A few years back, on a winter trip to Yosemite, I arrived at a trailhead leading out of the valley to discover a pair of boots peeking out from beneath a rock nearby. Thinking it was odd, I investigated. They were ancient. Well, ancient in the sense that they were clearly decades old. Vasques. Sundowners, I believe. Full leather. They looked like somebody had taken an old, beloved baseball glove, and nailed them to a sole. Gorgeous leather, but worn thin. These boots had been on who knows how many treks.
There was a note.
“Sorry to leave these here, but this is the first trail I’d ever hiked in these boots, many years ago, and I couldn’t bear to just throw them out. I wanted to leave them as a kind of memorial.”
Looked like some flowers had been left in the boots, long since browned.
I thought about it, and realized I didn’t have any boots I cared about nearly that much. Nor did I own any leather boots that would last that long. The oldest boots in my arsenal were a pair of Asolos that lasted me about a decade until the Vibram soles wore down too slick to be of much use in Sierra granite. I wasn’t really sad to see ’em go, however. Sure, there was a little flash of nostalgia about when I bought them, but otherwise, they were left unceremoniously at my local Goodwill. I didn’t consider leaving a note.
I wish I did have a pair of boots like that, however. Trail runners are more comfortable, but there’s something about an old pair of boots. I have no problem sacrificing weight and cushion for a pair of boots that can tell a story. That I can show to my daughter in 30 years, to tell her how I wore them on her first ever backpacking trip. I have 30-year-old baseball gloves, after all. Why not boots?
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Photo: Alexander Schimmeck