Balance vs Falling — a Hiker’s Challenge

Balance Matters!

Ralph demonstrates importance of balance
Ralph has great balance (Torres del Paine. Patagonia)

The last time I was in an airport, I witnessed an impressive (to me, anyway!) feat. A young woman, while walking across the waiting area, noticed that one of her shoes was untied. She preceded to stop and tie the undone lace while balancing on the other foot. 

I can’t confidently do that; I’m not certain if I ever could have done so. I do know, however, that I always used to stand on one foot while getting dressed. Now I usually sit on the bed or lean against a wall when putting on slacks or a skirt. I don’t really need to, and part of it is laziness, but it’s also an indication that I am less trusting of my ability to balance.  

When I was a kid, I thought nothing of walking along a curb or a narrow plank. Now I have second thoughts when I come to a stream crossing that involves using rocks or a log. Unless the rocks are very stable or the planks across a stream are wide, I much prefer to wade through. 

After my observation at the airport, I gave all of this some thought. I considered the fact that falls can be a very serious matter for seniors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that “one in every three adults age 65 and older falls” each year. (I suspect that 1 in 3 of any age falls each year, but that’s another matter.) The CDC also says that falls are the leading cause of injury death for this age group and “in 2009, about 20,400 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries”. Even if older adults do not die from their falls, they are likely to sustain serious injuries that limit their activities and/or send them to a wheelchair. 

Even though I have very healthy bones and am active, I have been slacking off and not continuing to do these simple exercises.  Recognizing that a decline in stability is not serving me, I recently elected to sign up for a nearby adult-ed class that focuses not only on strength training and stretching, but also on balance. 

From past experience, I know that I will see improvement. I remember how gratifying it is to have quick results from any physical regimen! Whereas most exercise seems to take forever to show any improvement, a few simple routines can make a world of difference in a short time.  

I love my hiking poles and will continue to use them for their many benefits, but it is still important to have good balance for day-to-day activities as well as hiking ones. 

Here are three things that have worked for me:
1. Start by standing (near a chair or other stable object if necessary for safety) on one foot and lifting the other for increasingly lengthy times. (I often do this (eyes open!) when doing other simple tasks — such as waiting for the microwave to heat water for tea, or when brushing my teeth.) When you are able to stand on the one foot for at least a minute, try doing this with your eyes closed. (recommended by my chiropractor, Richard Teel of Novato, CA.) 

2. Stand on both feet, shoulder length apart. Walk 3 steps forward, then lift one foot and hold it up for one count. Walk another 3 steps forward and lift one foot again. Then take 3 steps backward, hold, 3 more back. Then go to the right 3 steps and hold, repeat. Then go to the left 3 steps and hold, repeat. Continue this series of stepping 3 steps forward, back, side, side, but with longer times of holding the one foot up. Increase to 2 counts, then 3, and then 10.  (taught by instructor, Francesca Weiss, at Acalanes Adult Center, Walnut Creek, CA)

3. Sign-up for classes and practice in yoga, chi gong, and tai chi. Many communities have Adult Ed exercise classes that are low-cost — sometimes even free for seniors. 

Hikers and Backpackers
If you want to keep hiking and backpacking, keep in mind that you need more than strength and endurance. No matter what your age, you also need to have good balance because falls are the single most common cause of hiker fatalities! 
 
Happy trails,
Susan Alcorn, backpack45

author of Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails; 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.
www.susandalcorn.com

 

 

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

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, #272, April 2022

Rose Peak on the Nifty Ninety

Hi all,
We are glad to be back, but we also just had a great trip mid-February to mid-March. We spent three weeks in Baja California: enjoying the countryside, the people, and a dream of mine coming true—going out on the pangas (small boats) at Scammon’s Lagoon and San Ignacio and getting to pet the Gray Whales. A thrilling and wonderful time—and done the way we generally prefer—as a road trip!

The photo here is from our latest overnight backpack trip, which was to Rose Peak in Alameda County, CA. This is our peak #89 of the Nifty Ninety Peak Challenge; we plan to hit #90 the end of April!

Contents Sonoma book talk and more:

1. Regional: Sunday, April 10 in Sonoma CA: Bay Area book talk with short and sweet walk following
2. Eagerly awaiting Heather Anderson’s: Adventures Awaiting
3. Condor Trail through Los Padres Ntl Forest
4. Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail — new trail guide

5. Diane Spicer has this to share
6. “Lagniappe” (a little something extra) “Bug Healing”
7. Regional: Bay Area Ridge to Bridge Event

Articles:

#1. Regional: Susan’s Bay Area book talk and walk. 

Please join us for a reading and discussion about my newest book, Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails at Readers’ Books in Sonoma, CA on Sunday, April 10, 2022. 10:30 for the talk and reading; 3-mile hike to follow (the hike is optional, of course). Event is free and open to all. 

Joining me will be four of the women from the book:  Inga Aksamit, Patricia Schaffarczyk, Jane Toro, and Karen Najarian. They will read a bit from their chapters, perhaps talk about their previous or upcoming hikes. I can guarantee that they will be inspiring!

A hike will follow—but note: trail changes!!! We are going to lead a hike, but due to trail restoration, we have had to change from going to the overlook (top) of Overlook Trail. We still plan to lead an easy uphill hike, but though it will start on the Overlook Trail, it will continue onto another trail (also offering great views). I plan to scout the alternate route out this week—it will be a fun walk for all of us.

Click here for trail info to find the parking lot for the HIKE, and the beginning of the Overlook Trail. I’m sure than some hikers will be fine without hiking poles, but expect some roots and rocks, so bring a pole if you’ll feel safer.  
Readers’ Books is at 130 E Napa St., Sonoma (and right off the main square).

#2. Eagerly awaiting: Adventures Awaiting.

 
Who better to teach about long distance hiking than those who have done it—multiple times, multiple places—than co-authors Heather Anderson, aka Anish, and Katie Gerber, aka Salty.

Heather earned the Triple Crown of Thru-Hiking (USA) and set the fastest known time for this in 11/08/2017.  Katie has completed many long distance hikes on the  the Pacific Crest, Appalachian, Continental Divide, Colorado, and Oregon Desert trails, and the Wind River High Route  and is a nutritionist.

Pre-order Adventures Awaiting at Heather’s website, wordsfromthewild.net Orders from that site will be autographed by Heather.

Learn:  “(How) to prepare your body and mind for the rigors of long-distance backpacking and other epic adventures,” as well as “everything an aspiring backcountry athlete needs to know for planning their first thru-hike!”

Katie focuses on food so that you can be healthy when you complete your hike rather than nutritionally depleted.

“Additionally, we dedicate an entire segment of the book to the mental and emotional preparation, maintenance, and reintegration phase of the journey. It’s commonly estimated that 75 to 85 percent of aspiring thru-hikers on the Triple Crown trails quit before reaching their goal. That’s a staggering number. So, what’s the difference between those who get to the opposite terminus and those who don’t? It’s generally not athletic ability. People of all different demographics and athletic abilities successfully complete long-distance trails.

“Backpacking is not a particularly technical sport, though it does require you to learn a particular set of skills. The primary physical component involves walking over natural surfaces with a load on your back. And though good physical fitness reduces the likelihood of injury and can make the experience more enjoyable, a backpacker always has the option to slow down or reduce mileage to ease the physical demand. The challenges unique to a multi-month backpacking trip are exposing yourself to the elements day after day and continuing to move forward when you’re tired of sleeping on a thin foam pad, sick of eating dehydrated foods, and missing your family and friends.

“Thru-hiking success comes down to the ability to endure when things get hard. There are certainly legitimate circumstances that force hikers off trail, like illness, injury, and finances, but many quit because the going gets difficult and they don’t have a strong reason for being out there. There still physically capable, but mentally they’re over it.” Excerpted from Adventure Ready page 161

Pre-Order Your Autographed Copy Now! https://wordsfromthewild.net/ Order your copy today and receive a discount on the companion online courses!”

#3. Condor Trail Guide: Hiker’s Guide to the 400 Mile Condor Trail Through Los Padres National Forest in California

 (2021) Paperback and Kindle by Brian Sarvis (Author), Bryan Conant (Contributor). Find it here

Writer Miles Griffis writes, Is California Condor Trail the Next Great Thru Hike?  Griffis tracks the trail’s origins and development—a dream to create a route that with the highlights of Los Padres National Forest (north of Los Angeles)— from the towering peaks of the Sespe Wilderness to the dense redwood stands of Big Sur—all home to the state’s iconic endangered species, the California condor. 

“…the Condor Trail is a distance hiking route that travels coastal mountain ranges and canyons deep in the backcountry of California’s central coast.” “… some areas that will test a hiker’s pathfinding ability.”

“Unlike the well-established John Muir or Pacific Crest Trails, it lacks proper signage and maintenance. But it’s loaded with sights… “…past colonies of elephant seals, and across the ancestral lands of the Chumash, Salinan, Esselen, Tataviam, and Costanoan peoples…”

bridge over columbia
Photo by Susan Alcorn

#4. “Hiking the Oregon Coast Trail

by Bonnie Henderson, published by Mountaineers Books, is the first guidebook to fully cover the 400-mile Oregon Coast Trail. “From vast beaches and lush forests to windswept bluffs and dramatic sea stacks, the stunning wild coast of Oregon is emerging as the next great long-distance hiking experience.” 

“The OCT includes 200-plus miles of publicly accessible beaches, as well as established trails through city, county, and state parks and national forest lands. “…detailed descriptions of 34 route legs with mileage, maps, resupply options, itineraries, hazards, camping or lodging options, and more.” “…even worth-while side trips.” 

You’ll also find a good overview of the trail—the good and the bad—at Treeline ReviewClick here.

#5. Diane Spicer’s newsletter includes a trekking pole article. 

There is always a lot of interesting and varied hiking information in Diane’s monthly newsletter. I was particularly interested in this article, “Are Trekking Poles Helping or Hindering Your Hiking Experience?” Ashley L. Hawke, MS; Randall L. Jensen, PhD. (REVIEW ARTICLE| VOLUME 31, ISSUE 4, P482-488, DECEMBER 01, 2020.) Click here to read

You can find out more about Diane at her website, and from Walk, Hike, Saunter, where she wrote about her hiking experiences in her own chapter.

#6. A little something extra: Chimpanzees Appear to Use Insects to Treat Their Wounds.


In a first, chimps in Gabon were seen applying insects to sores on themselves—and others, a possible show of empathy. Fascinating article by Corryn Wetzel, Daily Correspondent, in Smithsonian Magazine.

The multiple observations were seen in Gabon—involving adult chimps catching flying insects (which might have antiseptic features), smashing the bugs in their mouth, creating a paste, and then applying it to not only their own children or other relatives, but also other members of their group. February 8, 2022 article click here. 

#7. Regional: San Francisco Bay Area: Register now for Ridge to Bridge 2022!


Registration is officially open for the Ridge Trail’s most exciting signature annual event, Ridge to Bridge 2022! Ridge to Bridge is a trail adventure for hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians with two ways to participate this year: At an in-person supported event on April 30th in the Marin Headlands or with the self-guided version, ongoing March 1st — April 30th.

In-Person Adventure: April 30th: “Join us for a beautiful springtime trail outing through the iconic Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) including Fort Baker, the Marin Headlands, and Muir Beach. We will support your selected route with trail maps and tips, signature swag, resting points with snacks, and a trail-side catered lunch in Tennessee Valley to keep you energized!”

“Self-Guided Adventure: March 1st – April 30th. Ridge to Bridge 2022 also offers a self-guided adventure for runners, hikers, bikers, and equestrians with curated trail options in each Bay Area county with multiple distances to choose from. Complete trail outings on your own schedule and at your own pace.  Details can be found at RidgeTrail.com

~~~~~~~~~
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” yahoo.com

Susan ‘backpack45’ Alcorn
Shepherd Canyon Books, Oakland, CA
susandalcorn.com
backpack45.com

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

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

 

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

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #265 July 2021

 

Wishing you a happy and safe 4th of July!!!

Contents:
#1. Yosemite’s new climbing exhibits — read more
#2. “Hiking the Appalachian Trail: A Beginner’s Guide” by Karen Berger
#3. Amanda Schaffer, the Pilgrim Pouch, and Susan Alcorn’s interview
#4. Six Moon’s description of trail on Mt. St. Helens
#5. We are changing newsletter hosts
#6. Lightning risk ratings
#7. Pilgrim Gathering — reminder
#8. John Ladd presents
#9. The ALDHA-West Gathering to be Virtual in 2021

Read More
 
 

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Guest Post: Amy Racina

Water Sports
Amy Racina, contributor

Amy Racina

It was a lovely evening at Wailaki Campground on the fringes of California’s Lost Coast. I set up my tent, barbequed some zucchini and the slab of bison I had picked up along the way, and staked down my tent on a nice flat spot. Though showers were expected, I wasn’t worried. I had a good reliable tent.

I snuggled in to read a good book and enjoy some restful dreams. Warm and dry in my tent, I dreamt that I was floating peacefully down a river on a raft.

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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.