The rainy season waning, I was ready for some exercise and fun. The hike had been on our calendars for a long time; Rich was really looking forward to it. He assured me that I could wear shoes and not be treated as an outcast. Off we drove through the chilly but blissfully sunny Sunday morning, down into the chilly shade of the redwood forest to Big Basin. Of the houses we passed along the route, only those with smoke curling from chimneys looked appealing.

We arrived. Breath clouds were coming from people's mouths. Pleasantly sitting in the car, I looked around to see if each newcomer might be one of the barefooters. Alas, they all seemed dressed for the weather, with warm, cozy hiking boots. As I stepped onto the cold pavement, gravel hurt my feet. My trepidation set in and I began considering the barefooters "crazy" people.

The parking official noticed us with quiet amusement. A couple of South Bay Naturists arrived. I put my thongs on as a compromise between bare feet and real shoes. Much better.

Down the road came Paul, the instigator of the trek. I knew it was he before I even saw his feet, because he touched something in me I had not felt since the 70's. His appearance threw me back then for a moment: his long hair, his peaceful, quiet, yet purposeful demeanor. Another man, then a woman followed, all with bare feet. After they moved the car, out came two children, Gareth and Gillian, ages around 11 and 9, both armed with walking sticks. As I expressed my fears at being able to hike barefoot, Gareth told me it would be fine, I just needed to get my core temperature up.

I kicked off my thongs for a photo of the group, now numbering 13: 11 barefooted, one sandaled and one wearing hiking boots. Deciding to give it a try, I began the hike barefoot. After all, I could always put my thongs back on.

With Mike leading, we hiked single file. Leaving the pavement I was pleasantly surprised to find how much warmer the ground was. Almost immediately, my feet were comfortable enough to receive the coolness of the forest floor as the wonderful luxurious carpet that it was. Feeling the moist, firmly packed earth under my feet, I felt very grounded. In many places, soft branches and feathery leaves covered the trail. The first time we encountered mud was interesting, resulting in some people slushing through it, some choosing another path. A discussion of the benefits and the negatives of mud slushing followed. I chose the muddy route and found mud squishing through my toes to be very sensuous. That's when I realized that I really liked this and appreciated myself for taking the risk. The miles went by as wonderful conversations pervaded the group. I was amazed at the camaraderie that was building. I was very much impressed with the closeness of Paul, Maggie, Mike, and his children. I had the impression that they had known each other for years and was shocked to find out that just met. Mike had first met Paul and Maggie when their flights arrived at the airport; Paul had met Maggie on one other hike. I liked how Maggie was nurturant with the children and how they respected her. I felt this warmth extending and including us.

... Continued in Part 2

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