LOCATION: Ridley Creek State Park in Newtown Square, PA (Delaware County)
TIME: 11 AM to 3 PM
CONDITIONS: Partly cloudy to sunny, breezy, Temps in the mid-70s
PARTICIPANTS: Christopher Roat, Bill S., John R., Christian B., Ken R and his wife Lisa
On Saturday, May 23, 1998, the Barefoot Hikers of PA (NJ-DE-MD) joined together for a hike at Ridley Creek State Park in Newtown Square, PA.
The day began with partly cloudy skies which gave way to sun by late morning. The temperature was in the mid-70s Fahrenheit with an occasional breeze. We met at the park office. Our casual attire was in sharp contrast to the dresses and three-piece suits of another group gathering to use the park office (an old mansion estate) as the backdrop for a wedding ceremony. By 11:30, I was joined by Bill and Ken (of the DSS), John and Christian (2 other barefooters who have previously joined hikes). Ken brought along his wife Lisa, a tenderfoot (very tender by her own admission) who gamely followed our request that everyone begin the hike barefoot. Lisa and Ken are biologists (Lisa is an entymologist), so their knowledge of the local flora and fauna proved both interesting and useful in the course of the hike.
We drove to a spot deeper in the park where a trail began. The trail was recommended by John, who has explored this park extensively (barefoot of course) with his daughter and her friend (who have also taken to barefooting, though they were unable to join this hike). The trail was composed of smooth, packed mud which was still damp enough to be spongy but for the most part not wet enough to sink into. The first part of the trail was somewhat steep and had various twigs and small, rounded rocks embedded in the dirt. John indicated that this was the hardest part of the trail. Still, we all carefully threaded our way down the slope on the narrow path through the underbrush, our bare feet providing great traction on the terrain. Soon, we reached the bottom, where the trail began to parallel a wide stream. The trail returned to a composition primarily of soft, damp, packed mud with only occasional stones and twigs. We briefly passed out of the park onto a road of paved blacktop road with occasional gravel and small glass along the edges. The road was still in the shade of the thick forest canopy, so, though warmer than the dirt trail, the surface temperature was in now way uncomfortable. We also encountered a small wooden bridge and some spots of course sand which provided more variation of texture beneath our sensitive soles. Rotting tree stumps and carpets of leaves provided even more interesting sensations underfoot. Lisa, our tenderfoot, stayed barefoot for about 15 more minutes before resorting to her shoes. She did a GREAT job for a first-timer. Finally, we came to a point where we decided to turn back. However we chose to follow another trail back on the other side of the stream. Of course, we needed to cross the stream first. After continuing forward on the original trail in hope of finding a dam or bridge to cross, a direct stream crossing seemed a viable option as a spot appeared where large round rocks picked their way across the entire width of the stream, about 40 feet or so. We started across and found the cool, wet rocks to be smooth and very slippery. Near the far side of the stream, the rocks spaced out more, though a fallen log crossed the rest of the way. One member of the group attempted to complete the crossing with a leap, but found out that the rocks were much too slippery for such a manuever, even given the added gripping ability of our bare feet. Soon we determined that the best way to complete the crossing was to straddle the log and inch up it to a point where the rapids were not so deep and then complete the crossing in the chilly but refreshing water, which came up to our knees/thighs. The rushing water between the rocks threatened to push us further off balance and this part of the hike required a bit of teamwork to complete. Proudly we did a great job!! Some of us were left with soggy pants, but at least we didn't have to contend with soggy shoes. W e then met up with a bike trail which was paved. Of course, this pavement was of a rougher grade than the road we had crossed earlier. Nonetheless, we continued on and encountered a few other hikers and bikers. One woman commented on how "tough" we were to be barefoot! After about 5 minutes on the paved bike trail, we returned to a well-traveled dirt trail through the brush. We followed this trail which paralleled the stream on the side opposite our outward journey and soon worked our way back to our starting point, after a somewhat steep on a portion of trail that again was littered with rocks and twigs. Our bare feet helped us to grip our way up this last, steep portion of the trail.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the hike and all our feet survived unscathed and happy. We parted company, agreeing to get together again soon.