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?)
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.)
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.
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 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 . . . 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 . . . )
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.)
A bit of dampness sets the dust up to capture footprints especially well.
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.
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 “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 datura . . . common plant, uncommon delicate pink-ness.
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 “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 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. “What big eyes you have, Mr. 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 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!