Last weekend, I was blessed with the opportunity to hike and explore along the Stillaguamish River, near Arlington, Washington. It was a beautiful day for a four-mile walk, even though much of the route was in public view and required that I remain clothed. Fortunately, as with many public-access areas, the “public” doesn’t wander too far from the parking area.
Soon, leaving all the human visitors behind, I watched a Bald Eagle soaring over the river, and several ducks foraging in the shoal water as I walked. As soon as I reached the sandy beach, and left most of the river’s gravel bars behind, I removed my 5-Fingers shoes and continued my hike barefoot. As the sand played out, I reached a quiet and secluded stretch of dirt trail that wandered alternately along the river, through the woods, and past the back edge of an alfalfa field that was being cut.
A long-time believer in the health benefits of “Earthing”, I savored the naturally healing connection between Earth and bare feet. From coarse river sand, the trail changed to cool dirt in the shade of the woods, mud as it dipped into the low areas along the river, through grassy hills, to leafy loam as it meandered among the hardwood forest beside the alfalfa field. The physical and mechanical benefits of walking naturally barefoot were apparent as sand was brushed from my feet by grass, mud squeezed between my toes, then fell off as my feet padded along firmer soil, muscles adapted to the contours of each step, across rocks, up and over logs, and through shallow water. Man-made footwear would have filled with sand, accumulated heavy mud, become soaked, slipped, bumped, and tripped among these variations. And, it would have blocked the natural flow of energy that occurs when bare soles meet bare Earth.
At the far edge of the field, I reached the end of the out-and-back trail, and was confident that I was the only human in the wooded area and along that stretch of river. The sunshine and shade, as well as the cool breeze and the brush of foliage, beckoned my bare skin to mingle in their naturalness. Removing my clothes and laying them aside, I wandered freely along the river and among the woods. My physical, even spiritual connection with nature drained the stress from my body. The sun’s warm energy alternated with the coolness of the shady woods as they both embraced my nakedness. I began feeling renewed, energized, relaxed, and truly grounded in nature.
As with so many good things, my naturally nude time came to an end. Reluctantly dressing again, I picked up my 5-Fingers and padded along the trail, back toward “public”, back toward the rat race of “civilization”. Trickles of cool, clear water and coarse river sand cleaned my feet, so that upon reaching the rocky area, I sat on a piece of driftwood and easily brushed the last remaining sand from my feet before putting my shoes back on. Although the remaining walk lead along a dirt road with several parked cars and a mile or so of pavement before crossing a state highway, the encroachment of civilization couldn’t overcome the feeling of balance and rejuvenation that I had gained by joining nature in my natural state of being.