About the Grotto

The author is a retired photographer, an avid walker, website developer and one who is careful in word and deed. One could also say that the author is an anachronism; given our times. Born in 1948, he is a family oriented man who, when a young man, was a combat veteran and rabid backpacker after serving in the U.S. Navy from 1968-1972. All in all, he is one who likes nonsense in politics very little and manages to maintain his sense of humor through thick and thin. In his words, “Laughter is always in vogue.” My first backpack was a Kelty. I walked through the northern Sierras and southeast Oregon with it. Although this is not a backpackers site per say, it bears relating my background so that you may better understand why I feel confident in relating my experience with footwear and in particular and hiking in general. Backpack aside, the first hiking shoes I purchased, Lowe, were for this trip. A trip that lasted two months and was in the early Spring of 1973 through snow and ice a good part of the time. My friend who went with me brought an ice ax and crampons. I did not as I wasn’t all that confident to risk life and limb any more than the season of this trip already presented. the experience was life changing as we both were fresh home from two tours of Vietnam combat and the decompression probably saved my life. The Lowe’s were rough-out and that required me to bring oil to keep them waterproof. They got me across granite faces, tramped through ice and snow, and over logs which forded streams in such places as Carter Creek; northeast of Quincy, California. We navigated by Topo’s and compass a good part of the time. No GPS  back then. I later bought a pair of Merrells mid-rise which were smooth and easily waterproofed. As I related in my first post here, those boots were “D” width and, though I still have them, I can no longer wear them. Still and all, they are like new despite all I have worn them. I have no idea how many miles I have put on them but the Vibram soles are still good. A few years ago, after a back injury at work, I purchased some Merrel “Hilltops.” Staying with the Merrell brand was a natural pursuit as I had such good luck with that brand. the “Hilltops” I purchased from Cabela’s and I still have them. I admit, they’re pretty worn out but make great yard shoes now. The new ones I purchased (also mentioned in the first post) are Keens. I like them a lot but they need insoles. the combination is extremely comfortable to my feet. The low tops are great for late spring and summer and I have both Galiva cotton and Smart Wool socks to wear with them. One thing about Smart Wool. They are a bit smooth and before I put in the insoles would slip and cause friction. My 2 + mile walk today was with the insoles and there was no slippage. As I mentioned, my feet are quite wide at the ball of the foot which is why I bought the Keen Voyagers. They fit very well and with the insoles are a dream. Even walking on previous blisters was no sweat for me. This gives you some background on who I am and what I think when it comes to hiking, backpacking, and just plain walking. There is nothing better for the mind than the discipline of the walk. Frustration is best when sweat away. Cheers!