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Super-bloomy-spring and what’s next?!

March 31, 2019

Super bloom catalina mariposa lilies

Words are puny in the face of such pink-petaled beauty, but I am always trying to put a name to the faces of wildflower friends, so . . .  pleased-to-meetcha, Calochortus catalinae–Catalina Mariposa Lily, found only in a limited area of California (this patch is in Santiago Oaks Regional Park), thus earning it a rare plant ranking of 4.2.

My own scale of how-much-I-love-these-native-wildflowers accords them a perfect score of 10/10. Not only do they nicely illustrate “Consider the lilies of the field“, their bulbs were an important food source for California’s earlier inhabitants. 

Dichelostema under overcast skies

Here’s another symbol of my favorite kind of March Madness–the crazy wildflower parties going on right now all over So Cal: Dichelostemma capitatum (or Wild Hyacinth).

Another edible-bulb lovely, they are taking over my back yard (in a the best possible sense) so there’s plenty to nibble . . . and nectar on . . .

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Can you find the moth-blur, above?

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A sphinx moth of some sort–not to be confused with a similar-sized hummingbird–that’s a proboscis instead of a bird-beak. (yikes!)

painted lady behind dichelostema

Also in the news this past month: painted ladies on the way north; here’s one enjoying some of the (many many many) dichelostemma in my back yard, where March passed with days full of sunshine and butterflies.

Wildflowers of Orange County in the field

And here’s my favorite book for this time of year; it features–ta da!–dichelostemma on the cover.  This is THE BOOK to have to fully appreciate the super-duper-bloom going on right now (and our OC-CNPS chapter just received new inventory–order yours today at occnps.org/wildflower-book).

Tidy tips in the sun

Just one more dichelostemma-and-friends photo–here posing on a local OC Parks ridgetop with Tidy Tips, a perfectly named flower if there ever was one–look at those tidy petal edges . . .

another wildflower picked and discarded

In all my wildflower exulting, this. (Imagine many sad faces here). WHO DOES THIS?!

California Asterella Asterella californica

But it didn’t take long to get cheerful again after my hiking buddy Gina pointed out this tiny, amazing liverwort: California Asterella. It feels like an invasion of privacy to take a close-up of this reproductive structure, so I’ll leave it at that, bryophyte reproduction not being a current hobby, not that I’m ruling it out for the future. OK, I just ruled it out.

tunnels of horrible nasty invasive mustard

One person’s yellow hills of glory is another’s HORRIFIC INVASIVE ALLERGY-INDUCING mustard. My nose starts to drip just looking at this photo, and the thought of all the superblooms of today being choked out/smothered/shaded/destroyed in the years to come by this noxious weed . . . makes my eyes water a bit as well . . .

Santiago Creek reflection

After so many weeks since any measurable rain, all that’s left of surging Santiago Creek are a few placid pools, perfect for reflecting burned willow branches and thoughts of . . . what next?

 

barefoot balancing fun

Photo by Gina B. . . . thanks 🙂

What next?! April 2019 begins a new chapter for me–my two-year grandkidding gig is over, and I’m looking forward to lots of barefoot writing/adventures, Lord willing and the log don’t snap . . .

It’s good to know that in 15 minutes I can be shoelessly enjoying my local happy-bloomy-place (Santiago Oaks), balanced and smiley in a delirious fog of orange blossom perfume (a scent that conjures up an entire childhood when and where orange groves were as common as Starbucks are now).

Happy Trails, wherever your path leads you . . . places old and new . . . blooming where you are planted, or growing in new directions . . .

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I Just Updated My “About” Page (here’s hoping your day holds much more excitement than that)

March 8, 2019

Would you believe: (tip of the hat to Maxwell Smart here)

  • It’s been nine years since this barefoot hiking and trail running journey began back in January 2010 at age 50.
  • It’s been 297 posts since this one on August 28, 2010.
  • It’s been eight or more years since I updated my “About” page . . . until . . . today

https://theagavin.wordpress.com/about/

NoShoesNoProblem

“From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California, good evening”

March 3, 2019
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Morro Rock

In the last few weeks I’ve been to both the desert and the sea, and looking through photos tonight, I had a wave of nostalgia as this phrase brought to mind a voice from my childhood: local newscaster Jerry Dunphy repeating his iconic “From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California, good evening” as he began the evening news each night.

desert sunflower Ocotillo Wells Feb 2019

Ocotillo Wells SVRA

Bigfoot finally looks like he belongs at his home in the high desert of Ranchita:

big foot of ranchita in snow

A few miles down the road from Big Foot, another icon from my childhood family camping days:

anza borrego welcome sign covered with snow

I’ve been camping at Anza Borrego since 1963; all this snow is a first!

All the lovely rain has coaxed the beginnings of a “superbloom” throughout the area. #CNPSSuperbloom

poppy superbloom near Elsinore CA Feb 2019

On the way to Anza Borrego: California poppies along Interstate 15 near Lake Elsinore

The painted ladies were wandering the desert by the thousands, migrating who-knows-where:

Painted Lady butterfly migration Ocotillo Wells 2 24 19

And with the help of our trusty 1970 Honda Trail 70s, we were able to visit some amazing desert bloomers at Ocotillo Wells SVRA the end of February.

dune evening primrose Ocotillo Wells Feb 2019

old people having fun

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”

for demonstration purposes only dont try this at home

Don’t try this at home, kids.

cholla at dawn

Why some people wear shoes in the desert. Some people.

barefoot desert dawn

But if I wore shoes, I’d miss out on moments like this sunrise creek crossing below Palm  Canyon at Anza Borrego Desert State Park, where the water streamed from the canyon and way out on the bajada farther than I could follow it.

Palm Canyon flowing at dawn Feb 2019 ABDSP

Sunrise following the stream out of Palm Canyon

Desert sunrise: a magical, short-lived time of pinks and oranges in un-nameable shades . . . .

ocotillo and creosote and rock at dawn Anza Borrego

. . . when already transcendent flowers are transformed into [insert superlative/metaphor/something-beyond-what-I-can-concoct here].

brown eyed primrose at dawn ABDSP Feb 2019

desert chicory Anza Borrego Feb 2019

OK. We get it. It was bloom-azing!

 

warm toes winter camping

AND . . . cold. But that’s what campfires are for.

What the desert does best: solitude . . .

Wide open camping at OWSVRA

six desert bighorn sheep ABDSP Feb 2019

. . . unless you’re a desert bighorn sheep. Then you’ll want to hang with your buddies on near-vertical rock-strewn slopes now going green and delicious.

writing on a rock Anza Borrego

Delicious places for growing words as well . . .

desert lily at Ocotillo Wells SVRA Feb 2019

Fare thee well, desert lily, until we meet again.

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Another recent winter weekend, another iconic California place: the beach north of Morro Rock. Still chilly, though, and windy . . . which kept all but a few brave humans and horses away.

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And shore birds . . .

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And kite surfers.

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And maybe a stray human or two.

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Until there was nothing but cloud and rock and water and sand.

What’s the point of this blog post? (I’ve been doing some research, and was once again reminded that blog posts pretty much always need a point. Captain Obvious, you are so correct-as-usual.)

What’s the point of hiking and trail running barefoot?

What’s the point of asking “what’s the point?”? (Now that was a tricky bit of punctuation, thank-you-very-much.)

I could reply with, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” But that wouldn’t really make sense, so I won’t.

Or I could just admit that right now my profundity reservoir (unlike our actual California water reservoirs, which are now full after So. Much. Rain) seems a bit depleted; let the images speak for themselves.  And fragments of sunrise silence.

Bigelow's monkey flower Feb 2019 ABDSP

Happy [barefoot and/or desert-to-the-sea trails]! (And thanks for all those decades of trusty newscasting, Mr. Dunphy.)

 

Hey Siri–is it possible to hike down into the Grand Canyon barefoot in winter?

January 27, 2019
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Barefoot in winter down in Grand Canyon: not only feasible, but fabulous. So much for the suspense factor. You’re welcome.

I just googled (sorry Siri . . . I don’t have a smart phone) the question in the title of this post. Doin’ my research, ya know.

It’s just as well I didn’t think to ask this BEFORE I attempted to trek down Bright Angel Trail to Phantom Ranch two days ago; there’s just not a heck-of-a-lot of info about hiking Grand Canyon barefoot any time of year, let alone shoe-less-ly in winter, when temps at the rim are in the teens (F) at night, and barely get to 40 at noon.  And I’m the kind of heat-seeking softie who doesn’t like to go trail running here in So Cal if it’s below 60 F. Brrr.

 

However, by using my past experience hiking in the Canyon as well as some plain old common sense, I figured I should be able to successfully navigate Bright Angel Trail in time for the 6:30 pm seating at the Phantom Ranch Canteen’s stew dinner. Mmmm. Stew. And chocolate cake for dessert . . . a legendary Phantom Ranch dessert that tastes ridiculously delicious (unlike Lucky Charms, which are magically delicious).

That I even had a spot to stay, and a place at the table, was nothing short of miraculous–I’d been taking a class all week at the South Rim to become an NAI CIG Certified Interpretive Guide  to open up outdoor education teaching opportunities later this year.

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As the week wore on, days of sitting in a classroom (OK, we played a lot of games as well) compelled me to plot a reward for the end of my week: after my final presentation Friday morning, I’d stroll down to Phantom Ranch for the night before strolling back up to my car for the eight hour sit-fest/drive back to So Cal.

Here’s where the miracle comes into play: with the new reservation system in place, people have to cancel their Phantom Ranch lodging so far in advance (45 days, I think), that there are few opportunities any more to pick up a last-minute cancellation.

Since I was here for the class anyway, though, I prayed and gave it a try. (The process involves calling the day before at exactly 6 am to get on the wait list, then showing up at exactly 7 am the next day at Bright Angel Lodge to be there if any rooms are unclaimed for the coming night.) Voila! One bunk was available in the one of the women’s dorms.

(Too bad they didn’t warn me that one of my dorm-mates would be a world class snorer.)

Dorm reservations made (dinner too. What the heck)  I set off late Friday morning and hustled my way down the first couple of miles of frozen snow and slick ice. (I guess there’s a difference? The trail just seemed really slippery.)

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With ten-year-old YakTrax strangling my feet through my flexible Sockwas–which offered very little in the way of insulation from the frozen trail–I was super motivated to pretty much jog the first miles, using my poles for balance and rarely even slipping, much less sliding to my death off the icy trail. Thank you, YakTrax.

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But my toes were getting strangled and going numb and I kept thinking, “One more switchback and the ice will be done.”

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The thing about the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is, it faces north so it gets no sun this time of year; thus the snow has no incentive to melt and turn the trail to mushy red mud except that one spot not too far below the first tunnel that does get sun and wow what a mucky muddy mess that was . . .

Past the ice-rink switchbacks finally, I gave the shady, snowless trail a tentative pat with my hand. Nice trail. But still too cold for my unacclimated soles.

 

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Eventually, though, about a quarter mile before Indian Garden, the trail wound its way into the sun and then unspooled as a cactus-lined promenade straight toward the cluster of cottonwoods that shine so vivid green in the summer but in winter stand ghostly gray against the red cliffs.

crazy clouds

Time to stow my shoes. Let the barefoot fun commence (after picking up a bit of micro trash).

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deer jumping fence indian garden

Below Indian Garden the trail crosses the cheerfully singing Garden Creek and then Pipe Creek . . . springfed, not snow melt, soothing in sound and sensation. And guess who doesn’t have to worry about wet shoes?

barefoot creek crossing bright angel trail

Summer or winter, the mules are as dependable a sight on the trail as . . . mule poop.

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The following photo is to remind us all how ridiculous YouTube is for “censoring” (age-restricting) one of my videos for what I can only guess is their censor’s personal horse poop phobia.

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So much fun to be had on the undulating, fascinating, geologicating nine miles of Bright Angel Trail:

shale stepping bright angel trail barefoot

Shale, yeah!

jumping for joy bright angel trail barefot

People with shoes complain along this section of trail  because sand might be making its itchy-scratchy way into their footwear.

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Balancing shenanigans above the mighty Colorado River; the Silver Bridge in foreground, the Black Bridge (S. Kaibab Trail) spans the river upstream a ways  . . . 

silver bridge barefoot bright angel trail

The Silver Bridge: not engineered for barefoot comfort . . . 

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The view from the middle of the Silver Bridge.

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Progress: The new critter-proof food boxes in Bright Angel campground instead of the former plain old ammo boxes.

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Ranger station at Phantom Ranch during “The Big Gov Shutdown of 2019”

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The Phantom Ranch Canteen before the hungry hordes arrive for dinner . . . 

. . . and where THE CHOCOLATE CAKE had been replaced with spice cake. This is NOT OK!

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Chilly morning temps as I made my way past the campground and back to the Bright Angel Trail.

 

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These little packets made all the difference in my gloves and socks.

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Not an official super moon, but still pretty super . . . 

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Sitting on the icy trail contemplating shoe choices for the last couple of slidy miles.

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This is the composting toilet 1.5 miles from the trailhead at the South Rim, meaning . . . only 1.5 miles to go till the hike is over . . . a bittersweet feeling. 

victor vomit sign bright angel trail

Everyone’s friend Victor Vomit serves as an example for all of us. (Yikes)

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Once at the top, the only thing left to do is ask a nearby tourist to take a photo. Yay wandering tourists . . . 

And here I am: back at home, back at my computer, having a bit of trouble walking down the stairs today which I blame on 18 miles of trail with about two miles of vertical in two days, followed by an eight-hour drive.

To re-cap: yes, it’s not only possible but pleasurable to hike below the rim at Grand Canyon in the winter with the following adaptive caveats: footwear and traction devices (Sockwas and YakTrax for me) for the higher elevation icy trails, and some kind of bottom-of-foot insulation (my Merrell Pipidae Wrap sandals worked fine) for the lower elevation early morning trails.

Anywhere the sun is shining on the trail is fantastic, the opposite of summer when a sunny trail surface can fry eggs AND your feet for brunch.

Happy Barefoot Winter Trails! This month marks the 9th anniversary of losing my shoes on the trail . . . feeling much gratitude!

 

 

 

A Poem For Those Who Long For Far-Off Shiny Things

January 3, 2019

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Winter Afternoon Hike

I look west. Sigh.
Me on a ridge,
island-distracted
by a strange sun
angle that bounces
a shine–
eye-blinding–
between me and
Catalina’s soft
white shoulder.

I sigh and look
back on ridges
burned to bare.
At my feet
black stumps
sprout artemisia,
a silver eclipse
of bittersweet
to inhale
here and now.

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And . . . the story behind the poem:

Every other month, our Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society publishes a newsletter (or, more accurately, our amazing newsletter editor/CNPS Fellow honoree Sarah Jayne writes up and designs a newsletter).

Sarah often sends an email around deadline time, asking me for a poem, which I appreciate immensely–our OC chapter members are an ideal audience for my local-place-and-plant-focused work (dating all the way back in the online archives to the Nov/Dec 2010 issue.)

Sometimes I wander through files of previously written poems, aiming for something that resonates seasonally, as the decade-old, Santa-Ana-wind-inspired lines in our most recent newsletter (Nov/Dec 2018).

These past weeks, though, I’ve been confronted with the enticing winter afternoon gleam from the top of Barham Ridge looking out over the Pacific twenty-six sea miles to Santa Catalina Island.

This has given me lots to think about on my run back down the switchbacks to the trailhead (at either Irvine Park or Santiago Oaks Regional Park).

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Hmmm . . . what has it meant to my life/development/unseemly crankiness to live at the edge of a continent where “Go West” was an excuse for many good, bad, and ugly things?  West leads nowhere when you live . . . west.

But the shiny gleam of far-away (aka: other! anywhere but the excruciation of where I am now!) places has always been a major mental impediment to my sense of contentment, having lived the last 43 years in a spot only a couple miles away from the place I grew up all those other years.

In other words, I haven’t gone too far in life.

Shadowy Catalina Island, then, just past the dazzle of ocean, becomes a metaphor (and yowzers! metaphors have finally made the news this past week . . . a victory for English majors at least) for all that I always wanted to explore, but the vicissitudes of life . . . blah blah blah and etcetera.

I got a poem out of it this week, anyway.

And the hills (to the EAST) are sprouting to astonishing life again after recent rains . . . so much to fill one’s heart with so close to home . . .

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The Lomas de Santiago (foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains) with Old Saddleback in the distance.

Happy 2019 Trails!  “Think outside the shoe.”

December (Barefoot) News & Blues

December 16, 2018

My last blog post (such an exercise in jocularity!) detailed my dealings with YouTube over their odd decision to “age-restrict” what I had always thought was an innocuous video-minute of barefoot running bliss.

Ha ha ha, they gave me a link to protest their decision, I did so, they un-age-restricted the video, and all was again Robert-Browning-like: (“God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.”) Ha. Ha. Ha.

Then they DID IT AGAIN on another video–this one from FIVE YEARS (and 31,000 + views) ago that they are JUST NOW discovering to be . . . somehow . . . INAPPROPRIATE?! (Please forgive the all caps . . . in almost nine years of blogging, I’ve never felt the need to SILENTLY SHOUT like this.)

I went through the (extremely brief) process of appealing their decision again (they allow about 200 characters–not words–for this purpose), and had all my jocularity knocked out of me when they immediately replied with this:

you tube censorship

So Merry Christmas to you, YouTube, you bizarre bucket of forbiddance.

That’s the blues. The news: (to quote dear Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest): “The weather still continues charming.”

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Major blessings of recent rain have caused mud, puddles and new growth in my beloved, fire-scoured Santa Ana Mountain foothills.

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AND . . . I was able to successfully descend the Faceplant Trail for the first time post-fall without any anxiety, for which I am grateful . . .

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. . .  as well as feeling much gratitude for lots of recent soul-stirring sunsets during day-ending ridge runs. (That’s the Pacific Ocean’s faint glimmer in the distance.)

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When not running (which is most of the time, no matter what this blog tries to pretend), I’ve been having some good crafting times with the grandkids.

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poo emoji ornament

But those kids are growing up and way out-crafting me:

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Here’s another design I didn’t create, but am extremely proud of:

front of t shirt butterflies

I volunteered to steer this year’s T-shirt project for my local chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and Orange County artist-naturalist Sofia Speakman did a terrific job with our 2019 theme: the importance of creating local habitat (“re-wilding” our cities and suburbs). Order your T-shirt or tote bag today (not in time for Christmas, but it’s a gift that keeps on giving) from TeeSpring right here.

Speaking of Christmas!

elf kick line

My DNA at work: Los Osos Community Players

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I was and always will be the baby of the family. Take that, you Social Security siblings!

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My mom is cleaning out her photo albums, exhuming evidence of yet another 1980s crime against hairmanity.

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Mickey and Minnie pay a visit, courtesy of my youngest grandkids.

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My church home for almost six decades . . . we Lutherans love us some Christmas music . . .

GCCFI name badge

Finally (at least until 2019) a quick trip to Flagstaff earlier this month for the annual GCCFI instructors meeting got me super excited for 2019’s upcoming adventures with the Grand Canyon Conservancy (new name, same great nonprofit) Field Institute.

Happy Christmas & New Year Trails!

The Barefoot Video That YouTube Has A Problem With (Yikes!)

November 24, 2018

After a lovely Thanksgiving holiday, this email . . .

email from YouTube

. . . to which I could only respond with a muffled (I was eating left-over turkey): “Huh?!”

The video in question is a 76-second piece I spliced together and posted two years ago this month, and which has gotten just under 22,000 views by people who must not be the innocent barefoot-running aficionados I thought they were; someone actually reported this video as something that contained material not suitable for children. (And, like all my online content to date, neither this video or my other–equally barefoot and horse-manure-y–videos or this blog has been monetized, so it’s not like there’s anything financial at stake. Just my sense of grandma righteousness . . . )

Here’s YouTube’s list of no-no’s, as spelled out in their festive Thanksgiving email, above:

  1. Sexually provocative content
  2. Violent, graphic, or humiliating fetishes

Team YouTube goes on to inform me that videos containing any of this “will either be removed or age-restricted, depending on the severity of the act.” And thus they age-restricted my video–76 seconds of me, an upstanding senior citizen (OK, I do have osteoporosis, so I may hunch a little) having fun running through puddles, mud, and the occasional pile o’ horse poo. 

YIKES! What am I missing here, shipwrecked as I am at age 59 on my Isle of Irony? That my transgressions are bad enough to get age-restricted, but not enough for outright removal? That I’m still not one of the cool kids?

What have I done, O Guardians of All That Is You-Tube-able? What dark shizzle is hiding in plain sight (like the evil audio slurry that oozed out upon reversing Stairway to Heaven) in my ostensibly innocuous grandma frolic after a rare Southern California rainstorm two years ago?

Also: Have I ever had the opportunity to use the word “ostensibly” in this blog before? Am I using it correctly now?

‘Cause if anything was ever ostensible, it was my oblivion to the fact that I was purporting, promoting, proposing, or otherwise publicating anything other than the joy of running barefoot on trails for the last eight years now but who’s counting actually I am counting hard because my nine-year barefoot anniversary is just around the corner in January which means a big celebration will be in order probably something along the lines of a nice barefoot trail run . . . 

So get your mind out of the gutter (but which gutter? the violent one, or the graphic one, or the humiliating fetish one?) YouTubers. (WAIT a minute . . . tubers are potatoes, which grow, not in a gutter, but still, underground, and then all this begins TO MAKE SENSE as a vast vegetative conspiracy aimed at [TBD].

Enjoy the video. If you’re over 18. (If you’re not, my grandkids can tell you all about it.)

Happy (hmmm . . . non-humiliating-fetishy?) Trails!

And, this Thanksgiving, I continue to be thankful for all the awesome barefoot (and even shod), like-minded wandering nature lovers out there–that means you, if you made it this far!