If you know ME, then you know I am cheap thrifty, which is a trait my brother Mantel Man shares. We can squeeze more use out of a rotary phone a decrepit artifact a beloved old item than almost anyone we know. Except for possibly our father and his clothes, but that's revolting a story for another day.
Mantel Man sent me this little essay, or paean to his hiking boots, just because, a couple of weeks ago. I made him send me photos which (this being Mantel Man) I was certain he had. Yes, he had them. Here is his story.
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(Photo used by permission of Robertbody at en.wikipedia)
After a few recent hikes up Squaw Peak ( a short climb in the middle of Phoenix) in my sneakers, during which I felt every single rock on the trail through the thin soles, I finally decided to invest in a new pair of hiking boots.
At the Sports Chalet, the shoe department is right next to the rental department, and I glanced over at the red canoe on the rack to see if it had gotten any new scratches since the last time I rented it. Probably not -- this being Scottsdale. The salesman helped me try on about six different pairs of boots. When I asked how long they generally last, he said, "Oh, all these brands are pretty durable. Even with heavy use, they should last you up to a year."
I keep shoes longer than most people keep their spouses -- at least in Scottsdale (even with heavy use). In a year, my relationship with a pair of shoes usually isn't even beyond the "on your best behavior" courtship stage. In fact, my fanzi-panzi Italian sneakers, the ones I got in Rome in 2005, are known in my closet as "the new guys."* (Some of my other shoes are a little passive-aggressive.)
(Original photo used by permission of andrew.petro at Flickr, Wikimedia Commons)
The whole reason I needed new hiking boots is because last summer my old ones finally fell apart during my descent from Humphreys Peak, north of Flagstaff. I walked the last couple of miles with the outsole of one boot in my hand. With only a thin insole remaining, the injured boot was little more than a slipper. Fortunately I was past the rocky part of the trek. When I later told the elderly Korean shoe-repair shop owner about the boot while picking up some other shoes (I was a regular there), he was sure he could fix it -- but he hadn't seen the remains of the boot and didn't realize how thrashed both of them were.
(Original photo used by permission of Mckaysavage, Wikimedia Commons)
ordered the heavy-duty boots in 1994 for my trek in Nepal. Even though
arrived in the mail right AFTER my return, forcing me
to trek in my $20 "Korea specials" (which I finally threw out in 2004),
they endured years of strenuous hiking on rough terrain, occasionally
strapped to crampons or snowshoes. It was time to let them go.
They are pretty low-tech, more suitable for walking across pastures at the ranch than carrying a backpack on some rough trail. Hence my trip to the shoe store to start a new relationship. The honeymoon phase ended unusually early, as last weekend I put the new boots through an 18-20 mile hike involving a good bit of off-trail bushwhacking in the alpine region above Arizona's Mogollon Rim. The boots are still in a snit over it, and we're not speaking right now. I can hear my 1989 boots snickering in my closet.