Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, December 2020

*** we are moving the newsletter from the News page to the blog, so each newsletter can be linked to independently – on the news page there will be a link to the newsletter ***
 
Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, December 2020
     Happy holidays!
2010-12-21_17-12-52_7514_P80
Contents:
1. As Hiking Surges During the Pandemic, So Do Injuries
2. Audio walks—armchair and onsite
3. Camino Masks 
4. Treeline Review helps with finding good gear for gifts!
5. Drawing the Colors of Winter 
6. Wearing a Mask While Running
7. Past, Present and Future on the Bay Area Ridge Trail.
Walk, Hike, Saunter 
is now available
in both print and
Kindle versions!  
 
Articles:
#1. “As Hiking Surges During the Pandemic, So Do Injuries” reads the headline in a NY Times article. Not exactly a surprise to those of us who are long-time hikers and park visitors—we’ve seen many people venturing out ill-prepared for their outings. And just like we have seen happening on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) ever since the book and movie “Wild” drew greatly increased interest in the iconic trail, so the COVID-19’s restrictions have drawn many new hikers to parks and trails.
What I hadn’t considered was that as the number of park visitors has increased (“upward of 90 percent over the previous year in some parks”) Search and Rescue crews have been stretched thinner. Adding to the problem has been the wildfires, which may draw S&R teams away from parks and trails and into the fire areas. “People need to be careful, especially now, as resources for search and rescue can be thin,” said Lisa Herron, a spokeswoman for the United States Forest Service at Lake Tahoe Basin in California. 
David Walsh, with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, commented that wearing a mask, necessitated by the coronavirus, causes responders to move more slowly and rescues that involve bringing injured hikers down out of the hills can take longer than usual. Sgt. Eric Palmberg of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office said many of the calls involved people ‘way out of their experience level and possibly taking more risks due to the pandemic and being cooped up at home.’”
A spokesperson at Zion National Park noted that bike rentals are way up and so are calls for help due to “ankle sprains, heat exhaustion and cuts and scrapes from crashes.” (Gillian R. Brassil https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/28/sports/covid-hiking-parks-trails.html?referringSource=articleShare )
#2. Audio guides take you on walks worldwide. Lorna Parkes wrote, “The bear’s throaty growl starts to my right, then circles predatorily around to my left as I turn. But I stay calm, because the beast is not really there – it’s an illusion. I’m on a street corner in Leeds on a bright, chilly autumn morning and there are no bears for thousands of miles – or at least there haven’t been for well over a century.” This is on a guided “sound walk” ’in the former Headingley Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
Turns out there are tons of sites where you can take armchair walks. I listened briefly to one about Leeds (England) Zoological and Botanical Gardens.  If you go to: https://www.365leedsstories.org/maps/map-19/ and scroll to the bottom on the page, you’ll find audio for 10 different stops in the garden. Thanks to Lorna Parkes for her article (16 Nov 2020)
Other audio travel guides out there in cyberspace include: The Last Eccentrics of Greenwich Village, which takes listeners on a walk around the New York neighborhood. “The Ears May Travel,”  “Visit walklistencreate.org or download the Echoes app to browse sound walks from around the world”
#3. Camino Masks. Ivar, who runs the very popular Camino forum, is offering a variety of Camino-related masks. I ordered two early on and have found them to be very comfortable.  They are two-layers of fabric (and don’t have a slot for a filter, but should be adequate while hiking.)
#4. Treeline Review helps with finding good gear for gifts! 
“Holiday gift giving for people who love the outdoors doesn’t have to be tricky. These are the gifts we’d give ourselves and that we’d be happy to receive. Based on our Gear of the Year and All Time Favorite gear items, here are present ideas for every outdoors person and every price range.” https://www.treelinereview.com/giftsTreeline does not have ads and is 100% reader supported.
And earlier they wrote: “We’re excited to announce the release of Susan Alcorn’s book Walk, Saunter, Hike: Seasoned Women Hikers Share Tales and Trails. Thirty-two women share their stories to inspire new and experienced hikers. I was thrilled and honored to be interviewed for this book and my copy just arrived! The book is currently available in paperback and e-book.” Naomi “The Punisher” Hudetz
 
Susan Alcorn
5. Drawing the colors of Winter. Saturday, Dec. 12, 10-12 pm. Leaves, pods, and fruits…Autumn is a time for reds, browns, and purples. Learn to apply color to capture the beauty of the season. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/drawing-the-colors-of-winter-tickets-126158755233 ($40-$50)
From the site: “Autumn is the perfect time to explore colored pencil techniques with all the beauty of the changing leaf colors, seed pods, gourds and berries. Their unique colors provide the opportunity to practice mixing and layering color. Learn to create rich reds, browns and purples. We will explore a variety of colored pencil techniques including layering, blending, and burnishing.
“This class will be two hours long, held online, using Zoom. We will spend time mixing colors, drawing your leaf or fruit and coloring with demonstration and time for questions and answers. All drawing levels are welcome. A supply list will be provided.
“Nina Antze has a Fine Arts degree and a Certificate in Botanical Illustration from the New York Botanical Gardens and studied at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford. She teaches throughout California and beyond. Her Chinese Maple was recently selected for the DeYoung Open. View her botanicals at pcquilt.com
Details:
-A meeting link for this class will be provided by email following registration
– Please arrive 5 minutes early to check in
– Refunds available for all classes 7 days in advance of the start date, after 7 days and before 2 days, participants can credit their class for a future date. All requests before 48 hours in advance will be declined.
– Please provide an email you check regularly for updates and reminders about your class
– Registration is required online prior to the event in order to maintain class sizes
– Sales end 48 hours before the start date.
– Waitlists are available when the class sells out
What to Bring:
Registered participants will receive a materials list via email with information about how to prepare in advance of this class
About the PRNSA Field Institute:
The PRNSA Field Institute offers hands-on environmental education classes throughout the year that foster enjoyment of Point Reyes National Seashore. Our classes are led by expert instructors, who take you out of your everyday life and into the natural world. We host a variety of classes about the arts and sciences and have something for everyone. You can reach the Field Institute at (415) 663-1200 x304 or by email at fieldinstitute@ptreyes.org.”
#6. Wearing a mask while running—and presumably while hiking!  If you’re a walker, runner or a bike rider, here’s a great reason to wear a mask when exercising outside. According to Emma Dibdin in this Runners World article, you get plenty of oxygen through your mask, but your lungs have to work slightly harder to get it. This actually strengthens your lungs and increases their efficiency! A lot of athletes train at higher altitudes to increase lung capacity which helps them run and bike faster at lower elevations. Wearing a mask does the same thing! https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a32380203/running-with-mask-impact-your-performance/
#7. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area: A link to the recent Past, Present and Future on the Bay Area Ridge Trail. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Adg43caJgM (This video was sponsored by POST and Bay Area Ridge Trail.)   
“The Bay Area Ridge Trail’s mission is to plan, promote and sustain a connected hiking, cycling, and equestrian trail on the ridgelines around San Francisco Bay—linking people, parks and open space for today and future generations”.
Message from Susan
Thank you everyone. Stay well, keep hiking when prudent—and I encourage you to send in items of interest to the hiking community.  
 
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 messages to this (almost) monthly newsletter, please send a message to Susan at backpack45@yahoo.com

More about the hiking newsletters:

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips is published (almost) monthly. The newsletter has items of interest to the hiking (including the Camino) community. Click here to read earlier editions:
You’ll find an assortment of topics each month. There’ll be health and fitness news, info on new gear, hiking records set, and statistics about the Camino. You’ll hear about upcoming hikes and other events as well as trail meetings and gatherings. In addition, you may learn something new about the animals that share our outdoors.

If you want to subscribe to Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, email Susan Alcorn at backpack45 (put at sign here) yahoo.com to subscribe* so that the news will reach you hot off the press!
*We do not share names with anyone. You can cancel this free subscription by emailing Susan Alcorn. 

Francis Tapon podcast
Francis Tapon, world traveler and adventurer, earlier did a podcast interviewing me about the Caminos Norte and Primitivo. Among other things, he asked these questions:
What was one of the most unusual paths you have taken?
What percentage of pilgrims are hiking purely for religious reasons? (The answer is surprising!)
How many pilgrims get to Santiago every year? (You won’t believe it!)
Have you camped on the trail?
What advice would you give to first-time pilgrims of El Camino de Santiago?
It was such great fun do this podcast! Check it out here! 

 

We land in Antarctica!!!

January 1, 2020. After the days of exploring the Falklands and South Georgia and the few intervening days totally at sea, I could hardly wait to touch down in Antarctica. This was the day! 

Antarctic Petrels at sea
Orcadas Station
Crew members on the island stay here year-round

Laurie Island, South Orkneys, Antarctica
Our first stop, by zodiac, was to explore some of Laurie Island in the South Orkneys. It was originally the site of a hut known as Omond House. It’s now the site of Orcadas Station, occupied year-round by Argentine personnel primarily as a bird hide and field refuge. We were warmly welcomed—they don’t get a lot of visitors! 

Then we had some time to explore and view penguins by zodiac…

Zodiac cruising to view penguins–with rough seas!


Chinstrap penguin watching us too!

and finally, an incredible sunset. 

Sunsets extraordinaire!

Some history: The Voyage of the Scotia
“Omond House was a building erected in 1903 on Laurie Island in the South Orkney Islands. It was built to house shore-based members of the 1902-1904 Scottish National Antarctic Expedition, led by William Bruce.” 

“The house was named after Scottish meteorologist Robert T Omond, a strong supporter of the idea of making meteorological observations in Antarctica. It was built with over 100 tonnes of stone manually quarried then hauled on sledges from an adjacent glacial moraine.

“Its main purposes were to serve as a base for meteorological observations made at the nearby weather station, and as living quarters for small parties left behind both when the Scotia returned to Buenos Aires for repairs and supplies, and when she finally returned to Scotland.” Link here

“In January 1904, Bruce offered control of Omond House to Argentina and which was later renamed the Orcadas Station. Link here

Gratitude for our trails

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Sunol Regional Park, Alameda County, CA

Here in the S.F. Bay Area, the days have been so mild with daytime temperatures in the 60s and 70s, it’s hard to believe that it’s almost Thanksgiving. However, when it starts getting dark at 5 PM, and colder, we realize we have to work a bit harder to fit hikes into our shorter daytime hours.

This reminds me that I have much to appreciate about where I live, why I try to support environmental causes, and how grateful I am for the thousands of people here who work to protect our environment.

Sunol Regional Park, Alameda County, CA

In particular, I am reminded of the importance of the regional parklands around me, which…

  • provide hundreds of miles of trails that I can hike. 
  • bring ever-changing displays of flowers, trees, and other plants. 
  • have quiet places to clear my head and exercise my body.
  • inspire my writing and photography with its scenic beauty.
  • support wildlife—from ladybugs covering entire branches; herons stalking their prey; hawks soaring overhead; flickers hammering cavities in tree branches to build their nests.  
  • offer the opportunity to gain perspective on our place on this earth.
  • allow free, or inexpensive, visits to all who want to come. 

And, people are instrumental in what happens…

  • by envisioning the setting aside of parcels of land to create parklands.
  • when they work to acquire properties that would otherwise turn into developments.
  • by volunteering to help with fund-raising, to interface with the public at the kiosks and gift shops, and by organizing work parties for weed control.
  • when they become park employees that build fences and picnic tables, clear out invasive plants, repair storm damaged trails and roadways, and educate park visitors. 
  • by voting in tax measures to support and improve our parks

Galen Rowell, photographer, climber, author (1940-2002) in  Bay Area Wild: A Celebration of the Natural Heritage of the San Francisco Bay Area wrote,  “The San Francisco Bay Area holds the most extensive system of wild greenbelts in the nation, with more than 200 parks and other protected areas lying within forty miles of the city.”

We are truly blessed to live here. 

Minimizing your impact on the trail

 

Trail and Camp Ethics

Don’t build illegal campfire rings!

Anytime we hike or camp, we have an effect on our environment. The goal is to minimize negative impacts. If we damage the trail, we might  affect the next person’s trip or destroy the homes of wild animals. Some actions that may seem benign to us at the time may be quite disastrouspolluting the drinking water of a community, causing flooding by erosion, or destroying homes and forest by fire. 

To start… 

1.Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites [ed.: don’t cause erosion by taking shortcuts!]. Those shortcuts that create new trails through the dirt will become channels for water during the winter. 
2.Pack it in, pack it out. After use, inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter. [ed.: Orange peels can last 6 months, bananas 12 months.] 
 
3.Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. There is little to no chance that these items will decompose before they are discovered by animals or other humans. There are far too many people on our trails and in our wildlands for these products to remain undisturbed and unnoticed. 
 
4.Deposit solid human waste* in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet (about 70 human paces) from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished. Note: leaving your poop under a rock near your campsite is not ok! Not only may it be a health hazard, but the next person to move the rockto build a campfire pit, for repairing a trailwill not appreciate the mound of feces that you left behind. Bury it!
 
*In some areas, there may be regulations required that human waste be carried out—for example, on Mt. Whitney or Denali, or in various river rafting areas.

Leave No Trace…

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics’ website tells us that the principals they give are modified or revisited from time to time as researchers gain new insights into protecting our outdoors. The current seven LNT Principles are: Plan and Prepare; Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces; Dispose of Waste Properly; Leave What You Find; Minimize Campfire Impacts; Respect Wildlife, Be Considerate of Other Visitors.  Click here for more info. 

10 Favorite S.F. Bay Area Hikes

While I certainly haven’t done every possible hike in the San Francisco Bay Area the following 10 parks and trails have yet to fail me:
1.  Mount Tamalpais State Park: Steep Ravine and Matt Davis
2Point Reyes Ntl. Seashore: Pierce Point

3. Marin County Parks: Cascade Falls
4. Marin County Parks: Mount Burdell
5. El Corte de Madera Preserve: Tafoni and more
6. Mount Diablo State Park: Mount Diablo
7. Mount Diablo State Park: Mitchell Canyon 

8. Diablo Foothills (EBParks): Diablo Foothills   
9. Sunol Regional Park: Camp Ohlone Road 
10. Coyote Hills Regional Park: Tuibun, Bayview and more 

Marin County 
Mount Tamalpais State Park: Steep Ravine & Matt Davis

7 miles round trip, elevation gain 1,781. You’ll find redwoods, waterfalls and cascading streams, wildflowers, views back toward the Pacific Ocean, and a fun ladder to climb on this hike from Stinson Beach to Pan Toll Campground and back. 

Read More

Point Reyes Ntl. Seashore: Pierce Point Trail (aka Tomales Point)

Tule Elk, Point Reyes

9.7 miles out and back, but within the first couple of miles, you are almost guaranteed to see tule elkbirds, and wildflowers, so you can shorten the hike if you wishThe views along the narrow peninsula are spectacular–Tomales Bay to the east, Bodega Bay to the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the west.

Read More

Cascade Falls, Fairfax

Cascade Falls, Eliot Nature Reserve. Marin County Parks, Fairfax. 3 miles out-and-back. Easy.  Best in winter or spring shortly after a rain, which gives the stream a boost. Delicate wildflowers in springtime. Excellent for young children and beautiful enough to be enjoyed by any age. 

The most direct and easiest trails to follow (especially if the alternative trails lead to the part of the wide stream with no bridge) are the Cascade Fire Road and the Cascade Falls Trail. 

Read More

Mount Burdell, Mount Burdell Open Space, Marin County Park, Novato.

Rainbow from Mt. Burdell, Marin County

A lovely 5.2 mile loop rated moderate.  The highest point is Mt. Burdell, which is 1,558 ft. — an 1,118 ft. elevation gain. 

Good on a mild winter or fall day, better even on a spring day when the grass is green and the wildflowers are out. Summers can be very hot and there is little shade so be prepared with plenty of water if you choose to undertake this hike on such a day.

Read More

San Mateo County

El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve, Tafoni and more, Woodside

Tafoni formation–El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve

Moderate four-mile loop using the Tafoni, Fir, El Corte de Madera Creek Trails. This lovely hike through the redwoods also has a couple of unique features. One is a commemorative marker to those who died in a plane crash here in the 1950s.  Another is the intriguing sandstone Tafoni sandstone formation, which is about 1.5 miles out from the Tafoni trailhead. 

Read More

Contra Costa County

Mount Diablo State Park: Mount Diablo, Walnut Creek

The very peak of Mt. Diablo, which is accessed from inside the Visitors’s Center

As mountains go, Mount Diablo’s summit isn’t terribly high, 3,849 feet, but it is the highest peak in the Bay Area. It also–if you pick the right day, generally in winter or early spring after rain has cleared the skies–offers outstanding views. On a clear day you can see not only the surrounding valleys and hills, but also the Sierra Nevada 135 miles to the east, Mount Lassen 185 miles to the north, and the Farallon Islands, 27 miles west of San Francisco.

Read More
Indian Warriors in Mt. Diablo State Park, Contra Costa County

Mitchell Canyon/ Back Creek Loop,  Mount Diablo State Park, near Clayton. 

Strenuous, some hills, about 7 miles, 1700-foot elevation gain. On this beautiful hike, you’ll pass through narrow canyons, groves of  groves of Coulter pines, birding areas, rugged mountain scenery, and enjoy expansive views. In the spring, you’ll find that the shaded north exposures are alive with a succession of wildflowers. 

Read More

Diablo Foothills Regional Trail (EBParks), Walnut Creek  

Diablo Foothills, EBParks, Contra Costa County

This challenging hike of 7 miles, elevation gain 966 feet, begins in a neighborhood. Passing into the park, you will soon enjoy walking through oak woodlands, rolling hills, rock outcroppings, and a seasonal creek.  My favorite time to do this hike is springtime–or anytime that it is not hot!

My favorite part is Pine Canyon–even though I have yet to see the resident peregrine falcons there, you can see their white guano (droppings) on the cliffs below their nests. The cliffs themselves are actually in neighboring Mount Diablo State Park and portions of other trails that enter the park from the canyon are closed seasonally to protect the nesting birds. 

Read More

Alameda County

Camp Ohlone Road, Sunol Regional Park, Sunol. Hike to Little Yosemite

Short and sweet, this moderately-easy hike that can be extended if desired.  Approximately 3-4 miles out-and-back. Best after rain, hot in summers, but lovely anytime (just don’t expect the 2,425-foot drop of Yosemite Falls. 

The W Tree in Sunol Regional Park
Read More

Tuibun/Chochenyo/Lizard Rock/
Bay View/Soaproot/Red Hill/Nike/Bay View again. Coyote Hills, EBParks, Fremont. 

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Fremont 

A moderate loop of 4.77 miles that takes you on the Bayview Trail around the Coyote Hills where you’ll see the evaporating salt ponds of San Francisco Bay. You’ll also walk a marsh area–often teeming with waterfowl. and other birdlife. Coyote Hills is a unique park that sits where Alameda Creek flows into San Francisco Bay, and is considered sacred by the Ohlone Native Americans.

Read More

I hope you enjoy some of these hikes. We are very lucky to have so many great trails in the S.F. Bay Area. For more trails, check out the Nifty Ninety Peaks posts. Click here.