Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, Sep. 2023

Yosemite’s Half Dome, photo by Susan Alcorn

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.” Paulo Coelho (Thank you, Joyce Bender, for sending this reminder.


1.VISA needed for entry to most European Countries?

2.. Link correction: How to lace your shoes

3. Congratulations to Arlette Laan

4. 93-year old man climbs Yosemite’s Half Dome

5. The bear went over the mountain…

6. Karel Sabbe

7. What to wear hiking in summer.

8. Exercising Caution with Wildfire Smoke

9. “Eau D’Snake

10.Regional: EBRegional’s Trail Challenge.

#1. ETIAS soon needed for entry to most European Countries? This new requirement has been discussed previously, but it is now due to be implemented in 2024. ( release date: early August 2023 from France Tourism PR).

“Starting early 2024, travelers from the United States and over 60 other visa-exempt countries will be required to have a travel authorization to enter most European countries, including France. They will need an ETIAS, which stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System.

Where to apply: Official ETIAS website (application page is not yet open). fee for ETIAS is €7 (euros).

“As stated on the official site, “ETIAS travel authorisation is an entry requirement for visa-exempt nationals traveling to any of these 30 European countries. It is linked to a traveler’s passport. It is valid for up to three years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first. If you get a new passport, you need to get a new ETIAS travel authorisation.”
How long it takes: “Filling out the application is quick and easy. Most applicants will receive their ETIAS travel authorisation within minutes, but in some cases the process may take up to 30 days. This is why you should apply well in advance of your travel to avoid complications.” (Susan: However, it appears there will be a grace period for travelers planning to arrive early next year). (From the official ETIAS site FAQ)

From the official ETIAS site: 7 myths and facts about ETIAS: 

What ETIAS is not a visa. Similar travel authorizations for visa-exempt nationals are required by the US, Canada and Australia. Unlike when applying for a visa, travelers will be able to apply for ETIAS online, there is no need to go a Consulate to apply, and biometric data will not be collected as part of the application process.

The only official ETIAS website is

#2. Correction: Last month, item #8 had a bad link. Here’s some helpful info:  Feet swell when hiking? Shoes rubbing you the wrong way? Feet sliding down and hitting the front of your shoes on descents? It could be how you are trying your shoes. There are various ways to tie shoes to relieve pressure on certain parts of your foot–or to hold your feet in place instead of sliding forward. A post by Elizabeth (Beth) Henkes for REI, click here.

#3. Way to go Arlette Laan! Laan, who is also mountain guide, has become the  first woman to hike all 11 National Scenic Trails. Somehow I missed this earlier, but it’s worthy of note, “Ice Age Trail thru-hiker becomes first woman to complete all 11 national scenic trails.” (article by Chelsey Lewis).  

The Eleven National Scenic Trails: The grand total of these trails is 24,600 miles. 

Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, North Country National Scenic Trail, Ice Age National Scenic TrailPotomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, Florida National Scenic Trail, Arizona National Scenic Trail, New England National Scenic Trail, Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

#4. 93-year old climbs Half Dome. On July 18, 2023, Everett Kaline (93) from Oakland, California reached the summit of 8,800-foot, Half Dome in Yosemite. “Half Dome’s final 400-foot ascent heads up bare granite inclined between 45 and 60 degrees. It’s too steep to hike without falling, so the park service employs a unique metal cable system.” He had never climbed Half Dome before. He was accompanied by his 57-year-old son, Jon, and his 19-year-old granddaughter, Sidney. They accomplished this feat—round trip—in thirteen and a half hours.

The trio used some wise strategies to prepare for this event. Everett trained by climbing up and down his 17-story apartment building’s steps and walked around Oakland’s Lake Merritt (3+ miles) five to seven days a week. They acclimated somewhat for the elevation of the climb by camping out at Little Yosemite (a backpackers’ campground near the start of the John Muir Trail) the day before the climb. “Little Yosemite Valley lies upstream from Nevada Fall, at an elevation of 6,100 feet (1,860 meters). The hike-in campground here is a little under 4 miles (6.5 km) from the trailhead in Yosemite Valley and about 3.5 miles (5.5 km) from the summit of Half Dome.” National Park Service. 
And finally, his son and granddaughter carried Everett’s gear except for his water bladder. More info, click here

Video about climbing Half Dome for the National Park service, click here

#5. Just in case you missed this headline, Black Bear climbs up Yosemite’s Half Dome, hang on. Reportedly Yosemite National Park rangers recently determined that a black bear also had been climbing Half Dome. Apparently the bear(s) did not apply for a permit, but then they don’t need to bother with the 425 feet of cable near the top of the climb—they have no problem scaling the vertical, granite walls. As to the “evidence rangers found,” I am guessing bear scat was discovered, but I haven’t found any official word on that.

Black bear Yosemite photo by Susan Alcorn

#6. AND, then this amazing feat: Karel Sabbe on August 26, 2023, set Pacific Crest Trail fastest assisted record.  “An ultrarunner just smashed the Pacific Crest Trail speed record, hiking 57 miles per day. ” (by Gregory Thomas in S.F. Chronicle.).  Sabbe’s time was 46 days, 12 hours, 50 min. Click here for more
Definition: Most PCT thru-hikers are not assisted; they have to obtain food and shelter on their own. Assisted means crew are helping the hiker by providing food & shelter whenever needed. Nevertheless, the  assisted hiker has to walk (or run) the PCT the entire way. 

#7. What to Wear Hiking in Summer. Alette Laan certainly had lots of opportunity to see what works and doesn’t work when doing the scenic trails listed earlier (item #3). Here she covers: fabrics, layering, shirts, dresses, shorts, underwear as well as insect protection, rain and sun protection, and more. (Treeline Review Aug. 18, 2023. Click here for a wealth of info from Alette. 

#8. Exercise and smoky skies. It is important to evaluate your risk when exercising outdoors when smoke from wildfires—either occurring near or far—may be affecting your air quality. Most importantly—check the AQI (Air Quality Index).  This tells you the concentration of air pollution including the particulate matter.

green=good; yellow=moderate; orange=unhealthy for sensitive groups; red=unhealthy; purple= very unhealthy; maroon=hazardous. 
Next step is figuring out where you fall when the discussion turns to your health. Most experts seem to agree that exercising in the green and yellow zones is ok if you are healthy and with no chronic respiratory of cardio vascular disease. But many will advise against the yellow zone for the very young, the elderly, and those pregnant.
Things get more complicated when conditions enter the red zone. Many could  agree that you can still go out and exercise when the AQI moves to this point, but may offer some suggestions for cutting the risks of doing so—including shortening your time exercising; keeping your pace low enough that you are not breathing through your mouth; wearing a N95 mask; choosing a time of day when the air quality is better.
This is something you and your medical advisor/health team should discuss. Meanwhile, be sure to take your appropriate meds, eat healthfully, stay properly hydrated before you exercise and watch for any sign of eyes watering and breathing difficulties while on the run. More info here. 

#9. Eau d’Snake. Looking for an interesting item to share at the next gathering you attend? “Scientists at UC Davis have observed that ground squirrels and rock squirrels chewing up bits of discarded snake skins and then licking themselves, passing the snake scent to their own fur. They surmise that the squirrels use the scent to cover up their own odors. Coauthor of the study, Donald Owings, said, “It’s a nice example of the opportunism of animals.”” (National Wildlife Federation: Hannah Schardt, Apr 01, 2008)


#10. Trails Challenge: East Bay Regional Parks of the San Francisco Bay Area is celebrating the 30th anniversary of their fun, interesting, and rewarding self-paced challenge. From the regional parks list of 20 featured hikes (and you can substitute other of their suggested ones), you have only to complete a marathon’s worth (26.2 miles) of the park’s trails. The info online gives easy, moderate, and challenging trails within their parks. You can sign up online and it’s all free. To receive a commemorative pin at the finish, you have to turn in your list of completed trails by 12/1/2023 — so it’s NOT too late! Link here


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.