As someone who spends and inordinate amount of time outside and thinking about being outside, I put a lot of thought into my gear. At times, I agonize over what to carry and what to leave behind, and I’m always searching for a lighter, more efficient way of traveling through the outdoors. Through this process, I have accumulated a great deal of specialized equipment allowing me to be in the best possible position for success in my outdoor pursuits. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the forest through the trees, though, and while this nearly-ten-year-long process of wading through the minutiae of gear has produced well thought out clothing, equipment, and packing decisions, it has also, at times, glossed over bigger picture items and issues.
Last weekend proved to be one of those latter times. Arriving at the trail head, I jested with Ashley for not bringing her hiking boots, having only brought her trail runners. “There is sure to be snow at elevation…we skied here two weeks ago!” I teased, making sure to point out that I told her the night before that I was bringing my boots. She looked unconcerned as she took off up the trail.
The truth is, the majority of our hiking has taken place in trail runners—after all, they are far more comfortable than boots, they’re lighter, and they’re more than adept at handling day trips in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. When we do wear boots, they’re typically either ski or snowboard boots, occasionally mountaineering boots, and, on the rarest of occasions, hiking boots. While Ashley dashed up the mountain, I smugly tied my boots tight and thought to myself that at some point we would encounter snow and she would realize that I was right and she was wrong.
Not long into the hike, I began to feel some hot spots forming on my feet and as Ashley made rapid progress up the trail I looked jealously up at her sneakered feet. I took a moment, readjusted my laces, and soldiered on, still telling myself that soon enough I would be proven correct and Ashley would wish she’d heeded my warning from the night before. Eventually we arrived at the top of the mountain, having never encountered the snow I anticipated. The closest we came was a two hundred yard stretch of packed snow and ice that, in hindsight, was probably easier negotiated in sneakers rather than cumbersome boots. However, by this point my feet were sorer than my bruised ego and I sat down, happy to give my battered feet a break.
While sitting on the summit, Doug pointed out to me that the midsole of my hiking boots had begun rotting away. I hadn’t noticed and tried to remember the last time I had even worn my boots. While I’m not sure if that’s what resulted in my bruised and battered feet, I am fairly positive that it did not help. I ended up not only getting some epic blisters, but also having to admit I was wrong. Despite spending a considerable amount of time the night before the hike debating whether I should wear sneakers or boots, which layers I should bring, and what the conditions would be like, it never crossed my mind to actually take a close look at my rarely used boots.