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A Spring In My (Barefoot) Steps

March 31, 2021

“The first bud of spring sings the other seeds into joining her uprising.”
― California poet Amanda Gorman (found at Spring Quotes on Goodreads)

March has almost marched past; let the wildflower uprising begin!

Another sign of spring in Southern California: the last rains of the year. There will be no more puddles until winter.

The rains are gone, but the masks seem to be here for a while longer.

A snowy egret in Santiago Creek . . . also reflecting on Spring things?

Paying attention to the ground surface is obviously important when barefoot hiking/running. There are rewards other than keeping the toes un-stubbed: rock art sightings!

Our chilly March brought days of rain down here, glorious snow up there in the San Gabriels.

Ah, the irresistible water selfie. Narcissus much?

Some March days were downright warm; then the layers came off and the park bench beckoned.

Last weekend we ventured out for a first-in-a-year camping trip. Our 1970s-era Honda Trail 70s helped us putt-putt over the rough roads to the hiking trailhead of the Oak Woodland Natural Preserve, 60 acres dedicated to a grove of immense, and immensely old, Valley Oaks. Unlike Orange County’s evergreen Coast Live Oaks, these are deciduous.

My heroic tree-hugger hubby of 4.5 decades.

Being especially fond of both loop hikes & literary full circles, since I began this post with a quote from the Goodreads spring quotes pages, I’ll end with another California writer, John Steinbeck, on spring in California:

“In the deep spring when the grass was green on fields and foothills, when the lupines and poppies made a splendid blue and gold earth, when the great trees awakened in yellow-green young leaves, then there was no more lovely place in the world.

“It was no beauty you could ignore by being used to it. It caught you in the throat in the morning and made a pain of pleasure in the pit of your stomach when the sun went down over it.”
― John Steinbeck, The Wayward Bus

In my own back yard, the lupines and poppies are leading a local spring wildflower uprising, inducing a most welcome “pain of pleasure” whenever I glance out the window to take a break from my endless pandemic laptopping.

Farewell, puddles. Hello, flowers and whatever comes next.

Happy Springing Barefoot Trails!

“Inspiration At Every Turn! The Passion and Enthusiasm of Self-Discovery” (a re-blog of Mr. Campfire’s latest post)

February 26, 2021

It was fun reading Phil’s post about my workshop presentation for adventure guides at Grand Canyon several years ago . . . it made me want to get outside and WRITE right now, so I’ve “re-blogged” it . . . something I don’t do too often. I hope you have fun with my list of writing prompts to get you creating outside. Happy Trails!

Take time to escape...

Self discovery and inspiration are a thing for me. I wake up hungry for them every day! I have an insatiable appetite for adventures and feasts of savory experiences that leave me inspired. The relish to these inspirational experiences is seeing others being inspired in new and exciting ways to create amazing experiences and memories.

Passion!

Enthusiasm!

Self Discovery!

Inspiration!

Sounds like some pretty powerful ingredients and stunning recipe for adventure. Mixed properly and allowed to marinate at the right time in the right place, these ingredients react upon each other to form a catalyst for an explosion of imagination and inspiration.

It is truly a wonderful thing for me to literally experience inspiration with every step. And to add watching others experience new inspirations is absolutely thrilling for me!

So in this blog I will give some examples of watching these ingredients mix and the resulting “explosion of inspiration.”…

View original post 1,071 more words

Eleven Years of Barefoot Running Fun

January 31, 2021
Grand Canyon National Park, Cape Royal

Back in January 2010, I attended a Jon Young “bird language” workshop with a group of like-minded Orange County nature leaders. It was a chilly morning, and as we warmed our hands around a fire at O’Neill Park, I was struck by the odd choice of footwear by a couple of wool-pants-wearing, 20-something young men: nothing. Nada.

They were . . . barefoot? In mid-winter?

This struck me as moderately hilarious, and I elbowed the docent next to me and whispered some kind of witty-to-me comment about where this next generation was headed.

After an interesting several hours learning about bird language from a certified bird magician (or maybe just someone who’s spent a lifetime paying attention . . . I loved reading Jon Young’s book this past pandemic: What the Robin Knows), I drove home not with birds, but shoe-less-ness, on my mind.

A deep dive into web research-and-stories cleansed me of preconceived notions about the stigma of naked toes, and once I applied myself to a further peeling back of layers of advertising baloney sausage regarding the necessity of supportive and/or cushioned walking, running, and/or hiking shoes . . . well, as Paul Simon might sing, here I am, still barefoot after all these years.

Grand Canyon National Park, Plateau Point, photo by Nina Rehfeld

Those first heady years of weekly, then semi-monthly, blog posts about my barefoot adventures have mellowed into a blog publishing “schedule” bordering on semi-annual.

Has it all been said? Are there no more adventures to be had now that I’m 60 +, retired from teaching, pandemic-limited in travel, bereft of my Grand Canyon Conservancy Field Institute adventures?

(I was an instructor with the GCCFI from 2015 until its late-2020 defunding-demise, and many of my memorable adventures since 2011 happened in the context of participating in GCCFI-affiliated backpack trips and workshops.)

Grand Canyon National Park, North Rim, “Writing on the Edge” Workshop, 2019

I hope not.

I hope I never forget that each day I am able to swing my bare toes over the edge of the bed and touch them to the floor is a gift.

Each time I wander our local hilly trails is a blessing.

Each run I complete in one piece, few to zero bloody toes, is a cause for celebration.

Oops . . . where did that rock come from?!

(For so many years I was chronically injured runner . . . but things started improving once I got rid of shoes and made learning about running a life-long practice–not to mention God’s gracious answering of my desperate pleas to “just let me be able to run for five minutes” . . . “for a half hour” . . . “for an hour” . . . you get the picture. There’s no hunger like a runner’s coming back from injury . . . )

And, even at my most gimpy, when my knee/hip/foot/calf pain made running impossible, I’ve always been fortunate enough to be able to place one foot in front of the other and walk barefoot, somewhere, even if it was just to the mailbox, or corner, or path around a local park.

Santiago Oaks Regional Park

SO . . . there went eleven years of blogging about Barefoot Wandering and Writing.

I remain grateful for strong, capable feet. I hope to never take for granted every step they carry me somewhere–new or familiar–where there is always something to notice and smile about. And share.

Grand Canyon National Park, North Kaibab Trail, Barefoot Rim to Rim, October 2014

Happy Barefoot Trails! There’s no time like NOW to lose your shoes (even for a few minutes . . . and then . . . build from there)!

Advice for Running 30+ Miles (Barefoot Or Not, Whether You Asked Or Not)

November 28, 2020

Thanksgiving week. Thanksgiving life. Always cause for thanks.

But how time has changed in its flow, ebbs, and swirls since the beginning of 2020.

I’m still running barefoot, but with less to say (blog) about it.

Each run is a gift . . . Merry Early Christmas . . . Now in my 60s, I can run farther–and happier–than ever. Happily ever barefoot after, even though . . .

. . . sometimes pandemical months go by during which I can only hobble-hike, due to rock-smashed toes and other aches and quibbles. But whether it’s wearing sandals (those old faithful Merrell Pipidae Wraps) to limp down the sidewalk and admire holiday decorations,

This just appeared an hour ago in my neighborhood.

or shoelessly loping up and down our dusty local hills (dodging mountain bikers all the way), I’m grateful for the simple ability to inhabit this always healing body and . . . move along.

Moving right along

Of course my pocket camera goes with me on all these run-ventures, but taking photos feels less and less urgent—another reason this blog has turned sporadic. (Scroll on to the end of this piece for a few images of my pandemic-limited travels these last million days of safer-at-home.)

Always grateful to be stirred out of lethargy, I was intrigued when a barefoot runner friend recently asked for ideas as they plan to tackle a day-long 30-plus miles on their own local Pacific Northwest trails.

So I went for a run, thought about what has worked in my limited experience, and came up with the following:

Some thoughts towards prepping for a 30+ mile barefoot run

Train your brain. Read as many ultra-runner accounts as you can. There’s plenty to be found online . . . seems like everyone has a great story (of some combination of success and failure) to learn from. (Kenneth Posner is a favorite barefoot long-distance adventurer-writer at The Long Brown Path.)

It helps me to know there’s a lot of people out there running lots of miles—30, 50, 100+ in a day . . . C’mon, brain–it’s not that big of a deal. Thirty miles? Pshaw—barely more than a marathon, and we all know how many gazillions of regular folk do that every year.

Dear Brain: running/walking for long stretches of time is perfectly fine & fun behavior. OK, maybe a bit challenging. But definitely do-able. Sincerely, Me. (Or You?)

TOF: Spend as much time on your feet as you can each day (TOF= time of feet).  If you don’t run today, do something else: hustle up and down your stairs, dance around the kitchen, hike around the block (or swim or bike or row if that’s fun for you). Aim for daily “bricks in the wall” (a David Roche metaphor).

Does time spent balancing on a fence count?

Practice eating and drinking as you keep moving. Real food + regular water—whatever you will be consuming on the Big Day to keep your metabolic engine chugging along.

Consider the 9 + 1 pattern. Do this from the start (important: start the run doing this!) of your long haul, and you can go all day: nine minutes easy running followed by a minute of walking. Rinse and repeat. If you can run six miles already, I bet you could do the 9+1 thing tomorrow and be able to go 30 miles. (But I’m not a betting person, so . . . yeah . . . )

Don’t be dogmatic. Bring backup sandals or shoes (or both), and use them as conditions dictate. Are you out there to enjoy your time on the trails, or sacrifice your safety to “prove” something? (Hint: ask your ego.)

Smile. A silly solo grin. Even (especially!) if there’s no one around to smile back. The act of smiling causes brain changes that make everything more enjoyable.

This braid doesn’t give a flip. Or does it?

Sing. Belt out comforting and/or motivating and/or annoying songs. Bonus: If you have enough breath to do this, your pace might just be sustainable.

Greet the trees (and rocks, critters, plants). Learn their names ahead of time, if possible. Trail running is more fun around friends whose names you know.

Long-billed curlew? (I have to admit, I did not greet this new friend by name when we met this fall.)

Listen to your body, but don’t encourage any previously well-documented hypochondriatical-theatrical tendencies. Small aches and pains will often disappear if you . . . quit worrying about them. (See smile/sing advice, above.) Also to consider: find a professional who can help you learn to move more effectively whilst listening to your body. Feldenkrais practitioner Darcia Dexter has helped me immeasurably in this area.

Let thoughts go. Aim to just enjoy the act of moving. (Maybe walk backwards? How can you keep things interesting within reason? I’m always looking for new ideas . . . )

Of course I’ve left out all kinds of stuff. It’s a pandemic; who’s thinking super-clearly these days?

And now, a few images from the last several months to justify my ongoing compulsion to carry my pocket camera on runs:

October aspen in the Eastern Sierra Nevada.
Beginning Sept. 4, the Sierra Nevada were ablaze not only with aspen but with the Creek Fire; as of this writing, the largest fire in California’s recorded history had burned almost 380,000 acres and was still not 100% contained.
Smoke-enhanced sunsets . . . or sunrises?
Pandemic brain: I don’t remember where/when this was; so many smoky days . . .
Morro Bay at low tide; time/place to reflect.
Morro Rock, California Central Coast
Exquisite summer buckwheat at Montana de Oro State Park, CA Central Coast.
Happy Fall: so grateful I can still cross Santiago Creek to my dusty little network of local trails.

Happy (barefoot, virus-free) Trails!

(Take a long walk and let me know how it goes?)

The Barefoot Remedy for Feeling Blue

August 12, 2020

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Putting the “me” in metaphor (a poem)
A shadow of myself on the run
but also posed,
dusty pandemic party of one.

And so it continues: days of unschedule, lost hours, stuck back, computer eyes.

What a relief to be able to drive less than 15 minutes to local trailheads, step out of my car with no need to tie my shoes, and just. Start. Running. (Or, when I’m in an age-appropriate mood: just start walking, then some dynamic leg/arm warm-ups, all that good stuff a la David Roche. And then the running.) Blues-be-gone.

over the hill

This is height of fluffy dust season in Orange County–not drought, just normal pattern of rainlessness between ~April and November-ish. The trails are soft (in between the pebbles) and native plants are showing off their crazy ability to thrive in this exact place. Blued datura blossom.

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If I time my excursions, I can avoid most of the hiking-and-biking hordes.

But not their residue.

Today’s theme and all . . .  here’s some blue trash.

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How artful awful.

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Above all the unpleasant blue surprises sits the sky.

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And sometimes, down here on the ground, a welcome blue intrusion:

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Bluefluent (and barefoot) Trails to all . . .

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Wandering On Into A Summer Like No Other

June 12, 2020

back yard pool 1961

Youngest of seven, always in the middle of things . . .

During the ’60s, June was my favorite month–the hectic schedule of the school year over, the promise of unstructured, seemingly unlimited days ahead to read, play with siblings, ride bikes and hang out at the beach (or, more realistically, our back yard pool).

Fireworks stands would pop up all over town. Birthday money would burn a hole in my pocket (figure of speech) until I could exchange it for things that would spark and smoke and whistle as they (literally) burned.

Now I’m IN my 60s, no more school year schedules since I retired from teaching to help with our newborn grandson, who is now three, and more fun than ever, even if most of our interaction these days is via video chat.

Yes indeedy, this has been a strange June, full of both the familiar and unfamiliar, the comforting and the challenging.

I’ve made plenty of masks for family and friends (out of all kinds of fun recycled fabric).

masks for Taylor and family

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And when life gives you zucchini . . .

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. . . what to do except make (chocolate) zucchini bread?

zucchini bread

Mostly, though, my unstructured COVID-19 days have been spent hunched in front of my laptop, staring at lists of DNA matches and their family trees, trying to solve the mysteries of my dad’s biological family, starting with the most basic of questions: who are they?

bluebird looking in window

A curious bluebird neighbor at the window . . . “Why does she just sit and stare at that thing all day?”

A big breakthrough this week: using a “family tree cheat” technique on Ancestry, I plugged in a couple of ancestors that I skimmed from a DNA match’s tree. Their place of birth was the same Kentucky town as my paternal grandmother’s (one of the few “facts” she left behind when she died in childbirth with my dad’s younger sister).

The mysterious algorithms at Ancestry took over, and within a few days, I had a hundred previously uncategorized cousins now attached to various “placeholder” great-great-great (and then some) aunts, uncles, and grandparents. (It’s called the “Thru-Line” feature, and is nothing short of miraculous. Not to get too recommendy on y’all, but if you’re thinking about which DNA testing company to use to find missing relatives, this feature really sets Ancestry apart.)

So . . . 2+ months X 6-8 hours a day later . . . this equation equals a stiffening lower back (probably from immobilized hip flexors). A weekly Zoom class with stellar Feldenkrais instructor Darcia Dexter has done wonders in mitigating all that frozen-in-front-of-a-screen time, so that I’m able to balance out the indoors life with lovely (barefoot, of course) runs several days a week in our local hills.

barefoot runner on the horizon

Another mental health tool has been limiting news and media exposure; the challenge is to stay informed just enough so I know what NOT to discuss with friends & family.

However, now that I can no longer ignore the festering infection of systemic racism made so apparent by recent events, my challenge is how to engage, not in rhetoric, but in actions of love that ripple out, join with others, and create a tidal wave of change that this moment in history has created an opportunity for. (Yeah, I see that preposition at the end of that last sentence. There are bigger things to worry about now.)

” . . . but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8.

In the meantime, the burned-to-bare-dirt hills outside Orange are leading by example:

 

post fire superbloomers

Fire-followers bush mallow and deer plant 

 

nolina bloom in sun

Rising from burnt stubs: chaparral nolina, rather rare and declining in numbers.

prickly pear in bloom

The glorious prickly pear

 

cactus wren

Cactus wren so at home it sings in its prickly pear lair.

matilijas in sun

The 2017 “Canyon Fire 2” seemed to remove every trace of vegetation from the hills surrounding Irvine Park; almost three years later, the resiliency of California native plants is evident in the exuberance of this mini-super-bloom that includes matilija poppies.

sticky monkey flower Mimulus aurantiacus

Sticky monkey flower. Say that three times fast and try not to smile 🙂

Red diamondback rattler

And . . . now that the native plants have returned after the fire, the food web can work its magic.

coiled red diamondback

 

golden yarrow Eriophyllum confertiflorum

Golden yarrow thrives on a north-facing slope at Irvine Park together with delicate pink blossoms of the California native plant with my favorite name: Farewell-to-spring.

Farewell-to-spring. Ten days till the summer solstice. A new season in so many ways.

 

Staying barefoot and hopeful (after a trip-of-a-lifetime is cut short)

April 14, 2020

Chalk greetings

[grandkid art]

Greetings from the land of “Safe At Home.”

How the world has changed since my last blog post.

Instead of spending the month of March on a long-planned road trip to the East Coast, Steve and I had to turn around in Louisiana, only a week into what was supposed to be an epic loop through the South, hanging out with friends and family and doing some family history research.

It was in Hot Springs, AR, on the morning of Friday, March 13, while looking at a sign posted on the front door of the Garland County Historical Society building, “closed due to health/virus/pandemic/etc” . . . that I realized our adventure–and more importantly, the lives of so many people directly affected by contracting the disease or caring for others with it–was taking a turn we could never have imagined a few months ago.

Thanks be to God we made it home and have a safe place to hunker down, with indoor plumbing, plenty of (non-hoarded) toilet paper, potable water, and a good internet connection that brings the privilege of online interactions with family and friends. (But dang I miss hugging those grandkids!)

(And dang I’m tired of sitting in front of a computer screen.)

(AND  dang . . . so much collective emotional overload of sadness and stress brought on by the news.)

So here’s a diversion, a bunch of photos that, when I was just perusing them and deciding which ones to include (you’ll notice I had a difficult time paring them down . . .) that . . . that . . . where was I . . . oh yeah: I hope this collection will inspire you to look through your own photos of good times and breathe out gratitude and then call someone to see if they need cheering more than you right now.

(Around here, that would be my 93-year-old mom on lockdown in her senior community 90 miles away.)

ocotillo and cholla sunrise

Our road trip started out in early March with our annual Anza Borrego State Park family campout. (Now, of course, all CA state parks are closed.)

Not quite a superbloom year, but shrubs such as encelia (left) and chuparosa (right) were still stunning, especially in the morning light.

After going most of my life without a glimpse of these agile creatures, the last several years have provided some epic sightings of desert bighorn sheep (because they are getting much more used to human intrusion?). My morning writing session, usually a desert-quiet-time of quail call and bee hum, was punctuated this time with the clatter of rock scatter as the bighorns plunged down the steep cliffs to the valley floor, where rifle-shot retorts echoed off the mountain when they smacked spiral horns.

 

morning desert writing

Later in the morning, our group of happy campers headed to the other side of Font’s Point (pictured below) for a hike near the badlands.

sunrise over fonts point march 2020

Then it was time to head east: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and beyond?

AZ highways

Things began as a beautiful blur of desert highway, followed by overnights in RV parks when we ran out of daylight.

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One day we took a break from ENDLESS HOURS OF DRIVING to spend time with Texas friends at the Dallas Botanical Garden (now closed to the public due to you-know-what). It was tulip (and more) festival time. Much beauty to behold!

A floral show of a different kind met us at the historical Hollywood Cemetery in Hot Springs, AR, where my uncle and grandmother are buried. Finding their graves was to be a highlight of the family-research part of our road trip.

Was to be . . . or not to be?

hollywood cemetery AR

It seems the place fell on hard times, and the new management company has no records other than what the Garland County Historical Society has managed to create by visiting and mapping whatever graves have survived decades of neglect.

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Still . . . it was a powerful experience to wander around and imagine my toddler father here, not once, but twice, as his younger brother died at eleven months old in 1928 and his family returned the next year to bury his mother, who died the day after giving birth to my dad’s youngest sister.

So much tragedy for a three-year-old . . . with more to come as my dad’s father abandoned him and his two sisters to an orphanage the next year, promising my dad to return for him. This bit of hope kept my father from pushing to the front when prospective families would come to adopt a child; this reticence is what his adopted mother later told him was why she chose him.

They did a good job with my dad (not perfect; what parental experience is . . . including yours truly’s), and he went on to be a much better father than his trauma-filled childhood should have allowed. (Which he would attribute to the grace of God, and I can only concur from the 20-20 hindsight of digging into his biological family history.)

It was while we were in Hot Springs that the corona virus situation started to become “real” . . . the closures were beginning . . . and we barely made it to our Louisiana cousins for a traditional crawdad feast before the barrage of news-and-rumors drove us to the decision we better high-tail it home before some kind of national lockdown.

After “miles and miles of Texas” . . . what a welcome Welcome sight:

welcome to Cali

(If you’ve seen Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, you’ll know why I took the photos, above.)

view from the kitchen

Thus endeth the road trip. See ya next time, Florida and North Carolina and Tennessee and Kansas friends & relatives & state archives.

Now we’re home, enjoying a bird’s eye view (a horrific pun, I know) of all the excitement of spring unfolding in our back yard (especially around the fountain):

Bullocks oriole 3 28 20 Orange CA

Townsends warbler 3 28 20 Orange CA

And . . . when it’s not raining (which it has been in an unusual fashion for the last month) I know where to go for my social-distance-wildflower-fix:

Time to shed some layers . . . and greet today’s (finally!) sunny weather with a smile and a run.

coiled snake skinStay safe out there! We’re in this together!

pandemic trail rules

trail time during pandemic

Happy (non-virusy) trails . . .

 

I’m Baaack . . . and so are the Wildflowers

February 24, 2020

barefoot fence walk sunset

After weeks of an exhausting cough and feeling stuffy and yucky, I’m thanking God that my lungs and throat and nose breathing apparatus are all back to seventh-decade-optimal working order.

And I’m running again. (Or hiking along fence rails, as the above photos shows.)

The photo below, from a recent visit to Grand Canyon, shows the faint line of trail from Indian Garden (the darker foliage) to Plateau Point–an amazing place where I once enjoyed a sunset dinner during a six-day trip across.

South Rim Jan 2010

I might be smilin’ on the outside, but inside I was nothing but a hot mess of a hacking nose-faucet, drawn to the South Rim in mid-winter for a two-day class to recertify as a Wilderness First Responder.

NOLS sticker

This is the certification required by the Grand Canyon Conservancy Field Institute–with it I can continue to teach creative writing workshops . . . at both the North AND South Rims this summer!

WFR training fake bruise

Every two years, WooFeRs (Wilderness First Responders) spend a LOT of time going through realistic (note the stage blood and bruise make-up) scenarios; students take turns as both patient and first responder, with lots of debriefing and discussion and some classroom time as well. (The NOLS instructors are awesome!)

WFR awards

My classmates were awesome as well, and the ones I teamed up with for the tibia/fibula fracture . . . and then humerus fracture . . . splinting practice were so good we “won” the prizes for both! (Prizes pictured above: a wound irrigating syringe as reward for our amazing leg splint and a wound care pack for our neat ‘n’ tidy upper arm splint and sling.)

Then it was time to head home and enjoy the grandkids; here’s the youngest one checking out the manzanita (and lupine!) bloom in our yard.

Mickey kid and manzanita

We also got to head north to visit the older grandsons, who did not go hiking with me at Montana de Oro State Park, instead choosing to stay home and play basketball with their dad and grandpa. Go figure.

The Coon Creek Trail, on a lovely Sunday afternoon, had few hikers and plenty of splendid native plants, including these squiggly coast live oaks. (Photo credit: my hiking companion and super-amazing daughter Tina C. Davidson.)

Thea under oak Coon creek

Here’s a plant that stumped me, as well as a few other hikers who: 1) I asked, “What is it?” or 2) Asked me, “What is it?”

Toadshades. Narrowpetal Wakerobin. Trillium augustipetalum. Whatever you want to call it, you won’t find it growing around my home ground (Orange County, CA, wildlands).

You will find this striking plant (and its plethora of cousins) spread across North America, though; it is “the widest ranging of all American endemics, native to more states (twenty-nine of them) than any other plant group confined to the United States,” according to an article in Pacific Horticulture that laments trillium’s under-appreciation as well as its ongoing disappearance from California shady places.

There was more shady beauty to be found along Coon Creek: shelf fungus.

fungi fest

And another plant I had never seen, although it has many purply-blueish cousins in Orange County: Sticky phacelia (Phacelia viscida), covered stem-to-bud with tiny tacky hairs.

Phacelia viscosa at Coon Creek

Yes: it’s wildflower season in So Cal!

Sadly, since the rainy season was less than drench-tacular this year, Orange County is not experiencing anything near a superbloom, but there are still lovelies to discover:

western sunflower from below

Western sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

tidy tips end of day

Tidy tips (Layia platyglossa)

lupine in shadow

Lupine sp.

wild cucumber on chain link

Wild cucumber (Marah macrocarpus)

. . . and this one, with curvy leaves as vivid as flowers . . .

laurel sumac red new leaves

Laurel sumac (Malosma laurina)

Up on the ridge, near the intersection of Hawk and Grasshopper:

hawk and grasshopper intersection

. . . hilltopping butterflies!

painted lady and shadow

Painted lady (Vanessa cardui)

plastic bottlecap trash

Not hilltopping . . . just polluting . . .

Then I found this round thing like a bottlecap fallen from the sky . . .

moon reflection

Moon reflection in sluggish Santiago Creek

Well, I dreamed I saw the silver space ships flying / In the yellow haze of the sun

sun rays and oak

All of this flower-trash-moon-cloud watching sometimes takes my attention from the matter at hand (or foot): stepping safely.

And my toe smacks a rock or root, and $#^% happens. (Sigh. Not again. You can see that this toenail had barely grown in from my last rocky get-together.)

bloody toe

Is it worth going barefoot for the occasional toe collision?

tidy tips and toes

Ahhh . . . to feel the trail . . . dust or rock or mud or leaf . . . as a student once wrote during a “take your shoes off and write” session back in my teaching days: “It’s like flossing your feet with the world.”

So. Worth. It.

Happy (toe-flossing) Trails!

How to Celebrate Ten Years of Barefoot Wandering (and writing)

January 30, 2020

Ten years, 316 posts and 5,000 + barefoot miles through dust, rocks, mud, sand, hills. Wildfires.

barefoot summer running

So many fun miles at Grand Canyon . . .

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A stumble or two on local trails . . .

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One stress fracture (lower right fibula) . . .

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Many healing sessions with Dr. Derrick Sueki at Knight Physical Therapy . . .

Many healing Feldenkrais sessions with Darcia Dexter . . .

Way too many exclamations of surprise by other trail users: hikers, bikers, horseback riders. (“Barefoot! That’s hardcore!” “Wow. Where’s your shoes?” “Etc.”)

Just enough kind blog comments by other barefoot sojourners (thanks & you know who you are!).

Multiple trips across Grand Canyon sans shoes, or partially shoeless; here’s my account of the first one that eventually was published (in slightly edited form) in Rick Kempa’s anthology: On Foot: Grand Canyon Backpacking Stories: https://wordpress.com/post/theagavin.wordpress.com/1835

A couple of trail ultras; here’s a “race report” after the first one: https://wordpress.com/post/theagavin.wordpress.com/4889

My (literal, 10,000-foot-plus) barefoot high point in July 2012: https://wordpress.com/post/theagavin.wordpress.com/1649

Local 5k/10k races, this one with grandkids:

https://theagavin.wordpress.com/2019/10/17/time-for-some-barefoot-bragging/

But . . . enough traveling back in time!

It’s 2020, and in spite of all the too-easy vision puns that could be made about this year, I will exercise word-play-self-control and leave the future in God’s good hands.

With no idea what tomorrow might bring (but plenty of recent tragedies to remind us how brief and precious our time on earth is), I can only keep putting one bare foot in front of the other, and see where the trail leads.

Thanks for joining me on the journey so far! I appreciate hearing from readers who have been inspired by my barefoot shenanigans, and hope to continue “writing to inspire” in the days and miles ahead.

Happy (barefoot, celebratory) trails!

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Thankful for shoes?! (What have I become . . . )

December 2, 2019

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What I’m wearin’ these days in non-barefoot-friendly situations . . .

After almost ten years of living-and-writing-about the barefoot trail running and shoeless hiking life, I’m trying not to feel hypocritical.

The photo above shows what lengths (pun intended . . . I do have far-reaching feet) I now go to as I enjoy new ways to keep learning and having fun in retirement: horseback riding and CrossFit.

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Two “seniors” having fun? (then why are Merlin’s ears flicked back . . . )

While the Merrell Vapor Glove 4 shoes (in topmost photo) meet my “minimal shoe test” (which is the flex-ability to roll into a ball), and while they work well for box-jumping, rope-skipping, weight-lifting, and other CrossFit play, when I wore them for my first English riding lesson I realized, once again, that there is a time and place for everything:

Stirrup-comfort-and-safety requires sturdy boots with low heels (which my kind sister was happy to lend me indefinitely).

So . . . call me a sell-out. I can take it, as long as the foot-smothering gives me the chance to horse around and practice all kinds of mind-body coordination work–while attempting to properly communicate with a big beautiful creature named Merlin.

Magical old Merlin is 20–but still going strong as a lesson horse; when I looked up “comparing horse to human aging” I discovered a fun surprise: we’re the same age!

Senior citizens . . . yikes . . .  but neither of us wants to let that slow us down.

*Truth in horse behavior note: actually, Merlin lets lots of stuff slow him down–he is a wise old guy and not about to walk or trot any faster than his rider has the skills to communicate “Let’s get going” to him.

I’ve got no CrossFit photos yet, but believe me when I say I’ve reluctantly caved in to wear shoes (my Merrells) to abide by the gym’s “no bare feet” rule.

Has it ruined my life?

Nope. Only my sense of barefoot pride.

So, with no shame left to feel since I’m Cross-Fitting in my bare-ly there Merrell’s a couple days a week, I decided to take some pain away from my Thanksgiving Day run in the rain (below 50F,  which is insanely chilly for a daytime high around here) and . . . Run. In. Shoes.

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*Truth in barefooting note: it felt good to not have numb feet. Last winter, when I tried running on a similar wet/cold day, I got about a hundred yards from the car and decided frozen toes weren’t worth and had to drive right back home.

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While the rain closes down all the local trails, it does create puddle-wonderfulconditions.

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And when the trails dry out, Santiago Creek is there for mud-luscious stream crossing.

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Also happening this time of year: Toyon berries glow along the trails . . .

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. . . which means snack time for local coyotes, and animal-scat-foot-selfie time for yours truly.

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Besides being distracted from my trail running by scat, every trailside bench beckons to me as well, calling me to pause and practice balance–an important life skill for seniors! (And the balancing has now become prep work for the Christmas present I just bought the grandkids: a slack line! What a coincidence! I’ve always wanted one! And I’ve always wanted to stuff a whole paragraph full of exclamation points!!)

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Now, this photo does a good job of showing the challenges and triumphs of barefoot hiking and trail running: I would not stumbled into this bloody, betwixt-the-toes stick-wound if I’d been wearing foot-smotherers . . . but . . . I doubt this alligator lizard would have paused for a fetching foot-selfie with me if I’d stomped up to him in big ol’ hiking boots.

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Once last bit o’ thankfulness: being able to run with my grandson during his Thanksgiving week visit. Ten years ago, I was a broken, injury-plagued runner. By the grace of God, lots of physical therapy, movement education (Feldenkrais Method), and the miracle of shoe-less-ness, this cranky-not-creaky “senior” grandma now gets to create running memories with the next generation (who might decide shoes are for them, and that’s OK too).

Happy Shod or Shoeless Lizard-lovin’ Grateful Trails!