Thursday, January 8, 2015

Now That Must Have Been Some Hike!

Over the course of my Ultrarunning career I have worn out a bunch of running shoes.  But in each and every case, the wear-out was uniform and gradual: the sole would begin to show substantial wear, the uppers would get thin along the flex points where the forefoot bends when you push off with your toes, the inside would begin to get threadbare.

But never, never, has one of my running shoes had an epic, catastrophic fail like my Columbia hiking boots did a few weeks ago:

 (image credit Gary)

After Thanksgiving I convinced or coerced my adult son and a buddy to accompany me on a short hike up to Reese Hollow, on the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's Little Cove Cabin tract (I’m the overseer for the Reese Hollow Shelter and Trail, which feeds the Tuscarora Trail just west of Mercersburg, PA). We planned to do an easy 2 mile loop, nothing heroic, just to show off the trails and shelter that I have grown to love. 
We parked the truck above the cabin and hiked up to the shelter, where we appreciated the fruits of PATC’s labor.  After exploring around the shelter awhile--and of course enjoying cold dippers full of the sweet spring water--we then headed up Reese Hollow Trail along the gentle grade from the shelter up to the “saddle."  Here the trail levels for a moment before 1) either making a steep climb up to the ridge top and the Tuscarora Trail, or 2) intersecting with the Hunter Access Trail heading back downhill to the right.  That trail ultimately ends at PA Rt 456, but along the way it junctions with a jeep road--flat and direct—whereby one can return to the cabin.  

That was our intended loop—just a pleasant, easy walk in the woods.  But a flat tire interfered: I began noticing as we headed up towards the saddle that my left foot felt cold and wet.  And that I could feel the sole of my boot flopping a bit.  So I sat down to examine my boots, and when I lifted up that foot, the sole of the boot just fell clean off.  It literally bounced.  “Hmm,” I thought, “You don’t see that every day.  I guess that explains the wet foot.”  I called the boys over and displayed my mangled boot; amidst much laughing and teasing, I did a temporary repair with parachute cord to hold the severed sole back onto the bottom of the boot.  I managed to limp back the half mile to the truck.  

Upon return home, I examined the dead boot more closely.  It simply seemed to have dry rotted around its perimeter, and the flexing of my foot just broke the sole off (I should note that the other boot is absolutely fine).  Of course Columbia only has a 1-year limited warranty on their footwear, so these 15-year old boots were long since my problem.  

Later, my son and I were talking  about the day and he said with perfect seriousness, “Dad, that was some hike!  I had no idea that trail was gonna be so tough that it’d shred a boot right off your foot.  I really admire all the trail work you do up there, as bad as it is.”

You know, that WAS some hike.

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