A Rich Man’s Shoes

A rich man's shoes.

A rich man’s shoes.

“Put your money where your feet are.”  I’m not sure where I first heard this, but it has been good advice.    I hear of many hiking trips coming to a painful end due to foot injuries or blisters.  I have found that good fitting shoes and wool blend socks make it possible to hike many pain-free miles.

Besides comfort, a good reason to purchase good equipment is that manufacturers will tend to back their product if there is a problem.   The well-used pair pictured above have covered many miles including a trip through the Grand Canyon.   I liked these shoes so much that I purchased a second pair to use on my thru-hike of the Ozark Highlands Trail last winter.  That second pair of shoes made the trip beautifully.

I was set with two identical pairs of Oboz Firebrand shoes which allowed me to alternate and keep a dry pair ready to go on my daily morning hikes.

Many miles later, sections of the sole began to come loose on one of the newer shoes.  The shoes pictured here are my first pair still in use every day.   After submitting a warranty claim and picture to Oboz online, I was contacted by phone.  I’d entered my email incorrectly so they were calling to ensure they could send a package slip for me to ship my shoes with the loose soles to them.  I was impressed!

Today my new Oboz shoes arrived.  I’m glad to have two pairs of these shoes again and look forward to many more mostly-comfort-filled miles.

Looking closely at the well-worn soles of my original pair of Oboz, I was reminded of Emerson’s statement, “He is the richest man who pays the largest debt to his shoemaker.”  Investing in your feet is money well spent!

When you have worn out your shoes, the strength of the sole leather has passed into the fibre of your body. I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you have worn out. He is the richest man who pays the largest debt to his shoemaker.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1851

New Oboz sitting next to my first pair.

New Oboz Firebrand shoes sitting next to my first pair that are still going strong.

Update on Hiker, My Trail Partner

Hiker waiting for Dr. Green

Hiker waiting for Dr. Green

Hiker paid a visit to the Alma Animal Clinic recently for a checkup and to look at some gunk in her ears.  As we turned into the parking lot, she began to jump and shake, positioning herself next to the passenger door.  When I opened her door, she ran excitedly to the front of the clinic, tail wagging non-stop.  I decided she must like the undivided attention she receives from Dr. Green, his daughter, and other staff.  Or, maybe she associates this location with good things that have happened to her in the past.  When someone comments on how pretty she looks on the trail I sometimes say, “She’s a tribute to veterinary medicine.”

Turns out the ear infection is a minor issue that should clear up with ten days using an ear wash for a few days.  With her daily dips into Lake Alma during her four-mile morning hike, I’m sure moisture in the ears is a contributing factor.

Toward the end of January, Hiker weighed about 46 pounds which was up several from when we first met at mile 138 on the Ozark Highlands Trail.  Now she weighs right at 66 lbs. The following links tell more about Hiker’s story as well as the pictures below.

Walk, Eat, Sleep, Repeat, Fairview to Tyler Bend and A New Trail Partner

What Makes Hiker a Good Trail Partner? 

Hiker on the last day of her 40+ mile hike for survival.

Hiker on the last day of her 40+ mile hike for survival.

Hiker on January 20th after completing 40+ miles on the OHT with limited rations.

Hiker on January 20th after completing 40+ miles on the OHT with limited rations.

Hiker on August 18th.

Hiker playing in the back yard on August 18th. She hikes the Lake Alma Trail at least six days out of seven.



Hiker on the Lake Alma Trail waiting for me to catch up.

Hiker on her morning walk on the Lake Alma Trail.

Leave it like it is!

Grand Canyon Roosevelt quote.001

Looks like we’re determined to damage the Grand Canyon.  The above picture was from a backpacking trip two winters ago.  Our views across the canyon were unimpeded by the development of hotels or other tourist structures.  We’ve seen enough development around the Grand Canyon.  Present levels of development allow people to enjoy the views safely.  I hope the proposed additional development will not go forward.

Old Trail Revisited


Certain we’d be attacked by multitudes of ticks, I sprayed down my pants cuffs. By the time Hiker (dog) and I stepped onto the Ouachita Trail at mile 165, the sun was high.  I was feeling a little early trip anxiety because I was violating a long-held practice of avoiding backpacking in July.  The first section is pretty exposed, allowing a lot of undergrowth, but only a few ticks managed to climb up my pants to be easily picked off.

As we approached Green Thumb Spring, I wondered if there would be water.  I’d packed enough to last to Crystal Prong but was concerned with having to share with Hiker if other sources were dry. Hiker saw the water first and lowered herself slowly into the dark murky fluid with an expression of bliss.  I realized the water of Green Thumb Spring was much different that what I saw there twenty years ago, probably due to the difference in seasons.  There was a slow seep below the black pipe where I had filled my water pouch with crystal cold water in a few seconds years before.

The bandana captured a lot of stuff that would have clogged my filter.

The bandana captured a lot of stuff that would have clogged my filter.

To be safe, I decided it would be necessary to filter some of this nasty stuff.  I used my bandana to filter the big stuff before using the Sawyer filter.  This worked well and the water was usable.

Climbing to the ridge just past Green Thumb Spring, I remembered looking to the northwest and seeing Forked Mountain many years before.  I kept glancing to the left as I topped out, but the summer foliage blocked most mountain views.  Still, I enjoyed the memory of my first sight of that odd shaped mountain twenty years before.

Arriving at Crystal Prong was a relief. The water was clear and cool, even on July 3rd.  Temperatures were in the mid to upper 80s with lows during the night around 60-degrees.  It was still summer with mosquitoes and ticks.  The promise of cooler temps was enough for me to make this trip if for no other reason than the novelty of backpacking Arkansas in July.  I didn’t see one other backpacker during my four days on the trail.

Hiker cooling down in Crystal Prong.

Hiker cooling down in Crystal Prong.

Camping at Crystal Prong was a treat.  I’d camped there with my nephew and father twenty years before.  On that earlier outing, I don’t remember learning any significant outdoor skills other than to avoid getting too close to the water in winter.  My nephew slipped while exploring the shore and soaked one shoe which made for some discomfort that cold evening.

I learned a couple of lessons on this, my second visit to Crystal Prong in twenty years.

Lesson one: The “no-see-ums” that seemed so benign were actually biting me during my evening meal.  The little dots they left turned into itchy pinpoints the next day and continued to provide itchy entertainment the following week.  A little repellant would have avoided this.  I’ll know better next time.

Lesson two: Always do a final check of your packing list.  My spoon was nowhere to be found.  I stirred my pasta with a stick and used a small piece of metal from my stove as a short spoon.  Less than ideal but it worked.  As I ate my pasta, I pictured myself drinking potato soup the next night.

Lesson three: Hiker is a good camp guard dog.  You wouldn’t think it because she’s everybody’s best friend, never growling or barking in anger.  During this night, she heard a suspicious sound and gave several barks that were very different than I’d heard before.  She seemed to say, “Noooo! This is our campsite.  Stay away!” She also growled like I’d never heard.  Whatever troubled her left the area.


During the night I heard what I will call a “preachy screech owl.”   The initial long high-to-low screech was followed by a series of random and rhythmic scolding hoots unlike what I’ve heard before.  This occurred two times within a couple of minutes and then all was silent.  Hiker didn’t react to this sound.


Butterfly at the edge of Crystal Prong Creek

My memory of Crystal Prong from twenty years earlier was much different than the way I found it on this trip.  Still beautiful, yet different.  Hiker and I took a couple of dips in the creek to cool down. The sun slowly set and stars began to peek through the darkening sky.  Lightening bugs soared overhead and across the creek like our own private little campsite meteors.

The next day (July 4) was a marathon hike.  Crystal Prong to Lake Sylva for a little break before beginning the return trip to Brown Creek; a fifteen-mile day.  We were beat so Brown Creek was a pretty sight.  The water was cool and clear.  The fireworks were a nice distant sound that evening and potato soup (supplemented with my dehydrated golden baby potatoes) was delicious.  My newly found spoon worked well.

Brown Creek Shelter

Brown Creek Shelter

Earlier that day we took a break at  Brown Creek Shelter.  I enjoy reading entries from shelter journals and sat on the steps for a while.  As I was returning the notebook, I noticed a plastic Wendy’s spoon in the storage box.  Backpackers and trail maintainers occasionally leave small items that might be of use to future hikers.  I slipped the spoon into my shirt pocket and thought about creamy broccoli potato soup.


Shelter storage box.

Several hiking buddies call me “Tater” because of my habit of packing dehydrated potatoes.  As I walked away from that shelter, I thought they might change my trail name to “Spoon.”  During a winter thru-hike of the Ozark Highlands Trail, I let my plastic spoon sit on the bottom of a hot pan. By the time I smelled it the spoon was firmly melted to the pan.  After prying it free and sanding it against a rock, the spoon was functional.  It would have worked better if I hadn’t had any front teeth.  The next day we camped at Lynn Hollow and a metal spoon was at the fire ring.  I still have that metal spoon.  The trails seem to provide what I need when I need it, especially where eating utensils are concerned.

Ummm good!  Creamy potato soup and my new spoon.

Ummm good! Creamy broccoli soup with dehydrated potatoes and my new spoon.


Evening temperatures were cool.  Originally I’d planned to use only my 2/3-length sleeping pad and silk-weight bag liner.  I thought my 40-degree bag would be too warm, even if used as a quilt.  Turns out that bag would have felt just right.  I’d packed a light emergency bag and used it each night.  I was comfortable.

July 5 was to be a shorter recovery day after the previous day’s 15-mile trek.  To give Hiker a break, I carried her pack but made sure she watched me stuff it into my pack as if this would increase her appreciation of the favor I was doing for her.  We took our time at breakfast then started out at a leisurely pace up and out of the Brown Creek drainage.  We stopped at Flatside Pinnacle and hiked up for the view.  The sun was already high, but the views were a treat.

The view from Flatside Pinnacle

The view from Flatside Pinnacle


We’d planned to spend the final night back at Crystal Prong but decided to hike farther to the beautiful little creek we’d enjoyed on our first day hiking in. I had entertained the idea of taking a nap there and hiking on out that same day, but Hiker convinced me to make other plans.  She folded and was down for a long nap while I enjoyed the water and then slept in my tent.  Since we both had some good rest, I decided we’d get an early start the next morning.  Sometimes dogs know best and I was wise to follow Hiker’s lead.

Cool, shaded creek close to our campsite.

Hiker making sure I understood we were done for the day.

Hiker making sure I understood we were done for the day.

July 6 we rose at 4:30 a.m. and began hiking by 5:30, the first 15-minutes with headlamp.  This was some pleasant hiking.  The only challenge was “accepting” the occasional spiderweb.  These Ouachita spiders weave a nasty web.  They are spring loaded and almost push you back when you hit them.  I found that it was much easier to just walk through and let them wrap around you.  Then while continuing to walk, I’d pull from above and below my eyes which would remove most of the web except for my hair.   This strong “spiderweb mousse” pasted my hair firmly into place.

Stopping for a break at Oak Mountain Shelter with spiderwebs holding my hair firmly in place.

Stopping for a break at Oak Mountain Shelter with spiderwebs holding my hair firmly in place.


Forty-five miles of walking on just over twenty-two miles of trail filled four wonderful days.  By the time I began to backtrack our route, I was thankful that shuttle plans hadn’t worked out.  Seeing the same trail in both directions gave me a better grip on this section and allowed for a more reflective walk. The memories from past treks on this same ground added a richness to the trip. You never really walk the same trail twice.

Now I’m ready for some new trail!  Next up when the weather cools is Lake Sylva to Pinnacle Mountain State Park.

A few random pics:

Maiden voyage with Solo Wood Stove.  It worked well!

Maiden voyage with this Solo Wood Stove I picked up at Pack Rat in Fayetteville. It worked well!

Dehydrated pasta and sauce.  At home, cook the pasta about 6 minutes then dehydrate.  One of my favorites on the trail!

Dehydrated pasta and sauce. At home, cook the pasta about 6 minutes then dehydrate. One of my favorites on the trail!

Color is a benefit of hiking in warmer weather.


Hiker trying to carry a turtle.  She gave up quickly.

Hiker trying to carry a turtle. She gave up quickly.




Long Distance Hiking Partner – Thank You Dad


My father and mother at Petit Jean State Park

My father and mother at Petit Jean State Park (photo by cousin Sue Warnock, late 1970s?)

I heard a yell from down in the valley and immediately realize my error.  The voice was my father’s, and it wasn’t a happy sound.  I had paused to pick up rocks and throw them into woods down a steep embankment.  It was fun to watch them bounce their way down through the trees.   I didn’t realize my father had hiked down below, and evidently one of the rocks hit him on the shoulder.  When he got up to the piece of trail I was on, he emphasized that I shouldn’t do that again.  It was a good lesson to learn at twelve years old.  Now while hiking I occasionally stop younger hikers from throwing rocks down hillsides and this always reminds me of my father.

While visiting my Uncle Reese in Arteaga, Mexico, years later in the 1990s, I did a little desert hiking with my dad.  I stared at Arteaga Mountain through my uncle’s second floor window and thought it looked like an easy climb with little in the way of vegetation or challenge.  My dad, sister, and her son were up for it.  We consulted with one of Reese’s neighbors who had a topographic map of the area, determined a route, and drove to the foot of this “smooth little mountain.”


Daddy and me toward the high point of our hike. Daddy used a century plant stalk for a hiking stick (photo by Martha Warnock, approx. 1996).

We were surprised at the steepness of the climbs and the thickness of prickly vegetation.  Cactus plants were everywhere and had a way of reaching out and touching you.

Another surprise was the deceptiveness of the climb.  After reaching one rise, there would be a dip before rising even higher.  We hiked up, then down and then up even more.   This pattern repeated over and over.  We finally reached the peak and enjoyed the view  back down on Arteaga.  Rather than return by the up and down route, we chose a drainage to scramble down and walked back to the car.  A souvenir from that hike was a century plant stalk that my father found and used as a hiking stick.  It was light and strong and still works today.

A few years ago my father and I visited Petit Jean State Park where we’d spent many family vacations when I was a child.  We got in late and set up camp in the dark.  Early the next morning we hiked down the Cedar Falls Trail.  Robins were everywhere, and water flowed in small drainages along the trail.  A flood of  memories came over me as I thought of the many times I’d walked that trail as a child.  The house-sized boulders in front of me sat exactly as they did when I was a child. Although there had been gradual changes over centuries from water, ice, and wind, the changes were imperceptible to me.

We were both growing older in a world that seemed to change a breakneck speed.  The world we worked in had seen tremendous changes in technology and professional practices, yet here along these rocky trails, time seemed frozen.  There was something comforting about the stability of these scenes remembered from childhood.  The little drainages still flowed across familiar rock piles.  Cedar Falls still roared with power.  Deep green moss still clung to the tops of vine-covered rocks.  Bright orange and yellow lichen still caught my eye as we descended the trail.

As I watched my father hike down the trail, I thought about his years of commitment to my mother and our family.  He’d worked hard to provide for us and make it possible for us to explore the beauty of the world and learn new things.  He always had an eye for the beauty of nature, and I was pleased to think I received that tendency as a gift from him.  He took pride in his children and grandchildren, but I knew that he had made sacrifices to provide for us and make our needs more important than his own.

The few hikes I had with my father became special memories.  He is the true long-distance hiking partner, having traveled with me for more than fifty years.  I’m thankful for his many lessons, some verbal but most taught in silence through example.  He showed me how to walk a path with integrity.  Out of respect for my father and his example, I hope to walk as he walked.

Photo taken by my father on his Zeiss Contessa on a visit to Hodges Gardens.

Photo taken by my father on his Zeiss Contessa on a visit to Hodges Gardens.

Photo taken on his Ziess Contessa while serving in the Korean War (early 1950s).

Photo taken on his Ziess Contessa while serving in the Korean War (early 1950s).

Dad taking pictures at Mirror Lake, Blanchard Springs

Dad taking pictures at Mirror Lake, Blanchard Springs

What Makes Hiker a Good Trail Partner?


Hiker's March 24-25 trip on the Shores Lake, White Rock Mountain Loop, and Salt Fork Creek.

Hiker’s March 24-25 trip on the Shores Lake, White Rock Mountain Loop, and Salt Fork Creek.

Here are twelve qualities that make my dog, Hiker, a good partner for the trail.   See my January 21st post to learn how I acquired Hiker.

1. She motivates me to go hiking.  She’s my own full-time personal trainer.  She’s always ready to go.  No packing, no fuss.

2. She has endurance and heart.  She just keeps going and going.

3. She’s an ultra-light hiker.  She carries her own food and finds her water sources on the trail.  Some leaves or straw and she’s bedded down for the night.

4. She sleeps through the night.  No absurd barking at the moon.  One exception is her odd tendency to sit in the rain and bark at lightening but she’ll stop once I acknowledge that I know it’s raining…  She can sleep under my tent awning to stay dry.

5. She’s low maintenance on the trail.  Hiker has short brown/black hair so spotting ticks or other issues easy.


6. She provides free entertainment on the trail.  Watching her dart through the woods chasing movement and sound is a treat.  She probably averages fourteen miles to every ten I walk.

7. She walks well on a leash when needed.

8. She’s friendly to everyone we meet.

9. Hiker is never put off by creek crossings.  She finds the best route and goes!

Hiker crossing Little Frog Bayou on her daily morning walk.

Hiker crossing Little Frog Bayou on her daily morning walk.

10. Her needs are fairly simple.  Worm medicine and insect treatment on the first of each month and she’s good to go.

11. She doesn’t stink like some dogs do.  Oh, she’ll get a little musty smell when wet, but after drying and some open air walking, she’s back to that normal mild dog smell.

12. She’s a loyal friend on the trail.  Never talks back.  Appreciates any attention given but willing to stay in her own space around camp.


Relaxing after a good day of hiking.

Relaxing after a good day of hiking.



Hiker’s Guide to Leave No Trace – By guest blogger, Hiker

Hiker, promoter of "leave no trace" travel.

Hiker, promoter of “leave no trace” travel.

As a regular hiker I’ve noticed my human friends’ nasty habit of leaving their trash on the trail, along waterways, and generally making a mess of the woods.  I really don’t understand this since I’m a “leave no trace” hiker myself.  I always take care of my personal business off the trail in a discrete location. I never carry my chew toys into the woods because it would be easy to leave them there by accident.  I always finish every last bit of my food.  “Leave nothing but footprints,” that’s my motto!

Trash picked up on the OHT.

Trash picked up on the OHT.

The motto for human folks seems to be, “Prove you were here by leaving lots of trash or building structures for no reason!”  They carry plastic bottles or aluminum cans filled with water, soda pops, beer, and all sorts of concoctions.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a nice cold beverage, but some humans leave their empties right where they had their last sip.  They don’t mind carrying a full bottle into the woods but an empty bottle is too heavy for their pitiful, exhausted human selves to carry out.  They deserve an ankle bit for that!

Useless structure built along the OHT.

Useless structure built along the OHT. Photo was distributed to others by the builder of this structure.

Sometimes they build huge fire rings when a small one would work much better.  They stack rocks behind waterfalls as if they’re going to make a shelter there.  They cut trees and stack limbs, living out some type of pioneer fantasy.  They carve their initials in trees or bridges as if others are going to want to see this.   Humans have developed better ways to share information than carving on trees and rock, yet some persist in doing this.

Trash in this fire ring was irritated me.  My master packed it out since we were close to the end of our over-nighter.

Trash in this fire ring irritated me. My master packed it out. This fire ring is way too tall for this dog to warm up beside. Sometimes smaller is better.

Sometimes they leave half-eaten food and trash in their half-burnt fire rings.  Oh, that’s a beautiful sight for the next campers who come along.  Just the other day I was walking along a trail and found sliced potatoes buried right beside a fire ring.  My master was none-too-happy with me and it took a lot of encouragement on his part to get me moving down the trail again.  Those potatoes smelled really good, especially cooked in all that butter.

Some humans want to put up big ugly signs saying, “Don’t bury food…Don’t throw trash on the trail…Don’t chop on healthy trees….Don’t build a house here….Don’t take a crap on the trail or by the water…don’t, don’t, don’t.”  Only problem is that many humans who can read don’t and, those most likely to leave a mess think signs don’t apply to them.

One pack of humans got together and called themselves, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.  They have some tips for leaving the woods in good shape.  Of course, I can’t resist a few clarifying barks, too.

1. Plan ahead and prepare.  “This is my weak area.  I’m mostly thinking about my next meal but humans should plan so they don’t damage things.” – Hiker

2. Travel and camp on safe, durable surfaces.

3. Dispose of waste properly.  “Please!” – Hiker

4. Leave what you find.  “My master likes to look at old stuff in the woods so if it’s rusty, leave it.  He’s wondering about the history behind the artifact.  I don’t concern myself with such things.  I just want to know when we eat.” – Hiker

5. Minimize campfire impact.

6. Respect wildlife.  “Especially dogs.”  – Hiker

8. Be considerate of other visitors.  “This includes controlling pets which applies to me.  Master tries to keep me on a leash when others are on the trail but if I get away from him and come running up, my only goal is to lick you all over and find a new friend.  I mean no harm but do apologize for wetting you down.” – Hiker

Hiker looking for someone to lick.

Hiker looking for someone to lick.

Trash along the trail.

Trash along the trail.