LOCATION: Tyler State Park in Newtown, Bucks County, PA
TIME: 11 AM to 3 PM
CONDITIONS: Sunny and comfortable, temps in the low 70s F
PARTICIPANTS: Barefoot Chris, Archie, Scott, Ben, Ken, and our SPECIAL GUEST, Appalachian Trail Barefoot Sister Susan Letcher (AKA jackrabbit).
Our inaugural hike of the season was featured in the week's Philadelphia City Paper....Read the article...
Our new hike season started with an extra special hike event. Susan Letcher (AKA jackrabbit) drove down from Connecticut to join us on our season-starting event. For those of you not familiar with Susan's exploits, she is one of the "Barefoot Sisters," famed for their journey the length of the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia--and back--barefoot. We'll forgive her sister Lucy (Isis) for not attending, as she is currently living in Scotland. If you want to hear more about Isis and jackrabbit's journey, I strongly recommend their 2 books, Adventures of the Barefoot Sisters Book 1: Southbounders and Book 2: Walking Home (available from lulu.com).
Susan and I were joined at the picturesque Tyler Park by fellow hikers Archie, Ben, Ken, and Scott--all avid barefooters, but first time Barefoot Hikers of PA hikers. Archie drove all the way from New York State to join us. The weather was perfect. Temperatures were in the low 70s F--not hot and not cool. The air was still, it was bright and sunny without a cloud in the sky. After chatting for awhile while awaiting additional hikers, we crossed the pedestrian bridge over the creek and took to the trails- a dozen soles in contact with earth.
Our 2 hour hike treated our bare soles to a wide variety of textures and terrain. We started uphill on a slightly rocky dirt trail. The rocks soon disappeared, giving way to cool smooth, packed dirt trails and occasional thick, spongy carpets of decaying leaves. When we reached the highest point of the trail, we left the canopy of trees and came out into the sun into a cornfield. The cut cornstalks and straw on much more-solid dirt provided a contrast to the previous softer terrain, until we cut through a brief grassy field before circling the edge of another cornfield. We then did a bit of off-trail plunging through the undergrowth, complete with occasional thorns and stickers, to re-join another trail that paralleled the creek. After a pause to catch our breath and take a few pictures, we continued to follow a mostly dirt trail until we returned to our starting point. Occasional stream crossings provided a cool treat for our bare soles and a bit of mud, too. Archie led the way for much of the hike, keeping up a relatively brisk pace that was appropriate to the barefoot hiking experience level of the group.
Upon completing the main hike, we gathered at the park's picnic tables for a brief book-signing session and discussion on a variety of topics, barefoot and non-barefoot-related. Most of us then completed a second, briefer hike on the park's nature trail.
Archie shared the following comments on the hike with mySpace barefoot group members:
"The park was beautiful with old groth forest areas, ravines cut by streams and some farm fields. Six of us enjoyed exploring the paths which brought us to a farm field still moist in some spots from recent rains. There were well worn dirt paths, mossy rocks, roots and vines of all sizes and shapes, fallen trees, gravely sections and some asphalt too. A smorgasboard for our trail toughend feet. I don't think I heard a single complaint of sore soles, although I got scatched a bit on some thorny vines, but my legs would have been scratched if I'd been wearing shoes (so why wear them)."
All in all, I think we had a great time. Archie wrote, "It was great to spend time with fellow barefooters and chat about issues we have in common and also learn a little bit about one another. Can't wait to do another hike with all the nice folks I met." I couldn't have said it better myself.
Our special guest Susan shared the following thoughts on her hike with us:
"Tyler State Park provided a great setting for a barefoot hike. My
experiences with Pennsylvania along the AT had led me to believe that the state was one giant heap of tippy rocks, but Tyler State Park offered a variety of pleasant surfaces underfoot. The best part of the experience was meeting some fellow barefoot hikers. Ben, Ken, Scott, Archie, and Chris were great company. I really appreciate the chance to see such a lovely part of the state, and to meet such fun people."
I want to thank all the attendees and especially special guest Susan Letcher for making our first hike of the season a very successful, fun time!