A Barefoot Hike up Mount Chocorua
This past Saturday, I joined about 1.5 million people hiking up Mount Chocorua in NH, USA. The state needs to quadruple the parking lot size in some of these places! I had to park a quarter mile away, but that was ok because the new pavement was perfectly smooth for barefooting.
After an hour and a half ride to get there, I couldn’t wait to bust out the “friend-makers”. Who would have ever thought that two bare feet could make so many acquaintances? I talked to more people than I ever have on a single hike.
Right from the get go, whenever somebody noticed my feet and looked up to make eye contact, I decided to go with a story line of, “Did you know that today is Feel the Foliage Day? Why just look at the foliage when you can actually feel it too?”
People loved it! It totally knocked them off any other preconception they might have had a second before. I have found that engaging with others barefoot works best with a one-two punch of balderdash first, logic/health second. Once they laugh at the balderdash, they’re more willing to listen. More often than not, they’re happy enough with just the balderdash.
At one point, I tried an experiment of hiding my feet behind a rock. But, sure as the sun rises, people still saw the little piggies and their face lit up! Barefoot? The long processions of Canucks were very funny too. Tres froid? For whatever reason, the cold-climate Canucks were all dressed much heavier than anybody else.
The variety of textures was incredible. The blanket of leaves made maybe 2/3rds of the hike pretty comfortable. There were staircase rocks, mud, puddles, streaming water, and some story land groves of moss. In fact, I was standing in the moss for a while and that really captured people’s imagination. “Honey, we should do that! It looks so comfortable! My boots are killing me!” One lady asked, “Are you a Hobbit?” I laughed and said, “Well actually, that’s the name of another guy in the club! He has a lot more experience than I do.”
Today was vastly improved over the Mount Monadnock hike. I still let people pass by quite frequently and I definitely always pulled over in the bottlenecks. There was one fun bottleneck where these wicked tall guys were coming down. “How tall are you man?” “Six-seven.” And then another, “Six-eleven.” So everybody in earshot was happy and thought it was funny. I took the opportunity to stick my ski pole horizontally on the tree across the trail. “If you want to pass you have to say something nice.” The first woman looks down and says, “Your feet are gorgeous!”
Holy shmoley! I wasn’t expecting that!
“Thank you, ma’am! You may certainly pass!”
Then it was the turn for three giggling Asian students. “I like your shirt.” “I like your knapsack.” “I like your ski poles.”
Of course, I meant it more in the sense of say something nice about the weather or the mountain and not so such in terms of flattering me! Oh well. Everybody had fun.
At one point, a man was coming down the mountain with a shirt that looked like it had the square root symbol on it. I said, “Is that the square root symbol?” So he stretched out his shirt to show that it said my age is the square root of 6400. “That means you’re 80?” “Yes it does.” “That’s great – the age and the shirt!”
Later, another man told me, “You see the guy coming down in the white shirt? He works for New Balance. Tell him that shoes suck.” So I did! Well, of all the people on the trail, he was the most excited. “You’re my hero! Can I take a picture of your feet?” Sure can.
I learned a few things today. Leaves go a long, long, long way to smoothing out the sharp pebbles. This four and a half hour hike would have taken a lot longer without the leaves.
The rock climbing at the top was heaven. I learned that whatever I can do with shoes, I can pretty much do barefoot. The only thing I try to avoid is going across a large expanse of steep rock. Even with shoes though, I prefer to be near an edge for something to grab if need be. At the top there was plenty of four limb climbing. In many cases, bare feet or toes can fit into smaller places than shoes. Probably the biggest change from Monadnock was that I was no longer on “High Stubbing Alert”. On the way down with shoes I stubbed my toes three times! But not once with bare feet. Definitely sloppier with foot wear. I like paying attention to every single foot step.
Feet dry fast when barefoot. My feet went through countless cycles of wet and dry. I walked through all kinds of mud, but many times along the way, my feet cleaned right back up. With shoes and socks on the way down, they got wet and stayed wet. Yuck.
When it was time to hike down, I put on my shoes and socks. It was a bit of a let down when I realized, “Darn, I’m back to blending in again. No more friend-makers.”
So far, I have found that my bare feet make friends. Whenever I come across a skeptic, I just light up and say, “I love it! All these textures feel phenomenal!”