Summer on the River: Going Barefoot

Enjoying the river barefoot | © Amy Kober

Enjoying the river barefoot | © Amy Kober

We spent this past weekend on Oregon’s North Umpqua River, and my three year old kept taking off his sneakers.

He did it whenever we left the trail, crossed through the sword ferns and trees, and got on to the cobble beach. I’d make sure to corral the socks he tossed randomly so we didn’t lose them. Then he’d head straight for the river, to wade in the shallow water searching for caddis flies. Or he’d go to his climbing tree with its perfectly slanted, moss-covered trunk. Or to the warm flat dry rocks. Or the slicker ones covered with algae (he quickly learned to walk more slowly here).

He’d get a little annoyed when sand got stuck between his toes, but then he’d walk to the water, rinse off, and then find a path of rocks to step on, avoiding the sand. It was fun to watch him figure it out.

Of course I worried he’d step on glass, or a thorn, or an old fishing hook. But I bit my tongue because I saw how much fun he was having – and how much being barefoot was teaching him about the river. He felt it all, and he noticed more. He paid attention to where he was going. He was (relatively) careful. One of the reasons he loved climbing the tree was because of the way the soft moss felt on his feet.

We have our share of water shoes and river sandals and rubber boots. But sometimes, especially on warm July day on a beautiful Wild and Scenic River, it’s best to just go barefoot.