Shell Ridge Barefoot Hike

The East Bay Barefoot Hikers had a small but successful hike today !! (Saturday, 24th June). We hiked at Shell Ridge near Walnut Creek.

I knew a great set of beginner trails there (important, since I had a couple of beginners interested). I had finally been getting some responses to the flyers advertising our local Barefoot Hiking group. So, I set up a hike for Saturday, 24th June at Shell Ridge near Walnut Creek, California. I called the people on my list and sent a note out to local Bay Area E-mail folks.

Gareth (my 11-year-old son) and I were going along anyway, plus I got four sets of people expressing interest. In the end, 2 out 4 were able to come (probably a typical ratio).

I arranged to meet Debra (who answered my flyer) and Kath (one of my co-workers) and her nephew Sean (age 11) at the trailhead at 10:00am. The late start was a concession to Kath since she had to drive from Sonoma (1.25 hrs away). Gareth and I got to the meeting place pretty much on time. About five minutes later, Debra and her son Eric (age 11) showed up. We got acquainted and waited a while to see if Kath was going to show (she had sounded kind of "iffy").

The day was already hot and the sun was searing down on us. We realized that we were certainly in for a sweltering hike. (This is why I like to push these hikes to as early in the morning as possible during the summer). It was getting hotter by the minute. At 10:15 I decided we should really begin and left a note on my car in case Kath showed up.

There was about 100 yards of asphalt plus 15 steps of gravel to the trail. Once over that, we were walking up a steady slope composed of a mixture of fine sand and dry, flat earth. Shell Ridge is a set of low hills jutting out from the main Mt. Diablo state park. The hills are mostly covered in dried. golden colored grass (looks sort of like teddy-bear fur) this time of year. The hills are studded with various trees (mostly oak) giving intermittent patchs of shade.

Just as we began making our way up the trail, as party of horse riders came down the trail towards us. "I can't believe you're all barefoot !!" the lady riding at the front of the pack exclaimed cheerfully. Just then, she saw my "Barefoot Hikers" T-shirt and followed with "Barefoot Hikers !!, you're a group ?". "Yes !, I said "we do this regularly ... would you you like a leaflet ?". She took a leaflet and bubbled with enthusiam about how wonderful and what a great idea it was. I told her to call me to get on the phone-list and we would keep her posted as to events. She agreed and also mentioned that she was opening a natural foods store in Clayton and would be posting the leaflet there. One of the other riders also wanted a leaflet. It was a nice way to begin the hike.

We went on up the trail chatting about the usual sorts of barefooting topics and making bare footprints in the soft, light yellow, powdery surface. The surface varied from that, to harder packed earth with occasional bits of lumpy, dry mud. The ground was warm and getting warmer. There were surpising temperature variations from one patch of ground to another. It didn't seem to correlate very much to the darkness or lightness of the ground.

At the top of the first slope we paused and sat on a bench and admired a magnificent view of Mount Diablo. Eric had apparently gotten something in the ball of his foot (before the hike) and the bandage he had been wearing had soon fallen off on the way up the hill. Debra and I had a good look, but found nothing worth chasing. We asked if he wanted anything on it but he said "Nah, I'll be OK, I'll just lean more on the other side" (such a trooper!).

We pressed on with the trail now level and following the contour lines. The sun beat down and the air temperature must have been in the mid nineties. We walked pretty fast over the hot ground between the shady spots and usually sat down and rested when we reached one. Eric usually ran ahead to the next spot, while Debra, Gareth and I brought up the rear. Debra described a Martinez (near Concord) waterfront walk (Estuary mud and an old beached ship) that sounded really appealing. I think it will be featured in a future hike.

We made slow progress due to frequent stops in the shade (Debra was looking rather flushed), but had pleasant time chatting. Eric is something of an ornithologist and pointed out various Hawks, Brush sparrows? and woodpeckers to us.

We decided to loop back around noon and returned to the trailhead at about 1:00pm. It was a good thing, ALL of our water was used up (that doesn't happen to me often). The asphalt we had walked up earlier was now RED-hot, so I ran (yeah !) down it and brought my car up to fetch the others. When I got to the car there was note on it from Kath.


Sean and I made it but we were LATE ... we showed up around 10:25 and followed your tracks up the hill. Sorry we didn't catch up, my dog moves SLOW. Must get over to Tilden Park by 1pm - so we have to leave. ... I like this place !.


Such a pity !. It's always a dilemma, deciding how long to wait for a late arrival. Debra, Eric, Gareth and I went to the 7/11 convenience store for some well-deserved Slurpees (frozen, flavoured slush). Debra told me that she and Eric had decided that they'd had a really good time despite the heat and would like to come again. Debra suggested (and I agreed) that in weather like this we should start really early, or go somewhere with lots of shade. The boys celebrated with a few rounds on the 'Tekken' video game in the 7/11 and then we said goodbye to our new found friends.

-- Mike Berrow

P.S. At the same time and in a different part of the Bay Area, Duane and Paul were also on a barefoot hike and were sweltering under the same heat we were !.

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