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Back On The Barefoot Trail After A Fall

November 15, 2018

“There are two kinds of trail runners – those that fall, and those that are going to fall” . . . I couldn’t have said it better than ChelloMello on this trail running Reddit discussion

As a shod trail runner (1996-2010), in all those 14 years I can remember two significant tumbles, and only one that left me with a lovely parting gift: a round scar still gracing my left shoulder where I slid a bit in the loose dirt and scattered gravel approaching a Santiago Oaks/Santiago Creek crossing. Since my barefoot running career began in January 2010, I don’t recollect hitting the ground as hard as I did a week ago yesterday: a true-black-n-blue face plant:

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A couple hours after (LITERALLY, people!) hitting the trail

But thanks be to God for some kind of amazing healing time . . . in only five days my scabs had peeled off, and by today, pretty much nothin’ left but my usual wrinkles:

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Of course I googled “normal healing time for bruises” just now, and found out that it’s usually about two weeks before the under-skin bleeding is all absorbed, so I’m super thankful to be way ahead of that curve.

Maybe it’s the vitamin K supplements (for my osteoporosis)? Speaking of which: I went down HARD . . . running downhill, kinda fast (for an old lady, anyway), enjoying my wandering thoughts, kind of zoned out (let’s not do that again) . . . but when my body passed my outstretched arm (it wasn’t that steep, but just enough to propel me past my braking hand), and my face slammed the dirt, I both felt and heard “snap-crackle-pop” in my neck. (And there were no bowls of Rice Crispies in sight.)

All I could think was, “yikes, there goes my cervical vertebrae.” So when I got home, after spending some quality time scrubbing embedded dirt out of the scraped places on my face, I called my doctor and got a referral for a neck x-ray, which came back negative, except for a suspicious void in the area where common sense resides in most (non-barefoot-trail-running) people. Score: Old lady — 1, Osteoporosis — 0.

And speaking of the way home . . . it took an hour just to walk (slowly, not turning my head much) down and up and down the hills between me and my car. When a hiker or mountain biker approached–and there weren’t all that many on a Wednesday morning–I sort of pulled my hat down and turned my head away. Yep, I was embarrassed. People already think I’m kookoobananas for barefoot running, and I didn’t want to have to answer any prying questions about why my face was swelling into such a lovely shade of purple, nor did I want to give haters a reason to disparage my . . . shall we say . . . lack of conventional trail runnin’ footwear.

“So why write a blog post about it?” one might reasonably ask.

I’m over being embarrassed . . . falls happen when you trail run, which makes me even more grateful I haven’t had (even more) mishaps. And maybe–just maybe–being barefoot all these years, and the extra attention that it requires to not step on the gazillions of local rocks, maybe this barefootery has actually saved me from many more tumbles. Maybe. 

And so I’m thankful my week of slight headaches (probably a minor concussion?) is over, and this morning’s easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy run felt fine. More than fine. Barefoot-tastic!

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Except for this horrific Morton’s toe stub . . . see how my right foot (on the left in the photo below, of course) has one toe catching on the ground? This is called “ouch” and it happens way more often than full-blown face-planting black-eye-inducing falls. (I managed to catch it for this photo by slowly advancing the video I was shooting for the above “carefree runner” photo and taking a screen grab.)

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While this long-second-toe business was esteemed by the Greeks and preserved in their statuary (and yes, the Statue of Liberty exhibits Morton’s toe writ large), I am not a fan.

Every time I catch a dangling phalange on a rock–or just the ground–it feels like I just BROKE IT IN HALF, but after a few minutes of VERY FOCUSED BREATHING and TRYING NOT TO LIMP (see above comments about working through embarrassment), I usually realize that it’s time to stop the wool-gathering and get my focus back where it belongs: on the lovely dirt and rocks that cover the fabulous trails just outside my hometown of Orange, CA, where you can still run into cool critters like this on any given Wednesday (fall, in more than one sense of the word) morning:

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Happy Stumbling Barefoot Trails!

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A thrift store find from yesterday . . . just what I needed to fortify my resolve to get back out there and run today . . .

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Imminent Barefoot Presentations

November 11, 2018

While I’ve been trail-traveling with nothing on my feet for almost nine years, I still wear flimsy sandals to enter public places (especially ones with “the sign” in the window, so I don’t have to go through the public humiliation thing again).

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This week I have not one but TWO presentations (woo hoo!), and while I will most likely wear my sandals from the car to the venue, I can’t imagine committing a public act of literature or stand-up while my feet are trapped & unhappy (and, of course, I have both poetry and jokes about my barefootery/shenanagins). 

Happy Barefoot Presentation Trails!

Fire and Rain CUI flyer

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Wandering and writing (barefoot or shod) at the North Rim of Grand Canyon in 2019

November 6, 2018
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Writing along the North Kaibab Trail

Nov. 6, 2018: a big day for the country, a big-little day for me as registration opens for the 2019 season of Grand Canyon Conservancy Field Institute adventures, including my 5th annual writing workshop at the North Rim (shoe-people welcome too!).

I’ve been heading to the North Rim as often as possible since my three weeks there in June 2011 as National Park Service Artist-in-Residence; it’s such a privilege to share the beautiful forested trails, springs, views . . . and just plain solitude still available in our crazy, busy world–with the added bonus of sharing writing ideas and inspiration, all while camping together in the ponderosa pines, waiting for glimpses of this elusive creature:

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The Kaibab squirrel can only be found on the Kaibab Plateau.

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Writing at Cliff Spring is always an inspiring experience.

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The Uncle Jim Trail is another place where solitude–and inspiration–are easy to come by.

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What’s become a tradition: the final afternoon’s “reading to the Canyon” . . . 

Is it time for a road trip in 2019? Let’s wander and write!

Check out the web site for more info: https://www.grandcanyon.org/photography-art-yoga/north-rim-writing-on-the-edge/

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Happy (inspiring!) trails . . . all the way to the polls today!

 

Two years post-stress-fracture: something to celebrate! (barefoot, of course)

October 21, 2018

Almost to the day, two years ago, my lower right fibula went crackle during a run on my favorite local Barham Ridge trails:

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Ouch.

Yesterday, this:

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And, almost this:

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Some how, some way, even though I some times lack good judgment, some thing deep inside told me this outfit was a crime against our avian friends/community, and I chose to #flamingo-NO in terms of running in this disturbing-in-so-many-ways costume. (It’s almost Halloween, but still . . . )

Words fail (not quite as much of a failure as the outfit, above) to begin to describe the euphoria of running & funning for 3.1 miles in the company of 1700 happy folks & families with NO PAIN.

Eat your (edibles) heart out, Canada–this was a high way better than all the legal cannabis you can stuff in a hockey arena.

SO: to recap eight years’ worth of this blog: for almost my entire adult life I struggled with chronic aches and pains, which I thought were from running, but which turned out to be mostly from running away from deeper issues. With the help of non-traditional physical therapy, Feldenkrais, and insightful books by Drs. Sarno, Levine & Phillips, and VanDerKolk (as well as writing, prayer–of course–and God’s grace, it goes without saying) I am now running more freely at age 59 (and winning my age group for the first time: #oldgrandmasrule) than in my entire previous life as a chronically wanna-run-but-can’t cranky person.

So. Yay. (And the osteoporoshizz beast seems to be slowing down at bone devouring, for which I am also grateful.)

This morning I celebrated with (how else) an easy run, back on my favorite nearby  OC Parks trails, which are fire-scorched but still beautiful in the almost-solitude of dawn:

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Above: the view all the way to Catalina Island: “26 Miles Across the Sea.”

Below: some barefoot balancing fun last week at Montana de Oro State Park, a few hours up the coast . . .

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Happy non-stress-fractured trails!

Water & Mud & More Barefoot Shenanigans

October 13, 2018

 

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Morro Bay/Morro Rock in September with the long-retired founder of Welding Works.

A few months ago, we bought a cheap inflatable kayak; after just four outings (Rock Creek Lake, June Lake, Morro Bay, and Newport Back Bay), it feels like we’ve had way more than $80’s worth of fun.

Above: images from yesterday . . . my first time paddling Newport Beach’s Back Bay (with adventure friend Gina . . . who couldn’t help but make a reference to the infamous Gilligan’s Island theme song: would our “three-hour tour” leave us stranded on a remote island?) (1960s trivia: the images shown every episode during the theme song were shot at/on/around this Newport Beach harbor).

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Life imitating art! “The weather started getting rough,” but our tiny ship was not tossed–there was just an awe-inspiring display of clouds, lightning, sunlight and raindrop plops.

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(Before the storm hit: the low tide brought birds feeding and flocking and flying–this Great Blue Heron croak-barked like a frog-dog as it took off.)

The rain/lightning/thunder continued through the evening–such a needful thing here in our parched southland, but such a means of destruction when linked to hurricanes Maria, Florence, Michael . . . and on and on. On my run this morning, even in the midst of the pungent lovely smells of the damp dirt and native plants, in the midst of my joyful puddle-running, in the midst of happy-mud-squishies, I felt more than small twinges of maybe not-quite-survivor-guilt, but heaviness of spirit for all who have lost so much to wildfires, floods and other powerful forces of nature.

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So all that was on my mind as I trotted through the dazzling ephemeral trail puddles today.

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Depending on the soil composition, sometimes silty run-off (the hills have been scorched bare of native plants that would otherwise hold the soil) would collect into silky squishy mud-foot-spas along the trail—ahhh . . . geology!

While running and sniffing the perfumed air and enjoying the exfoliating muck, I was also pausing frequently to shoot video snippets to maybe turn into another short film in my “I like mud and barefoot running” series.

After my last accidentally-on-purpose splashdown video–filmed just to the west in a section of Santiago Creek that seemed extra horse-poopy–I had decided to NOT EVER DO THAT AGAIN. But. Right before I got back to the trailhead, there was a pristine-looking puddle–no manure floaters, clear enough to see uniformly rippled reddish mud down below–the car was pretty close–I’d brought a towel to sit on “just in case”–I’d keep my lips together this time so the nasty recycled-alfalfa organisms would stay out of my mouth–no one was around–

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–no one but some deer, who cared so much less than this photo could ever show:

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So. Splash happens. The puddle wasn’t as innocuous as I thought; it had a sizeable collection of rocks just below the thin silt layer, and I racked up both knees and my right big toe with scrapes and pains.

Oh yeah. I forgot. I have osteoporosis and probably shouldn’t be seeking out ways to fall on purpose. (Thanks for the reminder, daughter dear.)

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This Red-Tailed Hawk also seemed a little judgmental . . .

Happy wild muddy trails!

 

 

Eight Legs No Shoes

October 7, 2018

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Wow! I (almost) ran over this fabulous tarantula a few days ago while running my usual 90-minute evening loop in the hills east of my hometown of Orange, CA where wildfire (well, not so wild: human ignited) scorched the hills almost exactly a year ago during days of flames that seemed almost as long as this sentence . . .

Anyway, local critters have been in short supply since then–not much rain last winter = not much vegetation to bring back the insects and all who feed on them (arachnids and on and on around the food web).

Can you blame me for squeaking in delight when I trotted around a bend . . .

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. . . on this windy uphill and discovered:

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This beauty–probably a male out mate-hunting (that’s what tarantulas do around here, this time of year); he seemed not at all concerned about my attempts to foot-selfie us together:

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. . . unlike this darkling beetle, who looks absolutely puny in comparison . . .

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. . . and who had no interest in spending quality time with my toes. Then I heard a crepuscular crashing in the crispy vegetation:

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Altogether a critter-wonderful evening! Happy twilight trails!

And when you get home, a couple of tarantula-riffic videos by yours truly, this one from three days ago:

. . . and this one from eight years ago:

What passes for adventure these days

October 4, 2018

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Cloud watching.

It’s a great hobby: super affordable, and no one else seems to be doing it in these last months of life-as-we-know-it (otherwise known as 2018), what with all the distractive pleasures of social media. Who cares if nephology didn’t make the list of “16 Hobbies That Will Improve Your Quality of Life”?  (Barefoot hiking wasn’t on their otherwise-interesting list either.)

News Alert: Last week I saw LENTICULAR clouds! What-what?!

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The name comes from their “lens” shape, but I think a better name would be flying-saucer-clouds. Many cloudy years ago, in a general education geography course, the (seriously disengaged) professor told the class during our unit on meteorology that anyone who saw and photographed lenticular clouds would get an “A” for the whole semester.

That really sparked my nephological tendencies–yep, ever since then my life has been a non-stop quest for lenticulars. And other stuff too. But always: lenticulars . . . although it might be too late to impress that aloof professor.

Last week, though, I was so jazzed by the lenticular sighting from my lovely Barham Ridge trails that I needed to proselytize, so the the next mountain biker chugging up the hill got a full load of, “Do you want to see something cool? Those are lenticular clouds! Amazing, huh?”

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And, proving once again that crazy can be contagious, he set down his bike and started taking his own pictures.

My work here is done.

Time for a poem (sparked by the overwhelming petrachlor during this morning’s 90-minute trail run: there was a brief downpour last night, and all the hillsides reeked of rain! Yum!)

What cannot be kept?

Damp red-dirt smells.
Raindrop footprints on sandstone.
Almost solitude–
almost mountain lion.
Heavy air after a thunderstorm.
The weight of quail mutter
and trail memories.
Pink cloud-boil.
My toe stubbed on

a stony nose, part
of a winking face
so smooth, so
pocket-perfect, but
what cannot be kept.
Pebbles need to find
their own way
to the sea.

So: to recap: recent adventures include no epic Grand Canyon treks miles below the rim into cliffy wonderlands, but lots of this: (building stuff only to watch it get smashed):

And this: (marveling at what drives our society to manufacture and sell toy recycling trucks and not sets of  little businessmen dolls with potbellies and bad backs and coffee breath sitting in front of their laptops in gray cubicles with an MBA hung on the wall).

And watching #15 watch his team: (“Put him in, coach” . . . every grandma’s prayer?)

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I call it “grandkidding” and there are plenty of ways to play this as we burn way more gas than commuting to work ever did, just to hang out with the seven blessings I did not plan for when engaged in whatever stage of life people use to plan their future.

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They are a fun & funny bunch & love my “YouDoodle” app.

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Art happens.

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Speaking of sunshine and rain . . . Fall = best time to plant California native plants.

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Last week, whilst (there’s that favorite word again) digging a hole for this lovely one-gallon California fuchsia, I was pleasantly surprised (and what a lovely word pair that is) by a goodly amount (adverb much?) of bulblet-thingies of wild hyacinth (you’ll have to click for its misunderstood more-common name). A super-food for earlier People of this area, the corms taste like waxy water chestnuts . . . but instead of eating these, I planted them in other parts of the yard to spread the dichelostema-love.

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Q: What is THE most important thing to do when planting California native plants in the fall, before rains have arrived?

A: Flood the planting hole first. Many times. Get LOTS of water into the soil way down deep. The roots will thank you by creating a healthy plant instead of a dead one.

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A few pebbles for mulch helps shade the roots/keep the soil surface from drying, as well.

IMG_5671 So instead of the rat race shark race and a decent paycheck/health insurance/conference money/etc/who’s complaining, retirement brings other kinds of pleasure . . . like these newly installed bathroom fixtures:

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And all I can do is say, “Thank you Jesus” and go for a run. Barefoot, of course.

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Happy (cloud-filled) trails . . .