Luckily, like the snow before and the rain before that, the ice storm didn’t last forever. However, now that the trail was muddy and covered in snow it wouldn’t take much to turn our uphill trail into a raging, downhill river; a fact that proved itself as soon as the ice turned to rain. Clearly I’m exaggerating when I call our trail a raging river. At best it was a gushing stream, which is still not good when you’re wearing hiking shoes made for Christmas shopping at the Glendale Galleria.
As the water ran over our boots and covered our feet with what was literally ice water, I remember thinking two things; first – my feet are frozen and I’m going to have to chop them off and second – there needs to be rules for backpacking and the first rule should be; It’s All About the Shoes.
Although my first pair of “backpacking shoes” were a Chirstmas gift from my son, I swear they were sewn by the Devil’s cobbler. They may have been called Trailgear but they were not trail-rated! They provided no ankle support, no gripping power and no water resistance. They were not good for hiking, and should never have been used for backpacking; but I am cheap and I owned them, so they were on my feet when the river came rushing down the trail. My feet would have been better protected in the box that had housed the shoes.
Don’t skimp on the shoes. Don’t try and save a few dollars by going with something that “should” do. Splurge on the shoes. Spend more than you normally would. Make sure they fit perfectly. Make sure they have soles that will grip when you boulder hop across streams in Los Padres. Make sure they will provide ankle support when you come crashing down the trail of Yosemite Falls. Make sure they can carry the load of an overstuffed backpack and a useless bear canister. Am I making my point here? Trust me when I tell you, It’s all in the Shoes. A lessoned I learned the hard way when at mile 6 of the Alder Creek Loop Trail, my shoes were filled with water and my feet were frozen.