Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, March 2024

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, March 2024
Walking on air or water is nothing as miraculous as walking on earth. 

-Thich Nhat Hanh

1. How long does it take to get fit again?
2. Yellowstone’s “winterkeeper”

3. Should I use insoles with hiking shoes?
4. Accommodations on the Camino Frances
5. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area. Guided Hikes at Máyyan ‘Ooyákma!
6. Nor Cal Camino Chapter’s celebration March 16

#1.How Long Does It Take to Get Fit Again? “Use it or lose it.” Most of us have experienced losing fitness to our cardiovascular health or muscle strength, or both, when not exercising for a period of time. Here are some findings on how fast we might lose it and how to get back in shape–excerpts from The New York Times article, by Knvul Sheikh.  Link here.  
a. Cardiovascular health declines more rapidly than muscle strength. About eight weeks out is the point when muscle strength begins to decline. But, decline is affected by age as well as many other factors. Studies show that older adults lose fitness at nearly twice the rate of 20- to 30-year-olds.

b. “You can regain approximately one-half of your fitness in 10 to 14 days with moderately hard workouts,” said Dr. Edward Coyle, professor of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas at Austin.
c.  However, one study found that older adults, after a 12-week break, needed up to eight weeks of retraining. 
d. Hikers, when trying to get back into shape, can start retraining by walking, then jogging, then running. Many trainers suggest increasing your workouts by a bit less than 10% per week, but listen to your own body.
e. Suggestions for those who can’t get to the gym or trail for an extended period—use the stairs, do short interval workouts, use weights.

 Yellowstone, Fall 2023. Photo by Susan Alcorn

 #2.Yellowstone’s “Winterkeeper”. “Steven Fuller is a winter caretaker who has lived and worked at Yellowstone National Park for the last 50 years.” From the
George Mattson, a family friend, recently sent us the following link that takes us through the decades that Fuller has worked in the park. Mattson himself spent his early years with his family in Yellowstone National Park . Being there year round, he also experienced long Yellowstone winters. Enjoy the 12-1/2 minute video from The here.  

Yellowstone, Fall 2023, Photo by Susan Alcorn

#3. Should I use insoles with hiking shoes? Treeline Review gives suggestions and recommendations for using insoles. Click here for their report.  Susan adds: Because my hiking shoes (Altra) have minimal cushioning and I often walk on paved trails (rather than dirt, which has far less impact on feet), I wear Spenco Rx Comfort Thin Lightweight Cushioning Orthotic Shoe Insole. They are long-lasting and do not absorb water (the last thing you want is your insoles becoming sponges!) And, because I have had plantar fasciitis and prefer not to suffer from it again, I also replace my shoes’ original insoles and wear  orthotics for their greater support.

#4. Camino interest: Where to stay along the Camino Frances (the most popular of the pilgrim routes to Santiago). From Michael Matynka at Wise Pilgrim is this up-dated list of accommodations on the Camino Frances. Link here

#5. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area. Guided and Unguided Hikes at Máyyan ‘Ooyákma! Information from Open Space Authority.
This is a brand-new park. “Máyyan ‘Ooyákma (pronounced My-yahn Oiy-yahkmah) directly translates to Coyote Ridge in the Chochenyo language. Chochenyo is the language stewarded by the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area, whose members trace their ancestry to the Indigenous Peoples, or aboriginal inhabitants, of this region. The Open Space Authority is partnering with the Muwekma Ohlone to raise awareness about the importance of the protection of irreplaceable landscapes.”

Máyyan ‘Ooyákma – Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve is 1,859 acres and connects over 1 million acres of important habitat in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range. It has five miles of trail, some of which was carefully constructed by hand in order to protect the fragile habitat. Three miles of it is designated as a portion of Bay Area Ridge Trail, a regional trail system that will someday stretch more than 550 miles along the ridge lines that encircle San Francisco Bay. The park is approximately 20 miles from downtown San Jose.

Visitors are required to carry a free “Butterfly Pass” for hiking, biking, or horseback riding on the trails located inside the Habitat Protection Area. The three trails in the Habitat Protection Area are the Serpentine Spring Trail, Tule Elk Trail, and Bay Checkerspot Trail. This is because the “unique landscape is a biodiversity hotspot for endangered plants and animals” – including the rare Mount Hamilton thistle, Western burrowing owls, the Federally protected Checkerspot butterfly and the rare serpentine grasslands.  

Spring is prime time to see the grasslands dazzling with California poppies, lupine, mariposa lilies, goldfield, tidy tips, and more. In the fall, visitors are likely to hear the male tule elk bugling during the mating season.

The preserve is temporarily closed due to the large amount of recent rain. Check the chart, link here, to see visiting days and hours. Reservations are required for guided tours to see the protected areas. The hiking trails do not require reservations.  Map and schedule for open times, click here.

Address9611 Malech Rd, Morgan Hill, CA 95037. Directions: From Hwy 101 or Hwy 85.  East on Bailey Avenue, Continue on to Malech Road.  Free public parking area on the right. No pets allowed. Phone: (408) 224-7476

#6. Regional: Northern California Camino Chapter’s Celebration March 16. Guy Joaquin, group co-cordinator, recently posted information about  the group’s upcoming Shell Ceremony & Potluck. Saturday, March 16, 10:00 AM – 3:30 PM in Oakland, CA.
“Help us celebrate our pilgrims heading out to the Camino this year at our annual Shell Ceremony & Potluck. We’ll be gathering at St. Augustine Church in Oakland with special guests to confer scallop shells (symbol of the pilgrimage) to outbound pilgrims as well as recognize departing volunteer hospitaleros. Please click the link below for the full announcement and to register for this event.


Lunch at an early Nor Cal Pilgrim fall gathering (2009). It has grown!

Schedule: Doors open at 9:30 AM. After the shell ceremony, we’ll have lunch then our breakout session. We plan to finish up by 3:30 PM. We always need help with cleaning up afterwards. All are welcome to attend.

Getting There: By Car: Use Google Maps or your favorite map app for directions. St. Augustine is located at 400 Alcatraz Avenue off of College Avenue in Oakland. The church is on the right side between Dana and Colby Streets when heading west towards the bay and the parking lot entrance is on the left side of the building. Meet us on the bottom floor of the gym/multi-use building across the courtyard on the right side of the church (follow our yellow arrows).

By BART/Bus/Foot: From Rockridge BART, take AC Transit bus 51B towards the Berkeley campus and offboard at College/Alcatraz (15 min). Walk west on Alcatraz to St. Augustine (0.3 mi). To walk from the station, head north along College towards campus and turn left on Alcatraz (0.7 mi).

Carpooling: Registered participants will have access to an online “Carpool Bulletin Board” to post a message if they need a ride or can give one.

What to Bring: Your favorite dish or drink to share. Extra points for something from the Camino. Wine counts, too! Here’s a request to cover our bases: If your last name begins with H-Z, bring a food dish (main, side, salad with serving utensils). If it begins with A-G, bring a dessert or beverage (coffee will be provided). We’ll have 3×5 index cards on hand to make a label for your dish.

Be Green! We encourage you to bring your own plates, cups and utensils to help us to minimize trash and reduce costs on disposable items. There is a kitchen to wash items after use.

El Rastro: El Rastro is a gigantic flea market in Madrid. Bring your excess gear, memorabilia, guidebooks and other good “junk” you thought you needed, but don’t anymore. There will be an area to display your items. This will be a “cash-free” zone. Bring it and forget it! See something you want? Take it.

Camino Market: We invite Camino authors, artists, creatives, and other vendors to display and sell your wares. There will be a table set aside for your use. Note: American Pilgrims does not endorse any of the products. We are solely providing a space to connect sellers and buyers.

Contributions: Please help us cover our event expenses (room, supplies) with a cash contribution to our donativo box at the check-in table. Your generosity allows us to devote more resources to our mission that includes supporting the Camino infrastructure through our Grants program.

Advance online registration is required. Click the Register Now button below to sign up by Friday, March 15.

Cancellation: If you are unable to attend, please email us at so we can update our list.”

Register Now

Visit the Northern California Chapter page
Join the Northern California Camino Pilgrims Facebook group
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Thank you everyone. Stay well, keep hiking when prudent. I encourage you to send in items of interest to the hiking community to me at backpack45 “at sign”

Susan ‘backpack45’ Alcorn
Shepherd Canyon Books, Oakland, CA

Author of Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails; Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo; Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine; We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers; and Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago.

Please note: Hiking and backpacking can be risky endeavors. Always be prepared for emergencies and carry food, water, shelter (warm clothing, etc.), flashlight/headlamp, matches, first aid supplies, and maps. Cell phones don’t always work. Leave word where you are traveling and when you are due back.