On Sunday, October 29th the I led a special introductory barefoot hike along the West Ridge, Madrone and Star Flower trails in Redwood Regional Park.
Both my kids (Gareth and Gillian) having been in competing dance for a number of years (before you ask "what kind" ... It's a variety: Jazz, Tap, Hip-Hop Lyrical, Ballet). A close-knit set of dance-parents and their kids has developed. Some of these parents were getting curious about this barefoot hiking thing that I'm involved in. Joni (one of the dance-moms) asked "Why don't you organize a nice beginner hike for us and I'll see how many of the others I can get to come along". So that's what we did !!. We set the date and started working on persuading the others to give it a try. I also invited Kath (a co-worker), her sister Barbara and her two sons. They weren't part of the dance crowd, but had scheduling contraints on other weekends.
We started gathering in Concord at about noon, and drove as a convoy over to Redwood. I wasn't sure how many were coming, or how many would actually try it barefoot. My rule is usually "If you're with us, you have to at least *start* barefoot". For this day, I relaxed that rule.
As we started off, we had 17 people with 13 barefoot !!! (This may be a record). Everyone who started barefoot, finished barefoot. Here's who took part:
Myself, Patti (my wife), my son Gareth (12), my daughter Gillian (9), Maggie, Vic and Ellen, and their daughter Jeana (12) , Joni and her daughter Kristen (12) and their Japanese exchange student Mitsumi, Maria and her daughter Melissa (12), Kathy, Barbara and her sons Sean (11) and Ethan (13).
To give credit where it is due, I must tell you that Patti, Maria, Ellen and Jeana were the ones not yet ready to try barefooting
We set off at about one o'clock and had to cross over about five yards of newly poured gravel. I told them that the toughest part of the trail was over (as indeed it was). Mitsumi seemed to be having a tough time at first with very "hunched" shoulders. After while she relaxed and made it to the end without too much difficulty.
I hung around near the end of the group as we walked along the fine yellow powder of the wide West Ridge trail. It was really something to see an absolute "sea" of varying size, bare footprints covering the trail in front of me.
When we started, the weather was misty and cool, but it soon warmed up.
The group followed the gently meandering trail. We climbed, slowly and steadily towards Redwood "Peak", enjoying the views of the hills to the east.. Layers of pine needles started to cover the yellow powder. We reached the archery range, where several archers leaving by car were rather startled to see a mob of barefooted people strolling along.
Shortly after that we made our first stop at some conveniently provided picnic tables. After a good, long food-sharing session, we carried on into the "dark" part of the forest to join with the steeply descending Madrone trail. Sean showed us how the Madrone trees feel colder to the touch than other trees. Touching the dense, smooth wood where the bark had peeled off, was like touching cold marble.
We passed along one section of trail where (even with the noise of our group) the air become eerily quiet. I thought that perhaps a fold of the hill had eliminated even distant traffic noise. Everyone noticed it and started to talk in hushed tones. Someone later described it as "like being in an anoechic chamber".
We reached the lower stream trail and started encountering other hikers. No-one commented on our bare feet. After all, *they* were in the minority :-)
We climbed slowly back up the hill (complaints from some newbie hikers about this ... but it's hard to arrange a hike that it is all downhill), using Girls Camp for another rest stop on the way. When we got back to the parking lot, a more elaborate second Picnic was hauled out of the vehicles .... these dance-parents know how to live !.
All thirteen barefooters had gone the whole way !!. I heard a lot in the following days about how much they had enjoyed the hike.
-- Mike Berrow
-- East Bay Barefoot Hikers (San Francisco Bay Area, California).
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