The term “Klingons” was coined, as far as I know, by fellow barefooter Greg Morgan, who is also the founder of the Ohio Barefoot Hikers.
Here in Ohio, “Klingon” usually refers to one particular item.
That item is this:
That is a seed from a Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), also known as a Tulip Poplar or Yellow Poplar. Their flowers resemble tulips, and when the seeds form, they first cluster together and then break apart into what you see in the photo, which I took last Saturday in Clear Creek.
However, when you step on one barefoot, it will often kling onto the bottom of your foot. That little sharp point on the top just loves to stick into skin. It never penetrates enough to break skin, but if it does stick, you’ll need to brush it off.
This is the time of year that they are all over the forest floor, and on various hiking paths. I trod over a bunch of them on my Rock On hike last Saturday. Occasionally I felt one, but my soles are now tough enough that they really don’t hurt, and only very rarely do they even stick. However, they really can be a problem for new barefoot hikers. I’ve had a couple of folks that I’ve introduced to barefoot hiking back off specifically because of those seeds. I guess that means if you are trying to introduce barefoot hiking to people, make sure they start on a path without Tulip Trees.
Among other things that might be considered Klingons, thorns are probably the most numerous, and the most bothersome. Usually trails are pretty clear of them, but you just never know. Somehow, on this hike I stepped on two of them (when I did the earlier hike in September, I didn’t step on any). Usually, when it comes to thorns, I’ll feel them as I step down and am able to either lift my foot immediately, or bend my foot so that I don’t put my full weight on it.
While thorns are bothersome, they’re really not a problem. For one of the thorns, I immediately felt it as I stepped on it. Then, all I did was stop, look at my sole, and pluck out the thorn. No blood — it had only gone in deep enough to stimulate the nerves. After I’d removed it, it was as if it had never happened.
The other thorn was a bit trickier. I didn’t really notice when I stepped on it. Furthermore, it seemed to have broken off right at the skin level. My only hint that it was there was that occasionally, very occasionally, I felt a little bit of a pang. When I checked my sole, I really didn’t see anything.
So I just kept on hiking. No big deal.
However, after I got home, I felt the pang one or two more times, so then I carefully examined my sole and finally did see that there was something there. A pair of tweezers easily removed it. Again, no blood — it had only gone in deep enough to stimulate the nerves, and even then, only when I stepped on it in one particular way.
Folks may wonder why I would then bother hiking barefoot if these sorts of things can happen? First, I have to say just how rare this is — the last time I had to extract a thorn was probably more than 6 months ago. But the main thing is that the joy of barefoot hiking more than makes up for such a rare, and such a minor occurrence.
There is just no contest.