Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Maybe I could just hire a sedan chair

Paul and I were out walking in fairly foul conditions a week ago Monday. Cold, windy, and raining pretty hard on and off, it was another of those drowned-rat mornings—and I discovered that my boots are no longer waterproof. Bigtime. My socks, when I peeled them off, were a pair of dead fish.

I bought these Keene Targhee* Mids a couple of years ago, and used them on my abortive walk across Scotland (where, in extremis, they demonstrated a lack of ankle support I couldn’t really hold against them). I’ve used them since in the Whites and during the colder months on our morning walks. But they can’t have more than a few hundred miles on them. They still have good tread. They’re still comfortable, now that I’ve found the right innersole/orthotic/sock combo (pretty simple: Green Superfeet and Darn Tough Vermont Cushion). Even the original laces are still sound. But the Gore-Tex inner is seemingly shot.

These were my first pair of “waterproof” boots. It’s definitely nice to have dry feet after slogging through wet grass, sucking mud, or moderate puddles, but, from the beginning, like many other things made with the stuff, the Targhees didn’t live up to the other side of the Gore-Tex bargain: They’ve not been “breathable.” I haven’t enjoyed the sweating and the concomitant softening and potential blistering of my skin (though the socks I’m now using have ameliorated that a little).

I used to wear beautifully traditional Limmers, excellent for the rough and rocky White Mountains and “waterproof” the old fashioned way: superbly constructed of high-quality leather, properly treated.

My feet never got wet, nor did they drown in their own sweat. But my Limmers weigh over four pounds a pair, which is definitely overkill for the Great Tracks.

These days, I hike most often in non-Gore-Tex trail runners, accepting (though not especially cheerfully) the occasional soaking in return for lightness and relatively quick drying. They worked fine, for example, in the Alps. But we’re being asked to wear boots in New Zealand, and experienced friends have reinforced that advice.


I won’t say I’m stymied. But I’m pondering.

* I’m predisposed to love these boots. Two decades ago, we skied at Grand Targhee on “the sunny side of the Tetons” from the vastly more famous Jackson Hole. Fabulous skiing, great atmosphere, terrific in every way. So anything called “Targhee” gets my attention.

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