What you wear on your feet when you hike can make a big impact on your hiking experience. If your feet are unhappy, that can make for a bad day on the trail. Ill fitting boots/shoes can cause achy feet, blisters, achy knees or hips. They can even cause your back to hurt. I’m not an expert or even close to one! I just know what works for me and Russ and want to share that here. I did a lot of research on hiking boots before I started shopping to see what was out there and to get an idea of what to look for and what to stay away from. But in the end, I think it all boils down to your own individual comfort. Don’t buy the brand, buy the comfort. I guarantee, no one is going to stop you on the trail and ooh and aah over the brand of your boots or snicker behind their hands because you’re wearing an “off brand”. And if someone does, who the heck cares? They’re just jerks that probably spent $1000 in gear to hike 1 time and decided they don’t like to sweat or there’s too many mosquitoes and you’ll never see them again anyway!!
When I decided I wanted to start hiking, my biggest concern was finding a pair of boots that would be comfortable on both of my damaged feet. I have that problem with any shoe. What works for my left foot more than likely won’t work for my right and vice versa. Shoe shopping in general is a nightmare and shopping for hiking boots, where the selection was pretty limited compared to shopping for a new pair of sneakers, was even worse! I went to sporting goods stores, boot stores, the mall, Cabela’s. I tried on name brands…Keen, Merrell, Solomon, Vasque, Hi-Tec and several others I can’t remember. I tried on store name brands. I was so discouraged and afraid my hiking days were over before they even started. I’m not picky, I don’t care what color my boots are, I don’t care what brand they are. The only MUST was a mid high top for ankle support. My left foot has the crushed toes problem so I needed a boot with a big toe box. That wasn’t too hard to find. My right foot…that’s the real problem child! I have a 6″ long scar from 2 surgeries that runs from my ankle down the side of my foot. I have nerve damage from the first surgery and a severed nerve from the second surgery. The entire outside of my foot is numb but really painful. Right at my ankle bone is where the nerve was severed and that’s a major “hot spot” for numbness and pain. That numbness and pain goes under my foot at the front of my heel and around the front of my ankle. That’s also where the point of my heel bone broke off and did not reattach. It’s hard to describe the feeling and pain. I trusted that my doctor was doing all of the right things…I was wrong! Anyway, finding any shoe or boot that feels halfway decent on that foot is a real challenge. I don’t like to have anything touching the outside of my foot, even a sheet or blanket when I sleep. If I can find something that has even compression from my little toe all of the way to my ankle and the arch is just right and has enough cushion for my heel…it might work! Sounds weird doesn’t it? No sheet or blanket touching my foot but even compression is OK? I can’t explain it. I went through Nerve Desensitization Therapy where they used various things from soft silky material to rougher material (eyelet type material) and lightly rubbed it up and down my foot. The goal was to desensitize the nerve but I couldn’t stand it! That was the worst pain I’ve ever felt! I laid there and cried like a baby through each session. As soon as I put my compression sleeve on…relief! So, back to my hunt for boots! I was about to give up and remembered I had yet to try Bass Pro. BINGO!!! I found a pair of Red Head boots, Bass Pro’s brand, on sale for $49!! I couldn’t believe how comfortable they were…on both feet! Of course they were stiff so I wore them to work a lot to break them in before I actually hiked in them. Come to find out, a friend of mine and my daughter both have the same boots! I should have just asked them in the first place! My Red Heads are also water proof, but not so much when the water is deeper than the boots are tall! I found that out crossing a stream when a rock I stepped on tilted and in I went! I just stood there cracking up while my boots filled up, thankful that I didn’t fall or drop my phone/camera!!
Russ just bought a new pair of Merrell Energis yesterday. He had been wearing a pair of Bear Paw boots that he loved but they finally fell apart. He wears his to work too. He’s a Chimney Sweep and mason and he spends a lot of time up on hot roofs, climbing ladders and getting mason dust and soot on his boots. They take a beating! We’ll see how well the Merrell’s hold up. He says they’re really comfortable and lighter than the Bear Paws. That’s one of the drawbacks with my Red Heads. They are pretty heavy compared to other boots. It would be an issue if I were going to be doing longer hikes I think. My niece Amy just bought a pair of Ahnu boots for her hiking trip in the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and she said the Ahnu boots felt like she was walking on clouds! I tried on a pair yesterday just to see and yep, I can see what Amy meant! The ones I tried on were a different style than hers and they were pretty comfortable let me tell you…they were so light weight! And they were all leather!
I’m not a seasoned hiker…yet. I’m not in shape…yet. I’m working on it. It was Fall when I started hiking. Nice cool or better yet, cold weather…I felt like I was somewhat in shape! April 15 we decided to head to Pacific MO & LaBarque Creek Conservation Area and give its namesake trail a try. Only 3 miles and 572 feet in elevation…piece of cake. That day, summer decided to make an appearance, much to my menopausal, hot flashing body’s dismay. Temps in the mid 80’s. At the trailhead, right off the bat is a huge set of stairs! I hate stairs! A little further up the trail, another set of steps cut into the trail. I’m ready to go back to the car already!
Russ at LaBarque Creek Trail
Up we went! The Dogwoods were in full bloom but the other trees were just beginning to bud. The first 1.5 miles were pretty but nothing that made me think I wanted to do the trail again. By the time we got to the top of the ridge and the halfway point, I was done! I KNEW I was out of shape or I was having the mother of all hot flashes! I thought about turning around and going back down. Nope! I’m not a quitter. I’ll finish this damn trail if it takes me all day!
Russ leaving me behind!
A little toasty
Tree growing out of the rock
Flat ground at the top! Half way there!
Thinking about going back down…I’m toast!
After resting a bit and checking the map on the alltrails app, we knew we were at the highest point and we had a ridge to walk along for a while…ridge walking usually means breezes…and the skies were getting gray…a little rain would be nice 🙂 so on we went. OMG! I’m soooooo glad I didn’t turn back! The second half of the trail was AMAZING! It was like we were in a completely different state! Flowers, butterflies, cactus, ferns, creeks, grass trails! There were several side trails that led down to LaBarque Creek and many caves! We had no idea there were caves to explore. By the time we figured that out we didn’t have enough daylight left to explore and hike back out…dang it. I’ve lived in Missouri my whole life and as a kid lived on 40 acres out in the country. Our property had 2 caves on it and I spent a lot of time in the big cave and running around in the woods exploring. I’ve been out in the woods camping in several areas in Missouri and I don’t remember ever seeing cactus! That was my biggest WOW of the day!
It took us over 4 hours to complete the trail and it’s now one of our favorites! As we were leaving the parking lot, my daughter called and asked me if it would be OK for her ex-husband to drop off my grandson at my house because they were still hiking and wouldn’t be home in time. Sorry kiddo, we’re not home, we just finished a hike at LaBarque. With that she starts going nuts! No way mom! That’s where we are too! Somehow my daughter and I missed each other on the same trail, well different side trail!
If my neighbors saw me today, crawling around in the grass, digging around in the brush pile that’s patiently waiting to go to the recycle center or messing with the 4 tiny blooms on my giant hydrangea bush, cell phone in hand, while it was thundering and lightening…I’m sure they were wondering what the heck I was up to again!
My back yard has a lot of clover and there were so many bumble bees going from flower to flower! I just had to try to get some pictures. I took dozens and ended up with a couple good ones. I can’t remember ever seeing so many bees at one time in my yard. Most were the big fuzzy black and yellow what I call bumble bees. There were even some smaller fuzzy black and white bees and honey bees.
I managed to capture 3 bees in this shot as I was trying to photograph the closest one…buy 1 get 2 bees free!
My brush pile is a tangled mess! Several years ago I tried to grow black raspberries…the birds ate them before I could think about picking any. Then I broke my ankle and doing any gardening or yard work went out the window and the berry plants became spindly sticker twigs. To the brush pile they went. A couple weeks ago I discovered the brush pile is half black raspberry bush now! And today, I found the first few black raspberries! There are hundreds of little red ones waiting for the sun to ripen them…if the birds don’t get them first!
One ripe black raspberry
My hydrangea bush is probably 10 years old and huge and it has only bloomed big full blooms 2 times. I water it. I fertilize it. I prune it. I don’t prune it. It has a mind of its own for sure! What did I find today? 4 small blooms! I’ve done something a little bit right!
Just the right amount of sunny
Living in the Midwest, mosquitoes and ticks are a real problem for anyone spending time outdoors. We didn’t worry about them during our winter hikes but as soon as it warmed up a bit, the ticks were everywhere! We used a mosquito/tick spray but still found tiny ticks happily munching away on unmentionable body parts 2 days after a hike…NOT GOOD! I even found a tick in my car! Time to do some research. My daughter and son-in-law are hikers and they use essential oils, herbs and vitamins to keep the critters at bay. That’s not my style. I found several things online, but how do you know if they really work? And then you have to wait for it to be shipped…I’m impatient! So, off to Walmart I went. In the camping section there were many choices, most of them containing Deet. That hadn’t been working and I wanted something I could spray on my clothes. So I decided to try Repel Tick Defense. It’s formulated with Picaridin. This stuff is amazing! We spray from head to toe and haven’t had one mosquito bite or tick since we started using it! I rarely get bitten by mosquitoes but they love Russ! He walks out the back door and has 3 bites in 2 minutes. Since using Repel, we have walked through swarms of mosquitoes…no bites!! And no more creepy crawly ticks! I highly recommend this product!
If you’ve read my Raisin’ Cane page, then you know I was introduced to Russ by my BFF Crystal. I belonged to a dating website (that could be a hilarious blog all by itself!!) and they were having a mixer night at a local bar. Not wanting to go by myself, I asked Crystal to go with me. She had my back, no matter what, so off we went, with an “Oh, by the way I invited my single friend Russ too. I hope that’s OK?” Poor guy, we hardly talked to him all night. Crystal and I had a blast and didn’t meet a single…single guy! But Russ did ask Crystal for my phone number. We talked on the phone several times and ended up going out a couple of weeks later and well, that was 8 years ago and we’re like an old married couple now! We have nothing in common! We don’t like the same music. We don’t like the same foods. We don’t like the same types of movies or books. We don’t even like the same type of animals! We don’t like the same sports although I did manage to turn him into a Blues Hockey fan!! Opposites attract! The one thing we both love is the mountains and Colorado. And going through caves and antique stores. I guess that’s more than one! And we discovered we both love hiking. Russ had back surgery a little over a year ago and he has a lot of numbness in his right thigh still and has a bad right hip, the result of a horrible auto accident many years ago. So he also has some difficulty and is a little slow hiking…we make a great pair!
And just this past Friday, after a trip to urgent care to see what the pain and swelling in his hand were all about, Russ found out he has a Ganglion Cyst in his palm going into to his middle finger. Now he has to find a hand specialist to see where he goes from here. Our last hike he had a hard time using the trekking pole with his left hand. He just started using trekking poles recently and decided they’re pretty handy things to have when the terrain is steep or rough, even if your hand is hurting.
Our first hike…Russ at Powder Valley
Kim and Russ at Powder Valley
Kim and Russ at Nature Institute in Godfrey IL
Russ at Beaver Falls, Nature Institute