Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hiking Barefoot?

"The Barefoot Hiker" A Book About Bare Feet
by Richard Frazine, BD [Bachelor of Divinity?]
1993, Ten-Speed Press, ISBN: 0-89815-525-8
Read the book. Join the club.

This is an excellent and well-written book full of irreverent spunk and practical advice for hikers who habitually go barefoot. It is also an interesting addition to my "What would caveman do" bookshelf (see: Anopsology and my analysis). But, this book is written by Easterners, and I must humbly take exception to the application of their advice to the west, particularly Tucson.

The authors would sore regret hazarding a single barefoot footfall, let alone an entire cavalcade of such vulnerable events, in the Sonoran Desert, a Desert incomparably well-equipped to puncture the inflated expectations of innocent trespassers. The rapacious wit and perspicacious criticism embodied in the hard reality of the Sonoran desert would soon render the author's philosophy moot as he became a human dumpling skewered on the spines of cholla, saguaro, fish hook, and porcupine cactus, not to mention the infinitely small, sharp, and numerous "glochids" of the prickly pear.

The idea that humans are fit to live in the environment uncouth and unshod is an admirable one, an idea dating back perhaps to Genesis and the Garden of Eden. But the beauty of wilderness, especially Sonoran desert wilderness, bursts such hubristic bubbles and skewers such dainty pedagogy. Aristotle's peripatetic circumlocutions aside, this shit is sharp. To take humble pride in the profligate-armed Saguaro, to know that we are outmatched and vulnerable at his side, is to know the true reality of wilderness: not unadorned freedom to trample as we wish, but careful respect for all creatures great and sharp, and a willingness to adapt our footprint to the landscape we inhabit.

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