A Good Pair of Boots Will Take You Places

When the trail leads to unfamiliar terrain, you can always count on your boots to help you get your footing.
By Eli Bernstein ,

A good pair of boots will take you places.

Mike Carina

It was a clear, cold night on the Annapurna Circuit, and I couldn’t sleep. Maybe it was due to a slight bout of altitude sickness and the fact that my body couldn’t relax at 16,000 feet. But the main factor was nerves: In a few hours I’d head over Thorong La, the 17,769-foot pass at the crux of the Circuit and a daunting prospect for a solo backpacker who’d never been above 14,000 feet before this trip.

I’d grown up hiking with family and friends, but the 120-mile route through the Himalaya was my first time going it alone. Initially, the thought of winding through the world’s biggest mountain range had thrilled me. Yet after a couple more sleepless hours at the foot of the pass, when it finally came time to lace up and set out into the dark, I cracked. Trekkers around me prepared their kits and started to head up, but I stood still, rooted to the spot by churning apprehension.

I looked around, searching for something to fortify me against the cold and the unknown. That’s when my eyes landed on my boots, and I realized I had a friend along after all.

I was wearing a pair of Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTXs that I’d owned for four years. The boots had been on my feet for every hike during that time, over mountains, through knee-deep mud, and across hundreds of hard miles. They were the same in the Adirondacks or around Annapurna, I realized, and so was I. Putting one foot slowly ahead of the other, I began to climb.

The path was arduous, and my steps slow. But walking is walking, and after a few hours my boots and I reached the top. I snapped a few photos and headed downhill, fueled by adrenaline and the prospect of a hot cup of chai at the bottom.

I finished the Circuit with a newfound confidence in my hiking ability. Now, whenever I head out into unfamiliar terrain, I know that my experience—and my gear—will be there to help me through whatever I might encounter. All I need to do is keep my feet on the ground.

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