Sunday, April 11, 2021

Xero: Thoughts on a new pair of shoes

As I was growing up, when I was nine years old, my family got relocated to Germany. We lived in Germany for three years. During those three years on Saturday, my father and I would get up early before the rest of the family and head off to a Volksmarch. For those of you who are not familiar with the German volksmarch, it is a 10 or 20 kilometer hike Sponsored by a local town in which you would receive a medal and brat upon your completion. I absolutely loved these Saturday mornings. Looking back now they are among my most treasured childhood memories. I am able to look back now and I understand that my father was building between us way more than a love of hiking, way more than a love of nature, way more than a love of that brat at the end of the hike. He was building the love of love. A love that has matured into him as my best friend. Because of this, it is nearly impossible for me to separate love and hiking from each other.

I have spent the past two weekends in Denver Colorado. At work, we are moving one of our offices to a new larger location. Last weekend I was here so that on Monday and Friday I could prepare the new location for the big move this past Friday. This weekend, I was here once again to complete that move. Last weekend, since I would not have work on Saturday and Sunday my girlfriend Ellen came out with me so that we could spend time with her brother and his wife. On Sunday while her daughter was napping with her sister-in-law, we snuck out for a few hours together. Our choice for spending that time included a walk in confluence park along the riverfront trail and a visit to an REI that was so large our St Louis REI could fit inside one of their departments. Ellen needed a new pair of her minimalist hiking shoes, and I just wanted to see all the cool camping stuff.

Anyone who knows me knows I am super obstinate when it comes to my feet. In my ideal world, I would never cover my feet at all, it would be all barefoot all the time. Since I do not live in that ideal world I settle for sandals as my usual compromise with the world. So as we perused for her new shoes this woman I have recently fallen in love with suggested that with my love of hiking and hatred of shoes I should try on a pair of minimalist hiking shoes myself. At first, I planted my minimally clad feet in the ground and refused to even give the shoes a try. After some persuasion and her reminder that being REI I could easily return the shoes if I went hiking in them and totally hated them I reluctantly tried on the Xero minimalist hiking shoes and had to agree they really did feel like almost no shoe at all. I purchased a pair in anticipation of trying them out this weekend if everything went well on the move and the time for a hike presented itself.

The office move went amazing and between working late Friday and all day Saturday everything was completed and ready for employees to return to work Monday morning. This left today as an open hiking day. I intended to fully maximize my day. Ten Kilometers in nature, turning today into my own personal volksmarch.

I started my day with a big breakfast while I searched All Trails looking for the perfect hike. I needed a hike that would challenge me, but also not completely overwhelm my mid-western lung capacity. I need a hike that would stimulate my mind with learning and my eyes with the grandeur only Colorado can offer. I found it in two trails about a half-mile apart from each other. First would be Morrison Slide / Red Rocks Trail, a 3.1-mile moderate hike in Red Rocks park with a 600ft elevation range. The second would be Dinosaur Ridge a 1.7-mile out and back walk in the Morrison Fossil Area, a National Natural Landmark filled with fossils and traces. This would be right around 10K and would meet both my desires perfectly.

Now it is evening. The hiking is completed. I am back in my hotel room feeling renewed after a shower and dinner. I am left thinking about the day. I am thinking about the shoes, which proved themself as definite keepers, they provided the freedom of almost feeling like I was wearing no shoes at all while also supporting and protecting my feet. I am thinking about the first trail with its intense first-mile climb which took me to the brink of giving up only a half-mile into those initial stairs. I am thinking about the glory of the second and third mile as I took in the vistas from the mountain tops and meandered back down the winding path's return. I am thinking about Dinosaur ridge where I touched footprints that were over 70 million years old. I am thinking about how my personal volksmarch embodied that ongoing climb toward a most beautiful future and also the vastness of our greater history. I am thinking about how hiking and love are nearly impossible to separate from each other. I am thinking about those Saturday morning hikes in the German hills with my dad. I am thinking about the challenges and rewards of building a new love and family with Ellen. I am thinking about hiking. I am thinking about the fossils of my own history. I am thinking about the climb to a beautiful new future. I am thinking about love. I am thinking about God, the universe, or whatever you call that reality which is greater than our understanding. I am thinking about how all of us always need exactly what these new shoes provide, the feeling of being almost free while also knowing we are completely protected. Maybe that is the best definition of history, love, and God I've got.