Mike Berrow invited me to take a walk with the Barefoot Hikers of Concord, CA. Although I have been recreational barefooting for over forty years, I was a bit unsure whether my feet were up to the "real thing."
I arrived about ten minutes early, uncertain which parking lot was the "first" one that we had agreed upon. This was my first visit to Redwood Park in the East Bay hills. The ranger collected $3 and gave me a map of the park. I somehow expected a parking lot on the right hand side of the road, into the park a bit from the entrance. When I got to the lot at the dead-end, I parked for some barefoot exploration.
Early morning steam was rising from long wet grass behind a low wooden fence. The ground was damp, soft, and cool; the air mild and starting to warm. After padding around a few minutes, it dawned on me that this wasn't the first parking lot, and I drove back towards the entrance, parking in the shade of tall redwoods in a grass-and-gravel lot. Walking around, I found a fair candidate for a walking stick, and sat on a stump, sawing and trimming at the staff with my Swiss Army knife. Mike arrived almost immediately, and shared some pictures of previous barefoot hikes. He had also thoughtfully brought me a copy of "The Barefoot Hiker." What a guy! After it became clear no one else was coming along, we got on our packs, locked the cars, and started up a paved trail in search of a stream crossing.
We soon found a damp clay path leading down through the dense vegetation bordering the creek, and waited for the owner of two large, aggressive dogs which were playing in the stream. After he led them away, and crossed through cool, clear water on large flat rocks. Soon the trail led up a steep hillside, many switchbacks cutting back and forth. The surface was damp, and provided pleasant footing. We paused at the top to consult the map, and our conversation revealed similar past experiences. This was my first barefoot walk with a companion in about twenty years, and I was reminded throughout the hike how much more pleasant it is to hike with someone than go alone.
We talked about the effect barefooting was having on our lives in general; we both have more energy than before, and seem able to deal with work demands less stressfully. At one rest stop, Mike said "This is me." I felt I understood, and to illustrate related a deeply personal lucid dream. ---I was in a house high on Lookout Mountain above Denver, Colorado. Across the plain a huge, violent storm was approaching. Lightning flickered, and a tornado appeared. The curtains billowed and scraps of paper began to swirl in the rapidly cooling air. There was a feeling of impending doom. I looked down at my feet, and when I saw that they were bare, I knew who I was. At that instant, the dream went lucid (I realized I was dreaming), and I knew I had the power to stop the wind. The wind calmed; the storm faded into brilliant sunshine.--- I awoke with a feeling of peaceful strength which stayed with me for weeks.
Mike's hiking experience became obvious. He had brought water and some snacks. I had not. He seemed to have a sixth sense when we were going the wrong way on the poorly marked trails. I was a little "high" from the sensations, and wasn't noticing where we went. A natural hike leader, Mike was in charge.
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