The cat in my hat
For years, i had always worn a ball cap on my hiking trips. I ended up with a massive collection of them, but they failed in one major regard--sun coverage of my aging ears. About ten years ago I found an old fedora at a second hand shop, and that hat served me well--I still own it.
Here it is at Smedberg Lake in Yosemite:
But then one day at an open air market in Argentina, my life changed. I found the perfect hat. It has a wider brim, is lighter than the fedora, and had a style all its own. I wore it proudly on every trip for many years. I've even had people offer me money for this hat on the trail.
Here it is on the way to Mono Pass a few years ago:
But I have to admit that I wore this hat to death--not just Death Valley, but death. By last year it was really quite disreputable: sweat stained, grimy, and so soaked with filth that it actually weighed more than the fedora. It was a sad day...
I had no idea how to clean it. I tried cleaning a small section of the brim with a little Woolite, but that had no effect. We took it to a dry cleaner who ran screaming from the room and wouldn't touch it. I came to the sad conclusion that my perfect hat was no longer an option. I would just have to wait for our next trip to Argentina (whenever that would be!) and see if i could find its brother. (I had tried in Chile last year with no success.)
Finally, i decided that I had nothing to lose. I couldn't wear the hat the way it was, and so i went all in. I dunked it in warm water in the sink and went to work with a scrub brush and a full bottle of Dawn liquid detergent. The suds flew, the sink was filthy, but an hour later the hat did look cleaner.
Of course, the real question was whether it would hold its shape after such a brutal treatment. I tried to form it a little bit, and left it to dry on towel in the sun. A few hours later, it was fairly dry and I tried it on.
If fit perfectly. Just like the first time I tried it on. It really is the perfect hat. And now it's good for another eight years or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first. At which point I'll wash it again!