On Memorial Day I went on another of the organized hikes at Clear Creek Metro Park. As with the hike described in Winnowing Rock and Sowing Seeds, I was accompanied by fellow-barefoot Lee Parker, from Upstate New York.
We were hoping for a few more barefooters, but it just didn’t happen.
Lee comes into town when Flint Ridge State Nature Preserve, up near Newark (Ohio) has a Flint-knapping get-together. Lee is a rock-hound and makes it a point of coming in for it. As I look back, we’ve been getting together for a bit of barefoot hiking since 2011. Here’s the first one: Walking on Flint.
As I mentioned, I was hoping for a few more barefooters to show up, but it just didn’t happen. But as part of that, I was concerned about the projected route of the hike (at the request of one hoped-for hiker). These hikes are officially “off-trail”, which can only be done in the presence of a park ranger (or, in this case, naturalist). So they’re not normal trails. Here’s a map of the route we took.
A lot of that is along old roads, so I just wanted to check to see how gravely they were. I’d hiked them before, but when one has a group of barefoot hikers, experience levels can vary, so it’s often best to warn them to bring along back-up footwear if that might be necessary. We’re out there to have fun, not deliberately inflict pain. Even Lee had spent a long, cold winter in New York, so his soles weren’t back up to full summer-form yet.
And it was rather gravely in spots. Better to be prepared. Most of the hike was fine, but there were a few challenging stretches.
Here is one spot fairly near where we started.
Naturalist Marcey Shafer was pointing out one of the plants in the rock crevasse, but there was another nice one higher up.
As I mentioned, there were parts of the hike with gravel. For a few spots Lee donned his huaraches, because there was no getting around it. Often, one can walk on the edge of gravel and do OK, as in this picture.
But for some spots, Lee put on huaraches; I put up with the gravel.
This was a very interesting hike, with maybe 20-30 hikers. While I had met and talked to many of them before, there were also some who were going on one of these for the first time. It was also their first time for seeing any barefoot hikers.
These hikes are always good opportunities to open people’s minds to the possibility of barefoot hiking. (And as I’ve noted before, outdoorsy people are much more likely to “get it”.) We even had a few folks who were interested enough to think about trying it (and I gave them a few tips for getting started).
And then there were the other folks, who just could not believe it was even possible. I must have heard maybe half a dozen times about how somebody just could never do this, their soles were so soft.
I reminded them that, when used, the body builds itself up as needed. I don’t think I convinced them.
Eventually we made it to Memory Rock (where there is a large, carved rock in memory of one of the families that donated much of the land to the Park). From there, there is a spectacular view up the Clear Creek valley.
It’s not well-visible, but in the middle there is another spot that they have off-trail hikes to: Buzzard’s Roost.
Let me blow that up.
It’s a sandstone outcropping (common around Hocking Hills). It is also more spectacular when you are there yourself, as you can see here in O’Meara’s O’Venta Hike.
I’ve put together a little map (based on LiDAR data) showing the Clear Creek valley, and the sighting from Memory Rock to Buzzard’s Roost.
[Click for larger picture.]
Let me finish by showing you Memory Rock itself.
You can see Lee there talking to some other hikers. By the way, that moss under his feet was really interesting. There is just a fairly thin crust on top of the outcropping there, and depending where you were, they got differing amounts of water. So some was really plush, but other parts even felt crunchy underfoot.
That’s one of the really cool things about hiking barefoot, getting to feel the differences, even in such a close space.
From there, we mainly retraced our steps. (Though we did modify the route slightly to go by Lake Emily—and also hit some really fierce gravel. It just took that slowly and easily.)
In the end, we did about 5.7 miles, and had a great time hiking, seeing and feeling nature, and showing some other hikers how hiking barefoot was not only possible, but worthy of trying themselves.