Skip to content

Shoeless Backpacking at Grand Canyon . . . A Hot Time, For Sure!

June 30, 2015

What a blessing . . . to shoelessly descend the North Kaibab Trail at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon!

barefoot silhouette grand canyon

What made the experience even better was that I had just finished a career-pinnacle moment: leading my first multi-day creative writing workshop! (Thank you Grand Canyon Field Institute for making this possible . . . and I can’t wait till June 17-19, 2016, when I will be facilitating a similar GCFI adventure.)

nature writing at Grand Canyon

!! I don’t usually use so many of these !! but !! it was that kind of week!!

My interior-tent-view of the Eureka brand "!" each morning.

My interior-tent-view of the Eureka brand “!” each morning.

We spent four days wandering the trails of the North Rim, stopping often to admire the wildflowers and creatures who make their home here.

white columbine at the North Rim

butterfly at North Rim

Penstemon North Rim

Fungi North Rim

lizard along the North Kaibab Trail

Lupine fields North Rim

When the workshop was over, I said “farewell” to my fellow writers, loaded up my pack with the bare minimum of gear, and took off down the North Kaibab Trail to spend one last night . . . below the rim . . . at Cottonwood Campground.

IMG_1199

With temperatures way over 100 degrees F in the inner canyon, I didn’t need much: just a light foam pad, a silk sleeping bag liner, and a bit of no-cooking-needed food. (Somehow I managed to come up with enough other stuff to get my pack up to 16 pounds. Water? The book I ended up not reading?)

This next photo shows the most essential piece of gear I own for hot-weather hiking: My awesome Golite Chrome Dome umbrella. (Or brolly, as the Brit thru-hiker Keith Foskett calls it.)

Resting at Roaring Springs pump-house residence

When the temps are life-threateningly hot, hikers need to “get over” any ideas about needing to look cool (figuratively, not literally), and just get their brolly on. I know I would not have chosen to hike into the summer-super-heated canyon in the middle of the day (note to hikers thinking about doing this . . . make sure you start at 4 am, not 8 am like I did . . . but I wanted to say “goodbye” to my writing peeps . . . ) without my moveable shadow.

bare feet and Redwall Bridge

Here I am at the bottom of the notorious switchbacks that begin after the Supai Tunnel. As the photo illustrates, the shade stops here at the Redwall Bridge.

What’s a barefooter to do? Put on some hiking sandals (my old faithful Merrell Pipidae Wraps) and keep on trekkin’ . . . and trekkin’ . . . until seven miles down the trail, Cottonwood Campground comes into view, along with its easy access to a dunking spot in Bright Angel Creek. At 1 pm on an excruciatingly toasty afternoon, plopping in the creek fully clothed seemed like the most logical thing to do.

taking a dunk in Bright Angel Creek

This refreshing dip was all I needed to get me energized to hike another mile-plus into the Canyon . . . to Ribbon Falls, where one can hike behind the waterfall at a place sacred to many people, but obviously not to the two shirtless young men who were passed out in the red dust next to suspicious-looking containers of some kind of (whiskey-ish?) liquid. I thought for a nano-second about photographing them (waterfall-desecration-shaming?) but turned my attention to the falling water instead.

behind Ribbon Falls

Unable to linger with knuckleheads so close by, I headed back down the rocky steps to find a more private dipping pool . . . which I thought I did, but I guess I did not realize the extent of the crazy maze of trails through boulders and brush that provide way too many ways through the small canyon (habitat fragmentation, anyone?).

So there I was, doing my own version of “passed out by falling water with few clothes on” . . . when all of a sudden I heard AND felt bodies dropping to the ground inches from my head. Yep. My dead-end spot next to a boulder was, actually, part of someone’s boulder-strewn path down canyon. (I could almost hear Coyote’s laughter as my anticipation of some kind of intensely-meaningful-experience-of-deep-insight at this ancient sacred place turned, instead, to a bit of embarrassment (go back and re-read what’s in bold) in front of rock-hopping strangers.

Then the thunder began, and as I looked up and realized the extent of the dark clouds building on the rim above the waterfall, I figured it might be intensely meaningful to get to a safer place just in case the summer monsoons had arrived. (They hadn’t. Oh well.)

All the inner canyon was in shade, though, thanks to the gray cloud cover, so I thought I’d leave my sandals off and hike the 1.4 miles back to Cottonwood barefoot. Holy heat wave, Batman! The ground was still too hot to touch, with hand or foot, so I got shod up and slowly (feeling like a wrinkly desert tortoise conserving energy) made my way back to camp.

After a gorgeous starry night, filled with the sounds and sights of creek-whisper, cricket-song, shooting stars, ants on my tummy, and bat wings inches from my face, I woke up when I smelled cigarette smoke (I had some really quiet but fiercely chain-smoking neighbors across the mesquite hedge in the next site) and figured the earlier the better to beat the heat on the way up and up (and out).

Dawn lights the sky early in these parts, soI never needed a headlamp, even though I was on the trail by 4:30 am.

prickly pear on north kaibab trail

barefoot backpacking on the North Kaibab Trail

Ahhh . . . the hike up . . . seven miles of barefoot fun with all kinds of ancient rocks greeting my toes with friendly massages the whole way.

barefoot on the North Kaibab Trail

Once or twice the trailside springs and seeps added a bit of muddy relief.

springs/seeps along the North Kaibab trail

Then . . . one reaches the Supai Tunnel (named after the rock formation that got blasted through to create it).

supai tunnel

It is a transition of magnitude, for all kinds of reasons, not the least being the fact that mules are not allowed below this point.

Which, to turn that thought around, means they ARE allowed above the tunnel, and the multiple mule trains a day grind the ancient sea-floor rocks to the finest, most delicate, superbly delightful, just plain poofy . . . dust.

(Dust which magically turns me feet the color of the canyon.)

red dust of north kaibab trail

Along with dust-manufacturing, the mules also create . . .

mule poo on the North Kaibab trailP

. . .  prodigious piles o’ poo.

The flies are happy about that, and have opened several five-star resorts in the summer-long cesspools of mule piss.

(Use your own olafactory imagination to provide a hint of the scent.)

barefoot print on the North Kaibab

(This photo is for one of my blog followers, who likes photos of barefoot prints, the providing of which I am happy to do.)

Rim-to-rim hikers always pose by the sign, below, for “documentation” of their exploits; while I had only hiked 8.4 miles into the Canyon (as far as Ribbon Falls), I posed by the trailhead sign anyway.

barefoot at the North kaibab trailhead

A flyer was taped to the sign . . . something about an “Excessive Heat Warning.”

IMG_1309

Uh, yeah . . . no one in their right mind should venture down into the Canyon when it’s this hot.

barefoot on the North Kaibab Trail

Maybe I was in my left mind?

I can’t wait to do it again . . .

Nothing’ but blue skies from now on?

June 20, 2015

After weeks of lovely “May gray” and “June gloom,” our sunny So Cal mornings are back, which means barefoot excursions need to be executed before the mid-day sun boils the trail dust.

santiago creek trail in santiago oaks

When the daybreak shade tunnels through the oaks give way to brilliant almost-summer sun . . . it’s a fine time for a barefoot adventure in Santiago Oaks Regional Park.

Clear morning light does give the wildflowers an extra shine, though. This encelia seems to know yoga.

Clear morning light does give the wildflowers an extra shine, though. This encelia seems to know yoga.

Ten years ago, this area was scorched in the Windy Ridge fire; I remember my first time back on this trail--Peralta Hills, Santiago Oaks Regional Park--and being stunned by the beauty of wishbone plants in bloom against the charcoal moonscape. Same trail, same blooming-in-tough-times beauty . . . from a descendent of the fire flowers.

Ten years ago, this area was scorched in the Windy Ridge fire; I remember my first time back on this trail–Peralta Hills, Santiago Oaks Regional Park–and being stunned by the beauty of wishbone plants in bloom against the charcoal moonscape. Same trail, same blooming-in-tough-times beauty . . . from a descendent of the fire flowers.

Not all is sunshine and roses--I mean wildflowers--aglow. Throughout my run, I kept noticing plastic trash sparkling amongst the native plants. Can you find the straw sticking out of the drink cup deep in the lemonade berries?

Not all is sunshine and roses–I mean wildflowers–aglow. Throughout my run, I kept noticing plastic trash sparkling amongst the native plants. Contrary to what the knucklehead might have thought when he/she chucked this cup, plastic trash does not magically disintegrate when someone throws it in a lemonade berry bush. These plants may have medicinal properties, but they can’t do that kind of magic . . .

And how the light lit up these tufts of rabbit fluff . . . evidence of survival drama?

And how the light lit up these tufts of rabbit fluff . . . evidence of survival drama in the night?

Every twist and turn of the trail led to morning glory--here an intricate spider web.

Every twist and turn of the trail led to morning glory–here an intricate spider web.

This hawk lit up the morning with his piercing call, which I'd love to transcribe and translate, but my hawk language skills are still limited.

This hawk lit up the morning with his piercing call, which I’d love to transcribe and translate, but my hawk language skills are still limited.

Another hawk? The same one? This one is easy to identify as a red tail . . . soaring nonchalantly over and past the power lines.

Another hawk? The same one? This one is easy to identify as a red tail . . . soaring nonchalantly over and past the ridgetop power lines.

And what blog post would be complete without the obligatory foot selfie? Here I illustrate the comfort of drying horse manure . . . or trail pillows, as my feet like to call it. Happy (poo-filled?) Trails! Summer is a-comin' . . .

And what blog post would be complete without the obligatory foot selfie? Here I illustrate the comfort of drying horse manure . . . or trail pillows, as my feet like to call it. Happy (poo-filled?) Trails! Summer is a-comin’ . . .

A Month of (Barefoot) Fun-days

June 13, 2015

May passed in a flash of work and family busy-ness; June work has lessened (but not evaporated).  Then there’s spending time with the six grandkids who are so much fun to hang out with . . . leaving me with challenging time choices.

In my fleeting free moments, I’d way rather go for a barefoot hike/run than sit at my computer and view/sort/select/crop/re-size photos for this blog . . . but today dawned unscheduled, quiet, with a nice “June gloom” layer of coastal low clouds to reassure me the trails will stay cool for barefoot running all day. (That’s an important summer consideration; early in my barefoot running days I ventured out at Peter’s Canyon around 3 pm on a July afternoon. Soon I was darting from one sage to the next, attempting to cool my soles along the trail, stupidly determined to complete my pre-determined loop around the wilderness park, stupidly ignoring the signals my feet were sending. I paid for it with an enormous–2″x3″–blister that kept me from running for a while. Now I try to plan my runs for when the trails will be comfortable: in summer, early or late; in winter, any time after the morning chill has dissipated.)

The following images are a mish-mash of early summer fun, keeping in mind my goal that this blog inspire folks to

1) get outside barefoot and enjoy themselves (barefoot. Barefoot-barefoot-barefoot. Did I mention barefoot?)

and

2) appreciate their own “local nature” . . .  if crowded Orange County, CA (pop. 3 million +) still has a lot of cool native plants & critters & “wildness” . . . I hope readers will want to discover what natural beauty their own home ground has to love and preserve.

May the following photos (and words) do that. (If nothing else, this blog has become the diary/journal I always wanted to create as a child, but never could quite keep going for more than a few entries: “Dear Diary, I don’t know what to write. Good-bye.” Now I have almost five years of words-and-images to cheer me up when trail-time is scarce.)

IMG_0848

The Acorn Trail connects the Pacific Crest Trail with the town of Wrightwood, CA. It's a bit rocky, but I was pleased to discover my feet felt fine as I walked up and jogged down one end-of-May morning.

The Acorn Trail connects the Pacific Crest Trail with the town of Wrightwood, CA. It’s a bit rocky, but I was pleased to discover my feet felt fine as I walked up and jogged down one end-of-May morning. (Running up it was pretty much out of the question for a flat-lander like me . . . the trailhead begins at about 6500 feet in elevation and gains 1500 feet in 2.1 miles.)

Why was I in Wrightwood hiking? I arrived early for the first-ever Wrightwood Literary Festival, organized by Rattle editor Tim Greene. It was a wonderful event, and I'm looking forward to returning next year.

Why was I in Wrightwood hiking? I arrived early for the first-ever Wrightwood Literary Festival, organized by Rattle editor Tim Greene. It was a wonderful event, and I’m looking forward to returning next year.

Grandkid visit time being scarce during the school year, I was eager to visit the owners of these dolls and show them how to sew aprons. The barefoot connection? I try to encourage them to lose their shoes whenever possible . . .

Grandkid visit time being scarce during the school year, I was eager to hang out with the owners of these dolls and show them how to sew aprons. The barefoot connection? I try to encourage the girls to lose their shoes whenever possible . . .

There are grandsons needing barefoot bonding time, also . . . here we are at a party for the newly six-year-old. Most of the boys in attendance immediately threw off their shoes upon arrival at the park.  My kind of party!

There are grandsons needing barefoot bonding time, also . . . here we are at a party for the just-turned-six-year-old. Most of the boys in attendance immediately threw off their shoes upon arrival at the park. My kind of party!

We had some odd-but-fabulous weather in May . . . such as this crazy downpour one morning . . .

We had some odd-but-fabulous weather in May . . . such as this crazy downpour one morning . . . unfortunately I was not able to get out to the hills to enjoy the resulting puddles before they turned back to summer dust.

Our back-yard fountain was overflowing with water and desert willow blossoms after the storm passed. (Big fluffy clouds lingered though . . . check out the reflection . . . )

Our back-yard fountain was overflowing with water and desert willow blossoms after the storm passed. (Big fluffy clouds lingered though . . . check out the reflection . . . )

Just a few days ago . . . more sprinkles on the trail. Here they provide a ceremonial dampening of a damned darkling beetle that was foolish enough to wander across a mountain bike freeway . . . AKA the Chutes Trail outside of Irvine Regional Park.

Just a few days ago . . . more sprinkles on the trail. Here they provide a ceremonial dampening of a damned darkling beetle that was foolish enough to wander across a mountain bike freeway . . . AKA the Chutes Trail outside of Irvine Regional Park.

More lovely raindrops; another trail tragedy: the ongoing problem of folks who regard the outdoors as their personal trash can. (But the perfume of damp dust did much to alleviate my angst . . . the whole sagebrush world was alive with spicy air as the rain worked its smell-spell.)

More lovely raindrops; another trail tragedy: the ongoing problem of folks who regard the outdoors as their personal trash can.
(But the perfume of damp dust did much to alleviate my angst . . . the whole sagebrush world was alive with spicy air as the rain worked its smell-spell.)

A bit of dampness sets the dust up to capture footprints especially well.

A bit of dampness sets the dust up to capture footprints especially well.

Yes, I am running out of

Yes, I am running out of “new” things to photograph . . . or am I? The trail is never the same; each day brings new surprises.

On a recent trip up the Chutes Trail . . . this plant.  I had never seen it before and had to email a photo to a native plant expert for help in identifying it.  It has a lovely name: whispering bells.

On a recent trip up the Chutes Trail . . . this plant.
I had never seen it before and had to email a photo to a native plant expert for help in identifying it. It has a lovely name: whispering bells.

Not too far away on the same trail that I've hiked/run on for years and years without noticing . . . Sacapellote! Another

Not too far away on the same trail that I’ve hiked/run on for years and years without noticing . . . Sacapellote! Another “first” for me, and again I was fortunate to have native plant friends I could later show the photo to for help in identifying. (One of them called the plant “sack of peyote” . . . a funny-but-helpful mnemonic device.)

And . . . YET ANOTHER

And . . . YET ANOTHER “first sighting” of a plant along this most fruitful-yet-way-too-busy trail: Osmadenia. I appreciate these much-needed reminders to stay alert for new beauty . . . even on familiar paths.

A drooping, lovely datura . . . common plant, uncommon delicate pink-ness.

A drooping datura . . . common plant, uncommon delicate pink-ness.

Another common sight in the foothills of Orange County: the amazingly engineered  webs of funnel weaving spiders.

One more common sight in the foothills of Orange County: the amazingly engineered webs of funnel web spiders. Add a gray damp morning and voila: a stationary tornado of dew drops.

The

The “voice of the chaparral” is the diminutive wren-tit. These small creatures usually choose to stay low and hidden, but on a gray June morning last week I was fortunate enough to get a nice glimpse. The perky tail is a major identification clue.

I always carry my little pocket camera with me; it doesn't record the highest-quality images, but its convenience outweighs quality considerations. Lately I've been trying to travel softly enough to not disturb trailside birds; here's a spotted towhee who kindly posed.

I always carry my little pocket camera with me; it doesn’t record the highest-quality images, but its convenience outweighs quality considerations. Lately I’ve been trying to travel softly enough to not disturb trailside birds; here’s a spotted towhee who politely posed for a while.

Another slow-to-flee critter . . . this male northern white skipper was so busy nectaring on a tarplant that  he didn't notice my excited paparazzi-ing . . . the way the cloud-filtered light lit up his translucent wings was astonishing.

Another slow-to-flee critter . . . this male northern white skipper was so busy nectaring on a tarplant that he didn’t notice my excited paparazzi-ing . . . the way the cloud-filtered light lit up his translucent wings was astonishing. “What big eyes you have, Mr. Skipper!”

male northern white skipper

Sigh. Opportunities like these make me wish, just for a moment, that I had a better camera.

My daughter is a professional wedding photographer, with a camera suitable for recording a once-in-a-lifetime (I hope) day for folks. Thus: her photo from last week at the community garden.

My daughter is a professional wedding photographer, with a crazy big camera/lens set-up. Thus: her fine photo from last week at the Heritage Garden  . . . a monarch butterfly on a zinnia.

But . . . carrying only a crappy little pocket camera allows me to run and run . . . until I come to Santiago Creek, when I have to stop and pose my toes for this final reflection on barefoot trail running: it's the best!

But . . . carrying only a crappy little pocket camera allows me to run and run . . . until I come to Santiago Creek, when I have to stop and pose my toes for this final reflection on barefoot trail running: it’s the best!

Post-Grand-Canyon barefoot adventures (not exactly a let-down . . . )

May 14, 2015

rattlesnake warning sign

It’s snake time here in the coastal hills of Orange County; during my morning run today I came across this helpful sign of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” . . .. a little too late?

snake and foot at crystal cove

Two days ago I found a beautiful gopher snake sunning itself in the middle of the trail at Crystal Cove State Park. Since one of my weirder hobbies is photographing my bare feet with critters, I couldn’t resist.

bare foot and rattlesnake

Paparazzi / papa rattler: Keeping a respectful distance from a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake on the side of the trail . . .

Pacific rattlesnake at Crystal Cove State Park

A little bit closer, but not too much . . .

Fake lizard and bare foot on the trail

This little guy surprised me on a run last week; usually when I find still lizards on the trail, they are deceased victims of mountain bike tires, so this rubbery toy lizard was a good surprise.

Speaking of dead animals: here's two from last weekend's trip north to the Central Coast of California.

Speaking of dead animals: here’s two from last weekend’s trip north to the Central Coast of California.

Maybe a sea lion?

Maybe a sea lion? That’s Morro Rock in the background; the beach there is a fine place for adventure.

Heron at Morro Rock

Wild water, beautiful bird.

pelican at Morro Bay

Pelican keeping watch at Morro Bay.

If you're lucky, dune jumpers can sometimes be sighted near Morro Rock . . .

If you’re lucky, dune jumpers can sometimes be sighted near Morro Rock . . .

Adventure also waits just outside our back door, where a fountain provides birds with water and us with fascinating glimpses of  our non-human neighbors.

Adventure also waits just outside our back door, where a fountain provides birds with water and us with fascinating glimpses of our non-human neighbors–here a Western Tanager and Oriole having problems taking turns.

And, of course, my favorite local adventure places are only minutes away, thanks to OC Parks. Here's a few shots from this morning's run out of Santiago Oaks Regional Park.

And, of course, my favorite local adventure places are only minutes away, thanks to OC Parks. Here’s a few shots from this morning’s run out of Santiago Oaks Regional Park. (This is me trying to capture the lovely floatillas of willow duff in Santiago Creek.)

Barefoot in Santiago Creek.

More Santiago Creek reflections.

In the luscious under-oak shade along the trail, wild grapes run rampant with the poison oak.  (Grape leaves on left; poison oak

In the luscious under-oak shade along the trail, wild grapes run rampant with the poison oak. (Grape leaves on left; poison oak “leaflets three” on right.)

Tangy lemonade berries await tasting all over the foothills this time of year.

Tangy lemonade berries await tasting all over the foothills this time of year.

Stunning (and rare!) intermediate mariposa lilies are a-bloom at the top of Barham Ridge.

Stunning (and rare!) intermediate mariposa lilies are a-bloom at the top of Barham Ridge.

A view from the highest point in the area: Robber's Peak. The three ladies disappearing down the Barham Ridge trail lend a bit of scale.

A view from the highest point in the area: Robber’s Peak. The hikers disappearing down the Barham Ridge trail lend a bit of scale.

Looking toward the Pacific Ocean from Robber's Peak in Anaheim Hills.

Looking toward the Pacific Ocean from Robber’s Peak in Anaheim Hills.

In the midst of adventure: caution? The gravel road near Robber's Peak is full of bits of broken glass that glints a warning in the early sun. How to avoid getting it stuck in your bare feet? Use your eyeballs and avoid it . . . and/or just step gently with time-toughened soles. In all my shoeless wandering, I've managed to avoid Barefoot KenBob's

In the midst of adventure: caution? The gravel road near Robber’s Peak is full of bits of broken glass that glints a warning in the early sun. How to avoid getting it stuck in your bare feet? Use your eyeballs and avoid it . . . and/or just step gently with time-toughened soles. In all my shoeless wandering, I’ve managed to avoid Barefoot KenBob’s “Deadly Broken Glass Dilemma.”

One last lovely critter to end this adventure mash-up:  a Brown Ctenuchid moth . . . found only in coastal Orange County. I'd never seen nor heard of this striking local pollinator until my hike in Crystal Cove earlier this week. Lesson learned? There's so much to discover! Here's to local (barefoot) wandering!

One last lovely critter to end this adventure mash-up: a Brown Ctenuchid moth . . . found only in coastal So Cal. I’d never seen nor heard of this striking local pollinator until my hike in Crystal Cove earlier this week. Lesson learned? There’s so much to discover! Here’s to local (barefoot) wandering!

The Grand Canyon Boucher Trail: Almost Barefoot (Sigh)

May 3, 2015

“The Boucher Trail is arguably the most difficult and demanding of the south side trails.” (From the National Park Service description: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/upload/Boucher_Trail.pdf)

For the reason above–as well as the fact that I was jointly responsible (as a WFR assistant) for the well-being of the eight participants who signed up for the Grand Canyon Field Institute’s “Hands-on Springs Survey Backpack: Hermit-Boucher-Slate”–I reluctantly donned socks and sandals for most of last week’s Grand Canyon adventures (40-ish miles of backpacking and day-hiking from the Hermit’s Rest trailhead to the far reaches of Slate Creek, with side excursions up and down Hermit and Boucher drainages documenting springs and plants).

Without my Merrell Pipidae Wrap sandals (which are awesome: amazingly light, flexible, and tough! and for those reasons no longer manufactured!) I could not have kept up with the determined group as they trekked up and down and over and through this Grand world of ancient shattered rock.

In the side canyons, though, those miraculous places of seeps and springs and green life, I was able to shed the sandals and experience the pleasure of desert water and storm-sculpted stone: aaahhhh.

It’s “too soon” to be able to process it all in words, so I’ll just post these images and continue to think and write about this awe-filled experience that I was fortunate to share last week with two extraordinary trip leaders and eight plucky hikers ranging in age from 17-70.

Happy (almost-barefoot, Grand Canyon) Trails!

Barefoot at the Grand Canyon

“Toes on the nose” Grand Canyon style. Who needs a wave when you can ride rocks like these?

Barefoot bouldering

The rock-and-green beauty of side canyons; here is where all the life thrives . . . where streams trickle or drip or gush from ancient rock layers.

Barefoot stream scrambling

The sheer light-footed delight of scrambling up wet-or-dry rock layers! I was well on my way back to age 12 for a while there . . .

Merrell Pipidae Wrap sandals

Q: Why am I wearing sandals in this delightful stream? A: I just did 3 miles of rock-hopping barefoot; it was time for sensory break. (Motto: if it’s not fun, put something on.)

Bare feet and Hermit Rapids

Hermit Rapids along the mighty Colorado River. As is the case everywhere in this wild world of rock and water, distances and scale are difficult to perceive.

Above (Hermit?) Rapids

Far above the Colorado River . . . and maybe Hermit Rapids?

backpacking in sandals

With 30-35 pounds to carry (water weighs!), and a group of hikers to keep up with, I had to go with wool socks and Merrell Pipidae “barefoot” sandals (a truly wonderful piece of footwear that took me through every day of this past school year, and then to the Hermit-Boucher-Slate trail complex of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim).

end of the day barefoot

One of my hiking companions (on left) wore Vibrams in camp at the end of the day, as well as on one of our side canyon stream-and-rock-hopping treks. Our “campfire” is a Luci Lux solar inflatable lantern by www.mpowerd.com. Very cool.

Grand Canyon sunrise from below

The morning light on the highest Canyon layers . . . our daily routine/astonishment.

Prickly pear at Grand Canyon

So many beautiful cactus in bloom: yellow here, red and rose and pink and magenta elsewhere.

This bootless plateau lizard  seems to negotiate his home stone just fine. I aspire to such free toes.

This bootless plateau lizard seems to negotiate his home stone just fine. I aspire to such free toes.

A peculiar (unpeeled) puddle-print & plenty of painted plants . . .

April 12, 2015

barefoot mudprint

We had a freakish April rain a week ago–April showers are not the norm around here, even in non-drought times. So when I found this almost-disappeared bit of water in the middle of the trail, I had to stick my foot in it . . . one last sploosh of mud until who-knows-when. (Our next rain might not be until November . . . )

As for the overly-alliterative title to this blog post . . . it’s National Poetry Month, and alliteration is a very old Anglo-Saxon poetry technique. So there’s that.

I was going to use “barefoot” in parenthesis (SEO, baby), but then I got a bit obsessed with the “p” constraint, and decided a foot without a shoe has been peeled of an extraneous layer. “Final” had no such p-centric synonyms, so “peculiar” seemed a slightly related word (love my www.thesaurus.com!).

Despite the dryness of our times, we did have enough rain this past season to inspire some lovely native blossoms (“painted plants” is a terrible synonym, but what ya gonna do). Thus and so and here we go: the rest of this post is just. Flowers. California native wildflowers! (From a run in the hills outside of Irvine Regional Park two days ago . . .)

Southern pink (although it's definitely red: the "pink" refers to its "pinked" or cut edges"

Southern pink (although it’s definitely red: the “pink” refers to its “pinked” or cut edges”

Golden star: the name says it all.

Golden star: the name says it all.

The ubiquitous buckwheat--easy to ignore because it's everywhere . . . but so lovely nonetheless.

The ubiquitous buckwheat–easy to ignore because it’s everywhere . . . but so deserving of loving attention to its mottled, insect-attracting, blossoms.

White-flowered black sage. Go figure.

White-flowered black sage. Go figure.

Not so common in these parts: red paintbrush.

Not so common in these parts: red paintbrush.

A taste of brilliant -- and tangy -- lemonade berries is always a nice pick-me-up on a run.

A taste of brilliant — and tangy — lemonade berries is always a nice pick-me-up on a run.

Haven't ID'd this singer yet . . . I recorded his exuberance so I can listen to this song and be transported back here. (Grrr . . . the invasive yellow mustard is a discordant note indeed.)

Haven’t ID’d this singer yet . . . I recorded his exuberance so I can listen to this song and be transported back here. (Grrr . . . the invasive yellow mustard is a discordant note indeed.)

Still thriving in shady spots: a lush mossy soil carpet (unfortunately being chewed up by the ever-encroaching bike tires).

Still thriving in shady spots: a lush mossy soil carpet (unfortunately being chewed up by the ever-encroaching bike tires).

This delicate pink bloomer follows fire; the last time these trails burned was in 2005, but there are still some mallows lighting up the spring.

This delicate pink bloomer follows fire; the last time these trails burned was in 2005, but there are still some mallows lighting up the spring.

Stately elderberry . . . a skeleton for so many dry months of the year, now leafed out and producing masses of creamy umbels of tiny flowers that seem to be heaven for native bees and other tiny flyers. And the scent is heavenly to me . . . caught unawares by a slight sweetening of the air, then looking around and finding this familiar friend waving a perfumed greeting.

Stately elderberry . . . a skeleton for so many dry months of the year, now leafed out and producing masses of creamy umbels of tiny flowers that seem to be heaven for native bees and other tiny flyers. And the scent is heavenly to me . . . caught unawares by a slight sweetening of the air, then looking around and finding this familiar friend waving a perfumed greeting.

Slightly scented as well . . . but I'm a bit wary to stick my nose in this plants' bid-ness . . . sacred datura has been used for millenia by native peoples for ceremonial purposes, but is highly toxic in the hands of the uninitiated. But . . . such a lovely shade of slightest lavender . . .

Slightly scented as well . . . but I’m a bit wary to stick my nose in this plants’ bid-ness . . . sacred datura has been used for millenia by native peoples for ceremonial purposes, but is highly toxic in the hands of the uninitiated. But . . . such a lovely shade of slightest lavender . . .

Sure, the flowers get all the attention, but if you let your attention wander too long from the trail, these lovely stones have a way of making their presence known to shoeless feet . . .

Sure, the flowers get all the attention, but if you let your gaze wander too long from the trail, these lovely stones have a way of making their presence known to shoeless feet . . .

Beginning its late spring burst of yellow energy along a trail near you: tar plant (named for its strong aroma that reminds some folks of . . . tar).  We have (count 'em) six local species, four of them rare and endangered. (I'm not sure which one this is . . . guess I need to get keying . . . )

Beginning its late spring burst of yellow energy along a trail near you: tar plant (named for its strong aroma that reminds some folks of . . . tar). We have (count ’em) six local species, four of them rare and endangered. (I’m not sure which one this is . . . guess I need to get keying . . . )

Along the riparian "Willows" trail grow many: willows.  Some sections of trail have snow-like drifts of willow duff. When it floats down out of the trees on a very still spring morning, it reminds me of snowflakes (which is what an imagination is for).

Along the riparian “Willows” trail grow many: willows. Some sections of trail have snow-like drifts of willow duff. When it floats down out of the trees on a very still spring morning, it reminds me of snowflakes (which is what an imagination is for, right?).

I try to run early or late to avoid the crush of mountain bikers on the local trails . . . with no one else out and about but me 'n the wrentits, it's easy to imagine this place years before wheels came to be. I was happy to see this group go by, though:  a team of youngsters floating up the significantly steep Chutes trail like it was nothing. The future of trail running!

I try to run early or late to avoid the crush of mountain bikers on the local trails . . . with no one else out and about but me ‘n the wrentits, it’s easy to imagine this place years before wheels came to be. I was happy to see this group go by, though: a team of youngsters floating up the significantly steep Chutes trail like it was nothing. The future of trail running!

Our view at the top of Chutes and Barham Ridge trails.

Our view at the top of Chutes and Barham Ridge trails. Three million people go about their busy So Cal lives just beyond the edge of this image.

Another favorite view from Barham Ridge: the Santa Ana Mountains marching south.

Another favorite view from Barham Ridge: the Lomas de Santiago and Santa Ana Mountains marching along.

Almost back to the trailhead . . . one more squish in the mud . . . a fine way to start the day . . .

Almost back to the trailhead . . . one more squish in the mud . . . a fine way to start the day . . .

Spreading that Shoeless Groove

April 8, 2015

As the very fortunate coordinator of a community garden, I was able to welcome a group of young people today from a local transitional living home to tour the garden and plant corn . . . what fun we had examining roly-polys and spiders, making bouquets, sniffing herbs, and getting messy in the dirt.

What really did my heart good was when, about an hour into our garden time, I mentioned how good it felt to be shoeless, and several of the kids immediately decided to take off their tennies and spend the rest of the time planting corn . . . barefoot!

Here we are at the end of the planting session; by now half the kids had gotten rid of their shoes.

Here we are at the end of the planting session; by now half the kids had gotten rid of their shoes.

Spring in So Cal means sweet peas and sweet onions are ready to enjoy.

Spring in So Cal means sweet peas and sweet onions are ready to enjoy.

(Truth-in-barefoot-advertising-fine-print-advisory: after the kids left, I went for a stroll in a part of the garden where we have been battling milk thistle all winter/spring: ouch. Even after I got home, I still felt tiny spears jabbing me, and had to get out my needle/flashlight/magnifying glass kit for a little R&R . . .  rout and remove.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers