On the morning of Sunday, November 17th the East Bay Barefoot Hikers met for a barefoot hike along the Phillips, Eucalyptus and French trails.
Seven people took part including myself, my son Gareth (12), Peter, Sandy, Teresa, Phoebe and Denise .
Redwood Park is certainly one of out favourite hiking locations. I was expecting a very well attended hike judging by the responses I got as I went through the phone list. However, the day before the hike, a major southerly storm rolled in on the Pacific "Pineapple express" from Hawaii. I started to get some calls from people wondering if there was still going to be a hike. I don't call it until the morning of the hike when I take a look at the weather. Even then, it has to pretty bloody awful to stop me (I'm from Wales).
I took a look at the sky, I took a look at the radar. There was a lot of intermittant light rain moving through. The air was fairly warm. The hike was on. I knew that the turnout was likely to be small or zero. Californians seem to bail at the slightest hint of rain.
As Gareth and I drove west towards the East Bay Hills, the clouds got lower and lower until we were driving in fog. When we arrived at the trailhead, I was pleased to discover five die-hards waiting for us. It wasn't raining, but the ground was wet and the trees were shrouded in mist. We wrapped up warm and headed out at about 10:15am. Some light rain spattered us to send us on our way. Barefooters in the mist.
We soon cleared the obligatory "near the parking lot" gravel and entered a wide trail nicely softened by the previous days rain. In places, layers of freshly fallen pine needles covered the putty-like mud making for a very interesting dual sensation. Phoebe and her friend Teresa had originally met at some kind of trapeze class (yes, like in the circus). They told us all about the training and safety nets.
We turned onto the steep downhill of the Eucalyptus trail, digging our toes into the clay for better traction. Turning onto the stream trail, Sandy was struck by the beauty of towering trees on either side of the trail ... "This is wonderful!, it looks like a cathedral !!".
While we were climbing up the Star Flower trail, we passed the first group of people we had seen that day. No comment from them. Of course, people are getting fairly used to seeing barefoot hikers in this park ;-)
We zig-zagged our way up the switchbacks with a occasional gust of wind setting loose a flurry of water drops from the soaked branches high above us. Conversations ranged all over the map as we shuffled and reshuffled our walking order. A couple coming the other way stopped and asked Peter why we were barefoot. The guy followed this with the comment "Don't tell me, you're also picking mushrooms". He wanted to know how the club got started. He became quite enthused and took a leaflet.
The ground felt really *good* under my feet. I actually like it better when the air and ground are cool. It's surprising how well the body regulates it's heat when the feet are bare. We generated a fair amount of heat coming up the hill and I know I would have been *roasting* in boots.
A little too soon (it seemed) we were back at the parking lot. I gave out some T-shirt transfers to Denise and Teresa. It was a really good hike and we only got a little bit damp. Those guys that stayed in bed really missed something. To give them a second chance, we are going to do Redwood Park again for the next hike.
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