Catherine Ryan Hyde Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than 25 published and forthcoming books, including the bestselling When I found You, Pay It Forward, Don't Let Me Go, and Take Me With You.


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A Post About Hiking Boots

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Okay. Right up front. If you don't hike, and aren't much on the great outdoors, you'll probably think I'm insane. Or...maybe not. Maybe you have your own story about some article of clothing or gear that took on its own meaning over the years. If so, please do comment and tell me. I'll feel much better.

I finally broke down and bought a new pair of hiking boots to replace my old Birkenstock Rockfords. After nine years and what I very conservatively estimate to be 3,000 to 4,000 miles together. About the equivalent of lacing them up in New York City and walking home to the coast of California, only much more gradual. These old boots have had a complete new molded sole fused onto them four times. They've had their footbeds replaced five times. They weigh a tiny bit less than an anvil, but I never minded. Why did I buy a new pair? Because the Rockford has been discontinued. So now I can't get new footbeds, and the resole people can't get soles to fuse on. I'd say goodbye, but, truthfully, they're just going to the back of my closet. Never again will I have to worry that my boots will get lost in the mail on their way to be resoled.  Never again will I have to wait for a time when I can do without them for three weeks before mailing them away. My old boots just became my spares.

And, yet, bizarrely, I will still wax sentimental. Go figure.


Here we are together on the top of (the aptly named) Dead Woman's Pass in the Andes Mountains, on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  And on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

And on the infamous Knife Edge ascent to Maine's Mt. Katahdin. And on top of the darn thing. Could I have done it without them? Well, that's a misleading question. I could have done it with other boots. But I didn't. I did it with these.

They're even seen here strapped into snow shoes on the way to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Redwoods one winter in Yosemite.

And everybody laughed at me when I showed them the photos from my first Grand Canyon day hike, because I took a picture of my boots afterwards. But there's something about that red dirt. It's like you pick up a layer of the Grand Canyon and bring it up to the rim with you. Sounds weird, maybe, just doesn't look like any other dirt in the world.

Okay, enough about this. Time to move on. In December I'm going down to the bottom of the Canyon again, and I'll get the new boots covered with that same beautiful red dust. And, knowing me, I'll probably snap a picture. That's just the kind of crazy fool I am.