A path to Healthiness: Gesundheitspfad

A little summer secret in the woods.

Since our discovery of this trail, up in the mountains just the next town over, a mere 7-minute drive, we’ve been frequenting this little path about once each week!

The Gesundheitspfad,  translated literally as the “Healthiness Path” is a barefoot trail in the hills of Heiligkreuz, Hasle. Not entirely different from a normal hiking trail through the forests, but this one particularly is meant to be enjoyed between your toes and on the bare soles of your feet. Certain sections are especially laden with collected material from the forest floor, like river stones or fir needles, or planks creating a walkway across a muddy path. It’s a trail to rediscover the richness of the terrain with your toes.

 

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I was at first doubtful if the Preschooler would agree to this trail. As a baby, he had always been particularly mindful about getting his hands or feet dirty with things like soil, grass, or even paint. And lately, it’s been a hit-or-miss when it came to proposing a new activity, so I had allotted a little over an hour for this short 2-3km tour, just to be safe. Indeed the outcome was actually surprising…

 

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Soft moss under your feet, dried leaves sticking to your soles, and crawling roots to wrap your toes around or step over. Admittedly, the start always felt alarmingly uncomfortable for me. Feeling all the twigs and needles and the mud at the tips of my toes, I instinctively treaded more carefully, wary of the new sensations. I didn’t realize I always walked distinctly different on trails without my shoes until I ended up with muscle ache the day after each of our visits to this path. Walking around the house all day on tiled floors or pavement on my barefeet had never caused any aching legs before.

But I can’t say the same about the boys. No complaints there, the Preschooler was dancing and running back and forth through the narrow trails, and even the Baby enjoyed treading on his barefeet. And well, though I’ve read that experts do recommend that letting small children walk barefoot on uneven ground would benefit the development of their gait and strengthen their feet…only after I’d experienced the slight aches and pains from navigating through these trails barefoot, did I really start believing it!

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Among blueberry bushes. Although they weren’t quite ripe yet, we did take a bite.

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Across pine-needles, that are quite soft under the soles.

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Down the pebble lane, a little ticklish, a little sharp, a little painful!

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And through the ice-cold river. Where we spend at least 30 minutes just playing in the water each time. I can not stand the water as much as the two boys, the cold seems to seep into my bones. The boys on the other hand, aren’t as bothered. The Baby usually throws a fit when we extract him from the water and start to dress him in warm clothes. As if he couldn’t feel the temperatures despite his lips already turning blue!

I don’t know what experts say about letting small children sit in extreme temperatures. Maybe it makes them less prone to freezing to death in the winter months (which I seem to do once the first snowflake falls- fortunately there’s no law to limit the number of layers you’re permitted to wear in winter). But this barefoot trail does reflect the Swiss love for naturopathic therapies, a kind of Kneippweg (Kneipp Way/Route), after the Bavarian priest who had pioneered naturopathic medicine movement in the late 19th Century. Places like this exist all over the country, here the site (in German) for all the Kneipp trails in Switzerland. But soon I’ll write a little more about Mr. Kneipp and share a beautiful trail in another mountain area near us, the Kneippanlage in Flühli.

…So it turns out, the 2 hours was just right to visit this trail for the first time, and every time after that. Not because of the fuss, but because barefoot trails for the boys was a definitive hit! Perhaps Mr. Kneipp’s therapies are really just based on a child’s natural desires? The key to health! …See the world through children’s eyes…and maybe dance on the trails like children do and play in ice-cold water ’til your lips turn blue.

 

 

 

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