I have this one pair of Danner boots I wear for most of the crazy things I do. They are my unequivocal favorites. However, countless miles of hiking, climbing, scrambling and traveling have taken their toll. The sticky Vibram soles are worn nearly flat in spots and the toes are splitting from the clumsy way I kick rocks. Built to be “recraftable,” I learned this week that I have likely beat them past repair. Their service life on major trips may be limited to the end of this year. Now, you are probably thinking that lamenting over a pair of leather boots is foolish. But, you have to understand, this particular set of boots have carried me through some of the most transformative moments of my life.
I can safely guess we have walked somewhere beyond a thousand miles together since that cool spring day in 2016 when I unboxed them. The rich smell of crisp new leather wafted out of the box as I tugged the brown laces through the brass eyelets, I was oblivious to the places they would carry me. I tromped all over on shorter hikes or around town until I thought they were surely well broken-in. I was wrong. Our first big trip together was to the deep corners of Yosemite National Park. By the end of the first day my feet were arguably more blister than foot. With a healthy wrapping of medical tape and moleskin, I hardly skipped a beat. On the second day, I topped over Red Peak Pass, a narrow gap between two snaggled granite peaks at about nine thousand feet. Stepping through the tight pass, the whole world opened in front of me. It was one of those magical epiphanies that made things make a lot more sense. I had to just sit on a big granite slab and take it all in.
Now, as I swirl mink oil into the heavily worn brown leather I cannot help but feel a little nostalgic. Starting with rugged leather they have been worn into a supple second skin. These boots were with me when I legged out as a distinguished rifle marksman, a title that took me many years to achieve. They have summited the tallest mountain in the lower 48 after crunching salt crystals at the lowest point in North America. Atlantic to Pacific, Maine to Georgia they have been with me meeting some major goals, meeting some major people and seeing some major things. Craziest to me is that this is just one pair of boots used over two years—I wonder what the next pair will bring.