It was in the early 1970’s when Mike said to me, “Always take care of your feet”. We were talking about the hiking I was accomplishing in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. Then, I carried my full backpack and slept out multiple nights during all seasons of a year. Yes, my 40 – 50 pound backpack pounded all the bones in my body … right down to my toes … Mike was right!
As years went by and I continued to hike, Mike’s words never left me. I have tried and worn many hiking boots. The REI store is my most helpful place to buy hiking boots. No hiking boot is worth buying till you know you can walk many miles in the boot and have your feet feel good at the end of the hike. Most times I get the right boot the first time I try one on; however, it was not the case in 2000. I was preparing for a trek in Nepal to Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet. Good boots were a must. I trained in NYS and AZ. In New York State I was carrying my backpack up and down garage stairwells and notoriously steep roads in Ithaca, NY which happened to also be snow covered at times. In Arizona I was hiking up and down Chimney Rock in Sedona and changing pairs of boots as I tried them out. Fortunately REI allowed returns even after a bit of red dirt would be on the boots!
Recently I was at Grand Canyon National Park. I talk with people as they are standing at the start of the Bright Angel Trail contemplating their next move. Will they go to Phantom Ranch? Will they only hike to Havasupai Garden Campground? On this particular day a party of 3 talked of hiking to the Colorado River and back within the day. While quizzing them about the amount of water and food they had, and being sure they understood it is twice as long to return to the rim than going down, we helped as they struggled getting their Yaktrax’s on their shoes. It was noon and they were off. We worried about them for the rest of the day. I hope they were smart on the trail.
Then I saw a couple walk down the Bright Angel Trail. I could not help but notice their shoes. I watched them carefully walk down the snowy, icy trail to the tunnel. (If you have been on this trail, you know exactly what distance I am talking about.) It’s downhill and not far, but hiking boots are recommended!
I do not make a habit of this, but I really wanted to talk with them when they returned to the rim of the canyon. Fortunately, their walk was not the most fun so they were back before I froze. I asked if I could talk with them. I told them no friend of mine would ever believe me if I said I saw two people walk down the snowy, icy trail with those shoes! They graciously let me photograph their shoes. He had on suede loafers. The woman said her high-heeled chunky boots are so comfortable she wears them everywhere … including on this short hike! But they were glad to be back on the rim!
I also talked with a group of college-aged foreign students visiting the USA. Within the conversation, I noticed all were wearing sneakers which led our discussion to how to pack lightly for a long-distance trip. The challenge really sets in when visiting areas with completely different temperatures. They started in the southeast USA, New Orleans, and driving to the Grand Canyon with snow, then Las Vegas, and off to the sunny Los Angeles. It is a challenge, plus who knew it would be snowing at the Grand Canyon? We all survive those moments of not being totally prepared, but if you’re planning to hike a distance, undoubtedly you will have the appropriate footwear. Mike was right, take care of your feet.