A Cold Weather Hike

Discussion in 'Front Page News' started by hikerdana, Nov 5, 2019.

  1. hikerdana

    hikerdana
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    A Cold Weather Hike
    By Hikerdana


    My youngest child belongs to a boys group called Royal Rangers. As part of the advancement system they are required to attend various activities with the outpost. For this month I would be required to accompany him on a 5 mile hike up Mt. Hedgehog in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, USA. IF I didn’t go, he couldn’t go and wouldn’t earn this quarters badge since I had already opted out of the overnight campout. My big question was should I attempt this hike barefoot?

    The trail conditions for the area said the trails were all clear of snow and the weather forecast was for temps to be above 40° F in the nearest town. No snow was encouraging, but still colder than I normally walk around unshod. I look at my dwindling shoe collection and realize I have several nice pairs of barefoot style shoes, but my summer hiking boots have all worn out and been tossed, except one pair of super heavy duty, 20 year old, custom hiking boots that weight at least 5 lbs.

    I wasn’t too worried about hiking 5 miles through the mountains barefoot, my concern was with the ground temperature. Could I hike 5 miles with the ground being close to freezing, and the air temperature would certainly be colder than the nearest town’s forecast of mid 40° F. I usually stop barefooting when temperatures are in the 40° F range, so this would be pushing it. Plus I would be with a group that would probably have a few very slow people, not that I’m a fast hiker, and I definitely hike slower when barefoot. Back to the shoe choice. I don’t want to tramp through the mud and dirt with my nice barefoot shoes, but after digging around for a while I found my Vibram five-finger shoes. They have done a few hikes, so now at least I had something so I could go hiking with my son.

    The morning arrives and we have the first frost of the season on my van, not a very encouraging start. I live about two hours south of the planned hiked, so I prayed the temperatures would warm up before we arrived, though things are always colder north of us, so they might mean just above freezing when we arrive. I did make it out to my van barefoot and drove to the church to meet up with everyone else. I stayed in my vehicle, debating what I would do, should I hike barefoot or in my five-fingered shoes. Either one would raise some comments.

    We arrive at the base of the climb the temperatures were in the low 40’s. I through caution to the wind and decide to give it a try and push myself. I pack my five-fingers and stood in a sunny spot in the parking lot waiting for the group to head up. The leader noticed my lack of foot gear and inquired if I planned to hike barefoot. I confirmed I was and he told me his sister now runs and hikes barefoot. Then he was off getting everything organized.

    The pace started off slow on mostly level ground. The trail was damp and covered in leaves and felt cold under my feet. I picked up my pace to generate some extra heat, but kept having to stop and wait for the back of the line to catch back up. I finally decided that hiking slow was better then starting and stopping. A lot of my focus went towards analyzing the temperature of my feet. Did I still have feeling in the toes, what color were the toes. At first they looked red and then they started to look white. I reached down and felt my cold toes and they didn’t seem to have a lot of feeling, where they freezing, was I endanger of getting frost bite. I kept grabbing and holding my toes every chance I could, which was a lot since the group moved so slowly. I took to wiggling and scrunching my toes to get warmth back into them so I wouldn’t have to put on the five-fingers. We cross a stream with some ice on the edges, how cold is it I wonder.

    At lunch I pulled out my pad and sat down with my feet under my legs. They seemed to warm up, but I didn’t get that pulse of heat or even the slight tingling that comes when your frozen feet come back to live when they warm up. They still felt slightly dead. The color still seemed slightly off, but was it the black mud surrounding my feet that just made the tanned skin look pale in comparison? Or was it all in my head. After lunch they seemed better, but I was still very focused on my feet and toes in general. OF course my glasses have darkened up throwing color off even more.

    There wasn’t much discussion about me hiking in bare feet. I did have one young person ask if it was easier hiking in bare feet and I had to respond that I felt it was harder. I know how often barefooters will say they can grab with their toes and it is so much easier. Well, my toes don’t do much grabbing and I have to be careful where I put my foot. With a boot I can place my foot on a pointed rock or jump down without a care what is hiding underneath the leaves. I definitely find it more challenging to hike barefoot and for me that is what I like about it, a new challenge.

    Upon arriving back to the vehicles my feet seem to be just cold. As they warmed back up I still didn’t get any tingling or pain that I often associated frozen parts thawing out that I had when I was a child. So I’m thinking they didn’t get as cold as I thought they were. I wouldn’t be surprised if my feet have gotten colder hiking with boots on in the winter then they did on this hike.

    We soon stopped for a real bathroom break and then I notice how sore the bottoms of my feet were tender. But no signs of frost bite.

    Two days later the soles are still a bit tender. I tried to convince myself think was a little muscle soreness, but it almost disappears when I wear a barefoot shoe, so I guess I’m still a novice barefooter. I have also observed my toes a lot in the past few days. Paying special attention to how much feeling they have and am surprised that the toes don’t have a lot of sensory input, they seem almost dead compared to the soles of my feet and especially under my arch.

    I’m glad I did the hike barefoot and look forward with some trepidation to the next cold weather, barefoot hike.

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Pawmaline

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    Thanks for sharing this, I really enjoyed reading it. Very well-written too I want to add. I'm a complete novice when it comes to barefoot hiking but I am passionate about it, so this is very inspiring for me.
     
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  3. bfsailor

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    Congratulations on completing the barefoot hike! Nicely written report too. I have done a fair amount of hiking in those kind of temperatures and really enjoy it. You are correct that keeping moving is the key, even if slowly. Also making sure the rest of your body is dressed warmly enough so you're not wasting energy keeping your core warm at the expense of your toes! :coldfeet:
    There are definitely a lot of variables to consider though - ground temperature, air temperature, wetness of the ground, temperature changes due to elevation, etc. Always best to err on the side of caution rather than risk frostbite.
    Good luck on your future barefoot hikes!
     
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  4. Barefoot TJ

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    I'm glad you were able to complete this one barefoot, Dana. Congrats! And thanks for sharing here. I have mirrored your report to the home page.
     
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  5. BareFootHeath

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    ‘Cool’ report Dana. I’ve also noticed that sensation of numbness from time to time when I’ve been cold weather barefooting, I find that it’s more noticeable on days with a breeze blowing. The tenderness you described afterwards is something I’ve also experienced...as crazy as it sounds I’ve found that soaking them in cold water for awhile seems to reduce that tenderness.

    Congrats on sticking it out.
     
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  6. hikerdana

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    Thanks for letting me know that you get tenderness afterwards as well. The ground was not really that hard to walk on, though with frozen feet maybe I just didn't notice. It appeared to be mostly soft dirt covered with multiply layers of leaves with the many rocks and roots thrown in, but the rocks were not super rough over the course of the 5 miles. I believe I've been on worse with less tenderness afterwards, so I bet it has more to do with the cold then the rough terrain.
     
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