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

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.
Mountains on Stage — Program Summer 2024
5. Safety for Day Hikers
ALDHA-West Gathering
Regional: Nor Cal Pilgrims group
8. Notes from Susan

#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 .

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”

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

Author of Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails; Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo; Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine; We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers; and Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago.

Please note: Hiking and backpacking can be risky endeavors. Always be prepared for emergencies and carry food, water, shelter (warm clothing, etc.), flashlight/headlamp, matches, first aid supplies, and maps. Cell phones don’t always work. Leave word where you are traveling and when you are due back.

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

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, March 2024
Walking on air or water is nothing as miraculous as walking on earth. 

-Thich Nhat Hanh

1. How long does it take to get fit again?
2. Yellowstone’s “winterkeeper”

3. Should I use insoles with hiking shoes?
4. Accommodations on the Camino Frances
5. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area. Guided Hikes at Máyyan ‘Ooyákma!
6. Nor Cal Camino Chapter’s celebration March 16

#1.How Long Does It Take to Get Fit Again? “Use it or lose it.” Most of us have experienced losing fitness to our cardiovascular health or muscle strength, or both, when not exercising for a period of time. Here are some findings on how fast we might lose it and how to get back in shape–excerpts from The New York Times article, by Knvul Sheikh.  Link here.  
a. Cardiovascular health declines more rapidly than muscle strength. About eight weeks out is the point when muscle strength begins to decline. But, decline is affected by age as well as many other factors. Studies show that older adults lose fitness at nearly twice the rate of 20- to 30-year-olds.

b. “You can regain approximately one-half of your fitness in 10 to 14 days with moderately hard workouts,” said Dr. Edward Coyle, professor of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas at Austin.
c.  However, one study found that older adults, after a 12-week break, needed up to eight weeks of retraining. 
d. Hikers, when trying to get back into shape, can start retraining by walking, then jogging, then running. Many trainers suggest increasing your workouts by a bit less than 10% per week, but listen to your own body.
e. Suggestions for those who can’t get to the gym or trail for an extended period—use the stairs, do short interval workouts, use weights.

 Yellowstone, Fall 2023. Photo by Susan Alcorn

 #2.Yellowstone’s “Winterkeeper”. “Steven Fuller is a winter caretaker who has lived and worked at Yellowstone National Park for the last 50 years.” From the
George Mattson, a family friend, recently sent us the following link that takes us through the decades that Fuller has worked in the park. Mattson himself spent his early years with his family in Yellowstone National Park . Being there year round, he also experienced long Yellowstone winters. Enjoy the 12-1/2 minute video from The here.  

Yellowstone, Fall 2023, Photo by Susan Alcorn

#3. Should I use insoles with hiking shoes? Treeline Review gives suggestions and recommendations for using insoles. Click here for their report.  Susan adds: Because my hiking shoes (Altra) have minimal cushioning and I often walk on paved trails (rather than dirt, which has far less impact on feet), I wear Spenco Rx Comfort Thin Lightweight Cushioning Orthotic Shoe Insole. They are long-lasting and do not absorb water (the last thing you want is your insoles becoming sponges!) And, because I have had plantar fasciitis and prefer not to suffer from it again, I also replace my shoes’ original insoles and wear  orthotics for their greater support.

#4. Camino interest: Where to stay along the Camino Frances (the most popular of the pilgrim routes to Santiago). From Michael Matynka at Wise Pilgrim is this up-dated list of accommodations on the Camino Frances. Link here

#5. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area. Guided and Unguided Hikes at Máyyan ‘Ooyákma! Information from Open Space Authority.
This is a brand-new park. “Máyyan ‘Ooyákma (pronounced My-yahn Oiy-yahkmah) directly translates to Coyote Ridge in the Chochenyo language. Chochenyo is the language stewarded by the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area, whose members trace their ancestry to the Indigenous Peoples, or aboriginal inhabitants, of this region. The Open Space Authority is partnering with the Muwekma Ohlone to raise awareness about the importance of the protection of irreplaceable landscapes.”

Máyyan ‘Ooyákma – Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve is 1,859 acres and connects over 1 million acres of important habitat in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range. It has five miles of trail, some of which was carefully constructed by hand in order to protect the fragile habitat. Three miles of it is designated as a portion of Bay Area Ridge Trail, a regional trail system that will someday stretch more than 550 miles along the ridge lines that encircle San Francisco Bay. The park is approximately 20 miles from downtown San Jose.

Visitors are required to carry a free “Butterfly Pass” for hiking, biking, or horseback riding on the trails located inside the Habitat Protection Area. The three trails in the Habitat Protection Area are the Serpentine Spring Trail, Tule Elk Trail, and Bay Checkerspot Trail. This is because the “unique landscape is a biodiversity hotspot for endangered plants and animals” – including the rare Mount Hamilton thistle, Western burrowing owls, the Federally protected Checkerspot butterfly and the rare serpentine grasslands.  

Spring is prime time to see the grasslands dazzling with California poppies, lupine, mariposa lilies, goldfield, tidy tips, and more. In the fall, visitors are likely to hear the male tule elk bugling during the mating season.

The preserve is temporarily closed due to the large amount of recent rain. Check the chart, link here, to see visiting days and hours. Reservations are required for guided tours to see the protected areas. The hiking trails do not require reservations.  Map and schedule for open times, click here.

Address9611 Malech Rd, Morgan Hill, CA 95037. Directions: From Hwy 101 or Hwy 85.  East on Bailey Avenue, Continue on to Malech Road.  Free public parking area on the right. No pets allowed. Phone: (408) 224-7476

#6. Regional: Northern California Camino Chapter’s Celebration March 16. Guy Joaquin, group co-cordinator, recently posted information about  the group’s upcoming Shell Ceremony & Potluck. Saturday, March 16, 10:00 AM – 3:30 PM in Oakland, CA.
“Help us celebrate our pilgrims heading out to the Camino this year at our annual Shell Ceremony & Potluck. We’ll be gathering at St. Augustine Church in Oakland with special guests to confer scallop shells (symbol of the pilgrimage) to outbound pilgrims as well as recognize departing volunteer hospitaleros. Please click the link below for the full announcement and to register for this event.


Lunch at an early Nor Cal Pilgrim fall gathering (2009). It has grown!

Schedule: Doors open at 9:30 AM. After the shell ceremony, we’ll have lunch then our breakout session. We plan to finish up by 3:30 PM. We always need help with cleaning up afterwards. All are welcome to attend.

Getting There: By Car: Use Google Maps or your favorite map app for directions. St. Augustine is located at 400 Alcatraz Avenue off of College Avenue in Oakland. The church is on the right side between Dana and Colby Streets when heading west towards the bay and the parking lot entrance is on the left side of the building. Meet us on the bottom floor of the gym/multi-use building across the courtyard on the right side of the church (follow our yellow arrows).

By BART/Bus/Foot: From Rockridge BART, take AC Transit bus 51B towards the Berkeley campus and offboard at College/Alcatraz (15 min). Walk west on Alcatraz to St. Augustine (0.3 mi). To walk from the station, head north along College towards campus and turn left on Alcatraz (0.7 mi).

Carpooling: Registered participants will have access to an online “Carpool Bulletin Board” to post a message if they need a ride or can give one.

What to Bring: Your favorite dish or drink to share. Extra points for something from the Camino. Wine counts, too! Here’s a request to cover our bases: If your last name begins with H-Z, bring a food dish (main, side, salad with serving utensils). If it begins with A-G, bring a dessert or beverage (coffee will be provided). We’ll have 3×5 index cards on hand to make a label for your dish.

Be Green! We encourage you to bring your own plates, cups and utensils to help us to minimize trash and reduce costs on disposable items. There is a kitchen to wash items after use.

El Rastro: El Rastro is a gigantic flea market in Madrid. Bring your excess gear, memorabilia, guidebooks and other good “junk” you thought you needed, but don’t anymore. There will be an area to display your items. This will be a “cash-free” zone. Bring it and forget it! See something you want? Take it.

Camino Market: We invite Camino authors, artists, creatives, and other vendors to display and sell your wares. There will be a table set aside for your use. Note: American Pilgrims does not endorse any of the products. We are solely providing a space to connect sellers and buyers.

Contributions: Please help us cover our event expenses (room, supplies) with a cash contribution to our donativo box at the check-in table. Your generosity allows us to devote more resources to our mission that includes supporting the Camino infrastructure through our Grants program.

Advance online registration is required. Click the Register Now button below to sign up by Friday, March 15.

Cancellation: If you are unable to attend, please email us at so we can update our list.”

Register Now

Visit the Northern California Chapter page
Join the Northern California Camino Pilgrims Facebook group
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

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”

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

Author of Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails; Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo; Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine; We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers; and Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago.

Please note: Hiking and backpacking can be risky endeavors. Always be prepared for emergencies and carry food, water, shelter (warm clothing, etc.), flashlight/headlamp, matches, first aid supplies, and maps. Cell phones don’t always work. Leave word where you are traveling and when you are due back.

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, December 2023

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips,  December 2023

Snow camping with Sierra Club group (photo: Susan Alcorn)

“For the born traveler, traveling is a besetting vice. Like other vices, it is imperious, demanding its victim’s time, money, energy and the sacrifice of comfort.” -Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), English author of Brave New World


1. Celebration of Life for Trail Angel Donna Saufley

2. Wildlife: Whoa, this is fascinating!

3. Amazing new #PCT #Fastest #Known #Time (FKT) records set: #Nick Fowler

4. New Fastest Women’s Known Time: #Jessica Pekari

5. Camino: The Ditch Pigs at it again

6. Susan’s hiking books – read free for 90 days on Kindle Unlimited

7. Our recent 9.000-mile road trip – and the computer glitch

8. Falling into a tree well…


1. Celebration of Life for Donna Saufley.
 You may have heard previously,  but just in case… we are all very sad that Trail Angel Donna Saufley passed away on October 6, 2023. Others have written much about Donna, so I will keep my comments short, but I knew Donna because she and her husband Jeff, ran “Hiker Heaven” in Agua Dulce, CA. They hosted thousands of PCT hikers through a couple of decades, and Ralph and I were fortunate enough to stay there twice while on the trail.

When I began my latest book, Walk, Hike, Saunter, I asked Donna if she would tell her story. I had been hesitant to ask because I knew she would have enough material to write several books of her own. Not only had she cared for and listened to thousands of hikers, she had also section hiked the PCT over an 11- year period. But, she did share her thoughts and feelings for the book, for which I was, and am, very grateful.

There is going to be a ‘Celebration of Life’ in her honor on April 13-14, 2024 in Agua Dulce, CA. More info below. Ralph and I are planning to go; please let me know if you are planning to be there also.

A couple of the dozens? hundreds? of the tributes to this wonderful woman:

Celebrating the Warmth and Generosity of Beloved Trail Angel Donna Saufley. By PCTA Staff.

October 11, 2023

“All of us in the trail community were heartbroken to hear of the passing of Donna Saufley on October 6 after a long and difficult battle with cancer. A long-distance hiker, former PCTA board member, and volunteer, Donna—along with her husband Jeff Saufley—helped create the generous culture of trail angels on the PCT. For years, Donna and Jeff hosted countless PCT hikers at their home in Agua Dulce, California, known as “Hiker Heaven.” Donna, whose trail name was L-Rod (short for Lightning Rod) will be missed by all.”

November 14, 2023 Journal entry by Cindy Anderson. On behalf of Floyd Jefferson Saufley you are invited to Donna’s ”Celebration of Life,” which will be held on the weekend of 13th -14th April 2024. (11861 Darling Road, Agua Dulce, CA 91390)

****For planning purposes please fill out the following RSVP form until the 30th of November 2023. Link here:

Susan: I am not sure if they can add attendees, but you can try at the above link,  which was still active today, Dec. 11, but if it isn’t now, you can email:


2. Wildlife: Whoa, this is fascinating!! As Daniel Dietrich’s article, “Apparently Coyotes Can Climb Trees,” reveals, there is “at least one in Moraga (CA) that can.” Stephanie Becker, who lives in Moraga, looked out her kitchen window recently and saw movement in a neighbor’s apple tree. Becker, who is a wildlife photographer, grabbed her camera and caught the episode that you can watch (link below).  

She contacted Dietrich, who shares her interest in wildlife and photography, and he started digging deeper to find out how prevalent such behavior is in coyotes. The experts were in agreement – they had never seen or heard of coyotes climbing trees before. “Gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) are known to climb trees—sometimes as a way to escape coyotes,” added Dietrich. In fact, this is a major defensive action that foxes use to get away from coyotes.  

Watch the video and read on for more about this unusual and exciting event.

3. New PCT Record. A new FKT (Fastest Known Time) record for the Pacific Crest Trail was set Sep. 6, 2023, by 35-year-old Nick Fowler of Oklahoma. His average daily mileage on the 2,650-mile trail through Washington, Oregon, and California, was about 51 miles. His total time was 52 days/9hours/18 minutes.

Fowler’s hike was unsupported—meaning he did not have anyone traveling along to bring him food, help him set up camp, or take care of any other needs. He started with a packweight of 7.5 pounds and detoured into towns to resupply along the way.

Generally, thru-hikers of the PCT start at the south end at Campo, but due to this year’s heavy Sierra snowfall, and the NW’s somewhat more manageable amount, he started in Washington in July and hit the Sierra later than one would normally. Even so, he ran into Hurricane Hilary and had to take cover in a cave for two days to weather the storm.

Though it is incredible what extreme endurance athletes can accomplish, it usually comes with a cost. Sometimes they are temporary, but there can be permanent damage. Nick suffered from exhaustion, discovered an alarming amount of blood in his urine, a huge blister—and at his hike’s end, he reported that his toes and front part of his feet were numb. (info from S.F.Chronicle, Gregory Thomas Sep. 22, 2023.)    

4. Jessica Pekari has set a new FKT record also. It’s just unreal what records are being broken – especially with the harsh snowfall last season. But none of that stopped Jessica. One the PCT, she chalked up Fastest female unassisted on Sep 18, 2023. This was 63 days, 7 hours, and 31 minutes traveling North to South.

“I recorded my entire attempt on my Garmin enduro and spot tracker. I pre-mailed my resupply of food, clothing and shoes. I got my water from streams, caches, and spigots along the way.  I walked to and from resupply.” And she wisely kept track of her journey on “tracker, watch, and Instagram account.” Her dates: July 17, 2023 to Sep. 18, 2023.

5. Camino de Santiago: Rebekah Scott of Peaceable Kingdom in Moratinos, Spain, posted on FB this week, “We wind up another year of Ditch-pigging, having cleared litter from Estella to Santo Domingo de la Calzada — 106 km in three long days. We did good!”

They sure did—and the Ditch Pigs have been cleaning up trash along the Camino since 2008. It’s too bad we can’t prevent people from littering and let the Ditch Pigs use their time and energy doing other worthwhile projects, but in the meantime, we can help them by making donations and adding support to their efforts.

6. Susan’s hiking books: read free for 90 days on Kindle Unlimited. If you have Kindle Unlimited, you will have free access to my five hiking books until Feb. 24, 2024. That includes:

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

Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago

If you do use this offer, we would greatly appreciate your great reviews!  

#7. Our recent 9,000-mile road trip—and the computer glitch. Before Ralph and I left for our roadtrip to Yellowstone, then across Canada, down the east coast to Kentucky, and back across the U.S. on a southerly route through New Mexico and more, we thought we had set up our WordPress computer system to automatically send out my October newsletter on October 1st. However, as you may have noticed it didn’t go out then. In fact, it wasn’t until we returned home in mid-November that it went out on its own. (As to why, that’s too long a story for here!). Anyway, we are sorry about the glitch, but hope you enjoyed reading the story “Oh, Deer” that I sent in place of the usual news and items that I usually have in the newsletter.   

#8. Backcountry risk: Falling into a tree well. Skiers, snowboards, and  occasionally backpackers fall into a tree well. This hole surrounding the trunk or branches of a coniferous tree can be partially covered with unconsolidated snow and not easily sighted until it’s too late. Some tips: Before you set out: Go with a partner! Carry a whistle. But if you do fall: you want to do all that you can to stay upright! The following advice is from October 2018.

As you are falling, try to grab the tree trunk or strong branches to keep upright. Move your head side-to-side to keep the airway open. Avoid knocking more snow into the well. Kick off snowshoes or skis and shuffle your feet side to side to make room to climb out. Blow your whistle and call for help.





Thank you everyone. Stay safe, keep hiking when prudent. I encourage you to send in items of interest to the hiking community to me at backpack45 “at sign”

Susan ‘backpack45’ Alcorn

Shepherd Canyon Books, Oakland, CA

Author of Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails; Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo; Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine; We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers; and Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago.

Please note: Hiking and backpacking can be risky endeavors. Always be prepared for emergencies and carry food, water, shelter (warm clothing, etc.), flashlight/headlamp, matches, first aid supplies, and maps. Cell phones don’t always work. Leave word where you are traveling and when you are due back.

I’d be sad to see you go. But if you want to, you can unsubscribe from here:

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, August 2023

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, August 2023

1. Four Pilgrim Masses every day in Santiago
2. Camino guidebook author, John Brierley passes
3. I Hike and I Hike Again—books by Lawton Grinter
4. “Are You a Tick Magnet”
5. This might save your life: “How to Cross a River,” by Treeline Review.
6. Laurie Ferris on Barcelona and Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica
7. ALDHA-West Gathering
8. How to tie your shoes
Jack London State Historic Park

#1. Camino Interest: Pilgrim masses at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela are being held daily at the main altar at 7:30am, 9:30am, 12:00pm and 7:30pm reports, Johnniewalker Santiago.

Guy Joaquin, coordinator of Nor Cal Pilgrim chapter, reported, “It’s happening!” “…you can once again hug the statue of St. James behind the main altar at the cathedral in Santiago. Yay!”

#2. Beloved Camino guidebook author and pilgrim, John Brierley passed away on July 2nd, 2023. His final offering for the Pilgrim Community, in his own words are here in a preview of the docuseries, “The Camino: The Path to Awakening, From Fear to Love” This link will take you to the preview AND the first of the docuseries.

And, “From the Chair of American Pilgrims on the Camino Regarding the Passing of John Brierley
Dear fellow pilgrims,
With sadness, I’m writing to inform you that our fellow peregrino John Brierley has died. Countless numbers of us have relied on John’s guidebooks as we undertook our caminos. He not only advised us on choosing routes, finding albergues, and noticing interesting places. He also guided us inwardly, always reminding us to tend to the inner pilgrimage. I was recently in a Zoom call with John, and I was deeply impressed with his readiness for the next stage in life’s pilgrimage. In the spirit of his Camino Guides, he was prepared for what came next and looking forward to whatever the way presented.

John’s daughter Gemma has been working with John on his guidebooks for some time, and she will carry on his work. We extend to her and the rest of John’s family our deepest sympathy and our gratitude for their support in his mission that has meant so much to us.
Buen camino, Steve Lytch, Chair. Board of Directors, American Pilgrims on the Camino”

#3. I Hike Again: Mostly True Stories from 15,000 Miles of Hiking
First came: I Hike (2012) by Lawton Grinter (Author). “I never set out to hike 10,000 miles. It just sort of happened over the course of a decade.” And so goes Lawton Grinter’s compelling collection of short stories that have been over ten years and 10,000 trail miles in the making. I Hike brings the reader trailside with blissful moments on the highest mountain ridges to the mental lows of mosquito hell and into some peculiar situations that even seasoned hikers may find unbelievable.

Between jobs and in search of something more, Lawton Grinter spent the better part of a decade hiking America’s longest trails. In doing so he came face to face with things that go bump in the night, the kindness of strangers, a close encounter with hypothermia and the absurd rights [rites] of passage common to the eccentric people that call themselves long-distance hikers.

Susan adds: Fun summer read. It’ll bring back memories to many as they read of adventures on the trail.  Thanks to Triple Crown Recipient Marcia Powers–who I am sure can identify with such topics as near death experiences and welcome trail magic by trail angels–for recommending these books to me!  

#4. You Really Are a Tick Magnet. “By studying how the arachnids respond to static electricity, researchers may have found a new reason to dread the bloodsucking creatures.

Static electric fields naturally produced by animals, humans included, can physically yank ticks onto their hosts.” “By electrically extending their reach, ticks may be able to grab hold of hosts more easily. While the finding may add to ticks’ terrifying attributes, this knowledge could also be used to improve antistatic tick defenses.” Excerpts from an article by Darren Incorvaia for NYT. Published June 30, 2023/ Updated July 1, 2023 Read the intriguing article here.

#5. Treeline Review writes, “It’s been a big snow year—and that means big snowmelt. Our new guide on  How to Ford a River delves into the classic tips and weighs in on the debates on the best way for hikers to stay safe when the trail crosses a stream, creek, or waterfall. Considering backpacking the Colorado Trail—learn from the experts in their our brand-new guide to  Thru-hiking the Colorado Trail!

Care to survive trail runs, particularly as temperatures rise, read: Hydration Tips for Trail Runners. And don’t forget to check out read their article on how to thru hike over 60, in which I was thrilled to participate. The link includes the video of the subsequent panel discussion).   

#6. While in Barcelona: Laurie Ferris wrote, “After my last Camino, I visited Barcelona and went on a self-guided tour of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Basilica. I was shocked and impressed with how much progress was made since my last visit in 2008.  The inside is pretty much done and they have masses there. Pope Benedict consecrated it as a basilica in 2010. It’s slated to be finished in just a few years! If you go, download the app for the self- guided tour that you can use with your own earbuds instead of those awkward hand thingies… (Posted on the Nor Cal Camino Pilgrims FB page on July 8)

#7.  The ALDHA-West (American Long Distance Hiking Association-West) GATHERING 2023 is scheduled for September 15-17 in Mount Hood, OR. “We are coming back to the West Coast with the annual ALDHA-West Gathering and Triple Crown Ceremony. And tickets are now available! The gathering is to come together in community to reconnect and, of course, celebrate this year’s Triple Crown hikers.

“There will also be speakers, dinner, entertainment, and plenty of Hiker Olympics shenanigans as well as some business including the annual Membership Meeting and Board Elections. Beds and camping are available for the whole weekend – and if you want someone special to join you at the Triple Crown Award Dinner and Ceremony, we have tickets for just the dinner, too.

“Applications for the Triple Crown close August 30th at 11:59p PT. Volunteers for the organization are needed including for Secretary and Board Member at Large. Board positions are a two-year commitment. There is one 90-minute meeting per month, plus 1-8 hours per month of tasks between meetings. You must be a member in good standing of ALDHA-West to apply – a membership is only $15 per year!” Contact or info at: or”

#8. Feet swell when hiking? Shoes rubbing you the wrong way? Feet sliding down and hitting the front of your shoes on descents? It could be how you are trying your shoes. There are various ways to tie shoes to relieve pressure on certain parts of your foot–or to hold your feet in place instead of sliding forward. A very helpful post by Elizabeth (Beth) Henkes for for REI with suggestions. How to Lace Running Shoes 

.What’s up at Jack London State Historic Park? 1) Volunteers’ Training on August 18 & 25. “Join the essential team of volunteers who help operate Jack London State Historic Park.  Meet visitors from all over the world and share the legacy of Jack and Charmian London at their Beauty Ranch. Conduct tours, staff the entrance station, work in the bookshop/visitor center, play piano in the museum—and lots more.

No experience is required, just a willingness to learn and the desire to share that knowledge with visitors from near and far. The time commitment is only four hours per month.  Volunteers receive a park pass in acknowledgement of their service.

The training is scheduled on Fridays, August 18 and 25, 2023 (two-day training) 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days, for all assignments except trail patrol and hike leaders. For information and to sign up, contact Susan St. Marie at

2) HIKE: Jack London’s innovative Pig Palace is one of the stops on the Discovery Hike at Jack London State Historic Park on Sept. 2, 2023. California Naturalist Laura Wagner will lead a newly-developed “Discovery Hike” to explore Beauty Ranch and visit the site of Jack London’s lake at Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma Valley, CA.  Hike is from 9-11:15 a.m. 2-1/2 miles with a 350-foot elevation gain. Participants are advised to bring a pen or pencil and water and wear sturdy shoes.

By the end of this new discovery hike, you’ll know, “What is a “refrigerator tree” and what does it feel like? How tall/old is a redwood tree compared to you?. What is a Fairy Ring and where can you find five or more of them?

Tickets: visit The Sept. 2 program is limited to 15 people, ages 8 and up.  Tickets are $10 per person and do not include the park entry fee ($10 per car for up to nine passengers).   It will be canceled in the event of excessive heat.

Info from media contact: Laurie Armstrong Gossy. Follow park doings at 

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”

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

Author of Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails; Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo; Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine; We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers; and Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago.

Please note: Hiking and backpacking can be risky endeavors. Always be prepared for emergencies and carry food, water, shelter (warm clothing, etc.), flashlight/headlamp, matches, first aid supplies, and maps. Cell phones don’t always work. Leave word where you are traveling and when you are due back.

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, March 2023

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, #280, March 2023

Looking forward to Spring, and tomorrow, Saturday, March 4, you can celebrate Grammar Day!


1. Article: “Think You Found a Great Travel Buddy?” Key questions to consider for harmonious hikes with companions!

2. Camino interest: Processionary Caterpillars

3. Outdoor adventures and classes with expert outdoors hikers and instructors (Andrew Skurka)

4. BearVault seeking 10 storytellers with 2023 Adventure Plans

5. Lessons shared from the RUCK

6. Sunscreen and you

7. Regional: S.F. Bay Area: Berkeley Path Wanderers offerings.  


#1. “Think You Found a Great Travel Buddy? Have This Talk First. If you are planning to hike with someone you haven’t hiked with previously, or if the planned hike will be more challenging or longer than previous ones, give these ideas some thought. Clearly, communication upfront and on the outing is important! 

#2. Camino interest: In February, a topic popped up in the Camino forum that was news to me. Member Derek Booth posted a warning about Processionary Caterpillars from acquaintances who were then in temperate parts of Spain and Portugal. He also said that he noticed these insects when he was on the Frances in March of 2019. As I read further, I wondered why we hadn’t heard about them on our numerous hikes on the Iberian Peninsula.  

Booth commented that he had learned that the “caterpillars are falling out of their nests and starting their march across the landscape. It could be that those doing the C. Portuguese or Via de la Plata may come into contact with them within the next month.”

Doing a Google search, I found many references to the Pine Processionary Caterpillar, saw the photos, and learned about the risk they pose both to animals, humans, and pine forests. I also plan to search and see if I have photos of them in their fluffy white nests in pine trees.  This photo of a group on the move is from Wikipedia. 

Avoid them! “Pine Processionary Caterpillars can cause skin irritation or a rash much like that experienced after rubbing a stinging nettle. Although, in most cases, an antihistamine cream will usually be enough to alleviate the symptoms. However, in more severe cases, humans can experience allergic reactions or respiratory problems. Asthmatics are particularly vulnerable and at risk of having a severe attack.”

And keep pets away from them! The insects are called processionary because they make a long lines and trails “nose to tail.” They caterpillars are covered with harpoon-like spines that look like hairs. The hairs are toxic, even if the caterpillar is dead. More info here.

#3. Outdoor adventures and classes with expert outdoors hikers and instructors. Andrew Skurka has announced, “I’m delighted to share that Katie Gerber has been hired as Co-Director (and my first full-time employee). To start, she’ll be helping me run the guided trip program; as time and interest permits, her role should expand. Katie has been involved in the program since 2020, as a guide and online instructor.”  

“Southern Utah trips: Only 4 spots left! The 2023 season kicks off next month in southern Utah, where we will embrace sunshine and mild temperatures, admire blossoming wildflowers, travel across slickrock and in deep canyons, cowboy camp under the stars, and hike extensively off-trail.

Adventure 1C 5-day (Apr 17-21) with Scott Christy and Sarah Stratton (2 spots)

Adventure 2A 7-day (Apr 23-29) with Bec Bastian and Hunter Hall

Adventure 3C 5-day (Apr 30-May 4) with me and Sam Novey.

“Since we’re 6-8 weeks from the start of these trips, I’m willing to offer an extra 10 percent discount to offset the higher travel costs. We are also offering a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification on Saturday, April 22, instructed by Steve McLaughlin MD, the Chief Medical Officer at the University of New Mexico Hospital (and a multi-time alumni), and Emily Wheelis MD, a faculty member at UNM. This course is open to the public.

“If you have questions about these trips or the WFA course, email: or call, 720-279-4801. Andrew Skurka Adventures LLC3909 Apache Ct E, , Boulder, CO 80303″

#4. BearVault [makers of bear canisters to keep food safe] looking for ambassadors. “It’s that time of year when anticipation begins to grow for summer adventures big and small. BearVault wants to amplify stories like yours to our community and give each selected ambassador a $500 adventure stipend, a free BearVault, and fun swag.

“We are looking for people from all sorts of backgrounds and experience levels who plan to adventure overnight in bear habitat this year. Adventure looks different for everyone – what matters most is that you are passionate about your adventure! As an ambassador, you will have the chance to create TikToks, Reels, as well as mini-articles. Visit our site to get the full scoop.

“Not the right fit for you? We get it. Perhaps you know a friend that this would be the perfect fit for. Do them a solid and forward this email!” BearVault, 300 Center Drive G-341,  Superior, CO 80027. Reply to:

#5. Lessons shared from the RUCK. The February 11, 2023 NorCal RUCK session held here in the S.F. Bay Area was a great success. Hikers and backpackers with every level of experience—“wanna be” hikers to Triple Crowners (or more)—gathered at the rustic meeting hall in Camp Herms, El Cerrito. 

 Nifty 90 Hike to Berryessa Peak  

We enjoyed formative presentations on trail safety, (including one named, “How Not to Die,” by Giggles, which gave strategies for stream crossings and avoiding avalanches and more). “Breakout” (less formal) groups discussing Hitchhiking Best Practices, Older Hikers, and Camino de Santiago. I gave a presentation on local training hikes, “Nifty 90 peaks in the Bay Area.”

Trail Town Etiquette & Leave no Trace, by Whitney Allgood LaRuffa and Liz “Snorkel  Thomas,” went over some very important strategies for hikers — including how to behave when on trails and in trail towns. We were reminded that our actions have consequences — not only to ourselves, but to those who follow us. IF we are inconsiderate of others in the trail towns, not only do we look like slobs, but other hikers coming along will not be welcomed.

One example given during presentations was about hikers who strip all their clothes of in the local laundromat. Apparently some hikers haven’t caught on to the fact that residents and other hikers may not appreciate this! Hint from me: borrow someone else’s clothes or put on your raingear when you do your laundry! Another suggestion: Tip generously! Suggested amount was 20% in restaurants and $20 or so if staying at a trail angels’ place/getting a long ride, etc.

There will be a second Ruck on the West Coast: Cascade RUCK, Stevenson, WA (on the Columbia). March 25, 2022. 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.

#6. Sunblock usage: Soon we’ll be seeing the sun again! This is a reminder that using sunblock is important and equally important is using it enough. SPF = Sun Protection Factor. According to the FDA, the numbers compare how much (NOT how long) you are protected with and without it on.

“SPF is a measure of how much solar energy (UV radiation) is required to produce sunburn on protected skin (i.e., in the presence of sunscreen) relative to the amount of solar energy required to produce sunburn on unprotected skin. As the SPF value increases, sunburn protection increases.

“There is a popular misconception that SPF relates to time of solar exposure. For example, many consumers believe that, if they normally get sunburn in one hour, then an SPF 15 sunscreen allows them to stay in the sun 15 hours (i.e., 15 times longer) without getting sunburn. This is not true because SPF is not directly related to time of solar exposure but to amount of solar exposure. Although solar energy amount is related to solar exposure time, there are other factors that impact the amount of solar energy. For example, the intensity of the solar energy impacts the amount. The following exposures may result in the same amount of solar energy: one hour at 9:00 a.m.; 15 minutes at 1:00 p.m.”

Other variables: being at altitude, swimming or otherwise being near water or other reflective surfaces, skin color, clear vs cloudy skies, etc. can increase the amount of exposure. Suggestions: Apply every two hours, wear protective clothing and head coverings, carry a hikers’ umbrella. See

#7. Regional: SF Bay Area: Berkeley Path Wanderers. Paths Survey: Volunteers needed for the wanderers 5-year paths inventory on Sunday, May 21. This was last completed in 2018 when 80 volunteers walked all the paths in Berkeley and reported their findings, which allowed the organization to determine conditions, needs, and priorities for the following few years.

Every Path in Berkeley: “Explore every built-out path in Berkeley as part of Berkeley Path Wanderers Association’s celebration of its 25th anniversary.” You can walk one or all. Those who do all 6 will get a mention in the newsletter and a commemorative button.

The six walks are: Walk 1: Sunday, March 5, led by John Ford (rain date March 11); Walk 2: Saturday, April 1, led by (none other than!) Jacob Lehmann Duke; Walk 3: Saturday, May 6, led by Alina Constantinescu; Walk 4: Sunday, June 4, led by Signe Burns and Sydney Dowdy; Walk 5: Sunday, July 9, led by John Ford; Walk 6: Sunday, August 6, led by Janet Byron. The final will also be their annual Path-a-thon, with three walks to choose from, followed by a 25th anniversary celebration at Live Oak Park. Hikes are described here. Walk leaders request that all participants be vaccinated and boosted, or masked. Heavy rain cancels; check website for changes.


 Walk, Hike, Saunter

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”

Susan ‘backpack45’ Alcorn

Shepherd Canyon Books, Oakland, CA

Author of Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails; Healing Miles: Gifts from the Caminos Norte and Primitivo; Patagonia Chronicle: On Foot in Torres del Paine; We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers; and Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago.

Please note: Hiking and backpacking can be risky endeavors. Always be prepared for emergencies and carry food, water, shelter (warm clothing, etc.), flashlight/headlamp, matches, first aid supplies, and maps. Cell phones don’t always work. Leave word where you are traveling and when you are due back.

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