Fall has finally replaced winter with gorgeous days (sunny with temps in the 60s/70s), chilly nights (temps in the 40s), and gorgeous foliage. It is a bit strange to see the world exploding with yellows, oranges, and reds after so many months of just seeing green.
Despite all of the fallen leaves cluttering the trail, it has still been easy to find and follow the blazed path through the woods. The only downside is that sometimes the fine details of the trail (the rocks and roots) are obscured by the leaves. This is really just my way of blaming the leaves for a little stumble I took. It may or may not have actually been their fault, but there was a broken off root in the trail and I stumbled over it.
After walking 2100 miles my balance has gotten pretty good, so I didn’t fall even though I was hiking at about a three mile an hour pace when that root reached out and grabbed my foot. My leg and the root grappled for a minute as they tried to gain ownership of my foot, but eventually my leg won and I ripped my foot away from the root. I kept walking, but I started to notice that my right foot was feeling a lot cooler than my left. I looked down at my feet as I tried to figure out the cause.
There was a huge gash in my shoe that extended from my big toe all the way across to my little toe. My first thought was to thank my lucky stars that I was wearing boots and that the gash was on my boot and not on my poor foot. My second thought was, “Doh!”. That boot would get me to the next town (Monson), but it wouldn’t get me through the 100 mile wilderness or up Mt Katahdin. I was going to have to find myself a new pair of boots.
I have had a lot of trouble with footwear and boots on this trip but my fifth (and I’d hoped last) pair of boots had been keeping me happy. I liked my Merrill Men’s Moab Ventillator’s (size 9 1/2), and if I had to get new boots I wanted to get a new pair just like them. I’d gone through 4 pair of uncomfortable boots before settling on these, and I really didn’t want to change things up now.
When I got to Monson I called around to all of the Outfitters nearby to see if they sold hiking boots, and more specifically if they sold Merrills. Unfortunately none of them did. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I figured that it was a good time to take a break to clear my head.
I met up with Eli, Rachel, Hotshot, and her dad for lunch. As we ate I told them about my shoe dilemma. Eli offered to give me his Merrill’s if they were the right size since he hikes in his Choco Sandals. Unfortunately our feet were no where near the same size.
While we were talking Hotshot’s dad had quietly taken the shoes off of his feet and as soon as it was clear that Eli’s shoes wouldn’t work, he passed me his shoes to me saying, “Here, try these.”
They were a pair of boots that looked just like the ones I was wearing, except that they were a lot cleaner, and were still completely intact. I tried then on and they fit! They were a little bit bigger than my ripped up boots (size 10 instead of 9 1/2), but they would definitely work.
It felt a little strange to literally take the boots off of his feet, but he assured me multiple times that he really wanted me to have them, and it made him really happy to have the chance to help me out, especially since he knew that my parents had been there to support his daughter earlier in the trip.
My shoe dilemma was resolved in a wonderful and amazing way that I never would have predicted! In some ways all of the thru-hikers on the trail are like family, and whenever a parent shows up on the trail they immediately become a parent to whoever needs a parent that day.
With better weather, trail magicked new boots, care packages from home (thanks mom, dad, Melissa & Mike, and Mike), and a group of old and new friends (Hotshot, Twigs, Green Blaze, Shady, Wyoming, and BoJangles) I felt ready to head into the 100 mile wilderness.