I have had quite a few barefoot experiences since I last posted just over a month ago. I have had some of my first barefoot walks and hikes with others: short walks with my parents, a hike up to see fireworks with my friend Blake, spending much of a camping trip at Fulford Cave barefoot. That might be a topic for an upcoming post. Right now, I want to give an update on my last walk in the Boulder foothills, which started up Shanahan trail.
Shanahan trail was, by far, the worst trail I have been on in Boulder. It is a broad path that looks designed for vehicle access. The grade is gradual, so for wheels or shoes I imagine that the trail is pretty easy. However, the surface is gravel that is both shallow and sharp, which is the worst combination for walking barefoot. If the gravel were deeper, it would absorb more of a stride’s impact. If it were smoother and more worn, each jab would not be as painful. In the condition this trail was in, I did not manage a pain free step for the entire first two kilometers. There were not even occasional large rocks that I could step on for relief. Tall grass surrounds the trail, so there were also few places where I could walk off the trail without knocking down a lot of plants. I took it very slowly, and only made it through the trail by mincing my way along. It seems likely that the trail had been damaged during last September’s flooding, and the town repaired it just by pouring on fresh gravel. The gravel around here seems to come from deep quarries and not from stream beds, as it does not appear to be worn by erosion at all. In most places, the gravel alternates with hard packed dirt or rocks, but on the Shanahan trail there was nothing else.
As soon as you reach the Mesa trail and continue onto the Fern Canyon trail, the surface becomes a combination of rocks, hard packed dirt, and stay gravel and debris. It is still rough, but not nearly as bad as Shanahan. I took a break for about 20 minutes before continuing onto the better trail, but my feet were still raw, so I made slow progress. My ambition had been to attempt Bear Peak, but I quickly realized that was out of reach. Instead, I looped around to the Bear Canyon trail, hoping a different way out would be better than the trail at the beginning.
Bear Canyon trail is also mostly gravel. The gravel is less sharp, though, probably because it is older. There are also deep channels carved out from water damage, which seems to corroborate my theory that the trails were damaged in the flooding. I finally broke down near kilometer 5 and put on my sandals for the finish. Had the trail started off easier, I probably could have finished barefoot. Having all of my excess skin worn off at the beginning seemed to really lower my pain tolerance and my range.
It seems that even well into my second summer of barefooting, my feet still have some thickening and adapting to do. In contrast to my walk to Saddle Rock, my limitation on this walk was definitely skin tolerance and not tiredness in my muscles or joints. Hopefully this will toughen up my feet as I recover.