Skip to content

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.)

National Poetry Month meets My Barefoot Wandering and Writing

April 2, 2015

April = National Poetry Month in the U.S.; the third week of April is California Native Plant Week in California.

I’m looking forward to combining both of these favorite subjects on April 18 when I will be presenting a poetry reading/slide show with my native-plant-and-poetry-buddy Chuck Wright. You’ll find us at 2:30 at the Cypress Branch Public Library, ready to share our love for the native plants and wild places of Orange County, CA. (I will be the one without shoes . . . hmmm . . . I hope the library doesn’t have a “no shoes/no reading” policy . . . )

Chuck under oak

Chuck the poet, hard at work.

toes and cottonwood leaf

I love cottonwood leaves & poetry & barefoot wandering . . .

non-native invasive black mustard near Irvine Park

Pure spring beauty or pure evil? Read on . . .

Here’s to National Poetry Month! (The following poem is in response to views like the one in the photo above showing Orange County’s annual bloom of non-native invasive mustard in our local hills . . . a display many folks think is “beautiful” . . . but if they knew how these plants have destroyed so much of California’s native grasslands . . . might they look at these yellow flowers in a whole new way?)

Like a golden dagger inlaid with emerald

and much admired for its gaudy decoration,
so these hills are venerated for
how they light up every year with shiny
grass and brilliant mustard glow.

What if one day you heard the story of
the dagger’s history: “With this weapon
so-and-so stabbed and killed
your great-great-grandfather. And his wife.”

I think about this sometimes after rain
stirs the patient hills back into color:
too-green sheen of noxious annuals,
yellow epidemic of mustard flower—

weapons of death in our Orange County wildlands.
What is in the eye of the beholder?

Spring has sprung & I have run! (Barefoot, of course!)

March 22, 2015

What a beautiful time of year . . . the days are lengthening, the California native wildflowers are blooming, and Orange County’s wild trails are calling!

Running barefoot uphill is completely different than shod; the lack of weight on your feet makes it possible to actually fly . . .

Running barefoot uphill is completely different than shod; the lack of weight on your feet makes it possible to actually fly . . .

The warm temps and wildflowers also make the butterflies happy, and many were out this morning, cruising through the coastal sage scrub, almost crashing into me more than once. How would a butterfly collision feel?

Although this butterfly's name is "Common Buckeye," it's uncommon to me--I have never spotted one along a local trail until today.

Although this butterfly’s name is “Common Buckeye,” it’s uncommon to me–I have never spotted one along a local trail until today.

What is more common along the trail than a “Common Buckeye”?

Why do folks think it's OK to just chuck these on the ground?  Earth to knuckle-head outdoors-person: it's NOT OK!

Why do folks think it’s OK to just chuck these on the ground?
Earth to knuckle-head outdoors-person: it’s NOT OK!

I feel as prickly as a coast cholla when I see trash along the trail . . .

I feel as prickly as a coast cholla when I see trash along the trail . . .

Today I was able to chill out with a tangy snack of lemonade berries . . . guaranteed to take your mind/mouth off of litterbugs . . .

Today I was able to chill out with a tangy snack of lemonade berries . . . guaranteed to take your mind/mouth off of litterbugs . . .

Hopping over/past/around/near side-blotched lizards is another way to get cheered up along the trail. There were so many lizards out cavorting today . . . I was hopeful there would be snakes on the trail as well . . . but not such luck. (I did see a beautiful  California king snake last week, but was without a camera that day.)

Hopping over/past/around/near side-blotched lizards is another way to get cheered up along the trail. There were so many lizards out cavorting today . . . I was hopeful there would be snakes on the trail as well . . . but not such luck. (I did see a beautiful California king snake last week, but was without a camera that day.)

This is the first time I've spotted Turkish Rugging in Santiago Oaks; I've seen it before along the Chutes Trail, but here it is one ridge over. Only two plants in this cliff-side population overlooking Weir Canyon--a fun surprise sighting.

This is the first time I’ve spotted Turkish Rugging in Santiago Oaks; I’ve seen it before along the Chutes Trail, but here it is one ridge over. Only two plants in this cliff-side population overlooking Weir Canyon–a fun surprise sighting.

Another rarity, at least in this place/at this time. . . . not too many chaparral yuccas are blooming right now, which makes this one all the more appreciated/spectacular.

Another rarity, at least in this place/at this time. . . . not too many chaparral yuccas are blooming right now, which makes this one all the more appreciated/spectacular.

These last few flowers sightings were near the Hawk Trail: "Not Recommended for Horses," but highly recommended if you like to take the steep, slippery, rocky, flowery path from up here to down there.

These last few flowers sightings were near the Hawk Trail: “Not Recommended for Horses,” but highly recommended if you like to take the steep, slippery, rocky, flowery path from up here to down there.

I have way too much fun with my little camera's 10-second timer. My goal today: get an image of me with my feet off the ground. Success! (after quite a few failures) This is back in the lower, tree-filled section of Santiago Oaks Regional Park.

I have way too much fun with my little camera’s 10-second timer. My goal today: get an image of me with my feet off the ground. Success! (after quite a few failures)
This is back in the lower, tree-filled section of Santiago Oaks Regional Park.

Near the creek: lush foliage indeed. Here the poison oak is weaving a nice tapestry with black sage and California sagebrush . . . hanging waaaayyy out onto the trail. Watch out, hikers!

Near the creek: lush foliage indeed. Here the poison oak is weaving a nice tapestry with black sage and California sagebrush . . . hanging waaaayyy out onto the trail. Watch out, folks!

And, of course, no run through Santiago Oaks is complete without a final foot-soak in Santiago Creek, still sludging along through this dry winter. I recall other months of March when this was a raging torrent, with no way to cross for weeks (if you valued your life).

And, of course, no run through Santiago Oaks is complete without a final foot-soak in Santiago Creek, still sludging along through this dry winter. I recall other months of March when this was a raging torrent, with no way to cross for weeks (if you valued your life).

Now it’s time to start another work week . . . in my windowless office, in front of a computer for much of the day . . . distracted by thoughts of dusty trails lined with such plant-and-critter beauty . . . “springing” all through our Orange County wildlands.

Death and life in the heat of winter

March 15, 2015

A record-setting end-of-winter heat wave these last few days: intense sunshine and temps in the mid-90s have made it a bit warm to run mid-day, but as the shadows lengthened Friday afternoon, I was ready to see how the wildflowers were bearing up outside Irvine Park.

Owl's clover and sand pygmy stonecrop

Owl’s clover and stonecrop . . . getting a bit dry, but still bravely blooming.

Having some shadow fun,  admiring lupine still in bloom.

Having some shadow fun, admiring lupine still in bloom.

Lupine and non-native grasses

Although the heat is sizzling the flowers, here’s one last field of lupine shining in the low light (amidst a field of non-native invasive weeds).

The most in-your-face thing in bloom this time of year does not belong here: non-native, invasive black mustard. It smears its yellow nastiness all over our hills as it crowds out the less-agressive native wildflowers.

The most in-your-face thing in bloom this time of year does not belong here: non-native, invasive black mustard. It smears its yellow nastiness all over our hills as it crowds out the less-agressive native wildflowers.

Mustard mustard everywhere, and not a drop of pink.

More yucky mustard. It lines the trails in many places, gives off a heavy musky suffocating odor, and makes me sad about what might be blooming here if the mustard hadn’t taken over.

dead western fence lizard and bare feet

Not everything was late-afternoon sunshine and flowers, though . . . this western fence lizard looked to be recently separated from his tail–and life–by something other than bare feet careening down the trail. Mountain bikes, perhaps?

I've been keeping tabs on this trap door spider home for several years; each time I re-visit after rain, I fear it's been washed away, but it's still there.

On a happier note: I’ve been keeping tabs on this trap door spider home for several years; each time I re-visit after rain, I fear it’s been washed away, but it’s still there . . . out in the nearby wilds of our Orange County foothills.

Here's a shiny critter who always cheers me up when we meet along the trail. Darkling beetles: there's that sense they have an important a destination in mind, but they're never too busy say "hello, toes" as they head for who knows where.

Here’s a shiny critter who always cheers me up when we meet along the trail. Darkling beetles: there’s that sense they have an important destination in mind, but they’re never too busy say “hello, toes” as they head for who knows where.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers