When I recently packed my bags to move to Israel, my hiking boots were one of the only pairs of shoes to make the cut. When I pulled them out of the closet a few weeks ago for a trip to Mitzpe Ramon, I was quickly reminded of all the places they have been. It was also then that I realized with some surprise that I’ve had them since 2003. That’s right, you did the math correctly, I’ve owned a pair of shoes for nine years. And no, they don’t stink (the truth is they only come out a few times a year).
Here, a brief account of the coolest places my hiking boots have taken me:
I originally bought my low ankle hiking boots as I prepared to study abroad in India my junior year of college. I wore them a lot in those five months, but probably nowhere as much as the month that we spent in Mussoorie, a hill station at the foothills of the Himalayas. In between studying Hebrew and writing essays on our experience we spent a lot of time outdoors.
Most memorable was an overnight trip in which we hiked to Yamunotri, the source of the great Yamuna river and holy home to the Hindu goddess Yamuna. The boots came in handy as we climbed the steep hills dotted with temples, although I shed them (and everything else) at the top to enter the women-only ritual bath. One of the most empowering experiences I’ve had, the naked Indian woman sang joyfully as they grabbed our hands and danced around the water fed by a naturally hot spring.
The Grand Canyon
Immediately following graduation from college—and just months after getting my drivers license—three friends and I embarked on a month long cross-country road trip in which we followed Route 66 from beginning to end. Camping the whole way, we saw everything from Cozy’s Corn Dogs to Cadillac Ranch and a whole lot more.
The Grand Canyon had never been high on my list of places to visit, but since we were driving right by it would have been silly not to go. I figured it had to be hyped up—what could be so great about a big hole in the ground? But the Grand Canyon is one of those natural wonders that defies hype. And hiking three miles into the canyon and back up (or was it three miles round trip?) in the dead of the Arizona summer was a challenge that made it all the more worthwhile. And I had the dirt red dust on the bottom of my shoes for months to prove it.
The Great Wall of China
Following the road trip one of my best friends left to teach English in China for a year. There was no question in my mind that I would find a way to visit her. When I arrived in Beijing that winter I had a few days to myself before meeting up with others to travel for the rest of the month. So I navigated the streets of this huge, daunting city by myself, something I had never done before.
Finding my way to the Great Wall was more of a challenge than I anticipated. I tried to find a public bus to take me there but finally gave up and shelled out the extra cash to get on a tour bus. Of course, the tour was entirely in Chinese so it didn’t do me much good. But it didn’t matter as my feet led me across part of the Great Wall of China, recognizable from so many images but like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Before moving to Israel, I had no idea that the small country is home to the world’s largest natural erosion crater. Israelis like to say everything of theirs is the biggest and the best, but in the case of the Makhtesh Ramon crater at Mitzpe Ramon, it’s true. My husband and I went a few weeks ago for the first time for an overnight stay that included an astronomy tour, nice dinner, boutique hotel, local jazz club, and seeing ibexes roam free.
While Makhtesh Ramon is vast like the Grand Canyon, what struck me most was the quiet. The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular natural sites in the United States, and there are constantly families, tourists, and serious hikers packed tight. But for most of our walk around and slightly into the crater at Mitzpe Ramon there wasn’t another human being around. Sometimes I’d notice one tucked into a crevice, reading alone, or a small group silently meditating. Other than that we were left to our own reflections.
These boots were made for walking, and that’s what they’ll continue to do. As long as they put a spring in my step and don’t develop a funk, these shoes will keep propelling me through my adventures. Where next? Maybe I’ll let the boots decide. As the song ends, “Are you ready boots? Start walkin’!”
And if you don’t have any boots yet, these promo codes might come in handy.