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Friday, September 30, 2016

In Praise of Good Boots and Wool Socks

I am a hiking wimp when it comes to my feet. If I expect to hike more than a couple of miles, I wear boots. Not just any boots, but real old-fashioned leather hiking boots with Vibram soles. When I purchased my current pair a couple of years ago the salesman kept asking if I was sure I wanted this particular pair of boots and insisted on showing me a number of light weight pairs, mostly with some sort of woven fabric top. I dismissed them all, and I'm glad of it. Yes, these boots are heavier than newer types of boots, but they have many advantages that easily make up for the weight.

Vibram soles protect my feet from all the rocks on the trail and offer really good traction for boulder-hopping, even when wet. The hard toes of the boots, rather than my own toes, take the beating when I inevitably, and surprisingly frequently, hit my toes on rocks. The leather uppers keep water and dust out. I've noticed on boots with woven uppers that dust eventually sifts through. Ugh! I hate the feeling of dirt in between my toes!

Here is what my Asolo's looked like before my first hike, all nice and shiny.

Here is what they look like after a year and a half worth of hikes, including a number this past summer on dry and dusty trails in Grand Teton National Park.

I pair them with wool socks, which is absolutely critical to the health and comfort of my feet. For shorter hikes I sometimes wear socks of my own making, such as these orange ones, which I posted about here back in 2012 .

Tuscany socks, pattern by Melissa Morgan-Oakes

For longer hikes I swear by Smartwool socks, which have a finer gauge than anything I could knit myself. I have tried other brands of wool socks, but only Smartwool keeps my feet blister-free on fifteen plus mile hikes. Definitely worth the extra expense.

If you've never been to Grand Teton National Park, I highly recommend a visit. It was unusual this year due to forest fires (mostly caused by lightning strikes) which made the air smoky at times, depending on how the wind was blowing. Here is a photo of one of the early season fires east of Jackson Hole.

The Sleeping Indian, the moon, and smoke at sunset

And here is view of the Teton range on a particularly smoky evening.

Smoky sunset in Grand Teton National Park

In spite of the fires, we enjoyed some spectacular hikes. One day we made a loop from the top of the tram down to Marion Lake, to the Teton Crest Trail and over Fox Creek Pass, and eventually down Death Canyon to the Lawrence Rockefeller Preserve. I love the gentle slopes on the west side of the range and the expansive views of the high peaks to the north.

Along the Teton Crest Trail

For a shorter hike we went to Taggert Lake. With the Grand looming up in the background, it is a popular destination for swimmers and picnickers on hot summer days.

Taggert Lake

If you're looking for a greater challenge and a place to get away from other hikers, you can head up Hanging Canyon to Ramshead Lake and Lake of the Crags. Though the trail is not marked on official park maps and is not maintained by the park service, it is well-developed, albeit steep in places, and easily followed. Interested hikers can find directions here. The appropriately named Rock of Ages dominates the west end of the canyon, giving it a cathedral-like quality.

Lake of the Crags on a smoky afternoon

To get back to the knitting theme, here is a lace tank that I recently completed using a pattern by Mari Tobita from the Spring/Summer 2016 edition of VogueKnitting. I couldn't find the cashmere/linen blend called for so chose hand-dyed Euroflax Sportweight Linen Layers by Prism Yarn. It's been a great piece to wear in the still-warm September days here in Texas.

Lace tank

I'll be back soon with images from several quilting projects that I've been working on lately.

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