Hiking in Birkenstocks
Left: Gail in sock feet and Birkenstocks. Right: We came across Kathryn Estelle's beautifully appropriate Birkenstock embroidery through the Birkenstock blog and Flickr feed - see below for links!
July 11: Hoop Hole lower loop. 4.0 miles. July 12. Andy Layne Trail to AT to Tinker Cliffs and back. 7.6 miles.
The Day Hiker wanted a vista as the key point of a hike for this weekend.
It's seldom she has a hike preference, which made the event of Saturday morning all the more ironic: Six-year-old grandson Matthew invited himself along for the day's walk, and the idea of multiple stream crossings for both the boy and the puppy won out, and we headed to Hoop Hole, where there are no real vistas at all; and where young Matthew was determined to "go to the top of the mountain!" on the upper loop rather than just half way up on the lower.
But two-plus miles up he began to plead for lunch, and while he gamely started up the trail onto the upper loop when we got to the intersection, he did not protest when Gail and I said lunch was not far away on the lower-loop trail we were already on. Along a feeder stream where we ate, the puppy and the boy both found enough water play to allow the old people to linger over lunch as we are wont to do.
The far end of the loop – shorter and with even more stream crossings – was of great delight to the young hiker, who, once he was shown you could cross a fallen log instead of just rock-hop at every crossing, began to look for the hardest way across he could find. And after sticking the toe of his shoe in the very first crossing – less than a quarter mile into the hike – he never again got a foot wet.
The next morning, The Day Hiker was fooled by the early cool temps ("it's beautiful out here, and not humid!" she called from the garden) and was maybe clinging to her vista hope when she again went out of character and suggested a second hike for the weekend: up to Tinker Cliffs and one of the best viewpoints in the area. We didn't begin walking until 4:30, for a dinner hike rather than the usual lunch hike. One Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club hike for the weekend was from 311 over the trail to Tinker and down the Andy Layne, and we were crossed by several hikers with mild shakes of the head over our late start up the mountain. (It's pretty fun, as 50- and 60-somethings, to be viewed as irresponsible kids or something by people a decade or so older.)
And we of youth were pleased to be able to maintain our general hour-and-a-half timeframe for getting up there, and by 6 pm we were out on the rocks, where The Day Hiker was again talking about the nip in the air. The steamy day we'd walked through – soaking shirts completely – was nowhere to be felt as the breeze from the west blew in strong and cool to add to the enjoyment of our guilty-pleasure dinner of roast beef sandwiches, Cheetos and Heineken.
One of the best things about the hard climb to Tinker Cliffs (along with the stream, the fields, the several types of forest, the bounty of wildflowers and the good switchbacks) is getting to go back down. But that going back down is always infused with a tiny bit of dread, over the nasty little climb just before the end. On this hot, humid day I dreaded it even more than usual. But The Day Hiker, ahead as always and determined to put every climb behind her immediately, pulled us up so fast I could not breathe to complain had I really wanted to, on this evening of a bonus walk.
The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All does many good logistical things to assure great walks for both of us, week after week... that good big bladder full of ice water, the bug stuff, the sunscreen, the nature books, the salt and pepper, the extra clothes in the dry bag, etc etc.
But Saturday marked a first in our nearly five and a half years of hikes, when she looked down at her feet soon before we pulled into the Hoop Hole parking lot and said, "My boots!" For on her feet were Birkenstock sandals, with no socks.
And so she walked, for the first time, in the week of our hikes number 286, in sandals, worn over a pair of spare socks from the dry bag.
And on Sunday, as we drove out 311 toward Tinker Cliffs, she decided to glance at her feet again, this time seeing a different, lesser pair of sandals.
Again came the call: "My boots!" And again with socks, a hike in sandals. She walked up the steep-and-rocky-in-spots Andy Layne on bald-tire soles, with only the tiniest of slips all the way up and down.
Come to think of it, she has forgotten the salt and pepper a time or two.
Thanks to Kathryn Estelle, a blogger in Vidalia, Ga., who gave us permission to publish her Birkenstock embroidery here.
We found her image through The Birkenstock Blog, which is posting a wearer-submitted Birkenstock photo every day for a year.