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These Boots are Made for Walking

Many years ago, M had a pretty nice pair of hiking boots. These were all leather, really built to last, with metal eyelets for the laces except for the very tops, which had little curved metal hooks for the laces. State of the art in 1971 or so. And she wore them forever, and they lasted forever. All that began to change with a hike in Lassen Volcanic National Park about twelve years ago.

We had walked up the the top of the Chaos Crags trails, and our whole group was then enjoying the lovely feeling of walking downhill. But M changed all that in an instant, in a rare and comical performance. As her feet swung forward, step by step, the lace of her left boot suddenly caught on one of those little metal hooks on her right boot. The result was instantaneous, as her body kept moving forward at a good clip, but her feet were suddenly stopped in place. She went catapulting down the slope with truly astonishing speed.

Once she came to her senses, she diagnosed the problem and finished the hike walking a bit like a sailor, with her feet well apart. The children were giggling the whole way back to camp.

That night in camp, she borrowed a pair of pliers and carefully bent those hooks down and out of the way. Problem solved.

Until, of course, she started hiking on a dusty gravelly trail and discovered that her now open-top boots let in way too many small pebbles.

It was time to go shopping for new boots.

And she has been shopping ever since. Here's what she wants: lightweight, so that she doesn't have to lift any more weight than necessary. Strong, so that she doesn't feel every rock on the sole of her foot. Perfectly fitted, so that she can only wear very thin socks and never get a blister. And attractive, so that she looks good in all those photos that P takes of her on the trail.

Seems simple, right? Guess again.

She is now on her fourth or fifth pair. She has fought her way through terrible blisters, sore and bruised feet, fitted insoles and even ugly boots. And yet...

The only pair of boots that she seems to be able to wear are a pair that our older daughter left behind when she moved to the big city. They are not particularly light. They are not hugely attractive. But they allow M to wear two pairs of socks, so that she doesn't get blisters. They are tough enough on the soles to protect her feet. They fit well enough that she doesn't need the insoles.

The search goes on.


More Strangers in the Night

It was a dark and somewhat stormy night, thirty-five years ago in the Pinnacles National Monument. P was there, camping with a college soccer teammate, and enjoying the hiking during Spring Break.

The weather wasn't really cooperating, though. It started out cloudy, and the boys even got so far above the storm on one hike that they could see the Sierra Nevada to the East...across a sea of cloud.

That night it rained, and they two of us hunkered down in our tent, just a little bit miserable. P woke up later that night, and was grateful to realize that he could no longer hear the rain--the storm was obviously over.

But then he heard another noise. There was a wild animal on the loose in the campground. He heard it rustling the garbage cans as it worked it way through the campsites. And did we mention that P and his friend were the only campers in the campground? It was as if the rest of the world allowed a little rainy weather to discourage them.

Or at least as if the rest of the world had read the weather report--which P hadn't.

And still the beast came closer.

You know the rest. After some minutes, P and his friend finally heard the animal right outside their tent. Really close. And so they flipped open the flap to their tent, yelled, and shined their flashlight right in the face of the animal.

And were rather surprised to see that it had stopped raining. It was now snowing. The animal in front of them, a small raccoon, was equally surprised, but not particularly frightened. It stared at them for a few seconds, then slowly ambled off to see what else it could find.

And the boys ended up so cold that they eventually took their bags into the restroom and slept there for the rest of the night.

Ahh! Wilderness!

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