Writing Prompt: Shoes

Photo shows the rocky foreground with the summit of Mount Washington, NH, in the background and in fog
The summit of Mount Washington.

Tell us about your favorite pair of shoes, and where they’ve taken you.

I’ve never written to a WordPress prompt. Didn’t even know they existed, but I saw this and thought, why the heck not. So…I’m not really a shoe person. I wouldn’t say I have a favorite pair, but the notion of where I’ve gone in a pair triggered memories of a most excellent summer many years ago when I hiked the roof of New England in my Merrell Wilderness boots.

I don’t have a picture of them because I held the camera never thinking I’d want them documented for posterity, and no one I hiked with thought to take photos of my feet. So you’ll have to take my word for all this.

They were classic leather ankle-high boots. None of the fancy fabrics I wear on my feet these days. I rubbed them with a boot grease that made them waterproof. They were the most expensive shoes I’ve ever bought. I wore them forever—they may still be in my basement for all I know. Their journey with me began one summer when a friend said she wanted to climb Mount Washington, the Northeast’s highest peak at 6,288 feet.

I insisted we needed to prepare by making training climbs, so we began mid-May with a climb up Mount Monadnock (3,165 feet). I was still using an old pair of hiking boots I’d bought from Sears back when you could get good quality gear there (I still have a pair of binoculars from the 19…oh, never mind).

A couple trips later, I have a photo of me trying to set fire to those boots after a particularly grueling and painful hike of eleven miles over seven hours to Mount Osceola (4,156 ft.) and Greeley Ponds. Then I bought the Merrells.

From then on, my feet were the least of my problems. In “Works in Progress,” I mentioned a memorable climb where we were caught in a raging downpour. That was coming down from Boott Spur (5,502 ft.). We survived and so did the boots after I cleaned all the mud off. On the next adventure, I had a cold and nearly collapsed from…not sure what. Hyperventilation maybe. An Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hut “croo” member found me unable to speak, fed me some potato chips, and stayed with me till I could continue down Cannon Mountain. My climbing partner had gotten too far ahead of me (never do that!).

Still, the climbs continued, every other weekend. We stayed at National Forest campgrounds, which were adventures on their own. Driving up on a Friday after work, one time we set up the tent in the pouring rain only to find ourselves on a massive tree root. But dry.

The final event—Mount Washington—by this time had morphed into a hut-to-hut trip over two nights, sleeping in the steamy, snoring, coffin-like bunks of AMC’s hut system. Low clouds blocked most views from any summits. It was grueling, but tremendous fun. There were several of us by this point.

The boots got me through, as did the camaraderie of good friends, the benefit of sound training, and the memories of plenty of clear-weather summits from the weeks before to get me over the boulders and through the clouds of the White Mountains.

I feel about that summer the way I feel about having majored in biology in college. Though I never put that degree to good use, I am so glad I got those science courses under my belt. I love reading, and have tackled many of the classics I never got to as a science major, but I don’t ever have to face organic chemistry again.

Likewise, I had remarkable adventures in the Whites that I never would have had if my friend hadn’t wanted to climb Mount Washington.

[I’ve kept this prompt to my usual 30-minute limit even though I didn’t have to.]


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