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

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #292 May 2024
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.
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

#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 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!”
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 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 and Tips, February 2024

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

1. Susan presents: Things Learned on the Trail and my life on the trail. Talk in San Ramon
2. Bay Area Ridge Trail San Francisco gathering/hikes
Exercise and the Little Blue Pill
4. California names its state mushroom: the Golden Chanterelle
5. Susan, Ralph, and others to be announced, lead hike in San Francisco soon.
6. The RUCK rocks!
7. Odds and Ends


#1. Susan’s next public event will be hosted by the San Ramon Open Space Advisory Committee. It’s billed as “Things Learned on the Trail,” and it’s going to feature my life on the trail and readings from Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tails and Trails. Date: February 10, 2024. Time: 9:00am-10:00am. Meeting at the: San Ramon Community Center, 12501 Alcosta Blvd, San Ramon, CA., (925) 973-3200.

“Come enjoy special guest speaker Susan Alcorn. Susan is an experienced hiker and author who encourages people from all walks of life to enjoy hiking. In particular, she shares the importance of hiking in her life and the lives of women.”

#2. Bay Area Ridge Trail San Francisco gathering and hikes. Just in case you are skipping the Super Bowl, or can record it for later in the day, “You’re invited to the 9th annual Super Stroll and Roll!  Have a ball with our community and hike or ride the Ridge Trail in the heart of San Francisco.
Four distances offered:
The Double Reserve: 15.3-mile bike ride

The Hail Mary: 12-mile hike
The End-Around: 6.5-mile hike
The Quarterback Sneak: 1.2 mile-walk that highlights the future site of the BAYS (Bay Area Young Survivors) Memorial Garden. This walk is intended to welcome all levels of ability. Please refer to the route information given on the registration page to determine if this route is right for you.”

#3. Is Exercise the New Viagra? “Men with erectile dysfunction may get nearly as much help from a regular walk as from a little blue pill, according to new research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in October.” From Wellness News (January 26, 2024.). The research, which you can read in detail  here concluded, “Regular aerobic exercise can improve the erectile function of men, particularly those with lower baseline IIEF-EF scores.”

“In an analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials, researchers found that aerobic exercise—such as brisk walking or pedaling a stationary bike—helped men with erectile dysfunction (ED) boost their sexual performance over the following months to years.” 

golden chanterelle from  Cantharellus californicus. “The California golden chanterelle is a popular edible mushroom native to the state. They are named for their distinctive deep yellow color. California golden chanterelles have a symbiotic relationship with California trees, especially oaks, and help to nourish underground root systems.

Mushrooms like the chanterelle keep soil healthy by breaking down dead wood and storing carbon in the ground. They can even help to filter our water.” (Assembly Bill 261, Chapter 644, 2023)

Here is a video showing the Golden Chanterelle.

If you want to learn more about California’s abundant mushrooms and the fungiphiles who study them, here’s one site: CA State Mushroom

#5. Susan, Ralph, and others to be announced, lead a San Francisco hike soon. Stay tuned at:

#6. The RUCK Rocks. Ralph and I went recently to the Nor Cal RUCK at Camp Herms in El Cerrito. So much to learn — trail info, how to pack, how to stay safe on the trail, and much more. The food – bagels and more for breakfast; BBQ and all the fixings by Shroomer (Scott Williams) and crew–was nutritious and delicious as always.

A few big takeaways:
ALDHA-WEST has launched a Diversity Scholarship. “We officially launched our new diversity scholarship program. Visit our website to learn more and apply. Link here.

Treeline Giveaway: Treeline Review (founder Liz “Snorkel” Thomas was on our gear panel) is running a “I’m Ready to Thru-Hike” giveaway packed with ultralight gear from 21 companies.

Backcountry Safety Skills: To receive the Backcountry Safety Skills Checklist from presenter Giggles’ talk, follow the link above to signup for that info.

It’s not too late: Those who missed this first of the RUCK gatherings for 2024, can still take part in other regions: the Cascade Ruck on Sat. Feb. 24 and/or the Colorado Ruck on Sat. Mar 23.

#7. Odds and Ends:
A. Poop takes “one to three years (longer in cold or dry environments),” to dissolve in a cathole according to Summer 2022. Be prepared–you can bring a wag bag kit (Waste Alleviating Gel) with you or bring a backpacker trowel and bury feces deeper. (One reviewer of TheTentLab(R) Deuce(R) Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel suggested wrapping a bit of duct tape around the handle because of trowel’s stiff edges.

B. Dial 112 anywhere in Europe for emergencies: medical, fire, and police. This works with cell phones, landline, and pay phones.

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: