On the afternoon of Sunday, February 23rd 1997, the East Bay Barefoot Hikers met on the Clayton side of Mt. Diablo for a barefoot hike along the Donner Canyon, Hetherington Loop, Tick Wood and Back Creek trails.
Eighteen people took part including myself, my son Gareth (13), Dan, Peter, Debra and her son Eric (13), Tim and his son Christopher (8), and the twins Jonathan and Hilary (6), Leo, Dina, Rachel, Marcie, Denise, Fred, Darren and Phoebe.
The foothills of Mt. Diablo glowed with a lush emerald green set against an absolutely cloudless sky. The wind had been really strong at my house, but at the trailhead location it seemed merely breezy (some kind of wind shadow ?).
As the group began to arrive and shout their hellos, the little kids happily splashed around in the creek just below the trailhead.
The party set off at around 1:20 pm. A broad packed-dirt (somewhat gravelly in places) trail took us along Donner canyon. This section is sparse to medium density oak woods with very green (this time of year) meadows. The clear water babbled down in the creek to our left and the stark slopes of Mt. Diablo rose up behind the hills in front of us. Very picturesque. It almost made one feel like bursting into the introductory song from "The Sound of Music", "The hills are alive ....". I resisted :-)
We reached the ruins of the Donner cabin and made the turn onto Hetherington Loop, crossing the small wooden footbridge over the creek. Well, some of us crossed it, others just *had* to wade in the clear cold water.
The Hetherington path is much narrower and we were soon in single file as we stepped over tree roots and weaved in and out among the trees. We stopped for a long lunch break by the creek.
The path turned steeply uphill after recrossing the creek. The vegetation crowding so close in places that it was like walking through a tunnel.
The Tick Wood trail has similar scenery. I paused the front-runners for a while to let the stragglers catch up before heading down into the Back Creek Canyon. I had warned people that there was a "rocky bit" up ahead. There is a section of Back Creek where erosion has left just bare chunky rocks in the path. On some stretches they are hard to avoid. To a barefoot hiker this is a "pick your way carefully" zone. I told Darren that every time I'm on this section, some shod hikers will pass me at speed, looking at me like I'm a masochist. Well, it's only about 5% of the hike and I don't mind going slower over that one section.
As we entered the worst part of the "rocky bit", Marcie and I saw that someone had broken a bottle in one of the deep ruts that the party would have to pass through. We squatted down and started picking up every piece, placing them in a large ziplock bag that I bring along for just this purpose.
The party halted behind us as we did this. Just then, two shod hikers came along. As they squeezed by, one asked "What are you doing?". "Cleaning up a broken bottle" we told him. "Oh, ... cool" he said. Nice attitude.
Soon enough we were out of the tough section and I halted the front to wait for everyone to come through. I assured people that it would be "cake" from here on out. I'd like to design a hike to avoid that section, but it's just not possible unless you make the hike three times as long.
It wasn't a long walk back to the cars from there. There was some really good mud to be had along the trail. Those so inclined, availed themselves of it.
As we said our goodbyes, I gave everyone a set of the new East Bay Barefoot Hikers leaflets that I've made. These are to be posted up or given to anyone that's interested. Spring is a good time for a publicity drive.
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