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

Dingle Way stone huts
Old stone huts in Ireland along the Dingle Way.

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, #276, October 2022

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Miriam Beard. (Thank you Joyce Bender for sharing this.)


1. Hiking the Dingle Way in Ireland
2. Philanthropy and Yvon Chouinard
3. Camino interest: “Flying from Western North America flight home from Porto, Portugal are Cheapest.
4. How to Forage For and Prepare Bay Nuts
5. “Stringbean” Joe McConaughy Sets New John Muir Trail FKT (Fastest Known Time)
6. Book review of Walk, Hike, Saunter
7. Green Friday: Author Susan Alcorn on “Seasoned Women Hikers” Recording
8. Bay Area Ridge Trail hike in honor of Latine/Latinx Heritage Month!
9. SF Bay Area Regional: Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife 10. Refuge celebrates 50th Anniversary
11. Regional: Walking every street in Alameda, CA


#1. Hiking the Dingle Way in Ireland.

Ralph and I returned recently from three weeks in Ireland, of which two weeks were about hiking. We had signed up for a 9-day walk, using the services of Hillwalk Tours. This is the first time we have utilized the services to plan our specific route, provide maps and information about the trail, sites, and towns along the way, and to shuttle our excess luggage ahead to the accommodations they had arranged. They did an excellent job and we definitely would use them again.

Dingle Way trail
Descending the pass

We hiked alone (vs. with a group) approximately 10 miles a day on moderate terrain for seven days. The Dingle Way, which is on the Dingle Peninsula in SW Ireland, is about 179km (112 miles) long, which means we completed about 63% of it—enough to learn that the hiking in Ireland can be incredibly wonderful. The accommodations arranged by Hillside were first rate as was the food provided at the hotels or B&Bs in the morning and at the local pubs in the evenings.

Some days we walked along the coast on magnificent beaches, other times alongside ancient stone huts and other ruins, and one day over a mountain pass. And, sometimes we were walking alongside secondary roads, but drivers were universally courteous and careful about moving over to give us wide berth and waving to us. We found the Irish to be extremely friendly and helpful.

After the planned hike, we took trains and busses to a couple of other areas where we could hike. We spent time in Killarney and the Killarney National Park on the Kerry Way, and in the village of Kenmare on bits of the Kerry Way and the Beara Trail. When we were in Dublin, we took an afternoon bus ride out to the Glendalough National Park in the Wicklow Mountains and did a short hike there. We were amazed to learn that there is such an abundance of trails and parks in Ireland—and we know that we hardly touched the possibilities. 

#2. Billionaire No More: Patagonia Founder Gives Away the Company.

“A half century after founding the outdoor apparel maker Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the eccentric rock climber who became a reluctant billionaire with his unconventional spin on capitalism, has given the company away.” Chouinard was a pioneering rock climber in California’s Yosemite Valley in the 1960s. He lived out of his car and ate damaged cans of cat food that he bought for five cents apiece.”

“Mr. Chouinard, 83, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits — some $100 million a year — are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe.”

“Patagonia will continue to operate as a private, for-profit corporation… but the Chouinards, who controlled Patagonia until last month, no longer own the company.”

In August, the family irrevocably transferred all the company’s voting stock, equivalent to 2 percent of the overall shares, into a newly established entity known as the Patagonia Purpose Trust. “Because the Chouinards donated their shares to a trust, the family will pay about $17.5 million in taxes on the gift. Then they donated the other 98 percent of Patagonia, its common shares, to a newly established nonprofit organization called the Holdfast Collective, which will now be the recipient of all the company’s profits and use the funds to combat climate change.” “Because the Holdfast Collective is a 501(c)(4), which allows it to make unlimited political contributions, the family received no tax benefit for its donation.”

“I didn’t know what to do with the company because I didn’t ever want a company,” he said from his home in Jackson, Wyo. “I didn’t want to be a businessman.”  “I feel a big relief that I’ve put my life in order,” Mr. Chouinard said. “For us, this was the ideal solution.” David Gelles. (Sept. 14, 2022, Updated Sept. 21, 2022).

#3. Flights for Camino-bound.

“Just Jack,” a contributor to the Camino Facebook page, wrote, “I’ve been … checking out flight options from Vancouver that will get me to/from the CF next spring. I’ve checked out cities all over Europe. Many people advised that the simplest and cheapest way to SJPDP (Saint Jean Pied de Port, FR) was Vancouver –> Paris –> SJPdP. And after checking many many different routes I fully agree.

“I assumed that flying home from Madrid would be the cheapest and simplest, and that’s what I was planning to do. However someone on this site suggested I check the flights from Porto to Vancouver, and that was a great tip. It’s closer to Santiago, and much cheaper to fly from than Madrid. That tip will save me several hundred dollars, not to mention allow me to see what looks to be an incredibly picturesque city, in a country I didn’t intend to visit, so a heartfelt thanks to that person!”  

#4.  How to Forage For and Prepare Bay Nuts.

“The Bay laurel is one of our iconic trees, writer and herbalist The California native grows widely, and provides important benefits to wildlife. But humans love it too. Here are some tips for foraging for and preparing roasted bay nuts this fall or winter.

The article, the details of how to gather; shuck, wash and dry; roast; shell and eat. (Important note: foraging isn’t legal everywhere. Please check before you gather!). Original article: Ali Budner, Bay Nature, October 12, 2016

#5. “Stringbean” Joe McConaughy Sets New John Muir Trail FKT.

“On Thursday, August 8, 2022, Joe ‘Stringbean’ McConaughy set a new north-to-south Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Nüümü Poyo, known to many as the John Muir Trail (JMT). The John Muir Trail is 223-miles from Yosemite National Park to Mt. Whitney. McConaughy lowered the FKT from three days, three hours and 55 min to three days, one hour and 34 seconds.

“Stringbean tackled the route from north to south, although FKTs have traditionally been done in the opposite direction to minimize elevation gain (north-to-south boasts 4,000 additional feet of climbing). McConaughy’s effort also bested the previous overall unsupported FKT, which was done south-to-north. The north-to-south route places Mt. Whitney, a 14,505-foot peak that’s the tallest in the lower 48 near the end of the route, a major challenge on an already tough route.”

#6. Book Review from Sue Williams of

If sometimes you get discouraged by getting older, this is definitely the book to read! Susan has compiled stories about 32 women over the age of 45 who are still out there exploring the great outdoors. At 74, I happen to be one of the women interviewed and cannot be more thrilled to be included with these amazing women. Although I have slowed down, choosing shorter, less challenging backpacking trips, I’m still having a great time!

“Each story, like each woman is unique in not only what they have accomplished but also the challenges they have had to overcome not only in getting older…”

#7. Green Friday: Author Susan Alcorn on “Seasoned Women Hikers.”

Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter. The August 12, 2022 Sierra Club Green Friday program featured author of Walk, Hike, Saunter, Susan Alcorn, who talked about her experience backpacking and interviewing women hikers for her book. 

S.F. Bay Area Regional

#8. Latinx Heritage Month – Group Hike.

Saturday, October 15, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM. “Join the Ridge Trail and hike leader Heather Diaz for an East Bay group day hike in honor of Latine/Latinx Heritage Month! We can celebrate our heritage, learn about each other’s heritage and culture, and celebrate the independence days from Spain (September 1810), which includes The Act of Independence of Central America. Countries that celebrate their independence: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile. There will be an optional, post-hike activity for folks who want to hang out a little longer and build community.

“We’ll meet close to the parking lot of Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. Exact trailhead location sent in at registration. We’ll then start a loop hike through the beautiful redwoods. There will be an optional, post-hike activity for folks who want to hang out a little longer and build community. Distance: 3 – 4 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate, Time: 2 – 3 hours.

The leader, Heather Diaz, is a first-generation hiker from the suburbs of Houston who now lives in Morgan Hill. She has hiked over 2500 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, and is now hiking the Ridge Trail for the 2022 Ridge Trail Challenge. Her goal is to help women feel included, prepared, and empowered in the outdoors by hosting group hikes and camping trips. Learn more at and also follow Heather on Instagram.” Email: with any questions.

#9. “Celebrating 50 Years of Conservation: Past, Present, Future.”

“On Saturday, October 8, 2022, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge will host a celebration to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of its authorization by Congress in 1972. The celebration will include a land acknowledgment from the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe, a variety of speakers and activities hosted by refuge staff and its partners, including guided and self-guided hikes, games, arts and crafts, and information booths.”

Program: 10 – 11:00 a.m.: Opening ceremony and remarks. 11:00 a.m. – 3 p.m.:  Activities and booths (includes a family nature walk, puppet show, guided geology walk, Junior Ranger activities, face painting and more!). Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, 1 Marshlands Rd. Fremont, CA

 “In the heart of California’s high-tech industry lies one of the nation’s first and largest urban national wildlife refuges. It is a wildlife oasis in an urban sea with 30,000 acres of habitat supporting millions of migratory birds and endangered species. For 50 years, the refuge has provided extremely important habitat for several threatened and endangered species, and many opportunities for people to learn about San Francisco Bay salt marshes and enjoy the benefits of nature.”

#11. Walking every street in Alameda, CA.

Ralph and I recently set a new challenge for ourselves and quickly were joined in the project by our hiking buddies, Patricia Schaffarczyk and Tom Coroneos, who earlier did the Nifty Ninety Peaks Challenge with us.

Ralph finds a swing in Alameda.

We plan to hike every street in Alameda, which is an island just across a short bridge from Oakland. (This endeavor is in addition to our renewed interest in circumnavigation the Bay Area Ridge Trail). Alameda offers easy walking—it’s totally flat and it’s residential. It does, however, mean that we are almost always walking on sidewalks, which is not easy on the feet. I contacted the city’s transportation planner, Chris G. Marks, and learned the City of Alameda has 276.5 miles of roads—so this project is going to take us a while.

All of us are familiar with Alameda to some degree, but there is a lot of new territory to explore because our earlier visits there have been to visit friends, or outdoor events, and so specific locations. Now we are discovering the personalities of various neighborhoods and we’re enjoying finding lots of yard art, stately Victorian houses, and talking with residents.

This is the second time that I have taken on walking on every street in a town—years ago, I walked every street in hilly Piedmont, California. It’s a great way to get to know the layout and personality of a place. So, something to consider if you are looking for a new challenge close to home!

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, August, 2022

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

pct fire
Susan and Ralph on the PCT, Burney Falls to Oregon section, 2007

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.”  Paulo Coelho
“Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” Terry Pratchett. Thanks to Joyce Bender for sending these uplifting quotes.


1. Arlette Laan and the Eleven U.S. National Scenic Trails
2. Susan to be interviewed by Sierra Club Bay Chapter, Aug. 12
3. PCT and Sierra Fires Wreak Havoc
4. Safety Measures on the Camino de Santiago

5. PCT Trail Days
6. Treeline Review of Headlamps
7, Choosing a Good Sunscreen


#1. Arlette Laan“Apple Pie”, age 50, recently completed all 11 of the US National Scenic Trails!

 That is the Appalachian Trail: 2,190 miles; Arizona Trail 800 miles; Continental Divide Trail: 3,100 miles; Florida Trail: 1,300 miles; Ice Age Trail: 1,000 miles; Natchez: 65 miles; New England Trail: 215 miles; North Country Trail: 4,600 miles; Pacific Crest Trail: 2,650 miles; Pacific Northwest Trail: 1,200 miles; Potomac Heritage Trail: 710 miles. That totals 17,830 miles.  Way to Go!!!!

She has also completed about the same number of miles on other famous trails including New Zealand’s Te Araroa and Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit.
Read more: Backpacker online
and here: WPR 
Watch: Here on youtube

#2. Susan will be interviewed on Sierra Club, Bay Chapters’ “Green Friday.”

 Register here to RSVP and receive the link to the ZOOM meeting on Friday, August 12, 2022. 7:30 P.M. (The interview will be recorded on YouTube). Susan will be interviewed by Victoria Tishman Kamerzell, and will discuss researching, writing, and publishing her hiking books, particularly the most recent, Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Tips. This is an opportunity to hear more about some of the highly adventurous hiking women in our midst.

#3. PCT and Sierra Disastrous Fires.

 Unfortunately wildfires are hitting the West hard again; here’s some of what’s going on.
California: The McKinney and China 2 Fires in far Northern California. The McKinney Fire is burning north of Etna and Fort Jones, California. The China 2 Fire is burning ~2 miles west of the community Seiad Valley. The weather conditions, including lots of lightning, are leading to extreme fire behavior and dangerous conditions.

California Fire on PCT 

Seiad Valley Fire near the PCT when we were there in July 2007. Scary stuff!

The McKinney fire (click here) in Klamath National Forest (reported 8/4/22) has grown to 58,668 Acres and is 10% contained. It is now the largest fire in California to date this year. Some residential areas in the City of Yreka received evacuation notices on July 30. There have been four fatalities near residences.

A 110 mile section of the PCT is closed by the Forest Service. The closure is from Etna Summit (mile 1600) in Northern California to Mt. Ashland Campground (~mile 1710) in Southern Oregon.

At least twenty PCT hikers were rescued from within the area and transported by the Medford, OR are Rogue Valley Transportation District buses to Ashland area. More info here.

The PCT Association published this map, click here of the closure.
Recent rain slowed the fire’s progress earlier this week, but that didn’t solve all the problems, however, because lightning, temperatures exceeding 105 degrees, and winds can contribute to the problems. That, combined with low relative humidity and dry vegetation have caused further Red Flag warnings from the National Weather Service.
Evacuations and closures:
Check Facebook pages of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office and Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services. Additional evacuation information and map can be found on the Zonehaven website. A shelter has been established at the Weed Community Center, 161 E Lincoln Ave., Weed, CA 96094.
Highway 96 remains closed through the fire area. Click here for current conditions. 
Elsewhere in California: Earlier, people from around the world were watching the reports about the Washburn fire and Oak Fires, both near Yosemite National Park and at the height of the summer visitations. Both fires resulted in highway closures and evacuations. The Washburn was centered in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park. 

The cause of this fire is under investigation, so a tip line has been established. “If you were near the Mariposa Grove on July 7, 2022, please contact NPS Investigative Services Branch (ISB). Call or text (888) 653-0009. Email:  Online, go here

Visitors, residents, and others are also following the Oak Fire, which is currently burning west of Yosemite in the Mariposa/Midpines area. Info here  or by calling 844-MMU-FIRE (844-668-3473). For information about air quality, visit

Closures and reopenings: Highway 140 through Mariposa County to Yosemite National Park has reopened to all lanes of traffic. Please drive carefully as fire suppression vehicles and equipment are still in the area. Wawona Road (Highway 41) reopened on Saturday, July 23. Wawona (including the Wawona Hotel and vacation rentals) was scheduled to the public on Thursday, July 28, at noon.  “The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and the Wawona Campground remain closed due to the Washburn fire.”

All other areas of Yosemite are open, but as part of the effort already in effect to reduce congestion in the park during the summer, a reservation is required to drive into the park if arriving between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m.”

 Oregon is also seeing many forest fires. Mostly as a result of lightning strikes and extreme heat. Of particular concern to hikers, some have triggered scattered evacuation warnings, closed a 60-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail near Crater Lake and shut down some campgrounds.

For PCT hikers that is: from Oregon 138 (mile 1,848 at the northern boundary of Crater Lake National Park) to Oregon 58 (mile 1,908 at Willamette Pass). 
Other PCT trail closures:

Basilica in Vezelay, France. Beginning of a Camino route to Santiago.

#4. Safety Measures for the Camino de Santiago Routes.

“There is continuing concern about incidents affecting female pilgrims. We reiterate the advice given by a number of pilgrim associations. “Before you set out, programme the emergency number 112 into your telephone.
“If you feel threatened or uncomfortable or if you are assaulted in any way try to remove yourself to a place of safety immediately.
“Call the police – the best number to use is 112, which covers all of Portugal (and much of Europe) and which has operators who speak English.
“And please report all incidents to the police. Too many of these unlawful aggressions are never reported, which means that the full extent of the problem is hidden from the authorities.” These reminders were posted by “Wayfarer” wayfarer, moderator on the Camino forum, Jul 21, 2022

#5. Pacific Crest Trail Days: August 19-21.

 And now for some fun: “This is an annual summer festival at Cascade Locks (alongside the Columbia River on the Oregon/Washington border). “The event celebrates and promotes hiking, camping, backpacking & outdoor stewardship.  Attendees can participate in activities, games, & presentations, win awesome gear at the raffle, and get great deals on the latest outdoor products from sponsors at the Gear Demo and Marketplace.  If you’re into car camping, day hiking, long distance hiking, or just curious, a wide-range of gear and info will be here!  Don’t miss out on a great time at the 15th annual PCT DAYS, located in the Marine Park of Cascade Locks,  Oregon…the heart of the Columbia River Gorge!

“PCT DAYS is free to attend, with a fee for overnight camping.  All raffle proceeds support the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West and Pacific Crest Trail Assoc.   Vendors will be offering great food, coffee, beer and non-alcoholic beverages.  No drone cameras, dogs, glass or alcohol may be brought to PCT DAYS and parking outside of the Marine Park is free.”

#6. Treeline Reviews on headlamps.

 Read the reviews here. Also in the article reviewing headlamps, Treeline had this significant information to add: “Getting outdoors remains the center of what we do: Despite running this website, we make being outside a priority. While running Treeline Review, our co-founder Naomi Hudetz was the first person to thru-hike the Blue Mountains Trail. Additionally, we’ve hiked the Oregon Desert Trail, Ouachita Trail, and Arizona Trail.”
Susan adds: Naomi was one of the women I featured in “Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails.” 

#7. Lathering on the Sunscreen.

 Excerpts from Kaiserpermanente’s “Summer sunscreen guide: Learn how to avoid common sunscreen mistakes” Click here.
Q: “What SPF should you use? A: Many people think that SPF, or sun protection factor, represents how much time you can wear a product before applying it again. But that’s not true. SPF measures how much UV radiation a sunscreen can absorb before it stops working.” Sarah Adams, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, says, “For me, the magic number is 30. SPF 30 blocks 97% of the UVB rays that cause sunburn. Anything above that only offers a little more protection — and nothing can block 100% of UVB rays.”

Adams adds:
Apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, plus after going in the water.
“Waterproof” is not really waterproof — reapply when you go in the water.
Moisturizers with SPF work, but apply enough.
Separate sunscreen products and moisturizers is usually a better plan. 
Chemical sunscreen absorbs rays within your skin cells, like a filter. Mineral sunscreen blocks sun rays by sitting on top of your skin, and will contain active ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. “‘Both protect you from sun damage, says Adams, and there’s no clear evidence that one is better for your health or more effective than the other.”
It should be a broad-spectrum product “to protect against both UVA rays, which contribute to premature aging, and UVB rays, which cause burning — and can lead to cancer.” 
Some destinations, like Hawaii, have laws against chemical sunscreen to avoid damage to coral reefs. Check regulations before you travel. 
See your dermatologist about possible sun damage if you notice new growths, bleeding, scabbing, or itching. 
Check the expiration dates on products
Store products in cool places rather than in your car’s glovebox, etc. 
There is much more information and explanation online, click here. (JUN 16, 2022)
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, July, 2022.

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, #274, July, 2022. Happy Fourth!


1. Bed compartments for Economy Class?
2. 10 Best Day hikes in New Zealand
3. Getting Rid of Toxic PFAS in Outdoor Wear
4. Post Offices along the Camino Frances
5. American Long Distance Hiking Association’s (ALDHA-West) Gathering
6. You will probably never need this—but…foil footprint
7. Travel for Good: Volunteer in South Africa
8. Avoiding Poison Oak
9. REI Adventure Centers
What is Felt?


#1. Air New Zealand to install bunk beds?

“Air New Zealand to install ‘Skynest’ bunk bed compartments for economy, premium economy passengers from 2024.” Will it really happen? Would a 4-hour rest period be worth it? What about passengers with physical challenges? Will other airlines join in? Many questions, but an interesting direction. Read the piece here.  

#2. Best one-day hikes in New Zealand:

10 of the greatest walks you can do in a day. New destination for many of us with new thrills (when COVID restrictions allow). Three of the hikes are tied for best of the best: Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Pouakai Crossing, and Avalanche Peak. Avalanche is described “as close as you’ll get to mountaineering without the rope and crampons.” New Zealand link. Andrew Bain

#3. Getting rid of Toxic PFAS in Outdoor Wear.

 According to NRDA (National Resource Defense Council), several leading U.S. clothing brands are working to get toxic chemicals out of our clothing. Leading the way are efforts by Patagonia, American Eagle, and Ralph Loren. The products of concern, PFAS, “have been linked to serious health risks from cancer to kidney disease” and are often found in outdoor wear—especially items resistant to water and stains. (See for more info).

#4. Camino de Santiago: Post offices (correos) along the Camino Frances.

 Contributor Terry Sweetland sent, “To address mail to yourself put your surname first, in capitals. When you go to collect mail, take your passport as ID; and to be sure, ask them to check under your first name as well as your surname. Here’s a list of places along the Camino Francés, with postal codes, two or three days apart: 
Lista de Correos  
31080 Pamplona (Navarra)  
31100 Puenta la Reina (Navarra) 
26080 Logroño (Navarra) 
09080 Burgos 
24080 León  
24700 Astorga (León) 
24400 Ponferrada (León)  
27600 Sarria (Lugo)  
15780 Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña)
SMITH, John (Pilgrim)
Lisa de Correos

#5. American Long Distance Hiking Association’s (ALDHA-West) gathering: A save-the-date.

  The Gathering 2022: Sept 23-25. Keystone, CO. This friendly and informative hiking organization also is calling for “number-type-people!” They are looking for a new treasurer at the Gathering and seek nominations. “Peaches has done an amazing job of setting our systems up for ease of use so if you’re curious but hesitant, reach out for more information.” Contact: for more info.

#6. “You will probably never need this, but…”

 I loved this headline and thought the advice well worth repeating—even if you never need to use it! Derek Koonce, trailname “Two Dogs” writes, “Through my many classes with Hug-A-Tree, [I learned that] a great way to leave a bootprint is use aluminum foil. Place a sheet on top of a few towels. Step carefully onto the aluminum foil. Roll around with the soles to get a good imprint. Carefully step off. There is now a nice set of prints. Mark with your name, if more than one person. Place in vehicle.” (used with permission).

#7. “Travel for Good Conservation Experience” with Wild Tomorrow Fund. 

I was recently at a travel adventure show and picked up a leaflet from Wild Tomorrow Fund. The organization seeks people to join them in South Africa to help with conservation of various animals: elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, hyenas, and others that are in trouble. Projects can be efforts to help save wildlife or to help save habitat. Earlier projects with animals have involved such jobs as rhinos dehorning (so the animals will not be killed for their horns) and GPS/Radio collaring of animals, and helping at the rhino orphanage. Habitat projects could include reforestation of plant life or removing invasive plants. The upcoming 2-week trips are priced at $3,950 ($2,000 tax-deductible in the U.S.)

I can’t vouch for them because they are new to me, but it sounds like a wonderful opportunity and if you are interested in their program, you can look into it. or call 1-917-962-3922. Reviews at Great NonProfits Link here

elephant not in south africa Susan Alcorn ©0169

#8. Poison Oak.

 Poison Oak is a native plant that is important to wildlife, but not friendly to humans. Its toxic resin, urushiol, can cause severe rash and itching. As a preventative measure to avoid the rash, “Many veteran hikers ditch their clothes directly into the washing machine when they get home, then take a nice hot shower, a sound policy.” But, as the Mount Diablo Review (Summer/Fall 2021) points out, more casual hikers may forget that their boots may have lots of urushiol on them, lying in wait for the next time they put them on.

Because urushiol can last for months (even years), “when you get home, spray a little rubbing alcohol on your boots, including the soles, and let them air dry. Rubbing alcohol is a fast-acting solvent “rendering the urushiol harmless.” Writer Staci Hobbet, of the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association, says that many on the mountain carry alcohol swabs just in case they accidentally brush against the poison oak.

#9. REI Adventure Centers:

 There are now three Adventure Centers in the greater Bay Area: Saratoga, Sacramento, and the newest, Richmond. Many of the classes and rentals will take places at the centers rather than the box stores. Link here

susan with source of felt;

Susan Alcorn ©0169

#10. What is Felt?

Felt is a woolen fabric that is neither woven nor knitted. “When wool gets wet, the microscopic scales on individual hairs open, and with agitation, the scales interlock with other individual hairs, and interlock. This ancient process of felting is still used to make many useful products, from tents to jackets, hats, and shoes.” (Activity Guide, East Bay Regional Park District. July/August 2022).
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 2021

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

Hi everyone,
Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“During one of winter’s highest tides, enjoy a relaxed loop around Berkeley’s restored “meadow,” with short spurs. We will walk rain or shine. Dress in layers for quick-changing weather, and expect puddles, muddy or even flooded paths, and crossing a construction site. Sorry, no dogs allowed in part of the area we will cross.
Thank you everyone; enjoy your holidays. Stay well, keep hiking when prudent. I encourage you to send in items of interest to the hiking community to me at backpack45 “at sign”

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
Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago
We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Backpackers
Please note: Hiking and backpacking can be risky endeavors. Always be prepared for emergencies and carry food, water, shelter (warm clothing, etc.), flashlight/headlamp, matches, first aid supplies, and maps. Cell phones don’t always work. Leave word where you are traveling and when you are due back.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yosemite black bear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you everyone. There will not be a newsletter in October. Stay well, keep hiking when prudent. I encourage you to send in items of interest to the hiking community to me at backpack45 “at sign”

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.

To subscribe, unsubscribe, or send a message to this (almost) monthly newsletter, please email Susan at backpack45 “at sign”