21 December 2008

Goodbye to old friends

Hiking boots are a funny thing. No other piece of equipment impacts your comfort on the trail as much as your boots. They keep your feet warm and dry, your ankles unturned, keep you from slipping around in snow, gravel and skree. Few things can ruin a trip like foot problems, so its not hard to understand why to many hikers, their boots are like old friends, comfortable, reliable, always there when you need them, battling against blisters and stubbed toes and other such foes.

Slipping on an old pair of boots can be a trip down memory lane. The day you bought them, choosing to wear them out of the store, old boots in the box under your arm. The first trip up on the mountain when you purposely walked through the creek three times to see if they really were waterproof. The time you wore them snowshoeing and discovered waterproof has its limits. Fly fishing on the wash, sage busting on the east side, dusty scrambles up desert buttes, each outing is recorded there in leather and canvas and rubber and memory like a performance art trail journal.

The thing about boots is, it’s a partnership destined to end. You hope to hold on to your good friends for a lifetime. You hope a great pair of boots lasts four or five seasons, depending on gas prices and free time. Maybe the rand starts to come loose, or the heel is worn flat, maybe the side of the toe box blows out. Whatever the reason, there comes a time when you know, these old boots are ready to retire.

So the question becomes, what to do with the old pair in the box under your arm when the new pair gets worn out of the store. Do you toss them in the first garbage receptacle you pass? Seems a bit heartless for such a loyal pair of boots. They were good boots, always ready to hit the trail when you were; never once making you wait for them at the trailhead. Do they have enough life left in them for some very light hiking with the kids? Nope, they’re dead for sure. What to do, what to do.

On a trip to a wedding in the Elkhorns, I remember passing a pair of trees in a steep river canyon. The trees were good-sized deciduous affairs, both on the north side of the road. Both were hung heavily with old footwear. It’s a common practice for those exiting the military to tie the laces of their boots together and toss them over a power line on base, but I had never seen the practice translated to hiking boots in a tree till that summer. The trees were quite the spectacle, like oddly trimmed Christmas trees decked out in leather and canvas of earthy tones. The shoes all had a good view of the river from there, a nice breeze blowing through in the evening.

Now, next to the front door, resting in a place of honor, is a pair of old boots waiting for the spring rains to clear the passes. As soon as work and weather and gas prices permit, I will set those old boots in the passenger seat of the car, throw in the fly rod, lace up the new boots which do not have a mid-sole squeak or a rand coming loose, and head out to find a pair of trees in a desert river valley and say goodbye to a pair of old friends. I hope they like the view.


  1. Hey! I put some new shoes on and suddenly everything is right! lol! I love it!! It's all about hiking boots!! :D Poor boots... I shall miss them... But anyways I showed this to Kathryn and she said that it was 'deep and random'. I'm pretty sure that she means that she liked it. :D

    Love's Cassidy

  2. Those boots look perfectly fine!
    Wait till you see mine on my blog.
    Thanks for the inspiration Rick.