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

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips,  #263 May 2021

Contents:
1.Going greener
2. Space Dust
3. COVID-19 on Everest!
4. SMG guides
5.  JMT hikers: Map of the Eastern Sierra transportation connections
6. Valuable transit info for John Muir Trail hikers
7. How accurate are manufacturers’ specs for backpack capacity?
8. Regional: SF Bay Area Ridge Trail: Ridge to Bridges
9. Regional: Berkeley Path Wanderers and its public service

Articles:
#1. Going greener: As I was looking at a review of a new book, Imagine It!: A Handbook for a Happier Planet (Laurie David), I read a hint — to replace paper towel usage by buying a product called Skoy Cloth. Machine washable, etc. “One machine-washable Skoy Cloth can absorb 16 times its own weight and is equivalent to 15 rolls of paper towels. $9 for four, at containerstore.com.”  The Skoy cloth is described as a Swedish, eco-friendly alternative to a kitchen sponge or paper towels.

We started our own campaign last Christmas. We purchased a bag of terry cloth pieces, washcloth sized, at our local Ace Hardware. We put a clean one out on the counter daily, replacing it in between if necessary, and it goes in the laundry with all the other wash. So easy to do and we have significantly reduced paper towel use!

However, I am wondering if the Skoy Cloth would be a good item to have on a backpacking trip — any comments? 

#2. Space Dust: The Earth gains weight every year according to researchers from France’s National Center for Scientific Research. They calculated that Earth receives about 14 tons of micrometeorites each DAY. 80% they say probably comes from comets, the remaining from asteroids.  Information based on the 20-year study of the debris neat the Franco-Italian Concordia research station in Antarctica. www.earthweek.com

 #3. The First Case of COVID-19 at Everest Base Camp. Yikes! The pandemic continues to complicate hopes for a normal season on the world’s highest mountain (article Apr 20, 2021). Read here.

“Hopes for an Everest season unaffected by the pandemic dimmed last week when the first member of an expedition at Base Camp tested positive for COVID-19, according to a source at camp who asked to remain anonymous.”

The story adds that the patient had been thought to have acquired high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). He was taken by helicopter to Kathmandu and tested for COVID-19. His team began to quarantine at Base Camp.

“Most foreigners have to present a negative COVID test result upon arrival in Nepal. The government also requires a quarantine period and a second negative test after arrival, but these rules appear to be largely self-enforced.” But compliance with quarantine periods and retesting depends on the individuals and companies. The incidence of COVID-19 in Nepal has been low, but with their neighbor India’s current crisis, it becomes more concerning that most Sherpas have not received the vaccine.  

#4. “Experience a Story 30 Years in the Making,” from Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (SYMG). I have yet to go on one of their trips (can’t seem to do it all!), but I like their continuing passion for the trail, they trips they lead, and that they are highly experienced.

Here’s more of their story. “In 1991 three lifelong friends combined their passions for the outdoors (and aversions to getting “real” office jobs) and began offering hiking trips to their closest friends and family. They quickly realized the experiences were too incredible not to share with more people. These early expeditions evolved into Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, a world-renowned guide service focusing on the best hiking and climbing destinations the High Sierra has to offer.

 “2021 marks our 30th year in business.” “SYMG is leading these trips in 2021 or 2022: Rae Lakes Loop Backpack (JMT); John Muir Trail Backpack (the whole trail and Mt. Whitney); Yosemite Grand Traverse (part of the JMT and peaks in Yosemite.); Yosemite’s famous and challenging Half Dome; Alpine Lakes Backpack (Ansel Adams Wilderness); Ansel Adams High Sierra Camp. Here for more info.

#5. John Muir Trail Transportation: Sometimes backpackers find one of the most difficult things about hiking the JMT is getting to and from the trail. To get oriented to transportation hubs, check out this map. 

#6. Transportation changes for the 2021 Sierra Hiking Season. Steve Herr, in the JMT newsletter (4/26/21) provided a very thorough list of COVID service reductions. If you will be depending on public transportation, or a private transportation service to get you to a trailhead, you might need to double check to see what will be available. Herr has obviously devoted an incredible amount of time to compiling these resources! Alan Ladd, who administers the forum, writes, “Steve is in the process of updating his files, but both the current files and any updates will be in this folder.” link here

Sample here: “There will not be any Yosemite Free Valley shuttle, Glacier Point Tour Bus (concessionaire), Tuolumne Meadows Hikers Bus (concessionaire), Tuolumne Meadows shuttle (NPS) in Yosemite.”

More JMT Planning Links: See bit.ly/keyJMTdocs for critical JMT planning information
To subscribe to the invaluable John Muir Trail J…@groups.io , go here

#7. Treeline Review tested to find out, “How Accurate are Stated Volumes of Backpacking Backpacks?” [ed: It varies] Read here.  

#8. Regional: SF Bay Area Regional: Registration for the “Ridge to Bridge” fund-raising event and challenge for the Bay Area Ridge Trail is continuing. The self-guided events will take place for another month —until June 5, 2021. 

“Ridge to Bridges 2021 is a self-guided trail event for hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians. Choose your own DIY adventure! Register here.  

If you are trying to stay trail ready for a long walk, consider the Ridge trails. There are 390 miles of ridge walking available. The level of difficultly varies, but as “ridge” suggests, there is generally a lot of up and down, and not infrequently, the routes are more difficult than the Camino Frances. That makes it perfect for those who want to start out in shape for the Camino routes.

#9. Berkeley Path Wanderers: 
“Many folks are walking closer to home these days, and our self-guided walks page is getting lots of traffic. We are happy to provide these resources, and hope you are enjoying your solo and/or socially distanced explorations.” Google Berkeley Path Wanderers

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Thank you everyone. Enjoy the wildflowers while you can. Stay well, keep hiking when prudent. I encourage you to send in items of interest to the hiking community.  backpack45 “at sign here” @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 & Tips, February 2021

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

Contents:

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

Articles: Read More

Continue reading “Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, February 2021”

Nifty Ninety Peaks — off to Big Basin, Part 2

Mount McAbee in Big Basin Redwoods State Park

After our overnight in Blooms Creek campground, we packed up (checkout time from the campsite was noon) and drove the short distance to the park’s headquarters. We were headed for Mount McAbee, which according to the Sierra Club’s #NiftyNinety Peaks list, was at 1,730 feet in elevation. It would be peak #60 for us.

Interestingly it was labeled as ‘McAbee Lookout’ on the park’s map. When we reached the prescribed 1,730 foot elevation, we found a bench — we were at the McAbee Lookout. Only days later, did research show that the peak itself, as reported by David Sanger, is at 1,840 feet and would have involved a 10+-minute bushwhack uphill.

Nevertheless, because we reached the elevation given for the challenge, we consider we were successful. Maybe next time I’ll scramble through the thick vegetation to the peak.The hike

The hike, about six miles round trip, was moderate — and fun. We started out from the parking area by the visitors’ center, passed the amphitheater, and found the Skyline to the Sea Trail. We took that to an intersection and proceeded on the  Howard King Trail (instead of Berry Creek Falls). The Howard King took us on a mostly uphill route all the way to McAbee Overlook. Since the trail had been in a forest of Redwood, Madrone, Bay, Fir (and more) most of the way, it was a treat to reach the overlook and look out to see the Pacific Ocean and Waddell Beach just a few miles away as the crow flies. 

We were happy to be there on a reasonably clear day because we knew that we could have found ourselves with views blocked by fog. We snagged the log bench at the overlook. Moments later other hikers came along who would have also have enjoyed a restful place for lunch — some were going to continue on down the mountain Berry Creek Falls.  

We ate our snacks, took a few photos and then returned to our car following the gently descending Hihn Hammond fire road and then went back onto the Howard King and Skyline trails the rest of the way.   


To celebrate, we dropped into Boulder Creek Pizza and Pub for lunch. I enjoyed the ‘Light & Loaded’ pizza; the personal size was only six inches in diameter, but it was piled high with chicken, artichokes, mushrooms and more. A great weekend for sure!  
Trail hiked: Sep. 29, 2018

Nifty Ninety Peaks — off to Big Basin, Part 1

Ancient Redwoods

We missed a couple of weeks of ‘peak’ climbing the #Nifty Ninety because of other travels, so we were itching to make up for lost (not exactly lost, but focused elsewhere) time. Our hiking partner Patricia did the research and then planned an overnight trip to California’s first state park — Big Basin Redwood State Park, established in 1902. We knew that getting to and from the park was going to involve a longer drive than usual, so an overnight stay would allow us to do two peaks — Pine Mountain and Mount McAbee (1,730′).

Though Patricia and Tom had been there before, neither Ralph nor I had. Somehow, though I’d always known of its existence, I’d never followed through and visited there — too bad, it’s a great place for day or overnight visits by any age.

It’s a bit remote
It was about a ninety minute drive for us. There are options, but we traveled by freeway to just west of Los Gatos, took Bear Creek Road near the Lexington Reservoir, followed the curving road through Boulder Creek and then into the park.

After checking in at park headquarters, we found our site, and set out a bit of gear. We were very impressed with how clean and quiet the Bloom’s Creek campground was — especially considering it was at the end of summer. And because Patricia had managed to get the last reservation, we hadn’t known what we would find. Water faucets, trash containers, and food storage lockers were nearby as were the toilets (that flushed!).

We headed for the trailhead adjacent to our campground. We walked along the Bloom’s Creek Trail and turned onto Pine Mountain Trail. The trail was very well maintained, somewhat uneven, and a pleasure to follow — and pretty much up the entire way. A bit of scrambling up exposed rock along the way kept things interesting. That, and the fact that the canopy of trees offered beautiful specimens of redwood, madrone, fir, and pine.

We came to the turnoff to Pine Mountain’s peak. Only problem was, the narrow side trail to the peak was marked closed and tree branches had been piled up to  discourage hikers. We considered our options, but decided not to proceed because of our concern the closure might be to protect wildlife. Instead we continued on the main trail, went over the crest looking for another approach to Pine’s summit, and finding none, came back uphill and spent time climbing around nearby Buzzard’s Roost. This handsome large outcropping was a fine place for lunch before turning around and retracing our steps downhill for a total round trip of about four miles.
We were feeling rather discouraged about not getting to the top of Pine Mountain, but afterwards we discovered that the 2,150-ft. elevation given on the #NiftyNinety Peaks challenge for Pine Mountain is the elevation of Buzzard’s. According to the park’s map, Pine Mountain is 2,208 feet, and there is no longer a stub trail to the peak. We are, therefore, taking credit for this summit.

Father of the Forest
After we came back down to camp, we hopped in the car and took the very popular Redwood Trail through the main old growth forest near the Park Headquarters Center. This half-mile, self-guided walk took us to such wondrous specimens as the Father of the Forest, Mother of the Forest, and the Animal Tree. Don’t miss this collection!

Dinner was both easy and tasty because we had split up the tasks and kept things simple. We set the stage with our usual beer toasting and then Patricia put together Pad Thai while I made a salad of greens and fresh fruit. Chocolate bars provided just the right end to our al fresco meal.

In the next blog, I’ll cover our next morning’s hike to Mount McAbee in Big Basin. Click here. 

Note: The wildfires of 2020 swept through Big Basin SP. The trees will survive, but the campgrounds and historic buildings were destroyed. As of this date, the park is not yet open. 

More: PDF of the Bay Chapter’s ‘Nifty Ninety Peaks’ challenge, click here.

Trail hiked: Sep. 28, 2018

Black Diamond Mines and Rose Hill

A lot of history at Black Diamond

 Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, which is near Antioch, can be a lovely place to hike. This early February day was just about perfect for another Nifty Ninety Peak hike — sunny, perhaps a bit on the cool and breezy side. Be forewarned it you consider doing it  mid-day in mid-July — it can easily reach into the triple-digits. 

Our goal was to climb Rose Hill (not to be confused with a much more strenuous hike on the list to attain Rose Peak near Livermore). Rose Hill is only 1,506 feet in elevation, but we found that not all of the informal trails (vs. signed, official trails) to the top were created equal. We started out on a lesser trail and I had to turn back because of a couple of steep spots. I should have known better anyway, because “social trails” cause erosion.

This was the climb.

We found a better trail a bit farther on; it had only a couple of slippery spots. I had my hiking poles, and was glad to have them because of the loose grit and occasional pebbles on the trail, but younger hikers probably wouldn’t need them. 

The views were far-reaching
We could see over to Mt. Diablo and north toward the delta. The refinery at Martinez was quite visible. And the housing developments continue to fill in any available spot.  The refinery at Martinez was quite visible. We saw that the housing developments continue to fill in any available spot —which reminded me that I like supporting Save Mount Diablo because they really work hard to “protect, preserve, and restore” land that surrounds Mt. Diablo. That often means that further development is reduced, slowed, or stopped.

From the 1850s to early 1900s, the chief activity in “Black Diamond” was coal mining  and there were several towns here — of which Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartville may be the best known. The miners, their families, and others lived here. When production costs and competition became too great and Americans found other sources of energy, the mining towns because deserted.

I’ve heard that some of the houses were moved downhill into what is now the city of Antioch and elsewhere; the wooden slats of the houses were numbered so that the houses could be more easily reconstructed in the new sites. Sand mining began in the 1920s and continued into the 1940s. Underground mine tours of the sand mines at Black Diamond are available with reservations. 

Today’s visitor/hiker is likely to see grazing sheep or cows that are used by the EBParks to help reduce fire hazard and increase plant diversity and help native plants.

On our hike, we saw sheep as well as ground squirrels and raptors. On other visits, we have seen coyotes, and mountain lions are known to frequent the area. 

The old Rose Hill Cemetery still exists. It’s only a short walk uphill from the parking area and is well worth a visit. Especially poignant are the grave markers of “children who died in epidemics, women who died in childbirth, and men who died in mining disasters.” (info from the park’s brochure).

The park is 8,349 acres. Our hike was approximately 9,500 steps and 3.5 milesincluding the false start up the hill. Most of the park’s trails are rated moderate to strenuous, but worth hiking to see not only views, wildflowers, seasonal streams, but also various mining features such as Jim’s Place and tunnels.

There is also a visitor center, a group and backpack camping area, picnic tables, and exotic vegetation to enjoy.

We hiked this on Feb. 12, 2018 and it was our 17th Nifty Ninety peak.