It came as a surprise to my parents when I decided, as a very sedentary teenager, to participate in the annual March of Dimes twenty-mile hike. I remember liking the idea of people pledging five or ten cents for every mile I hiked. I also liked the cause itself, almost as much as liking just having a cause. I really didn’t think too much about the hike in advance, and certainly didn’t prepare for it. No one suggested it might be a good idea to train for it, or at least get a decent pair of shoes other than my rather well worn tennies.
The walk was on a very hot Sunday. I had worked hard to get people to pledge and was pretty determined to walk the whole way. I’m not sure when misery set in—likely somewhere around mile four. Thankfully, there were plenty of water stations or I would have been in real trouble. As it was, my feet took quite a beating, covered with blisters by the half-way point that had all broken and rubbed themselves into a mess by the end of the walk. But, I did finish, which was quite an accomplishment given the circumstances.
Fast forward to this week when Marc and I went shopping for hiking boots. He had a sturdy pair at home, broken in over the course of many Boy Scout hikes with one of our sons. I, on the other hand, had never had a need for them. It was hard enough for me to walk at all, let alone on uneven, hilly trails. But, this summer we’re taking a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains and we’re going to be doing some hiking. Notice the “we.” I haven’t done any serious or semi-serious hiking in my life!
Hence the boots. And practice. We drove home (without singing the “New Shoes” song—a tradition dating back to my earliest memories.) I donned the boots, making some adjustments to accommodate my weak left foot, and we headed out to a one-mile loop trail at Mitchell Memorial Forest.
I’ve taken this trail before, as recently as last fall. It’s not all that steep and while there is one hill, the park has made it more accessible by fashioning something resembling steps as well as a railing. I guess, in skiing terms, you would classify this as a Bunny Slope.
We started out at the broad head of the trail, where there is a downward slope with trees resembling a Cathedral ceiling as their branches arched towards one another. It was all so deeply green and silent. I stopped a moment just to breathe it in. I am still so enamored with Spring!
The boots felt odd on my feet. Their weight was a surprise and I had to think about lifting my feet high enough that I wouldn’t trip. I also wasn’t used to their bulk—several times they rubbed against one another at my medial ankles. They did make some of the rocky terrain a little easier to navigate. Most of all, it just felt so odd to be doing this, to be planning on hiking as an enjoyable vacation activity. A part of me was back on that twenty-mile hike, walking through previously uncharted territory. Recalling that outcome, I realized I was going to have to do a lot more hiking as preparation. The practice part of it will be getting used to the boots and breaking them in. The training part will be continuing to improve my strength, agility and endurance.
The enjoyment part? You know, I believe it is going to be all of it. Because this really is a whole new world for me—and I’m ready to take it on!
♪♫ ♬ New Shoes ♬ ♩
New shoes! New shoes! Just see my new shoes! Mommy bought them for me today. They fit me just right, and are shiny and bright! I’ll try hard to keep them that way!