Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, June 2023

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, #283, June 2023

 American Discovery Trail (ADT) — East Bay by Ralph Alcorn

1.John Muir Trail campfire permits
2.Camino de Santiago—to book or not to book accommodations and much more
3. Hiker Mary Davison (81) back on the American Discovery Trail
4. Camino—Suitcases not allowed in eleven albergues
5. At least three bridges out along the John Muir Trail and/or Pacific Crest Trail
6. Camino—Training for Hospitaleros
7. “Night Lights” from Bay Nature
8. Regional: Sonoma County on ‘Bill and Dave Hikes’
9. Regional: Bay Area. Wildcat Canyon Regional Park with the El Cerrito Trail
10.Regional: Lake Merritt, Oakland. Northern California Pilgrim group’s next monthly walkopen to all, free.

 The Minarets, Sierra 2007

#1. John Muir Trail info: 
Inga Aksamit, Admin of the John Muir Facebook Group wrote: “If you’ll be camping on Inyo National Forest land (or other NF or BLM lands in CA), don’t forget to get your free, downloadable campfire permit if you plan to use a camp stove. You’ll watch a brief, sometimes humorous video that sadly, pertains more to campgrounds, and then you can download your permit. Link is on the Inyo page here.

#2. Camino interest—Several important topics covered by Ivar.  
a. Ivar on “To book or not on the Camino Francés,
some thoughts.. and more podcast and more. Click Here
b. The Way 2, a movie in progress, will feature the Camino del NorteThe info here.
c. Luggage Storage in Santiago.
d. Finally, if you want to get 30% off on the Bronze Camino markers than Ivar shows in the podcast, order at this link

#3. Hiker Mary Davison, 81, on the American Discovery Trail. Mary, like us, is a section hiker. This year, she picked up the trail in California, near Auburn, to continue west. She stayed with several of our friends, family members, and us while she made her way to Marin County. Then she headed back to pick up some miles in Nevada and Utah that she couldn’t do last year because of fires and flooding. After she had filled in most of the gaps east of here, she left the trail, but she hopes to return in the fall and do the few miles missed including from where she left off in Marin this month to the end point of the ADT at Pt. Reyes.

Mary was one of the 32 women whose stories I collected for Walk, Hike, Saunter: Seasoned Women Share Tales and Trails
Mary has written a couple of books, including Old Lady on the Trail: Triple Crown at 76. 

#4.  Camino and suitcases. Several news sites have reported on a meeting of the Camino Francés Federación in Saint Jean Pied de Port. Amongst other business the member Amigos associations have decided to ban suitcases in the 11 albergues under their direct control. Info here. 

#5. Bridges out along the JMT and/or PCT. I was going to post in great detail about the third bridge that has been damaged or destroyed by heavy snows this year, but I decided to only do a brief mention here. It is far wiser to check out, and find timely reports, by responsible parties online. Highly recommended are the John Muir Trail Facebook group (administered by Inga Aksamit) and the website.

The most recent bridge problem in the Sierra is of the 130-foot cable suspension bridge that spans a stream between Black Mountain and Mount Pinchot; this area is remote, currently covered with snow, and difficult to reach.  The other two bridges that are out are spans over the south and middle forks of the San Joaquin River. It is not known when any of them will be repaired or replaced. The National Park Service has stated it expects that more damage to structures will be discovered when they are able to get into more areas.

As more PCT thru-hikers reach the Sierra, most are going to have to make crucial decisions—whether to backtrack, to find an alternate route through affected areas, or to leave the trail. Hikers that continue hiking on the trails should be aware that stream or river crossing under current conditions, and future conditions as water flows increase, will be extremely hazardous and there have already been fatalities.

#6. Camino Hospitalero Training. September 8-10, 2023, in Howell, Michigan. The American Pilgrims group has announced its final hospitalero training session of 2023. “Hospitaleros are the guardian angels of the Camino, caring for pilgrims along the Way, without them, the pilgrimage to Santiago wouldn’t be the same.
The training will be held at the Howell Nature Center, 1005 Triangle Lake Road, Howell, MI 48843, September 8-10, 2023. The training costs $295 and is open only to members of American Pilgrims on the Camino. Participation is limited to 20; a minimum of 15 attendees is required to hold the training session. Check-in: 4:00 PM on Friday, September 8. End 4:00 PM on Sunday, September 10
To attend you must: Have walked at least 100 km or biked at least 200 km of the Camino; Have stayed in at least 1 non-private albergue (i.e. donativo,  municipal, association-run or parochial); be a current member of American Pilgrims on the Camino; and be at least 21 years old by September 1, 2023.
You must attend the entire training session to be certified!  Make your travel plans accordingly! Note: attendees may be required to wear masks during the training if there is a surge in infections.
Not sure if you’ve stayed in a qualifying albergue? Follow this link to the list of Spanish Federation Albergues; follow this link to verify your stay on this list of hostels on Camino routes.
Register for the Sept. 8-10, 2023 Hospitalero Training. $295. Registration closes midnight of Tuesday, August 15, 2023. Click for more information and registration details. 
Fee Waiver: American Pilgrims strives to make our hospitalero training financially accessible. One registration fee waiver per session is available to a member who may not otherwise afford the training. Preference is given to students and those willing to serve in one of the Spanish Federation albergues. Transportation to the training location is the responsibility of the attendee. email questions to

#7. “Night Lights.” From “Naturalist’s Notebook” by John Muir Laws. Laws reminds us that when light enters our eyes, it activates cells on the back of our eyes—allowing us to see even when dark. “Many nocturnal animals have an additional reflective layer in the back of the eye.” The reflective layer makes everything brighter. That is also we, as we have probably noticed, have found that shining a light at some animals’ eyes makes them reflect back to us. (Bay Nature, Spring 2023). Bay Nature is a terrific magazine for those who want to understand nature, especially in the bay area, even better.

 #8. Regional: ‘Bill and Dave Hikes’ in Sonoma County. Join a group: June 3, 2023, 9:00 am – 2:00 pm. to hike Crane Creek. Meet in the parking lot. Info, register here. 

July 8, 2023. 9:00 am – 2:00 pm. to hike through Ragle Ranch’s valleys, redwood trees, oaks, and grasslands on this hike of the entire park. Meet at the gazebo. “Join us to hike just about every trail to check out Ragle Ranch Regional Park! This 157-acre park is a gem with valleys, grasslands, redwood trees, oaks, acorn woodpeckers, and more. Explore them all on this 5-mile hike! Registration required. Info and register here.

Both hikes are in the Sonoma County Regional Parks. Here’s what the Bill and Dave hikes are all about. “Since their retirement, parks staff and volunteers are following in Bill and Dave’s footsteps by continuing to offer the style of adventurous hikes the duo made famous. Join us to check out favorite trails and parks, preview new parklands, learn about the local ecosystem and enjoy a day out in nature. These are moderate to strenuous hikes with longer mileage.
“Please bring your own water and snacks. We recommend participants dress in layers and bring a hat and sunscreen. Most programs will happen rain or shine, but may be canceled during heavy rains, heavy smoke, or extreme temperatures. Accommodations will be made for visitors with disabilities upon advance request. Parking is $7 or free with a Regional Parks membership.”

Info and registration for these hikes and others here

#9. Regional: Bay Area. Wildcat Canyon Regional Park: Attend the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers on our Wildcat Workout Hike. Join Trekkers for a strenuous and often steep hike through Wildcat Canyon Regional Park. Dave Weinstein will discuss a bit of the canyon’s history – explaining why a highway runs through it – but mostly we will walk and talk. Bring snacks and water, dress in layers and wear serious shoes. Saturday, June 3, 2023 noon to roughly 4:30 p.m. for a roughly 8-mile trek. Meet at the Rifle Range Road entrance to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park. Questions to: Dave Weinstein, president,

Wildcat Canyon

#10. The Northern California Pilgrim group’s next monthly walk around Lake Merritt in Oakland is open to all. The group meets at the pergola of the lake. Co-coordinator, Guy Joaquin posted the following info on the next walk on FB—Northern California Camino Pilgrims.  
“Lake Merritt Walk: Saturday, June 3, 10:30 AM – Noon-ish. Join us on this walk that takes place on the first Saturday of the month, rain or shine! We meet at the “The Columns” (aka Pergola) on the northeast corner of Oakland’s Lake Merritt at 10:30 AM and start walking by 10:45 AM. It’s a flat, paved 3.5-mile walk around the lake that takes a little over an hour. After the walk, many of us typically go to lunch at a nearby restaurant. Lake Merritt Columns: 577 Grand Avenue, “

“And that’s all folks!” 
Cheers, Susan Alcorn
Note: There won’t be a newsletter in July due to our travels. In the meantime, you can pick up one of my books to learn more about women’s hiking and backpacking adventures in Walk, Hike, Saunter or in We’re in the Mountains Not over the Hill; the popular Camino Frances; the Caminos Norte and Primitivo; or Patagonia.

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”
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.

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, November 2022 – blister prevention, john brierley event, Backpacker Mag last words

Susan Alcorn’s Backpacking & Hiking Tales & Tips, #277, November 2022.

Happy Thanksgiving!

John Brierley coming on zoom near thanksgiving


#1. World’s Oldest Restaurant: Madrid
#2. Not good! Burning Clothes and Shoes after the Camino – Fisterra
American Pilgrims: John Brierley Zoom coming up
2023 Annual Gathering of Pilgrims in Lake Tahoe, NV, April 13-16, 2023
#5. Foot care/avoiding blisters
#6. Free delivery for donations of slightly used, outdoor gear
#7. Good advice from Backpacker Magazine’s final issue
Regional (California and Baja): The Blainville’s horned lizard
#9. Regional: Bay Area Ridge Trail Hike
#10. Regional:
Jack London State Historic Park’s Ninth Annual After-Thanksgiving “Turkey Waddle,” Nov. 25, 2022

World’s Oldest Restaurant: Madrid.

 Camino-bound and stopping in Madrid? Check out Restaurante Botín in Madrid, Spain. It’s recognized by the Guinness World Records as the oldest restaurant in the world.  “At the World’s Oldest Restaurant, the Fire Has Been Burning. Since 1725. They’ve never turned the oven off.” (Mike Pomranz, Travel and Leisure; posted by Michael Noël of the Nor Cal Pilgrim group.)

#2. Not good! Burning Clothes and Shoes after the Camino!

A number of local websites are reporting another campaign against the practice of burning boots and clothing at Fisterra. Something which locals say has given an area of natural beauty the appearance of a landfill site. Previous poster campaigns have had limited success.

Ask yourself–would like this practice carried out on a beach near you, or in your backyard? If you want to get rid of your used hiking clothes, see item #6 below and see how you can send items to an organization that will pass them on to someone else. LNT!

#3. APOC (American Pilgrims on the Camino) Zoom session.

APOC will be holding its 2nd Annual Holiday Open House on Saturday, December 10th at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. “There will be an hour with John Brierley, author of Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino. In this live virtual event, John will share his inspiration and insight, from how the Camino is emerging from the COVID-19 years to his powerful personal reflections on the healing power of the Camino.

“A significant portion of this live Zoom session will be dedicated to answering your questions. Look for more information on how to register for the event through the American Pilgrims Facebook Group, on their website, and in your email if you are an #APOC member. Zoom: Registration link will be sent in an upcoming member email and event will be streamed live on the American Pilgrims Facebook Group (available to all).”

#4. American Pilgrims on the Camino — 2023 gathering.

This summer the APOC’s “planning teams provided updates regarding the 2023 Annual Gathering of Pilgrims in Lake Tahoe, NV, to be held April 13-16, 2023. Making it an international gathering is being discussed with the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. There was also consideration of proposed joint efforts with Spanish associations …”

#5. Avoiding blisters.

We all know that everyone’s feet are unique and what works for one may not work for all, but I was recently asked for my advice, and I answered as follows. Keep in mind that I had a terrible time with blisters on my first Camino hike (2001), but got the following advice from a (French) pilgrim, which has helped tremendously— as did changing from boots to trail runners (Altra Lone Peak).

I do two kinds of preventative taping. First I wrap a wide, breathable tape (Omnifix) around the ball of my foot (I have bunions). The tape is backed by paper that you easily pull off after you cut a length of it to fit. Then I wrap each toe that is prone to blisters with a one-inch tape called Medipore. The Medipore is breathable, stretchy, and soft-cloth-like. It tears off in about 1&1/2” segments; I tear off about 2-3 sections per toe. It stays on for a couple of days if needed. These products can be obtained through Amazon and many pharmacies.

In the past I have used double-layer socks such as Wrightsocks, and toe socks such as Injinji, but now I wear a single lightweight sock by Tilley, called “Unholey”, Tilley women’s ankle socks. Unfortunately, they are increasingly difficult to find (none have worn out, but just in case…) Darn Tough are tough, but also heavier than I prefer.

Other things to consider—it you are expecting to encounter a lot of loose dirt, or sand, you should consider a lightweight gaiter like the fun ones Dirty Girl Gaiters  offers. Blisters are generally caused by friction (abrasion or rubbing) and heat — and/or by ill-fitting shoes or socks.

When hiking, always take care of hot spots right away; take off shoes and socks to let things cool. Popping a blister is usually not a good idea because it can introduce bacteria and cause an infection. But if the #blister is large and painful, it might be necessary. If you choose to do so, be certain the needle, your hands, and any other material are sterile. Do not pop a blister than has blood in it or any other sign of infection. If you develop a blister, it usually will take a week to go away. You can cover it with a special bandage for blisters if necessary.  

#6. Wanted!! All that gear you never use: Outside’s Gear program, Give Back.

Three simple steps: pack up your gently used items, print a shipping label, and send them off (free in the U.S) to the Gear Fix. Their repair partner prepares items to be resold and to benefit the Outdoorist Oath (advocates for environmental justice and an inclusive outdoors.”

#7. Sound advice from Backpacker Magazine.

The last issue, as I understand it, of the print edition of Backpacker Magazine, is the Fall 2022. It’s an interesting comparison of the advice and practices in the early days of the magazine (which goes back 50 years), and of that given and favored now.
Hiking poles: Adjustable poles came about in the 1960s. German Karl Lendhart, a skier, came up with a locking system. The system, “patented for the first adjustable pole—the Leki Makalu—is still in use today.”

Trail running shoes: When I first started backpacking in 1989, I wore the kind of footwear that most other hikers were wearing — boots. However, choices have widened! “Last year, a thru-hiker survey found that 77% of Appalachian Trail Thru-hikers wore trail running shoes. “ The 2011 release of Altra’s Lone Peak model, changed things dramatically, and they have become the overwhelming favorite.  Credit the “breathable mesh upper, chunky lugs, cushy midsole, zero drop heel, and a wide, foot-shaped toe box.” ( Fall 2022)

#8. Regional (California and Baja): The Blainville’s horned lizard.

Have you ever seen one? Looking at an earlier (Spring 2022), copy of Bay Nature Magazine, I stumbled again on an article about this amazing reptile. It “is endemic to California and Baja, eats native harvester ants, and as a defense of last resort, squirts blood from its eyes.” The article continues, “the blood can reportedly reach six feet forward or backwards”— chiefly to startle coyotes, foxes, and dogs (it would startle me too!). Put this on your calendar to do a search next spring in our South and East Bay Counties. 

#9. Regional: Bay Area Ridge Trail.

After a delightful time at a recent event—where I was invited to give a talk on Walk, Hike, Saunter: Tales and Tips from Seasoned Women Hikers—I found a renewed interest in circumnavigating our amazing trail.
For those who aren’t familiar with the #Ridge Trail, it’s a planned 550-mile (890 km) multi-use trail along the hills and mountain ridgelines circling San Francisco Bay and more. Currently, four hundred miles are currently open. Link to Ridge Trail

With my hiking partners, Patricia Schaffarczyk, Tom Coroneos, and Ralph, we recently did another section-hike on the San Francisco peninsula. We started at the North Parking lot of Purisima Creek Redwoods (off Skyline/hwy 35) and ended at the South End Parking lot of Purisima Creek Redwoods. It was 5.8 miles of gentle descent (1000 ft.) and ascent through wonderful redwoods with occasional sightings of the ocean.

One of the things that struck me was that (except for an occasional airplane) it was absolutely quiet once we were away from the highway. On the weekends, it would be busier, but on this weekday, we saw only three other people.

#10. Regional: Jack London State Historic Park’s Ninth Annual After-Thanksgiving Turkey Waddle.

The Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey Waddle Hike at Jack London State Historic Park sets the pace for a healthy holiday season. That’s Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. “…The annual Turkey Waddle Hike lets everyone get out and ‘shake their tail feathers’ after a day of feasting and football.

This moderate 3.5-mile hike leads through mixed evergreens on the way to the majestic Ancient Redwood (also affectionately known as the Grandmother Tree).
Waddlers, will gather at 10 a.m. in the Ranch parking lot to the right of the entrance kiosk.  The hike will end at noon.  The event will be cancelled in the event of rain. Great for all ages, participants should wear sturdy shoes and bring water.  The trail includes uneven and rocky surfaces and involves some elevation gain and loss.
“Reservations are required and can be made at   Tickets are $10, plus the $10 per car entry fee (up to nine passengers).” More info at:

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.

Awestruck in South Georgia

We were soon to land on South Georgia Island…
I hoped it would be something like the photos we had seen in travel brochures—it surpassed my expectations!

But back to where we left off in the previous post—at sea. After spending Christmas Day at sea, everyone was happy to see any land again. Shag Rocks, out in the middle of seemingly nowhere, had to do. Birders were happy, the rest of us could hardly wait to get to our first two stops in South Georgia—which we reached on December 27, 2020.Read More

Continue reading “Awestruck in South Georgia”

West Point Island and Stanley, Falkland Islands

Windswept and gorgeous West Point Island, Falklands

West Point Island
After our rewarding morning watching Rockhopper Penguins on New Island in the Falklands, we were eager to see more. The captain and activity leader continued to follow the weather reports and decided to keep us on the north side of the island group to find more sheltered conditions for taking out the zodiacs and for our landings.Read More

Continue reading “West Point Island and Stanley, Falkland Islands”