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

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #292 May 2024
Contents:
1. Seven Reasons to Use a Hiking Umbrella
2. It’s Not Dew
3. Gear Cleaning, Repair, and Maintenance by Treeline Review
4. New rules for airlines should benefit passengers.
5. 
Are Baby Rattlesnakes the Most Dangerous Biters?
6. Regional: 
Springtime Hikes in a New Bay Area Preserve: Welcome        to Máyyan ‘Ooyákma /Coyote Ridge
7. Regional: ParkFest: Celebrating 90 Years of Your East Bay Regional Parks

Articles:
#1Seven Reasons to Use a Hiking Umbrella
And it’s for a lot more than the routine writes Whitney LaRuffa. (Six Moon Designs. Jun 1, 2023.).

1. Shade on a sunny day. We all know the risks of exposure to too much sun and the potential for skin cancer. If you are like me, you burn easily and having to slather on tons of sunblock while hiking can be a chore, not to mention the extra weight in your pack. By using an umbrella, I can walk in the shade all day long, it helps protect me form harmful UV rays all the while keeping me cool as a I pound out the miles.
Susan adds: A couple of years back I did an experiment on my back deck to see how the temperature would differ on our table with and without an umbrella. It was unscientific, but there was a measurable difference in the temperature between the shaded and non-shaded of degrees difference between the two situations. If you are hiking, this can make a big difference in your comfort and physical well-being.   

2. Dry cover on a wet day. Let’s face it, hiking all day in the rain sucks. Besides being soggy, it can chill you to the bone and it makes breaks less than desirable. With an umbrella I can often hike with my rain jacket unzipped, it helps keep me remain drier as I move along, and best of all, it gives me a dry place to relax and snack during breaks.
Susan adds: There have been times when we have needed shelter in order to take a break or have lunch and we have turned to our umbrellas for help.

 
Lunchtime on the Vezelay Camino Route, France 2018.

3.Better condensation management in rain gear: As stated above I often use my umbrella in conjunction with my rain gear, every hiker has experienced that clammy wet feeling when trudging along in their rain gear, and often ask themselves, am I really any drier in this sweat jacket? Well with an umbrella the outside of my jacket stays dry reducing the condensation, it also allows me to vent my jacket as I move along minimizing the sweat and condensation against my skin.

4. It’s the door to my tarp: When using a flat tarp as a shelter I will often open my umbrella and use it at my head as a makeshift door. While this will not keep out the critters, I have often found it to be a great way to create a small wind break at night. It also provides the mental security of nothing looking at my mug while I sleep soundly in the woods.

5.Protection during nighttime bathroom trips: The only thing worse than trudging through the rain for days on end is when you lay awake at 3 am in your shelter as the rain comes down debating if you should get up and pee or try to hold it until the morning. No one wants to fight getting on rain gear to relieve themselves, but with an umbrella this task becomes easy. Simply crawl out of your bag, slip on your shoes, deploy the umbrella and now you have a dry place to go relieve yourself.

6.Moon blocker when cowboy camping: I cannot tell you how many times I have been cowboy camping only to be wake up in the middle of the night by a big fat moon shining it’s light down on me like a spotlight. Instead of trying to get creative using my Buff as a sleep mask, I simply open my umbrella, and lay my head under its canopy for a great light blocker.

7.Dry place to cook: I won’t get into the details here, but in 2016 I might have burned a whole in the side of my pyramid tent when I was cooking inside trying to avoid the rain. While I came out of the situation unscathed, I can’t say the same for my shelter. I realized that I had the perfect place to stay dry while cooking the whole time – my umbrella. Now when it’s time to heat up some water and cook the morning or evening meal (cold soaking is for folks much harder than me), I simply sit under my umbrella nice and dry.

“I encourage you to consider getting an umbrella before you set off on your next hike. Our Silver Shadow family of umbrellas includes 3 different models to suit everyone’s budgets, both financially and weight wise.”Happy Trails, Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa

#2. Nope, It’s Not Dew. “Have you ever gone outside on an early spring morning and spied ‘dew’ on the tips of grass blades or along the margin of the leaves? It may actually be guttation, a mixture of plant internal juices that are exuded overnight.” David L. Nelson has the scoop in Bay Nature Magazine. 

Susan: I never took biology so I know little about the photosynthesis (part of the process by which plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen). This article, which I found fascinating, explains part of this process and why what we may have thought was dew is from fog, etc. from the air around us is actually juices excreted by the plant itself. 

Nelson continues: “However, at night, photosynthesis shuts down and the stomata are closed, conserving water. If the soil is moist, the root pressure will increase the pressure in the xylem, forcing the leaf to offload some of the fluid. You could think of it as an emergency escape route. When the plant needs to release fluid, and the stoma are closed, the fluid finds another way out. It exits through specialized pores called hydathodes; they are located at the tip of the blade of grass or at the margin of a leaf, typically at the tip of a marginal tooth or serration. If the humidity is high, the guttation does not rapidly evaporate, but accumulates at the leaf tip.”

#3. Gear Cleaning, Repair, and Maintenance. Treeline Review https://www.treelinereview.com/subscribe provides info on how to “clean and repair the gear you have —so you don’t need to buy new.” This is invaluable information for anyone venturing into the backcountry. All the articles in this overviewCleaning, Repair, and MaintenanceThe individual articles:: How to Fix Zippers on Outdoor Gear , Clean and Repair a Down JacketClean and Repair Gore-Tex and Waterproof ShellsHow to Wash a TentHow to Wash a Sleeping BagHow to Repair a Tent

Treeline Review online is free and it’s well worth your time to read their newsletters.  

#4. New rules for airlines should benefit passengers. The Transportation Department on Wednesday, April 24, announced new rules—they are to help with refunds, and avoiding surprise fees late in the booking process.

“Passengers deserve to know upfront what costs they are facing and should get their money back when an airline owes them — without having to ask,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Some of the new rules/changes are:
“There’s now one definition of a “significant” delay.  Now, according to the D.O.T., there will be one standard: when departure or arrival is delayed by three hours for domestic flights and six hours for international flights.”

“Passengers will get prompt refunds for cancellations or significant changes for flights and delayed bags, for any reason. Refunds will be automatic, without passengers having to request them.” They must be made in the form the original purchase was made–check/credit card, etc. and are “due within seven days for credit card purchases and within 20 days for other payments.”

Costs to be given upfront! “Fees for checked baggage and modifying a reservation must be disclosed upfront. Airlines will be required to display extra fees for checking bags and seating selection up front.

The new rules have varying start dates. You can find more details at the United States Department of Transportation link here. 

#5. Are Baby Rattlesnakes More Dangerous than Adults? I am seeing reports that many hikers now are seeing plenty of rattlesnakes on their springtime walks.“Q: Is it true that baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous than adults?

A: “No, that is one of the many myths about rattlesnakes, says California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Coordinator Laura Patterson. The larger the rattlesnake, the more venom it will deliver when it strikes. Rattlesnakes are shy by nature and will only bite as a last resort when they perceive a serious threat to their lives. Typically, a rattlesnake’s first defensive strategy will be to move away from a perceived threat. If cornered or their escape route is cut off, they will seek cover if available. If the threat continues, they usually coil up and rattle as a warning, although some individual rattlesnakes don’t rattle.

“If the threat continues, they may strike. However, an estimated 25 to 50 percent of bites from rattlesnakes are dry, meaning they choose not to envenomate. It takes the average rattlesnake three weeks to replenish expended venom. Because their venom is intended for immobilizing prey, envenomating a threat they will not eat means they cannot eat for several days to weeks. This is why rattlesnakes do everything they can to avoid unnecessarily using their venom.

“Rattlesnakes can occur almost everywhere in California except alpine areas above tree lines on tall mountains. They can also swim. In most areas, peak rattlesnake activity occurs during spring and summer shortly after they emerge from winter dens.” Visit CDFW’s rattlesnake page for tips on rattlesnake safety.”

#6. Regional: S.F. Bay Area: Springtime Hikes in a New Bay Area Preserve.  Coyote Ridge. Excerpt from an article by Susan Alcorn. “Welcome to Máyyan ‘Ooyákma — Coyote Ridge.”  If you are seeking a hike in the Santa Clara Valley where you likely will find dozens of varieties of wildflowers in springtime, don’t miss seeing the lovely displays at ‘Mayyan ‘Ooyákma — Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve. This grassland area of more than 1,800 acres opened to the public just last August. In springtime, visitors will find colorful wildflower displays along the trails by signing up for a docent-led hike or going on their own with the required Butterfly Pass. The pass, guided tours, entry, and parking are free.

I was lucky enough to get the last ticket for one of the March 2024, Bay Checkerspot Trail tours. The ticket was for one car — visitors can bring as many people as they can safely fit in their car.

“Mayyan Waayi Overlook Trail starts from the parking lot. It travels 1,000 feet on a short spur leading to a loop at the end (like a lollipop). Its gentle grade (5% average) and firm, stabilized, decomposed granite surface make it partially accessible. It leads to a rise with two scenic viewpoints where serpentine (California’s State Rock), wildflowers during the season, and meadowlarks may be enjoyed. Visitors can also enjoy the shaded picnic area. No permits are required to visit.

“The other three trails, Serpentine, Tule Elk, and Bay Checkerspot, form a loop. When docents lead a hike through the entire 5.1-mile loop, they generally do so clockwise because it’s judged safer. It allows hikers to tackle the steeper Serpentine trail going uphill, then cross the ridgetop along the relatively gentle Tule Elk, and descend the hillside on the series of switchbacks down the moderate Bay Checkerspot.”

This is only a portion of my article. You can read the rest here. We went back to the preserve this week and did the whole loop—actually would differ from the advisory’s rating of difficulty. The three sections do vary, but none IMO are particularly difficult. If you do go, check if the trails/preserve is open, be prepared for hot days in summer, and hiking poles are helpful. 

#7. Bay Area Regional: ParkFest:  A celebration of 90 Years of East Bay Regional Parks. Saturday, May 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy music, performances, Drakes Brewery, Kids’ Zone, hands-on fun, nature exhibits and displays, food trucks, eco-friendly activities, and more. Lake Chabot Regional Park, 17600 Lake Chabot Rd, Castro Valley, CA 94546. ParkFest is free and accessible to all. A BARTable event, the Regional Parks Foundation is sponsoring free shuttle service to and from the Bay Fair BART station.

“Established in 1934, the East Bay Regional Park District is the largest park district in the nation, with 73 parks, 126,000 acres, and 55 miles of shoreline.

“ParkFest Performers: Grammy Award-Winning Alphabet Rockers, Anthony Ant of Oakadelic, Los Cenzontles, Black Cat Zydeco, White Crane Dragon and Lion Dance Association, the Berkeley High School Jazz Band, Prescott Circus, Asheba Caribbean Music, Silly Circus Show, magic and bubble shows, and more!”
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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.

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, April 2024

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #291 April 2024

 
Olive groves along the Camino Mozarabe, Spain

Contents:
1. Camino: Great news! A place to store your backpack when going into the cathedral.
2. The end of an era – more from the Yellowstone Winterkeeper story.
3. Yay, i
t’s official! The Tahoe National Forest will be developing a 72-mile multi-use trail connecting Nevada City and Truckee, Calif.
4. 
Mountains on Stage — Program Summer 2024
5. Safety for Day Hikers
6. 
ALDHA-West Gathering
7. 
Regional: Nor Cal Pilgrims group
8. Notes from Susan

Articles:
#1. Camino interest: Guy Joaquin, Co-coordinator of Northern California Camino Pilgrims, forwarded this important news about backpack storage when going into the cathedral in Santiago–and while visiting the city.

 “The main office of Correos (the Spanish postal service) in Santiago on Rúa do Franco, just a few minutes’ walk from the Cathedral, is now open 7 days a week. This is particularly good news as there is now a secure place every day to deposit backpacks before going into the Cathedral (they are no longer allowed in).”

Correos also extends the opening of the Santiago locker for pilgrims. The postal service will offer the storage of luggage at the main office in Santiago de Compostela, in Rúa do Franco, seven days a week, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.” (Europa Press/Friday, March 1, 2024, 3:54 p.m.)

#2. The end of an era? More from the Yellowstone Winterkeeper story. “With 50 years of solitude, Steven Fuller is a living legend in Yellowstone and an endangered 21st century icon. Story by Todd Wilkinson

If you missed my earlier story about Yellowstone’s Winterkeeper in last month’s newsletter, you can find it here. 

#3. A new trail in the making! It’s official! The Tahoe National Forest will be developing a 72-mile multi-use trail connecting Nevada City and Truckee, Calif. “Are you interested in hiking, biking or horseback riding? Tahoe National Forest’s Pines to Mines Trail will welcome equestrians, pedestrians, bicyclists and Class 1 e-bike users on the new 72-mile trail network. The trail’s development aims to increase national forest recreation access for multiple user groups and abilities while supporting local economic development. The trail will include approximately 50 miles of existing trail with 22 miles of new trail, planned to begin construction this year.  

#4. Mountains on Stage[Susan writes: A couple of years back, we attended one of the film-showings locally. It was inexpensive, not-crowded, and great fun–so check out this year’s programing. The festival was born in March 2013 and since then, the festival has been growing year after year, not only in France but also in Europe and the U.S.

Film selections: 
#1. DEEPFREEZE : Themes: mountaineering, winter, Grandes Jorasses.
Athletes: Charles Dubouloz, Symon Welfringer and Clovis Paulin
#2. SEA TO SUMMIT : Themes: big wall, kayak, Greenland.
Athletes: Jacob Cook, Bronwyn Hodgins, Angela Vanwiemeersch, Kelsey Watts and Zack Goldberg-Poch
#3. FOND OF FONT : Themes: bouldering, 100 7A sequence, Fontainebleau.
Athletes: Seb Berthe and Hugo Parmentier
#4. SUBTERRANEAN : Themes: caving, cave systems, Canada. Athletes: Franck Tuot and his team.
TOUR DATES in the U.S. 

5, Safety for Day Hikers. Susan writes: It seems so-o-o-easy, you and your friends drive to a regional park and set out to walk a couple of miles looking for the newly popping wildflowers. Though it’s after work and late in the day, the days are getting longer, so no problem! Afterwards, you plan to return to your car, and perhaps stop for a beer and snacks during Happy Hour before heading home. But then, just about the time your group decides to turn around and head back, one of your party twists an ankle. Even though you are not far from town, a nearby hill blocks cell reception. The beautiful sunset you were all enjoying moments earlier, is slowly fading….

None of us wants or expects an emergency, but they happen. The 10 Essentials are not just for multi-day backpacking trips, they are also important for day hikers. Bring the 10 Essentials and save everyone in your party some grief.
1. Navigation
2. Headlamp
3. Sun Protection
4. First aid
5. Knife
6. Fire (matches/lighter)
7. Shelter
8. Extra Food
9. Extra water
10.Extra Clothes
(Thank you for providing us the list, Jack Haskel: PCT Communicator, Spring 2023.)

#6. The ALDHA-West Gathering: 
ALDHA-West (American Long Distance Hiking Association West). “Save the date for the ALDHA-West Gathering! September 27-29 at Camp Augusta, in Nevada City, CA. Highlights include the Triple Crown Award Ceremony, the Martin Papendick Award for “Trail Angel of the Year”, invited VIP speakers, Hiker Olympics, our legendary GEAR RAFFLE, and plenty of social time with your hiking community. Meals included! Registration will be coming soon. Join us! “

#7. Regional: Nor Cal Pilgrims group’s upcoming events. Find the details on Facebook as they are posted.
April 6. Lake Merritt Walk (Oakland). First Saturday every month.
April 14-May 5. Basic Spanish for the Camino (online)
April 20, Lake Cabot Hike (Castro Valley_)
April 14. Francigena (online)
April 27. Sugarloaf/Bald Mtn. Hike (Kenwood)
May 4. Lake Merritt Walk (Oakland)
May 18. Crosstown Trail Hike (S.F.)

#8. Note from Susan: Where we are enjoying spring. Ralph and I are thoroughly enjoying the local hikes that we have been having. Since we have both been fighting colds, we have been hiking on our own, but thoroughly enjoying trails on Mt. Diablo (Contra Costa County), Jepson Preserve near Suisun City/Dixon (Sonoma County); Morgan Territory (Alameda County). Prior to the wicked colds, we were able to join a guided hike at a brand-new park—the Máyyan ´Ooyákma (Coyote Ridge) (Santa Clara County), and to watch the spectacular elephant seal colony at Drake’s Beach (Marin County). 

Once back in circulation (shortly!), we hope to continue on with our circumnavigation of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. “The Bay Area Ridge Trail is a planned 550-mile multi-use trail along the hill and mountain ridgelines surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area, in Northern California. Currently, 400+ miles have been established. We, with our friends Patricia Schaffarczyk and Tom Coroneos, have hiked a bit more than 300+ miles of the trail so far.

The next big event on the Ridge Trail is the Ridge to Bridge on Saturday, April 13. Participants can choose between: a 6 Mile, 13 Mile, or 18 Mile Hike; 20 Mile Bike Ride; and an 8 Mile Equestrian Ride .

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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.

Balance vs Falling — a Hiker’s Challenge

Balance Matters!

Ralph demonstrates importance of balance
Ralph has great balance (Torres del Paine. Patagonia)

The last time I was in an airport, I witnessed an impressive (to me, anyway!) feat. A young woman, while walking across the waiting area, noticed that one of her shoes was untied. She preceded to stop and tie the undone lace while balancing on the other foot. 

I can’t confidently do that; I’m not certain if I ever could have done so. I do know, however, that I always used to stand on one foot while getting dressed. Now I usually sit on the bed or lean against a wall when putting on slacks or a skirt. I don’t really need to, and part of it is laziness, but it’s also an indication that I am less trusting of my ability to balance.  

When I was a kid, I thought nothing of walking along a curb or a narrow plank. Now I have second thoughts when I come to a stream crossing that involves using rocks or a log. Unless the rocks are very stable or the planks across a stream are wide, I much prefer to wade through. 

After my observation at the airport, I gave all of this some thought. I considered the fact that falls can be a very serious matter for seniors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that “one in every three adults age 65 and older falls” each year. (I suspect that 1 in 3 of any age falls each year, but that’s another matter.) The CDC also says that falls are the leading cause of injury death for this age group and “in 2009, about 20,400 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries”. Even if older adults do not die from their falls, they are likely to sustain serious injuries that limit their activities and/or send them to a wheelchair. 

Even though I have very healthy bones and am active, I have been slacking off and not continuing to do these simple exercises.  Recognizing that a decline in stability is not serving me, I recently elected to sign up for a nearby adult-ed class that focuses not only on strength training and stretching, but also on balance. 

From past experience, I know that I will see improvement. I remember how gratifying it is to have quick results from any physical regimen! Whereas most exercise seems to take forever to show any improvement, a few simple routines can make a world of difference in a short time.  

I love my hiking poles and will continue to use them for their many benefits, but it is still important to have good balance for day-to-day activities as well as hiking ones. 

Here are three things that have worked for me:
1. Start by standing (near a chair or other stable object if necessary for safety) on one foot and lifting the other for increasingly lengthy times. (I often do this (eyes open!) when doing other simple tasks — such as waiting for the microwave to heat water for tea, or when brushing my teeth.) When you are able to stand on the one foot for at least a minute, try doing this with your eyes closed. (recommended by my chiropractor, Richard Teel of Novato, CA.) 

2. Stand on both feet, shoulder length apart. Walk 3 steps forward, then lift one foot and hold it up for one count. Walk another 3 steps forward and lift one foot again. Then take 3 steps backward, hold, 3 more back. Then go to the right 3 steps and hold, repeat. Then go to the left 3 steps and hold, repeat. Continue this series of stepping 3 steps forward, back, side, side, but with longer times of holding the one foot up. Increase to 2 counts, then 3, and then 10.  (taught by instructor, Francesca Weiss, at Acalanes Adult Center, Walnut Creek, CA)

3. Sign-up for classes and practice in yoga, chi gong, and tai chi. Many communities have Adult Ed exercise classes that are low-cost — sometimes even free for seniors. 

Hikers and Backpackers
If you want to keep hiking and backpacking, keep in mind that you need more than strength and endurance. No matter what your age, you also need to have good balance because falls are the single most common cause of hiker fatalities! 
 
Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn, backpack45

author of Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails; 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.
www.susandalcorn.com

 

 

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, April 2022

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, #272, April 2022

Rose Peak on the Nifty Ninety

Hi all,
We are glad to be back, but we also just had a great trip mid-February to mid-March. We spent three weeks in Baja California: enjoying the countryside, the people, and a dream of mine coming true—going out on the pangas (small boats) at Scammon’s Lagoon and San Ignacio and getting to pet the Gray Whales. A thrilling and wonderful time—and done the way we generally prefer—as a road trip!

The photo here is from our latest overnight backpack trip, which was to Rose Peak in Alameda County, CA. This is our peak #89 of the Nifty Ninety Peak Challenge; we plan to hit #90 the end of April!

Contents Sonoma book talk and more:

1. Regional: Sunday, April 10 in Sonoma CA: Bay Area book talk with short and sweet walk following
2. Eagerly awaiting Heather Anderson’s: Adventures Awaiting
3. Condor Trail through Los Padres Ntl Forest
4. Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail — new trail guide

5. Diane Spicer has this to share
6. “Lagniappe” (a little something extra) “Bug Healing”
7. Regional: Bay Area Ridge to Bridge Event

Articles:

#1. Regional: Susan’s Bay Area book talk and walk. 

Please join us for a reading and discussion about my newest book, Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails at Readers’ Books in Sonoma, CA on Sunday, April 10, 2022. 10:30 for the talk and reading; 3-mile hike to follow (the hike is optional, of course). Event is free and open to all. 

Joining me will be four of the women from the book:  Inga Aksamit, Patricia Schaffarczyk, Jane Toro, and Karen Najarian. They will read a bit from their chapters, perhaps talk about their previous or upcoming hikes. I can guarantee that they will be inspiring!

A hike will follow—but note: trail changes!!! We are going to lead a hike, but due to trail restoration, we have had to change from going to the overlook (top) of Overlook Trail. We still plan to lead an easy uphill hike, but though it will start on the Overlook Trail, it will continue onto another trail (also offering great views). I plan to scout the alternate route out this week—it will be a fun walk for all of us.

Click here for trail info to find the parking lot for the HIKE, and the beginning of the Overlook Trail. I’m sure than some hikers will be fine without hiking poles, but expect some roots and rocks, so bring a pole if you’ll feel safer.  
Readers’ Books is at 130 E Napa St., Sonoma (and right off the main square).

#2. Eagerly awaiting: Adventures Awaiting.

 
Who better to teach about long distance hiking than those who have done it—multiple times, multiple places—than co-authors Heather Anderson, aka Anish, and Katie Gerber, aka Salty.

Heather earned the Triple Crown of Thru-Hiking (USA) and set the fastest known time for this in 11/08/2017.  Katie has completed many long distance hikes on the  the Pacific Crest, Appalachian, Continental Divide, Colorado, and Oregon Desert trails, and the Wind River High Route  and is a nutritionist.

Pre-order Adventures Awaiting at Heather’s website, wordsfromthewild.net Orders from that site will be autographed by Heather.

Learn:  “(How) to prepare your body and mind for the rigors of long-distance backpacking and other epic adventures,” as well as “everything an aspiring backcountry athlete needs to know for planning their first thru-hike!”

Katie focuses on food so that you can be healthy when you complete your hike rather than nutritionally depleted.

“Additionally, we dedicate an entire segment of the book to the mental and emotional preparation, maintenance, and reintegration phase of the journey. It’s commonly estimated that 75 to 85 percent of aspiring thru-hikers on the Triple Crown trails quit before reaching their goal. That’s a staggering number. So, what’s the difference between those who get to the opposite terminus and those who don’t? It’s generally not athletic ability. People of all different demographics and athletic abilities successfully complete long-distance trails.

“Backpacking is not a particularly technical sport, though it does require you to learn a particular set of skills. The primary physical component involves walking over natural surfaces with a load on your back. And though good physical fitness reduces the likelihood of injury and can make the experience more enjoyable, a backpacker always has the option to slow down or reduce mileage to ease the physical demand. The challenges unique to a multi-month backpacking trip are exposing yourself to the elements day after day and continuing to move forward when you’re tired of sleeping on a thin foam pad, sick of eating dehydrated foods, and missing your family and friends.

“Thru-hiking success comes down to the ability to endure when things get hard. There are certainly legitimate circumstances that force hikers off trail, like illness, injury, and finances, but many quit because the going gets difficult and they don’t have a strong reason for being out there. There still physically capable, but mentally they’re over it.” Excerpted from Adventure Ready page 161

Pre-Order Your Autographed Copy Now! https://wordsfromthewild.net/ Order your copy today and receive a discount on the companion online courses!”

#3. Condor Trail Guide: Hiker’s Guide to the 400 Mile Condor Trail Through Los Padres National Forest in California

 (2021) Paperback and Kindle by Brian Sarvis (Author), Bryan Conant (Contributor). Find it here

Writer Miles Griffis writes, Is California Condor Trail the Next Great Thru Hike?  Griffis tracks the trail’s origins and development—a dream to create a route that with the highlights of Los Padres National Forest (north of Los Angeles)— from the towering peaks of the Sespe Wilderness to the dense redwood stands of Big Sur—all home to the state’s iconic endangered species, the California condor. 

“…the Condor Trail is a distance hiking route that travels coastal mountain ranges and canyons deep in the backcountry of California’s central coast.” “… some areas that will test a hiker’s pathfinding ability.”

“Unlike the well-established John Muir or Pacific Crest Trails, it lacks proper signage and maintenance. But it’s loaded with sights… “…past colonies of elephant seals, and across the ancestral lands of the Chumash, Salinan, Esselen, Tataviam, and Costanoan peoples…”

bridge over columbia
Photo by Susan Alcorn

#4. “Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail

by Bonnie Henderson, published by Mountaineers Books, is the first guidebook to fully cover the 400-mile Oregon Coast Trail. “From vast beaches and lush forests to windswept bluffs and dramatic sea stacks, the stunning wild coast of Oregon is emerging as the next great long-distance hiking experience.” 

“The OCT includes 200-plus miles of publicly accessible beaches, as well as established trails through city, county, and state parks and national forest lands. “…detailed descriptions of 34 route legs with mileage, maps, resupply options, itineraries, hazards, camping or lodging options, and more.” “…even worth-while side trips.” 

You’ll also find a good overview of the trail—the good and the bad—at Treeline ReviewClick here.

#5. Diane Spicer’s newsletter includes a trekking pole article. 

There is always a lot of interesting and varied hiking information in Diane’s monthly newsletter. I was particularly interested in this article, “Are Trekking Poles Helping or Hindering Your Hiking Experience?” Ashley L. Hawke, MS; Randall L. Jensen, PhD. (REVIEW ARTICLE| VOLUME 31, ISSUE 4, P482-488, DECEMBER 01, 2020.) Click here to read

You can find out more about Diane at her website, and from Walk, Hike, Saunter, where she wrote about her hiking experiences in her own chapter.

#6. A little something extra: Chimpanzees Appear to Use Insects to Treat Their Wounds.


In a first, chimps in Gabon were seen applying insects to sores on themselves—and others, a possible show of empathy. Fascinating article by Corryn Wetzel, Daily Correspondent, in Smithsonian Magazine.

The multiple observations were seen in Gabon—involving adult chimps catching flying insects (which might have antiseptic features), smashing the bugs in their mouth, creating a paste, and then applying it to not only their own children or other relatives, but also other members of their group. February 8, 2022 article click here. 

#7. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area: Register now for Ridge to Bridge 2022!


Registration is officially open for the Ridge Trail’s most exciting signature annual event, Ridge to Bridge 2022! Ridge to Bridge is a trail adventure for hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians with two ways to participate this year: At an in-person supported event on April 30th in the Marin Headlands or with the self-guided version, ongoing March 1st — April 30th.

In-Person Adventure: April 30th: “Join us for a beautiful springtime trail outing through the iconic Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) including Fort Baker, the Marin Headlands, and Muir Beach. We will support your selected route with trail maps and tips, signature swag, resting points with snacks, and a trail-side catered lunch in Tennessee Valley to keep you energized!”

“Self-Guided Adventure: March 1st – April 30th. Ridge to Bridge 2022 also offers a self-guided adventure for runners, hikers, bikers, and equestrians with curated trail options in each Bay Area county with multiple distances to choose from. Complete trail outings on your own schedule and at your own pace.  Details can be found at RidgeTrail.com

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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
susandalcorn.com
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.

 

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