Mount Diablo: Donner Canyon / Back Creek

On Sunday, March 31st, the East Bay Barefoot Hikers met in Mount Diablo State Park and hiked the Donner Canyon and Back Creek trails.

Thirteen people took part including myself, my son Gareth (12), Tim and his son Christopher (7), Marika, Mary, Dan, Peter, Paula, Genny, Elaine, Maggie (of Alamada) and Leo.

Gareth and I got to the trail at around 10:00AM. Peter and Leo were there already and had introduced themselves. You couldn't miss Leo's "Go Barefoot!" t-shirt.

The others arrived shortly after. Elaine is a graduate journalism student from UC Berkeley. This was her first hike with us, but she had been out a few times on her own in Redwood park and really enjoyed it. Elaine is a partner in a new magazine venture for Northern California ("Wilds Woman Magazine"), so like a good journalist she had her notepad and camera along.

We set off after the obligatory group picture by the big gate. The weather was just perfect. The hills were lush and green and the streams were full of crystal-clear water.

Mary is pretty new to this and soon had to put her sandals on. She was full of questions about the best way to toughen ones feet for this kind of activity. She examined my soles carefully and said "Yes!, Yes!, that's how my feet were when I was a kid ... I want to get them back that way". The other newcomers Marika and Elaine were enjoying themselves quite thoroughly.

Other hikers we encountered, seemed more outspoken than usual. One person said "Barefoot Hikers ? ... next we'll see nude hikers". I just laughed. To think that I used to restrict myself from doing this because I was worried about what people might say. Now (of course) I hardly think about it.

We stopped at the footbridge over the stream on the Hetherington loop trail and lingered for a while. A little while later (after navigating a section festooned with poison oak) we broke for early lunch alongside the stream. Genny had managed to get some poison oak (she thought) on her hands. Conversation ensued about the best way to deal with that. I told them about "Tecnu" (product designed to wash away most of the irritating oils). I can recognize poison oak (I've had it pointed out to me many times) but I've never gotten any rash. I'm not going to push my luck. Gareth (my 12 year old son) has been on about 25 barefoot hikes with me and has gotten the rash two or three times ... but never on his feet.

Some of us sat on boulders along the streams edge bathing our feet in the cool water as we basked in the warm sunshine.

We set off again. The connecting trail to Back Creek is called the "Tick Wood" trail. It's not named by accident. I've flicked off quite a number of ticks along there. They weren't around on this day though. It's actually a very pretty half-wooded trail. After connecting with Back Creek trail, there's a section of fairly rocky stuff. This slowed us down of course, but I found it to be quite a stimulating workout for my soles. As we were navigating this, a couple coming the other way looked at us in disbelief. The guy said "I'm not even going to touch this with a ten-foot pole ! ... there's more of you than us". "That's right" I said, "You'd better watch your step !". We re-met them again later and had a friendly conversation answering all the usual frequently-asked questions.

Elaine, Peter and Leo disappeared some way ahead of us. We didn't see them again until we got back to the trailhead. It seems that Elaine nearly got a ticket from a park ranger for having a dog in the park. Apparently they aren't allowed in this park. She had to walk out pretty quickly and Peter and Leo stayed with her.

After we got over the rocky section, Mary took her sandals off, determined to sample some mud that we found there and also to start on the conditioning process.

It was *really* good mud :-) I commented that some barefoot hikers really like mud and some just avoid it. The ones that like it are often found standing or squishing through it and comparing the textures of various muds in a manner not unlike connoisseurs comparing fine wines ... "Ah yes !!, a full-bodied, hearty mud with a cheeky little after-squelch" :-)

Someday we'll have to catalog "gourmet" muds.

-- Mike Berrow
-- East Bay Barefoot Hikers

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