In my mind’s eye, I can still see a favorite place where I haven’t set foot in more than four decades.
A Mr. Foster – I think I met him once – had a few hundred acres of scruffy hills in central Illinois. It had woods good for camping and cavorting. It had a stream with bullheads and drum. I vividly recall a close encounter with a bull snake.
In other words, ideal for our Boy Scout troop. We were always welcome and went often. I most clearly remember my first Scout overnight, on a notably cold November weekend. We got something called a polar bear patch for that, though no bears were involved.
Was there a snipe hunt? Yes. Was there the greatest game ever of cross-country hide-and-seek? Yes. Was it scratchy and uncomfortable hiding under leaves and up against a downed tree because an older Scout said it was an awesome way to stay hidden and win the game? Um, yes.
It was grand. Of course, there was the cold, too. I crawled into my sleeping bag that first night. One of the boys asked, you doing OK? Yeah, but my feet are cold. Don’t worry, he said, they’ll warm up.
Later: You good? Yeah, but my feet are cold. Don’t worry. They’ll warm up.
My feet have never warmed up. I love cold-weather camping and have done it for years, but the cold-toes thing has been a distraction all along the way.
To get cold feet – to half-commit and then back out – is usually thought to be a mildly negative thing. Commit to something. Grab life by the horns. What could go wrong?
I’m not so sure. Maybe there’s an evolutionary advantage in, you know, at least thinking things through. How many headaches and heartaches, how much overcommitment, how many overstressed moments could be avoided if we listened to our cold, suffering feet? They are the ones, after all, that have to carry us step by step along whatever rocky or smooth path we choose.
Experienced campers have all kinds of ideas for warm feet. Hand warmers, four pair of socks, no socks, whatever. Just consult YouTube. I’m sure you’ll be rewarded.
Here’s the one thing I know that works. Get up. Put on some good socks and lace up the boots. Then get moving. I don’t mean stand around the fire. Move, and get the blood flowing. Your feet will be fine.
While you’re moving, you’re doing stuff and probably making yourself useful to others. There’s a certain logic to it. Don’t fight it. Just do what you have to in order to stay warm.
– Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter: @FoxEJC