New shoes…and nowhere to go

I love hiking boots and shoes. I love them almost as much as all my running friends love their running shoes, and that’s saying something. I love the solid feeling of them, how they connect my feet to the earth. Well, they’re meant to do exactly that, of course, but I’m talking more in the spiritual sense. 😉 I love where they’ve taken me, and how they’ve helped me scramble up rocks that made me scared. I love how they give balance to the silhouette of my less-than-skinny legs, and how they look cool with both jeans and hiking pants. At least, by my minimal fashion standards, they do.

So it’s with a little sadness that I announce it’s time to say adieu to my beloved Merrell MQM Gore Tex Flex beauties. I got them in late 2018 as part of some crazy good sale, and I had no idea what I was getting when I bought them. Turns out I wore them so much I literally wore the soles off of them. See example A, on the left.

Hmmm, late 2018 – that wasn’t a great time for me. I was sick, exhausted and likely suffering from burnout. On a trip to the Smoky Mountains a few months earlier, I’d gotten great joy out of throwing out a pair of miserably uncomfortable waterproof hiking shoes, and needed new ones. I got sucked into an instagram ad (yes, I know, I’m weak) and soon these arrived.

In the year that would follow, they would take me all over the trails in and around Virginia Beach, to Shenandoah National Park, and Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park, and Death Valley National Park, and up various trails in Utah’s Wasatch mountain range. They’d come with me to Arkansas, and travel all over the Canadian Rockies, from Canmore to Banff to Jasper and to some alpine meadow more than 8,000 feet above sea level. They’d even get a taste of my old stomping grounds in the Blue Hills Reservation on a brief jaunt back to Boston, and they’d collect sand from the Outer Banks in North Carolina along with the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coastline back home. Given all the puddles and ocean they’ve splashed through, It’s a wonder they don’t stink to high heaven. (I just checked and they are a little smelly, but not too bad. I think.)

I entertained the idea of trying to figure out how many miles I trekked in these, but I gave up quickly, because that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because I’m grateful for the changes the last year has brought to my health. These shoes gave me a confident spring in my step, one that I badly needed in those early months, to climb out of the hole I’d dug for myself.

So, I have new boots/shoes now, also bought on sale from Merrell. The jury is out on if they will be as awesome as their predecessors, and the world looks very different for them. I was hoping to break them in at Shenandoah, to take them on my much-anticipated first visit to Yosemite, and bring them back to Utah this spring…but the coronavirus seems to have other plans. We’ll have to make do with the trails of our nearby parks (provided they stay open) and the beaches (same concern).

I decided to write this little post because over the past week or so, there have been little dart points of grief as I realized I wouldn’t be having my far-flung adventures in the months to come. I held on to the reservations in Yosemite in the hope for a miracle, but even that mighty park has been closed. Today, I cancelled the rental car and deleted the trip from my travel ap, and…blergh…it’s just a drag.

So, my new shoes are not starting out with a grand itinerary ahead of them. In truth, we don’t know how much longer our local trails will even be open, given the uptick in use since every other leisure activity has been shut down. If that happens, I’ll have to wear down those weird new treads on cement.

Look, I know that there are terrible things happening right now, far, far worse than me not being able to hop on a plane and go hiking. But as we navigate through this new reality, it’s important to note and mourn, just a little, the things we were looking forward to. Yes, we will adapt and make the best of our changed world. But I don’t think it’s selfish to simply acknowledge that there are things we are giving up, and that we will miss them.

Regardless, I remain grateful for my legs and the strength that they’ve developed over the last year. They will keep powering me forward, whatever that looks like, and in whatever boots they happen to be wearing. I remain grateful for my health, and for the comfortable chair that I sit in as I write this.

Be safe and well everyone. Hope to see you on the trails sometime soon. From 6 feet away, of course.

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