26 March, 2010

trail sandals and crowds

I've grown to loathe my local REI. In recent years, the place is mobbed with yuppies at all hours of every day. It used to be that one could go in there on a weekday and have peace and quiet in which to geek out over gear. No more.

Today I needed to buy my new trail sandals and I was dreading it. The shoe department there is the worst - understaffed with surly people. To my surprise, today was different. Turns out that they had increased staffing levels for today because of dividend coupons. So I actually got a helpful, friendly guy and we even chatted about gear for a few minutes.

Sadly, my shoe expedition did not go as well as I had hoped. I had planned to buy the Keen Whisper (see below). I have had a pair of Keens for years now and I like them. The problem is that they're a bit heavy, and I thought I could solve it by replacing them with Whispers, which are approximately half the weight.

Alas, they have changed the fit. I have medium width feet, which are generally very easy to fit. Even so, these Keens smooshed my foot meat. The 9.5 was the right length but the straps were too tight. The 10 was too long but the straps were decent. Neither felt right.

So I tried on a couple of other models and settled tentatively on the Merrell Freesia (see below right). It's not rated as a hiking sandal, but that doesn't worry me in particular. I just don't know if they're comfortable enough, or if it's even worth the weight at all.
To cover my bases, I also purchased a pair of extremely lightweight flip-flops, made by Teva. Perhaps I'll just carry these. My goals for this pair of shoes are 1. camp shoes to wear after taking off the boots, 2. occasional hiking on hot days and 3. extremely lightweight.
Flip-flops would fill #1 and #3 in admirable fashion. #2 is a stretch. Sure, people in the ultralight backpacking movement have been known to hike long distances in really marginal footwear, but flip-flops? I don't know. I guess I could give it a shot.
The new Merrells would be great for #2, not quite as great for #1 and only decent for #3.
What to do, what to do. Well, I'm going on a shakedown trip at some point before leaving on the Trail, so I'll just give both of these babies a try. I suspect that if I can even remotely deal with the flip-flops, I'll go with those. Weight is at a premium.
In other news, my gear list is almost complete. I now only need a small nalgene cap (or a new bottle), a new sports bra and a bucket. Aqua Mira tablets (for back-up to my filter), a mosquito head net and a waterproof pack liner are on the maybe list. It kind of depends on how my weight is adding up. I would like to get to a 16 pound base weight, which allows me 14 pounds of food and water for a total of 30 pounds. A quite tolerable weight for me.
Getting closer. Gear is almost done, food list is nearly complete and it only remains to go food shopping and take that aforementioned shakedown trip. I feel confident about my gear system and ability to obtain food.
My only worry right now is my fitness level, which is dismal. Granted, even at my version of dismal, I can still hike all day. But carrying extra pounds on my body AND carrying a pack? It's going to be tough. Based on past experience, I know I can make it for a week. But how will I feel when it stretches beyond that and I can't stop to recover?
Oh, I suppose I could stop at any time. But I need to make miles. My itinerary is tight. I'll have to push pretty hard to make Maine before the snow flies. My intuition tells me not to worry. I'll go with that, and spend these last few weeks doing whatever I can to prepare.
I wore my new pack, which was mostly full, during today's shopping odyssey. Training walk #1!
Perhaps I ought to just go out for a walk after work every day wearing the pack. Or I could hit the elliptical, stairmaster or treadmill at the gym wearing the pack. I also need to get with the bodyweight workout program that I used to practice. I suppose packing boxes won't hurt either!

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