Monday, December 19, 2016

Saved by Boots

‘These boots were made for walking’ – and indeed they were.

And although I would love to hear the stories my little hiking boots could tell, I think its best at this stage of their life to give them a well-earned rest. It’s time someone told THEIR story.

A long time ago in a generation and time barely remembered, I was a naive little 14-year old. I had signed up for a 50-mile hike in the interior of British Columbia with my Air Cadet Squadron - a group for youth interested in aviation and outdoor adventures – and I truly had no idea what I was in for. And although my dad was keen on my participating in such an adventure, I think he was a tad worried how his first-born daughter was going to fare. We would be hiking in and around 70-Mile House in the interior of BC and mostly along either paved or gravelled roads. Even though it was in the summer we had to prepare for all kinds of weather and all kinds of terrain. A skinny little body and tiny feet not used to such long travels required some proper hiking gear.

So we went on a shopping excursion I would never forget. How nervous my dad was about my venturing into the wilds of the great wide world was evident in how he shopped for my adventure. A large frame backpack, rain gear, army surplus water canteens, jackets and a camouflage boonie hat was only the start of my hiking gear. Every tool, gizmo and gadget was needed - with spares for back-up, of course. Today’s ‘Survivor Man’ would be proud.

But the most valued and still-cherished piece of hiking equipment he got me were the best kind of hiking boots money could buy. My dad knew if I was truly going to survive the wilds of BC, good footwear would be my greatest weapon. Those boots cost a pretty penny but it was a smart investment at the time - and an investment neither of us realized would go on as long as it would.

They looked nothing like the other kids’ boots. I had never owned a pair of hiking boots before but I knew what REAL hiking boots looked like, and these were not them. My teenage self thought they looked weird. I remember the store clerk – an outdoorsy kind of guy with bushy hair and just-as-bushy beard – recommended I treat them with wax. So I took my weird-looking little boots home and upon the advice of the bushy-haired store clerk I melted on layer after layer after layer after layer after layer of leather-preserving, water-resisting, ice-deflecting, bear-repelling, protective wax with a hairdryer. If my face got sun-burn, wind-burn, or frost-bite my feet, at least, were gonna be well-preserved.

But I’m not ungrateful for my dear dad’s compassion and care for my well-being. The parent I am now understands his apprehension of letting his child out in the great wide world.

And those boots proved to be the best bit of equipment I could have ever had. Their non-typical hiking boot shape was for a reason: my dad got what he paid for.

Because within two days of our hike along the back roads of 70-mile house everyone was limping and whimpering due to the most horrible blisters I had ever seen – everyone except me. I wore two pairs of socks which I changed regularly; tube stocks layered with army-grey wool socks. My feet stayed dry and blister-free. I came home in one piece and 20 lbs lighter, yet heavy with memories and experiences I would relive for years to come.

And I still have the boots to show for it.

And they still fit.

And I still wear them.

After that 70-mile hike, I wore them on another trip with the cadets, but that adventure found us in sub-sub-zero temperatures where we camped on snow and frozen cow-pies (true story). Where some kids suffered frostbite, I returned home unscathed.

I wore them through my 20’s and 30’s, and now my 40’s. My sisters have even borrowed them. Those boots have been camping and hiking all throughout BC, through lakes and rivers, through snow and ice. They sat in the back of the closet in the early years when my kids were babies, but were dusted off when those same kids were old enough to get pulled around in a sled in the snow. Then when those same kids were too old for me to pull in their sleds, those boots took me hiking in the woods with my kids happily trailing along.

My kids are now, sadly, at an age where hiking with mom is SO not cool, which means I’ve gotten older as well. Those boots I once thought were not cool are now the coolest, and securest, thing I know – they save me from slipping and falling in the snow and ice. Tripping and falling when you’re 45 years old is a heckuva lot different than when you’re 14 – more body parts tend to get destroyed.

So this winter when the snow and ice made an appearance on our usually mild temperature Southern Vancouver Island, my boots were ready to go. On a Friday the week before Christmas the threat of a another few centimeters of snow dared to show up in the forecast. Everyone was in a panic; grocery stores were in near-chaos with everyone buying amenities for the great rare snowstorm that was supposed to hold our rainforest island under siege for a few days.

I was ready. I had my boots.

But the day before the storm I was overcome with my own panic.

Just like my 45-year-old body is starting to come apart at the seams, so was one of my boots.

The sole was separating from the rest of the boot.

This could not be!

I was going to save those boots as they have saved me! Determined to hold on to this bit of history and nostalgic gift from my dad, I hustled to the cobbler and showed them my precious 31-year-old boots. I had told my dad of my plight. He was in tears about it all. "But I paid good money for those boots!" Don't worry, Dad, I mentally vowed as I made my way through the door of the shop. I will preserve your good name!

“Can you save them with some super-super-super-sonic glue?” I begged the cobbler as I held out my boots. “We are due for another snowfall and I NEED them! These 31-year-old boots are my LIFE!”

And a few hours and $15 later my Vasque boots that have stood the test of time – much better than my body has – were back in action and ready for the snowstorm...

...that never came.

But my boots, at least, are ready for another 31 years.

And I am too – I hope.

For product information about the best boots - and the only boots - I will ever own, visit

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