In 1970, after hiking up California's Mt. Whitney trail to a couple of alpine lakes and getting blisters on my feet from a pair of combat boots, I invested heavily in a pair of Vasque Backpacking boots. They were expensive back then, but rugged and had Vibram soles. For those not in the know, Vibram is a special high carbon rubber designed to adhere to surfaces even wet surfaces. I was amazed at how great they felt on my feet, how well they stuck to the rocks I was backpacking on in the deserts of Big Bend at the time. They were Heavy, with a capital "H" to emphasize the grossness of the weight! They felt great wearing them and hauling around in the wilds with a backpack loaded with tent, sleeping bag, Svea stove, fuel, meals, water and camera gear.
I was leading trips for the Sierra Cub introducing people to the wilderness and wild places that were all over Big Bend National Park. They made several trips to California as well and along some fun and exciting trails in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and even into Jasper National Park in Canada where they survived snow and ice in winter conditions well below zero.
In 1993, I retired the boots; worn, battered and leather cracking and splitting open. I felt like I had lost a great friend. These boots had been on countless adventures, saved my feet from certain destruction and led me to some astonishing places. I certainly hated to see them go and in fact kept them in the back of my closet for a couple more years "just in case". They were replaced by some new, lighter boots, made of synthetics and with good soles (I insist on Vibram) that held up well. Those boots lasted five years. They were replaced by another pair of boots, another knock off pair, looked good like the ones before them but not a solid platform to handle me and my growing arsenal of camera equipment in a backpack. I wore these out in short order. I have been thru several other brands of modified lightweight "hikers". None compared to my old Vasque boots in either ruggedness, durability or support.
This week, I was in Seattle on a business trip and had a few hours to kick back before meeting a customer for dinner. Not too far from the restaurant was an REI store. REI stand for Recreational Equipment Incorporated. I used to drool over their catalogs. My old backpack came from REI as did my lightweight tent, stove, ground pad... ...just about everything I used to covet on my trips came from this fantastic place. I stepped inside knowing full well that my suitcase had NO room to take anything back. I wandered around aimlessly for a short period of time looking at just about everything. I happened onto the shoes/boots section and there sitting among the paisley, fluorescent and multi-colored modern boots was a pair of drab, brown, low cut boots made by Vasque! The salesman could see the far away look in my eyes and asked if he could help. I begged to try on a pair of those boots. In a couple of minutes, I had them on and felt home again. This was the first time my feet felt like they belonged somewhere other than hanging off the end of the recliner with my MacBook Pro in my lap! Maybe if I left some clothes in the trash I could make room. Armed with a credit card I brought a new/old friend home with me. My other shoes fit in the suitcase fine with a minimal of compression. Now I am the proud owner of my second pair of Vasque boots. I feel like I am home again. Unlike their predecessors, these boots will make the long journey to Tanzania in a few weeks and experience unfamiliar dirt and rocks but with familiar feet comfortably inside!
Family and Vasque boots at Treasure Falls in Colorado