Betrayed by Old Friends
*This post contains graphic content*
It was all I could think to myself as I trudged through the cold rain.
We’ve been through so much together and this is how you treat me!
I kept on walking, face down, staring at my boots.
Squish, squish, squish, they replied.
My hands were white, gripped around my trekking poles, but I lost feeling in them after about in hour into the rain. My coat was soaked through and heavy, and my wet hair was plastered against my face, but I didn’t care. I didn’t notice anything except that my feet were wet.
I kept my eyes on my boots.
My precious, beloved, loyal, boots.
My boots that took me through the volcanic fields of Iceland, the cliffs in Hawaii, the rivers of Canada. Through countless city streets, hundreds of miles of trails, and my final college exams. For the past four years they were my biggest supporters, my most trusted traveling companions, my best friends.
Well not anymore! I told them as I continued to press on into the rain.
Within the first two days of the AT my boots have given me the biggest blister of a lifetime, and even after all the advice, and all the opinions, and all the articles that say:
“Don’t wear boots! They are heavy! Not worth it! Get trail runners!”
I still decided to wear them, because I knew that no matter what they would keep my feet dry, just like they did on all the other rainy days. But I was wrong. Four miles into the day and my feet were soaked.
Best Western, Blairsville
After hiding out in a bathroom at Woody Gap, Ray, Sara, and I decided to get a hotel in Blairsville that night since we didn’t want to summit Blood Mountain in the rain; that and because we were pretty miserable out there.
“I don’t care if anyone gives us shit for getting off so early! That rain was awful!” Ray said as she started peeling off her layers of wet clothes.
“Yeah, I think we are making a good decision,” Sara agreed
I sat down on the bed and immediately took off my boots and threw them into the corner, throwing my soaking wet socks on top of them, hoping they’d feel guilty for what they did to me.
We all took turns taking steaming hot showers. I was so cold my hands screamed in pain as the hot water splashed on them. After an entire bottle of hotel shampoo and several minutes of serious scrubbing, I felt myself getting back to normal. I finished bathing and wrapped myself in a fresh towel.
“You’re up, Ray,” I said, coming back into the bedroom.
I sat down on the bed and starting untangling my hair with Ray’s brush since I decided not to carry one.
I flipped my hair and my eyes settled on my sad-looking boots in the corner. I set the brush down and walked over to them, tenderly picking them up.
I’m sorry I got mad, I thought, feeling bad for getting upset.
How could I be mad at them? It’s common for waterproofing to fade after a while. The only reason I got a blister was because I hiked 13 miles on my second day, letting the excitement distract me from listening to my feet.
I starting pulling out the Superfeet insoles and undoing the laces, carefully placing them on top of the AC unit to let the fan dry them out.
I sat across from them, staring. The seams were slowly peeling away from the front of the boots, with the seam glue chipping away. They were on their second pair of laces, but they were dirty and thinning. Mud was caked onto all sides, and their color was faded.
They weren’t disloyal, they were just old. They’ve been through so much, so many miles, so many stream crossings, so many mountains, so many sharp rocks. They were tired and beyond repair. No matter how badly I wanted to bring them along with me, I knew no amount of seam glue or waterproof spray could save them.
As I watched the laces flap in the wind from the fan, I felt as though they were trying to tell me something. That no matter how many miles I’ve hiked before this, no matter how many adventures I’ve been on, or how many falls and bruises I’ve gotten, I still have so much to learn.
Because this wasn’t a day hike, or a weekend hike, or an alpine trek; this was thru-hiking. Something that I’ve never done before; something that will require constant adapting and perseverance.
My boots reminded me that even though I am an experienced backpacker, I still have so much to learn and that I can’t be stubborn because there is no way one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world is going to change. I have to.
I realized this wasn’t a place for my old friends. But they taught me a lesson no amount of articles, or videos, or day hikes could teach me.
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