Yesterday the dogs and I walked our first ‘loop’ which for anyone using Google Maps involves leaving my place heading west on East Barge Drive to the Spur, then north to East Birch Drive, then east on East Birch Drive to Riven, then south on Riven to East Barge Drive and finally back home. The entire loop is maybe a bit under three miles and involves a bit of ‘up and down’ as well; we made the trip in just over seventy minutes but I also had to stop the dogs four or five times and herd them to the side of the road to allow vehicles to safely pass. Folks up here are great; everybody waves and a couple stopped briefly to comment on how well behaved and beautiful Qanuk and Anana appeared. Hah; while they are beautiful – and, yes, I’m very prejudiced – their behavior often leaves me less than thrilled but I suppose next to sled dogs they appear well behaved. Anyway, about half way through this trek I felt a sadly familiar feeling in my left foot; I stopped and looked down to see the sole of my heavy weight hiking boot had detached from the body of the shoe! I said ‘sadly familiar’ because I had a similar thing happen last week with a pair of lightweight hiking boots. In that case I tried to repair the one that was sundered using ‘Shoe Goo’ and it did hold for a few days, during which the other boot separated and I had to repair once again using the same compound, before once again coming loose. I was mortified at this happening to my big honkin’ hiking boots as they’d been purchased back in the summer of ’96 specifically for my first Alaskan visit which was a three week back packing trip with two college buddies. Since that time they had served me in yeoman’s fashion and the leather uppers are still in great shape as is all the hardware.
I couldn’t believe this happened twice within two week’s time and involved two different pair of boots; then I started thinking. As I stated the heavy weight pair had been purchased in the late summer of ’96; the light weight pair had been purchased in late September of ’96 and were the result of realizing after the first trip I needed an option to just the heavy weight boots. That meant both pair were seventeen years old. When I closely examined each the damage was identical; a combination of a failure of the glue and a breakdown of the Vibram sole. This leads me to believe there may well be a ‘shelf life’ on both the glue the shoe manufacturer’s employ as well as the Vibram sole material and it appears to be around 17 years. I used both sets of boots last winter and early spring and didn’t notice any issues with the soles. Sadly when I looked at the right boot after I returned home yesterday afternoon I can see its beginning to separate as well. The rest of the boots are in great shape but I’m concerned that even if I could repair them with ‘Shoe Goo’ they wouldn’t be honestly integral again and up here I need footwear that’s completely reliable especially when trail hiking. Therefore I suppose I’ll have to purchase another pair of heavyweight hiking boots and will have to do so soon as I was counting on these to be my ‘go to’ footwear this winter. Still and all they are like old friends; they were with me when I first discovered my love of Alaska and they made every trip up here including my relocation. We waded streams, scrambled through scree fields, slogged through mud and carried 45 pound back packs for miles. I guess maybe its time to retire these old friends; I will certainly miss them…
The de-lamination of the boot sole is troubling. I had a two pair of lightweight Timberlands do the same thing, but from the front.They were only five years old, but I had worn the vibram soles down until they were pretty slick and were pretty regular hikers in total water immersion. Also had the leather upper split in the same place on both boots. I blame over-reliance on glue and abandonment of stitching, but I work my boots pretty hard, which is why I have several pair in “reserve” in the closet. And, I cannot say enough good things about Smartwool socks!
Hey Buddy – yeah, ‘troubling’ isn’t exactly the word I had in mind especially as I loved those ‘One Step’ heavy weight hiking boots. It really sucks the uppers and hardware are in excellent condition; I so wish I could have them resoled but I have a feeling if I could find someone up here to do the work the cost would probably come close to a new pair of boots. Well, maybe not as I did order a premium pair of ‘Kenetrek Hardscrabble Hikers’ which cost me $353 even through Amazon.com Prime! I remember I winced at paying $180 for those One Step boots back in ’96; at that time they were very highly rated especially for water resistance and load bearing comfort. The other pair of lightweight hiking boots that de-laminated were Vasque and were a mid-priced pair. Given the relative ages and especially the fact the One Steps made every Alaskan trip and often were the only boots I brought with me and I used them in Michigan from late fall through the muddy early spring for any dog walking outings I guess I did get my money’s worth. I was just really struck that I would see two different pairs of boots manufactured by different companies show the same breakdown on almost the same day! You could well be correct regarding forgoing stitching the soles to the bodies in favor of adhesives; I had read that using the glues allow for more water resistance. I’m in complete agreement regarding the ‘Smart Wool’ socks; while I’ll generally go for a lighter sock when hiking in warm weather if I’m expecting damp conditions or if its cool I always go with the Smart Wool option. Yesterday we had moderate to heavy rain all day so I never managed to get the dogs outside; today its light rain so I need to get ’em out and about. Hope alls well down your way! Have smooth ‘un my Friend..!