Where Else to Roam?

‘Bucket List’ or Serendipity?

On the Vezelay Camino route, after Limoges, we found many castles and fortresses!

“Once upon a time” I thought that one really should do a “bucket list,” or set out to check off the places listed in “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” or some other similar book with a catchy title. I’m not saying that these concepts are bad, just that, in my experience, they don’t allow for real life! At least not ours, we like to be more flexible. 

Truthfully, when Ralph and I started the John Muir Trail in 1989 (the year we were married), we hadn’t planned to do more than backpack from Kearsarge Pass (near Lone Pine, CA) to Mt. Whitney. In fact, it was several years (meanwhile backpacking in other parts of the Sierra Nevada) before we decided to do another section of the JMT.  Because our time was limited for each backpacking trip, we actually hiked the JMT in sections—returning four times to do it all.

But ‘what then?’ What then, because I had just officially retired, but could keep teaching as a job-share, was that we were able to take off for longer periods—we came down into Yosemite Valley at the end of trip #4, went home, and repacked, and then flew to Spain and start the Camino Frances—the best known of the Spanish Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trails.

A Reality Check

Ralph (83) and I (78) are at a point in our lives where we can facing the fact that we may not be able to hike ‘forever.’ We have no way of knowing if we will even be able to hike another few years—things happen!

We know that we are not as strong as we once were and can’t hike as fast or as far as we once could. Also, increasingly, we see friends developing conditions or illnesses that limit their mobility. This is just part of the aging process. So, we are approaching travel, especially that will include hiking, more carefully. We are being more selective about destinations.

Our plans include

One thing seems certain, we will continue to explore routes of the Camino de Santiago. We are part of the pilgrim community here, and find the Camino trails of Europe compelling. Each route is different; we enjoy experiencing the cultures, the places the trails take us, and meeting new people. We have about 140 miles more to go on the Vezelay, French route to reach Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port in the Pyrenees so returning there is on the horizon.

The ‘biggie’ coming up even sooner, however, is a cruise to Antarctica—the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctica peninsula. This year we are celebrating our 30th anniversary and this is one way that we are making it memorable. 

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. 

Is 10,000 a magic number?

What about 10,000 steps?

Along the Vezelay, FR., Camino route.

For many years, 10,000 has been given as the magic number of steps to take daily to improve our fitness level and boost our longevity. More recently, however, we’ve read that 10,000 is really an arbitrary number. In one study of women (average age 72), click here, it was found that 4,000 steps per day was beneficial. Additionally, the study said that anything over 7,500 steps brought no additional benefit.

That is not to say that counting steps isn’t a helpful tool; it can be. It is an fairly effective method of keeping track of your steps and mileage. Just as writing in a food diary is a more accurate way of seeing what your caloric intake is than relying on a running total in your head, a step counter will probably keep you more honest. And, as the study stated, for most people, any increase in steps is helpful. 

For us as hikers, another takeaway is that counting steps is not a well-rounded way to become trail-ready, particularly if your aim is longer hikes and multi-day backpack trips. Nevertheless, I find aiming for 10,000 motivating, and I am relieved to learn that I am not harming myself when I don’t reach that number. 

In my article, Training for Walking, Hiking, and Backpacking, you’ll find plenty of advice to achieve greater hiking stamina and strength that goes beyond counting steps. 

Consider the ‘Nifty Ninety”

Consider the Nifty Ninety

If, like me, you don’t like to always do the same trails, check out the Nifty Ninety Peak challenge. Link here! You will also find a great deal of information about the peaks on peakbagger.com and you can also record your achievements at this easy to use website.
We have now completed more than 75 of the #Nifty Ninety peaks. I know that there are some summits ahead that are even more difficult than those we have encountered so far, but we have gradually become more confident and strong as we have met the hikes’ challenges. We continue to consider the terrain, the mileage, the time required, and the weather conditions when selecting our next hike—and are growing more and more captivated by the parks, trails, and  high points we are discovering.

As a long-distance hiker, I’ve spent a lot of time at high elevation (John Muir Trail being a prime example) so it is exciting to have some of the same joy exploring the peaks of the Bay Area—the far-reaching views and the sense of accomplishment that getting to high points in this area brings.

If, like me, you don’t like to always do the same trails, check out the Nifty Ninety Peak challenge. Link here! You will also find a great deal of information about the peaks on peakbagger.com and you can also record your achievements at this easy to use website.

Happy trails and travels!
Susan “backpack45” Alcorn

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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
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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.

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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.