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

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #270, January 2022

Hi everyone, Happy New Year!

Tule elk at Pierce Point, Point Reyes Ntl. Seashore, Marin, CA

#1. Pilgrim guidebook author Beebe Bahrami and her wolf encounter
#2. Snowshoeing and backpacking adventures with Yosemite Conservancy
#3. Are Monarch Butterflies Recovering?
#4. SYMG (Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides)
#5. 600-mile trail underway in the Sierra
#6. 2022 Pilgrim gathering and Hospitalero training coming up
#7. ALDHA-West info
#8. S.F. Bay Area Regional hikes: DIY in Point Reyes to see  Snowy Plover? Tule Elk? Coho Salmon?

Articles:
#1. Beebe Bahrami shares her wolf encounter story.
Beebe is known and beloved by many for her Camino guidebooks including The Spiritual Traveler Spain—A Guide to Sacred Sites and Pilgrim Routes (Paulist Press), Historic Walking Guides: Madrid(DestinWorld Publishing), and her newest— Moon Camino de Santiago (Avalon Travel/Hachette Book Group). She was one of the chapters (what the women of the book are calling themselves!) in my Walk, Hike, Saunter where she enticed to learn more of the story about her encounter with a wolf while hiking on a narrow path near Luarca on the Camino del Norte.

How lucky we are that her story has now been published with Perceptive Travel and I appreciate that she is sharing it with us here. “Time evaporated and space dissolved, as did the wolf’s agitation and mine. I felt the air molecules and the earth between us lose all barriers and meld and weave a profound interconnectedness, what I can only call communion.” Read on…  https://www.perceptivetravel.com/issues/0122/asturias.html.

#2. Snowshoeing and Backpacking Adventures with Yosemite Conservancy: “Experience the quiet beauty of winter in the park during a day of hiking or snowshoeing at Badger Pass, Dewey Point, Yosemite Valley, or the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.” I can attest to what beautiful scenery you will have whether it’s on an evening full moon hike or a daytime forest ramble. Yosemite Conservancy has a partnership with the park and they offer excursions for those of all levels of expertise—beginner to advanced. Learn more and register here. https://yosemite.org/experience/outdoor-adventures/

#3. Seemingly Headed for Extinction in 2020, Western Monarchs Boom Back in 2021. Daniel Roman in Bay Nature (December 8, 2021) writes, “Since 1997, volunteers organized by the conservation group Xerces Society have counted western monarchs over Thanksgiving at the butterflies’ overwintering sites around coastal California, as part of the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count.’

They collect data from more than 200 monitoring sites. In 2020, the count hit an all-time low — less than 2,000 monarchs — a number Bay Nature reported last year, that “represents an astonishing continuation of the near-total collapse of the western migratory population of the species over the last few decades.”

But this season’s numbers are encouraging and the changes significant. In 2020, three important overwintering sites in  along the California coast—Pacific Grove, Pismo Beach, and Big Sur— had fewer than 300 butterflies total. This season (2021—2022) more than 10,000 monarchs were counted.

Why this rebound is unknown, but there are a couple of theories. One hypothesis is that this year’s boom is due to an influx of monarchs from the eastern migratory population — which typically migrates between Mexico and the United States and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains — joining western monarchs, thereby adding to the population.

What seems more likely, however, is good luck — a chance happening of good weather at the right time and other factors. The Xerces Society researchers wrote that, like other insects, “’monarchs [numbers] fluctuate from year to year in response to the temperature, rainfall, the availability of food, and other factors.’”

“A single adult female can lay 300 eggs, which multiplies with each of the monarchs’ typically four of five breeding generations in a year. So, if it’s a good year, with good weather, monarchs can produce a lot of offspring.”

In conclusion, it’s very good news, but there’s no guarantee that the monarch population has recovered. We have far to go to again see the numbers we had in the 1980’s — when millions of monarchs overwintered in California.  

You can subscribe to Bay Nature at https://baynature.org/ Meanwhile, people can help by continuing to create and improve butterfly habitat— planting native milkweed and flowers that provide nectar, and reducing pesticide use.

#4. Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides has been in business for 30 years and this year’s trips look as exciting as ever! SYMG sends season’s greetings! Their trips, often using pack animals to reduce what you have to carry, take you to what they describe as “arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth, Yosemite National Park and the High Sierra!”

Here’s a sampling:
“JMT: Rae Lakes Loop: Backpacking: Explore a famous section of the John Muir Trail. We’ll navigate the Rae Lakes Loop through the wilderness of King’s Canyon National Park. Along the way we’ll tackle Glen Pass and camp in the Rae Lakes…”

“Mt Whitney w/ Horsepack Support. Pack Supported Trekking. Climb Mt Whitney and the remote backcountry wilderness of Sequoia National Park! Pack stock will ease our burden as we travel between camps along scenic high-country sections of the famous John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail…” Website is https://www.symg.com/

#5. Lost Sierra Route: Wow! Guy Joaquin, co-coordinator of the Northern California Pilgrim group, shared this exciting news for hikers. The facebook link is here.  “Just heard of this amazing project underway: a 600-mile, multi-use trail connecting 15 Northern California and Nevada mountain towns from Truckee and Reno to Susanville.

“After reading this article, I watched a few videos online from the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship who are leading the charge. Their plans include routing the trails though the towns, instead of away, to connect users with the local communities and businesses so there will be accommodations and other support services. In other words, it could be very Camino-like. There is even a passport and stamp program in the works! Definitely something to keep an eye on and even maybe support.” Link to the trail project here. https://sierratrails.org/connected-communities/

#6. Camino Gathering and Hospitalero Training. “Get Prepared for the 2022 Gathering!” Dave Donselar, Chair of the 2022 Gathering, shares the details. The 2022 Annual Gathering of Pilgrims is will be held in Alexandria, VA. “This will be American Pilgrims on the Camino’s 25th year of gathering pilgrims together and we look forward to seeing you at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, NC (near Asheville) from March 31 to April 3, 2022.

“Registration will open in early January. Members will be notified when registration opens. Visit the American Pilgrims’ website americanpilgrims.org for additional details on the program including the most recent draft of the program, the cost, accommodations options, and the most up-to-date health precautions as we complete our preparations. Also be sure to check for email updates from American Pilgrims . . . we’ll be sending out updates before the event!

“Hospitalero Corner: Training. Hospitalero Trainings are starting again in 2022. The first one will be March 29-31 immediately preceding the 2022 Annual Gathering in Black Mountain, NC. Watch our website for updated information. Registration will open in early January”

#7. Info about the Triple Crown of Hiking: You hear about it—an award for hiking the of the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Appalachian trails. ALDHA-West, the organization that presents the award, gives some specifics for how you can tackle the challenge. “Happy New Year! As we enter into 2022, we will continue to dedicate our Tuesday posts for the next several weeks to address FAQs about the Triple Crown. Q: “Does it matter how I hiked the trail? Section hikes over multiple years, thru-hike, etc.?

A: “Nope. As long as you have hiked each trail in its entirety, section, thru, or flip-flop doesn’t matter.” Follow them on Facebook to read further information as it appears. 

#8. Great time to visit Marin County. Perhaps you are looking for a great hike that is short and sweet? Look no farther than one of these:
Abbotts Lagoon in Pt. Reyes National Park. This is an easy hike out to the ocean, which can be extended either north or south depending on whether you want or continue on flat or hill terrain. Trailhead is along the Pierce Point Road. The lagoon draws many kinds of birds—this time of year, Snowy Plover are reportedly nesting in the sand. https://www.pointreyesnature.com/blog/2020/9/19/western-snowy-plover

Pierce Point in Pt. Reyes. This is a moderate hike, out and back, on a dirt trail along the northernmost point of the Pt. Reyes peninsula. As you hike out to see the resident Tule Elk, you’ll be walking with the Pacific Ocean on the west side and Tomales Bay on the east. To the endpoint, Tomales Point, is about 10 miles round trip, but you’ll see the elk long before that. Google maps here.  

Lagunitas Creek/Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Easy. This is the location of the last notable wild Coho Salmon population in the Bay Area. The salmon this year were able to migrate from nearby Tomales Bay.

The females are in the process of building their nests (redd), which they do by swimming on their sides, arching their backs, and using their tails to smooth out the underwater gravel. When the female is content with her redd, she releases pheromones, which is a signal  indicating she is ready to lay her eggs. It’s also a signal to the males to approach to fertilize them — which they need to do quickly as the eggs are only viable for a few seconds.

To see them, you can go on your own; it’s best to go when  it’s less crowded on weekdays. Look for the salmon in the vicinity of the Leo T. Cronin Fish Viewing Area. Better yet, to get a better idea of where to look, and what the behaviors mean, sign up for a guided tour with the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) part of the Turtle Island Restoration Network in Lagunitas. Tours are available on weekends Jan 9 to 30—and they will fill quickly. (Eventbrite/click 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” yahoo.com

Susan ‘backpack45’ Alcorn
Shepherd Canyon Books, Oakland, CA
https://www.susandalcorn.com
https://www.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
 
 

Continue reading “Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, July 2021”

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

 
Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, #264. June 2021
 
View from Berryessa Peak Trail, CA
View from Berryessa Peak Trail, CA #NiftyNinety (Ralph Alcorn)

For all its material advantage, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled.  Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten.  The open road still softly calls. Carl Sagan 
(Thanks, Marcia Powers, for reminding us of this great quotation.)

Contents:

1. Redwood SkyWalk, Eureka, CA
2. Jenner Headland Preserve
3. REI opening up more classes and events
4. Strength training and you
5. Food for thought — healthy hiking
6. No ferry across Edison Lake to Vermilion resort
7. Colour the trails
8. Update on our Nifty Ninety Peaks challenge
9. Dirty Girl Gaiters 
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Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips, May 2021

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales and Tips,  #263 May 2021

Contents:
1.Going greener
2. Space Dust
3. COVID-19 on Everest!
4. SMG guides
5.  JMT hikers: Map of the Eastern Sierra transportation connections
6. Valuable transit info for John Muir Trail hikers
7. How accurate are manufacturers’ specs for backpack capacity?
8. Regional: SF Bay Area Ridge Trail: Ridge to Bridges
9. Regional: Berkeley Path Wanderers and its public service

Articles:
#1. Going greener: As I was looking at a review of a new book, Imagine It!: A Handbook for a Happier Planet (Laurie David), I read a hint — to replace paper towel usage by buying a product called Skoy Cloth. Machine washable, etc. “One machine-washable Skoy Cloth can absorb 16 times its own weight and is equivalent to 15 rolls of paper towels. $9 for four, at containerstore.com.”  The Skoy cloth is described as a Swedish, eco-friendly alternative to a kitchen sponge or paper towels.

We started our own campaign last Christmas. We purchased a bag of terry cloth pieces, washcloth sized, at our local Ace Hardware. We put a clean one out on the counter daily, replacing it in between if necessary, and it goes in the laundry with all the other wash. So easy to do and we have significantly reduced paper towel use!

However, I am wondering if the Skoy Cloth would be a good item to have on a backpacking trip — any comments? 

#2. Space Dust: The Earth gains weight every year according to researchers from France’s National Center for Scientific Research. They calculated that Earth receives about 14 tons of micrometeorites each DAY. 80% they say probably comes from comets, the remaining from asteroids.  Information based on the 20-year study of the debris neat the Franco-Italian Concordia research station in Antarctica. www.earthweek.com

 #3. The First Case of COVID-19 at Everest Base Camp. Yikes! The pandemic continues to complicate hopes for a normal season on the world’s highest mountain (article Apr 20, 2021). Read here.

“Hopes for an Everest season unaffected by the pandemic dimmed last week when the first member of an expedition at Base Camp tested positive for COVID-19, according to a source at camp who asked to remain anonymous.”

The story adds that the patient had been thought to have acquired high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). He was taken by helicopter to Kathmandu and tested for COVID-19. His team began to quarantine at Base Camp.

“Most foreigners have to present a negative COVID test result upon arrival in Nepal. The government also requires a quarantine period and a second negative test after arrival, but these rules appear to be largely self-enforced.” But compliance with quarantine periods and retesting depends on the individuals and companies. The incidence of COVID-19 in Nepal has been low, but with their neighbor India’s current crisis, it becomes more concerning that most Sherpas have not received the vaccine.  

#4. “Experience a Story 30 Years in the Making,” from Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (SYMG). I have yet to go on one of their trips (can’t seem to do it all!), but I like their continuing passion for the trail, they trips they lead, and that they are highly experienced.

Here’s more of their story. “In 1991 three lifelong friends combined their passions for the outdoors (and aversions to getting “real” office jobs) and began offering hiking trips to their closest friends and family. They quickly realized the experiences were too incredible not to share with more people. These early expeditions evolved into Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, a world-renowned guide service focusing on the best hiking and climbing destinations the High Sierra has to offer.

 “2021 marks our 30th year in business.” “SYMG is leading these trips in 2021 or 2022: Rae Lakes Loop Backpack (JMT); John Muir Trail Backpack (the whole trail and Mt. Whitney); Yosemite Grand Traverse (part of the JMT and peaks in Yosemite.); Yosemite’s famous and challenging Half Dome; Alpine Lakes Backpack (Ansel Adams Wilderness); Ansel Adams High Sierra Camp. Here for more info.

#5. John Muir Trail Transportation: Sometimes backpackers find one of the most difficult things about hiking the JMT is getting to and from the trail. To get oriented to transportation hubs, check out this map. 

#6. Transportation changes for the 2021 Sierra Hiking Season. Steve Herr, in the JMT newsletter (4/26/21) provided a very thorough list of COVID service reductions. If you will be depending on public transportation, or a private transportation service to get you to a trailhead, you might need to double check to see what will be available. Herr has obviously devoted an incredible amount of time to compiling these resources! Alan Ladd, who administers the forum, writes, “Steve is in the process of updating his files, but both the current files and any updates will be in this folder.” link here

Sample here: “There will not be any Yosemite Free Valley shuttle, Glacier Point Tour Bus (concessionaire), Tuolumne Meadows Hikers Bus (concessionaire), Tuolumne Meadows shuttle (NPS) in Yosemite.”

More JMT Planning Links: See bit.ly/keyJMTdocs for critical JMT planning information
To subscribe to the invaluable John Muir Trail J…@groups.io , go here

#7. Treeline Review tested to find out, “How Accurate are Stated Volumes of Backpacking Backpacks?” [ed: It varies] Read here.  

#8. Regional: SF Bay Area Regional: Registration for the “Ridge to Bridge” fund-raising event and challenge for the Bay Area Ridge Trail is continuing. The self-guided events will take place for another month —until June 5, 2021. 

“Ridge to Bridges 2021 is a self-guided trail event for hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and equestrians. Choose your own DIY adventure! Register here.  

If you are trying to stay trail ready for a long walk, consider the Ridge trails. There are 390 miles of ridge walking available. The level of difficultly varies, but as “ridge” suggests, there is generally a lot of up and down, and not infrequently, the routes are more difficult than the Camino Frances. That makes it perfect for those who want to start out in shape for the Camino routes.

#9. Berkeley Path Wanderers: 
“Many folks are walking closer to home these days, and our self-guided walks page is getting lots of traffic. We are happy to provide these resources, and hope you are enjoying your solo and/or socially distanced explorations.” Google Berkeley Path Wanderers

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Thank you everyone. Enjoy the wildflowers while you can. Stay well, keep hiking when prudent. I encourage you to send in items of interest to the hiking community.  backpack45 “at sign here” @yahoo.com

Susan ‘backpack45’ Alcorn
Shepherd Canyon Books, Oakland, CA

https://susandalcorn.com

https://www.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.

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

Hmm, where is Vasquez Peak?

Where’s our peak? 

Woo hoo! For us, Vasquez Peak in Henry Coe State Park was our 84th peak of the Nifty Ninety Peak Challenge.

It was supposed to be 10.2 miles rt., but my friend Patricia and I were ahead of the guys and we didn’t have any navigational devices. We thought Ralph was keeping track on the GPS. Every time I looked back to see if he was signaling me we were close, he was engrossed with walking and talking with our friend Tom.

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It turned out Vasquez Peak was not marked — and there were several high points nearby so you wouldn’t just know by looking around. About a mile past Vasquez, we all stopped to assess exactly where we were. We had reached Rock Springs.

Our route out and back

We walked out on the Hunting Hollow (dirt) road from the parking area at the Hunting Hollow entrance (fee or State Park pass required). There were five creek crossings, but none even ankle deep and rocks had been placed that made it easy.

We turned left and up the hill on the Lyman Willson Ridge Trail. This was the steepest park of the hike, but we stopped tons of times to photograph wildflowers so we didn’t care. We turned right onto Bowl Trail, which took us past Willson Camp.

Willson Camp, as the name implies, allows camping, but there was no one there. The wooden buildings were in disrepair. The large shed was in the worst condition, but it provided some shelter from the strong wind as we ate our snacks. We appreciated the fact that there was a porta-potty available that was being maintained. The water faucet had been turned off. So this is a reminder to either carry all the water you need or be certain there is a source within the park when you hike or camp here!

Past the camp we made our way onto Vasquez Road, which took us past several high points — one, as I noted, was Vasquez itself and Rock Springs!

It was a great hike and I had the feeling that the display of wildflowers was just beginning. Among others, we saw California Poppies, Buttercups, Vetch, Lupine, Hounds Tongue, Baby Blue Eyes, and Fiddlenecks in profusion! Gorgeous!

Continue reading “Hmm, where is Vasquez Peak?”