Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, January 2022

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #270, January 2022

Hi everyone, Happy New Year!

Tule elk at Pierce Point, Point Reyes Ntl. Seashore, Marin, CA

#1. Pilgrim guidebook author Beebe Bahrami and her wolf encounter
#2. Snowshoeing and backpacking adventures with Yosemite Conservancy
#3. Are Monarch Butterflies Recovering?
#4. SYMG (Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides)
#5. 600-mile trail underway in the Sierra
#6. 2022 Pilgrim gathering and Hospitalero training coming up
#7. ALDHA-West info
#8. S.F. Bay Area Regional hikes: DIY in Point Reyes to see  Snowy Plover? Tule Elk? Coho Salmon?

Articles:
#1. Beebe Bahrami shares her wolf encounter story.
Beebe is known and beloved by many for her Camino guidebooks including The Spiritual Traveler Spain—A Guide to Sacred Sites and Pilgrim Routes (Paulist Press), Historic Walking Guides: Madrid(DestinWorld Publishing), and her newest— Moon Camino de Santiago (Avalon Travel/Hachette Book Group). She was one of the chapters (what the women of the book are calling themselves!) in my Walk, Hike, Saunter where she enticed to learn more of the story about her encounter with a wolf while hiking on a narrow path near Luarca on the Camino del Norte.

How lucky we are that her story has now been published with Perceptive Travel and I appreciate that she is sharing it with us here. “Time evaporated and space dissolved, as did the wolf’s agitation and mine. I felt the air molecules and the earth between us lose all barriers and meld and weave a profound interconnectedness, what I can only call communion.” Read on…  https://www.perceptivetravel.com/issues/0122/asturias.html.

#2. Snowshoeing and Backpacking Adventures with Yosemite Conservancy: “Experience the quiet beauty of winter in the park during a day of hiking or snowshoeing at Badger Pass, Dewey Point, Yosemite Valley, or the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.” I can attest to what beautiful scenery you will have whether it’s on an evening full moon hike or a daytime forest ramble. Yosemite Conservancy has a partnership with the park and they offer excursions for those of all levels of expertise—beginner to advanced. Learn more and register here. https://yosemite.org/experience/outdoor-adventures/

#3. Seemingly Headed for Extinction in 2020, Western Monarchs Boom Back in 2021. Daniel Roman in Bay Nature (December 8, 2021) writes, “Since 1997, volunteers organized by the conservation group Xerces Society have counted western monarchs over Thanksgiving at the butterflies’ overwintering sites around coastal California, as part of the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count.’

They collect data from more than 200 monitoring sites. In 2020, the count hit an all-time low — less than 2,000 monarchs — a number Bay Nature reported last year, that “represents an astonishing continuation of the near-total collapse of the western migratory population of the species over the last few decades.”

But this season’s numbers are encouraging and the changes significant. In 2020, three important overwintering sites in  along the California coast—Pacific Grove, Pismo Beach, and Big Sur— had fewer than 300 butterflies total. This season (2021—2022) more than 10,000 monarchs were counted.

Why this rebound is unknown, but there are a couple of theories. One hypothesis is that this year’s boom is due to an influx of monarchs from the eastern migratory population — which typically migrates between Mexico and the United States and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains — joining western monarchs, thereby adding to the population.

What seems more likely, however, is good luck — a chance happening of good weather at the right time and other factors. The Xerces Society researchers wrote that, like other insects, “’monarchs [numbers] fluctuate from year to year in response to the temperature, rainfall, the availability of food, and other factors.’”

“A single adult female can lay 300 eggs, which multiplies with each of the monarchs’ typically four of five breeding generations in a year. So, if it’s a good year, with good weather, monarchs can produce a lot of offspring.”

In conclusion, it’s very good news, but there’s no guarantee that the monarch population has recovered. We have far to go to again see the numbers we had in the 1980’s — when millions of monarchs overwintered in California.  

You can subscribe to Bay Nature at https://baynature.org/ Meanwhile, people can help by continuing to create and improve butterfly habitat— planting native milkweed and flowers that provide nectar, and reducing pesticide use.

#4. Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides has been in business for 30 years and this year’s trips look as exciting as ever! SYMG sends season’s greetings! Their trips, often using pack animals to reduce what you have to carry, take you to what they describe as “arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth, Yosemite National Park and the High Sierra!”

Here’s a sampling:
“JMT: Rae Lakes Loop: Backpacking: Explore a famous section of the John Muir Trail. We’ll navigate the Rae Lakes Loop through the wilderness of King’s Canyon National Park. Along the way we’ll tackle Glen Pass and camp in the Rae Lakes…”

“Mt Whitney w/ Horsepack Support. Pack Supported Trekking. Climb Mt Whitney and the remote backcountry wilderness of Sequoia National Park! Pack stock will ease our burden as we travel between camps along scenic high-country sections of the famous John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail…” Website is https://www.symg.com/

#5. Lost Sierra Route: Wow! Guy Joaquin, co-coordinator of the Northern California Pilgrim group, shared this exciting news for hikers. The facebook link is here.  “Just heard of this amazing project underway: a 600-mile, multi-use trail connecting 15 Northern California and Nevada mountain towns from Truckee and Reno to Susanville.

“After reading this article, I watched a few videos online from the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship who are leading the charge. Their plans include routing the trails though the towns, instead of away, to connect users with the local communities and businesses so there will be accommodations and other support services. In other words, it could be very Camino-like. There is even a passport and stamp program in the works! Definitely something to keep an eye on and even maybe support.” Link to the trail project here. https://sierratrails.org/connected-communities/

#6. Camino Gathering and Hospitalero Training. “Get Prepared for the 2022 Gathering!” Dave Donselar, Chair of the 2022 Gathering, shares the details. The 2022 Annual Gathering of Pilgrims is will be held in Alexandria, VA. “This will be American Pilgrims on the Camino’s 25th year of gathering pilgrims together and we look forward to seeing you at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, NC (near Asheville) from March 31 to April 3, 2022.

“Registration will open in early January. Members will be notified when registration opens. Visit the American Pilgrims’ website americanpilgrims.org for additional details on the program including the most recent draft of the program, the cost, accommodations options, and the most up-to-date health precautions as we complete our preparations. Also be sure to check for email updates from American Pilgrims . . . we’ll be sending out updates before the event!

“Hospitalero Corner: Training. Hospitalero Trainings are starting again in 2022. The first one will be March 29-31 immediately preceding the 2022 Annual Gathering in Black Mountain, NC. Watch our website for updated information. Registration will open in early January”

#7. Info about the Triple Crown of Hiking: You hear about it—an award for hiking the of the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Appalachian trails. ALDHA-West, the organization that presents the award, gives some specifics for how you can tackle the challenge. “Happy New Year! As we enter into 2022, we will continue to dedicate our Tuesday posts for the next several weeks to address FAQs about the Triple Crown. Q: “Does it matter how I hiked the trail? Section hikes over multiple years, thru-hike, etc.?

A: “Nope. As long as you have hiked each trail in its entirety, section, thru, or flip-flop doesn’t matter.” Follow them on Facebook to read further information as it appears. 

#8. Great time to visit Marin County. Perhaps you are looking for a great hike that is short and sweet? Look no farther than one of these:
Abbotts Lagoon in Pt. Reyes National Park. This is an easy hike out to the ocean, which can be extended either north or south depending on whether you want or continue on flat or hill terrain. Trailhead is along the Pierce Point Road. The lagoon draws many kinds of birds—this time of year, Snowy Plover are reportedly nesting in the sand. https://www.pointreyesnature.com/blog/2020/9/19/western-snowy-plover

Pierce Point in Pt. Reyes. This is a moderate hike, out and back, on a dirt trail along the northernmost point of the Pt. Reyes peninsula. As you hike out to see the resident Tule Elk, you’ll be walking with the Pacific Ocean on the west side and Tomales Bay on the east. To the endpoint, Tomales Point, is about 10 miles round trip, but you’ll see the elk long before that. Google maps here.  

Lagunitas Creek/Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Easy. This is the location of the last notable wild Coho Salmon population in the Bay Area. The salmon this year were able to migrate from nearby Tomales Bay.

The females are in the process of building their nests (redd), which they do by swimming on their sides, arching their backs, and using their tails to smooth out the underwater gravel. When the female is content with her redd, she releases pheromones, which is a signal  indicating she is ready to lay her eggs. It’s also a signal to the males to approach to fertilize them — which they need to do quickly as the eggs are only viable for a few seconds.

To see them, you can go on your own; it’s best to go when  it’s less crowded on weekdays. Look for the salmon in the vicinity of the Leo T. Cronin Fish Viewing Area. Better yet, to get a better idea of where to look, and what the behaviors mean, sign up for a guided tour with the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) part of the Turtle Island Restoration Network in Lagunitas. Tours are available on weekends Jan 9 to 30—and they will fill quickly. (Eventbrite/click here.) 
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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” yahoo.com

Susan ‘backpack45’ Alcorn
Shepherd Canyon Books, Oakland, CA
https://www.susandalcorn.com
https://www.backpack45.com

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.

  

COVID Insurance! and “Safe Galicia Destination”

 
WOW! Galicia (the “autonomous community” where Santiago de Compostela is) is providing free #Covid insurance for travelers who stay at certain establishments in Galicia. You automatically qualify for the insurance by staying in these accommodations. The Xunta is including this insurance as part of its “#Galicia #Safe #Destination” tourism campaign.
 
From the website:
“If you come to Galicia, you’ll be safe for sure! During your holiday in Galicia, you’ll be covered by the new COVID-19 travel insurance.

“Galicia, a safe destination we welcome you to visit.
Tourists and pilgrims have extra protection. Galicia is the safe choice for your holidays.

 
Who can use it?
This initiative is free for visitors and pilgrims both from Spain and abroad who are not resident in Galicia.
 
Extra protection!
To benefit from this insurance, you don’t need to apply, you only have to be staying at a regulated establishment in Galicia. The insurance is activated automatically.
 
Complementary coverage and services
  • Medical, surgical, pharmaceutical and hospitalisation expenses due to COVID-19.
  • Medical repatriation and repatriation in the event of death due to COVID-19.
  • Extended stay on account of COVID-19 quarantine.

The affected party will have to report the disease by calling +34 915 149 959 “

Of course travelers will still have to weigh the risks of travel in general, but at least if one becomes ill, there is some extra medical coverage here.  

 
 

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

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #269 December 2021

Hi everyone,
Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Sorry if you’ve gotten any extra emails about our newsletters. It’s because of our change to wordpress for sending out the newsletter through my website www.susandalcorn.com We have a few more things to learn!

Contents:
#1. Three Books I Highly Recommend:
#2. “Footprints the People”— Barbara Anderson’s humorous podcast on hiking
#3. At 83, ‘Nimblewill Nomad’ Sets Record on the Appalachian Trail
#4. Camino: Train schedule (new service) Madrid to Galicia. 
#5. Andrew Skurka: Have fun while learning about backpacking from an expert
#6. Camino news: Yikes! Part of the arch at San Anton fell on a school bus
#7. The youngest calendar year triple crowners!
Regional San Francisco Bay Area:
#8.New Year’s Day Sonoma County Hike
#9. Bay Area Ridge Trail: Peninsula. Skyline College to Mussel Beach.
#10: Reminder: King Tides on coastal areas

Articles:
#1. A. Three books I can recommend: First is my Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Hikers Share Tales and Trails, which would be perfect for anyone who enjoys an inspiring, interesting, and entertaining book full of stories of adventuresome women. All of the 32 women are 45 or older—some have been “firsts” in the hiking world, all are excellent role models that have much to offer newer hikers. Link here

Heather Anderson’s latest newsletter announced that she has now received the 4th printing of her book, Thirst: 2600 miles to home. She also is offering a course in January called, “FKT 101: Basics for Planning and Completing your First Fastest Known Time Course.” Link here

From her website, “National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, Heather Anderson is the only woman who has completed the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide National Scenic Trails each three times. This includes her historic Calendar Year Triple Crown hike in 2018 when she hiked all three of those trails in one March-November season, making her the first female to do so.

“She also holds the overall self-supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Pacific Crest Trail (2013)–hiking it in 60 days, 17 hours, 12 min, which broke the previous men’s record by four days….” “She also holds the female, self-supported FKT on the Appalachian Trail (2015) in a time of 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes, and the Arizona Trail (2016) which she completed in 19 days, 17 hours, 9 minutes.”

Yosemite Complete Hiking Guide by Elizabeth Wenk is out! This book includes every trail in the park and many in adjacent wilderness areas—more than 1,000 miles of trail. As with the previous edition, there is a detailed introduction to the park’s natural history, human history, and of course planning material, most of it entirely rewritten. In addition, there are new maps for every hike. There are lots of new geology and biology sidebars to enhance the trail descriptions. Link here.   (Thank you, Jaunting Jan for the news!).

#2. “Footprints the People” is an entertaining podcast with Barbara Anderson (contributor to Walk, Hike, Saunter). She writes, “thought you might enjoy or possibly laugh at my interview for a British podcast on Long Distance walking….. “Footprints The People Podcast Barbara Anderson ” GOOGLE if you cannot reach Spotify. Link here.

#3. 83 year-old ‘Nimblewill Nomad’ Sets Record on the Appalachian Trail. M.J. Eberhart, better known to hikers as Nimblewill Nomad, hiked into Dalton, Mass., on Sunday, November 7 to become the oldest known person to hike the roughly 2,190-mile trail miles of trail from Georgia to Maine. 

“Eighty percent of it is mental grit,” he said. “And that is why so many people fail.” He was celebrated by many at the finish line, including former record holder “Grey Beard,” (Dale Sanders, now 86) who had held the title since 2017. Grey Beard had driven up from his home in Tennessee to walk the final miles with Nimblewill Nomad

Nimblewill Nomad did the entire hike, in sections, in one year. He actually began hiking from his home in Alabama, which is further back—doing day hikes—until he reached Georgia to jump on the AT on March 1, 2021. He averaged about 10 miles a day. He had previously completed the AT twice—1998 and 2001-2. There’s more in an article by Christine Hauser in the New York Times. Link here. 

Earl Shaffer is the first known person to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one, continuous journey, which he did in 1948.

#4. Camino interest: Train schedule (new service) Madrid to Galicia. Follow the link to the schedule. The labels at the top of each train schedule can be confusing, so here are their meanings:
LMXJ — means Monday through Friday
LMXJS — Monday through Saturday
LMXJD – Monday through Friday and Sunday
diario — daily
Link to credit 

#5. Andrew Skurka Adventures: “Our 2022 trip schedule is now available. April/May: Grand Staircase-Escalante in southern Utah; May: Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado; June/July: Gates of the Arctic National Park, Brooks Range, Alaska; July: High Sierra, California; September: Olympic National Park, Washington (new for 2022); October: West Virginia during peak fall colors.”

If you aren’t acquainted with Andrew Skurka, here’s info about him: “I’m an outdoor athlete, writer, and guide. In my twenties I hiked 30,000+ miles from sea to sea, around the West, and in Alaska. Since then I started a guide …” from his website at https://andrewskurka.com

Apply for a 2022 trip starting Monday, December 13, 2021 [places will fill fast]. 
Benefit from:
“Next-level instruction. We will help you develop the skills and knowledge necessary to lead the group and to undertake similar trips of your own in the future. The learning starts months before with our Plan Like A Pro course, and continues with an extensive field curriculum.
“Expert guides. We combine extensive first-hand backpacking experience with excellent people skills, relate-able family and work lives, and a passion for teaching and for our trip locations. It’s truly an all-star team.
“World-class locations. Our venues are among my all-time favorite spots, and we know where to find spectacular scenery, refreshing swimming holes, fascinating archeological sites, blissful off-trail travel, and secluded campsites.
“Cohesive groups. We painstakingly match applicants who have similar physical abilities and outdoor experience, and we try to give each group a balance of genders, ages, and other biographical details. Our groups frequently feel like “tramilies” and plan trips together afterwards.”

#6. Camino news: Yikes! Part of the arch at San Anton (on the Francés route) fell and landed on a school bus. Luckily no one was injured. Article here.  

#7. 21-Year-Olds, Sammy Potter and Jackson Parell, Just Became the Youngest Calendar-Year Triple Crowners. To make their way through the challenges of weather, they bounced around on the three trails — over 7,000 miles of hiking that covers the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. 

They started on January 1, 2021 on the Appalachian Trail’s southern end at Springer Mountain. In February the moved over to the Continental Divide in New Mexico; they moved over to do a section of the Pacific Crest Trail headed south from Kennedy Meadows. They finished their record-setting hike on October 22, 2021. There is more to the story, which you can read at link here

Flyin’ Brian Robinson was the first person to complete a Calendar-Year Triple Crown in 2001. And, as mentioned earlier, Heather “Anish” Anderson, was the first woman to do so.

Regional Bay Area:
#8. Jack London State Historic Park First Day Hike. The park, in California’s Sonoma Valley, kicks off the new year with Ninth Annual First Day Hike – January 1, 2022.  The trek can be either a personal challenge to make it to the park summit or the first step in a commitment to a healthier new year.  Either way, it is designed for all fitness levels with guides to help hikers return to the parking lot at any time. First Day Hikes are held throughout the country, supported by America’s State Parks, and at parks statewide with California State Parks.

The hike begins at 10 a.m. and will conclude at around 2:30 p.m. The roundtrip route is eight miles long and moderately strenuous. Participants will meet in the Ranch parking lot, to the right of the park’s entrance kiosk.  The hike will be cancelled in the event of rain.

Reservations are required https://jacklondonpark.com/events/ and can be made at First Day Hike 2022 | Jack London State Historic Park (jacklondonpark.com). Tickets are $10 per person, in addition to $10 per car entry fee (up to nine passengers).  (Thank you Laurie Armstrong Gossy for the news.) Photo: Jack London’s Wolf House.

#9. Bay Area Ridge Trail. While waiting for longer days to complete the Nifty Ninety Peak Challenge, we are enjoying doing sections of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Our most recent hike was on the S.F. Peninsula in Pacifica. What a delightful segment—from Skyline College to Mussel Beach. Short as most of the sections are, but from our start at the southern end of the walk, we went through the GGNRA Milagra Park, with displays with information about the former Nike Launch site that was there during the Cold War era of the 40s and 50s, and then onward along wonderfully well-groomed trails that took us to a spiral (related to a labyrinth) with outstanding views all along. Then down the hillside to walk along the cliffs above the ocean north to the end at the picturesque Mussel Rock. It’s about 4.5 miles, but we did a bit more to see the off-trail views. Easy, going north is downhill.

#10. REMINDER: King Tides near you? “A King Tide is a non-scientific term people often use to describe exceptionally high tides. Tides are long-period waves that roll around the planet as the ocean is “pulled” back and forth by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun as these bodies interact with the Earth in their monthly and yearly orbits. Higher than normal tides typically occur during a new or full moon and when the Moon is at its perigee, or during specific seasons around the country.” National Ocean Service info. 

Here’s a Bay Area walk you can take with Berkeley Path Wanderers: “King Tides Walk: History and Rising Seas.” When: Sunday, Dec. 5, 10 a.m. Leader: Susan Schwartz. Sea Breeze Market, 598 University Ave., Berkeley.

“During one of winter’s highest tides, enjoy a relaxed loop around Berkeley’s restored “meadow,” with short spurs. We will walk rain or shine. Dress in layers for quick-changing weather, and expect puddles, muddy or even flooded paths, and crossing a construction site. Sorry, no dogs allowed in part of the area we will cross.
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Thank you everyone; enjoy your holidays. 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” yahoo.com

Susan ‘backpack45’ Alcorn
Shepherd Canyon Books, Oakland, CA
https://www.susandalcorn.com
https://www.backpack45.com

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
Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago
We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers
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.

 

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #268 Nov. 2021

Hi everyone,
It’s good to be back in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving and all of the other fall events. There wasn’t an October issue of this newsletter because Ralph and I were in France completing the last section of the Chemin Vézelay pilgrimage route (plenty more about that below).

Contents:
#1. Susan’s book party/event for Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Hikers Share Tales and Trails—and some of the women featured!
#2. Opossums: How much do you know about this marsupial?
#3. Chemin de Vézelay (pilgrim route through France)
#4. Supporting American Pilgrims on the Camino
#5. Regional: Free admission to our National Parks for veterans and active military on Veterans’ Day and through the weekend, Nov. 11-14, 2021
#6. Regional: Sonoma County: Geyserville, Northern CA. — the Geyserville Tree Lighting and Tractor parade.
#7. Regional and widespread: King Tides will be happening soon.

Articles:
#1. Susan to host a book party/event: We’re going to feature my most recent book, Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Hikers Share Tales and Trails at Book Passage Corte Madera, CA on Nov. 13, 2 PM. And, some of the women whose stories are in the book will also be reading. We’ll be talking about some of our trail adventures, and encouraging other to enjoy some of the rewards (and challenges) of hiking and backpacking.

We would appreciate an RSVP if you are coming so we can have enough seating and goodies. To rsvp, follow this link: http://evite.me/t5GC9dWDjU

However, no registration required so come on by if you can. Free to celebrate with us and enjoy a bit of wine and munchies! (We will be inside for the book event, and outdoors for the snacking!). Book Passage, Corte Madera, is 51 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera, CA 925-927-0960.
#2. Opossum or possum? Either is ok. Most English speakers call it possum, whereas most scientists refer to it as Opposum, or more technically the Virginia Opposum (Didelphis virginiana). Whichever term you prefer, it is found from southern Canada to northern Costa Rica, and is the only marsupial found north of Mexico. Its furless hands, short legs, and heavy body make it unsuited to snowy areas, but researchers have observing that it’s range is gradually expanding with climate change.

Marsupial? Yes, it has a pouch—at least the all female opossums do. And, the male Water Opossum, found in Central and South America, is the only living species where both females and males have pouches. The male water opossum uses its pouch to hold and protect its genitals during swimming.

But back to the Virginia Opossum—baby opossums are only about the size of a jelly bean when born. The “joeys” crawl to the pouch and attach themselves to one of the mother’s teats where they will stay for eight weeks. After they have matured, they climb to the mother’s back where they will spend another two months learning survival skills.

If you have seen one living near your home, it means you have supportive habitat: water within 10 square city blocks and food (dead animals, bugs, ticks, fruit, and vegetables). If you see them out and about, you are probably outdoors after dark, because Opossums are nocturnal. There probably are trees nearby because that’s their preferred home, but I have seen them living in thickly-covered vines growing on fences. Like our new-world monkeys, opossums have prehensile tails—they can hang by their tail and use their hands to hold onto branches and so forth. Their opposable thumbs help with this effort.
#3. Chemin de Vézelay: There are four major pilgrimage routes in France: from Paris, Vézelay, LePuy-en-Velay, and Arles to Santiago de Compostela. Ralph and I have now competed three: the Vézelay, the GR 65 from Geneva to LePuy-en-Velay continuing on from LePuy into Spain; and the GR653 Arles route into Spain. (We did the Frances route through Spain in 2001)

We did each of the French routes in sections. With Vézelay for example: Vézelay to Saint Amand Montrond; Saint Amand Montrond  to Limoges; Limoges to Bazas (near Bordeaux), and Bazas to St. Jean Pied du Port (in the foothills of the Pyrenees—a popular town for beginning the Frances route to Santiago de Compostela).

The charming village of Vézelay is in the north-central part of France. It is partially protected from attack by its hillside location and stone walls partially surrounding it. It entered into history in the 9th century, when it first hosted the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene. It became even better known when its 11th-century Romanesque Basilica of St Magdalene was constructed, and subsequently when the Third Crusade (1189–1192) aka “The Kings’ Crusade,” set out from there. It is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The historical route was “described by Aimery Picaud in his 12th century Pilgrim’s Guide. It was used by pilgrims coming from the north (Scandinavians) and the east (Poles, Germans) of Europe, and sometimes called also the Polish route. Its Latin name, the Via Lemovicensis derives from its crossing of the Limousin, and from the historical, religious and cultural importance of the city of Limoges.”

The route runs southwest from  Vézelay (in Burgundy),  There are two distinct branches, the Bourges and Nevers routes (the one we took), which meet in the village of Gargilesse.

The Bourges route “is slightly shorter and much flatter, with many large forests and cornfields, and so to some, more monotonous. Bourges Cathedral is well worth a visit and some say this city is more interesting than Nevers. The Nevers route, also passing through Saint-Amand-Montrond and La Châtre is 31.6 km longer than the Bourges route, unless the variant via Augy-sur-Aubois is chosen which halves the extra distance. The terrain is more undulating and varied, and Nevers has the shrine of Saint Bernadette Soubirous (of Lourdes) which is a pilgrimage centre in its own right.

“The route then continues across the foothills of the Limousin, the hills and valleys of the Périgord and the plains of Aquitaine and the Landes. It joins the two other routes (from Tours and le Puy-en-Velay) near Ostabat.”

It’s approximately 900 km from Vézelay to St Jean Pied-de-Port, and a total of 1700 km if you continue to Santiago. Although guidebooks may divide it into 36 stages, of 20 and 30 km, we generally did shorter walks depending upon the accommodations available.

The route is waymarked, but is slowly moving to change the markings from the earlier red and white or red and yellow, to the yellow and blue that you’ll see on the Frances.

The scenery is quite varied: hills, valley, forests, historic sites and monuments. It’s primarily small towns, many losing population as young adults move the larger cities for work. However,, there are also some beautiful cities—including Saint-Léonard, Limoges, and Périgueux.  The Limousin is a land of forests and springs, of extensive cattle and sheep-raising.

In the Gironde, you’ll come across vast vineyards with the grapes for Bergerac and Bordeaux wines. As you continue south, you’ll find plantation farms with pines interspersed with fields of corn and some sunflowers. In wilder forests you find more variety— including oaks and deciduous trees and rich understory plants. On the last one or two days approaching St. Jean, you’ll have a couple of steep climbs with extensive views of the Pyrenees ahead and the plains behind you.

Walking the Vézelay is a very different experience than walking the Frances. As the CSJ says in their write up, “It is a route for pilgrims who are looking for tranquility and a meditative environment.” Translated that means — except in the larger cities, on market days, or during festival, you will see very few people. Most days we didn’t see anyone on the trail.

We stayed in a variety of accommodations, but there was seldom any choice. A back bedroom, a pilgrim refuges, small or large hotels, chambres d’hôte (bed & breakfasts), or gîtes d’étape. “The route has simple but sufficient facilities, calling upon the rigour of the pilgrim’s commitment (whatever his deeper underlying motive), in the context of a relatively deserted rural environment sufficient to discourage the ‘tourist’, and to deter therefore all those who embark on the pilgrimage in a spirit which is not ‘serious’ (i.e. who want simply to ‘play at’ being a pilgrim).” Quotations from the Confraternity of St. James, based in London. 

 

Guidebooks: The Dutch Pilgrim Association has produced two guides in English (updates 2021) from Vézelay to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port: one covers the variant via Nevers and the other of the variant via Bourges. These are available as books or free in PDF format, santiago.nl/english/vezelay-main-page. The main page will orient you, the “Tracks and Guides” section shows maps and trails in detail. (Both the Nevers and the Bourges books are available from their online shop.)

We also used the Miam Miam Dodo: Voie de Vézelay (2019), which is available from the Confraternity of Saint James. It is in French, but easily understood by those of us who are not fluent in that language!

#4. Supporting American Pilgrims on the Camino. APOC is just what it sounds like, an organization primarily for those of us in the U.S. who want information about the Camino and to support the infrastructure of the Camino with grants for various projects undertaken by various non-profit albergues, etc. Membership includes a subscription to the quarterly publication of La Concha. There is also a Facebook group for meeting with new and experienced pilgrims. www.americanpilgrims.org

It is also a place to find a local chapter near you. Activities vary, but may include getting together for coffee, a potluck, or a hike. Our Peregrinos — Northern California chapter not only has walks and hikes, but also has informative meetings about such topics as how to get ready for a Camino walk to how to reenter the “real world” after your pilgrimage.

#5. Veterans, active military, and Gold Star Families: Free admission to  U.S. National Parks for veterans and active military on Veterans Day and through the weekend, Nov. 11-14, 2021.  https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/veterans-and-gold-star-families-free-access.htm

I recently visited Jack London State Park and can vouch for its attractions–beautiful views, historic buildings, and hiking trails. They are eager to welcome visitors. They write, “In recognition of their service to the United States, Jack London State Historic Park [in Glen Ellen, CA] will provide free admission to all active-duty military and veterans on Veterans Day and through the following weekend…” “An active duty or retired military identification or form DD214 can be presented at the entry kiosk to receive the free admission. Admission, regularly priced at $10, covers one vehicle of guests (up to nine people) for the day.  Park hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily”

“Blending the fascinating history of one of America’s most prolific and successful writers with the serenity of nature, Jack London State Historic Park offers more than 29 miles of back-country trails that roam through mixed forests, redwood groves, oak woodlands, and grassy meadows in Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon.  Learn more about the park at https://jacklondonpark.com/

 #6. Regional: Geyserville Tree Lighting and Tractor parade. Saturday, November 27, 2021 – 4:30pm-8:00pm.Downtown along Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville, CA, 95441 (Sonoma County/Nor. CA).  Geyserville Chamber of Commerce https://geyservillechamber.com/
Local:  707-276-6067. email: geyservillechamberofcommerce@gmail.com
Combine a hike in the area and then watch the festivities. Saturday, November 27, 2021 – 4:30pm-8:00pm.

#7. King Tides near you? “A King Tide is a non-scientific term people often use to describe exceptionally high tides. Tides are long-period waves that roll around the planet as the ocean is “pulled” back and forth by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun as these bodies interact with the Earth in their monthly and yearly orbits. Higher than normal tides typically occur during a new or full moon and when the Moon is at its perigee, or during specific seasons around the country.” National Ocean Service https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/kingtide.html

Here’s a related Bay Area walk you can take with Berkeley Path Wanderers: “King Tides Walk: History and Rising Seas.” When: Sunday, Dec. 5, 10 a.m. Leader: Susan Schwartz. Sea Breeze Market, 598 University Ave., Berkeley. Click here for info.

“During one of winter’s highest tides, enjoy a relaxed loop around Berkeley’s restored “meadow,” with short spurs. We will walk rain or shine. Dress in layers for quick-changing weather, and expect puddles, muddy or even flooded paths, and crossing a construction site. Sorry, no dogs allowed in part of the area we will cross.”
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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” yahoo.com

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

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

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 a message to this (almost) monthly newsletter, please email Susan at backpack45 “at sign” yahoo.com

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

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #267 Sep. 2021
Contents:
#1. Mark your calendar for Susan’s book celebration: Nov. 13
#2. Lyme Disease — perhaps a cure is upcoming?
#3. Less litter and plastic use?
#4. Bear encounters on the rise?
#5. ALDHA-WEST events
#6. Jaunting Jan lives up to her name
#7. State of California closes National Forests due to fire risks
#8. Books to inform and entertain
#9. Regional: The Crosstown Trail: How to walk across San Francisco in a Day.
#10. Regional: New East Bay campground opens

Articles:
#1. Save the date! Please save November 13, 2021 for my first real, in person (we hope), book party/event featuring my most recent book, Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Hikers Share Tales and Trails. I’ll be at the Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA talking about some of our trail adventures and experiences, and about long some of the rewards (and some challenges) of hiking and backpacking.  Details will be provided later on, but the plan is also to have a couple of the women featured in the book read from their stories they contributed to the book, and to enjoy some wine and nibbles. Anyone vote for GORP (Good Old Raisin and Peanuts)? Since most years the weather is great around here that time of year, we expect an event at 2 PM and outdoors to be quite fun. Info on the book here. 

#2. Preventing Lyme Disease: Finally, a Shot to Prevent Lyme Disease Could Be on Its Way. (Aug. 16, 2021, Outside Online). Lyme Disease is a tricky disease. About 3/4 of people who become infected will get the get a red rash, in the shape of a bullseye, after a Lyme-carrying tick bite, but some people do not. When other symptoms show up: fever, fatigue, headaches, and swollen joints, the patient may not attribute their symptoms to the disease because those symptoms often resemble the flu or COVID-19. 

Lyme disease is so named because it began in the U.S. in Lyme, Connecticut. While it remained in the Northeast and Great Lakes area from a long time, it has  now it has spread to all 50 states, and more medical providers are familiar with it.

Lyme is treatable, and most people who are infected recover after a month of antibiotics if the disease is caught early. However, that means that the infected person needs to seek care, and the medical team needs to start treatment. It also tells us that not everyone will respond to the antibiotics.

Things to consider: The black-legged tick (of different varieties according to location) is also often called the “deer tick,” because deer are the most frequent carriers, but mice can also be hosts. Deer populations are increasing—not only in the wilderness, but also in our suburban areas.

But, Sam Telford, a Tufts University professor of infectious diseases, says “Even if you have an infected tick attached to you, if you remove it within a day [to 36 hours], it doesn’t matter.’” 

The best defense at the moment — short of not going outdoors, is to wear long sleeved shirts and long pants and/or to treat clothing with permethrin.

Mark Klempner, a physician and infectious-disease scientist at the University of Massachusetts … is the lead creator of a first-of-its-kind antibody shot for preventing Lyme infection. The idea is to administer the injection annually, so that people are protected from during the time that tick nymphs are most active — late spring through early fall.

The article, click here,  gives more history of the disease and of previous research toward eliminating the disease as well as explains more about Klempner’s research and hope for a future without Lyme Disease.  

#3. Amy Cantrell Morton on the John Muir Trail facebook group, wrote, “I started using these this summer for the Tahoe Rim Trail and they work great! “Compostable & Biodegradable Food Bags – Responsible Products” 

#4. ALDHA-West is again having a virtual Gathering. “We will be hosting two different virtual events during the week to connect with our hiker community this year: the Triple Crown Award Ceremony will be on Tuesday, Oct 5 – 5-7pm PT, the Gathering on Thursday, Oct 7 – 5-7pm PT.

“If you’re a member, make sure to log into your account on our website before registering.” Register here.

Yosemite black bear

#5. Are bear incidents on the rise (there have been more than usual this year)? There have been five incidents in the U.S. and Canada combined this year. Two in April (a grizzly in Yellowstone, a black bear in Colorado). Two were in May (both incident involving grizzlies in Calgary). One in July (a grizzly in Ovando, Montana). This is a slight increase from recent years. In 2020, bears killed 4 people in all of the U.S. and Canada. In 2019, there were 2 fatal bear attacks.

Bear attacks do make the headlines, but the numbers don’t warrant concluding attacks are trending upwards. Speculation is that with increasing numbers of people being outside for recreation with COVID-19 circulation, there are also increasing numbers of bear encounters.

Frank van Manen, Team Leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, explains, “In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzlies have tripled their range over the past 40 years.” He adds, “It is important to recognize that in the vast majority of bear encounters, bears avoid any form of confrontation and leave without incident, which of course does not make the news.” he says.  Outside Online article here.

#6. Jaunting Jan, who goes by the name Jaunting Jan on Facebook and elsewhere, should be a poster child for successful rehab after having “spent September learning a lot about knee anatomy, followed by knee surgery in early October. For six weeks, it’s crutches and 8 hours a day in a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine, so basically 24×7 in bed.”

But Jan, whose story in also in Walk, Hike, Saunter, is not a quitter. As I followed her rehab process through the subsequent months, I was inspired by her strength and discipline. She followed doctor’s orders and set reasonable goals for getting back onto the trails. First it was on flat trails near her home using crutches, and gradually increasing her distance. When she could throw out the crutches, she continued slowly increasing speed, distance, and then level of difficulty. She was soon saying such things as “only” being able to walk eight miles, etc. At this point, she has traveled to dozens of hiking trails on the west coast and even been able to do a few backpacking trips.

From Jaunting Jan’s June 26, 2021 blog: “I’ve mostly decided to embrace this forced pause as a preview of how I might enjoy my wild places as I continue to age. There’s no doubt that my body will fail again and what once was moderately challenging will become too much. I’m grateful I’ve found places to go where I can just sit and admire nature’s beauty without having to hike into higher country, although that will always be where my heart sings loudest.

“Maybe it’ll be the motivator to find a more suitable place to make my home base. It has reaffirmed the pluses of having the security blanket of a home where I was able to escape COVID and rehab from my surgery. It’s nice to have a home gym and a trail system within 5 minutes of my door where I can ride or walk. Convenience is worth a lot like having a community pool in my backyard or a lake just 15 minutes away where I can swim or take my paddleboard.

“I know you and many others are also going through personal challenges. We may not have decades and decades of adventure remaining as those much younger but hopefully it’ll help everyone reset priorities and try to live with fewer regrets and more purpose.”

#7. USDA Forest Service Temporarily Closing All California National Forests for Public Safety. “VALLEJO, Calif., — August 30, 2021. To better provide public and firefighter safety due to the ongoing California wildfire crisis, USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region is announcing a temporary closure of all National Forests in California. This closure will be in effect from Aug. 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. through September 17, 2021. This order does not affect the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is not in the Pacific Southwest Region.

So no Labor Day camping, hiking, biking. Those caught entering Forest Service lands — including developed campgrounds, hiking trails and recreation sites — typically face fines of up to $5,000 for violating closure orders. The closure order only applies to Forest Service lands. State and national parks and private lands set their own rules.

“’We do not take this decision lightly but this is the best choice for public safety,’” said Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien. “Factors that led to this decision include …  [by] temporarily reducing the numbers of people on national forests, we hope to minimize the likelihood that visitors could become entrapped on National Forest System lands during emergency circumstances….” Info here.  

“Earlier this summer, two of California’s largest private forest companies — Sierra Pacific Industries, and W.M. Beaty & Associates — closed nearly 2 million acres of private timberlands to public access due to what the companies’ foresters described as unprecedented dry conditions.”

#8. Books not to miss:
If you are interested in the Camino: Moon Camino de Santiago: Sacred Sites, Historic Villages, Local Food & Wine (Travel Guide) by Beebe Bahrami.

If you are interested in Vermont’s Long Trail: A Short Walk on a Long Trail: A Couple’s Sauntering on the Vermont Long Trail.  Dennis and Jane Blanchard each wrote up their backpacking adventures on the trail. Of particular interest to me was their day-to-day description of the conditions they encountered. This is one TOUGH trail. Dennis, who had previously completed the entire Appalachian Trail, found that the Vermont Long Trail was even more difficult. Also interesting to read their comments regarding how aging and/or training can affect such a challenging undertaking. 

S.F. Crosstown Trail goes through many interesting neighborhoods. Great fun!

#9. Regional: Article about the San Francisco Crosstown Trail. Even though the article was written to describe how to do it in one day, Ralph and I did it in four sections, on different days, with various friends. Instead of doing out-and-back hikes, we did each section as a loop by choosing alternate routes/streets to return to our starting points.  Article here.

#10. New East Bay campground opened: The East Bay Regional Park District recently invited the public to celebrate the opening of a new campground in the S.F. East Bay. It is their first campground on the bay shoreline. The Dumbarton Quarry Campground, in Fremont, has 60 sites with full RV hookups. Article here.  

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Thank you everyone. There will not be a newsletter in October. 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” yahoo.com

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

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

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 a message to this (almost) monthly newsletter, please email Susan at backpack45 “at sign” yahoo.com