On Saturday, August 19th the East Bay Barefoot Hikers met for a hike along the French Trail in Redwood Park (one of the parks in the hills above San Francisco's East Bay).
Attendance set a new record ... ten people (+ one dog) took part ! (I'm not counting the Big Basin Redwoods hike in February of this year where we had 14 people -- that was before EBBF was in existence).
I showed up at about 9:05AM with my two kids: my son Gareth (age, 12) and my daughter Gillian (9 1/2). With us was Darren from Pleasanton (We had given him a ride from Concord BART). Shortly after we arrived, a newcomer named Dan came up and introduced himself. Dan had seen one of the posters put up in Berkeley by Darren and had called me several weeks before. Quite a few other folks had called for directions and I was doubting whether they would all show up. Debra and her son Eric (11) showed up next and soon the boys were playing baseball with a "hacky-sack" and a hiking stick while we waited for the other late arrivals. At this point we had six out of the seven wearing the "Barefoot Hikers" t-shirts. Next arrived a friend from work, Bonnie and her friend Eric (Now I have to say big-Eric and little-Eric). Both first-timers and looking somewhat trepidatious. We were starting to look like a crowd and got several questions from other folks arriving at the trail-head. Several leaflets were distributed. Finally, Kathy (another friend from work) and her dog "Bear". Kathy has been trying barefoot hiking out on her own (and with relatives) for some time, but this was the first time we had managed to link up.
Now having the full complement, we set off (after the obligatory group photo). The two boys charged ahead and Gillian and I stayed with Bonnie and Eric at the rear. Bonnie, being a first timer, was adjusting to the new sensations and care required and was consequently moving rather slowly. No problem there. Covering lots of distance is NOT a goal. A nice thing about Redwood park is that are plenty of opportunities to cut a hike short (distance-wise) and head back when time becomes an issue.
Gillian was only too happy to hang with Bonnie since they are old friends from past "Take your Daughter to Work" days. I ran ahead at one point to make sure the party turned onto the French trail.
As we descended the hill into the shady, well forested section, I asked Dan how he had gotten started on barefoot hiking (he had mentioned that he'd been doing it on his own for a while). He told me that he had been hiking in this park about six months ago when he saw a small group of barefoot hikers. A boy that was with them asked him "What are those things on your feet ?". That had started him thinking about barefoot hiking as an option. We had to laugh, since that group was us on the first hike in February of the BareFootFest get-together. We had kind of put Gareth up to it, as a sort of a turn-about to the interactions we sometimes endure when we are out hiking barefoot alone. I hope Dan forgives us.
The party was mostly strung out along the trail for the first part of the hike, with the front occasionally stopping for the back to catch up. As we walked along, Gillian very much enjoyed jumping up and standing on the larger "Cool" rocks alongside the pine-needle, packed dirt and leaf-fragment piled trail. In the rainy season the textures are entirely different. Several of us sampled some muddy patches where not-yet-dry streamlets crossed the trail.
When we got down to the main "Stream" trail, Kathy and "Bear" had to say good-bye and head directly back (time-constraint). The rest of us pressed on and found a good resting spot for lunch ... two fallen logs over a deep stream ravine with the redwoods towering above us. We lingered and conversed for a long time. More hacky-sack-baseball was played on the wide path and Eric impressed us with his ability to walk over to the other side of the stream balancing on the logs, his bare feet confidently gripping the smooth bark.
Gillian was persuaded (eventually) to a sing a song from the stage-show my kids have just appeared in ("Anything Goes"). She sang "Heaven Hop" beautifully ... Its' even better when she does the dance that goes with it. Bonnie then gave us a rendition of a Chinese Song. I don't know the name of it, but it was hauntingly beautiful.
Big-Eric got into a sort of political discussion with Gareth (who is currently planning to take over the world when he grows up ... as a way of ending war). "No, No !!! you can't take Russia. Both Hitler and Napoleon came unstuck there" said Eric. "Well, they were stupid" replied Gareth. Its' tough arguing with a twelve-year-old. There's more ... but you .. Ummm .. had to be there.
Dan headed back early on his own. We set off, and walked back leisurely with frequent stops in the increasing heat. At one point, Bonnie got a small splinter, but didn't want to deal with it then and there. On the last uphill stretch the ground was getting pretty hot, so I had Gillian put her moccasins on (she's been out of practice for a while and is consequently not as conditioned as Gareth). Bonnie was starting to have a hard time and little-Eric kindly lent her the sandals he was carrying in his day-pack.
We got back up to the parking lot at about 1:30. We said our goodbyes and Darren had a Ride with Bonnie and Eric to Berkeley BART, while Debra and I (and our respective kids) wend back to Concord to finish up with "Slurpees" at the 7/11. Later, I took the three kids to play miniature golf (barefoot, of course).
I spoke to Bonnie at work today, and despite the splinter and the difficult start, she was VERY positive about the whole experience. She mentioned that she felt really great (and energized) for the rest of the weekend. She said that (as I predicted) the first ten minutes were the worst, with every instinct screaming at her to put her shoes back on. Once she was over that ... "It felt just fine". She said "I got the splinter when I started to hurry up that hot hill". She and Eric want to know when the next hike will be ...
-- Mike Berrow
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