A muddy adventure on the trail in Tilden ParkThis past Wednesday afternoon, my friend Carrie and I went on an adventure in Tilden Park. Even knowing a forecast for rain, I opted to go in socks and my Keen sandals, my feet’s normal winter attire. I figured I might take my socks off and my feet would get wet. Little did I know what I was in for.

We hiked from Little Farm to Pine Tree Trail. (Click map for details.) When we reached the trailhead, we saw the beginning of the trail was a bit muddy. Carrie, in hiking boots, went 50 feet ahead and reported back that it wasn’t as bad. I decided to stick to the edge as much as possible and appreciate the neighboring tree and shrub branches.

Up with muddy shoes

Tilden Park trail map sectionThat approach worked great for half the hike, on Laurel Canyon Trail and Bay Area Ridge Trail. On the way up, I opted to remove my socks lest they get wet from the rain and muddy from the trail, and then surged ahead and embraced the adventure.

After we reached the peak on Wildcat Peak Trail and started to make our way down, a passing hiker wished us to enjoy the clay. We think he meant the exposed earth of the trail. It turned out there was much more mud to greet us ahead.

Muddy Sandals on the trailFor a moment, I was doing just fine, keeping my balance and making my way through. About a third of the way down, though, the suction under the mud was too strong to bear and I decided to give in. I removed my sandals and hiked barefoot the rest of the way down the mountain.

Down with muddy feet

My balance on the ground was little better and I was still sliding down the trail, but at least I could take one step after the other without getting stuck. Plus, less mud accumulated on my feet than on my sandals!

At the bottom, the terrain on Sylvan Trail and Wildcat Creek Trail was rougher, with more rocks. Though my sandals were still covered in mud, I decided to put them back on as we walked back to the parking lot.

We rubbed our shoes in patches of thick grass to get the largest chunks of mud off. I also folded grass over my feet to wipe some of the mud off of them before getting in the car.

Muddy feet after going barefoot on the trailThis experience led to two discoveries. One, since I do not have callouses on my feet, I was feeling every prick from prickly leaves on the trail and I lacked much friction to prevent myself from sliding down. And two, the mud was cold and I needed a while to adjust my perspective about the temperature.

Lessons from barefoot hiking

However, I appreciated this opportunity to observe the value of the tools in our lives. Hiking boots on my feet would have imbued a confidence in trudging through, which I lacked while wearing sandals.

Also, the soles of my sandals are pretty worn and lack the lugs they once had, so their friction on the trail was as poor as my feet. It might even have been worse as my feet have toes, which add a little stability as well.

Having the right tool for the job empowers us to feel confident and enables our productivity and effectiveness at doing the work. Whether that tool is a hiking boot, a standalone email application, or a new approach to composing secure passwords, we can be grateful for the experience and benefits of using it.

Trail Feet, Booted & Bare