About the author, Susan Alcorn
“When we set out to climb Mt. Whitney…
it was my first backpacking trip, I was 48, but I was determined to climb that mountain if I had to crawl up the trail to do so. This was back in 1989—before the concept of light-weight backpacking became a thing. Ralph and I were wearing jeans, flannel shirts, and carrying external frame backpacks. Mine weighed about 35 pounds (whereas now it weighs about 22).”
Happily, the hike, which started north of Mount Whitney and came in to join the John Muir Trail at Kearsarge Pass, was successful. Not that there weren’t a few challenges—a bear invading their campsite and taking much of their food the first night and lightning storms occurring on several subsequent nights—but that first hike shaped the direction of their lives including her first backpacking book, We’re in the Mountains, Not over the Hill.
Tackling the Pacific Crest Trail
Over time, they completed the Pacific Crest Trail, section-by-section. Its 2,650 miles took them from the border of California and Mexico into the Canada. First, the route wound through the arid lands of southern California. Then, it traveled the spine of the west coast—California’s Sierra and the Cascades of Oregon and California.
They saw wildflower super blooms in California’s deserts and bears, rattlesnakes, and deer in Northern California. They encountered ancient lava fields in Oregon, then found rainbows, wicked stream crossings, glacier fields, and snow in Washington.
Experiencing many Camino de Santiago routes
Susan and Ralph’s first European hiking trip was to walk the most popular route of the Camino de Santiago—the Francés. That first trip was in September 2001.
Since then, they’ve returned 15 times to walk other Camino routes. Favorites include the Norte, Primitivo, LePuy, FR, Arles, FR. and most of the Vezelay, FR. All told, they’ve walked more than 3,000 miles on European pilgrimage trails, and Susan has published Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago and Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo about their experiences.
Hiking in Patagonia, Wildlife in the Galapagos
They’ve also explored many parts of Latin America. Trips to Mexico include their first trip together—to Baja California. It was there that their relationship began on a Sierra Club whale watching and camping trip.
They’ve also traveled to Peru and Bolivia to experience Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. On their trip to the Galapagos, they relished the days viewing the wildlife on both land and in the sea. At night, they enjoyed sailing and motoring on the three-masted ship known as the Mary Anne.
However, it was in Patagonia that they took their longest South American backpacking trip. They traveled to Torres del Paine, Chile in 2009 to hike the ‘O’ route. However, they had to turn back because of weather—including the notorious winds that have been recorded at 110 mph. Undaunted, they returned in 2010, to complete the circle route. This led to the publication of Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine.
Alcorns at home
The Alcorns live in Oakland, California. They frequently give presentations at travel and adventure events. Their narrated slide shows are popular at REI stores, bookstores, libraries, armchair travel groups, at Sierra Club dinners and more.
Susan’s talks, slides, and writing focus on nature, independent travel, and the local culture and history of their destinations.