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Barefoot Birding on the Shady Canyon Trail

March 31, 2012

Yesterday allowed just enough time for a quick hour no-shoes stroll (still injured; not running a whole lot) on the decomposed granite (DG) path that runs through the exclusive community of Shady  Canyon in Irvine. Although vehicular access is restricted to residents, anyone who stays on the two paths (parallel, one paved and one DG) can get some exercise behind the gates of a community where McMansion price tags can soar over $15 million. Yikes. I’d heard that lots of pro baseball players live (or have lived) here . . . yep:  Mark Langston, Mark McGwire, Garrett Anderson were a few names that quickly appeared during a web search.

I was definitely not looking for celebrity sightings yesterday; it was a mild spring afternoon, and I just needed some time on a trail that would provide  sights and smells and sounds of Orange County’s fabulous local wild plants and animals.

It was a good time.

Bird song: SurroundSound.

Sage and damp earth smells: SurroundSmell?

Wildflowers: not a whole lot, which made the few bright bloomers all the more eye-catching.

The trail texture: DG used to drive my soles crazy with sensory over-load from all the pea-sized and smaller rock bits that sit on the path’s surface. Lately, though, I’ve noticed my feet enjoy the grainy massage–a barefoot break-through for which I’m grateful.

The birds were calling on all sides, some hidden, many rather boldly in plain sight; it’s a pretty busy path system, and I was surprised at how many of them didn’t immediately flit away at my (of course shoe-less-ly quiet!) approach.

I’ve been meandering the Orange County hills since 1997 on a pretty regular basis (2-4 times a week), and I’ve been saddened over the years as roadrunner sightings have gotten more and more scarce. Not at Shady Canyon! I saw three roadrunners during my walk, and got some low-quality photos. (My little pocket camera does not have the greatest zoom or action capabilities; on the plus side, it fits in my pocket.) Here’s one of the roadrunners I spotted, plus a few other “celebrity birds of Shady Canyon.” Now that’s a reality show I’d like to see on TV!


Our state bird: the California quail

California towhee: common along many SoCal trails, but always a welcome sight

The poster-child/bird of chaparral conservation: the endangered California gnatcatcher

Deer plant: the yellow flowers turn red after pollination.

Monkey flower comes in a variety of yellow-to-orangish-to-reddish shades. I'm unable to describe this color.

The trip back to the trailhead at Quail Hill provides a view across the Saddleback Valley . . . a view that now includes the orange Great Park balloon.

Seeing all the roadrunners reminded me of a poem I wrote several years ago:

Foothill Fugitives

The hills outside my city once were hideouts
for horse thieves and assorted bandits
who escaped into the maze of sycamore
or got caught, and hung around for good.

Before them native people were intimate
with the dense chaparral whose labyrinths
hid cottontails, acorns, roots to dig,
sweet springs that dripped down secret walls of fern.

While new hill-wounds scab over into clumps
of houses, past the scars remain long ridges
that poke the sky and puncture winter’s heavy
cloud-burdens seething in from the Pacific.

A web of gates and fences restrict access
to a public ignorant of oak seduction,
immune to sagebrush buzz, numb to the rush
of lizards slithering underneath their feet—

folks who’d rather hang with Mickey Mouse.
I’m looking for an open trail to steal
away on, steep, with rocks and poison oak,
and around the next turn, a roadrunner.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2012 12:27 pm

    I noticed that I began to crave walking on the rough rubber mat that my husband has in the garage. I realized that I could use it during the winter to keep up my tolerance for pebbles. Sure, the view isn’t anything like yours but it’ll get me back into nature sooner than last spring.

    • April 10, 2012 8:42 pm

      Hi Barefoot Roses 🙂

      Thanks for the comment on my blog . . . where do you live where winters are that cold? Here’s an idea I had after reading your email about going in the garage to find some rough surfaces: buy a cat litter box and a bag of gravel . . .then run in place on that during the winter a few times a week?

      My problem is that I can’t seem to get my feet to where they’re able to handle more than about 90 minutes on the trail barefoot…then they start to get sore on the bottom. It’s been over two years, and I’m chasing a dream of at least a trail marathon, barefoot, before I pass on to the big trail run in the sky.

      Any ideas?

      Happy Trails!


      PS My email is

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