Ever wonder what other people think if they come across us barefooters hiking through the woods? Well, Tom Vartabedian of Haverhill (just north of Boston) recently encountered a family hiking Mount Willard in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and wrote about it.
First, I just have to note that Haverhill was the home of John Greenleaf Whittier, the poet who wrote The Barefoot Boy. So you’d think that Vartabedian might have been somewhat familiar with the concept.
His article appeared in the Haverhill Gazette. But the title, and the intro, are a bit, shall we say, insultive: There’s hillbillies in them thar’ hills.
The article did get better though. Here’s his description of meeting the family:
Once we reached the peak, some incredible views unfolded before our eyes on a perfectly clear day. Mountains and lakes were everywhere in sight.
Suddenly out came a guy with long hair and no shoes — barefoot on this rough terrain. I don’t know what made the sight so conspicuous, but my incredulous eyes met his surly feet.
Next appeared his 11-year-old son wearing no footgear, followed by the boy’s mother. Here was a family of shoeless folks who had hiked up and down nearly 6,000 feet over some pretty rugged terrain.
Even with hiking boots, it was a daunting task. I couldn’t withstand such a “feat” or “feet” if you paid me. How the dickens did they ever negotiate all those rocks on the trail? One slip and it could have been a footfall.
What, you can’t slip while wearing hiking boots? Clearly, Vartabedian just hasn’t given this much thought. If he did, he’d realize that toes are great for gripping. And to really do a good job of spraining an ankle (and hiking boots really don’t help all that much) you need just the sort of heel shoes and boots provide.
But Vartabedian had heard about Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Abebe Bikila. So he asked the hikers how they did it?
And then he talks about how he needs his shoes because of his tender feet; and even then he gets the occasional callous that really hurts.
Somebody tell him that callous is a result of his wearing shoes. That’s what they do.
He also manages to get in the gratuitous “I would not want to be inside a store smelling someone’s feet.” Well, if you are smelling someone’s feet, what you are really smelling is the inside of their shoes. If you go barefoot all the time your feet don’t smell.
I was also intrigued by another comment of his:
“It’s a fad,” I’m told. “Like tattoos. Going barefoot has become a rage, especially with younger folks.”
I wonder who told him that? And I really wonder if it is true.
If it is true, that’s great! And about time.
He did end the article by researching things a bit and finding out about the wonderful sensory experience of going barefoot. But he still didn’t get it. Here’s his last sentence:
As for me, I’d rather have cold feet inside a boot.
That’s kind of like, “I’d rather be uncomfortable than try something different.”
Admittedly, if he first tried it his lifetime-weakened feet might not be quite up to it. But he could work his way up and eventually he would discover just how utile bare feet are and he might actually enjoy it.
Anyways, here’s the article again. See what you think.