Barefoot Justine… Yes, Barefoot In the Snow, Too!

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Well… I dug around on my antique computer (a computer so old even the Amish would find it beneath them) and I found one last photo of me barefoot in the snow. I’m posting it alongside the other one from the same shoot.

I remember the day well. This was a park in Ohio that I used to hike barefoot in the winter, it took about 90 minutes to make the whole trail. The day these pics were taken it was uncommonly cold and the snow was brittle and hard… my feet had to break through a layer of hard sharp ice with every step. I remember that it was painful and sorta sucked… but I still had a lot of fun!

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) In the Snow.

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) In the Snow.

That day I had hoped to hike the whole trail, but the conditions were just too rough. I climbed a tree just to get up out of the snow for a few minutes.

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) in a tree one snowy day!

Barefoot Justine (Mara Andersen) in a tree one snowy day!

I learned a lot of things about hiking barefoot in the snow, and one was that I would stop to gently warm my feet after the first 10 or 15 minutes, the blood would all flow to my toes after that, and they would stay pink and warm for a long time. Of course all along the way I would frequently stop and warm them. Another thing I learned was to bring an extra pair of gloves so that if the first pair got wet there would be a nice cozy second pair for my hands. Dry warm hands were essential for the long hikes. One of the most surprising things I learned was how important mind over matter was. On more than one occasion I would head out for a barefoot winter hike and turn around and go home if I wasn’t feeling good about it or couldn’t focus. I knew that if I started a hike while I was distracted or not feeling confident, that there would be a greater chance of it going badly. Mainly what I learned was that it’s totally possible to safely go barefoot all winter, and that our bodies and minds are far more powerful than we think.

This is not something anyone should try for too long without a lot of research, practice and focus. I have NO desire to return to Ohio and those dreadful winters… but at times I really miss sinking my bare feet into sugary soft-serve snow! What I don’t miss is that in Ohio winter starts in October and lasts until almost May… simply put… fuck that!

3 responses »

  1. Ever get frostbite? Where the pink soles start to turn white. Seems like though you mention it was freezing cold that you made sure you didn’t go too far to turn back.

    • I induced frostbite intentionally once, just so I would know what it looked like and could be more careful. I did this in my own lawn one winter, and only induced the earliest stages, which I was able to remedy 100% without and future problems. This controlled experiment made it easier for me to monitor the health of my feet on the long winter hikes. And yes, more than once I shortened or decided to cancel my hikes, though less due to the outside temperature than to my state of mind at the time. You really have to be focused and attentive to pull off a long hike in the snow. This cannot be done casually.

  2. Just found this one on barefoot in the snow, Your writing is beautifully descriptive of how you feel and why you are as you are and I identify with so much of what you describe as a barefoot person, thank you. I have done long hikes in the snow and as you say being prepared and in a positive focussed mood is essential. It used to take ten or twenty minutes for the blood to really flow through my feet after the numbness, but when it does it is a truly amazing feeling of being in tune with nature and acclimatising to the temperature. I felt I could go on for ever but in reality the longest would be at the most 4 or 5 hours. However these days it can take much longer for my feet to warm up which is I think to do with age and the lack blood flow, so I have to be careful in order to prevent frostbite.

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