Confessions of a Chacoholic

Date: 9/24/16

Miles: 19.3
Total Miles: 2638.8

I love Chacos. True story: I own 8 pairs of them. Two pairs hiked the Appalachian Trail, two have hiked the John Muir Trail and the Wonderland Trail twice, and three have now hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Combined they’ve been my companions for well north of 5,000 trail miles. The 8th pair? I got married to my best friend in those.

It’s no trade secret. All of my friends and family know of my love for these sandals and fully expect to see them on my feet nearly every day of the year, but on the trail is where they excel most. I’d gone through the usual progression of lighter and lighter weight footwear long ago, never quite finding my sole mates until I tried on my first pair of Chacos. With the tread of a leather boot, a thick sole for cushion, great support for my high arches, and webbing that may as well be made from the same tough material as seatbelt straps, my days of strapping on a pair of foot prisons for hiking, or most anything else for that matter, were over. Throw on a pair of neoprene socks, and they’re good for the snow too. And while most thru-hikers go through a new pair of trail runners every 500 miles or so, my sandals see a premature retirement with at least 1,000 miles, easing into their sunset years of day hiking service. I’m still convinced that with proper care, one pair could see you through an entire thru-hike. And when days of rain turn a thru-hike into a slog, like it has been for much of Washington, rather than putting on a wet pair of shoes day after day, I simply wring out my wool socks and walk them dry within an hour of sunshine. Most importantly, they’ve carried me safely this far, and hopefully for many future miles to come.

By the time the day came to a close, my Chacos had carried me 11 little miles away from the border of Canada and the end of the PCT. Although we started walking in a cloud this morning, the threat of rain was finally gone and it was only a matter of time before the sun decided to end its game of hide and seek.

Strolling along beautiful trail through the Pasayten Wilderness, the sadness of it all coming to an end just one day from now began to sink in. How do you capture the simplicity, the drive and determination, and the daily awe of the natural world that defines this experience and distill it into something portable that you can take with you wherever you go and inject it into your daily life? There’s no easy answer, and it’s a challenge I’ll surely be grappling with for quite some time to come.

Every now and then, I’d look off into the distance and wonder if what I was looking at was actually Canada. It’s been a far-off, almost imaginary destination for so long now that it’s hard for my mind to accept that the imaginary is soon to be reality.

With only two miles left on what had already been a relaxed and leisurely day of hiking, we looked down the ridgeline from our perch on Rock Pass to our destination just below Woody Pass where we’d be spending our final night on the PCT.

Tucked among a stand of larches beneath a towering wall of rock whose craggy upper reaches had been lightly dusted with snow, Beardoh, Sweet Pea, Gazelle, Hammer, Roadrunner and I sat near our pitched tents eating one last dinner together and sharing stories of our favorite and most challenging moments of the trail.

Come morning, I’ll pack up and shoulder my backpack one last time. On to the border monument, to Canada, and the celebration to come!

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