Breaking in boots ... and stories

by Pat Cassidy
(Pilot Rock, Oregon)

Good for elk ...Tough on feet

Good for elk ...Tough on feet

On the subject of boots I have some definite opinions. Pick whatever type you like for your hunting conditions ... BUT, be sure to break them in well! Go for long walks, wear them shopping or to the opera, just wear the "new" out of them. Don't be afraid to grease new boots as this will help them conform to your feet faster. Wear good wool blend socks and keep your feet clean.
For hiking shoes I prefer a thick soled, heavy constructed boot that has an outer made of leather and Cordura® nylon, a Gore- Tex® bootie, a Cambrelle® liner and deep lugged Vibram® soles. These features all help keep your feet willing to go at it again.

I have a couple of stories to illustrate my point. Both of these outings were great fun but could have been better.

A few years ago Wes and I decided to take a weekend hike down a rugged canyon, catch some trout, scout for game and just generally take it easy for a weekend. Neither of us had ever been in Potamus before, but we knew it was deep, steep and tiered with numerous lava flow benches. We figured the fishing would be good so we brought little food except for what we wanted to eat with trout. We were pretty tough.

That canyon was pretty tough too, with sides narrow and steep enough that we had to detour high up on the sides to proceed downstream. The trek was going as good as we expected and we had covered about six miles in as many hours (not counting the vertical excursions) and started looking for a place to camp. We had descended to a wider and flatter bottom section with huge Ponderosa pine trees up to six feet in diameter and very tall. Talk about beautiful! No sign of other humans here.
We were now at about the halfway point in the canyon when Wes said "Lets just camp here. These boots I borrowed from Dad are killing my feet" OOPS! Those boots were well broken in all right, but for the wrong feet! Poor Wes had blisters and sore spots and when he put his bare feet in the creek, the water boiled and hissed.
Yeah, we managed to catch plenty of trout, saw wild game and an awesomely beautiful place, but ... you guess what the moral of this story is. We still had six miles to hike out.

Frank and I went Elk hunting in the North Fork John Day Wilderness in Oregon one beautiful fall, figuring to camp about two and a half miles from the road. We had pretty good gear including two tents, mummy bags, plenty of high energy food and extra clothing. We carried our camp in on two rigid frame backpacks we had used previously. In fact, all our gear had been used and tried out before ... except Franks boots. OOPS!
Frank said he had never bought more comfortable boots; they felt like he had had them for months. I said "Well, we'll see."
Our mummy bags were good for 0 degrees and we had wool clothing and it never gets too cold this early in the fall. We were tough loggers and we were going to get elk!
That night before season opened was memorable. A beautiful sunset fading to a magnificent display of stars entertained us as we set up camp and sat around a small fire. Drooling with the thought of fresh elk liver and bragging about what great shots we were, we noticed that the temperature was dropping rapidly. It does that when there is a clear sky. The mummy bags were looking more welcome with every degree that fell so we crawled in and waited for sleep to pass us into elk season.
That was one long night. Every attempt at piling more of our spare clothing on top of our bags brought a further drop of temperature. When it finally bottomed out at -12 degrees, it was apparent sleep was not going to happen, so we got up and built a Big fire. We kept warm cutting and hauling wood!
The night finally ended, of course, and we hit the brush with frozen fingers and toes. The hunt was great and ended with an elk for the freezer and the prospect of three trips out to the road with our gear and our elk. This twelve and a half mile total pack out would have been a breeze (it had warmed up) except for Frank's most comfortable boots he had ever bought. Blisters developed. They split open. They bled and caused much pain and suffering. Frank is one tough guy and he carried his share but paid for it dearly.

Never, never, never wear new or unproven boots on a extended hike. Never!

That's all folks, send me some tips. I can use all the help I can get!

Comments for Breaking in boots ... and stories

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Oct 05, 2009
Elk Liver
by: Dave

Great tips as always, Pat. I've enjoyed your well written stories and pointers, until you made this comment, "Drooling with the thought of fresh elk liver.."

I'd rather eat the boots! Liver is the only thing that can ruin onions for me. I exaggerate a little. With enough hot sauce and onions, I can eat just about anything. Just don't care for big game liver that much. Now give me some chicken fried grouse livers, gravy and rice and stand back!

Seriously, thanks for the information on boots.

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