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

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

Contents:

  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?

Articles: 

#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) https://www.thelocal.es/20210128/portugal-closes-land-border-with-spain-as-virus-cases-soar

“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 secretary@aldhawest.org. Click here for website. https://www.aldhawest.org/

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: https://www.aldhawest.org/

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 reservation.com 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. 

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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

https://susandalcorn.com
https://www.backpack45.com

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.

 

Guest Post: Amy Racina

Water Sports
Amy Racina, contributor

Amy Racina

It was a lovely evening at Wailaki Campground on the fringes of California’s Lost Coast. I set up my tent, barbequed some zucchini and the slab of bison I had picked up along the way, and staked down my tent on a nice flat spot. Though showers were expected, I wasn’t worried. I had a good reliable tent.

I snuggled in to read a good book and enjoy some restful dreams. Warm and dry in my tent, I dreamt that I was floating peacefully down a river on a raft.

My mattress was about three inches thick. As my hand dangled over the side, I suddenly felt water. This was wrong. I awoke with a start. It was pouring outside. I realized that there was two inches of standing water inside my tent. Further exploration told me that everything in the tent not on the mattress was saturated: my purse, extra outerwear, daytime clothing, Kleenex, book…

My sleeping bag and pillow were dangling over the edge as well, soaking up the puddle that my tent had become. I had to get up to pee anyway, so I stuck my feet outside my tent to put on the shoes I had left there. They were floating. I got on the soggy shoes and splashed through the water to dry land. The entire tent was now in a puddle about 6 inches deep.

No point in trying to go back to sleep amidst the soggy bedding, I decided. So I splashed back and forth, rescuing my saturated gear and stashing it all in large garbage bags. Loading dripping bags and myself into the car, I snoozed for a few hours and waited for the dawn.  

When it got light outside, I hopped out of my car. I was ankle deep in water. I saw that my entire campsite had become a small lake.  It was still raining heavily.

So I did what any intrepid traveler would do. I headed for home. It had been a fine adventure.

copyright 2021 Amy Racina
++++++++++
Because Amy is an intrepid hiker and traveler, she has many a story to tell about her adventures. Take, for example, her Angels in the Wilderness: The True Story of One Woman’s Survival Against All Odds.

From Amazon:
“This book is a first-person account of a disaster on a solo hiking trip. Author Amy Racina was hiking in a remote part of King’s Canyon National Park in California’s Sierra mountains when she lost the trail. With no warning, she suddenly fell sixty feet, breaking both legs on the rocks below. She survived for four days and nights, battling pain, fear and exhaustion, pulling herself along with her hands and refusing to give up. She was miraculously saved…”

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

“Hope, sanity, compassion, thoughtfulness, health, recovery — it’s time to WELCOME 2021!”  Couldn’t say it any better than how friend Katie Williams recently posted it on Facebook!

The trails await — though many are muddy!
Alviso Slough Trail (near San Jose, CA)

Contents:

1. The “New” Cathedral in Santiago
2. Pacific Crest Trail — time to apply for permits coming up soon!
3. Bay Nature: “What’s it like inside a Woodrat Nest?
Regional, SF Bay Area:
4. Bay Trail extension coming to Richmond, CA
5. The Alcorns explore new and old local hiking trails
6. Two rewarding hiking challenges for you

Articles:
#1. The “New” Cathedral in Santiago: Big happenings in Santiago de Compostela. The cathedral is open to the public again. Ivar, who hosts a Camino forum and manages the Casa Ivar in Santiago, has also been doing a weekly podcast about what’s happening pilgrimage-wise in Santiago. He recently took a walk through the cathedral and gave us a look at the restoration of what he calls the “New” Cathedral. Have a look here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2sSUoL8tDk&feature=youtu.be 

And in further good news, we learn that the Holy Door has been opened and the Holy Year has begun. 2021 is a Holy Year, but because of COVID-19, the pope has expanded the definition and the “year” now continues through 2022. Very good news for those who will not be able to walk the Camino, or otherwise visit the Cathedral this year, but might be able to next. Ivar wrote, “As you might have seen, we will also have a holy year in 2022, so no hurry. https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/pope-agrees-2022-also-a-holy-year.69116/ 
 
Another resource for keeping up with what’s open and what the conditions are on the pilgrimage trails and in Santiago, go to American Pilgrims.org
 
#2. Pacific Crest Trail Permits: Very good news! It appears that the USDA Forest Service and Pacific Crest Trail are going to issue permits for PCT hikes of 500+ continuous miles of the trail this year. You’ll be able to apply online starting on Jan. 19, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time.
 
There is a great deal of other important information on the PCTA website. The site also asks hikers to consider whether it is wise to hike the trail during this period when COVID-19 is still very much with us. Link here
 
Springtime in Section A of the PCT.

Northbound permits for trips starting anywhere from the PCT Southern Terminus at the Mexican border to Sonora Pass will be issued at normal levels of 50 permits per day from March 1 through May 31. Southbound permits for trips starting from the Northern Terminus will be issued at normal levels of 15 per day June 15 — September 15. 
 
If you are on Facebook, you’ll find a lot of information on the PCT Section Hikers group moderated by Jaunting Jan. If you are eager to have good information on the John Muir Trail, look at Inga Aksamit’s Facebook group. She administers the group and the site does a great job of explaining the often confusing rules and regulations of the JMT permitting process, etc. 
 
#3. Bay Nature: “What’s it like inside a Woodrat Nest? When recently walking around our nearby Lafayette Reservoir, a friend and I were talking about wood rat nests, which can be seen from the popular walking trail. So, when I saw this recent article in Bay Nature, I was pleased to learn something new about these cute critters. 
 
Pack rats are also known as wood rats, and even trade rats. I knew that the nests were commonly used for generations (some have been documented at being used for 60 years or more.). And this time of year, when most nearby lower-growing vegetation is bare, it is pretty easy to spot their homes —3-6 feet high, up to eight feet wide, and made of branches, bark, and grasses—but also sometimes wires, glass, and author Michael Ellis adds, old shoes. 
 
Compartments and trading:
I was also intrigued to learn that rats’ homes have compartments—separate chambers for giving birth, sleeping, and pooping. I was also intrigued to learn that the things that they swipe from humans—as disparate items as shoes, jewelry, and gum wrappers—may end up being woven into their homes’ walls. The “trader rat” moniker is appropriate because sometimes they may be carrying home one shiny object, encounter one it finds more appealing, and trade.
 
Rats are one of the few mammals that can eat the leaves of toyon. The toyon leaves are highly toxic to humans and most other animals because they contain cyanide compounds. But the packrats store the leaves in one of their many pantries until the leeching process breaks down the toxic ingredients, which makes the leaves safe for them to consume! (From Bay Nature, Winter 2021. Michael Ellis.) 
 
#4. Regional, SF Bay Area:
Friends of the Bay Trail in Richmond shares great news. The City of Richmond and East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) have been awarded $2.2 million for building 2.5 miles of Bay Trail along the shoreline from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Trail to the northern border of the City’s Point Molate property at Stenmark Drive. For details, see the CA Natural Resources Agency press release below about award of these Prop. 68 Recreational Trails & Greenways program grants.
 
These grants complete funding for construction of this $6.5 million project when combined with Plan Bay Area Priority Conservation Area grants of $2.2 million, EBRPD funds from Measures CC, FF & WW, and funds provided to the City by Chevron in 2009 as settlement of litigation over underpayment of utility user taxes. EBRPD has funded design plans now at the 65% preliminary stage, approved a Mitigated Negative Declaration under CEQA and applied for the major permits required. Construction should be completed by the end of 2021.
 
This will be more than a multi-use trail. It will provide the first public access to this shoreline, other than Point Molate Beach Park, since the Huichin tribe of Ohlone dwelled on this stretch of San Francisco Bay shoreline. The first mile of trail from the RSR Bridge will follow a shoreline easement granted by Chevron to EBRPD, while the remaining 1.5 miles will be on the City’s Point Molate property. Click here for more news.
 
#5. The Alcorns explore new and old local hiking trails: Like I’m sure many or most of you, we have not been traveling afar recently. However, we are blessed with a good range of hiking trails throughout the region. The EBRegional Parks District (across the bay from San Francisco) is the largest urban regional park district in the US. 
 
Whenever I consider the options we have, due to the individuals, informal groups, environmental organizations, and governmental agencies that have fought to safeguard our open spaces, I marvel at the vision and tenacity displayed. Beyond that, it has been the public as well as private donors who have funded our wealth of recreational sites. 
 
In December, we hiked primarily in wetland areas — Coyote Hills Regional and Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Fremont), Arrowhead Marsh/Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional (Oakland); Corte Madera Marsh; Alviso Flood Plain (near San Jose) — because this is bird migration time. We also watched, a couple of times, a murmuration, an incredible display by tens of thousands of starlings swooping and weaving incredible patterns in the sky before they landed in nearby eucalyptus trees at dusk. 
 
Murmuration (starlings) in San Rafael, CA

#6. Two of the 2021 hiking challenges in the Bay Area
#PixInParks Challenge. Santa Clara County Park System. Complete all seven featured hikes and get a tee shirt of bandana. Parkhere.org 

#Trail Challenge 2021. East Bay Regional Parks. There are twenty featured trails, you choose whichever ones you want to compete and “to complete the challenge, hike five of the 20 trails – or 26.2 miles of trails within East Bay Regional Park District.”
 
The “twenty featured trails are now available on the AllTrails app. First download the free app, sign-up and log in, then go to https://www.alltrails.com/lists/ebrpd-trails-challenge-2021 and click on “Copy to my lists”, followed by “Continue in App”. The featured trails will show under ‘Lists’ in ‘Plan’. The app indicates where you are on the trail, enabling easy return to the trail if you stray from it. You can also record your hikes, and share your photos, comments etc. with others.” More info here. 
 
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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
 
Author: Walk, Hike, Saunter, which is now available in both print and Kindle versions!  
Also: 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. All are available in both paperback and Kindle versions.  
 
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.
 
To subscribe, unsubscribe, or send message to this (almost) monthly newsletter, please send a message to Susan at backpack45 “at sign” @yahoo.com

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, December 2020

*** we are moving the newsletter from the News page to the blog, so each newsletter can be linked to independently – on the news page there will be a link to the newsletter ***
 
Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, December 2020
     Happy holidays!
2010-12-21_17-12-52_7514_P80
Contents:
1. As Hiking Surges During the Pandemic, So Do Injuries
2. Audio walks—armchair and onsite
3. Camino Masks 
4. Treeline Review helps with finding good gear for gifts!
5. Drawing the Colors of Winter 
6. Wearing a Mask While Running
7. Past, Present and Future on the Bay Area Ridge Trail.
Walk, Hike, Saunter 
is now available
in both print and
Kindle versions!  
 
Articles:
#1. “As Hiking Surges During the Pandemic, So Do Injuries” reads the headline in a NY Times article. Not exactly a surprise to those of us who are long-time hikers and park visitors—we’ve seen many people venturing out ill-prepared for their outings. And just like we have seen happening on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) ever since the book and movie “Wild” drew greatly increased interest in the iconic trail, so the COVID-19’s restrictions have drawn many new hikers to parks and trails.
What I hadn’t considered was that as the number of park visitors has increased (“upward of 90 percent over the previous year in some parks”) Search and Rescue crews have been stretched thinner. Adding to the problem has been the wildfires, which may draw S&R teams away from parks and trails and into the fire areas. “People need to be careful, especially now, as resources for search and rescue can be thin,” said Lisa Herron, a spokeswoman for the United States Forest Service at Lake Tahoe Basin in California. 
David Walsh, with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, commented that wearing a mask, necessitated by the coronavirus, causes responders to move more slowly and rescues that involve bringing injured hikers down out of the hills can take longer than usual. Sgt. Eric Palmberg of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office said many of the calls involved people ‘way out of their experience level and possibly taking more risks due to the pandemic and being cooped up at home.’”
A spokesperson at Zion National Park noted that bike rentals are way up and so are calls for help due to “ankle sprains, heat exhaustion and cuts and scrapes from crashes.” (Gillian R. Brassil https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/28/sports/covid-hiking-parks-trails.html?referringSource=articleShare )
#2. Audio guides take you on walks worldwide. Lorna Parkes wrote, “The bear’s throaty growl starts to my right, then circles predatorily around to my left as I turn. But I stay calm, because the beast is not really there – it’s an illusion. I’m on a street corner in Leeds on a bright, chilly autumn morning and there are no bears for thousands of miles – or at least there haven’t been for well over a century.” This is on a guided “sound walk” ’in the former Headingley Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
Turns out there are tons of sites where you can take armchair walks. I listened briefly to one about Leeds (England) Zoological and Botanical Gardens.  If you go to: https://www.365leedsstories.org/maps/map-19/ and scroll to the bottom on the page, you’ll find audio for 10 different stops in the garden. Thanks to Lorna Parkes for her article (16 Nov 2020)
Other audio travel guides out there in cyberspace include: The Last Eccentrics of Greenwich Village, which takes listeners on a walk around the New York neighborhood. “The Ears May Travel,”  “Visit walklistencreate.org or download the Echoes app to browse sound walks from around the world”
#3. Camino Masks. Ivar, who runs the very popular Camino forum, is offering a variety of Camino-related masks. I ordered two early on and have found them to be very comfortable.  They are two-layers of fabric (and don’t have a slot for a filter, but should be adequate while hiking.)
#4. Treeline Review helps with finding good gear for gifts! 
“Holiday gift giving for people who love the outdoors doesn’t have to be tricky. These are the gifts we’d give ourselves and that we’d be happy to receive. Based on our Gear of the Year and All Time Favorite gear items, here are present ideas for every outdoors person and every price range.” https://www.treelinereview.com/giftsTreeline does not have ads and is 100% reader supported.
And earlier they wrote: “We’re excited to announce the release of Susan Alcorn’s book Walk, Saunter, Hike: Seasoned Women Hikers Share Tales and Trails. Thirty-two women share their stories to inspire new and experienced hikers. I was thrilled and honored to be interviewed for this book and my copy just arrived! The book is currently available in paperback and e-book.” Naomi “The Punisher” Hudetz
 
Susan Alcorn
5. Drawing the colors of Winter. Saturday, Dec. 12, 10-12 pm. Leaves, pods, and fruits…Autumn is a time for reds, browns, and purples. Learn to apply color to capture the beauty of the season. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/drawing-the-colors-of-winter-tickets-126158755233 ($40-$50)
From the site: “Autumn is the perfect time to explore colored pencil techniques with all the beauty of the changing leaf colors, seed pods, gourds and berries. Their unique colors provide the opportunity to practice mixing and layering color. Learn to create rich reds, browns and purples. We will explore a variety of colored pencil techniques including layering, blending, and burnishing.
“This class will be two hours long, held online, using Zoom. We will spend time mixing colors, drawing your leaf or fruit and coloring with demonstration and time for questions and answers. All drawing levels are welcome. A supply list will be provided.
“Nina Antze has a Fine Arts degree and a Certificate in Botanical Illustration from the New York Botanical Gardens and studied at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford. She teaches throughout California and beyond. Her Chinese Maple was recently selected for the DeYoung Open. View her botanicals at pcquilt.com
Details:
-A meeting link for this class will be provided by email following registration
– Please arrive 5 minutes early to check in
– Refunds available for all classes 7 days in advance of the start date, after 7 days and before 2 days, participants can credit their class for a future date. All requests before 48 hours in advance will be declined.
– Please provide an email you check regularly for updates and reminders about your class
– Registration is required online prior to the event in order to maintain class sizes
– Sales end 48 hours before the start date.
– Waitlists are available when the class sells out
What to Bring:
Registered participants will receive a materials list via email with information about how to prepare in advance of this class
About the PRNSA Field Institute:
The PRNSA Field Institute offers hands-on environmental education classes throughout the year that foster enjoyment of Point Reyes National Seashore. Our classes are led by expert instructors, who take you out of your everyday life and into the natural world. We host a variety of classes about the arts and sciences and have something for everyone. You can reach the Field Institute at (415) 663-1200 x304 or by email at fieldinstitute@ptreyes.org.”
#6. Wearing a mask while running—and presumably while hiking!  If you’re a walker, runner or a bike rider, here’s a great reason to wear a mask when exercising outside. According to Emma Dibdin in this Runners World article, you get plenty of oxygen through your mask, but your lungs have to work slightly harder to get it. This actually strengthens your lungs and increases their efficiency! A lot of athletes train at higher altitudes to increase lung capacity which helps them run and bike faster at lower elevations. Wearing a mask does the same thing! https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a32380203/running-with-mask-impact-your-performance/
#7. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area: A link to the recent Past, Present and Future on the Bay Area Ridge Trail. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Adg43caJgM (This video was sponsored by POST and Bay Area Ridge Trail.)   
“The Bay Area Ridge Trail’s mission is to plan, promote and sustain a connected hiking, cycling, and equestrian trail on the ridgelines around San Francisco Bay—linking people, parks and open space for today and future generations”.
Message from Susan
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
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.
 
To subscribe, unsubscribe, or send messages to this (almost) monthly newsletter, please send a message to Susan at backpack45@yahoo.com

More about the hiking newsletters:

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips is published (almost) monthly. The newsletter has items of interest to the hiking (including the Camino) community. Click here to read earlier editions:
You’ll find an assortment of topics each month. There’ll be health and fitness news, info on new gear, hiking records set, and statistics about the Camino. You’ll hear about upcoming hikes and other events as well as trail meetings and gatherings. In addition, you may learn something new about the animals that share our outdoors.

If you want to subscribe to Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, email Susan Alcorn at backpack45 (put at sign here) yahoo.com to subscribe* so that the news will reach you hot off the press!
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Francis Tapon podcast
Francis Tapon, world traveler and adventurer, earlier did a podcast interviewing me about the Caminos Norte and Primitivo. Among other things, he asked these questions:
What was one of the most unusual paths you have taken?
What percentage of pilgrims are hiking purely for religious reasons? (The answer is surprising!)
How many pilgrims get to Santiago every year? (You won’t believe it!)
Have you camped on the trail?
What advice would you give to first-time pilgrims of El Camino de Santiago?
It was such great fun do this podcast! Check it out here! 

 

Bills Hill at Henry Coe State Park

Bills Hill at Henry Coe State Park
 

FINALLY we were able to tackle a new Nifty Ninety Peak. And it was great fun! The peaks in Henry Coe have posed, and continue to pose, a challenge to us for several reasons. They are all rated as difficult. Most of the trails are steep and long.

Timing can be tricky. Spring can be beautiful with wildflowers galore, but the trails can be slippery and water crossings difficult. Summer days can easily hit 100 or more and water sources can be limited. Fall is usually great, but wildfires become a concern. Winter temperatures often drop below freezing. 

And even though Henry Coe is the largest state park in Northern California, it is more than 1.5 hours from us. Some of the trailheads are even farther, and not all of peaks are accessible from the same entrances. 

But the first week of December, Ralph and I decided to scout out Bills Hill. I, for one, couldn’t stand waiting any longer to resume the Nifty Ninety challenge. We entered at the Hunting Hollow entrance (about 10 miles east of Gilroy, CA) and parked in the large, unpaved parking area. We then took the Hunting Hollow Trail out through the valley for about two miles. 

We initially missed the turnoff to the Bills Hill’s narrow dirt trail. The large pile of rocks that had indicated the turn at one time had been scattered. Ralph rebuilt the cairn and then we turned to head back to our car. We wanted to come back when our hiking buddies — Tom Coroneos and Patricia Schaffarczyk — could come with us.

‘Scouting’ has its rewards
Though this was not the day to hike to the peak, it did have some peak moments. On the way in, we were stopped dead in our tracks when we spotted a bobcat in a large grassy field. At first the cat was crouched next to the entrance of a squirrel’s tunnel. Then it casually walked through the short, tan grass to the far end of the football-sized field and disappeared into the scrubby brush.


Bobcat in Henry Coe SP

On the way back out,near an old, weather-beaten windmill pumping water into a nearby tank, we saw the largest covey of California Quail we’d ever been lucky enough to see. We  estimated 60-80 of these tufted, handsomely feathered birds. They were running about peeping, whistling, calling, and making their barking alarm sounds. (Click here for a good display: “The California Quail” by Peter Steuart. Click here.) 

When we got back to the dirt parking area, I got to talking with another hiker who was returning from a hike to another Coe peak — Willson’s. He had done Bills Hill previously so I asked him about it. “It requires some scrambling,” he said. 

In the week that followed, I kicked myself for not asking for clarification. How much scrambling? Did he mean the whole distance, or did he mean the last 20 feet to the peak? It had been so long since we had done a hike rated as difficult that I wasn’t sure if I could do it. The question about the scrambling bothered me as well as reading that there was lots of poison oak and ticks. 

Later we climbed the last leg of the route to Bills Hill using the fire road.

Finally...
we set a date and Tom and Patricia were enthusiastic. Per the COVID-19 restrictions at the time, we drove in different cars, wore our masks or distanced depending on what was appropriate. We couldn’t have picked a better day. This is a park that can be brutally hot in summer, freezing in winter. This day it was 50s and 60s — perfect for an ambitious hike. 

We set out again on the Hunters Hollow Trail and then turned right onto the Bills Hills Trail (the rock cairn was still there). We had to duck under a few low oak tree branches, but it was easy to follow the trail — for a while. It helped that there were green or pink ribbons indicating the trail from time to time.

Where did it go?
And then, with Patricia in the lead, we ran out of trail. She continued ahead, descended several feet into a steep canyon, but then came to a stop. We considered the cross-country ascent that would be required on the far side. This could NOT be right! Maybe the others could have climbed up the other side, but I doubted that I could. 

We backtracked, looked around, and saw that far off to the right was a barbed-wire fence. We decided to follow it up the hill. And sure enough the plastic trail ribbons once again began to appear. The trail was moderately steep and I was very glad I had my hiking poles — especially along the stretches where the trail was covered with a couple of inches of leaves.

We tried to avoid the thin, bare branches that hung over the trail — not able to determine which were poison oak and which were other scrub. We never did see any sign of ticks. 

Ralph holds the wire while Tom crawls under.

We reached Osos Ridge

From Osos Ridge, we could see Bills Hill a short distance to the south. Our narrow trail continued along to our left (south), but we had read that the barbed wire fence just ahead of us was not the park’s boundary. It was still park property, not private, making it was legal to crawl under the fence to follow the wide dirt fire road south to Bills Hill. Trail ribbons confirmed our choice. 

With our goal in sight, we followed the undulating road and made the last steep ascent to the summit — a flat, rather bare area except for a few oak trees bent over time by the wind. In the spring the area would likely be covered with bright  grasses and wildflowers and on a clear day it would offer extensive views to such regional peaks as Pinnacles, Mount Umunhum, and Mount Hamilton.

But this day it was hazy, and we didn’t care a bit — we were quite content basking in the bit of sunshine we found, eating our well-earned lunches, and taking photos. Ralph and I were very happy that we had checked #80 off our list of challenging Nifty Ninety Peaks.

Coming back down the hill went quickly. We tied some plastic ribbons to mark the turn in the trail that we hadn’t seen when we went up. In a few places we slowed to search for bare dirt to walk on rather than slippery leaves, but it went without incident. Back on Hunting Hollow, Tom and Patricia were again in the lead and they managed to see the bobcat where Ralph and I had seen it previously.

Hiked Dec. 6, 2020. Approx. 7.5 miles rt.

Taste Testing at Kelly Brewing Company

Patricia and Tom get the sampler.

As has been our custom after our hike, we looked for a brewery on the way back home. A stop in Morgan Hill at Kelly Brewing Company for beer accompanied by pizza from the food truck out front hit the spot. It happened to be the final day that outdoor dining was allowed before another of the COVID-19 shutdowns in the SF Bay Area. So, another perfect day on the trail — and at a brewpub!