Letters to Those I Love, Save One

Hiking Boots
At Bulnes El Castillo, a village in Spain’s Picos de Europa, a living tribute to those we love

Letters, from a woman to her hiking boots.


Dear Vasque the First,

Do you remember when we met? Mothers’ Day. 1974. Banff.

Before our daughter Lynn was old enough to take over the demands of the day. Hiking boots were what I wanted and being young and poor, Magellan and I saved big purchases like this for special-occasion gifts.

I loved your sturdy Swiss demeanor, your thick soles and dark-brown leather. Together we roamed so many trails in Canada’s Rocky Mountains and in 1977, Vancouver Island’s West Coast Trail.

You came to Vancouver with us but at the age of 24, your sole was separating from your body and you weren’t keen about hiking in drizzling rain in dense evergreen forests with limited views. (Honestly, neither was I, except for the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet.)

I’m sorry you didn’t get a proper funeral.


Please click on any photo in a gallery to enlarge images and reveal captions


Dear New Balance EEE,

Strange things happen. Like how you came into my life.

One day while walking to Granville Island, a searing, hot pain shot through the middle of my left foot. Although it lasted less than a day, it was so peculiar that I made an appointment with my doctor.

Our family has a history of bunions, their deranged largesse in full display on both of my feet, as you came to know only too well. So I expected to be told I needed bunion surgery. “What you have here is hallux valgus, a birth defect,” podiatrist Tim said as he examined the x-rays. Translation: something’s wrong inside that’s forcing my big toe to progressively turn left, squeezing the spaces between the other toes. “You’re how old? And you haven’t had any pain until now?” He explained the options. Surgical results were few and inconclusive, and corrective procedures can’t be confirmed without intraoperative findings. “I wouldn’t recommend surgery,” he advised. Instead, a metal plate in my shoe, toe spreaders and custom-made shoes—except for runners and hiking boots of course.

We met soon after, about fifteen years ago. You arrived, special order, from Boston. How I loved your light weight, tan colour and hard-soled sturdiness.

Blinded by love I became, actually. Oblivious to how age had weakened your sole and thinned your skin. Failure to add up the miles you covered all over the world: dozens of treks in New Zealand, Long hikes in Patagonia, dry wadis in Oman, high mountains in Bhutan, the Kumano Kodo in Japan, five weeks in Canmore (remember the Burgess Shale in Yoho?)… Denial of the crinkled leather of your old age, which I jazzed up with orange laces, the equivalent of Botox, with the same clownish result.

I wanted to give you a proper burial. Especially after a couple Magellan and I met on a cruise in Patagonia told us what they’d done. Late one starry night, Judith and Martin took a bottle of Malbec they’d brought for the occasion to the back deck of the ship. As they drank it, they talked about all the great hikes her boots had been on and then, ceremoniously, they laced her boots around the empty bottle and released them to the wilds of the Beagle Channel. (Okay, not environmentally correct, but give the woman a break: she’d had seven operations for breast cancer.)

You didn’t get much farther than Death Valley on our trip to the Southwestern US last year. I’m sorry we couldn’t bury you in the beautiful Glorietta Canyon where we said good-bye. But there were lots of flowers (a Super Bloom year!) near the trashcan at Christmas Circle Park in Borrego Springs.

Much Love,

P.S. To you, this poem by Donald Justice.

Epitaph for a Pair of Old Shoes

Humble, born to the earth,
They knew where they stood.

When they moved,
It was because they must.

Anger moved them,
And the desire to be elsewhere,

Or something in them
Responding to music.

They knew also
What waiting can be.

Side by side, they mastered it.
Like an old married couple.”


Dear New Balance Waterproofs WW1400,

Get out of my life! You’re nothing like your cousin EEE. You gasp for breath. You’re always hot. And you squeeze me too hard. And you had the gall to come on this long trip in Rove-Inn with Magellan and me, knowing we’d be hiking every other day. (Luckily, I also packed New Balance EEE.) OK, it’s partly my fault, too. We had like one date in Vancouver. You annoyed me then but I thought I could change you. Stupid wasn’t I?

There is no love between us.

I’m leaving you in this Los Vegas hotel. With a note for the staff that anyone who wants you can have you.

Have a nice life,


Dear Vasque Breeze III GTX,

Sometimes bad luck has a silver lining. If Rove-Inn hadn’t started choking while climbing the Sierras, Magellan and I would never have gone to Los Vegas last March and I would never have felt your silver lining.

From the moment when Monica, the expert-fitter at REI, brought you out and I slipped you on, I have been in love. I’m a bit ashamed to tell you this, but at first I didn’t realize who you were. I was so taken with your vibram soles, solid shank and Gore-Tex grey face (“Gargoyle/Stone Blue”) that I didn’t notice the Vasque name. But it’s your breath that takes me away. You keep your cool, even in the high heat of the desert. Even after eight hours of being with you, I’m in no hurry to part company.

You liked Sicily didn’t you? With your all-weather waterproof skin, I think you’ll have fun in Haida Gwaii this summer, too. Please don’t be upset about the third party on this trip. XTRATUF Legacy is really a fisherman’s boot; I will forsake you for her only in bogs. You’ve got even better genes than my first love and you’re more substantial than my second foot-throb. You will always be my favourite.

Love forever ‘til death do us part,


4 Responses

  1. Happy feet usually means Happy Miles.
    I do daily stretching excersizes to eliminate foot pain and it’s the best 20 minutes of my day. Still use orthotics as well but the stretching really does work and true to my heritage, it’s free, so what’s not to like.
    There are a lot of people that put up with foot pain, just watch as people walk and you will gain insight to how true this is.
    I have a love for vibram soles and wore out a lot of work and trail boots, not the soles, it’s always the uppers, vibram is just about indestructible.
    Look after your foot wear and it will look after you, plain and simple.
    Price does not always reflect quality, like other items, fit and comfort needs to be number one and two.
    Like the saying goes, a good foundation is always a good place to start.

    1. “Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It’s a miracle…” Martha Graham

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