On Sunday, October 22nd the East Bay Barefoot Hikers met for a barefoot hike along the Stage Road, Buckeye Ravine and Castle Rock trails in Diablo Foothills Regional Park.
Eight people took part including myself, my son Gareth (12), Vivian , Heather, Dan, Debra, her son Eric (11) and his step-sister Nicole (11) .
While we were waiting for Dan and Vivian to arrive, Eric and Nicole found the lair of a trap-door spider in the grass at side of the trail-head. The "Trap-Door" was gone but the small circular hole was unmistakable.
We set off at about 10:20am, noting that we didn't have any beginners today. All were veterans of one more previous hikes. As we climbed up along the dusty trail from the parking lot, a sudden, strong gust of wind blew clouds of dust high into the air. It was a taste of things to come.
We kept up a fairly good pace from the outset, with the kids occupying their usual pace out in front. All were pleased to be together again and chatted to catch up on events.
Just as we were on our way up the sandstone hill near the Flood Control Dry Dam, the kids started yelling excitedly. They had found one of Mount Diablos legendary Tarantulas crossing the trail. They are out and about this time of year looking for mates. I'd never managed to see one in the wild before. It was very interesting to watch it walking along. The little beast was a bit bigger than (say) a golf ball.
A bit further along the trail, the kids enjoyed getting into a small sandstone cave at about chest height just off the trail. Every kid that goes by there (and, I'll admit :-) some grown-up kids ) gets into that little cave.
As we strolled along enjoyed the scenery (trees, dry stream bed, "castle-crags" high above us) and textures (soft puffy powder, gritty sections, leaves, damp spots) we noticed that the wind was picking up.
We stopped for lunch at the picnic tables under the oak trees near the turn-off for the trail to Macedo Ranch. Another group was already resting there and a man asked the usual "doesn't that hurt" question. I told him all about this barefoot hiking concept. "Oh, so you're the Barefoot Hikers !" he said, "I've seen your flyer in a bookstore in Walnut Creek". We get around.
We took the high trail toward Macedo out of Pine Creek Valley for a different loop back. This section was less treed than the valley and the wind was really strong (Heathers hat blew off). We encountered some thorny sections, but my "vets" and I took extra care and didn't have any trouble. We passed the remarkable "China Wall" rock formation. It looks sort of like a row of teeth up on the hillside. In fact, before we found it on the map, we named it "Orthodontic Ridge".
Eagle-eyed Eric managed to find (and catch) not one but two snakes along this section of trail. One was a gopher snake and the other was a little black one with an orange band around it's neck. The kids traded off petting them for the rest of the hike (they were released before we left the park).
We started heading back down into Pine Creek Valley along a narrow connector trail with a surface that had most everyone "ooching and aaching" (even Debra) . Funny, but I didn't have any trouble with it (my feet must be finally getting tough). It was a mixture of hard, broken-up, dried-out soil fragments ... various sizes (marble to ball-bearing).
It didn't last long though, and we were soon back on the kinder surfaces. On the way back through the lower picnic area we had a refreshing foot-wash under the tap and made our way back to the cars. Elapsed time ... four hours exactly.
It was a pretty good weekend. The day before, I had hiked up in Sonoma County with Kathy and her sister Barbara. We visited Jack London State Historic Park. It was very pretty with dark, wooded trails. It featured a lake, some good mud spots and Kathy and Barbara happily expounding on the joys of Barefoot Hiking to all who passed ... before I had a chance to open my mouth. At one point we were surrounded by 42 members of the Orinda Hiking Club. They had a lot of questions and cleaned me out of leaflets.
-- Mike Berrow
-- East Bay Barefoot Hikers (San Francisco Bay Area, California).
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