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Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2019

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Shepherd Canyon Books
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Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #239 February 2019


Contents:

  1. Mushrooms!
  2. Nifty Ninety Challenge takes us to world-renowned Lick Observatory
  3. Everest Base Camp trek
  4. Camino gathering in U.S. coming up soon
  5. Camino 2019 Ribadiso Welcome Service
  6. Regional: S.F. Bay Area. Dami Roelse's events on hiking after 50
  7. Regional: S.F. Bay Area. Ticks are definitely out there!

Articles: 

#1. Mushrooms! Triple-crown recipient Shroomer, known to many of those in the real world as Scott Williams, wrote such an intriguing piece on mushrooms in one of his recent emails that I just had to get permission to share it with you! The place names, and trails, may be unfamiliar to those of you who don’t live in the S.F. Bay Area, but his article is so informative and beautifully written that I know you’ll enjoy reading it.

“The year is turning, the longest night is behind us, and looking out on the brilliant blue California sky this morning, I’m reminded of just how blessed we are to live in a place in which some of the best weather of the year for outdoor activities is all winter long.  The hills are a Bay Area Christmas green, and our mycelial friends are beginning to fruit.  The unusually dry fall has set everything back by about a month, but they’re finally here.

“Two weeks ago, there was nothing to be seen.  But on a Double Dipsea hike on Mt. Tamalpais just before Christmas, there were mushrooms everywhere!  Roman and I fairly flew over the mountain’s ridges from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach, and I noticed very little along the trail on the way out.  But on the way back, with the slower pace of legs chastened by the rigors of that initial flight, we took it a bit slower.  It was either that, or wait for a medic and a wheelbarrow.  When at speed my eyes are focused on the trail, each footfall a potential slip or stumble without careful placement.  But just a bit slower and I could look about me, and the fungal fructifications popped out in all directions. [ed.: a reminder to us all to change our focus from time to time!]

“Agaricus Californicus, one of the only close relatives of the portobello capable of giving you a stomach ache, was coming up in large numbers, bright white against the black duff of the forests near Stinson.  Further up trail, oyster mushrooms covered the trunks of a few oaks, shelving, pale grey, as high as these poor damaged trees still stood.  A parasite, oysters will eventually kill those trees, but in the meantime, they’re beautiful and delicious!  Never throw the scraps of this one in your compost pile though, as even the cultivated varieties are capable of doing damage to the hardwoods and perennials in your garden if they get spread around. 

“Further still, just above Muir Woods, were amanita caliptrata, the coccoli, big as dinner plates and just opened.  They are a delicious edible, but so closely related, both genetically and in physical features, to the amanita phaloides, the death cap, that it is the confusion of one for the other that is responsible for probably 95% of all fatal mushroom poisonings in this country.

“Close by was brilliantly colorful, amanita mascaria, the magic mushroom of shamanic traditions worldwide, its bright red top dotted all over with white specks.  It’s one of the most beautiful mushrooms in the world, and is the classic toadstool of fairy tales and legends.  It is poisonous, but when eaten in just the right amount, will bring on a hallucinogenic state, if it doesn’t kill you in the meantime.  It is the mushroom that the Viking Berserkers used before battle, and is still used by the shamanic peoples of the tundra and taiga from Russia all across the top of the world to Canada and the U.S.  Most recently its symbols and signs have been found in chambers under Rome, believed to have been used by the Caesars when participating in the rites of the Roman mushroom cult, part of the religious practices of Imperial Rome. 

“And where do we see this mushroom today?  Take a look at Santa.  His bright red and white hat falling to one side is the cap that has been depicted on the God of this mushroom cult for millennia.  And yes, there is a historic link between this early European/Middle Eastern cult and some of today’s Christmas practices.

“But finally, just across the trail from these dazzling red caps, was a lone porcini.  Most prized of our West Coast funguses, I’ve at times found them at over 4 pounds of deliciousness.  This one came in at just over a pound, and added immeasurably to a large Christmas morning, scrambled eggs breakfast for all our household guests. 


Lick Observatory view from.jpg“From now on until the Bay Area dries up for its long, desiccated summer, every hike I do has the potential to be a bit of a mycology lesson.  My trail name isn’t Shroomer for nothing after all.”

#2. Nifty Ninety takes us to Lick Observatory. Last week, we and our friends Patricia and Tom were itching to bag another peak for the #NiftyNinetyPeak challenge that we are all doing; we decided to go to a very special place—Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton. Storms were sweeping through the S.F. Bay Area, but it looked like we might have a bit of a break. We left our home mid-morning under a gray sky. I had visions of the mountain being completely shrouded in dense fog. At least weather forecasts had not predicted snow--at 4,213 feet this would not be unusual and if it had snowed, the 10-mile, narrow, curvy road to the mountain top would have to be closed.


Lick Observatory interior.jpgWe drove to San Jose and began the long and slow drive (an hour each way), but no one minded because the hills were brilliant green and many trees were budding or blossoming. Still when we reached our destination, I was sorry that we were in the clouds. We went inside the stately marble hall of the visitors’ center and began to look through the exhibits and photographs in the multiple rooms. It’s not every day that we happen to view 200-pound meteorites, see photos of the rock shelter atop Mt. Whitney and learn of Lick Observatory’s role in creating this landmark (the then-director designed it), and can learn how various kinds of telescopes work.


Lick Obseratory Exterior.jpgAs it happened, we were the only visitors at the time, and the volunteer in the gift shop offered to start a guided tour immediately. We were taken into the room that houses the Great Lick Refractor Telescope—the first of the mountain top site’s several telescopes. When first opened in 1888, the 36-inch refractor scope was the largest of its kind. It is used nowadays only for educational purposes, and we were excited that we were able to view and learn more about it. Next, we went to the building that houses the Shane 120-inch reflector telescope to admire it and watch some of the interesting films about how it was constructed and so forth.

When we came out of the buildings, the fog had cleared and we had spectacular views. There is much more I could share about what is there to be seen on the mountain top, but that’s for another time. Suffice it to say—the mountaintop has much to offer its visitors (and residents). Even my not-very-knowledgeable brain on such scientific matters managed to gain a little understanding from this trek.

As far as hikes go, there were only two options on reaching the peak—drive and park at the top, or hike up the aforementioned paved road, which you would be sharing with both cars and bicycles. We saw only a car or two, and one bicycle, but it would be a different story on the weekends. Needless to say, we drove and did only the small amount of walking required to go from one building to another. This was our seventieth peak, definitely one of the easier ones, but an outstanding one! Open Thu-Sun. Noon-5 p.m. Free admission. Visitor tours hourly 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Nighttime programs (fee) during the summer months.www.ucolick.org

#3. Everest Base Camp: Eddie Frank, founder and owner of Tusker Trails writes, “A trek to Everest Base Camp is perfect for first-time trekkers. It’s an incredible way to get the taste for adventure. Here’s how you make it happen. Link here. “Tusker runs an 18-day trek to Everest Base Camp in April and October. The trip requires you to hike between Lukla (9,400 feet) to Everest Base Camp at 17,585 but you will go as high as 18,513 feet on the journey. 

"You will be on your feet 12 solid days on varying terrain covering 75 miles and will trek alongside well trained Tusker guides who monitor your health daily to make sure you are acclimatizing and staying healthy. Altitude sickness is your biggest issue, but Tusker’s team is highly trained in proven techniques to both monitor and treat any altitude emergencies. Tusker also brings its own chef and hygiene systems along to insure you don’t get food poisoning which is a major concern in the Nepal backcountry."

While I haven’t been on this trek (sure wish I could!), we had a wonderful experience doing the Kilimanjaro trip with this company. We felt they did an excellent job with the planning, guiding, safety measures, and food.

#4. Camino de Santiago:  Reminder that the 2019 Gathering of American Pilgrims on the Camino is coming up soon. This year’s event is March 28 -31, 2019, at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, NC, which is outside of Asheville. “The 2019 Gathering, Cultivating Camino Connections, offers you a variety of opportunities in a gorgeous natural setting.”

The first block of rooms filled quickly, if you want to get a room in the newly opened site, act quickly!

And, “If you're considering serving as an hospitalero in the coming year, hospitalero training will be offered immediately before the Gathering, from March 26 - 28, 2019, at the same site. http://www.americanpilgrims.org/national-gatherings

#5. Camino: Ribadiso Welcome Service. An alternate way to volunteer is offered by “Ribadiso Team.” “…join the 2019 Ribadiso Welcome Service and have not yet submitted your application, don't delay! Completed applications are due no later than Wednesday, February 20. Request an application at ribadiso@americanpilgrims.org “…volunteering at the historic albergue at Ribadiso is offered to members of American Pilgrims on the Camino by the Galician government once again this year. Ribadiso is located on the Camino Francés about 40 kilometers before Santiago de Compostela in the verdant Galician countryside. This small village includes the public albergue, a private albergue, a pilgrim pensión, a bar where pilgrims can eat next to the public albergue and another two bars that also serve food a short walk away.

Volunteering at Ribadiso involves helping pilgrims by welcoming them to the albergue and being available to assist them during their stay. For example, greet them, offer them a glass of water, show them to their bunks, answer their questions, provide information about the immediate area and Santiago, offer a listening ear to pilgrims who wish to tell you about the joys and sorrows of their journey and help resolve problems (within reason), such as 'I'm having my backpack carried by a service, and it hasn't arrived yet. Can you help me find it?"”

They do NOT “clean the albergue, register pilgrims, collect fees, cook for pilgrims, hold prayer services or other spiritual get-togethers. Volunteers are not in charge of the albergue but rather offer their services in collaboration with the paid staff.” Because of the way albergues are managed in Galicia, volunteers have a fair amount of free time to engage with the local population, explore or work on their own projects—primarily in the morning before the albergue opens at 1 p.m. 

“The albergue, originally a 15th century pilgrim hospital, is located on the banks of the River Iso and is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful albergues on the entire Camino. It has 60 beds, plus 4 additional beds reserved for handicapped pilgrims and a large camping area for pilgrims who carry their own tents. The albergue has ample bathroom and shower facilities, plus coin-operated washers and dryers and abundant clotheslines. Ribadiso is part of the network of albergues in Galicia, all of which are operated by the Xacobeo, the regional government agency in charge of Camino matters in that region. Unlike albergues in most other parts of the country, the Xacobeo contracts with local people who register pilgrims, accept their fees and clean the albergue.  

“Expenses for travel to/from Ribadiso, food and incidentals while you are there are your responsibility. American Pilgrims on the Camino provides a $100 stipend to each team to cover the cost of hard candy, water cups and clothespins that we ask volunteers to make available for pilgrims. There is no shop or market in Ribadiso, but supplies and groceries can be purchased in Arzúa, which is 3 kilometers away. “Volunteer accommodation is in a comfortable, well-furnished two-bedroom apartment at the albergue. The apartment has its own kitchen and bathroom, a sitting area and a dining table. Only volunteers in the program may stay in the apartment and only during their time of service.

“American Pilgrims will provide volunteers in 2019 from May 15 to September 30. Volunteers must commit for 15-day periods, either the first or second half of the month. A maximum of two volunteers is needed for each period. Volunteers must be members of American Pilgrims on the Camino and be in good health and physical condition. Volunteer hospitalero training or experience in the former or current welcome programs in Santiago is helpful but not a requirement. Spanish language skills are highly recommended - unless you are serving with a Spanish speaker. Abilities in other languages are a plus.”

“The application process includes a telephone interview with the program coordinators. Completed applications must be received by February 20. Interviews will take place and volunteers will be selected and notified no later than April 1.”

#6. Regional: S.F. Bay Area. Dami Roelse is a certified life coach, writer and retired mental health provider. Born in Holland, she has traveled the world extensively, lived on different continents and has learned to use her hiking and travel as inspiration for living. Dami presents facts and stories about walking and hiking for women as they age from her book "Walking Gone Wild, How to lose your age on the trail".

Dami will be in the Bay Area in March and will cover such topics as how to build and maintain strength in everyday life, how to be being safe in the outdoors, and how to choose your lightweight gear.

 

“Even though the talk is geared to women 50+, all women and men can benefit from Dami's experience. She is a regular contributor for Sixty and Me and The Trek magazine. You can follow Dami on her website, her Facebook page WalkingWomen50plus, Twitter @dami97520 and Instagram @walkingwoman50plus. Dami also hosts a Facebook group for women 50+ interested in walking, hiking and backpacking.


Transformation Travel will be given: Tue, Mar 5, San Francisco REI. 7:00pm - 8:30pm; Wed., March 6. Corte Madera REI, 213 Corte Madera Town Ctr, CA  94925, 7:00pm - 8:30pm; and Thu, Mar 7. Berkeley REI. 7:00pm - 8:30pm.

#7. S.F. Bay Area Regional: Lyme Disease in the Oakland Hills. Received this warning on our local Nextdoor from Stan Dodson, who is part of the Oakland Volunteer Park Patrol. stan@oaklandtrails.org. (1/8/2019).

“Lyme Disease is very rare in these parts, but this is a good reminder for all of us who enjoy the trails. The rain has brought a plethora of ticks out in our woods. For the first time in my adult life, I was bitten by a tick about 10 days ago (Joaquin Miller Park, Castle/Bayview trail). I extracted it within hours and after a couple of days of redness it was a thing of the past. Then yesterday a very large and itchy bull’s-eye rash appeared at the site of the bite. 

"I just had a Lyme disease diagnosis confirmed. I’m very lucky that I saw the bite, got the tick out quickly, and had the rash that doesn’t always appear — that allowed me to seek immediate treatment. I will be on antibiotics for 21 days and will be fine. I’m posting this because many people are not aware that Lyme disease is in the ticks in our woods. It’s really important to seek treatment if any of these symptoms appear. Untreated, Lyme disease can be incredibly debilitating and a lifelong ailment. And, unlike me, when you extract the tick put it in a baggie or Tupperware and freeze it. That tick can be tested for Lyme disease if needed. My visible rash negated the need for me to do that, thankfully. "


Stay safe, Happy Valentine’s Day, and Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn (aka Backpack45)

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #238 January 2019.  Happy New Year!


2019-01-04_17-13-49_0929_EOS.JPG

(photo: first walk of the year: Richmond-San Rafael Bridge/San Pablo Bay, CA) 


Contents: 

  1. Reaching trailheads of the Pacific Crest Trail
  2. “It's Ruckin time!!!”
  3. Hospitalero (host) training courses with American Pilgrims
  4. Hiking/backpacking equipment reviews
  5. Climber Arlene Blum joins the elite group of California Hall of Fame inductees
  6. Earthworms unite!

Articles:

1.  #1. The Pacific Crest Trail Association has an article on how to get to trailheads along the trail. Especially helpful if you are a section-hiker that needs to reenter or leave the trail between hike. Reaching the PCT Trailheads. 

#2. The American Long Distance Hiking Association & the upcoming Rucks. The ALDHA-West has announced its upcoming Rucks. First is the NorCal Ruck, January 26, 2019, Oakland, CA. Following are the Cascades Ruck, February 23, 2019, Stevenson, WA (new venue just across the river from Cascade Locks!); Rockies Ruck, March 9, 2019, Golden, CO; Bellingham Ruck, March 23, 2019; Bellingham, WA; Inland NW Ruck, April 6,2019, Coeur d'Alene, ID. 

The Rucks take place in informal and relaxed settings with presenters providing very helpful information to participants. Hikers--whether newbies or experienced--will enjoy the camaraderie and reunions. The handful (not overwhelming you with their number!) of vendors offer innovative and practical camping gear, clothing, books and so forth.  The Ruck teams says, “we will have some new topics as well as a new format this year to include more breakout sessions, allowing for a more interactive and individualized experience!" and they’ll be talking about such topics as: Lightweight gear and hiking styles, How Not to Die, Women's specific, LNT and Trail Town Etiquette, and Reentry. The Pack Shakedown is interesting—experienced backpackers delve into newbies packs and make suggestions on where to cut pack weight and other practical advice. Follow this link to Ruck info

If you're not already a member of ALDHA-West, now is a great time to join; when you join you'll immediately become eligible to register for the Rucks at the member rate. Info on joining here

2017-06-18_18-30-54_7773_EOS.JPG#3. Hospitalero training courses! American Pilgrims has scheduled the next albergue host training for Tuesday, March 26 through Thursday, March 28, 2019 in Black Mountain, North Carolina near Asheville (directly before the Annual Gathering). The cost is $295, which includes the training, two nights' accommodations and all meals Tuesday evening through Thursday afternoon, and towels and linens provided. Last day to register is Monday, March 4th, 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. Other rules apply: 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. At this link, https://www.americanpilgrims.org/hospitaleros, you can find out about registering for the training and other volunteer opportunities with the pilgrim community. (photo: albergue Le Chemin in Anthien, FR. on the Vezelay route.) 

#4. Treeline Review. Scott Williams, Shroomer, alerted me to the new Treeline Review, a blog by Liz Thomas “Snorkel” and an amazing group of outdoors writers and long distance hikers. The site, which reviews hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor clothing and gear, wades through the tons of material out there on zillions of sites and condenses it to create an “aggregated review process.” Currently at the top of the page are reviews on the “best tough cameras,” a folding Oru Kayak, and rain jackets (especially valuable this time of year!). Find Treeline Review site here. You can also follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TreelineReview/ where you’ll find many reviews and also current information about how our planet is faring.

#5. Climber Arlene Blum enters the California’s Hall of Fame. Adventurer and scientist Arlene Blum, PhD has been inducted to the state’s hall of fame. At the Dec. 4 ceremony, Blum and other Californian of importance who have been honored this year by Governor Jerry Brown—Thomas Keller, Fernando Valenzuela, Joan Baez, Robert Redford, Nancy McFadden, Belva Davidson and late Mayor Ed Lee joined the elite group of previous honorees.

“Arlene Blum led the first American — and all-women’s — ascent of Annapurna I, one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult mountains.” When I read her first book, Annapurna: A Woman’s Place, I was enthralled. I knew her by reputation, but seeing her in person, as I did when I went to see a talk she gave as part of a UC Berkeley Travel series, I was amazed. She challenged my preconceptions (at the time) of a mountain climber—she was fit, but not tall and lanky. She was modest and humble, not a braggart. I became a real admirer. 

After her mountaineering days ended, Arlene Blum continued her work as a scientific researcher. She is a Research Associate in Chemistry at UC Berkeley. Her work led her to the discovery that the chemical tris, which was used in baby pajamas in the 1970s as a fire retardant, was harmful. It was subsequently removed, but Blum found that tris was still being used in furniture and baby products. That was not the end of her efforts to get this chemical and other hazardous chemicals out of our homes and environment. She founded the Green Science Policy Institute in 2008 in Berkeley, California. https://www.arleneblum.com/scientist/


#6. Let’s talk worms! In the Winter issue of Bay Nature (a beautiful magazine by the way) there is a very informative article about earthworms. For one thing, you may think that worms being hermaphrodites (having both male and female parts) can fertilize themselves, but that’s not quite how it all works. According to author Michael Ellis, that smooth area you see midway down the worm’s length is where the two worms hook up, create a slimy mass, and release their sperm. There’s more to learn at the link. Link here to the Bay Nature article. 

Susan Alcorn (aka Backpack45)

. 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 backpack45@yahoo.com for consideration.
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

 All Newsletters 2019 , 2018 , 2017 , 2016 , 2015 , 2014 , 2013 , 2012 , 2011 , 2010 , 2009 , 2008 , 2007 , 2006 , 2005 , 2004

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

Page Changed: February 4, 2019 10:32

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