My pack is almost complete, though I expect I’ll be tinkering with it right up until I set out, but one thing has come to my attention that I thought I would share. My hike boots are going to be my bare feet in a pair of Crocs!
You may think this would be quite cold and not enough arch and ankle support, and subject to all kinds of little sticks and stones entering the shoe through the air holes, but I have test hiked around Arcata, CA, where I am staging my hike trip, and have found the Crocs to be amazingly warm, spongy in sole, and I can’t feel any place at all where I would receive a blister.
After I double tested my hike boots against my new Crocs, I remembered a hike I took years ago in Washington state. I had driven from Olympia one warm balmy May day to Seattle then on up to the pass on I-90, to the trailhead for Snow Lake. It was late in the afternoon and I was startled to see the amount of snow cover on the surrounding peaks. Nonetheless, I started out, wearing only my Tevas. And shorts. Somehow while it was so warm in Olympia I had failed to anticipate the elevation and temperature of Snow Lake, which was substantially different. With the sun lowering in the afternoon sky and the shadows lengthening, I hastened up the short 4 mile trail to Snow Lake, only to discover part way up the trail that it was covered in many places by sizable snow patches. Needless to say, while trying to walk over them, I kept breaking through, with my foot plunging down into snow up to my thigh. I’d wrestle my leg out and take another few steps and it would happen again. Slow going, and the sun began hiding behind tree branches with skinny rays of light slipping through.
There were several places where I had to cross ice-cold swollen spring streams, and since I had the Tevas on, it was easy – I just waded right through. When I finally crested the ridge and looked down onto Snow Lake, another half mile below, it was clear I would not be camping there that night – the lake was completely ice bound. Major snow fields surrounded the entire lake, and I would have been snow camping. I simply wasn’t prepared.
After gazing at the beautiful winter serenity of quietude and stillness of Snow Lake, I made a quick turn and hastily headed back down the switchback trail through frozen snow fields and frigid streams to my truck, arriving back just as twilight relinquished itself to frosty black night strewn with ice crystal stars. Beautiful, but very cold!
Yet, amazingly, my feet were just fine. They were warm. No frostbite. No numbness. No cramping. No wetness. Incredibly, they fared far better than they would have in wet boots with wet socks, which would have kept the cold in while pressing the warmth right out of them.
That experience caused me to remember that Sherpas in Nepal hike with bare feet, and do just fine. Hard to imagine, but when one lives their whole life barefoot, the feet adapt and have soles as tough as leather itself.
So, I’m going to try the Crocs. I’m looking forward to it, actually. I will probably be the only person on the entire PCT wearing Crocs for hike boots, and I expect it will raise some eyebrows. At present I’m thinking they’ll be my only shoe – they’ll be used for hiking and for around camp at night. Just in case my feet DO get cold, I’ll bring several pairs of socks. Stay tuned to find out if my feet freeze and fall off, or if instead I start buying Crocs stocks!