Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Equipment Part II: Conditioning and Waterproofing Your Hiking Boots!

I grew up in a military family. My Dad was in the Army for thirty-six years. That being the case, there was always an abundance of boots kicking around the house (no pun intended). When I was pretty young, my Dad was more than willing to teach me how to treat and maintain boots. Let's just say from that point on, I did my fair share of polishing and conditioning his combat boots. For some strange reason, I thought it was a lot of fun at the time. Whether it was his standard issue combat boots, work boots or hunting boots, he pretty much taught me to treat them all with the same care. Today, I still apply his boot conditioning lessons to my everyday work boots and after ten years, they still look like they are brand new. Now that I've taken up hiking, I think it only makes sense to condition my hiking boots (which are my Asolo TPS 520 GV's that I purchased this past June) in the same manner. I thought it would be nice to share with you, how I go about this!

What you will need!!!

Before I begin, I should probably mention that this will only work on leather boots. The sealer I use, which is primarily beeswax, will not work on synthetic materials. Also, I should mention that it will discolor a boot to some degree. It will certainly not hurt any leathers, but any lighter colored leather (or suede for that matter) will not look the same when you are done...but it will waterproof and condition regardless of the discoloring!

Notice the abuse the White Mountains have put my little boots through this season!!!

To start out, make sure you have all the essential tools. You'll need a soft buffing brush to clean the boots. To apply your sealer, you'll need a clean cotton rag. What I feel works best is an old undershirt. You'll definitely need a heating element of some kind to open the pores of the leather. I like to use Jill's hairdryer because it has a lot of different settings which allows you to control how hot the leather gets. Finally, you'll need your boots and the beeswax sealer of choice. Oh, I almost forgot...you should also have a good brew, preferably served in an old mason jar to quench your thirst during this task. Today, I've chosen Blue Moon Ale, since it is what is left over from our Christmas Eve gathering!

First, remove your shoelaces and make sure your boot's leather is somewhat clean and free of foreign debris. Take the brush and use it to buff off all dirt and grime. Dirt and dust typically builds up in the crevices between the tongue and the boot lip. If there is a dirt and grime in there, make sure you get it all out.

Shoelaces removed and dirt buffed off!

Once the leather is adequately cleaned, use the hairdryer on setting "hot", but with a "low" fan, to heat up small sections of the leather. Make sure not to leave the hairdryer concentrated in one spot too long. You want to move it around quickly (back-and-forth or in circular motion) as to not overheat the leather. Once it's warm to the touch (not too hot!!!), apply the beeswax with the clean rag in a circular motion. Right away, you should be able to see the beeswax melt and absorb into the leather. This is good! You'll want to continue applying the beeswax until it is no longer being absorbed. Once you feel there is a good amount of beeswax at that section, continue onto the next small section of the boot until the entire leather surface has been covered. Please note that sections of the leather that are more worn (such as the toe) will accept more beeswax than sections that are not as worn (such as the ankle).

Visual Comparison: the boot on the left is untouched, the boot on the right is conditioned

When working your way around the boot's leather surfaces, be sure to pay extra attention to the stitching and seams of the boot, as well as where the sole is joined to the leather uppers. You will want to use a liberal amount of beeswax in these areas and make sure it is rubbed in well. These are typically your first failure points, especially during full foot submersion in water. So, be sure to use plenty of beeswax reduce the risk of leaking.

Use a generous amount of beeswax in the stitching and seams

Make sure to get a generous amount of beeswax in the sole-to-leather joint

Once you've finished applying the beeswax, the boot will most likely be a bit darker, will have a shiny appearance and the surface will be a bit tacky. This tackiness will wear off quickly after the first or second use. When I'm done waxing, I like to put my boots next to the furnace register overnight to try to dry any excess beeswax. I'm not sure if this really does any good or not. The first time you use the boots after conditioning, you may observe some white cracking on the bend points of the leather due to your foot's motion. This is totally fine. It is just the dried beeswax on the surface of the leather cracking. It's okay because this isn't what is protecting your boot. The beeswax that was absorbed into the leather is what is protecting your boot!

Both Asolo hiking boots, fully conditioned with beeswax

The beeswax I use is an Atsko product called Sno-Seal™. I'm sure there are other beeswax products on the market that probably work just as well, but I use Sno-Seal™ because that is what my father always used and I have adopted it from him. I try to apply Sno-Seal™ once a year and it typically seems to fall around this time of year (first snow fall) because that is when I'm most concerned about waterproofing and keeping my feet dry. From what I have read, beeswax is an ideal product for Gor-Tex® lined boots because it is organic and will not react negatively with the Gor-Tex® membrane. Also, it will not clog the natural pores of the boot, allowing the Gor-Tex® to vent properly, keeping your feet free of sweat!

My finished Asolo hiking boots next to the furnace register

Please understand that I am not a boot expert and how I condition my boots, may not be the best practice for yours. Please do your research before applying anything to your footwear to ensure that you are not harming them, but are instead maintaining and protecting them for whatever activities they are used for. I hope sharing my boot maintenance tips with you was helpful and most of all, I hope it helps extend your boot's life and keeps your feet dry :) !


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Jill and I (and of course, Hank and Lily) hope everyone out there has a very Merry Christmas and a great New Year! Hope you find some time to hit the trails on your time off this weekend!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Guest Blogger Postings on LFAHNH

As we near the beginning of 2011, I fear that my schedule will fill up to the point where I won't be able to post as much as I do now. As many of you know, Jill and I are having a baby. I foresee this alone taking up a bulk of my time. I'm excited to create a nursery and start collecting all the furniture and toys that our new little bambino (or bambina) will need. Along with this, we have many doctor's appointments and classes that we will need to attend. I see all of these tasks being fun, but time consuming nonetheless.

Another activity that will be taking up a bulk of my time is graduate school. It's that time of year when I start to actively pursue my graduate degree again. I only take a few courses each year due to the amount of funding that my company allows for my education. However, Jill and I have both decided that it's time to just finish it up. So, I will be taking two classes starting in the beginning of January. Now, to be honest, class is not one of my favorite things. So two graduate courses will certainly take up a lot of my time in more ways than one.

Aside from the new peanut (that's what we call the baby, because the first ultrasound pictures looked like a peanut) and the course work, everyday life is busy in general. Work is always crazy and there always seems to be something to do around the house. I feel this schedule will certainly leave little time for hiking and writing in this blog. So, I thought it would be a perfect time to run a series of Guest Blogger Posts. It is something that I've been wanting to do for quite a while now, because I'm sure people get sick of reading my garbled articles.

In the following months, I'll be posting articles by individuals who share the same passion for hiking that Jill and I have. The topics and pictures will be purely up to the authors. I'm very excited for this and I hope you are too. Keep an eye on your inbox, because I may be calling on you to share some of your thoughts on Live Free and Hike New Hampshire!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cold Day Around Echo Lake State Park!

Jill and I took this past Friday off from work and decided to head north to find some snow in the White Mountains. We planned on a nice, scenic hike in the Crawford Notch behind the AMC Highland Center. It would be a trek around the Ammonoosuc Lake, on the Around-the-Lake Trail. When we finally made it into the notch, we found exactly what we were looking for...lots of snow!!! Along with the snow was some frigid cold temperatures and wind that cut right through you!

Cathedral Ledge seen over Echo Lake

Since we knew that this was a very well traveled trail, we assumed the snow coverage would be packed down due to foot traffic. For this reason, we never tossed the snowshoes in the car, which was a big mistake. When we finally made our way to the trailhead, we were surprisingly disappointed to see one to two feet of freshly drifted snow on the trail. We pushed forward anyway, hiking about 0.2 miles before giving up and retreating. Unfortunately for us, trudging through deep snow, over unknown terrain, was not the type of hike we were looking for.

Jill and I hopped in the car with frowns on our face and continued southeast on Route 302. By the time we made our way out of the Crawford Notch, there was barely any snow, anywhere. It was hard to believe we had just been knee deep on the trail. As we headed into North Conway, we decided to hit up Echo Lake State Park. Apparently, we were the only people that day that wanted to walk around the lake, since there were no other cars.

Echo Lake Trail (wide and smooth)

As we walked to the trailhead, it didn't take long to realize it was just as cold at Echo Lake, as it was in the Crawford Notch. From the beach area on the lake, we received fabulous views of both White Horse Ledge and Cathedral Ledge. At some points on the loop, we saw the Moat Mountains poking over the trees. The Echo Lake Trail was very wide, flat and easy on the legs. It was only 0.9 miles long, but seemed a bit longer, since it was so cold and there was no elevation gain to warm our chilled muscles.
Fungi on a log near the trail

This hike wasn't exactly what we were planning on, but it was fun anyway. I can honestly say, that hiking on trails in the winter months, that are not snow covered, make for my least favorite hikes. All the flowers have passed, the leaves have fallen, the mushrooms are dead...and there's no snow to make a pretty landscape! Regardless, I enjoy being out in the woods more than I enjoy sitting inside, so I will always choose hiking.

White Horse Ledge over Echo Lake

The Moat Mountains poking over the trees

I think my favorite part of the day was driving through this wonderful State of New Hampshire. By the time we found ourselves back at home, we had made a complete, five hour loop around the state. We had driven north past Moosilauke and the beautiful, snow covered Franconia Ridge. Heading into Twin Mountain, the white Presidentials came into view, with Mount Washington towering over everything on the horizon. We continued west, through the Crawford Notch, enjoying the a snow covered Webster, Willard and Willey. Finally, heading home on Route 16, we passed the legendary Mount Chocorua, with a crisp, white peak. Man, I love New Hampshire!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Walking Around Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, NH!

Last weekend, Jill and I were dying to get out and do a bit of hiking. We decided to stay close to home, again, as we had planned to get a Christmas Tree later that day and wanted to ensure ample time to prepare the house and get the tree up. So, we headed over to nearby Durham, NH and our destination was Wagon Hill Farm. Since UNH is where I attended school, I had passed by this farm many times but never actually investigated it. I did a little research online prior to our visit and I was shocked to find that there are a fair amount of trails that pass through meadows, forest areas and along the shore lines...all on the Wagon Hill Farm property. For a trail map of Wagon Hill Farm, click here.

Signature wagon at the top of Wagon Hill Farm

Entrance Sign to Wagon Hill Farm on Route 4 in Durham NH

The parking area is located a couple hundred feet up the farmhouse driveway. As soon as I got out of my truck, I noticed an old tractor off to the side, next to the field. I recognized this tractor as an old Model A tractor. Model A tractors were homemade pieces of equipment and were typically constructed during the great depression, when farmers didn't have enough money for new tractors. Instead, they would take old Ford Model A cars and trucks (cheap vehicles, manufactured from 1928-1931) and cut them down into tractors. They were also called Doodlebugs. I spent a few minutes looking it over for a few reasons. First, I love historical artifacts like this...especially in this environment. You can only wonder if it was placed there as decoration or if it was actually used on the farm at one time. Second, I used to have an Model A tractor that my Dad and I used in the woods. So, I have a strong interest in them. This particular Jitterbug was certainly in rough shape.

Old Model A Tractor (Doodlebug) in Rough Shape

View of the pastures, heading down the gravel road path

Jill and I headed south on a nice, gravel road which brought us through a meadow and then a very short forest area. The shoreline came into view quickly as the landscape opened up. It turned from a forest area to a very large picnic area. To the left, was an extremely old cemetery. Again, history on the trail is something I love. I took some time and looked over the headstones. One, in the front row, was a veteran and was marked with a flag. The headstone noted that the individual was a colonel, however, it was not clear when he passed away because I could not read the date. A few other headstones on the right side of the small cemetery didn't even have markings. Some were literally just stones from the earth and were not carved into a headstone shape of any kind. I can only imagine how old these were.

Small, very old cemetery near the shoreline

As we made our way down to the shoreline, there was a very small pavilion that had one little picnic table under it. We used this (and my glove) to prop the camera up to take a timed picture of us. Since it was cold, we continued on quickly and headed to the west. Unlike the gravel road that led us down to the shoreline, this path was more like a hiking trail. It hugged the shore of what I believe is Oyster River. It soon bared right and we were then heading north.

Shoreline, near the pavilion

Shoreline, on the forest trail heading north

The trail wasn't necessarily "well beaten", but there were some yellow blazes that helped to navigate. Along this path, when looking across the river, there were some beautiful houses, which were fun to look at. Soon, we came to a small spur trail that brought you down, onto a peninsula. I've heard that this peninsula is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. Also, across from this spur path is a real spooky, dead tree...that was pretty neat.

Fungi on a tree

Spooky old tree (you can't miss it on this trail)

From the peninsula, the trail headed back east away from the river, and dumped us back onto the first gravel road we started on. Jill and I headed back to the parking area and decided to continue past it, up to the main field, which is where the signature wagon located. This green wagon stands tall on top of Wagon Hill and is visible from Route 4 when you drive by. It is in relatively good shape and has a memorial stone at the foot of it.

Old farm equipment with brush growing up around it

For a cold day in December, this was a nice little walk close to home. I think the next time we visit Wagon Hill Farm, though, Jill and I will go at dusk and try to coincide with the sun setting in the west. After the walking around the farm, we went and purchased our New Hampshire grown, Fraser Fir Christmas Tree and followed it up by our annual trip to the Christmas Dove in Barrington, NH. Another great Saturday in New Hampshire!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

I Finally Put My Hiking Stickers On My New Truck!

One thing I love to do is advertise my hobbies and interests. I suppose that is obvious since I have a blog where I share all of that stuff with you. Well, a few months back, I wrote about replacing my Jeep with a new truck. Since I got the truck back in September, I have been searching for the "perfect" stickers to display these hobbies and interests on my vehicle.

For a hiking sticker, I went with what I had on my Jeep, which was a hiker's silhouette on a black oval. I originally found this sticker (for my Jeep) in a gift shop in North Conway, NH. When I went back to get a new one for my truck, the gift shop didn't seem to carry this sticker anymore. So, I found them online at Maine Made Products for a very reasonable price. (I know...I know...it's made in Maine, not New Hampshire...but no one can really tell :) )

To show my love for New Hampshire, I went with a sticker from Cafe Press, which again, is oval and displays a large "NH" with the Old Man's profile on the left side of the "N". Of course, I had to go with the one that had the "Live Free or Die" slogan, as they are words that I live by each and everyday. I also purchased my American Flag sticker at Cafe Press as well.

Finally, the Mount Washington Observatory sticker can't be purchased as a standalone. In order to receive one of these, you must be a proud member of the Mount Washington Observatory, which I am.

Jill helped me with the actual layout of the stickers on the window, and I'm pretty happy with it! What do you think?

Click on the picture to make it larger so you can see the details!!!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

New Hiker In The Searl Family!!!

As I've mentioned in a few of my more recent posts, I've found it difficult to find time to make my way up north, due a lot of house projects, etc. Well, the driving force behind many of these house projects is a new addition to the Searl family. That's right, Jill and I are having a baby! It's very exciting and I can't wait. I look forward to the day when I can buy my child his or her first pair of hiking boots! For now, though, I suppose it's time to start looking at those baby backpacks so I can bring him or her up to the Whites sooner than that :)