Monday, July 18, 2011

Barefoot Hike

Dobson plopped down in the shade and refused to move shortly after we broke off the trail. My feet were thankful for the smooth road, but the heat had exhausted our dog.

Saturday morning provided pleasant weather for a family hike. The Enthusiast, Dobson and I visited the Perkins trail, near the covered bridge off Everett Road, and crossed over to the Riding Run trail until we reached Everett Road, about a half mile from where we parked. I decided to go barefoot, as I clearly stated in the title of this post.

The first mile was easygoing. There was a tough climb, but the terrain wasn't too challenging for my feet. We had arrived shortly before 10 a.m., having stopped at the gas station for a large bottle of water for the three of us to share. The shaded Perkins trail was nice and cool on this sunny but not too humid morning.

We reached the signpost that marks the beginning of the loop where the trail dips into a valley and crosses some streams and returns to this fork in the road after a mile and three-quarters. We didn't want to hike much farther but also didn't want to retrace our path. Instead we connected to the Riding Run trail at the bottom of the hill after taking the right fork from the trail marker. That's where things got interesting.

The steep hill was full of rocks and tree roots. Careful placement of my feet caused me to hold up our hiking party. At the bottom, where the Riding Run path splits off, we encountered what seemed like a "paving" of dirt and pebbles. I'm not sure if this terrain was naturally occurring or purposefully installed, perhaps for the benefit of horse traffic. All I know is that my feet were overwhelmed with sensations -- most of them unpleasant.

In a small backpack I carried my Vibrams, but I wanted to overcome this challenge in the hope that it would teach me how to eventually run on similar terrain (i.e., the Buckeye Trail). After maybe a quarter-mile, we reached a road. There weren't many options as to which road it was, but still we weren't sure. The Enthusiast decided to ask an approaching cyclist.

Did I mention this road was steeply inclined? Before we could ask the guy climbing up toward the part of the road that became even steeper, we had to step back to allow another cyclist to fly by on his way down.

The slower moving fellow gritted his teeth and told us we were on Everett Road. The parking area was down the hill.

The Enthusiast thanked the man as he continued his long, slow trudge up the hill, cheering him on with, "Go cycling!"

The warm, smooth road felt delightful after the sometimes cold, rough trail. However, the road was less shaded than our previous path through the woods. Dobson started seeking the shade, sometimes trying to pull us toward the other side of the road. Near the bottom of the hill, not far from the car, he found a shaded spot in the grass and flopped down on his side, panting rapidly.

We'd all shared the water at points along the trail, but the heat and hike were still too much for our poor pup. We had about half of the bottle of water left, and we let him have it. He lapped it up from the Enthusiast's cupped hands, and we poured some over his head to cool him down. I thought I might have to go get the car to come pick him up. But after a short break, he seemed revived.

Dobson got really excited when we came across a couple on horseback. At first he didn't know what to make of these giant animals, having never seen them before. All the sudden it was as if he'd spotted two very large squirrels. We knew then that he was OK.

As for my feet, I realized that learning to run barefoot on trails is going to be a slow process. I need to make peace with the idea of running more distance on roads and paved paths, which are smoother and thus easier to navigate as I build up my skills.


Nitmos said...

You know what would have prevented those overwhelmingly unpleasant sensations? Shoes.

David said...

My old dog died earlier this year. Your Dobson stories make me miss him. He might have been 120 pounds, but he was a puppy for 13 years. Thanks for the story.