Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, February 2021

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, February 2021


  1. Camino news
  2. ALDHA-Virtual RUCKS
  3. Bear “Attack” in the Trinity Alps, CA
  4. Thru hikers’ medical guide
  5. Safety plea from the father of 2020 PCT fatality
  6. Grizzlies or humans? The 1,200 Pacific Northwest Trail
  7. Andrew Skurka offers guided backpacking trips
  8. “Anish” and Mud, Rocks, Blazes
  9. Heading for Yosemite soon?


#1a. Camino news: In Ivar Renke’s weekly podcast today (2/1/21) he said that Spain currently seems to be dropping from the peak of the third wave, but things are still not good. Hardly anyone is at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago.

Conditions are worse in Portugal. “Portugal has announced it will close land borders with Spain from Friday for a period of at least two weeks as it attempts to contain virus.” (Jan. 28, 2021)

“Portugal has the world’s highest seven-day average of new daily cases and deaths per million inhabitants. It reported a total of 668,951 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 11,305 deaths, including a record 293 dead on Wednesday.”

Ivar commented that of the approximately 200 hotels in Santiago, four have had to close. Today’s podcast, click here. 

What is waiting for pilgrims in Santiago, however, is a renewed cathedral. This link shows you the inside. 

1b.The Big Map – XACOBEO 2021 Edition. This new map is similar to the old “Big Map,” with some differences in background colors and we have added some 3D effects so you can see the mountains you will/have walked over. (It is only a 3D effect; it is printed on flat paper). Shipped rolled up in a tube. Have a look at this new map here

1c. Last week Ivar said that the newest restrictions in Galicia say you can’t walk from one municipality to another, but no one is  stopping you. However a lot of restaurants connected to albergues close at 6 PM —so it’s both difficult to find lodging and food. Last week’s podcast of (Jan 26, 2021).

At that time, only 2.1% had received the vaccine after one month of the vaccine being available. Those considering a Mar, Apr, May Camino should keep in mind that herd immunity suggests there needs to be 70% vaccinated. So, he said, he didn’t think a spring Camino is possible. 

Note: As we know things change quickly, but before paying for flights, accommodations, etc., check out the cancellation/postponement policies. Also, if you purchase travel insurance, read the fine print for that too!

#2. 2021 VIRTUAL RUCKS. “Ruckin’ Season is upon us, and this year, we’re going virtual! Join us for four different educational sessions, whether you’re a seasoned section-hiker looking to talk shop with some hiker trash or someone who’s toying with the concept of possibly setting out on your first long-distance hike someday.

“ALDHA-West is excited to be able to offer this content across a much wider geographic area than our in-person events. So, if you’re new to “Rucks,” welcome! Each event will include both educational content as well as community time. Virtual Rucks will be offered at $5 to our members and $10 to non-members. If you’d like to attend but cannot due to cost, or if you would like to sponsor a scholarship, please reach out to Click here for website.

Upcoming 2021 Online Ruck Schedule

Feb 9, 2021: 5-7pm PT: Affinity Networking: Feb 9 @ 5pm PST.  FREE to all

“Looking to share space with long-distance hikers and aspiring hikers who share some of your identities? Want to ask questions specific to those identities in a safer space? Join ALDHA-West for FREE Affinity Networking spaces at the second ruck of the 2021 season.

“While we recognize that more identities exist than spaces we are able to offer at this time, and we hope to offer more and different spaces in the future. We are facilitating four different breakout groups, led by experienced long-distanced hikers who share the following identities: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color; LGBTQAI2S+ Folks; Women+ (not limited to cisgender women); Older Hikers

“During the session, you will have the ability to switch groups (if you so choose) in order to meet others who share different aspects of your identity. To foster a safer space for participants, we ask that everyone respect the space by only attending if you share at least one of these identities. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

“All participants will have the chance to win fabulous giveaway prizes from our Sponsors! We recommend using a computer or tablet instead of a phone to be able to see presentations more clearly. Register here:

Feb 25 5-7pm PT: Thru-hiking Advanced Topics. Extremes (snow, rivers, desert), DIY Gear, Reading Backcountry Weather, Cooking & Dehydrators, High Mileage, and Giving Back

Mar 10 5-7pm PT: Trail-specific Sessions. PCT, CDT, JMT, AZT, TRT, PNT, High Routes, and Section Hiking

#3. Bear “Attack” in the Trinity Alps. A case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time! Yikes, read it here.  

#4.  The Thru-Hiker’s Medical Guide by Dr. Stewart Anderson.  This is a First Aid Guide you can cut and paste to carry with you on a single piece of paper. Though it is highly advisable to take a wilderness first aid course before doing any major hike, this page can help you keep bring adequate supplies with you and remind you how to use them. Posted on JMT Forum. Click here.  

#5. “A father’s moving plea for safety on thru-hikes.” Doug Laher’s mission to save lives after his son Trevor died on the Pacific Crest Trail. This is the story of the accident and how you can hike more safely. Especially important if you plan to start your hike on the PCT early in the season. Read this to be safer.  

#6. Andrew Skurka and his team offer guided backpacking trips. For those new to backpacking, Andrew Skurka is an amazingly  accomplished adventurer. His credits include an Alaska-Yukon Expedition (6 months, 4,700 miles), Great Western Loop (7 months, 6,875 miles), and the Sea-to-Sea Route (11 months, 7,775 miles).

He offers a set of backpacking courses: “Successful backpacking trips are typically planned, not improvised. A thoughtful approach towards gear, food, maps, permits, travel, fitness, and skills will increase your safety margin and trip quality, and will actually create more potential for adventure — by solving foreseeable problems beforehand, you can respond fully to the true unknowns.” Click here. 

You can also find a free download at the link for his “12 go-to breakfasts & dinners.” There are also many helpful posts — two that attracted my attention were by Alexandra Lev: “Race and privilege in the outdoors” and “A women’s guide to backcountry hygiene || Menstruation, pee & poop, UTI’s, skin care.” 

#7. “Grizzlies or humans? Interesting article about the 1,200 Pacific Northwest Trail. The question raised is if  a 70-mile stretch in Montana should be rerouted to protect endangered grizzlies and Native traditions in the area? The Yaak’s alpine meadows are too small for people and bears to share them at the same time,” says writer Rick Bass. “Today in a Minute:  National Geographic online” 1/26/2021.)

#8. Heather “Anish” Anderson writes Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go on the Appalachian Trail.  “In 2018 I thru-hiked the entirety of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide National Scenic Trails. I started in March and finished in November. Needless to say, I had my fair share of snow hiking and camping in widely varied conditions! While not my favorite (give me a sunny autumn day anytime), there are ways to make snowy days enjoyable for hiking and even camping.”

Find out more about this amazing woman — a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year! Anish adds, “This week, my publisher (Mountaineers Books) is hosting a Goodreads Giveaway of my newest book: Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go on the Appalachian Trail.” Link here 

She also would appreciate your review of her remarkable Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home.”

9. Heading for Yosemite soon? After suspending day-use permits last November, beginning February 8, the park is again requiring visitors to purchase them again. Rules:
Reservations are valid for seven days with unlimited re-entries.
Visitors must arrive on the first day indicated on the reservation.
The nonrefundable reservation fee is $2 and is included in the $35 vehicle entrance fee.
Annual of lifetime passholders only need to pay the $2 fee.
Those with a reservation for lodging or camping do not need to pay the fee (be sure to have the reservation info handy!).
Click here to go to the website and make a reservation. 

Yosemite experienced major damage from a severe winter storm and high winds on January 19, 2021 causing the park to close to visitors temporarily. Though some things have reopened, much has not. Click here to see which entrances, roads, and facilities are currently open. 


All of my books listed below are available on Amazon and by special order from your local bookstore. Paperback and Kindle. 

Thank you everyone. Stay well, keep hiking when prudent—and I encourage you to send in items of interest to the hiking community. 

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

Walk, Hike, Saunter

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.

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