So, let’s say you’re at the border of some dismal swamp, marsh or vernal pool and something happens to slide or plop in, scamper under some vegetation or bury itself in the mud. It might be a handsome young Barking Treefrog (Hyla gratiosa), a curious Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) or maybe even a strikingly beautiful Eastern Mudsnake (Farancia abacura abacura.) The night is hot and humid, and you have several hours of hiking/herping ahead of you.
Now flash back to the morning. You have your choice for footwear for the day, what do you wear:
A reliable pair of chest waders
Your old sneakers that’ve seen more miles than Forrest Gump
A set of Vibram KSOs.
Now flash back forward to the evening. Yes, I can play around with time like that: it’s my blog. You have your choice of footwear and there’s no going back. Here’s what happens, given your choice:
Hiking boots: you jump in; maybe even catch the animal for some pictures. However, your boots remain water-logged for the rest of the eve – making that annoying noise that wet footwear make. You know the noise. You get back to the car with your herping parner, who refuses to let you in his meticulously detailed car. The roof it is.
Old Sneakers: Same basic deal as hiking boots. Except grosser.
Flip-flops: You jump in and proceed to get your right flip-flop hopelessly stuck in the mud. When you lunge forward for your quarry, it stays put and you end up with a face-full of mud. You abandon the footwear and proceed to walk around barefoot, only to step on a sharp stick. You start to bleed and begin to be picked to bits by a as-yet undiscovered species of North American Piranhas. The good news: you have a new species named after you. The bad news: you’re dead.
Chest Waders: You hike around with an extra 20 pounds covering your torso like a winter jacket. You pass out from heat exhaustion. Your B.O. from the excessive sweat attracts a pack of Coyotes. They eat you.
Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
All of these scenarios are the only way it can happen. There’s no other option, sorry.
UNLESS, you wore the Vibrams. In that case, you jumped into the water after the critter, grabbed it, found another critter between your toes that you didn’t even know was there, emerge to have your feet dry in five minutes, and go home happy.
Now what did we learn? Nothing, really – because chances are some of you will use boots, flip-flops or chest waders again in your life (myself included); but the real take-home point is that Vibrams are real nice for aquatic adventures.
They make you feel like you’re barefoot, with the freedom to wiggle your toes and even maybe feel some previously-unobserved animal between said toes. This review, you’ll find is a little bit less structured than, oh say, one of my flashlight reviews: that’s because a lot of footwear options depends on personal preference instead of a tangible rating scale.
Anyways: more on the shoes. I found Vibrams especially useful for trekking in temperate situations, and for a few reasons. Temperate environs typically pack a punch for physical and chemical warfare against your feet. There are lots of rocks, in addition to ubiquitous thorns, and then there’s the ever-present poison ivy. With a good pair of Vibrams on, one can deflect all of these woes with no problem.
Typically, I will use these for hiking/herping/animal watching while either road cruising or traversing wetland situations only. However, I wouldn’t recommend them for situations where only a sturdy boot will do: I.e. scrubby or mountainous situations, or more importantly situations where venomous snakes may be abundant and cryptic – Vibrams are no gaiters and would shiver at a bite from a pygmy rattler (Sistrurus miliarius) not to mention larger venomous species. They also look just a little bit queer (and I mean that in the British sense) at first and can take some getting used to: but let’s face it, the sooner we all stop taking our looks so seriously, the better.
Anyways, all that aside, if you find yourself a constant swamp-tromper like me, you might just want to give a pair of Vibrams a try. It’ll give you new insight on the phrase “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”