It's mid-afternoon and after a series of grueling hours of uphill struggle I close my eyes and let the fresh, earthen Montana breeze creep through my exhausted lungs. The blazing sun lights my weary eyelids, while the cloudless sky provides no protection from the high heat. The sweet sounds of rustling wildlife pique my eardrums and I know that it is certainly not another day at the office. Substitute cell phones and CRM's with miles of magnificent landscapes and menacing marmots. A bead of sweat trickles down through my damp bandana and gracefully falls from my scruffy chin. As I exhale through my nostrils, I open my eyes to yet another surreal view of Glacier National Park. It seems like a lifetime ago, that we planned this short adventure, but now it is a reality. Dates, times, and appointments all become mere nouns with no bearing on my day's obligations. Morning commutes become arduous, meals revolve around fatigue, and sleeping patterns are determined by the sun's schedule. Beach fronts and cruise liners are fun and dandy, but this is my idea of a vacation.As the breeze continues to brush against my face I begin to wiggle my wool covered feet inside of the cotton lined Boulder Boots and find my face illuminate with glee when I realize that even though my shoulders and back are taking a beating worse than one of Mike Tyson's opponents, my feet feel great. Unlike my comrades, it does not feel as though I am lugging around small weights that I am anticipating to rid myself of at camp, but rather miniature sleeping bags that my feet will refuse to leave as if it were a frigid October morning. This short water break is uplifting to my spirits and I feel my screaming calves are just as thankful.
Coming into this experience I was under the impression that my body would be plenty acclimated to minimalist footwear, and ready to take on the elevation changes, but I was apparently mistaken as my calves are starting to show some discomfort. On the opposite end, I did have predispositions that my feet might be sore, but in no way is that the case. The Boulder Boot is performing flawlessly on the rocky terrain, causing my feet no pain from the rough ground feel. I feel the 9mm IBR (Injection Blown Rubber) outsole is just enough protection from these elements, while still remaining minimal, lightweight, and flexible.
Break time is over and it's back to the grind. As I make this slow ascent my mind begins to wander - If Frodo had worn shoes would he opt to hike in Chaco's or Merrell's? Would he exceed a 6E? Is it a problem that my boots make such little noise, especially when we're not supposed to sneak up on grizzly bears? Would I rather stumble upon a grizzly bear or a height deprived mythical character with no shoes? As these pressing questions marinate in my mind I notice that we have reached the top of our grade and I soon realize that the law of gravity is no stranger to the wilderness.
Our descent trail is paved with loose, granite slag that could cause some serious traction issues. As I begin to make my way down I find it rather difficult to keep my footing in the rocks and am forced to struggle with finding handholds in the cliff face for support. This would be one of the biggest downfalls of the Boulder Boot. Though the boot sports a flat, flexible outsole it does not bode well in situations where rigidity and deep treads are needed for traction. But after this short slag surf, my outsole showed minimal signs of wear, while my fellow hikers' footwear experienced some serious issues. If you notice the photo on the right, the Vibram outsole received a decent sized hole near the big toe area, and some gnarly gashes in its treads. This just further proves that the Lems IBR outsole can easily compete with other rubber and Vibram compounds.
Once at the bottom of the downward trail we reach a stunning valley filled with luscious green pines, flowing streams, and fluorescent wild flowers. All this scene needs is some Bob Ross 'happy clouds' and it would be absolutely perfect. Before reaching the camp, we first need to cross over one of the streams and of course being the photography enthusiast that I am, I stop part way across to snap a shot of the crystal water. In my pursuit of artistic creativity my foot slips from the damp stepping stone and inadvertently lands in the flowing water, thus engulfing the entire toebox of my right boot. But fear not toes, for the water-resistant nylon and new buck leather shined, allowing almost no water penetration.My heavy pack comes crashing down to the earth causing dust to rise up like a coup d'etat. Ahhh...another day down. I rip my tent from its stuff sack, assemble the miniature home, and fulfill my other campsite obligations. I finally remove my boots and take a minute to really inspect them. Weighing less than a can of soda and compactable to the size of a foot long sub it is truly amazing how much sturdy ankle and foot protection these boots offer with such little weight and stiffness. Up there with Snuggies and the World Wide Web, I would say the Boulder Boot is a modern marvel that would surprise and baffle even the most educated individuals.
Moisture wicking technology, shock absorption, superior traction, lug patterns, shanks, plates, and rands are just a few standard features that 'should' be considered when deciding on boots for a multiday hiking adventure through the rigorous terrain of Glacier National Park. But rather than go with the Asolo, La Sportiva, or Danner, I decided this was the opportune time to put the Lems Boulder Boot to the test and dispel any doubts related to our recently released minimalist boot.
It is no secret that I work for Lems Shoes (above is a picture with me(middle) and my friends Eric(left) Justin(right)) but though I am a part of the greatest shoe company on the face of the planet, my personal review of the Boulder Boot contains no bias. You may be asking yourself, "If you do not market the Boulder Boot as a performance hiking/backpacking boot, why would you do a review of the product on a 6 day - 62 mile hike?" Confidence - that's why. I was confident that the Boulder Boot would be able to withstand everything a 180 lb frame with a 50 lb pack could throw its way. And I must say, the Boulder Boot not only withstood the abuse, but it far exceeded my high expectations.
NOTE: The following photos were taken after the 62 mile hike was completed...
Minor areas of discoloration in the leather, minimal wear to the heal area of the outsole, and fraying of the cotton liner are basically the biggest issues after 6 long days in the wilderness, but I am absolutely certain that after a thorough cleaning these boots will be ready to beat the streets of Pittsburgh and just in time for the upcoming fall season. From the backcountry to the concrete jungle to everything in between, the Boulder Boot is an essential to everyone's footwear collection.