We drove down to Key West yesterday to see what we could see. As expected, parking was a bit of a beast. Eventually we got some sound advice from a information service worker who directed us to Fort Zachary Taylor Beach.

It cost somewhere around $10 for three adults and a toddler to enter. The beach was as attractive (if not more so) as any we’d seen. But we’d been warned: it’s a bit rocky from the soft sand to the swimable water.

I made the mistake of assuming I could handle it barefooted. I took my baby girl down to the water to swim only to experience the pain of rocks underfoot.

I was already halfway out into the water, so I gritted my teeth and pushed my way through to the surf. Katie had a blast out there. She loves it when her daddy kicks her feet for her as she floats on her arm floaties.

The pain was infinitely worse on the way OUT of the water. I remember specifically wondering if this level of pain would equal at least intro-level torture elsewhere. I’m not a small boy. That was my 280 pounds PLUS my daughters 30 or so pounds pressing my soft as silk baby feet into the rocks.

I hung with Katie at a picnic table in the shade while Heather and Gigi snorkeled out by the rocks. I learned my lesson. The next time out, I wore my FiveFingers Sprints and the difference was noticeable. I still felt all the rocks and could have bruised the bottom of my foot, but the Sprints sole kept the sharp edges from feeling like they were piercing my skin.

It was a great swim overall. The deciding factor on this trip has been the presence or lack of seaweed. Some of the beaches we hit were chock full of sea vegetation and there’s something just a little ominous and creepy about swimming over a solid black surface. My mind starts asking “What could be lurking down there?” and I can’t relax as deeply as when I can see the sand beneath me.

Anyway, the moral of the story is this: wear your VFFs to the beach and in the water. They’re worth their weight in gold.