This coming week I’m planning to lug the hiking boots back to my office so they can start to climb stairs with me again. They are full leather Lowa Renegades that I bought in 2010. You could tell back then if a climber was from Central Florida because those were literally the only full leather boots being sold in the area.
I figure that it’s a good idea to be back in hiking boot mode before the Mt. Washington trip in a few weeks. And I know my daughter, who is going along for this trip, is tired of me telling her to do some hiking in her hiking boots – but since I don’t think she has done so for any length of time since the Inca Trail in May 2012, I certainly think it’s advisable.
Each time I put on my boots I see just a little bit of dirt or dust from treks past. Some days after the Boston Marathon bombing occurred and the bombers identified, I was climbing up and down the stairs in my office building. We had just returned a few weeks before from hiking down and up the Grand Canyon – South Kaibob and Bright Angel Trails. There was still red, copper dust ground into my boots that reflected the rusty color of the stair rails. The burnt colors around me, and the cavernous recollection of descending down into the canyon converged and I was overcome with the tragedy of how the two brothers could have so missed the point of the mountains and sun and whether they even realized what they had done.
I dragged around dregs of Kilimanjaro for months on my boots. The husband and I hadn’t bothered to take advantage of the repeated offers to clean our boots when we were in Africa – hence, even when we returned, my navy blue boots had a grey ashy sheen that outlasted multiple rainstorms. Each time I put them on I felt a little bit again the magic of that moment if stepping on the summit.
Elbrus didn’t make as big a mark on my boots as it did on me. Probably because once at the Barrels – the converted oil barrels where climbers stay at 12,000 feet – we were in our double plastic boots and crampons. But my boots still bear a little dust of the Caucasus mountains, especially the fields of wildflowers on the observatory hike and the dried salty sweat from the horses as we went horseback riding. And I’m sure that somewhere hidden in the creases of my boots there is a bit of olivine sand from Green Sands Beach in Hawaii, or the deep rich soil of the Inca Trail.
I’m hoping my boots have a lot more miles in them – although when I looked at the soles they have lost a fair amount of their grip. But grip or no grip – they have a lot of soul.