New year, new resolutions. One of my goals for this year is to walk barefoot comfortably in nature.
I was raised in Canada and thus grew up with the "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" slogan fully engrained into my psyche. If you're going out, you wear shoes. Full stop. (That's a period). On the other hand, Canadians don't generally wear shoes in the house. Footwear is usually wet and dirty from snow, salt, and slush, so it's prudent to remove it when entering carpeted houses or any building that you want to keep clean.
Flip the world upside down and you're in New Zealand where shoes are often superfluous to wardrobe requirements and people who do wear shoes reflexively leave them on in other people's homes. One of the first things that shocked me when I moved to New Zealand was all the bare feet walking around in the supermarket. Born here, my children happily go to the supermarket/library/beach interchangeably without shoes, but over a decade after my arrival, I admit I still cringe at all the bare footedness sometimes.
Regardless of the podiatric foot customs where you live, scientists tell us that getting your dogs in contact with the earth is healthy. Katy Bowman, my biomechanical idol, of Nutritious Movement writes about the benefits of walking barefoot in nature, including improved joint health, better communication between your feet and your brain (happy neurons!), superior sleep, better temperature regulation, and reduced pain.
So in 2018, I plan to shed my maple syrupy ways and go nuddy-footed in the bush. With the support and tutelage of a natural born Kiwi friend, Tee, I've done my first two barefoot tramps. Last week, we headed up to the summit of Otanewainuku (don't worry Canadians, it's okay if you can't pronounce that word) and today the jaw-droppingly fabulous Wairere Falls.
At 153 metres, Wairere Falls are the highest in the North Island. On a sunny day, you can picnic at the top of the falls and gaze out over the Waikato plains. And that's just what we did. We stepped lightly, wincing on the small sharp stones at the start of the track, then ambled over the larger rocks alongside moss-covered boulders beside the river, wheezed up the staircases and log steps, squirched through the mud on the flats, and marvelled at the beauty every step of the way.
I've tramped here before with the kids and shoes on. It's not a long tramp, but it's continuously up, which can be challenging for little legs. A natural spot for a family turn around is the lower lookout about halfway up the track.
Wairere Falls Walk: 5km round trip.
Time: 2-3 hours for fit and able adults, 4-6 hours with kids.
Difficulty: Moderate in dry conditions, Difficult when muddy.
Dogs: With permit.
Swimming holes: Yes.