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hiking bright angel trail barefoot.jpg

Welcome to Barefoot Wandering and Writing, a blog I began near the beginning of my barefoot journey (c. 2010), and where it has given me great joy to record some of my . . . you guessed it . . . barefoot wandering and writing during my fabulous 50s.

jumping for joy bright angel trail barefot

The goal of sharing all these “foot-selfies” (a genre I like to think I invented, and I am too in love with the thought of that to google and find out otherwise, which is what happened when I thought I had coined the term “skin walker” only to find out I was way late to that party) is to inspire readers to question conventional wisdom (“you need big boots or at least shoes to safely navigate outdoors, blah blah blah”) and for readers to discover for themselves how overwhelmingly awesome it is to enjoy the interaction of earth and our strong-and-capable feet . . . and can you guess how much I like to ramble both literally and . . . literally?

hiking bright angel trail barefoot

I’m always interested in hearing about how others experience the sole-to-ground connection, so please write a comment if you’re so inclined after any of my posts that remind you of stuff you did when you were a kid, or plan to do when you find your inner kid again. (or email me at theagavin [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

Now that I’m recently and deliriously retired, I’ve got more time to 1) hang out with my husband of 43 years years (yikes . . . that makes me feel old) and our seven brilliant grandkids; 2) write about my weird-ish life that finds me married for (can it really be?) 43 years when I’m not even 60; and 3) inspire others to question conventional wisdom (yeah, dropping out of high school doesn’t have to ruin your life. And losing your shoes at age 50 doesn’t have to mean you’re exactly crazy). And oh yes: I now have more time to work as an outdoor guide and help others connect with our beautiful world via writing/hiking adventures throughout the West.

Even though I have been stuck rooted in the same place my entire life (Orange, CA) I never get tired of shoelessly exploring–and writing about–my local native plant communities; the desert Southwest (especially Grand Canyon) is also full of places that soothe my soles and soul.

After a twenty-year career teaching creative writing at Concordia University Irvine, I’m now more inclined than ever to “think outside the shoe” via my poems, essays, workshops and presentations. Places where my work has appeared over the years: journals such as Rattle, The Formalist, The Evansville Review, GRAPHfeeties and others, as well as anthologies such as Fire and Rain: California Ecopoetry; Going Down Grand: Poems from the Canyon; On Foot: Grand Canyon Backpacking Stories; and New Poets of the American West.

A recent graduate of Tom Riehl’s stand-up comedy workshop, I also try to be funny via my YouTube channel, where I *thought* I was celebrating the joys of barefoot trail running and hiking but somehow got on the radar of the YouTube content reviewers (who apparently are offended by un-shod feet?!), leading them to age-restrict my favorite video, which is just plain weird. Right? Or am I clueless as to the grossly inappropriate nature of showing some old lady having fun trail running and hiking (and mud-puddle-prat-falling) barefoot?

muddy pratfall

In other news: in June 2011 I was privileged to spend three life-changing weeks as National Park Service Artist-in-Residence at Grand Canyon’s North Rim, where I now return as often as possible, including each June to lead a creative writing workshop for the Grand Canyon Conservancy Field Institute.


Working with the Field Institute as instructor and assistant (I have been certified with NOLS since June 2014 as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and with NAI since February 2019 as a Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG)) has, along with grandkids, been one of the highlight of my old-ish age. (That and my post-menopausal obsession with getting to the roots of my chronic running aches and pains, which has led to a lot of introspection and realization I might be a bit of a mess, but nothing that a loving God and someΒ movement therapy can’t address for good. And now: I run!)

Happy Trails to you, dear reader, at whatever state of sole/soul life finds you in right now.Β  May you find joy along your own difficult and amazing paths through this difficult and amazing world that we’re all traveling through . . . together.

By the grace of God,

theagavin [at] sbcglobal [dot] net


[granddaughter braids]

32 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2019 1:59 pm

    Hi Thea,

    I love your website. It’s especially interesting, because my wife and I used to live in Orange County. I’m a barefooter, and frequently hiked barefoot while living there. Modjeska Canyon was one of our regular places. We live in NC now, but we go back to visit family at least once a year.

    FYI, I recently started a blog devoted to living barefoot. On my Links page, I have listed your site as a recommended link. If you could, would appreciate it if you could add Born to Live Barefoot on your blogroll.

    • January 18, 2019 2:58 pm

      Hi Kriss! Thanks for the note, former Orange Countian πŸ™‚ I appreciate you adding me as a link on your blog, and after checking out all the interesting barefoot info you have to offer, I am pleased to do the same. Happy (barefoot, of course!) trails!

  2. Davy Dove permalink
    September 22, 2018 11:21 am

    Hello Thea this is utterly off topic and apologize for it unless it aids in my benefit. Do you happen to know of places near you for rent?

    Davy Dove

    • September 22, 2018 1:58 pm

      I’d suggest just driving through the neighborhoods–there alway seems to be a few places with signs out, as the Chapman students move in and out of the area. Good luck with your search πŸ™‚

      • Davy Dove permalink
        September 22, 2018 2:15 pm

        How often do you barefoot run per day anyways?

      • September 22, 2018 4:06 pm

        A couple times a week, for one-two hours. Just enough to have fun but not over-do things πŸ™‚

      • Davy Dove permalink
        September 22, 2018 7:48 pm

        I hear ya, Barefoot is very sensaitionall fun. I wish i could but no privacy here in Virginia nor warm places year round like Cali, which is why i wanted to know about places to live in California. No land lord will rent to me i guess nor would i have land near me to legally barefoot near by! Tough callous feet is my near ultimate goal… How long do you recommend? Few hours everyday?

        Davy Dove

      • September 23, 2018 6:15 pm

        If you want to connect with a great group of barefoot folks (who have lots of experience with some of the topics you bring up), I suggest checking out the Society for Barefoot Living: . . . also the website Barefoot Is Legal: Good luck!

  3. Michael Branch permalink
    May 14, 2018 7:41 pm

    Thea, thanks for your kind note about my work. I’m not on linkedin, but feel free to contact me by FB. Alas, no SoCal book tour is planned, but I’ll be on the road a lot this fall after my new book, How to Cuss in Western, comes out in late August. Thanks again! Cheers, Mike Branch

    • May 15, 2018 6:24 am

      How to Cuss in Western is one of my favorite essays–I remember how much fun I had using it as a model as part of the “humor unit” of my Creative Nonfiction class back in the day. Congrats on your new book! I’ll keep tabs on your reading tour–sounds like a good reason for a road trip! Happy (cussin’) trails, Thea

  4. Kim Hocking permalink
    March 27, 2018 8:23 pm

    Thea: What a great job at Monument Valley. I can’t believe you ran in the snow with no shoes, but I should know better. Thanks for the excellent story and photos. See you in June….. Kim Hocking

    • March 27, 2018 9:12 pm

      Kim! Hello! I thought about you a lot during all the Ventura County fire fiasco . . . figuring “no news was good news” . . . I’m so excited you’re coming back to the North Rim for more creative writing fun! Thanks for the nice comment on the race report . . . I actually wore my little Sockwa slipper-shoes until the ground thawed out, but then had a great barefoot time on those sandy sandy roads. See you at the North Rim πŸ™‚

  5. October 12, 2016 12:02 am

    I am planning on doing this after teaching my Yoga retreat in Sedona March 6-8th ish ! πŸ™‚ It has been a dream for many years! Love to chat more if you have time. Thanks so much for sharing your awesome journey!!! Way to go!!!

    • October 13, 2016 7:15 am

      Hi Brian–

      Thanks for commenting on my blog; I’ll send you an email right now! Cheers, Thea

  6. May 20, 2015 11:12 am

    I did a PCT section hike in 2014 from the US/MEX border to Big Bear, CA. My feet were like ground beef in my hiking shoes. Most people had blister problems from “bad” to “trail-bailing, journey ending, bad”. The only person I encountered who had no foot problems what-so-ever was a guy hiking in huarache style sandals.

    When I got back home (Bend, OR) in mid-May last year, I made my first pair of huaraches. Since then I have been trail running, city walking, hiking, mountain climbing, and back-packing either barefoot or in huaraches.

    Of course, like you, you need the right footwear for the terrain being traveled. Discovering your blog today, you are the first person who shares a similar attitude towards biped travel.

    Yes, some mountain climbs I will have plastic boots and crampons on. Others will either be barefoot, or barefoot and switching to other appropriate footwear when needed.

    This June I celebrate by 15th anniversary of my 39th birthday. I never expected, at this age, to change my footwear (and motion style, of course) so dramatically. I am so glad I did.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • May 20, 2015 1:19 pm

      Thanks for the note, Brad . . . I’m so glad you thought my blog was helpful . . . my goal is to inspire thought (and barefootedness πŸ™‚ )

      I’m a bit jealous of your hometown . . . Bend seems like an area with lots of places to enjoy barefoot wandering. If you ever need a search-and-rescue team (and I sure hope you don’t!), you may come across one of my writing friends, Leanne. Cheers to your barefoot (and other appropriately shod) adventures!

  7. Rebeccah permalink
    April 18, 2015 5:40 pm

    Nice to see your blog, Thea. Are there any barefoot hiking clubs in Orange County? There were three of them in the Bay area when I was living there, and now that I’m down here I find that I miss it.

    • April 18, 2015 8:25 pm

      Thanks for the note, Rebecca. So far I haven’t come across any info about barefoot hiking here in OC . . . but . . . Barefoot Ken Bob (“the” barefoot running guru!) has a lot of regularly scheduled barefoot running events. I imagine if you showed up to some of these you’d meet folks who like to hike as well as run barefoot. Here’s the link:
      Happy Trails!

  8. Kelly Marshall-Teske permalink
    December 13, 2014 3:06 pm

    Hi Thea. Just saw your re-cap of the Spooky Raptor Run 10km race at Irvine Reg. & Santiago Oaks. Great story, great finish…and all the in-betweens! Your barefoot running is VERY impressive as my aging feet have enough trouble in the best of trail shoes! Oh my! Thanks so much for coming out to our event! We are in the permit process with Whiting Ranch for the 2nd annual 2015 “Line Shack Attack” 5km and may even include a 10km this year. (June or July). This is a a fairly groomed course, mainly fireroad and not too many rocks. If you’re not familiar with Whiting Ranch, you might want to try your feet over there some time too. Thanks again Thea. Loved your blog!
    Kelly Marshall-Teske
    OC Trail Wings, LLC
    Race Director
    USATF Level 1 Coach

    • December 14, 2014 10:24 am

      Thanks for the note, Kelly, and for the kind words about my blogging. I don’t run at Whiting (it’s too easy to stick with the nearby trails of Irvine Park/Santiago Oaks), but your “Line Shark Attack” race looks interesting . . . I just might show up! Good luck with your race directing; I appreciate your efforts getting people together on Orange County’s beautiful trails. See you in the hills πŸ™‚

  9. January 22, 2013 8:37 am

    Hello Thea, I was researching Cottonwood Blues and came to a website with some cowboy poetry and then the Cottonwood Blues ‘poem’ by you. So I have two questions. I own the doman . When I get the web site up, I would like to post the poem crediting the arthor of course and I actually was given pages of cowboy poetry created by Shirley Price but I can not locate her ( she is the one that gave them to me). At the time many years ago, I never heard of cowboy poetry. Do you think it would be ok to post hers also with credits on her behalf–or no? Thanks

  10. November 6, 2012 9:33 am

    Great writing, terrific photos. You are amazing!

  11. Ariel permalink
    May 19, 2012 8:06 am

    I know it’s not really your neck of the woods, but I was wondering if you might have any recommendations for barefoot hiking in the San Diego area. I’ll be there on business next week and will stay an extra few days to explore. I’m an experienced barefoot hiker, although opportunities for satisfying hiking have thinned a bit since I moved from the northeast to the midwest.

    BTW, your blog is terrific.



    • May 29, 2012 10:37 am

      Hi Ariel–

      Sorry for the delayed reply–I was at the Grand Canyon wandering around barefoot πŸ™‚

      San Diego is a little out of my local hiking range, but I’m sure the trails there are similar to the ones in Orange County–a nice variety of hilly, dusty, rocky (and sometimes wonderfully muddy) surfaces. Most of the trails are not shaded, so this time of year I try to time my outings to avoid the mid-day HOT trail surfaces. Here’s a link to get you started:

      Enjoy the sage (and other) fabulous chaparral scents . . . happy trails!


  12. Sera permalink
    May 13, 2012 9:02 pm

    I’m curious how you avoid hurting your feet on your travels. Are you sponsored to be a barefoot travel writer? I think it’s cool what your doing, treading lightly on the earth, and setting a good example for everyone.

    • May 16, 2012 2:25 pm

      Thanks for the comments; lots of people have asked me about keeping my feet safe on the trails–my best answer is that somehow, the “less” shoe you are wearing, the “more” you pay attention to where you are stepping. And, after a while, my brain goes on “autopilot” and sees the trail subconsciously, so that I don’t have to obsess over each footfall.

      Regarding your other question: no one’s EVER asked that one πŸ™‚

      My answer: I’m not sponsored at all; I just love to hike and trail run barefoot and write about all the interesting places/plants/critters I find along the way.

      Being barefoot out on the trails is a lot of fun. (I’m 52, but it makes my feet feel “young”!)

      Try it! Happy Trails!


  13. Alison Schaumburg permalink
    September 18, 2010 11:59 am

    met you at Steve Beisner & Melinda Palacio’s – enjoyed your reading at the Borders in Goleta and talking to you about the “older” days in Orange when I was at Chapman (1971!) and when I worked at Irvine Ranch Equestrian Center (1972-1975)- just wanted to be sure you check out the book: Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan- talk about walking/hiking barefooted!!! Fascinating story of a doctor who hiked with a remote tribe of nomadic Australian Aborigials. Best, Alison

    • September 18, 2010 9:11 pm

      Thanks for the note, Alison! I will look for the book tonight online πŸ™‚

      Please check out the link below–and consider writing something about your adventures riding horses around the beaches and hills of Orange County in the early 70’s. I’d imagine you have some stories . . .

      Regards, Thea

  14. December 14, 2014 10:18 am

    Thanks for the kind words! I’m really looking forward to sharing the North Rim with writers next summer!


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