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Barefoot selfies and selfishness on the trail

November 17, 2013

This blog has three focuses (foci?): Barefoot. Wandering. Writing.

A recent surfeit of foot-free posts has prompted this flurry of  unclad toe photos from my mid-November wandering–scroll no further if you are not inspired by (lots and lots) of  bootless adventure images.

One more caveat: at this end of this post I will wax splenetic about how people treat trails. You were warned.

Mexican elderberry at sunrise

This last week was full of flaming sunrises and sunsets.

Even in wackily warm So Cal (daytime temps in the 80s and 90s all week) autumn happens; it’s nice to scrunch and snuggle in sycamore and cotton leaf-fall. Here is the first of way-too-many “barefoot selfie” photos.

Cottonwood leaves and toes

Fall cottonwood leaves transfigured by sunlight

Here’s where they sailed from . . .

Coast live oak acorn along the trail

The coast live oaks are dropping their acorn bounty as well.

Acorn on the trail

Acorn toe: not for sale at a mall near you.

Acorn woodpeckers are busy drilling holes and stuffing them with . . . acorns.

Acorn woodpeckers are busy drilling holes and stuffing them with . . . acorns.

No real rain since last winter; native plants like this monkey flower have dropped most of their leaves (what it means to be drought deciduous) and, like me, hope the gray clouds will soon bring rain.

No real rain since last winter; native plants like this monkey flower have dropped most of their leaves (what it means to be drought deciduous). We wait for a cloudburst.

What can continue blooming, even after eight months of no rain? Sacred datura (

What can continue blooming, even after eight months of no rain? Sacred datura (Datura wrightii), an important ceremonial plant to the cultures of People all over the Southwest.

"Take my feet and let them be / Swift and beautiful for Thee" = a favorite hymn quote . . .

“Take my feet and let them be / Swift and beautiful for Thee” = a favorite hymn quote . . .

At the end of a run, there's always some cool water to cross where the trail meets Santiago Creek at Santiago Oaks Regional Park.

At the end of a run, there’s always some cool water to cross where the trail meets Santiago Creek at Santiago Oaks Regional Park.

One of my favorite local places to run the trails unshod: Santiago Oaks Regional Park. Family lore has us visiting here back in the 1950s, when our neighbor George Lemke owned an orange grove here at the end of Windes Drive.

One of my favorite local places to run the trails unshod: Santiago Oaks Regional Park. Family lore has us visiting here back in the 1950s, when our neighbor George Lemke owned an orange grove there at the end of Windes Drive.

DIATRIBE TIME: (If you are reading this, I’d bet you’re not one of the people who made the following messes, but thanks for letting me vent. Is it selfish of me to want people to clean up after themselves on the trail? Or selfish of them to expect someone else to pick up their plastic crap? If you have read this far, I know that you know that we know the answer. The question then remains: how to get folks to Leave No Trace? )

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Are you $)(!#-ing kidding me? This is bad for so many reasons. I will not count the ways. (But remember: it hasn’t rained out here for eight months. That’s why there are “no smoking” signs at all the trailheads.)

It is NEVER okay to just chuck your crappy plastic trash along the trail, whoever you are.

It is NEVER okay to just chuck your crappy plastic trash along the trail, whoever you are.

Micro-trash is still trash. This foil energy gel pull-tab is not going to biodegrade. So pack it out, buddy.

Micro-trash is still trash. This foil energy gel pull-tab is not going to biodegrade. So pack it out, buddy.

Here's one to get you guessing: it's an entire gooey energy get packet that I wrapped up in a nearby piece of helium balloon ribbon. Two unnecessary pieces of our culture, united in their detritus identity.

Here’s one to get you guessing: it’s an entire gooey energy gel packet that I wrapped up in a nearby piece of helium balloon ribbon. Two unnecessary pieces of our culture, united in their detritus identity.

What can interrupt my pleasant galloping down the dusty trails of Barham Ridge? Ridiculous discarded water bottle caps. It's difficult for me to imagine how someone can just go, "La la la I'm going to drink out of my BPA-laced bottle and just chuck the cap here along the trail because it's too heavy to carry back to the trailhead trash can."

What can interrupt my pleasant galloping down the dusty trails of Barham Ridge? Ridiculous discarded water bottle caps. It’s difficult for me to imagine the thought process this might take: “La la la I’m going to drink out of my BPA-laced bottle and just chuck the cap here along the trail because it’s too heavy to carry back to the trailhead trash can.”

As they used to say in the 1970s: Keep on truckin'

To update a popular bit of  1970s advice: Keep on truckin’–not chuckin’!

Here’s a poem I wrote a while back after a particularly bad trail trash day:

Anecdote of the Trash

“I placed a jar in Tennessee . . .
it made a slovenly wilderness
surround that hill.” ”

From “Anecdote of the Jar” by Wallace Stevens

On another shoeless escapade
I run into what some slovenly
blockhead has chucked: unbright styrofoam.

I tiptoe off-trail through the fallen
star thistle that stabs my undertoes;
bending stiff I pick up golden-arch-marked
poly-carbon crap.

In my small pack it joins its crappy cousins:
plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps,
all tossed separately from their shredded
blue (plastic of course) bottled-water labels.

Then there’s everyone’s favorite throw-away:
plastic foil packet tops—those miracles
of instant energy snatched from your pocket.

(Who cares about a little litter when
you need your electrolytes and sucrose
to fuel your fun. You’ll never hear me cuss
’cause your ears are busy with your playlist shuffle.)

Outlasting all are rocks: pleasing creatures who
create harmonious mosaics on the trail.
They rub my toes the right way, and with such
gravelly voices murmur puzzling stories

of seafloor sediment, tectonic thrust,
erosion into fragments—stuff of us—
the trails are littered with our kin, our ancestors
and our destination: so much dust.

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