home of Shepherd Canyon Books

Help support this site by using our Amazon or REI buttons for any purchase

Susan Alcorn's Backpacking Tales and Tips Newsletters 2019

 All Newsletters 2020 , 2019 , 2018 , 2017 , 2016 , 2015 , 2014 , 2013 , 2012 , 2011 , 2010 , 2009 , 2008 , 2007 , 2006 , 2005 , 2004

Shepherd Canyon Books
25 Southwood Court
Oakland, CA  94611
   email backpack45 at

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

  If you would like me to remove your name from the newsletter e-mail list, please let me know. If you know anyone who wants to be added, please have them send me a message. Thanks.

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #248 December 2019

Happy Holidays!


1. My new website:-) 

2. Visa-like permit will be required for European travel

3. My Camino-topic podcast with Francis Tapon

4. Survival Skills—She survived 49 days…

5. Camino: Sylvia Nilsen & Memorials

6. Camino: Piggies from Spain

7. Walk to raise money for your charitable cause

8. Regional: Bay Area bridge opens to bicyclists and walkers

9. Regional: Hike and yoga near Rockville

10. SF Crosstown section hike with Berkeley Path Wanderers

11. Last Day to Register: Regional: Local Sierra Club dinner/program—climate change




#1. My new website: I’ve very pleased to announce that I have a new (and growing) website focusing on hiking the Camino, the Nifty Ninety, and more.

I am hoping you will check it out and give me feedback on other articles you’d liked to see covered. Thanks!


#2. Permit will be required:  #2. Basically, starting in 2021, you will need a visa-like permit to travel to Europe.


#3. Susan’s podcast with adventurer Francis Tapon. This was great fun to do and I hope you will enjoy the results. “If you're thinking about #hiking #ElCaminoDeSantiago in #Spain, you should listen to my 30-minute chat with Susan Alcorn, who has written a couple of books about it. “In this WanderLearn podcast, we focus on the less popular routes to Santiago. Listen in...


#4. Survival skills. Helen Klaben Kahn: Helen survived 49-day ordeal in the Yukon was the title of an item in the Obituaries page of our SF Chronicle (12/13/18). It caught my eye and as I read it, I was intrigued not only about how it all happened, but how she survived the multi-week event in 1963. Her skills are worth sharing—not only if you plan to be in the Yukon, but also if you plan to traipse into any wilderness. I think the will to survive played a big part in her success.

“Kahn was on a flight on a single engine plane from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse in the Yukon when the single-engine plane she was on crashed in a remote mountainside near the Yukon/BC border. She and Ralph Flores (the inexperienced pilot) survived the crash, but she suffered a broken arm and Flores fractured his jaw and several ribs. It was February and the temperatures went as low as -48 during their mishap. Flores had not brought sleeping bags, much food, or a rifle. But he did cover the openings of the plane’s cabin with a tarp. The radio did not work and his attempts to trap rabbits were unsuccessful.

“They rationed their meager supply of food—sardines, tuna fish, crackers, and more, but ran out in 10 days. They drank water that they filtered through strips of one of Hahn’s’ dresses and then boiled.

“Then they were reduced to eating toothpaste, which they also rationed. In Hahn’s book about the experience, Hey, I’m alive, she explained, ‘We’d pretend the melted snow was soup.’ It could be tomato, or beef, or some other flavor. (The book was later made into an ABC TV movie.). Eventually they made their way to a frozen pond and etched a giant SOS in the surface. Luckily, this was spotted by a bush pilot who also saw them waving their arms and flashing a hand mirror.

“There was no PTSD after the event—even though Kahn’s toes had been frostbitten and the toes of her right foot had to be amputated. She remained an adventure traveler, continued to love flying, taught survival skills to Girl Scouts and others, and was reported to have said, 'Those weeks gave me an opportunity to find myself.’ It was, she said, ‘…a great experience to find out that I could [cope with such a crisis].’ 

Kahn died at age 76 in Palo Alto, CA of a rare blood cancer.”

#5. Camino: Sylvia Nilsen & Memorials to pilgrims. In Sylvia’s blog (7/27/19), Memorials to Pilgrims who died on the Camino, she writes, “Every year a few pilgrims die whilst on the Camino.  Some have heart attacks, others die of existing conditions, and many more are killed on the roads by vehicles.” You may have even seen a memorial to someone along the way. The list of those who died while on the Camino is given. Click here for the rest.


#6. Camino: Piggies from Spain—Jamon Iberico. This little piggy came from Spain was the title of a recent article. Encina Farms, in Middletown (Lake County, CA) has just become "the first and only commercial farm in California raising Iberian pigs." Iberian pigs produce what is considered the best ham in the world; it isn’t cheat, it’s up to $40 for 3 oz. To be successful at this business, owners Alberto Solis and Helmut Drews had to find a site with abundant water and oak trees. They also had to wade through the U.S. and Spanish regulations to bring these prized pigs here.

It’s not nearly as easy to get started, or to make a living, raising Iberian pigs as it is regular ones. The Iberians' litters are smaller and the age at which they reach maturity is twice as long (16 months). It looks as if, assuming all goes as planned, the first batch of pigs to reach some of California's best restaurants will be fall of 2020. Meanwhile, those wanting the best of Iberian Jamon Iberico should continue to travel to Spain. (Iberian pigs are black-footed, feast on acorns, and are native to Spain.) (SF Chronicle. H10-Oct. 27, 2019).

#7. Walk and hike for your favorite charity: WalkingWomen50plus recently posted on Facebook, “Walk and hike for Charity in 2020! 1000 miles=$250 for a charity of your choice. Create a team, or go solo. Go to the website to register, download the charity app on your phone to track your charity miles and start walking! You can order t-shirts etc. on the website.” Click here to learn more. 

#8.Regional: Richmond Bay Trail Network--new bridge: Just two weeks ago, the S.F. Bay Area opened a new bicycle and walking path across one of our bridges— the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Participants were lucky to find a somewhat cloudy, but mild day for the ribbon cutting and opening. The trailhead on the east side of the bridge, in Richmond is at Castro St. & Tewksbury Avenue, which is 1.3 miles from the site.

Click here for adetailed map and info on the trail and its access. If you want a longer hike or ride, you can get directions on starting from Richmond BART station. CLICK HERE.   Those who have attempted to do this ride or walk before will be pleased to know that new cycle tracks were just installed by the City of Richmond to connect the Greenway with Point Richmond and the RSR Bridge. More info from

#9. Solano Land Trust: “Hike at Rockville Trails Preserve, Saturday, December 21, 9am - 11am, Yoga Hike: Barbara Fredericks will lead this family friendly hike with some warm up stretches and then will proceed on the trail. On yoga hikes, participants practice standing poses to support the body before, during and after the hikes. Participants can enjoy the sun on their face and the wind in their hair while they do yoga. Meeting location: The “Ice House” parking lot at corner of Suisun Valley Rd. & Rockville Rd. Hike is Free.

RSVP recommended. Go to their website here to register or learn about other upcoming hikes. Click here.

#10. Berkeley Path Wanderers guides San Francisco Crosstown Trail Part 4: Glen Park to Candlestick Point. (Hike 4 of the 4-Hike Series). Sunday, December 15, 10 am - 1:30 pm (or longer). Leader: Alina Constantinescu. Start: Plaza, Glen Park BART. End: Candlestick Park (1.5 miles from Muni T line).

For the group, this will be the final segment. “…southbound stretch, a 5.6-mile, 650-foot-elevation-gain section exploring John McLaren Park and hidden greenways and community gardens in Visitacion Valley, and ending in a state park on the Bay shore: Candlestick Point State Recreation Area. At the end, you can choose to take car share or retrace your steps 1.5 miles to Muni Line T for public transit options. Alternatively, you can choose to end your hike early when we first pass the T Line at mile marker 4.1.

Optional: Returning on foot to Glen Park BART—using a different route. Bring snacks and a lunch if you’re sticking around for the long hike. Lunch will be around mile 7.5. Estimated end-time for the roundtrip option is 4:30 pm.

#11. Deadline for dinner registration TODAY, Dec. 2. East Bay Sierra Club Dinner, “Pacifica:  Past, Present and Future.” Event: Thursday, December 5, no-host cocktails/social hour—6 pm, dinner—7:00, program—8:00, intermission—9:00, after hours group discussion—9:15-10:30. Berkeley Yacht Club on the Berkeley Marina, one block north of the west end of University Avenue (ample free park­ing is available in the Marina parking lots; bus #81 service to Marina from Ashby BART).

Cost of dinner and program is $30, including tax and tip.  $10 for program only, starting at 8 p.m. For reservations, please either send your check, payable to "Sierra Club," with your name, your telephone number, and the names of your guests, to: Jane Barrett, 170 Vicente Road, Berkeley, CA 94705, 510 845-8055

OR you can purchase tickets online on Eventbrite, by clicking here:

Jamen Shivley, writes,"The topic, Pacifica:  Past, Present and Future, will share with you some really good news about climate change; to invite you to join us in making this good news a permanent reality. Presenter Cindy Abbott will cover Pacifica’s story, bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change:  cliff erosion, sea level rise, storm surges and flooding.

But first, I will jump right into the really good news about climate change, which will lead us to why next Thursday’s Sierra Club Dinner on Pacifica is so important. Shivley, "…alongside two colleagues, Evan Strait and Nolan Strait, ...have recorded a video for you accompanying this letter (the video goes for 1.5 hours, but the first 10 minutes convey the essential points):

“The really good news as regards climate change is this:  We have all of the elements we need to implement two radical solutions, both on a planetary scale, in order to rapidly cool Mother Earth down to healthy pre-industrial temperatures sustainable for all of life on Earth. That includes: Solar Radiation Management (SRM) to cool the planet in time to save the majority of life on Earth. And Collective Intelligence (CI) to empower humanity to organize herself to develop and implement planetary-scale SRM in time

“We are privileged to be working with Harvard scientists led by Dr. Ye Tao of the Rowland Institute at Harvard, in developing the very best SRM solution we have ever seen, which is Dr. Tao’s MEER: Reflection project, which we delve into in the Google document on SRM below.  Dr. Tao will be a speaker at an upcoming Sierra Club Dinner in early 2020 as part of a larger public relations campaign to awaken the whole world to the urgency of implementing planetary-scale SRM immediately.  Dr. Tao, in turn, was introduced to me by our very own Prof. Guy McPherson, who has been a guest speaker at a few Sierra Club Dinners in the past, and who is the world’s leading expert in abrupt climate change.

“As the planet cools, we will have bought ourselves invaluable time, as well as intelligence, to develop and implement all of the other solutions we need to solve the rest of the world’s mega-problems, beyond the singular problem of planetary overheating.  SRM is the only way to cool our planet in time, and collective intelligence (CI) is in turn the only way for humanity to organize herself to make SRM happen in time.  As we develop the necessary CI to make SRM a successful reality, this planetary collective intelligence will also be applied to all of our myriad wicked problems, holistically.

“To make all of this happen in time, it is crucial that we, humanity, come together and give both of the above solutions -- SRM and CI -- their proper launch.  Once launched, they will co-evolve quite nicely into the future.

"The deadline for reserving your spot at the December 5 Sierra Club Dinner on Pacifica is this coming Monday, December 2. Deadline for reserving for “program only” -- starting at 8 p.m. -- is the afternoon of December 5 itself).  You can make a reservation by calling, Jamen Shively, Program Chair, East Bay Sierra Club Dinners, Cell:  206 251 0222. me and letting him know, or by purchasing tickets online via Eventbrite (below), or by calling Jane Barrett (info above--feel free to leave a message if she does not answer). Attendance is limited to the first 115 reservations received. "


Susan Alcorn (aka Backpack45)

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #247 November 2019


1.      Amazing link to view the PCT from NASA

2.      Camino Frances – Orisson closed for the season

3.      Important changes for PCT permits

4.      What you can do with a tennis ball

5.      Grandma Gatewood—some backstory

6.      Mark your belongings

7.      REI is #OptOutside

8.      Have you read my latest book?

9.      Regional: Final REI Packing event Berkeley


#1. Amazing Link to PCT from NASA—A look at our beloved Pacific Crest Trail from space.


#2. Camino de Santiago. The Orisson albergue (photo on left) in the Pyrenees is closed for the winter, but taking reservations for next year in November. “The Refuge Orisson is closed and [will] reopen in early April 2020 depending on the weather. Your 2020 booking requests will be processed from the end of November [2019]. For booking requests between April 1 and 10th, please call us 1 or 2 days before. 33 638269738 

#3. Pacific Crest Trail Permitting Changes: There are several important changes for 2020 and beyond—here’s what I culled from the PCTA website and blog. 

North bound: Opening dates for the 2020 PCT long-distance permit for those starting at or near the Mexican border (both thru-hikes and section hikes)

This is for “long-distance permits for trips starting at the Southern Terminus will be issued for trips starting between March 1 and May 31. As in prior years, 50 permits are available for each day.”

“We will release these permits in two phases, so if you miss getting a permit in the first phase, you’ll have the opportunity to try again.

“On October 29 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time, 35 permits per day will become available. On January 14 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time, the remaining 15 permits per day will become available.”

South bound: “In 2020, 15 long-distance permits will be available each day for southbound thru- and section-hikers and riders starting in the PCT Northern Terminus area (Canada through Stehekin). These permits will be available for trips starting between June 15 and July 31.

“After that, 15 long-distance permits starting in the Northern Terminus area will be available each day for section hikers and riders starting between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15.”

And some big changes in between: “New this year: changes in the Southern Sierra to reduce crowding. Skipping the Sierra Nevada can make a lot of sense, especially in early season when snow makes traveling difficult.

“However, PCT long-distance permits are for a specific itinerary and permit holders are expected to pass through the Southern Sierra during the specific timeframe of their permit. In order to protect the area during the middle of summer, when many people head into the mountains, the U.S. Forest Service has instituted some changes for PCT long-distance travelers.

“Travel in the Southern Sierra (Kennedy Meadows South to Sonora Pass) must be continuous with no skips or changes in direction. If you exit the Southern Sierra to do more than resupply or wish to re-enter at a different trailhead, perhaps after hiking elsewhere, you must obtain a new permit from the local land management agency if you wish to hike in the Southern Sierra. Your PCT long-distance permit will no longer be valid for travel through the Southern Sierra as your travel is no longer continuous.”

#4. What to do with a tennis ball: The Ubiquitous Tennis Ball by Susan Alcorn

You can use it for:

1.      Foot Massage--Put it under the arch of your foot, and holding it firmly with your food, roll it in a circular direction.  Continue for 2-5 minutes.  Very helpful with general foot fatigue, and recommended by body-workers for plantar fasciitis.

2.      Neck and Upper Back Massage--Stand again a wall.  Put the ball in the middle of your back, above your shoulder blades.  Bending your knees, and continuing to press against the wall, move your whole body in a circular motion.  Helps relieve tension, and pain in both the neck and upper back.

3.      Hand motor skill exercise--Put the tennis ball in the palm of your hand, and perform the following exercises.  1) Squeeze and release the ball, 2) Roll the ball in your hand by using alternate fingers to do the manipulations.

4.      Sleeping bag fluff--Following the manufacturer’s recommendation on drying cycle, throw a tennis ball into the dryer with your down sleeping bag, or jacket.  It will help distribute the down, and fluff it to maximum loft.

5.      Play the old, children's party game of passing the orange. Form two teams. The first person in each line tucks the ball under his/her chin and then passes the ball, using no hands, to the second person in the line.  First team finished, wins.

6.     Juggle it, and when you can juggle one, add additional ones, one at a time.

7.      Check to be sure the floors of homes you're inspecting are level or not.  If the ball rolls rapidly to the corner, that's a sure sign the floor's not level.

8.      Throw it for your dog to fetch.

9.      Poke a hole in it, and stick it on your radio antennae.

10.   Play tennis

#5. Grandma Gatewood—some backstory. Many know about Grandma Gatewood, who was the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail solo in one season.  She was 67 when she completed it in 1955—and she went on to hike it twice again. The back story that came out in Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, a book written by a newspaper reporter, Ben Montgomery, and published in 2014, is that Grandma Gatewood was already a survivor when she hiked the AT.  When Emma was 19,she married a teacher, Perry Gatewood, who was 26. Shorter thereafter he became a farmer; he put her to work doing heavy manual work--building fences, mixing concrete and such in addition to expecting her to do the household chores. Three months after they were married, Perry beat Emma for the first time. This, and sexual abuse, continued through the years until in "1939, he broke her teeth, cracked one of her ribs and bloodied her face." After the beatings, Emma would run into the woods for refuge from the beatings.

The couple divorced in 1941. In 1949, she read in the National Geographic about the Appalachian Trail. And then in 1955, she set out to hike it. She carried minimal weight in the small cloth sack that she made—a change of clothes, a Swiss Army knife, some food. She was wearing Keds (she reportedly wore out seven pairs during her adventure). She had a shower curtain for shelter, which she sometimes had to use when sleeping outdoors, but she often stayed with people who opened their homes to her along the way.

She became quite a celebrity—making TV appearances and holding press events. She frankly commented on poor conditions of the trail, which many credit for informing Americans about the trail’s existence and also leading to better trail planning. “Author Ben Montgomery interviewed surviving family members and hikers Gatewood met along the trail, unearthed historic newspaper and magazine articles, and was given full access to Gatewood’s own diaries, trail journals, and correspondence,” so writes Katharine Q. Seelye in Overlooked No More: Emma Gatewood, First Woman to Conquer the Appalachian Trail Alone (March 8, 2018 The New York Times).

Thank you, Jane Toro, for sharing this latest news article about the remarkable Grandma Gatewood!

#6. Camino and more-- It is a good idea to mark your hiking poles and perhaps shoes in some easily identifiable way. Things sometimes do get stolen while on the Camino, but sometimes such items as hiking poles and shoes are picked up in the albergues or restaurants by mistake. Susan Delaney Moeckel (on Facebook) wrote, “My bootlaces are tie-dye.” In the case that Susan was commenting on, someone had taken someone else’s shoes—by accident it turned out, and they were returned. Easy enough to make a mistake when gathering items for the day’s hike when the room is dark.

#7. REI goes it one better: “This Black Friday when we #OptOutside, we Opt to Act. Since 2015, we've closed our doors on Black Friday to #OptOutside. This year we’re doing more. On November 29th, join us to be part of a nationwide day of action—kicking off a year of change.” At REI's their website, you can get more details including where projects are planned. Click here. 

2016-05-19_13-34-49_5393_EOS.JPG#8. Healing Miles: Gifts from the Camino Norte and Primitivo. In case you have not read my most recent book, here’s a description of it. “…the story of Susan’s personal journey; physical problems to overcome and the need to care for a family member while on the trail; at the same time, she finds that new and old friendships, as well as the day-to-day rewards derived from the trail efforts and accomplishments support her journey.

Healing Miles contains valuable practical advice on how to prepare for long distance hike, what to learn and do before the start of the adventure, and to pack like a minimalist to reduce the weight of the pack you'll be shouldering, and also included is an overview of transportation, accommodations and cultural highlights of this region, all along the trail.

While the most popular route of the Camino Santiago remains the Frances, increasingly hikers are looking for less crowded, or alternative routes. In the Healing Miles, readers will travel with the author, Susan Alcorn and her husband Ralph as they walk 700 miles across Northern Spain on two of the most beautiful and historical Camino routes.

Healing Miles is available on Amazon, but also from one of our wonderful distributors in Southern California, Mountain N’ Air. “Our Price: $17.95. Availability: Usually Ships in 24 to 48 Hours. Product Code: 9780936034065.”

#9. Regional: Packing for the Camino. Last session this year by Laurie Ferris and Susan Alcorn. Berkeley REI. Registration recommended, click here. 7-8:30 PM. Free. Packing for walking the Camino may seem overwhelming, but in this informative presentation by experienced Camino hikers Laurie Ferris and Susan Alcorn, you can put your concerns to rest.

On their own Caminos, both have learned much about what to bring and what not to bring. They'll discuss backpacks, clothing, shoes, sleeping gear, hiking poles, toiletries, and more. They'll also talk about how to pack a backpack so that it's most comfortable.

Laurie and Susan are not in total agreement on what items are best to bring--and hope that new hikers will find it reassuring that there is no ONE right way--there are many right ways. They are in agreement about keeping the weight of your pack low and not packing based on fears. Laurie Ferris is co-coordinator of the Northern CA chapter of American Pilgrims and has hiked the Camino Ingles, Portuguese, Primitivo, and Invierno routes. Susan Alcorn, author of two Camino books, has hiked the Frances, Norte, Primitivo, Portuguese and more. Berkeley REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!
Susan Alcorn (aka Backpack45)

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #246 October 2019


  1. Receiving your Camino Compostela in Santiago
  2. Good news from PCTA – Can Camino walkers follow suit?
  3. Great Western Loop Hike?
  4. Wilderness Survival Tips
  5. Climate Change Protest
  6. Hand Sanitizer May Not Work!
  7. Regional: SF Bay Area: Programs on the Camino Norte and Primitivo
  8. Regional: SF Bay Area: Reminder: Packing for the Camino
  9. Regional: SF Bay Area: A Brisk Hills Walk


2016-05-25_11-16-50_LG-H811.jpg#1. Camino Compostelas at the Pilgrim Office. When arriving at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago de Compostela, pilgrims will find a new system in place. With the steadily increasing number of pilgrims arriving in Santiago daily, the office is trying to ease the lengthy wait time that many have reported when trying to obtain their Compostela—the certificate given to those who have walked, and obtained the required two stamps daily, at least the last 60 miles/100 km of a Camino route into the Holy City. The office has installed a kiosk which issues a numbered ticket with a QR barcode. Once obtained, you can leave the building and go elsewhere (to eat, check into your room, etc.) while your number approaches. Just don’t miss the time to return!

On Ivar’s Forum, t2andreo writes, “You can use your smartphone to check the current status of the queue, via-a-vis your number from anywhere you have internet access. Both Apple iPhones and Android phones have the built in capability to scan a barcode and bring up the encrypted website. In this case, that is the current status of the queue, via-a-vis your number. If your number is 50 or less from the currently being served number, finish whatever you are doing and proceed to the pilgrim office, without delay.

“If your number is 30 or less from the number being served, RUSH to the office. The number being served can accelerate at times. If you miss your place when called, you could be compelled to return to the kiosk to take another number.”

#2. Good news from the PCTA office. Wish this could be said of the Camino! The “Trail Dirt Newsletter” from the Pacific Crest Trail Association reports, "Carrying out your toilet paper is making a difference.” They report, "There was a lot less toilet paper visible on the trail in Southern California this year. How great is that? The amount of trash the Crest Runners collected was down by about 75% compared to the year before. And for the really gross stuff, used TP, there was a whole lot less of that, too. Between handing out toilet paper bags, an online push, and reminding people in person, far more people decided to carry out their used TP. They saw very little of it on their patrols. It really seems like there's been a cultural shift towards carrying out toilet paper. That's good for the planet and for all of us.” Now if we could see this kind of improvement on the Camino, it would be even more TERRIFIC!

#3. Great Western Loop Hike. Saw this on Facebook’s PCT hikers' group. It sounds pretty amazing if Trey Cate (trailname: Lost) can put it together. As of today, there are still a few openings. The Great Western Loop is a 6,875-mile footpath across the western half of the USA. The trek, popularized by Andrew Skurka, links five existing trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, & Arizona Trail, as well as some route finding through the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts.

Trey Cate writes, “We still need hikers; mains and alternates, for the Great Western Loop next year. It's 7k miles, but your gear, resupply, and lodging are all paid for. We'll have a support team following along the whole time, so we'll slack pack you as much as possible. All we require is that you try your hardest to complete the trail. So if you know anyone that this sounds like feel free to DM me and I'll send you the details. (Don't put your emails in the comments please). You have to of completed at least one thru hike already though... and it starts Jan 1st and goes until October. AND you have to be able to start doing 25 miles per day. That's pretty important. Oh! We're sponsored, so that's where the money comes from, and every hiker will be hiking for his, her, or their own personal charities. 

Just to clarify. We start in Cuba, NM and head west. The website will be finished by the end of this month, which is why I was going to email the deck to everyone who is qualified in the meantime. My Instagram is @lostuphigh if you want to see if I'm a real hiker/person.

4. Wilderness Survival Tips. “Waterproof matches won’t do you much good without knowing how to build a fire with wet wood (Pro Tip: Whittle a small branch down to its dry core for tinder shavings to help get one started). And a compass is dead weight if you don’t know how to shoot a bearing or use it correctly with a map.” From “The Essentials for Survival in a Search and Rescue Situation” by Nancy East for Gossamer Gear’s Outdoor Education.

#5. Climate Change Coverage: In case you missed it, Marianne Daft, sent this clip from the NYTimes. Follow this link.

#6. Does your hand sanitizer work? Your alcohol-based sanitizer does nothing to kill Giardia! writes Craig "Pisco" Gulley. “Does this shock you? I know it did me when I first heard this. Doesn’t everyone have hand sanitizer in their poop bag? As you are about to dive into a friend’s trail mix bag, don’t you hear, “did you sanitize your hands” (what you should be hearing is STOP, but we will discuss that another time!)1 After filtering water from a particularly stagnate beaver pond or cow pie water trough, isn’t the first thing you do after collecting water, sanitize your hands?

“In fact, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, the way they are used, have virtually no effect on giardia. So, what does, and what is the best way to protect yourself from giardia in the backcountry? In order to understand how to best prevent Giardiasis while hiking let’s first look at what makes giardia so tough.

“Giardia outside the body is a tough “bug.” Outside the body it creates a Cyst. Literally a hard “cocoon” that allows it to survive for weeks to months outside a host. **

“Once ingested by a host the trophozoite emerges and starts to feed and multiply. The only plus side is that only about one third of those infected actually get sick. Now that we know what it is and how it works, how do we stop it? The best defense is a good hygiene offense. Since most hikers don’t eat many (not enough) fresh foods in the backcountry, the food tends to be packaged or repackaged in some manner so contamination this way is small. The biggest culprit for transmitting germs is our hands, but this is where our alcohol-based hand sanitizer should solve this problem, right?

“Alcohol sanitizers work by actually killing the germs they come into contact with. The alcohol breaks down cell walls and destroys the organisms it comes in contact with. This includes any healthy bacteria that is commonly found on your skin. This however is not a problem for a normally healthy adult as you will readily make more. It will also dry out the skin as it evaporates moisture from the surface and can lead to chafing and cracking if used frequently.

“These types of sanitizers were designed for developing countries, without clean water sources, (which could be most backcountry hiking settings) and have been in use in hospital settings for years and have been found to be very effective against most germs. However, alcohol sanitizers are ineffective if your hands are soiled, meaning debris like blood, grease, chemical solvents and especially dirt. How ironic then, that in order to “clean” your hands, your hands have to be clean. Alcohol sanitizers will evaporate if not contained but it is this evaporation that helps break down and carry away dead germs. In order to be effective however alcohol-based hand sanitizers must be wet on the skin for between 30 seconds and 5 minutes (how many of us do that?).

“It used to be commonly believed that Giardia could be killed by alcohol-based methods if it was 80% or stronger with either Isopropyl or Ethanol alcohol. The problem here is none of your consumer-based hand sanitizers come at this strength. * They range from 47% to about 70% and the same brand can vary widely, which may account for the wide range of pricing as the same brand can have different concentrations of alcohol. 

“Spoiler alert- There is a study that shows that alcohol-based hand sanitizers do kill Giardia by breaking down the cyst with as little as 63% alcohol and found no difference between the 63% concentration and the 80% concentration with the caveat that it had to be left on the hands for 5 minutes! 5 Something I am sure none of are doing.

“Good old soap and water. Surprise! Soap and water don’t actually kill germs. The combination of the soap as a lubricant to loosen and lift debris and germs, including Giardia cysts, from your skin and the water to wash it all way is the most effective way to prevent disease. Plain old soap and water are actually more effective than antibacterial soaps, as the concentration of the antibacterial agent is not enough to kill bacteria but used to linger on the skin to help prolong “clean hands.” It is these antibacterial agents that have gotten the reputation as being the cause for breading “super germs” resistant to normal antibiotics. Plain soap and water made into a good lather and used for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday to yourself eliminates 90% of all bacteria and viruses from your hands. Want to eliminate 99%? Sing Happy Birthday to yourself twice and it doesn’t matter if the water is hot or cold, although really hot water can blister and scald your hands and actually hinders the amount of time you want to wash them, so stick with lukewarm to cold water. Don’t forget to dry your hands as well. The whole hand washing scenario should take about a minute to insure truly clean hands.

“Summary: The most effective way to keep your hands clean and therefore keep clear of the biggest cause of getting sick on the trail is to wash our hands with soap and water for about 40 seconds and then thoroughly dry them. If you are in a situation where water is scarce an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer of 63% alcohol will kill many germs but will not be effective against Giardia unless left on the hands for 5 minutes. So, think about replacing or at least augmenting your hand sanitizer with a dropper bottle of regular soap!

“Citations and Notes:

1. STOP- the single biggest cause of hikers getting sick is sharing food with others. You may love your friends but assume they are carriers of disease. If you are going to share your trail mix or any food, have them hold out their hands and pour them some or hand them some, don’t allow anyone to stick their hands in your food bag or touch your food. 


3.Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2015 Nov; 59(11): 6749–6754. Published online 2015 Oct 13

4. What Organisms Does Isopropyl Alcohol Kill? by Tucker Cummings

(5)“*Author comment What about Bleach? Bleach does penetrate the Giardia cyst and kill the trophozoites, but unlike alcohol-based sanitizers, where the alcohol evaporates and is not absorbed through the skin, bleach is absorbed through the skin and can cause other health risks, so it is not recommended for human consumption.

6.Harvard EDU newsletter January 2007

** author comment If you think it would be nice to cool off in a still pond along the trail, think twice, especially one with signs of animal use like beavers and cattle. Any open sores or cuts, including blisters on your feet and especially an accidental mouth full of water are an invitation to Giardiasis.

2016-06-08_12-48-55_5907_EOS.JPG#7. S.F. Bay Area Regional: Camino and Primitivo Program. Susan and Ralph Alcorn are giving two presentations (photos and talk) on the Caminos Norte and Primitivo of Spain. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019. 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM. Oakley Library. Camino Norte and Primitivo Program

Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. San Francisco Dinners, Sierra Club. Camino and Primitivo Program. 


Oakley Library. Camino Norte and Primitivo Program. Hiking around the world! Active vacations have been a thing now for more than a decade, but what about major treks? Susan Alcorn and her husband Ralph are retirees who have made it their goal to keep active! They’ve hiked the great pilgrimage routes in Europe, the entire Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada), and summited Kilimanjaro at the age of 65/70. Come see some great pics, listen to fascinating travel stories, and learn how you too can participate in an active, outdoor life-style. Tuesday, October 15, 2019. 6:30 PM. 1050 Neroly Rd, Oakley, CA 94561.

Sierra San Francisco Club Dinner--Camino and Primitivo Program (more details below) Grace Lutheran Church, 3201 Ulloa St, San Francisco. Cost: $24 Signup Instructions: RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. To reserve, send a check for $24 made out to "Sierra Club, SF Bay Chapter" to: Gerry Souzis, 1801 California St., #405, San Francisco, CA 94109. On the check, please put the month of the dinner and the number of people you are paying for. Let us know if you want a vegetarian dinner. A phone number would be useful in case of some unexpected cancellation. It is most convenient for us to receive your check four days before the scheduled dinner. Bring: Bring your own wine or soft drinks. Glasses and ice are available.

Take Muni L to 32nd Ave., walk one block to 33rd, and turn left on Ulloa for one block. Street parking is also available. Social Hour: 6:00 PM, dinner: 7:00 PM, and program: 8:00 PM. For questions, contact Gerry between 4 and 9 PM (no morning calls please) at (415) 474-4440 or: Event Organizers: Gerry Souzis (415) 474-4440.,

#8. Reminder: Packing for the Camino Presentations at REI by Laurie Ferris and Susan Alcorn. Packing for your pilgrimage walk on the Camino de Santiago. To bring or not to bring? Experienced Camino hikers Laurie Ferris and Susan Alcorn will discuss options for backpacks, clothing, shoes, sleeping gear, hiking poles, toiletries, first aid, and more. Free, but please register.

Three Bay Area Dates: 

Wednesday, October 09, 7:00 PM  –  8:30 PM. Register for the REI Corte Madera, CA Click here

Wednesday, October 23, 7:00 PM  –  8:30 PM   Register for REI Concord, CA  Click here

Wednesday, November 06, 7:00 PM  –  8:30 PM. Register for REI Berkeley, CA Click here.

2016-05-08_09-02-11_5211_EOS.JPGPacking for walking the Camino may seem overwhelming, but in this informative presentation by experienced Camino hikers Laurie Ferris and Susan Alcorn, you can put your concerns to rest. On their own Caminos, both have learned much about what to bring and what not to bring. They’ll discuss backpacks, clothing, shoes, sleeping gear, hiking poles, toiletries, and more. They’ll also talk about how to pack a backpack so that it’s most comfortable. Laurie and Susan are not in total agreement on what items are best to bring–and hope that new hikers will find it reassuring that there is no ONE right way–there are many right ways. They are in agreement about keeping the weight of your pack low and not packing based on fears. Laurie Ferris is co-coordinator of the Northern CA chapter of American Pilgrims and has hiked the Camino Ingles, Portuguese, Primitivo, and Invierno routes. Susan Alcorn, author of two Camino books, has hiked the Frances, Norte, Primitivo, Portuguese and more. Photo is Susan's sleeping bag.

#9. Regional: SF Bay Area. A Brisk Hills Walk. Sunday, Oct. 13, 9 am - 1 pm, Leader: John Ford & Bonnie Forer. Start: 2113 Vine St. (Patio in front of Vintage Berkeley, across from the original Peet's on Walnut Street.)

We'll take a zig-zag walk up to the border of Tilden Park utilizing 9 paths, with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain in about 2 miles. Then we'll move north along the ridge with some more up and down, plus another 7 paths and a walk through the Zaytuna College campus (formerly a Lutheran seminary). We'll work our way back down from the hills taking several other paths (which ones depend on the energy level of the group at that point). This is a challenging 9-mile walk with optional lunch in the Gourmet Ghetto as our reward at the end.

Berkeley Path Wanderers Association (BPWA) is a grassroots organization of people who treasure the public pathways that crisscross our city.

Happy trails, 

Susan Alcorn (aka Backpack45)

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #245 September 2019


  1. Smarter than your average bear!
  2. Gaiters with Altra trail runners—review
  3. Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT)
  4. Freak accident on PCT
  5. Courtney’s CA “Inn to Inn” guides highlighted in Sunset Magazine
  6. Camino interest and more: Purple Rain Skirts on “Avoiding Chaffing Between the Thighs”
  7. California’s lone wolf pack has three new members
  8. Regional: Packing for the Camino de Santiago
  9. Regional: Continuing on the SF Crosstown trail 
  10. Regional: Audubon Society Golden Gate works on inclusion


2010-11-08_15-30-33_7246_P80 .JPG

#1.  “Keep Tahoe Bears Wild! Agencies launch collaborative website to remind public to practice proper food storage and trash disposal in bear country.

“Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. – The Tahoe Basin is bear country and natural resource and law enforcement agencies are working diligently to remind residents and visitors to practice proper food storage and trash disposal when living in or visiting bear country. To help spread our message, we’ve launched a new website,, where residents and visitors can go to learn everything they need to know about living, visiting and playing responsibly in bear country.

“As a reminder, at National Forest campgrounds in the Lake Tahoe Basin, visitors are required to store food in bear-resistant containers (storage lockers/bear boxes), dispose of trash in dumpsters and close and lock these containers or risk fines, jail time, or both. Bear canisters are strongly recommended for those camping in Desolation Wilderness and other backcountry areas because bears have been successfully accessing food that is hung in trees.” U.S. Forest Service - Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit posted this Media release: 8/30/2019

Berryessa 3 Star Thistle.jpg#2. Review of Altra Gaiters vs Dirty Girl Gaiters. Yesterday, Ralph and I were going to do a hike in an area with fields of Star Thistle, a nasty, invasive weed that will puncture your skin if you brush up against it. I dug out my Dirty Girl Gaiters and wore them with my Altra Lone Peak trail runners—and nary a puncture. Today, I saw a review comparing Dirty Girl Gaiters vs. Altra Gaiters entitled, “Which go best with Altra shoes? Review of Dirty Girl Gaiters vs. Altra Gaiters. Guess who won? Link here.

#3.Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT). I am intrigued by what BAWT is offering and their mission. Bay Area readers—spread the word! Those in other areas—support similar organizations in your location. 

“Our Mission: Equitable access to outdoor experiences for youth of color and low-income youth. Bay Area Wilderness Training envisions a generation of social and environmental leaders, inspired by positive and meaningful experiences in nature, who reflect the diversity of our local community.” Training opportunities, rentals of camping gear at no or low cost after completing training. Rental “libraries” are in San Francisco, Oakland, Milpitas.” Link here.

#4. Fatality on the Pacific Crest Trail. A German hiker was killed by a falling tree on Pacific Crest Trail near Stevenson, WA. (AP) 8/29/19 and forwarded by reader Tom Coroneos). “A hiker from Germany died after he was hit by a falling tree on the Pacific Crest Trail.” A group hiking the PCT, northwest of Trout Lake, Washington, called the Skamania County Sheriff's office on August 27, to report an injury. Search and Rescue started out, but a second phone call reported that the injured person’s condition was deteriorating. The hiker, 28-year-old Finn Bastian of Preetz, was administered CPR but did not respond and died. The tree had fallen as the group was crossing a wooden bridge and officials later said that the tree was rotten at the base.

#5. Tom Courtney’s CA “Inn-to-Inn” guides featured in Sunset Magazine. Courtney writes, “Sunset Magazine published a nice online article "The Best Inn-to-Inn Hikes in California" based on an interview with me and on my books. Courtney has developed a great concept combining multi-day hikes in scenic California locations along with suggestions for terrific accommodations. Link article here. 

#6. "How to Prevent Chafing Chaffing between the Thighs," by Purple Rain Adventure Hiking Skirts owner, Mandy ‘Purple Rain’ Bland. “I am asked quite often if my skirts have built in undershorts. My token response is that I make 'true skirts' to maximize airflow and ease of peeing. A true skirt also allows you to layer with whatever you want.  That being said chafing between the thighs is REAL for a lot of people, and when it does happen it can lead to an extremely uncomfortable experience. Different hiking climates and body types lend to more propensity to chafe. For those of you running into this issue, we do have some suggestions … 

“Let Airflow Do Its Thing: Why I stress airflow so much is that it can help reduce chafe.  From my own experience I get the worst chafe when wet fabric rubs on my skin while hiking, whether that is with shorts between my legs or a tank top around the armpits. I sweat A LOT when I hike. When the sweat seeps into the fabric and isn't able to dry, I chafe. Wearing a skirt helps keep everything dry down there.  

“Allow for Some ‘Break In’ Time: In the beginning of the hiking season I will often chafe until my thighs develop something of a callous. Think of it like breaking in a hiking shoe — it takes some time for your body to adapt. 

“Keep Your Skin Clean: It's not just the thigh rub that causes chafe, the salt in the sweat is what causes a lot of irritability. Keeping your skin clean will help with irritation, whether that is a swim in a lake or wiping down at the end of the day. For the latter, you can definitely use baby wipes, or there are any number of other wipe products available. 

“Lube Your Skin: Running anti-chafe lube onto your skin (between your thighs, or anywhere you chafe or blister) can help A LOT! Body Glide is a popular option among hikers. Garage Grown Gear Co-Founder Amy Hatch’s personal favorite is GurneyGoo, which was developed by an adventure racer in New Zealand and uses tea tree oil. I've also had good luck with Uberlube. It's technically sold as a sex lubricant, but it works great on trail too! It doesn't get sticky like other brands and lasts for a long time. And a multi-use item on trail is always a good thing ; )

“Layer with Compression Shorts: When airflow and lube just aren't enough, some people prefer to wear compression shorts to ward off chafe. With a tight fitting short you won't have the fabric moving between your legs, and depending on the fabric type you can still get a decent amount of airflow.  

“When wearing a compression short, the skirt gives you a certain amount of modesty for those of us who don't like wearing tightfitting clothing.  Some women refer to the skirt as their 'tool belt' so it's more than just a garment.    

“These are compression shorts that have been recommended by my customers: Knix Thigh Saver Short, Jockey Skimmies SlipShort, UnderArmour on the Court Shorts, R-Gear Recharge Compression Shorts, 

“I’ve always hoped that my skirts encourage people of all body types and all walks of life to get out into wild places. In a way, that’s actually a big reason why I don’t have built-in compression shorts in my hiking skirts — fitting all body types could become complicated and possibly end up limiting who the skirts work for.”

Used with permission from Mandy ‘Purple Rain’ Bland, owner.

#7. California’s lone wolf pack has three new members. Whether you love them and/or fear them, this is exciting news. You can read about it, but seeing the video is AMAZING. Eight years ago, a gray wolf crossed over from Oregon into California. This returned wolves to the state for the first time since they were wiped out in the 1920s. “At least three new wolf pups were born in mid-April to the Lassen Pack, a group of gray wolves that has been roaming Lassen and Plumas counties in the rural northeast corner of the state, according to officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.” Link here.


altras.jpg#8. Regional: Camino: Packing for the Camino. Laurie Ferris, co-coordinator of the Northern California Chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino and I will be giving a presentation, Packing for your Pilgrimage Walk on the Camino de Santiago, at three Bay Area REI stores soon. Corte Madera on Wednesday, October 09, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM; Concord on Wednesday, October 23, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM; and Berkeley REI on Wednesday, November 06, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

“Packing for walking the Camino may seem overwhelming, but in this informative presentation by experienced Camino hikers Laurie Ferris and Susan Alcorn, you can put your concerns to rest. On their own Caminos, both have learned much about what to bring and what not to bring. They’ll discuss backpacks, clothing, shoes, sleeping gear, hiking poles, toiletries, and more. They’ll also talk about how to pack a backpack so that it’s most comfortable. Laurie and Susan are not in total agreement on what items are best to bring–and hope that new hikers will find it reassuring that there is no ONE right way–there are many right ways. They are in agreement about keeping the weight of your pack low and not packing based on fears. 

Laurie Ferris has hiked the Camino Ingles, Portuguese, Primitivo, and Invierno routes. Susan Alcorn, author of two Camino books, has hiked the Frances, Norte, Primitivo, Portuguese and more.

Register for the Corte Madera event on Oct. 9, 2019

Register for the Concord event on Oct. 23, 2019

Register for Berkeley event on Nov. 6, 2019

#9. Regional: Continuing on the SF Crosstown trail. A reminder—if you are interested in joining a group to do the trail, Berkeley Path Wanderers has scheduled four hikes to complete the entire route. 

Sunday Sept. 22, 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lands End to Golden Gate Park (Hike 1 of a 4-Hike Series) Leader: Alina Constantinescu. Start: Outside the Lands End Lookout Visitors Center at 680 Point Lobos Ave. in San Francisco. (Lands End Lookout Visitors Center). 

On-site parking is free, though it’s not always easy to find a spot. Muni bus 38 stops 2 blocks away. End: Golden Gate Park, Park Presidio Blvd. at Fulton St., on the route for Muni bus 5 and 2 blocks from bus 38.

“For our September hike, we'll start at Lands End, hike a spectacular stretch of the Coastal Trail through the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, go through the Sea Cliff neighborhood to the Presidio, and wind down along the Park Presidio Greenway to Golden Gate Park. We estimate to arrive at Golden Gate Park around 12:30pm. At this point, hikers can choose to return to Lands End (or other destinations) via public transit or car share. This walk is 4.7 miles with 550 feet of elevation gain. Optional extended hike.” The remaining hikes in the series: Sun., Oct. 27; Sat., Nov. 16; and Sun., Dec. 15.

#10. Audubon Society, Golden Gate Chapter. The GAS teams up with the Feminist Bird Club at Land’s End. (Aug 07, 2019). Member Alex Smolyanskaya writes, “’Why feminist?’ l'll answer by starting at the beginning. The Feminist Bird Club has its origins in New York City, where Molly Adams founded the club in 2016 in response to a violent crime near Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, where she often birded alone, and as a do-something reaction to the new political climate. The group has been birding together and fundraising together ever since. Proceeds from the highly-coveted patch go toward social justice causes such as Planned Parenthood and Black Lives Matter. 

“The equity-driven mission, inclusive birding community, and activism attract a young audience, largely of beginners, many of whom identify as members of marginalized groups. When I was pondering where I would lead my first bird walk, a requirement for the Master Birder class in which I’m currently enrolled, I thought first about the Feminist Bird Club. I knew I wanted to do what FBC chapters were doing: appeal to a broad urban audience and go to a place easily accessible by public transit, nudge the start time a bit later in the day, and advertise among urban outdoorsy groups. 

“I floated the idea of starting a Bay Area chapter to Molly, birder friends, and people I had never met. The response was overwhelming. People wanted community, they wanted to be activists, and most of all they wanted to be outside appreciating birds. “…(formed) the Bay Area chapter of the Feminist Bird Club. Our inaugural walk was held at Corona Heights Park during SF Pride Weekend, from 9 am to 11 am. Almost forty people came to bird, learn about each other, and spark a new community.…”

Happy trails, 

Susan Alcorn (aka Backpack45)

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #243 August 2019


  1. The Ahwahnee is coming back…
  2. Hip Osteoarthritis: Nonsurgical treatments to consider
  3. PCT and the permitting process
  4. PCT Days is Aug. 16-18, 2019 in Cascade Locks, Oregon
  5. The runner who creates artwork with his feet.  
  6. Volunteer Opportunities
  7. Catra Corbett continues to amaze!
  8. SF Regional: SF Crosstown Trail
  9. SF Regional: Nifty Ninety


#1. The Ahwahnee is coming back. Heard this news first from reader Marianne Daft first and was thrilled. Just in case you missed the news, various place names in Yosemite National Park had been changed to IMO bizarre new names. The wonderful old hotel that had been called The Ahwahnee for generations had been renamed as “The Majestic Yosemite Hotel” by concessionaire Delaware North. Yuck, yuck, yuck! The place we all knew as Curry Village was called Half Dome Village for almost three years. Most of us just tried to ignore the new names, but it did make it more confusing to make reservations, etc. Anyway, here’s a story about the settlement. “Yosemite settles lawsuits to regain trademarks – click here SFGate Jul 15. 

#2. Hip Osteoarthritis: Nonsurgical Treatments to Consider. In the U C Wellness newsletter, read that “Many people with hip osteoarthritis (OA) can relieve pain and improve mobility with nonsurgical therapies, according to guidelines from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

A few findings from the AAOS panel’s reviews of scientific research on nonsurgical treatments that were  published its findings in “Management of Osteoarthritis of the Hip: Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline.” 
a. "strong evidence" that both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen, celecoxib, and diclofenac, as well as intra-articular injections of corticosteroids, can provide short-term pain relief and improve function.

b. “…strong support for physical therapy as an intervention in patients with mild to moderate symptoms of hip OA.

c. “…thumbs down to a few nonsurgical approaches to treating OA, including glucosamine dietary supplements and intra-articular injections of hyaluronic acid.

d. “…limited or moderate evidence that people who are obese, smoke, or have psychiatric disorders such as depression are at higher risk for poor outcomes and complications (such as infections) following hip-replacement surgery.”

#3. PCT NEWS! The 2020 permit season dates announced

PCT long-distance permits for trips starting at the Mexican border in 2020 will be available beginning Oct. 29. Permits for other itineraries will open on Jan. 14, 2020. The permits are only for people traveling 500 or more continuous miles in a single trip. If you are doing a series of shorter section hikes, you’ll need to apply for permits from the local land management agency where you will start your trip. We’re happy to explain how to do this if you need help. Detailed information is on our permit page. You’ll also find answers and important trip planning information in the Discover the Trail section of our website.

#4. PCT Days is Aug. 16-18, 2019 in Cascade Locks, Oregon. Pacific Crest Trail Days is a summer festival that celebrates the trail in this beautiful trail town along the mighty Columbia River. Join friends old and new for a few days of camping on Thunder Island, movies, talks, a gear fair, games, hiking and more. Reserve your campsite now. Be sure to stop by the PCTA booth and say hello.

#5.  The runner who makes elaborate artwork with his feet and a map. Contributor Monica Beary sent this item about a novel way to not only record your urban hikes, but also exercise your creativity. IF you decide to try this yourself, please let us know. Click here to see examples. 

#6. 8 Places in the U.S. to Do Volunteer Trail WorkClick here. I also want to put a plug in for Wilderness Volunteers, where we will volunteering this year.

J142_AlpineGlow.jpg#7. Catra Corbett continues to amaze! Catra Corbett is a Facebook friend who I love following--talk about inspirating! She's part of the hiking community, which is how I first heard about her. She now lives in Bishop, CA, but previously lived in Fremont, CA, which is near us so I recognized trails she ran or hiked. Yesterday she climbed Mt. Whitney for the 16th time. She regularly runs 200-mile races. She has run the Badwater Marathon, which is a 135-mile run from Death Valley  to Whitney Portal (the trailhead to Mount Whitney.) That's an elevation change from 279 ft to 8,360'. And amazingly, she was a heroin addict before she decided to turn her life around. Her book, "Reborn on the Run: My Journey from Addiction to Ultramarathons," tells her story.  

#8. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area. Ralph and I are very excited about a “new” trail called the San Francisco Crosstown Trail.  It’s a 16.5-mile trail, using existing dirt paths and paved sidewalks, that crosses San Francisco diagonally from Lands End on the NW end, to Candlestick Point on the SE side.
The route is part of the Recreation and Open Space Element of the SF General Plan and came about thanks to the efforts of the city and the individuals who took part in the Crosstown Trail Coalition. The Coalition was formed from many S.F. Bay Area groups including the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, SF Parks Alliance, Visitacion Valley Greenway, Walk SF, and many more—click here.

Ralph and I went over to San Francisco last week to do two parts with friends Monica and Harv. We started from Land’s End (on the coast) and walked about 8 miles to complete sections 5 & 4. We had so much fun discovering coastal trails, exploring neighborhoods, walking through Golden Gate Park and other open spaces, and finding a good new restaurant for lunch. Even though we live in the East Bay, we found that taking public transit—a combination of BART and the Muni 38R bus over to our starting point (the Visitors’ Center at Lands End), and taking the Muni train from 16th Avenue & Judah and BART back home worked perfectly. We are looking forward to doing the remaining three sections, which will take us through Visitacion Valley Greenway, up the colorful 16th Ave. tiled steps and the hidden garden steps, through Glen Park, and more. Click here for the website.

If you are interested in joining a group to do the trail, Berkeley Path Wanderers has scheduled four hikes to complete the entire route. First hike will be Sunday Sept. 22, 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lands End to Golden Gate Park  Leader: Alina Constantinescu. Start: Outside the Lands End Lookout Visitors Center at 680 Point Lobos Ave. in San Francisco. (Lands End Lookout Visitors Center).

On-site parking is free, though it’s not always easy to find a spot. Muni bus 38 stops 2 blocks away. End: Golden Gate Park, Park Presidio Blvd. at Fulton St., on the route for Muni bus 5 and 2 blocks from bus 38.

 “For our September hike, we'll start at Lands End, hike a spectacular stretch of the Coastal Trail through the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, go through the Sea Cliff neighborhood to the Presidio, and wind down along the Park Presidio Greenway to Golden Gate Park. We estimate to arrive at Golden Gate Park around 12:30pm. At this point, hikers can choose to return to Lands End (or other destinations) via public transit or car share. "

This walk is 4.7 miles with 550 feet of elevation gain. Optional extended hike.” The remaining hikes in the series: Sun., Oct. 27; Sat., Nov. 16; and Sun., Dec. 15.

#9. Back on the Nifty Ninety. Ralph and I are back pursuing some of the Bay Area peaks that are listed on the Sierra Club’s, Bay Chapter, Nifty Ninety Challenge. This past weekend, we were joined by our hiking buddies Tom and Patricia. Together, we ticked off two peaks down the peninsula from San Francisco. Both Montara Peak North and Chalk Mountain took us above the coastal fog, but not so far inland that we were hit by any excessive summer heat.

Montara Peak was a moderate hike that used switchbacks to ease the climb. Chalk Mountain went up to the top in a pretty straight shot, but once again, we were rewarded with great views of the coastline and the Pacific. Doing these peaks involved a couple hours of driving each way, but by staying overnight at Pigeon Point Hostel near Pescadero, we were able to do this long drive once rather than twice.

For Ralph and me, these were peaks 74 and 75—we’ve been hiking elsewhere for months, but it was sure fun to get back to the Nifty Ninety. I will be writing about these two peaks on my blog—

Happy trails,

Susan Alcorn (aka Backpack45)

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #243 July 2019


1. Hike Naked Day

2. “Deal saves Pacific Crest Trail stretch” 

3. Hikers’ Umbrella revisited—the Silver Shadow Mini

4. Treeline Reviews on trekking poles and more:

5. The Great American Rail Trail--4000 miles across the U.S

6. Regional: Tom Courtney events at REI. Courtney returns with his updated “Walkabout Northern California: Hiking Inn to Inn.”

7. Regional: ALDHA-West 2019 Gathering Registration Open

8. PCT Days - Call for Volunteers and participants at Cascade Locks 

9. Regional: Berkeley Path Wanderers, 14th annual Path-a-Thon

10. Is 10,000 steps the magic number? 

#1. Hike Naked Day. Just in case you missed it, you can read more about, and view, participants who took part in this annual free event! Writer Ian Tuttle brings you unfettered coverage of this tradition in his “How Eastern California Celebrated Hike Naked Day.” Warning, some nudity ahead at this link :).

2007-07-12_19-57-12_2284_A95.JPG#2. “Deal saves Pacific Crest Trail stretch.” Such good news in the SFChronicle! Many may not realize that not all of the land that the PCT is owned by the Forest Service, which manages the trail. About 10% belongs to private interests. This latest deal is a 17-mile stretch in the Trinity Mountains on the border of Trinity and Siskiyou counties in Northern California. 

This recent purchase was a logging area that hikers were allowed to pass through but were not allowed to visit the surrounding alpine bowls, lakes and forests. It is a beautiful area from which hikers can see “Mount Shasta, Lassen, Castle Crags, the Trinity Alps and Marble Mountains.” (article by Gregory Thomas, June 29, 2019.) This was a five year push and most of the work was done by such conservation groups as S.F. Trust for Public Land*, the Wyss Foundation, and the PCTA (represented by Megan Wargo, director of land protection). 

*The Trust for Public Land managed to secure $10 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund—a federal agency that “funnels offshore oil and gas operations toward natural resource protection.” President Trump’s recent budget proposal seeks to halt funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but some congressional members are resisting. Much is economics. As logging revenues continue to decrease in Northern California and tourism increases, politicians are learning that local economies benefit from protecting recreation area. 

#3. Silver Shadow Mini by Six Moons Designs.  Ralph and I have carried umbrellas when hiking for years. He has carried a hikers’ umbrella—with a reflective coating, but I, until recently, have carried a collapsible umbrella like you would find at Macy’s. I decided I was missing out on some of the special features of the special models. I wanted to try the collapsible model by Six Moons Designs that was recently released, and so I am delighted with the model they sent me for review!

First off, it weighs only 6.8 oz. and being only 10” long fits neatly into the side pocket of my backpack. It’s 38” wide, so it gives very good coverage. And maybe best of all, it’s given a 50+ UPF rating.  Out of curiosity, when we get another super-hot day around here, I am going to run some tests with a couple of thermometers to see how the temperature reads under the hikers’ umbrellas vs. regular ones. 

Six Moons has two other models: the Silver Shadow (fiberglass frame) and the Silver Shadow Carbon (carbon fiber), both of which have cords attached so you can fasten them to your pack and go ‘hands free’—the mini does not have a cord, but we are going to experiment with my new models to see if I can accomplish this ourselves.

#4. Treeline Reviews considers trekking poles and more. What makes Treeline Reviews special is that they plow through tons of research by knowledgeable and experienced hikers and backpackers to come up with their ratings. In the trekking pole evaluations they look at weight, ease of use, price, and more.

#5. 4,000 miles across the U.S. The Great American Rail Trail is a work in progress that when completed would be 3,700 miles—suitable for bicycling (and hiking) and separated from automobiles, etc. Part of the “Great American Rail-Trail is currently hosted by more than 125 existing trails, and over 1,800 miles of the preferred route is open for use—52%.

In fact, several segments of these trails are connected—creating stretches of open trail longer than 50—and even 100—miles. On, you can access maps and explore the existing trails that comprise the preferred route of the Great American Rail-Trail.” 

Note: This is a different project and entity than the existing 6,800 mi American Discovery Trail, which is a system of recreational trails and roads which collectively form a coast-to-coast hiking and biking trail across the mid-tier of the United States. (Thanks to Jennifer Alcorn for this item

 #6. Tom Courtney is doing five REI presentations in July featuring his new edition of Walkabout Northern California: Hiking Inn to Inn. The new edition includes new hikes from inn-to-inn and updates on trails, inns, and restaurants; there are fourteen walkabouts.  

All go from 7 - 8:30, except the Reno presentation, which starts at 6:00. They are free and they will fill, so it’s a good idea to go to the store's website to reserve a slot.

Events: July 16, REI Corte Madera

July 19, REI Santa Rosa

July 23, REI Saratoga

July 25, REI Mt. View

July 31, REI Reno 

#7. ALDHA-West 2019 Gathering Registration Open, Speaker Lineup Announced. September 27-29. Camp Augusta, Nevada City, California.

Keynote Speaker: Heather "Anish" Anderson. 

Steve "OG" Queen: PCT Then and Now: Thru Hiking in 1981 and 2016

Ras and Kathy Vaughan "Team Ultrapedestrian": UP North Loop

Mary Taloff and Loren Steinberg: Camino de Santiago by Wheelchair

Members-only early bird registration is available now until July 31.  Register now for the best price and a guaranteed spot!

Reminder: 2019 Triple Crown Award Application is now open--due by September 1, 2019.

#8. ALDHA-West puts out call for volunteers. Come out to Cascade Locks, OR August 16-18 to enjoy the weekend at PCT Days! This festival celebrates all things hiking, and as a benefactor of the event's raffle, it's our biggest fundraiser!  We need a few folks to help sell raffle tickets on Saturday, August 17.  Shifts are 2 hours long, and as thanks for volunteering, we'll hook you up with free camping on Thunder Island Friday and Saturday nights and an ALDHA-West t-shirt.  If interested, please email

If you want to attend PCT Days for the hiking, camping, backpacking fun, check out this link for more info.

#9. Regional: Berkeley Path Wanderers brings back the Path-a-Thon. Sunday, July 21, 10:00 am, 11:00am, or 12:00pm - 1:00 pm walks, party to follow. All start at Codornices Park, at the eastern side of the intersection of Eunice St. and Euclid Ave., Berkeley, CA 

BPWA will offer three guided events that leave at staggered start times and vary in distance and difficulty. Join us at 10 a.m. for a 6.5-mile hilly loop led by Jacob Lehmann Duke; come at 11 a.m. for a run with Boston-marathon-veteran Steve Barr; or sleep in and join Colleen Neff for a family-friend, dog-inclusive 2-mile stroll at noon. All will return to Codornices Park, 1201 Euclid St., Berkeley. (at the eastern side of the intersection of Eunice St. and Euclid Ave.) at 1 p.m. for communal cake and refreshments. 

Long Walk. Meet at 10:00 at Codornices Park at the eastern side of the intersection of Eunice St. and Euclid Ave.. “From the Lake to the Cake--Paths, Trails, and a Party… the longest walk of our summer Path-A-Thon, a 6.3 mile loop on Berkeley's paths and Tilden's trails. We'll climb steeply via stair paths from the starting point to Grizzly Peak, and then join the Selby Trail for a shaded descent to Lake Anza. Rounding the lake, we'll continue down through Tilden on the Wildcat Gorge Trail, pass the Little Farm (with a possible sheep-viewing stop), and climb the Memory Trail to return to Berkeley. A mile down the quiet Cragmont Ave will bring us back to our starting point. Expect a medium to fast pace, many stairs, and possible uneven terrain along with excellent views on this hilly loop.

Running. Corondices Park. We will meet at 11:00, stretch and warm up, run for about an hour to explore the pathways, stairs, sidewalks, and streets of Berkeley at a faster pace are invited to join us for this recreational run. Bring a filled water bottle that you can run with (handheld, belt, camelbak, etc). Expect a conversational pace, but come prepared for 5-7 miles with some hilly sections. Boston marathon veteran Steve Barr will guide the group on this exciting new BPWA event.

Short Walk. Two-mile fun walk (pooches on leashes welcome). 12:00 p.m. Leader: Heather Schooler. Corondices Park - near the restroom and water fountain. “An easy 2-mile walk suitable for families with kids, doggies, and folks who want a slower, shorter walk. This will be the shortest of our three events of the morning and will be at a relaxed, conversational pace. We will start by heading down into the Rose Garden to see the recent structural improvements made by the city, then head back up to Euclid Ave. Rose Walk will then be taken up to LeRoy Ave. There will be yard art to see along the way as well as lovely gardens. Other paths visited will be La Loma Steps, Cedar Path, La Vereda Steps, and Le Roy Steps. We'll return to the start after about an hour for refreshments. Please note that while we will be walking mostly on streets and sidewalks, there will be some stairs and uneven terrain. Dogs on leash are welcome, and we encourage families to join us on this loop.”

#10. Is 10,000 steps the magic number? ”The Case for Walking: Small steps yield big benefits (Robert Roy Britt, Jun 14)

59-year-old I-Min Lee is an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts who focuses on how physical activity can promote health and prevent chronic disease. Her latest study appears to challenge the commonly quoted figure of 10,000 steps being the magic number for better health. Researchers are attempting to determine, “Specifically: How many, or how few, an older person needs to take on a daily basis to reap significant health perks.”

This quest is challenging--self-reporting is often inaccurate. “Lee and her colleagues solved that by examining data on 16,741 women, ages 62 to 101, who wore accelerometers to measure their movement for a seven-day period during a multi-year study…”  

To summarize, when tracking the various number of steps by the participants during four years of follow-up, “the risk of dying prematurely continue[d] to drop up to 7,500 steps a day, then leveled off.” And here’s a kicker: Among people who took the same number of steps during the day, how slow or fast they walked did not matter.”

The results were published May 29 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. 

Lee believes that the same is true for men also. She also thinks that the results would be the same for people in their 50s. “I believe the findings are applicable to men of similar age,” Lee says, “because previous research into physical activity and its benefits for preventing premature mortality and enhancing longevity (which are primarily studies using self-reported physical activity, rather than the device measured steps we used) have shown that there are no differences between men and women.”

HOWEVER,  Tom Yates, who studies the health aspects of physical activity at the University of Leicester, with his colleagues learned something about walking that is a little different than the results of Lee’s study. People who described themselves as brisk walkers (versus steady or slow) live notably longer, the researchers reported in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The study involved 474,919 people with data across seven years. And while the data relied on self-reporting of activity, the results were surprising in one respect: They held regardless of body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage or waist size. “'Fast walkers have a long life expectancy across all categories of obesity status, regardless of how obesity status is measured,'” Yates says.

A brisk pace is currently defined as being able to talk but not sing while you walk. That’s about 100 steps per minute for most people, according to one recent study. 

There’s much more if you read the entire article. Thanks to contributor Joyce Bender for this link to The Case for Walking

Susan Alcorn (aka Backpack45)

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #241 April 2019

Please note: There will not be a May issue—time to regroup! In the meantime, please continue to send in items of interest to the hiking (including Camino) and backpacking communities. Send to: backpack45 (at sign) Thank you!



1. Heart Health Question

2. Passports and pilgrim passports
3, “Rattlesnakes, move along!”
4. Duct Tape Tales
5. Purple Rain Skirts
6. 2018 Camino Statistics to consider
7. 2020 Camino Gathering at Tahoe!

Regional: SF Bay Area
8. Alcorn’s program Caminos Norte & Primitivo
9. Norwegian Air changes Bay Area service
10. Walk with Berkeley Path Wanderers
11. Join a Camino group—APOC & Nor Cal Chapter

#1. Heart Health Question. The UC Berkeley Health and Wellness Alerts asks “Does Air Pollution Cancel the Heart Health Benefits of Exercise?” And the short answer is NO. More detail given is that a study published in the July 2018, Journal of the American Heart Association reported that that among more than “57,000 Danish adults in their 50s and 60s, those who exercised regularly had a lower risk of a first-time or repeat heart attack. Living near traffic pollution did not seem to lessen the benefit.”

“Those who played sports, biked, or gardened were 9 to 15 percent less likely to have a first-time heart attack. The more active they were, the better: People who walked, biked, gardened, and played sports each week were over 50 percent less likely than inactive people to suffer a repeat heart attack.” However, the wellness alert gives this sage advice, “air pollutants can exacerbate heart disease and likely increase cancer risk. Consider doing your aerobic activities away from high-traffic roads and exercising indoors on days when outdoor air quality is particularly poor, especially if you have respiratory problems.”

#2. Passports and Pilgrim Passports. On the Camino forum, the question was asked if pilgrims arriving at albergues need to show their U.S. passport as well as their Pilgrim passport. The answer is “yes.” This applies not only at albergues, but at all lodgings in the European Union. They are required to collect information on guests including name and nationality. This is to enable law enforcement to cross-check for wanted individuals, criminals, or missing persons. In Spain, for example, you are required to carry identification at all times, but the police will accept a color copy of your passport. I also recommend that you bring a second form of ID, such as your driver’s license, with you. And as an aside, we have occasionally been asked to leave our passport with the front desk to be returned to us later. Unnerving as this is, it is not unusual, so the copy comes in handy for this also.     

#3. “Rattlesnakes, move along!” I enjoyed this hint from Hiker Extraordinaire, Scott Williams aka Shroomer: “People have been reporting that rattlesnakes are out, so keep an eye peeled for these critters.  They’re important for the ecosystem, but only at a distance from us!  If one won't leave the trail, spritz it with some water from your water bottle, while keeping a good distance, and watch that snake jump and run!  It’s more effective than rocks or sticks.”

#4. Duct Tape Tales. Honda of Oakland sent this hint in its newsletter, Why You Should Never Leave Your Garage Without Duct Tape in Your Car.  “MacGyver Options: You can use duct tape to … waterproof shoes, identify your luggage, or to make a cup, a cup holder, or even a stretcher!”

Not sure how comfortable or practical the shoes hint is, and it seems to me that it would take a whole lot of tape to make a stretcher, but I can see it working!

#5. Purple Rain skirts and kilts: I learned about Purple Rain skirts last year at the RUCK, a hiker’s gathering put on by the ALDHA-West association. Very informal and very informative. I have since learned that “founder Mandy ‘Purple Rain’ Bland got the idea for hiking skirts and kilts while thru hiking first the AT and then the PCT. She made her first prototype by hacking up an old pair of hiking pants. While her design has been significantly refined over the years, our desire to help others experience the lessons from the trail has remained unaltered.

“All Purple Rain Adventure Skirts are sewn here in Oregon and reflect our commitment to freedom, adventure, independence, individuality, empowerment, fun and getting outdoors.”

If you are looking for a hiking skirt, the Purple Rain styles might work for you. It has these features: “Stretchy but durable quick-dry material complimented by a yoga-style waist band, and large dual access pockets for all of your essentials (camera, lip balm, lighter, etc.). They can be worn with out without tights. Without tights allows more airflow, where with tights will be warmer. Purple Rain Adventure Skirts contact is

I don’t get any goods or services for mentioning the above—I just like the idea of supporting gear startups that offer quality products.

2016-05-13_08-53-07_5215_EOSx.JPG#6. Camino Facts and Figures: Gene McCullough, who is the webmaster for American Pilgrims on the Camino, has extracted some interesting statistics about the Camino de Santiago. (If you want more info, go to the website of the pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela, click here. . Reports Gene, “For the most part, trends that have been in effect for the last several years continued. The big number is 327,378. That’s the number of Compostelas that the Oficina de Acogida de Peregrinos in Santiago awarded, up 8.8 percent from 2017. The number of Compostelas awarded to U.S. passport holders ended at 18,582 or 5.7 percent of the total. This has been about our share since 2016.” 

Spaniards are number one in receiving Compostelas, followed by Italians, Germans and those from the United States. The Camino Francés accounts for 57% of the newly arrived pilgrims, followed by 21% on the Portugués—then Norte 6%, Primitivo 5% and then others. Gene points out another interesting trend—whereas in 1991 there were “more than two men for every woman..” last year, “slightly more women than men received Compostelas.”

I was also interested to note that the office listed Pilgrims by Motivation as 48% religious and cultural, 43% religious, and 9% cultural.

#7. 2020 Camino Gathering in Lake Tahoe, California! Mark your calendars for next year’s American Pilgrims on the Camino annual Gathering of Pilgrims. Scheduled for March 12 through 15, 2020. Theme is “Honoring the Past… Welcoming the Future” to be held  at the Zephyr Point Conference Center, Zephyr Cove, Lake Tahoe, California. There will also be a hospitalero training before the gathering. 

From the website:  “The Gathering is an opportunity to share experiences, to support one another and to learn more about the Camino and pilgrimage experience. Detailed information and registration will likely be available mid-winter.”

Regional S.F. Bay Area Events

HMFrontCoverCS135.jpg#8. Susan and Ralph's program on the Camino Norte and Primitivo. Join the Livermore Public Library for this month's Armchair Traveler's series presented by Susan and Ralph Alcorn on Thursday, April 11th at 1:30 p.m. Civic Center Library, Community Rooms A and B, Livermore Public Library, 1188 S. Livermore Ave., Livermore, CA. Contact: (925) 373-5500. No registration is necessary for this free event. Event Map:  Click Here

In 2015-16, Susan and Ralph Alcorn hiked the Camino Norte and the Camino Primitivo, two of the less-traveled routes of the Camino de Santiago. Susan is the author of several books, including Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo. Ralph and Susan have also hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, the John Muir Trail, and the Torres del Paine in Patagonia, and they share hiking advice on their website.

were very happy when Norwegian provided service to London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) out of Oakland Airport because Oakland Airport was smaller and parking was a lot easier (and it was an easier commute for some of us.) However, Norwegian has switched airports for the five weekly non-stop flights that left from Oakland. The Norwegian Air 787 Dreamliners are now flying out of SFO on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. (You might check to see if they are still offering travelers enticing $500 fares).

Norwegian is hoping to attract more passengers to its premium class flights. They are increasing the number of Premium Class Seats—which run around $1,500 roundtrip (plus taxes and fees which can be hefty!)

Note: These changes do not affect other destinations out of Oakland such as Barcelona and Paris.

#10. Walk with Berkeley Path Wanderers. Enjoy "Uptown Oakland: Vibrant Murals and Powerful Sculptures.Sunday, April 7 @ 10 a.m. Leader: Noël Siver. Start: Latham Square, Telegraph, Broadway and 16thSt. (near 19th Street BART). “On this flat, paved, approximately 4-mile walk, we will visit many of the vibrant new murals in Uptown Oakland, including the powerful Champions for Humanity sculptures, the fabulous Alice Street mural project, and a few murals recently created by Oakland’s Dragon School. We'll learn about the sources of inspiration these public artworks, and the back stories of some of the artists. Bring water and a camera! Visit for more local walks.

#11. Join a Camino group: I encourage you to join the national Pilgrim Group and the Peregrinos Northern California group. For the website of the national group, American Pilgrims, click here. The various regional chapters are listed on the APOC site and their activities are published there. Our Northern California chapter  also has a Facebook group (closed group), called Peregrinos - Northern California, which has timely information on our chapter’s events and news.  


(Photo is L-R: Ralph, Susan, and our Camino friend, Juan of Barcelona as we arrived in Santiago in 2016.)

Happy Trails and Travels!

Susan Alcorn (aka Backpack45)

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips #240 March 2019

1.Elevation and the John Muir Trail
2.Be Tick Aware
3.Hiker Umbrellas: New models
4.Shroomer on the Israel Ntl. Trail
5.Yosemite’s Grandeur Shown on PBS
6. Congress approves Land and Water Conservation Fund
7. Sunday, Mar. 3rd! Mary Davison “Old Lady on the Trail” in Seattle
8. Come and hear: Tom Courtney on Walkabout Nor CA in S>F> Bay Area
9. Dami Roelse encourages older hikers with “Lose your age on the Trail”


#1.Acclimate to elevation: Though thousands hike all or part of the John Muir Trail (JMT) each year, it’s a challenge not to be taken lightly. One of the considerations is elevation. As the attached article mentions, after Donahue Pass (near the starting point of the northern end and with 80% of the JMT remaining) the average elevation of the trail is more than 10,000 feet. What makes the article unique is that it is focused on the JMT rather than mountain hiking in general and that the authors have laid out some sample itineraries for acclimating to the high altitudes. Learn from those who have studied the matter, and have a successful and safe hike!  (photo: Ralph Alcorn. "Susan on Forester Pass" 1989).

2. Be Tick Aware: Scott Williams “Shroomer” gives some good advice for keeping safe when ticks are active. “Be particularly careful whenever you’re walking through grass or tall weeds, or sitting in any of it.  When, “…walking through tall grass, check your legs and your hiking companion’s legs…. Sitting in tick country is a good way of giving the little devils access to you as they climb onboard your clothes and eventually find you in there somewhere. A good protection from them when sitting on the ground is to sit on a bit of Mylar insulation such as an auto sun shade, which is very light, or a chunk of plastic sheeting.  Or, just don’t sit on the grass…. DEET is effective at deterring them.”

#3. Hikers’ Umbrellas. A Six Moon Designs notice of their new line of Ultralight Trail Umbrellas. “Each model has the same silver reflective coating with 50+ UPF rating providing the ultimate in protection from sun, rain and snow while hiking and backpacking. The Silver Shadow collection consists of three models: the Silver Shadow, the Silver Shadow Mini, and the Silver Shadow Carbon. 

"The SilverShadowCarbon
 is the original work horse of the group, featuring a 24” fiberglass shaft and plastic ribs, spreader and runner. Canopy: 37”. Weight: 8.9 oz. MSRP $25.

The Silver Shadow Mini is collapsible and foldable, making it the perfect travel companion. Total length when closed is 10" and when extended is 20.5”. Carbon fiber ribs are used to increase strength and save weight. Canopy 37.75”. Weight: 6.8 oz. MSRP $35.

The Silver Shadow Carbon is based on the original Silver Shadow but features all carbon fiber components including the 24” shaft, ribs and spreader bars, making this the lightest full-size trekking umbrella on the market. This umbrella will be especially appealing with ultralight gram counters. Canopy 37”. Weight 6.8 oz. MSRP $45.

Six Moon Designs was created by PCT hiker “Ron Moak, an avid thru-hiker who sought out much lighter weight gear than what was available at the time.” He introduced his first product the Europa Tent, a 33oz. single wall silnylon shelter in 2002. Six Moon Designs continues to be on the cutting edge of ultralight innovation and strives to make quality ultralight tents, shelters, backpacks and other accessories designed to get more people outdoors. 

Website click here

#4. Israel National Trail. Here’s a new long-distance trail for you to try. Scott Williams is on it now and you can follow his trek at  Of the Israel Ntl. Trail, Wiki says, "The Israel National Trail, (Hebrew:  שביל ישראל ‎, Shvil Yisra'el) is a hiking path that was inaugurated in 1995. The trail crosses the entire country of Israel.[2] Its northern end is at Dan, near the Lebanese border in the far north of the country, and it extends to Eilat at the southernmost tip of Israel on the Red Sea, a length of 1,015 km (631 mi).[3][4]" Scott Williams (Shroomer) is a Triple Crown hiker who has also hiked the Camino Frances and the challenging Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand. Wikipedia says, " Te Araroa (The Long Pathway) is New Zealand's long distance tramping route, stretching circa 3,000 kilometres (1,900 mi) along the length of the country's two main islands from Cape Reinga to Bluff. ... Tramping the full length of the trail generally takes three to six months." 

#5. Yosemite’s Grandeur: An excellent program, which aired late February, is available online, click here. “…the endurance of sequoias, John Dittli talking about receding snow levels, the reintroduction of Big Horn sheep, the pikas and the numerous coyotes to be found throughout the high country.” Shared from JMT Forum by contributor CharliePoleCat. Click here. Link expires 3/27/2019.

#6. Happy to have good news about the environment! Congress approved the Land and Water Conservation Fund renewal. The Trail Dirt Newsletter from the Pacific Crest Trail Association sent word. "Congress passed a historic package of public lands bills this week that, among other things, reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and protects nearly 2.5 million acres of public land and 676 miles of rivers throughout the U.S. The PCTA has been fighting for permanent LWCF renewal for years. In 2015, Congress reauthorized this important conservation tool for three years. It expired again last September. The fund provides money for land conservation projects and is crucial to our effort to protect the last 10 percent of the PCT that remains on private property. On Tuesday, the House passed the bill 363-62 and the Senate passed it two weeks ago 92-8. It now awaits the President’s signature. Thanks to all of you who participated in our advocacy efforts by contacting your elected representatives. You voices most certainly made a difference." (Feb 28, 2019). 

#7.  Regional: Seattle Area: Sunday, March 3.: Mary Davison, Triple Crown Recipient in 2018 is giving a presentation in the Seattle/Lynnood area. “I will be giving a presentation on my journey of the Triple Crown this Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood, Washington, 6215 196th St SW. It is a potluck starting at 11:45 and ending approximately at 2:00. I will have pictures taken over the AT, PCT, CDT. Probably be plenty of food there even if you bring none. All are welcome.” Mary has completed all three of the Triple Crown trails and written about them in her new book, Old Lady on the Trail:Triple Crown at 76.

2013-09-16_10-34-28_4989_CanonEOS.jpg#8.  Regional: S.F. Bay Area and Sacramento: Tom Courtney brings you a program introducing you to his new edition of “Walkabout Northern California: Hiking Inn to Inn has arrived!  It includes new hikes from inn-to-inn and updates on trails, inns, and restaurants.  There are fourteen walkabouts.” March 12, REI Roseville; March 13, REI Sacramento; March 26, REI Berkeley; and March 27, REI San Carlos. All programs run 7 PM- 8:30 PM. Events are free, but reservations are recommended.

“Leave the car behind; hike Northern California; and end each day with a comfortable bed, a glass of wine, a great meal, and perhaps even a hot tub….. the Marin Coast from the Headlands to Point Reyes…. the Sierra in the footsteps of the pioneers…. the beautiful Mendocino Coast, and sample gourmet cuisine at inns overlooking the vast Pacific. In Lassen Volcanic National Park, explore mountain lakes, deep canyons, and other-worldly hydrothermal landscapes and enjoy sumptuous dining at a rustic guest ranch and a muscle-soothing soak in hot springs.”

"This new, full-color edition of Walkabout Northern California: Hiking Inn to Inn includes new hikes (walkabouts) plus updated trails, restaurants, and inns.  It describes fourteen multiday hikes along the wild Pacific Coast, through the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains, in the Cascades, and around the parklands of the San Francisco Bay. Each walkabout is organized by chapter and contains all the necessary details to create a memorable and invigorating vacation—with a map, mile-by-mile details of the route, logistical tips on places to stay and eat, and inspirational ideas to simplify your travel and reconnect with nature’s rhythm. Some hikes can take a week, but many can be enjoyed in a weekend. Some are challenging, but most are perfect for the casual hiker. With a light daypack and a few reservations, you can travel for days along California’s breathtaking coastline or in its vast mountain ranges. Follow Tom Courtney on a Northern California walkabout, so you can savor the journey and the destination. (photo by Susan Alcorn: Lassen's other-worldly hydrothermal activity).

#9. Regional: SF Bay Area. Dami Roelse comes to the S.F. Bay Area with a topic relevant to those of us who want to keep hiking as we age. Roelse is a certified life coach, writer and retired mental health provider. Born in Holland now living in Southern Oregon, Dami 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 share ways to build and maintain strength in everyday life. She’ll give you tips for 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, Facebook page WalkingWomen50plus, Twitter @dami97520 and Instagram @walkingwoman50plus. 

Go to REI website to register for Dami's events, click here. Tues. Mar, 5. San Francisco.; Wed. Mar. 6 REI Corte Madera ; Thu. Mar 7 REI Berkeley, CA. Reservations recommended. Free. 7:00pm - 8:30pm

Happy Trails and Travels as well at Happy St.  Paddy's Day!

Susan Alcorn (aka Backpack45)

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


  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!


#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

#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.

#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 “…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 Roelseis 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. (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!


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


  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!


1.  #1. The Pacific Crest Trail Association hasan 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,, 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 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.

#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 for consideration.
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

 All Newsletters 2020 , 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: October 12, 2022 13:13

[Home][Top of Page]   - Please send comments, suggestions to backpack45 circleatsign yahoo dot com
All text and images copyright © Shepherd Canyon Books - 2003 through 2020
“ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to”