is done, the adventure about to begin. It has taken years to get to this day. Burney to Border or Bust, Baby!”

Full speed ahead, Donna. If anyone deserves tender loving care on their PCT hike, it is Donna in return for the years that she has helped and encouraged the thousands of backpackers who have come through Hiker Heaven.

#10. I just found an excellent website for wannabe hikers/backpackers of the JMT and Sierra by Inga Aksamit. BTW, Inga was recently awarded the Best Outdoor Book Award from the Outdoor Writers Association of California in 2016, Highs and Lows on the John Muir Trail. A review, a “lively account of one woman’s adventure on the John Muir Trail. It is a must-read for those who plan to hike the trail or anyone interested in the trail. Written in journal style, the author’s description of the majestic scenery, camaraderie of trail friends and challenges of the terrain are engaging and informative. Along the way, trekkers will see how she and her husband met challenges …”

#11. Coyotes, “Coexisting with Coyote” is the title of a flyer that was given out recently when a neighborhood meeting was held in response to the increased sightings of these four-legged creatures in our urban setting. Several points were made that I found of interest: Because they are omnivores, they will eat rodents, insects, lizards, vegetables and fruits. They will also eat pet food and unsecured garbage. And, of course, they will occasionally eat cats and small dogs. Owners of small pets should keep their animals indoors, or in protected areas (6 ft. high fencing or similar).

In rural areas, coyotes may hunt day or night; in urban areas, coyotes tend to be more nocturnal, but they may also be seen at dawn and dusk.

Encountering coyotes: Coyotes are usually wary of people and bold behavior is unusual. Never try to feed or tame one. Walk dogs on a leash (pick up small dogs). 
If approached, be big and loud. Scare it away with a whistle, popping open an umbrella, throwing animals towards it. Do not run; leave the area. Info from: Project Coyote (project of Earth Island Institute). )

Note: It is always nice to hear from you--of your adventures on the trail, of hints, news, positive suggestions, and more. Thank you for reading!

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn


Susan Alcorn's Hiking and Backpacking Newsletter #209, May 2016

  1. PCT presentations
  2. PCTA to publish book about the PCT
  3. Best day to buy an airline ticket 
  4. Footwear for the trail
  5. For light, but good quality, camera reviews
  6. S F Bay Area Regional: Challenging hikes with Shroomer and friends 
  7. S F Bay Area Regional: Fun hikes for Camino-bound hikers
  8. Follow Susan on

3#1.Yay, Ralph and I are going to be giving talks in July and August on doing the Pacific Crest Trail by section-hiking. Much more info later, but I am very excited about these events; mark your calendars. Events are free, but reservations at REI events are highly recommended. (I don’t have the course numbers yet; the information should soon appear at )

Tuesday July 12 : REI Berkeley
Wednesday July 13  San Francisco Library,100 Larkin St., San Francisco, CA. 415-557-4539.
Tuesday July 19 : REI Mountain View
Wednesday July 20 : REI Concord
Tuesday July 26 : REI Saratoga
Tuesday August 2 : REI Fremont
Wednesday August 10 : REI San Carlos
Saturday August 13 : REI Dublin
Tuesday August 16 : REI San Francisco
Wednesday August 31 : REI Corte Madera

#2. From “Trail Dirt, Electronic News from the Pacific Crest Trail Association.” The PCTA is writing a book about the trail. “We’re excited to announce that PCTA and Rizzoli International have teamed up to publish the first extensive history of the creation of the trail. This coffee table book is filled with beautiful photographs and fascinating stories about the creation of the trail, the visionaries who made it happen as well as those of you who continue to maintain and protect it. Release is set for  Oct. 4, 2016 . More to come on this.´ (from issue #33, April 29, 2016)

#3. Best day to buy your airline ticket. According to AARP (Bulletin 4/16), the best days are  Saturday  or  Sunday  followed by Tuesday .  Friday  is usually the worst. Book domestic flights 57 days out; 160 days ahead for the Asia-Pacific region; 176 days ahead for Europe.

Have you wondered why it is when you first check on a fare it is one price and a few hours later it is more expensive? One possibility that has been suggested, though reportedly airlines deny it, is that the websites keep track of your visits. It’s been suggested that you clear any related “cookies” on your computer before you go back in.   

#4. A second pair of footwear. As you probably know if you have been following Ralph’s and my comments over the years about footwear on long hikes or backpack trips, we wear trail runners rather than heavy boots. On Camino hikes when you stay in albergues (and sometimes private accommodations), it is often required that you take off your hiking shoes and leave them off while you are in the building.

So—for your second pair of shoes (and I am reminded of this by Rod Hoekstra’s recent Facebook post on American Pilgrims on the Camino), it’s a good idea to bring something lightweight to wear inside and in the shower. Ralph brings a pair of Teva sandals. I usually have a pair of fancy Mephisto sandals that I like to wear for going to dinner, but they are not usable in the shower. Both of us find our 2nd pair of shoes comfortable enough to wear around town; Ralph’s can be used as a back-up for hiking. Many people bring flipflops—if you do, be sure you are used to them before you plan to walk any great distance; they can be very painful between the toes. ‎

On the Pacific Crest Trail, where carrying extra weight is avoided at all costs, many hikers don’t bring extra weight, but some bring Crocs, flipflops, or even create unique, lightweight slippers using removable insoles and laces.  

#5. Lightweight and good cameras. Marc Longwood of Bay Area Travel Writers and forwards this link to “A good guide for top cameras that will fit in a coat pocket, have exceptional image quality, and offer a range of features...” 

1#6. Regional: SF Bay Area Regional: Scott “Shroomer” Williamsputs out a call most every week to join him and his intrepid band of hikers on some very challenging Bay Area hikes. Here are a three coming up soon:  
Tuesday, 5-3-16 , I’ll be climbing Mt. Diablo on the Burma Road with the addition of the Grand Loop.  This trail has grades of 42 percent.  Be forewarned, these sections are very steep. I’ll meet people at the Peet’s Coffee at 1835 Ygnacio Valley Road (near the corner of Bancroft) in Walnut Creek, at  8am  so we can car pool into the State Park.  A map can be found at  Driving into the park is $10 if you want to bring your own car.

“The hike begins where the Burma Rd. crosses the North Gate Rd. and climbs 4 miles to the summit of Mt. Diablo, an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet.  The actual route begins up Burma Rd. continues onto the Angel Kearly Trail, Mother’s Trail, Burma Rd again, Deer Flat Rd to Juniper Camp and the Juniper Trail to the summit.  It’s the same elevation gain and distance as base camp at Lake Helen to the top of Mt. Shasta.  From the Summit we’ll head down the backside on the Summit Trail, North Peak Trail, Bald Ridge Trail, Meridian Ridge Rd, Deer Flat Rd and finally loop back the Burma Rd and down to our cars.  The whole hike is approx. 11 miles and lots of vertical.   I’m hoping to be back at our cars by  2 to 3pm .

“This is a very strenuous hike and one of the best quick hiking workouts in the Bay Area.  It is not a trail for beginners who are unsure of themselves on steep and slippery hills.  By the end of summer, every little pebble begins to act like a ball bearing and hiking poles are highly recommended.  Once it rains, it gets easier, but it is always a marvelous place to improve your surefootedness, balance and overall strength both up and downhill.  Bring lunch, water, a hat, gloves clothing for the weather, good hiking shoes and hiking poles which are especially useful on the steep downhill.

Briones Regional Park and Briones ReservoirThursday, 5-5-16. “This will be a 20 mile hike linking Briones Regional Park and the contiguous trails in the watershed lands of the Briones Reservoir.  It’s not a particularly tough trail, but it is a long one.  It is a great place for new hikers to join us for a mile or more at the start, only going as far as feels right for your fitness level.  Briones is incredibly beautiful this year.  The rain has come and the park is a sea of emerald.  It’s one of the best times of the year to visit the East Bay Hills. 

4“I’ll be meeting folks at the Briones Road Trailhead at the end of Briones Rd. at  8am .  From the Parking lot at the end of Briones Rd. we’ll head up the trail to the Briones Ridge, over it and down to the Bear Creek Staging area where we cross the road and enter the East Bay MUD watershed lands surrounding the Briones Reservoir.  An EBMUD hiking permit is required and can be purchased online at:   each permit covers four people total.  I have one and others may as well, but it’s a good thing to have if you hike in the East Bay.  We’ll hike the circumference of the reservoir and then return to Briones Regional Park and back to our start.  I’m hoping to make it back to our cars by  3pm to 4pm .  :  [The terrain of this hike is not difficult, but it is long. editor.]

“Bring a lunch, plenty of water, clothing for the weather, a sun hat and a map of Briones in case you get separated.  You can download it at:   A map of the watershed lands can be found at: 

“Trailhead Directions:  The trailhead is just south of Martinez.  Take Hwy 4 to the exit at Alhambra Ave. and go south, away from downtown.  Take the first right onto Alhambra Valley Rd.  Confusing names, but it's the first right you can make. Drive about a mile till the road Ts into Reliez Valley Rd and go right again.  Drive one block, and make the first left you can onto Briones Rd.  This will wind up through the hills and end at the trailhead. 

2Double Dipsea Hike on Mt. TamalpaisSaturday, 5-7-16: “Dipsea Trail on Mt. Tamalpais, meeting at  8:00am  at the trailhead at the Old Mill Park in Mill Valley, or 7am  at my house in Martinez, 4444 Canyon Way, to carpool to Mill Valley.  This will be a “Double Dipsea” out to Stinson Beach and back.  I’ll be hiking this one fast.

“The Dipsea race in June is one of the oldest cross country races in America, beginning with the 688 stairs leading out of Mill Valley and finishing at Stinson Beach on the other side of Mt. Tam.  Out and back will be a bit under 15 miles and approx. 4,200 vertical feet in elevation gain.  It’s one of the great trails of America, dipping into Muir Woods and then climbing the heights overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  On a clear day it has incredible views of the Farallon Islands and the western portion of San Francisco.  This is a strenuous hike but anyone can start the stairs and wind through the Mill Valley hill neighborhoods and get just the right amount of exercise for your fitness level.  Or, start at Muir Woods for a shorter, but still spectacular hike.

“If you come a bit early you may be able to find all day parking in the neighborhoods near the Old Mill Park, or right along the side of the park.  If you’re driving on your own, give time for finding parking.  I know of no available parking in downtown Mill Valley.” 

Bring a lunch, water, hiking poles and clothing for the weather.  A map of the Dipsea Trail is available at most REIs.  I’m hoping to be back at my place by  5pm  at the latest.  There is usually a shuttle bus from Stinson Beach if you decide that one Dipsea is enough for you.

Warning and Disclaimer

"For folks new to this list, these hikes are merely a meet up at trailheads, there is no 'hike leader,' certainly not me. I’m simply a hiker who has a passion for acquainting people with some of the wonderful trails in the Bay Area that most don’t even know exist.  Quite an array of hikers meet me and we all hike at our own pace.  Many are long distance “thru hikers” who have completed one or more National Scenic Trail.  Trying to organize “thru hikers” is like herding cats.  Although we tend to start together, the line usually spreads out pretty quickly.  So everyone is responsible for their own safety and should be cognizant of the trail they come in on so they can back out if this becomes necessary, possibly alone.  Please come prepared to take care of yourself with food and water, first aid, maps and clothing appropriate for the weather.” 

Shoot me an email or give me a call if you can make any of these hikes and I’ll see ya on trail! Scott “Shroomer” Williams. 925-768-4579

7. Bay Area Regional: Fun training hikes for Camino enthusiasts. Join the Nor. Cal Pilgrim group for their monthly first  Saturday walk ( May 7 ) around Lake Merritt. Bring questions, answers, stories, and more. Lake Merritt at the Pavilion, Oakland. Meet at  10:30 ; hike starts at  10:45 am  and goes clockwise around the lake. About three miles, allow 2 hours. Allow a few minutes to find street parking. No reservations required.

8. Follow me on for upcoming articles on hiking near (not in) Yosemite National Park. Both Hetch Hetchy and Hite Cove are outside the park and offer outstanding, less crowded hikes. Link here.

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Hiking and Backpacking Newsletter #208, April 2016

Beautiful weather continues here in the S.F. Bay Area. Our hills are green again due to the very welcome rains we had in February; the wildflowers make our hikes even more enjoyable. This newsletter is shorter than most because we have been celebrating family events—a birthday party for me; and a lovely wedding for my younger son.

  1. Just in case
  2. Correction re. Leave No Trace
  3. American Pilgrims on the Camino; make sure your credential is an approved one!!!
  4. Camino Pilgrim stats
  5. People and cattle can share open space
  6. When You’ve Got to Go, You’ve Got to Go!
  7. Winter Pilgrim greeted by church bells
  8. What to pack, what not to pack…
  9. Regional: SF Bay Area:  wildflowers
  10. Regional: SF Bay Area:  pilgrim hike and optional overnight

#1. I’ve read a couple of suggestions for personal safety while hiking. Kenneth Jessett wrote, “…I use heart shaped pet tags from Petsmart on my bike and hiking shoes. It has my name, blood type, contact info, city and state. Cheap and easy to get and make.” Another contributor says, “I hike with a RoadID dog tag with family contact information and health insurance company name.”

#2. Correction: In last month’s newsletter, I mentioned that the Pacific Crest Trail Assoc. (PCTA) had gone Leave no Trace (LNT). Actually, I should have said that it was East Bay Regional Parks (our local regional park system—largest of its type in the U.S.) that recently went LNT. The PCTA has long advocated, and educated, hikers about the ethics. Look here for their take on the topic. PCT link

In regards to LNT ethics: “Please don't discard orange or tangerine peels after you've had your midhike snack. Pack them back with you instead. Sometimes it appears as though people leave a trail of peels behind as they walk along to help them find their way back to their cars. Generally speaking, wild animals don't like the taste of orange peels any better than humans do. The peels will biodegrade eventually, but it takes a really long time, and in the meantime the peels create an unsightly mess.” From East Bay's Park It: Citrus peels are most unappealing -- don't leave them.” (Ned MacKay, East Bay Times 02/14/2016)

Actually, it takes, depending on the site, about six months to decompose. 

#3. Camino items: The 2016 APOC gathering and hospitalero training start this weekend. My wish is that the participants have a great and fruitful time. The March 2016 APOC newsletter, La Concha, had several items of interest to pilgrims:

a)   “Unfortunately, an increasing number of pilgrims have presented forms of credentials that were not issued or approved by the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Recently, the Dean of the Cathedral issued a warning that unapproved credentials may be rejected in 2016 and compostelas denied. We are happy to report that American Pilgrims on the Camino is one of the organizations that hasthe approval of the Cathedral to continue to issue credentials.” A pilgrim who arrives in the Pilgrims’ Office in Santiago to receive a compostela must present a proper credential.

b)  There are 34 chapters of American Pilgrims spread across the country? There are chapters in 18 states (some states have multiple chapters.). There are no APOC members from South Dakota! 

c)   In 2015, American Pilgrims issued nearly 7,000 credentials. 

#4. 2015 Camino Statistics: The total number of compostelas issued by the Pilgrims’ Welcome Office during the year was 262,458. This was a 10% increase over the previous year. Remember that this does not necessarily mean that this is the total number of people on the trail, but is the number registered in the Pilgrims’ office. Also, remember that not all of this number started in St. Jean or Roncesvalles. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of pilgrims from the U.S. and also as a percentage of the whole. 13,658 compostelas were awarded to U.S. passport holders, which made up 5.2% of the total. The movie, The Way, is given most of the credit for this increase.

Busiest times: August, July, September. For U.S. pilgrims, it is June, then October. There are still slightly more men than women on the Camino. “If you’re still reading this you might like to see all of this and more in graphic form. Go to the statistics page on the American Pilgrims website:” These statistics were compiled from data published by the Pilgrims’ Welcome Office in Santiago and from American Pilgrims’ credential records. èwww. Gene McCullough, Denver CO

#5.People and cattle can share open space. “When a hiker on 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 Agriculture and Natural Resources (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.

i1“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.

#6. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go! Please, don't leave litter along the Camino. One of the things that Camino-bound travelers worry about—particularly women—is where to go to the bathroom (¿Dónde está el baño? = Where is the bathroom?). The question arose at our recent Northern California Pilgrim blessing & potluck in Berkeley and some suggestions were given. I thought I would list those ideas and add a few more. Before I start however, I will mention that in my 2,000 plus miles on various Camino trails, I have been “caught” peeing only one time and that was really my own fault. I had ducked behind one of a line of rather skinny trees that were alongside a paved trail (on the Arles route). I decided that more traffic would be coming from one direction and so tried to shield myself from that approach. Naturally, just as I squatted, a bicyclist surprised me by coming along from the other direction! I yelped, he glanced over—and then quickly glanced away. Morale of the story: it happens, don’t yell and call attention to yourself, no one really cares!

1. First of all, some reassurance. Businesses, such as bars, restaurants, and hotels with restrooms are usually pretty easy to find along the Camino (Most parks lack them.) I have found that these establishments are usually less uptight about people coming in only to use the facilities than comparable ones in the U.S. where you often find signs reading “customers only.” If it doubt, buy a little snack or cup of coffee.

Don't expect others to clean up after you!

2.When nature calls and you are far from flush toilets, you probably look for a place away from the trail—behind a tree, shrub, rock, tractor, etc. if possible. After using your spot, we all hope is that you will not add to the detritus that is far too prevalent along the trail. I wrote about the problem of finding a clean picnic spot when we did our first Camino trip in 2001. I have no doubt that the problem has intensified in more recent years. The good news is that there is a greater awareness of the situation (and there are those trail angels who try to clean up litter left by others.)

3.If you can’t find a private-enough spot, you can create your own private spot. Brooke demonstrated at the pilgrim event her strategy: wearing a long skirt. I sometimes wear a shorter skirt; it makes it more convenient to pee, but doesn’t provide privacy. This link will take you one source of skirts: Purple Rain Adventure Skirts. I generally use my umbrella or my backpack as a privacy screen—and Ralph plays guard. Some women wear shorts that are very loose in the legs so that all they need to do is move the crotch of their undies out of the way.

How to avoid adding to the litter problem:

a) Use a “pee rag.” This is simply a cotton bandanna (perhaps only a quarter of one), pinned to the back of your backpack, to be used when needed. Urine is generally sterile; the sun will dry it quickly; the bandanna can be washed out each evening.


b) Bring a supply of plastic (zip locks or similar) or waxed bags for holding used tissues, wipes, or other refuse. Following Leave No Trace principles, don’t bury paper—tens of thousands of people are following these trails. There are too many people/too much paper to make burying paper a good choice.  (Incidentally, do not burn t.p. You may think that is better than leaving it behind a bush, but under the right conditions, it can smolder for days and eventually start a fire.)


c) You can use t.p. or wet wipes if you wish, but there are other alternatives—go “Commando” (no panties); use a panti-liner for needed absorption; use a water rinse (from your water bottle).


d) If you find it hard to squat, use your hiking pole, or hold on to a tree or big rock, to help you balance; another alternative is to use a funnel such as Freshette (warning: heard that it takes practice!).


e) If you should have an emergency and need to poop, again follow some Leave No Trace principles: Go well off the trail and away from water (200 feet recommended). Dig a cathole at least 6-8 inches deep. Cover and disguise the site. (Just covering human waste with a rock is not ok—animals can easily get to it, other humans might move it—disgusting!)



a) Although most restrooms in Spain, and France, have t.p. just like most do in the US, not all do. And of course in the areas where there are fewer towns (the meseta for example), you might want your own supply. You can carry a roll (inner cardboard tube removed) in the depths of your pack, but always have a day’s supply in a convenient location.


b) While we are on the subject of paper, there’s also the issue of facial tissue (such as Kleenex!) All too often it seems to end up alongside the trail—seemingly unused. This leads me to think that it inadvertently has fallen out of someone’s pocket when they were pulling something else out--you can solve that problem by carrying a bandanna instead.  

c) As Scott Williams mentioned at the Pilgrim gathering, Body Glide is a very helpful product for anyone with problems related to skin rubbing against skin (or fabric)—under the arms, buttocks, men’s “private parts,” and women’s breasts.

Once you get used to the idea, I think you’ll find that being able to pee outdoors is a very freeing thing! Suggestions? Questions? This article was first posted on March 19, 2006 at

#7. In her blog, “Winter Pilgrim's Winter Pilgrimages”, Winter Pilgrim recently (Mar 26) wrote a heart-warming article: Day 146 - The bells rang out...

“The bells rang out in Old Town Quebec to welcome me - yeah, me! - to the almost-final destination of the Basilica Cathedral of Notre Dame.  A group of about 15 pilgrims met me outside of the city at a lovely little shrine of St Therese de Lisieux, with its own Year of Mercy Holy Door.  We walked together for the final stretch down into the old quarter of the city to the oldest cathedral in New France... the bells rang so loudly it interrupted conversation and when I looked up wonder why, I was suddenly and heartily greeted by the big guys of the Basilica... to say it was a very nice welcome would be a tragic understatement... it was wonderful.  Events followed, interviews - I was again in the local paper v. nice, indeed - the world needs to hear about pilgrims and pilgrimage... 

Bottes et Velo has organized a lot to promote the idea of pilgrimage in North America, and the Cathedral itself is also trying to get the word out.  I've had a great time since coming back to the St Lawrence River from the northern part of the province, and the extra distance put me over the 5,000 kilometer mark for this pilgrimage... more later, Good Friday events and then the final little leap of the pilgrimage to Ste Anne de Beaupre for Easter Sunday... I'll try to get some more photos sent in...

#8 The article “Ten things to bring on every international flight and three not to,” has some good reminders. Some are optional, IMO.Click link here

#9. The S.F. Bay Area is having an incredible wildflower display this year and so Ralph and I are enjoying finding the best of the best. From our recent hikes in the East Bay, I can report that Hayward Regional Shoreline is awash with yellow mustard. Briones has good poppy displays. Round Valley, on some of the rocky slopes, has nice displays of purple lupine and California Poppies. Diablo Foothills has spotty displays of poppies, Mt. Diablo Fairy Lantern and lots of yarrow…. but the lushest swaths and the great variety of wildflowers that we have seen were in Morgan Territory. Yesterday, we saw: poppies, mini-lupine, larkspur, Chinese Houses, owl clover, buttercups, Johnny Jump Ups (yellow violas), miners’ lettuce, fiddleneck, (white) lilies, Indian paintbrush, and more. Things change rapidly; some of the grasses around here that were brilliant green are now fading—but not all. My advice is to get out soon if you can, because this is so special.

i3#10. Regional: S.F. Bay Area Pilgrim group. “Join us for a hike in Point Reyes as we walk among spring wildflowers to the beach along the Drakes Estero trail, and later to Chimney Rock. Distance is about 10 miles. Pace will be moderate. Bring lunch, a liter or two of water, and a wind jacket and hat. Plan on a late return. After the hike, we will adjourn for beer and/or dinner in Pt. Reyes Station. Allow about 90 minutes to drive from San Francisco or Berkeley to the Drakes Estero Parking Lot. RVSP on the Facebook event to get updates and coordinate carpools. Hike is cancelled by rain. This is an out-and-back hike, not a loop, so if you're late, you can catch up with the group. Optional: Overnight stay at the Pt. Reyes Hostel, Camino style! $29 per night for a shared dorm room. Reserve at: Details and RSVP on the Facebook event and NorCal APOC Chapter page"

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Hiking and Backpacking Newsletter #207, March 2016

Hi, thanks for reading. I hope your spring has started well and you are already on the trails, or soon will be. We here in the S.F. Bay Area are very happy that our hills are green again. Our much needed rains have alternated with gorgeous sunny days--perfect conditions for spotting wildflowers during our explorations. I always enjoy your questions and contributions of items of interest to the hiking and backpacking communities.




  1. Susan’s guest blog about "Love is in the Air" on The Camino Provides
  2. -- interviews of couples hiking together
  3. Avoiding Zika
  4. Keeping your ears warm
  5. Your editor forgot to say… about Z-packs
  6. Collect water before…
  7. Camino—No. California
  8. Camino—American Pilgrims meeting
  9. PCT hikers—the kickoff is postponed
  10. PCT hikers—the permits needed for 500-miles plus
  11. Hiker Heaven welcomes PCTers for 2016
  12. Trail Mavens looks into trips for women 50+ years
  13. More about the Yosemite naming fiasco
  14. How the movie Revelant got its bear attack scene right


#1. Your editor contributed a guest post, “Love and Life on the Camino” to Laurie A. Ferris’ blog, “The Camino Provides.” Click here to read. February may have been a short month, but a lot of love was in the air.

#2. Philip Werner, editor of, asked us to participate in a 5-day series of posts about couples who’ve backpacked together on long trips. The questions explored what a couples’ experience is on the trail when they hike together. So far, interviews have been posted by Brian and Allison Ristola (Beardoh and SweetPea) and Dennis and Jane Blanchard. Next up will be Mick and Gayle Blackburn, Julie and Matt Urbanski, and finally, on March 4, Susan and Ralph Alcorn. Click here.

#3. Reminder: If you are going to travel in areas where there is a possibility of mosquito-borne transmission of Zika virus, treat your clothing (or take pre-treated clothing) as well as carry repellent for yourself. The Center for Disease Control provides updates on where outbreaks occur. Note: 80% of cases will not be diagnosed. “No local mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases have been reported in US states, but there have been travel-associated cases.” It seems quite likely that in time it will occur here.

#4. Casey Cochran writes, “I'll share a winter paddling trick that may help some backpackers: Ear plugs will make it feel 10 degrees warmer than it is.”

#5. Writing the rest about raingear: Last month I talked about ZPacks sleeping bags and forgot to continue on to discuss rainwear. (That's what happens when I revise!). I meant to go on to say that Scott Williams (Shroomer) has also found ZPacks raingear to be excellent. He has also said that he is trying their rain skirt.

#6. When it starts to rain: Good advice from Jay about getting water at the start of any Sierra downpour. If you wait too long to collect drinking water, the streams will become muddy and the particulate matter will remain suspended in the water—playing havoc with most filters. His advice: “tank up before the storm hits if you can.”


#7. Camino: Northern CA Pilgrim's Blessing. On Saturday, March 12th, 10:30 AM to 3:00 PM. Northern California Chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino hosts its Scallop Shell Presentation & Spring Potluck. “Pilgrims leaving for their first Camino in 2016 will receive a Blessing and a scallop shell, the symbol of those on pilgrimage for millennium. This year we are fortunate to have Scott Williams, a veteran of multiple Pacific Coast Trail through hikes, an Appalachian trail through hike and a Camino, present a lecture on injury prevention.

The Blessing will be handled by the Reverend Michael Barham a multiple Camino traveler and author of a thesis on the pilgrimage process. After a potluck lunch, there will be a Q&A so all new pilgrims can benefit from the old timer's experience.

All attendees please RSVP (click here). And, if you will be participating in the Blessing, let them know so have a scallop shells ready for you.
Newman Hall, 2700 Dwight Way, Berkeley. Parking is available across the street from the facility and BART is a walkable option. Buen Camino from chapter coordinators Lin, Cybele and Rennie

#8. Camino: The 19th Annual Gathering of Pilgrims and Hospitalero Training April 7 to 10, 2016. April 5 to 7, 2016 will be held at The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville, Illinois. Belleville, Illinois is just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri. “The 2016 Gathering will offer a number of opportunities in a gorgeous natural setting. Keynote speaker Brian Bouldrey proposes that the quick plane ride home leaves a modern pilgrim feeling something is unfinished. Braiding the strands of physical, spiritual and emotional experience 
into a story can complete the journey. We invite you to browse the program posted on our website where you’ll find exciting new presentations and familiar favorites. Of course, there will be ample opportunity to connect with many others who share your passion for the Camino.

If you are considering serving as a hospitalero in the coming year, hospitalero training will be offered immediately prior to the Gathering, Tuesday, April 5 through Thursday, April 7. Registration at:


#9. The ADZPCTKO 2016 has been cancelled. Annual Days Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off has been a highlight of the PCT hiking season for many years. This was an event at Lake Morena in Southern California, where those setting off on their PCT thru-hikes could get to meet others starting the long-distance trail, party a bit, and get last minute practical information such as water supplies ahead. The organizers ran into delays getting the needed permit to hold the campout at the park and so had to skip this year’s event. Click here for more info.

#10. PCT and trail permits: PCT is now issuing long-distance permits (only needed if doing 500 miles or more. If less, you will apply for permits when needed elsewhere, see here.” Permits are not limited for Southbound and section hikers (not starting at the southern terminus).
Northbound permits (starting at the southern terminus either thru-hike or section) are limited to 50 people per day.
Note: There are changes in the Mount Whitney area! Good news, the PCT has officially joined the Leave No Trace ethics movement.

#11. Donna Saufley of Hiker Heaven and PCT fame has posted her thanks and the opening date for Hiker Heaven. “Update on the fund and hostel raising here at Hiker Heaven. Funds raised so far have put a new roof covering on the guest house, and comfy carpeting that isn't disintegrating is on its way. Can't thank those who've contributed enough to essentially salvaging the guesthouse so that it can live on to host many more hikers! It may just be a funky old single-wide, but it's had quite a legacy, giving shelter and a sense to home to so many. Though there are still more projects that lie ahead, the welcome mat will be out April 1st!!”


#12. Trail Mavens wants to run a trip just for fabulous ladies over fifty! Sent word that she has only worked with mixed-ages groups, but after receiving numerous requests to run a trip for “fabulous ladies over fifty,” she decided to try it. She added, “If my mission is to eliminate barriers to entry for women in the outdoors, and it would be easier for some women to do that in a group of their peers, who am I to say no?


“With that, here's my formal announcement: Trail Mavens is running our first trip exclusively for 50+ ladies this April 23-24. We'll take on a beginner- and intermediate-friendly backpacking trip to one of the most beautiful spots in the Bay Area: Angel Island. Want to blaze trails with Trail Mavens and adventure with other fabulous women?" Click for details.


#13. Yosemite matters. For many of us, it was annoying enough to find that there is a trademark battle between outgoing Delaware North and Yosemite officials over trademarked names of many of Yosemite’s iconic sites. The famous Ahwahnee hotel and the Curry Village campgrounds have already had to change their names (temporarily we hope) to “Majestic Yosemite Hotel” and “Half Dome Village” respectively. Now there is more irritating news: Aramark, the new concessionaire, has had to pull all of the merchandise reading “Yosemite National Park” off the shelves of the gift shops and bring in new items that read, “Yosemite.”

#14. Interesting article in' newsletter tells how careful research, talented acting, and innovative film making combined to make the grizzly bear attack in Revenant look amazingly realistic. Read the article here. How the Revelant got its bear attack scene right by Matt Whittaker


Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Hiking and Backpacking Newsletter #206, February 2016



  1. Resupply to Pacific Crest hikers
  2. Has backpacker behavior changed?
  3. Rain gear that actually works?
  4. Grizzly end
  5. Yosemite brouhaha
  6. Yosemite’s bears faring better
  7. How many hours of exercise to work off seasonal excesses?
  8. Free entrance days in the National Parks for 2016
  9. National Parks Adventure premiere soon
  10. Sleeping while flying
  11. Regional: SF Bay Area
     (photo right: Susan crawling under yet another down tree on the PCT.)


#1. A few weeks ago I heard from backpacker and reader Penny Rand who passed along the information that Echo Lake Chalet, at mile 1094.5 on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), was no longer taking hiker resupply packages. (For those unfamiliar with the resupply process: backpackers hiking long distances on the trail often send boxes of food and other necessities ahead of time to resorts, post offices, stores, etc. along the route. This reduces the amount of weight that needs to be carried at any one time. On our hikes, we generally resupplied every 5-7 days.) Because many sections of the PCT are wilderness areas or are otherwise in remote areas, much of the time hikers are a considerable distance from cities and towns. Places that will hold packages for weeks, even months, until hikers arrive are limited and therefore when a business that has provided this service stops offering this service, hikers have to find an alternative way to get more provisions. Click here for alternatives.

#2. Backpacker behavior and impact on the PCT is changing according to many. When I posted the information that Echo Lake Chalet was no longer offering to hold hikers’ resupply boxes, many people wrote on the PCT forum about rude hikers. No one has said that all, or even most, hikers are irresponsible or worse, but there seems an increasing amount of bad behavior. This includes ignoring or not being aware of Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics, click here to review those recommendations. 

Poor behavior includes:

  • building campfires during times and locations of fire restrictions (which means no campfires and no stoves using wood). 
  • building campfires in places and times they are not allowed
  • not properly burying, or carrying out, litter and waste products.

The PCTA, and other sites, have noted that caches (water and food) have increasingly become problem sites. Unless they are properly maintained, wildlife (bears, raccoons, and other creatures) can break into them. Some hikers leave behind the empty containers—and perhaps additional garbage. Many people feel that the proliferation of caches is a genuine distraction from the wilderness experience most of us are trying to enjoy. (I personally appreciated each and every one that we encountered, but the number of such sites seems to have increased dramatically since we were last on the PCT).

Poor behavior can also be poor social behavior—too much drinking and partying was cited by Andrea Dinsmore of “Hiker Haven” as the reason they had to institute a no drinking policy. Common sense and “do unto others” ethics seemed to be lacking with some visitors. 

Sometimes rural post offices and other resupply stations simply do not have the resources to deal with the increased number of hikers on the trail. It was one thing when a few hundred people started out from the PCT’s southern terminus. Now, after the movie Wild created such an awareness of the trail, the number of wannabe thru-hikers has soared.

The PCTA (Pacific Crest Trail Assoc.) does not have any feasible way to track how many people are on the trail, but they do have some statistics that indicate that there are more people setting to do 500 or more miles (section hikers) and 2,650 miles (thru-hikers). In 2013, 1,879 people applied for permits and in 2015, 4,453 did.

We all love our long distance trails and it seems to me that the more hikers on a trail, the more it behooves each one of us to act responsibly.

#3. Camino: Not long ago, Shroomer (Scott Williams) recommended the sleeping bags by ZPacks for those wanting a lightweight bag for the Camino. At first I resisted due to the price, but as the holidays approached, I asked for one. I really like the REI down-filled bag that I have, but it is heavier (2+ pounds), warmer (rated good to 20-25 degrees) and bulkier than I prefer to carry when I have an option. Great for Sierra trips, but overkill for the Camino. The Zpacks bag weighs less than 1 pound, is rated to 40 degrees, and compresses to about 6 x 12 inches (all depending on the model chosen).

#4. “Why the Park Service Killed a Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone” by Kerry Gunther. Kerry Gunther is a biologist with the National Park Service. He wrote a response to "Backpacker Magazine" when a poll that they took indicated the about ¾ of the respondents felt killing the grizzly in question was wrong. The bear in Yellowstone was euthanized after killing a hiker.

Here’s the gist of Gunther’s response:
The hiker was killed in a well-used section of the park, not in a wilderness area. The bear consumed part of the body. When bears have been determined to have killed or injured people in defense, they are not usually put to death, but if they consume part of a body, they are.

“It is important to understand that the grizzly bear involved in the fatality this year was not killed for punishment or retribution. Since bears are intelligent, highly adaptable, and quickly learn to exploit new food resources, this bear had potentially learned a dangerous lesson. We could not rule out the possibility that she would prey on people in the future.”

Gunther pointed out that the hiker was not carrying bear spray. He quoted survey results that found the only 14% of hikers did. He also said that of the 7,770 people surveyed while day-hiking, that only 40% had the recommended three people to their hiking group. Also 14% of those surveyed hiked alone. Of course we can't know ifcarrying spray, or hiking with a larger group, would have prevented the fatality of both human and bear, but it seems quite likely that following the NPS guidelines would reduce the number of attacks on visitors in the future.  

See more at this link


#5. “Yosemite: Famed Hotel Name to Change in Trademark Dispute” by Scott Smith (AP) Fresno, CA (Jan. 14, 2016) Most readers now know that there is a battle going on between the National Parks Service and former Yosemite concessionaire, Delaware North, regarding the names of several of that park's hotels and landmarks. The NPS has announced that they are making the changes in order to lessen the complications for visitors with hotel reservations during the transition to a new concessionaire on  March 1 . In the meantime, we have to listen and hear about the (temporarily, we hope) new names:  the Majestic Yosemite Hotel instead of Ahwahnee Hotel, Half Dome Village instead of Curry Village, Yosemite Valley Lodge replacing The Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Big Trees Lodge replacing the Wawona Hotel, and Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area replacing Badger Pass Ski Area--according to park spokesman Scott Gediman.

2Delaware North is saying that they paid for the traditional names in 1993 when it won the contract. They have stated that they were required by the NPS to buy the former concessionaire's assets—which included the trademark names. They now demand to be paid $51 million for the names and other intellectual property. National Park Service says the names and other intellectual property are worth about $3.5 million, according to the government's response to a lawsuit that Delaware North filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Gediman says, "We're clearly in disagreement with Delaware North," he said. "We're taking this action to ensure the seamless transition."

#6.  At least Yosemite’s black bears are still called by the same name. The NPS reported that there were only 76 aggressive or destructive incidents by black bears in the park last year--the fewest since 1976 and there were no personal injuries. Since there are more black bears in the state than there were in ‘76, we can probably credit better behavior on the part of humans. Educational brochures given out by park personnel; bear boxes provided in campgrounds, at trailheads and such; stricter rules requiring visitors to remove food and other food-scented items from cars when staying in lodges; and putting collars on troublesome bears so they can be kept track of seem to have made the significant differences.

#7. According to Outside Magazine (11/2015) you need to ski or chop wood for 13 hours; break trail in snowshoes for 9 hours, or spend 11 hours digging a snow cave to work off the 4,500 calories of a typical Thanksgiving (or Christmas dinner?). Yikes, I hope your New Year’s resolutions took that into account!

3#8. Some savings ahead: Entrance-free days in our National Parks in 2016 are:  Apr. 16-24  National Park Week;  Aug. 26-28 National Park Service birthday; Sep. 24 National Public Lands Day;  Nov. 11  Veterans’ Day.

#9. Speaking of wonderful free things. San Francisco-based Bay Area Travel Writers, an organization to which I belong, has just published Travel Features and Photos: California’s National Parks, Monuments, Trails, Seashores, and Historic Sites. It celebrates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. I am proud of having an article on Pinnacles National Park published as well as several photos that accompany articles by other writers. The book—chock full of interesting articles and gorgeous color photos is for sale at this website, and is also available as a free download at this site, click here. Please pass this info on to any interested parties. purchase the book online or download a free PDF.(no strings attached!).

#10. If like me, you can rarely sleep while on a long flight, you may be interested in knowing recommendations for what medications and other remedies might be helpful for getting you some shuteye. "Berkeley Wellness Letter" (fall 2013) stated (citing National Standard) that melatonin gets an “A” for strong evidence with helping with jet lag. Valerian gets a “C” from the reviews made by National Standard because of inconsistent results—in part because there is no standard dose. GABA also received a grade “C” for inconsistent results. Kava “can cause severe liver damage” and more—“don’t take it,” says Wellness letter. Even though this article seemed to favor the use of melatonin, they also warn that it should only be used short-term. In some countries it requires a prescription and there are various reported side effects (generally with long term use) including high-blood pressure in men. If you decide to take any of these meds, please remember to check with your pharmacist or medical provider—especially for potential interactions with other supplements or medications you take. 

#11. Regional: Bay Area/Silicon Valley. Rennie Archibald, NorCal Chapter Coordinator, announced that “A new chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) is forming in the south bay area. The Silicon Valley Chapter will generally cover the geographic area between Burlingame and Gilroy.  It is hoped this addition will better serve folks in that area and reduce driving time to events and hikes.  So take advantage of this meeting, but feel free to hook up with one or more chapters as you desire.

“An exploratory meeting will be held on Monday, February 29th at 7:00 PM.  Location is Lincoln High School, Room 40 (instrumental music room), 555 Dana Avenue, San Jose.  The meeting will provide an opportunity to take to the Chapter Coordinator, Pat Day, discuss plans, hopes and fears for the future of the chapter.”

Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn

Susan Alcorn's Hiking and Backpacking Newsletter #205, January 2016


Happy New Year! I guess I am not up to full speed yet in this new year—this will be a briefer than usual newsletter. Please contribute your items of interest and questions to the hiking community. Send to me

  1. Blister prevention
  2. Camino: Hospitalero training
  3. Wild & Scenic Film Festival
  4. Camino and other overseas travelers: Passports--warning
  5. Travel tip for checked luggage
  6. Travel Features and Photos
  7. Pending ADZPCTKO
  8. Travel Features and Photos
  9. Regional:  Ladybugs
  10. Regional: EBRPD 

#1. A recent blister prevention article by John Vonhoff, author of Fixing Your Feet highly recommends ENGO Blister Prevention Patches. Vonhoff has traveled throughout the U.S. and beyond to help runners deal with foot problems during marathon runs. He knows his stuff. He says, "ENGO Blister Prevention Patches have radically redefined the way hot spots, blisters and calluses are treated." In his “Engo BlisterPrevention Patches” article (12 Dec 2015), he describes how to use the patches to prevent blisters. In this case, the patches, which come in multiple sizes, are applied to the shoe rather than the foot. 

Vonhoff has posted Part One of an article entitled Making Overlapping Toe Separators. One of his suggestions is to combine Injinji socks (which are toe socks that kept the toes separated) with ENGO Blister Prevention Patches. Go to his blog to subscribe and receive the follow up articles.

Your editor has used Injinji socks as part of my arsenal of tricks to prevent blisters and has also used Moleskin, applied to a shoe, to stop a heel blister  from getting larger or painful. These tricks definitely work—and can be part of your foot problem prevention. 

#2. American Pilgrims Members are eligible for hospitalero training courses with American Pilgrims on the Camino. The next session will be Friday, February 5th through Sunday, February 7th, 2016 in Los Gatos, California. The cost is $275, which includes the training, two nights' accommodations (dormitory style) and all meals Friday evening through Sunday lunch.  Towels and linens are provided. The last day to register isFriday, January 22, or when all the openings fill.

To qualify to training, you must: have stayed overnight in at least three non‑private (municipally-, parochially- or association-run) albergues on the Camino, must have walked at least 100 km (or biked 200 km) of the Camino, and must be a member of American Pilgrims on the Camino.

3Register here:
Direct questions here:

#3. The 14th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival to be held in Nevada City and Grass Valley opens mid-January. The 14th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival Unveils Lineup of Feature Film Presentations, Including 19 World Premieres. This year’s films combine stellar filmmaking, beautiful cinematography and first-rate storytelling with the theme “A Change of Course.” This is the nation’s largest environmental film festival bringing together top filmmakers, celebrities, activists, and social innovators, “We are honored to provide our film festival attendees with a host of acclaimed environmental films that will entertain and educate,” said Melinda Booth, festival director for the 2016 Wild and Scenic Film Festival. “From world premieres backed by A-list celebrities to short films inspired by activist filmmakers, we are confident that attendees will quickly be exposed to the environmental travesties that are affecting our world.”

Some of the marquee films presented at the 14th Annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival include:
Dear Governor Brown, directed by Jon Bowermaster and produced by Hollywood celebrity, Mark Ruffalo, challenges California’s environmental reputation and encourages California Governor Jerry Brown to leave pollution-causing fossil fuels in the ground. This is a world premiere at the 2016 Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

Unbranded, an internationally acclaimed and award winning film, is a soaring drama designed to inspire adoptions of the 50,000 wild horses and burros living in government captivity. The film is an emotionally charged odyssey that shines a bright light on the complex plight of our country’s wild horses and wild places.

Banking Nature, directed by Denis Delestrac, is a provocative documentary that looks at the growing movement to monetize the natural world—and to turn endangered species and threatened areas into instruments of profit. Delestrac earned top honors at the 2015 Wild & Scenic Film Festival for his film, Sand Wards.

Tickets for the 2016 Wild & Scenic Film Festival are also on-sale now and available,click here. Attendees are encouraged to purchase tickets well in advance. The film festival is scheduled for January 14 – January 18 in the historic cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City, California.

General information is available at

#4. 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. 

The US Passport service 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.”

Another consideration, check to see if a roundtrip ticket is required to enter the country you are visiting and how long you are allowed to stay! 

"American citizens can enter Spain or Andorra visa-free for periods of up to three months. Spanish government regulations may require a return or on-going ticket or proof of funds. Should an American citizen wish to remain longer than ninety days, you will be required to obtain an extension of stay from Spanish immigration authorities. Check the expiration date on your passport carefully before traveling to Europe.  Entry into any of the 26 European countries in the Schengen area for short-term tourism, a business trip, or in transit to a non-Schengen destination, requires that your passport be valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure.  If your passport does not meet the Schengen requirements, you may be refused boarding by the airline at your point of origin or while transferring planes.  You could also be denied entry when you arrive in the Schengen area.  For this reason, we recommend that your passport have at least six months’ validity remaining whenever you travel abroad.  For more information, please see the State Department’s Schengen FAQ page.

Should you be considering a stay in Spain longer than three months you should inquire with the Spanish embassy or consulate near your place of residence outside of Spain prior to entry. You may also write directly to the Spanish National Police at Calle Moratin, 43, 28014 Madrid; or check the Spanish Ministry of Interior’s website.

#5. A “new” hint: learned the hard way when our checked duffle bag, with our hiking poles and Swiss Army knives, was lost on our flight to Spain: take a photo of the contents of the bag. As we tried to remember all that we had lost, we found that we remembered some things initially, but later on, remembered a few more. Easier if you just have a photo to jog your memory! The good news is that we were finally reimbursed for our losses--but it took a lot of work!

#6. BATW Travel Features & Photos 2016. Your editor belongs to Bay Area Travel Writers and we have just released our latest anthology, which celebrates national parks and monuments in the Golden State — a tribute to the National Park Service on its 100th anniversary in 2016. Look for “Paying it Forward in Pinnacles National Park,” (about working with Wilderness Volunteers in 2015) by Susan Alcorn, and her photographs of not only Pinnacles, but also Eugene O’Neil’s Tao House and goats on the Pacific Crest Trail. Get yourfree PDF here. Or buy the 4-color printed book. 

#7. PCT: While the dates for ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off) have not yet been finalized, you can follow them on PCT-L, Facebook, and Twitter. Planners encourage hikers to plan their start date *independent of ADZPCTKO*. You have lots of other factors to consider: snowpack, weather, school and work schedules, permit availability, best airfares, etc. etc. Planning around ADZPCTKO should be way down the list. You can always get a ride back to Lake Morena from points north along the trail; our Ride Board can facilitate your transportation needs. 

#8. Bay Area Regional: Redwood Regional Park, Oakland. “Ladybugs clustering on a branch in Oakland's Redwood Regional Park. “Have you ever counted the spots on a ladybug? As it happens, the number of spots per bug varies among species, and can help you tell the difference between a native and a non-native beetle. In the January-March 2016 issue of Bay Nature magazine, writer Nathaniel Dolton-Thornton explores the world of ladybugs of various types.

If you live in the Bay Area, you can take a short walk into Redwood Regional to the intersection of Stream and Prince Trails and likely find thousands of them on the branches, twigs, and leaves at that point. If Monarch butterflies are of more interest to you, reportedly they are still in abundance at EBRPD’s Ardenwood Park near Fremont. 

#9. Friends of the Bay Trail in Richmond. Just received the 17th Richmond Bay Trail New Year Report prepared by TRAC, the Trails for Richmond Action Committee. This group has spearheaded remarkable advances toward completing the San Francisco Bay Trail in Richmond. "The city now has over 32 miles of Bay Trail built -- more than any other city on this planned 500-mile walking and cycling route encircling San Francisco and San Pablo Bays." And, "nine projects now underway promise to complete seven additional miles of Bay Trail in Richmond and 4.3 miles across the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge by late 2017."

1You can receive news about Bay Trail events and progress by A higher resolution version of the report may be viewed and downloaded from .

#10. Trails Challenge is a free program offered in the Bay Area to encourage hikers (and bicyclists) to get out and use the trails of East Bay Regional Park District. The challenge is to complete 26.2 miles of featured trails and there is a booklet that you can download to get maps and directions to all or the 20 featured trails. No registration necessary.  Read more about it in your editor’s article,click here.  


Happy trails,

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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