On Sunday, October 8th the East Bay Barefoot Hikers met for a barefoot hike along the West Ridge and French trails in Redwood Regional Park.
Eight people took part including myself, my son Gareth (12), and three first-timers ... Vivian and Karen (both from Walnut Creek) and Jennifer, a reporter for the East Bay Express. Debra, her son Eric (11) and his step-sister Nicole (10) also attended.
Gareth and I picked up Vivian and Karen from their apartment complex in Walnut Creek. They hadn't met before and had called me separately. Karen was our oldest hiker so far (she has a 35 year-old son) and was in the mood to try something new. Vivian was very pleased to have discovered us since the 'Sierra Singles' (attached to the Sierra Club) had made her keep her shoes on for the hikes she had attended with them.
When we arrived at the Skyline Gate trailhead at 10:00am, we were somewhat worried about the cold fog rolling over the crest of the East Bay Hills from the bay. Previously, heat had been the thing to worry about. Gareth and I hadn't brought sweatshirts.
Jennifer came up and introduced herself. I wasn't hard to spot with my bare feet and my 'Barefoot Hikers' T-shirt. Jennifer was soon ready, barefoot and holding her notepad and pencil. She's a firm believer in participative reporting.
Debra, Eric and Nicole arrived. It was still fairly chilly, so Debra kitted the kids out with some extra sweat-shirts that she keeps in her car. After a quick introduction to the three most important things to pay attention to while barefoot hiking ... we were on our way !!.
The kids, Debra and Vivian were soon way ahead of us. Jennifer had a lot of questions to ask. How I got started with this ... why we like it and so on. Karen had to take it easy at first (new sensations, lots of arm waving) but seemed to become acclimatized over the usual 15 minute period. A couple of women coming the other direction stopped to ask us about what we were doing. We got a very positive response and they went away with leaflets. Another half-mile and we caught up with the front runners. They had stopped at the branch in the trail and we then plunged down in to the forest proper.
The interior trails of Redwood Park are dark, cool and quiet. You're often going uphill or downhill while digging your toes into soft dirt and patches of pine needles, or wrapping them around gnarly tree roots. The only sound was the laughter of the children some distance ahead.
Jennifer continued interviewing, with Karen adding an occasional 'crusty' remark. We stopped for lunch early and the kids played while the grown-ups discussed barefooting issues. Jennifer asked about barefooting outside of parks and was surprised to hear about the phantomness of the laws that get quoted (and believed in).
Karen wasn't doing so well on the steep upgrades and had decided to put her sandals back on, just before lunch. On a steep downhill stretch, she slipped and fell (no harm though). She reached down and took her sandals back off, saying 'Dang it !, I was doing better without these things'. She stayed barefoot the rest of the day.
Nicole pointed out a nice patch of cool dust, and had us all sample it. Eric commented at one point that he wished he could go barefoot at school. I told him about Punahou school in Honolulu where the school rules state that 'footwear is optional'. Interesting, but not much help.
Jennifer headed back early (still barefoot) and the rest of us took another break at the 'Girl's Camp' Picnic site. On the way up the hill to the trailhead, two guys passed Karen and I (we were trailing at the end of the group) and gave us a peculiar look. Karen noticed this, and just after they passed, turned and called back to them 'Don't Knock It If You Haven't Tried It !!'. They looked kind of sheepish and one of them said '.. actually, we're impressed'.
-- Mike Berrow
-- East Bay Barefoot Hikers (San Francisco Bay Area, California).
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