One week before our backpacking adventure to San Jacinto Peak, Chuck and I went for a training hike in Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the best hiking locales in San Diego. We hiked up Cowles Mountain, one of the most popular trails in the county, and then added another three miles to our hike by taking the trail to Pyles Peak, which is 200 feet lower than Cowles but accessed by a trail that goes down and up, and then climbs steeply to reach the summit. It was a little warmer than I would have preferred that morning, but the trails were fun and I was happy to see that wild flowers were still in bloom in the park in late May. Despite the crowds on the main trail to Cowles, the extension to Pyles Peak was almost empty – the only other people we saw on the way out were members of the San Diego triathlon club, and they were trail-running all the major peaks in the park in one day (wow! and also, crazy!).
The most significant part of the day for me however, was the disintegration of my hiking boots. I usually wear a pair of lightweight Merrils for day hikes, but on this hike I was wearing my more hard-core hikers, an eight-year-old pair from LLBean. By the time we reached Pyles, I noticed that the soles were separating from the boot on the inside of both boots; by the time we reached the bottom, a four-inch long piece of metal had fallen out of one shoe and I felt lucky to make it to the bottom with the soles still attached, even if I did almost trip on them a few times!
Hmmm…so I definitely wasn’t wearing these boots on our trip to San Jacinto! I was just glad they fell apart on the training hike instead of during our three-day weekend trip – I’d last worn them on our Yosemite trip last year, and hiking 3 miles with falling apart shoes was bad enough – if we were on the ten-miler it might have been better just to switch to bare feet (or the flip-flops I brought along as camp shoes).
So, one week to go until our hardest weekend of hiking EVER, my hard-core hiking boots have fallen apart, and my comfy lightweight Merrils are not quite backpacking caliber. Luckily, there was still one day left in the REI Anniversary sale, and I had a 20% off one item coupon to burn. So I headed off to my local REI and tried on three types of hiking boots, finding my almost-perfect match in the Asolo Power Matic 250. They were ultra-comfy when I tried them on in the store, and didn’t feel too bulky or heavy despite being a pretty serious pair of backpacking boots. There was no way I was wearing these on a big trip without at least attempting to break them in (a few websites recommended wearing new boots for 50 miles of dayhiking before using them for backpacking, but that certainly wasn’t going to happen in one week!), so I woke up early that week and went hiking twice in the mornings before I went to work. I first tried out my new boots at Florida Canyon in Balboa Park, a pretty easy three mile trek, but enough to start getting a feel for them. (Also, I got to see the velodrome – smaller and more run-down looking than I was expecting, but I still want to go watch the racing there!) I also went out to Mission Trails again and hiked Kwaay Paay peak, a short-but-steep hike starting accross the street from the Mission Dam parking lot (it took about an hour and a half, but only because I wandered around the summit trails for a while trying to figure out where the true summit was…). I got in enough hiking to know that my new boots are pretty comfy, but need to be tightened often, and tend to give me blisters on my pinky toes if not well-tightened while going downhill – just enough info to get me through our three day adventure!