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Water & Mud & More Barefoot Shenanigans

October 13, 2018



Morro Bay/Morro Rock in September with the long-retired founder of Welding Works.

A few months ago, we bought a cheap inflatable kayak; after just four outings (Rock Creek Lake, June Lake, Morro Bay, and Newport Back Bay), it feels like we’ve had way more than $80’s worth of fun.

Above: images from yesterday . . . my first time paddling Newport Beach’s Back Bay (with adventure friend Gina . . . who couldn’t help but make a reference to the infamous Gilligan’s Island theme song: would our “three-hour tour” leave us stranded on a remote island?) (1960s trivia: the images shown every episode during the theme song were shot at/on/around this Newport Beach harbor).


Life imitating art! “The weather started getting rough,” but our tiny ship was not tossed–there was just an awe-inspiring display of clouds, lightning, sunlight and raindrop plops.


(Before the storm hit: the low tide brought birds feeding and flocking and flying–this Great Blue Heron croak-barked like a frog-dog as it took off.)

The rain/lightning/thunder continued through the evening–such a needful thing here in our parched southland, but such a means of destruction when linked to hurricanes Maria, Florence, Michael . . . and on and on. On my run this morning, even in the midst of the pungent lovely smells of the damp dirt and native plants, in the midst of my joyful puddle-running, in the midst of happy-mud-squishies, I felt more than small twinges of maybe not-quite-survivor-guilt, but heaviness of spirit for all who have lost so much to wildfires, floods and other powerful forces of nature.

running away barefoot

So all that was on my mind as I trotted through the dazzling ephemeral trail puddles today.

puddle running barefoot

Depending on the soil composition, sometimes silty run-off (the hills have been scorched bare of native plants that would otherwise hold the soil) would collect into silky squishy mud-foot-spas along the trail—ahhh . . . geology!

While running and sniffing the perfumed air and enjoying the exfoliating muck, I was also pausing frequently to shoot video snippets to maybe turn into another short film in my “I like mud and barefoot running” series.

After my last accidentally-on-purpose splashdown video–filmed just to the west in a section of Santiago Creek that seemed extra horse-poopy–I had decided to NOT EVER DO THAT AGAIN. But. Right before I got back to the trailhead, there was a pristine-looking puddle–no manure floaters, clear enough to see uniformly rippled reddish mud down below–the car was pretty close–I’d brought a towel to sit on “just in case”–I’d keep my lips together this time so the nasty recycled-alfalfa organisms would stay out of my mouth–no one was around–

barefoot puddle faceplant

–no one but some deer, who cared so much less than this photo could ever show:


So. Splash happens. The puddle wasn’t as innocuous as I thought; it had a sizeable collection of rocks just below the thin silt layer, and I racked up both knees and my right big toe with scrapes and pains.

Oh yeah. I forgot. I have osteoporosis and probably shouldn’t be seeking out ways to fall on purpose. (Thanks for the reminder, daughter dear.)

hawk closeup

This Red-Tailed Hawk also seemed a little judgmental . . .

Happy wild muddy trails!




Eight Legs No Shoes

October 7, 2018


Wow! I (almost) ran over this fabulous tarantula a few days ago while running my usual 90-minute evening loop in the hills east of my hometown of Orange, CA where wildfire (well, not so wild: human ignited) scorched the hills almost exactly a year ago during days of flames that seemed almost as long as this sentence . . .

Anyway, local critters have been in short supply since then–not much rain last winter = not much vegetation to bring back the insects and all who feed on them (arachnids and on and on around the food web).

Can you blame me for squeaking in delight when I trotted around a bend . . .


. . . on this windy uphill and discovered:


This beauty–probably a male out mate-hunting (that’s what tarantulas do around here, this time of year); he seemed not at all concerned about my attempts to foot-selfie us together:

tarantula on foot

. . . unlike this darkling beetle, who looks absolutely puny in comparison . . .


. . . and who had no interest in spending quality time with my toes. Then I heard a crepuscular crashing in the crispy vegetation:


Altogether a critter-wonderful evening! Happy twilight trails!

And when you get home, a couple of tarantula-riffic videos by yours truly, this one from three days ago:

. . . and this one from eight years ago:

What passes for adventure these days

October 4, 2018


Cloud watching.

It’s a great hobby: super affordable, and no one else seems to be doing it in these last months of life-as-we-know-it (otherwise known as 2018), what with all the distractive pleasures of social media. Who cares if nephology didn’t make the list of “16 Hobbies That Will Improve Your Quality of Life”?  (Barefoot hiking wasn’t on their otherwise-interesting list either.)

News Alert: Last week I saw LENTICULAR clouds! What-what?!


The name comes from their “lens” shape, but I think a better name would be flying-saucer-clouds. Many cloudy years ago, in a general education geography course, the (seriously disengaged) professor told the class during our unit on meteorology that anyone who saw and photographed lenticular clouds would get an “A” for the whole semester.

That really sparked my nephological tendencies–yep, ever since then my life has been a non-stop quest for lenticulars. And other stuff too. But always: lenticulars . . . although it might be too late to impress that aloof professor.

Last week, though, I was so jazzed by the lenticular sighting from my lovely Barham Ridge trails that I needed to proselytize, so the the next mountain biker chugging up the hill got a full load of, “Do you want to see something cool? Those are lenticular clouds! Amazing, huh?”


And, proving once again that crazy can be contagious, he set down his bike and started taking his own pictures.

My work here is done.

Time for a poem (sparked by the overwhelming petrachlor during this morning’s 90-minute trail run: there was a brief downpour last night, and all the hillsides reeked of rain! Yum!)

What cannot be kept?

Damp red-dirt smells.
Raindrop footprints on sandstone.
Almost solitude–
almost mountain lion.
Heavy air after a thunderstorm.
The weight of quail mutter
and trail memories.
Pink cloud-boil.
My toe stubbed on

a stony nose, part
of a winking face
so smooth, so
pocket-perfect, but
what cannot be kept.
Pebbles need to find
their own way
to the sea.

So: to recap: recent adventures include no epic Grand Canyon treks miles below the rim into cliffy wonderlands, but lots of this: (building stuff only to watch it get smashed):

And this: (marveling at what drives our society to manufacture and sell toy recycling trucks and not sets of  little businessmen dolls with potbellies and bad backs and coffee breath sitting in front of their laptops in gray cubicles with an MBA hung on the wall).

And watching #15 watch his team: (“Put him in, coach” . . . every grandma’s prayer?)


I call it “grandkidding” and there are plenty of ways to play this as we burn way more gas than commuting to work ever did, just to hang out with the seven blessings I did not plan for when engaged in whatever stage of life people use to plan their future.


They are a fun & funny bunch & love my “YouDoodle” app.


Art happens.


Speaking of sunshine and rain . . . Fall = best time to plant California native plants.


Last week, whilst (there’s that favorite word again) digging a hole for this lovely one-gallon California fuchsia, I was pleasantly surprised (and what a lovely word pair that is) by a goodly amount (adverb much?) of bulblet-thingies of wild hyacinth (you’ll have to click for its misunderstood more-common name). A super-food for earlier People of this area, the corms taste like waxy water chestnuts . . . but instead of eating these, I planted them in other parts of the yard to spread the dichelostema-love.


Q: What is THE most important thing to do when planting California native plants in the fall, before rains have arrived?

A: Flood the planting hole first. Many times. Get LOTS of water into the soil way down deep. The roots will thank you by creating a healthy plant instead of a dead one.


A few pebbles for mulch helps shade the roots/keep the soil surface from drying, as well.

IMG_5671 So instead of the rat race shark race and a decent paycheck/health insurance/conference money/etc/who’s complaining, retirement brings other kinds of pleasure . . . like these newly installed bathroom fixtures:


And all I can do is say, “Thank you Jesus” and go for a run. Barefoot, of course.


Happy (cloud-filled) trails . . .

The Season of Autumn, or, How To Fall Happily Into Retirement (Barefoot or Not)

September 22, 2018



behrs metalmark on buckwheat

It’s fall!

Such a lovely time of year here is Southern California: the riotous spring colors have faded, but there’s still plenty of life if you know where to look. 

(Caution: Metaphor alert. My life in retirement = autumn season. Cue Captain Obvious.)

captain obvious meme

I recently had a fun hike with another retired teacher, poet-naturalist-land-steward-unaware-plogger extraordinaire, Chuck. We took a leisurely stroll through the James Dilley Preserve (part of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park), where for many years he has been working hard at invasive weed removal and citizen science such as weekly butterfly counts. And he writes about it, too: lovely descriptive poems of our local wildlands that often digress into compelling memories. (Here’s one of his latest, published in the newsletter of our Orange County chapter of the California Native Plant Society–see page three.)

20.0Chuck under oak.jpg

Chuck, writing.

Chuck’s a decade or so ahead of me on the retirement curve, and a great mentor for this stage of life–he is an excellent example of how important (and fulfilling) it can be to pursue a passion (the flora and fauna of our local wildlands) by continually learning about stuff both via book-knowledge and field work. His schedule of frequent weed removal and plant propagation gives him many opportunities to keep active as well as pass on his knowledge to the next generation . . . all of which he told me he is grateful for (a key attitude to life whether retired or not) as we walked and talked on our 1.9-mile, three-hour (so much to notice! why hurry?) hike along the Mariposa and Canyon Trails.

local pollinators on twiggy wreath

Some fabulous native insects on Stephanomeria (twiggy wreath)

Even though most chaparral and coastal sage scrub plants are dormant this time of year (after all, it hasn’t rained for six months), Chuck was able to point out pretty much each plant that did sport flowers, so matter how tiny or uncolorful those blossoms were, such as the ones this dragonfly is enjoying in the photo below.

dragonfly in september

These drab flowers are so unremarkable I’ve already forgotten their name.

He was also darned good at predicting which pollinators would be active on each different shrub, perennial, or annual bloomer.

How was he able to do this? By following his own advice: in Chuck’s ideal world, each person would choose a local “nature place”–and proximity is key, so it’s easy to visit frequently–and make it their own by learning about what grows/lives there and also (another key idea) spending time volunteering there to help preserve it.

While not everyone can get certified as a volunteer habitat restorationist as Chuck has, he also proved how easy it is to “love” a place simply by bringing a bag along on hikes and just. Picking. Up. Trash.

When I told Chuck this was actually a “Swedish fitness craze” called plogging, he was his usual delighted self at the opportunity to learn a new word–even if it was for something he was already doing.

I guess I’ve also been plogging unawares for years . . .

And, for years, I’ve also been taking photos of my favorite wild places (see pretty much every one of my last 284 blog posts) to create memorable images of not only the trail trash, but the beauty of the plants/rocks/critters I come across.

To do that I carry a pocket-sized camera, which has major limitations when it comes to zooming and close-ups and pretty much everything. But it’s pocket sized. And NOT a smart phone. (Did I mention I live smart-phone-free existence? Why, that’s almost as crazy as hiking and running barefoot! Where’s Captain Obvious when you need him for a good quote?!)

Anyway, here’s some stuff that caught my attention this past week:


datura with lots of purple

More-purple-than-usual datura! (Georgia O’Keefe-able, yes?)

layers of cobble

Geology! Where would we be without rocks and dirt? (Floating around in the ocean?)

western fence lizard on rock

A quick critter who doesn’t pose long (hello/goodbye Western fence lizard)

prickly pear yellow blossom

Prickly pear bloom

tunas on prickly pear

Prickly pear fruit (tunas)


skipper on goldenbush

Skipper on goldenbush

robber fly on tarweed

Robber fly on tarweed

coastal cholla cactus shadow on bare feet

Cholla shadow on toes

lichen on branch

Delightful lichen on bark

trap door spider door

Trapdoor spider home (Do Not Disturb) on vertical dried mud

barefootprint design

Fluffy dust on trail (but still longing for mud)

Let it rain!

moonrise ove santa ana mountains

Full moon on the way

Whether I’m hiking around with friends like Chuck, or running up and down the ridges solo, I am grateful for our local wildlands, people like Chuck who take care of them, and these retirement years to spend more time appreciating all the drab and vivid things of life.

Share the fun–fall in love with a local place, wherever you are.


Captain Obvious sez, “She’s literally falling down here.”

Happy (local!) trails!


Another Video Celebrating Barefoot Running (and balancing/not-balancing) Fun

September 15, 2018

A couple of days ago, it was my–I mean OUR–43rd wedding anniversary, so instead of going out for any kind of dinner, fancy or un-fancy, neither of which would fall within our retirement budget, the other half of my “our” obliged me with a follow-the-action photo shoot, something this me cannot accomplish on my own, if you follow . . .

Speaking of following–he rode his bike and/or trotted along shooting short clips with not just one but both of our insufficient cameras, so there would be twice the unsatisfactory footage, but oh well . . . I just edited most of it into B&W in hopes that would add some “barefoot-itude” to the resulting one-minute condensation. (Don’t blink or you’ll miss the surprise at the end. Spoiler alert: there is a surprise, and it tasted HORRIBLE and I was sure it was full of horse piss/manure/e coli and I thought I was going to puke for the next couple of hours but I didn’t but I’m still on the lookout for symptoms of giardia.)

Happy anniversary to us . . . still crazy after all these (43!) years 🙂

Happy watery trails!

My New Video: Go Barefoot and Have Fun!

August 31, 2018

Last April, while my daughter and grandsons were visiting for a few days, I had the idea for my talented photographer-daughter to shoot some video footage of my grandson Blake and me having all kinds of barefoot fun in our back yard (with bonus photo-bombing opportunities by various California wildflowers, all now gone to seed and waiting for winter rains to call back their seasonal show). Yesterday, with other, “more important,” things to do, it suddenly became extremely urgent to shape the April clips into a video–yep, that’s how my devious procrastinating mind works . . .

I have a blast making videos, but I’m still on a (steep) learning curve in my efforts to create short pieces that random YouTube strangers will want to watch all the way to the end (my YouTube analytics page shows a dismal drop-off rate of eyeball time, which I am working to address).

Here’s the title screen (my grandsons–now 9 and almost-12, still call me YaYa for reasons lost in the mists of time/toddler pronunciation abilities).

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 10.16.30 AM

And here’s a link to the video:

As part of my retirement plan to not only take over the world, but to get paid for doing stuff I enjoy, some day I hope to monetize my YouTube channel–but it will take 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 “watch hours” to become eligible, so feel free to watch and subscribe 🙂

Happy BAREFOOT FUN Trails!

Falling into a new season (with an old blog post on my barefoot beginnings)

August 29, 2018
fall color on the North Kaibab Trail

North Kaibab  Trail in the fall

Fall is in the air . . . back-to-school time, new beginnings . . . and I continue to remain grateful for NOT having to go back to school as my retirement wanders into year two. But I’m still feeling nostalgic–especially as six of my seven grandkids* have gone back to school recently. The following post is a product of that nostalgia; it was published almost five years ago on the Barefoot Beginner blog.

My First Barefoot Steps
By Thea Gavin, 54
Orange, CA
(written for Barefoot Beginner and first published 12/10/2013)

My first barefoot steps . . .
. . . probably didn’t happen when I was learning to walk. Back in the late 50s, station-wagon-driving parents were big on Buster Brown shoes with Eisenhower-stiff soles to “protect” babies’ feet. Yikes. (What’s even worse: in the 70s, I put my kids in shoes right away, too . . . which is one more parenting mis-step that I’m trying to atone for by encouraging my grandkids to lose their shoes when Grammy G comes for a visit.)

My first barefoot steps . . .
. . . in “nature” might have been at the beach, where even proper parents couldn’t force shoes onto all us kids hyped up by listening to Boss Radio 93 KHJ and then running wild in the waves.

My first barefoot running steps . . .
. . . were definitely at the beach – Corona del Mar State Beach. I have vivid memories (was I ten or twelve?) of running full-tilt over the jetty of giant boulders that poked out hundreds of yards into the very heart of the Pacific Ocean (at least it seemed that way to my younger self). My game was to hurtle myself from rock to rock and just let me feet find their way . . . it worked then, and it still works now when I barefoot trail run; I just “hurtle” a bit slower these days.

My first (intentional) barefoot hiking steps . . .
. . . happened in January of 2010; I was at a bird-watching event and noticed two young men in their early 20s wearing homemade wool pants and no shoes. I elbowed my big-booted friend sitting at the campfire next to me and we chuckled at those crazy kids. It was winter; why were they barefoot?

Why were they barefoot? I couldn’t stop wondering, and when I got home, thus began my descent into the convoluted internet labyrinth of all-things-barefoot.

The next day I went for yet another rehab hike at my “usual” 1.8 mile dirt loop; I was six years into my quest for recovery from a variety of running injuries fueled by my desire to run 50 miles the year I turned 50. I was 50-and-a-half. And not running at all, per doctor’s orders.

I carried a pair of old sandals in my little day-pack, just in case. There was no just in case. The cracked clay—and its scattering of rain-released grit—was a revelation. My feet hummed and vibrated for hours afterward.

My first barefoot running steps . . .
were interspersed with walking on this same trail. A lollipop loop, the “handle” from the parking lot was decomposed granite, a sole-shocking challenge that has morphed from “ouch!” to “meh” over the years.

My first barefoot running steps . . .
did the same thing for me that they seem to do for almost everyone: they made me feel like a kid again. Hills pulled me to their summits; rocks beckoned me to jump off them; mud invited me to squish around; soft poof-dust sang like Springsteen: “Baby, you were born to run.”

And the odd, after-run “buzz” of my soles was the strangest part of the initiation. That has diminished, but I continue to suffer, with fellow members of the church-of-the-enlightened-barefooters, the odd looks and hilariously inane comments of ignorant shoddies, including the classic, “Barefoot, huh?”

My first barefoot running steps . . .
turned me into an exuberant evangelist who wanted to share the barefoot love with everyone I met on the trail (and I only do trails; cement sidewalks do not interest me). I am now older, wiser, and silent unless asked specific questions by people who seem sincerely interested in opening their minds to new ideas.

My first barefoot running steps . . .
were almost four years ago. I continue to work through gait/mechanics-induced pains that pop up when I increase the intensity and/or duration of my runs. I continue to learn about my amazing body, including what to fuel it with, and I look forward to running barefoot until I am chased down and eaten by a mountain lion who thought I was a deer, moving so gracefully through Orange County’s wild hills at twilight.

* * * * * *


muddy feet.jpg

*Did somebody mention grandkids? Here’s how you turn them into shoe-resisters . . . this one is only three years old and has been taking her “first barefoot steps” all her little life. She already knows that after a tough day at pre-school there’s nothin’ like a little mud-squishing. #crazygrandma