A few months ago I wrote this post but never published it, as it just seemed entirely too navel-gazish:
I think it may be time for new boots. I've had these for almost nine years. I bought them at a small outdoor store in Greensboro, North Carolina just before my first backpacking trip, on the Long Trail in Vermont. I was in my last year of school, and I didn't have the money for them until two days before I left. There was no time for a breaking-in period, but the boots never left a single mark or blister.
These boots have squelched through the mid-summer mud in the Adirondacks. They've taken me on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia and Georgia, along Lake Superior and the rest of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, atop ridges in the Olympic range and to the edge of cold lakes at the base of Mt. Rainier. Last summer they helped me peel off a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon.
These boots groaned under my pregnant weight while I was photographing prairie dogs and antelopes in the Badlands in South Dakota. They've hugged my feet while I hiked hesitantly around blind corners in Glacier National Park yelling "hey bear!"
They've been a part of most of the deeply gratifying moments I've had in the last ten years that didn't involve parenting -- and some that did. Not to be too maudlin, but giving them up feels too much like the end of an era I'm not ready to close out yet.
Maybe they'll make it another year.
Turns out they didn't.
We hiked about twenty miles over the three days of the seminar, or perhaps a hair less. The second day's hike to Grinnell Glacier constituted the bulk of the hiking, at 12 miles. It was hot, and I worked hard. The first day we hiked to the Hidden Lake Overlook off Logan Pass. On the way back, I felt a sort of odd flapping near my toes. The sole had separated from the boot. It was annoying, but I bought some rubber cement that night and applied it liberally to the detached sole. Then, for good measure, I wrapped the hell out of the boots with copious quantities of duct tape that Jeff had obtained from one of his innumerable park friends.
So we got up to the glacier on the second day, and I saw this standing between me and my glacial experience:
(This person, as you have no doubt astutely surmised, is not me.)
Welp, there was no way I was going through that with my compromised boots. Yeah, 33 degree water and sharp rocks -- just the thing to undo the duct tape and glue. Fortunately, though, I'd brought these along:
But let me tell you something. Until you've had to painstakingly navigate a slippery rock bridge in water just above the freezing point, on feet that are all but completely bare -- well, then you can't possibly understand why I was such a big whiny baby about it. The moment I stepped in, I could literally feel the warmth draining from my feet. (Yes, there was actually a draining feeling.) There were three of these bridges to cross, and I did each one coming and going. By the time I was finished each time, it felt like a thousand needles were pricking my feet.
It hurt. Waaaaah.
Once the pins and needles subsided, it took me about ten minutes to get the feeling back in my feet. Anyone who was completely immersed in that water would die quickly.
Anyhoo, it did the trick. I kept my boots dry, and they didn't blow out completely till there were only three miles left on the hike down. The sharp rocks of the glaciated landscape made perfect striations on the duct tape, and the soles completely detached. But I donned my sandals again, which have a lovely rugged tread on the soles, and continued on.
It was an odd day of temperature extremes, but delightful all the same.
Part V to come -- Wherein I finally shut my trap about this trip, put in a plug for the Glacier Institute, and post miscellaneous pictures.