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. (us.media 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). https://etias.com/etias-application. Application 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 travel-europe.europa.eu/etias
#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 Trail, Potomac 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” yahoo.com
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.
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.
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!
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.
Thanksgiving and Gratitude
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.
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.
What about 10,000 steps?
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.