About Russell

Russell has been a member since July 14th 2010, and has created 132 posts from scratch.

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How To Select the Best Hiking Boots

Best Hiking Boots

Why go to a lot of trouble selecting the best hiking boots? Because they are your feet, yes your feet. If you are going hiking, that means a lot of steps. Probably the most important part of your body to keep healthy during a hike is your feet. If you can’t walk, you can’t get back home.

Your boots are probably the most important item that affects the enjoyment of hiking. That is why you want to pick the best hiking boots for your needs. If you have a pair of boots that are uncomfortable or are designed for the wrong hiking experience, it can ruin the entire trip.

Another thing to consider is that these boots are to last you for a long while, so don’t just buy a boot because it’s on sale. Get the right set of boots for you. Don’t skimp on your hiking boots. You might regret it when it is too late and you are miles into your hike.

Choosing the right hiking boots for your feet can be confusing, but here is some advice to make it easy.

The Hiking Boot Selection Process

First and foremost, you must try on the boots. I know ths sounds like a “duh” moment, but trying them on in a store and verifying its comfort is key to an enjoyable hike. How do you know if the boot is a correct fit?

  • Try on boots in the afternoon. The foot normally swells during the day.
  • Bring the socks that you are normally going to wear. Proper fit depends on having the exact socks.
  • Put the boots on and lace them snugly (but don’t over tighten them to the point where you are hurting your fingers, that is too tight) . Stand and try and raise your heel. Your heel should rise no more than 1/8”. Too much heel lift means too much friction.
  • Tighten the laces and find a hard object to kick the toe of the boot into, like a post or the floor. Kick the object a couple of times. If your toes slam into the front of the boot, then these boots are not fitting correctly. On a steep downhill trail, your toes will get a beating and it could cause problems with your toenails or feet. Your toes should press towards the front of the boot on the third or fourth kick, but never slam. A few things you can try if your toes are smashed is to change socks, re-lace the boots or try on another pair of boots.
  • Some stores have a ramp you can walk up and down on to help you decide if they fit. Use it. Trails aren’t flat, use the tools in the store to identify the best hiking boots for your feet.
  • If you have time (and you should have time for this decision) walk around the store. The more time you can spend in the boots, the better you will know if they fit properly.
  • Before you buy your boots, make sure that you can return them. Some stores are good about letting you return them if you have only worn them indoors and not had them for a long period of time. Verify the return policy before you leave.
  • After you have bought your boots, they need to be broken in. (Do not head straight out to a 10 mile trail with new boots!) Wear the boots around the house, take short walks around the block. If they seem to fit well, you can wear them on a short day hike. The object is to get the boots to form to your feet.

Money Saving Tip: If you are on a budget then try the boots on in a store, find one you really like and then buy that same model online for a lot less.

Care

  • Make sure that you straighten the tongue every time you put your boots on. This prevents the tongue from sagging and creating creases. Creases in the tongue cause blisters and friction.
  • Make sure to read the care of the boots. Treat them if necessary to create a water repellent seal. If they are leather and they get wet, let them dry slowly. Don’t put them in front of a fire, this can cause cracking of the leather. Open them up every night on the trail and after a hike to let them air. Also, before putting them away until your next hike, clean them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Get any dirt off of them to help prolong their life. This can be done with a bristle brush. Treat the leather with saddle soap, let them air dry and then apply a sealer or wax.

When Choosing the Best Hiking Boots For You, Keep These Things in Mind:

  • Materials:
    • Leather: More durable and water resistant. Heavier than synthetic. Normally meant for longer hikes with a full backpack.
    • Synthetic: Lighter weight than leather, but shows wear and tear more.
    • Waterproof materials: Many boots offer a waterproof membrane that is attached to the inside of the boot. (such as Gore-Tex ®)
  • Hiking Type:
    • Day Hikes with a couple bottles of water in a fanny pack
    • Over Night Hikes with a small pack
    • Multiple Day Hikes with a 40 to 50 pound backpack
  • Boot Cut:
    • Low Cut: Good for more level terrain, shorter hikes. Not a lot of ankle support
    • Mid Height: More ankle support, can be used for short multi-day hikes with a lighter pack.
    • High Cut: Normally the most durable and sturdy boot. Perfect for long multi-day hikes with a heavy pack.

Day Hike / Low Cut Boots

A Low Cut Boot would be the best hiking boot for day hikes. These would be used on a day hike with level terrain. You would have a small day pack or a fanny pack with a couple of bottles of water. Also, the trail should not have a lot of gravel, because it could get in between your sock and the boot. These boots can also be waterproof and are made of synthetic or synthetic/leather combination.

Long Day or Short Multi-Day Hike / Mid-Cut Boots

The best hiking boots for a longer hike would be the mid-cut. Mid-Cut will be good for steeper inclines and they have more ankle support. Most are waterproof and come in synthetic or a synthetic/leather combination. They do a slightly better job of keeping out gravel and pebbles and will give you more stability on muddy surfaces. These boots have adequate support for carrying a lighter, small backpack.

Mountaineering or Long Multi-Day Hike / High Cut Boots

High Cut Boots are the best hiking boots for the serious hiker. These are all leather hiking boots or can be a leather/synthetic combination. They are an extremely strong boot with a lot of ankle support designed to be worn with a heavy pack. They can also be used with crampons for snow. These are truly designed for the most challenging terrain.

In Addition: It’s great to have the perfect hiking boot, but what happens when your laces break?

It’s important to have a spare pair of laces on the trail. The laces should be designed for boots and not shoes. I would suggest a round style instead of a flat style lace, these tend to last longer. The support that laces provide is paramount to a comfortable hike.

Every hiking boot needs a good boot insole. Insoles do wear out over time. Make sure that your insole is still giving you the best cushioning.

Remember, protect your feet with the appropriate hiking boots. They will thank you at the end of the day.

I hope that this report has been helpful in selecting the best hiking boots for you.

Bluffs of the North Fork – San Gabriel River – Georgetown, Texas

Bluffs of the North Fork - Good Water TrailTrail: Good Water Trail

Directions: From Austin, take I-35 North.  Exit 261 onto TX 29 West.  Follow TX 29 to 183 and turn right onto 183 North.  After crossing over the San Gabriel River, turn right onto CR 258.  The Tejas Camp is on your left after you cross back over the San Gabriel River. 

General Information:

Terrain: This entire trail stays near the shoreline of the San Gabriel River as well as Lake Georgetown.  It is flat and comprised of sandy soil.

Distance: We took a portion of the entire trail, about 4 miles out and back, but the entire Good Water Trail is over 20 miles long and goes around Lake George.

Family Oriented: This is a great family trail.  It is flat and wide in some parts.  You can go as far as you like and then head back.

Dogs Allowed: Yes.

Bluffs of the North Fork - San Gabriel River - Good Water TrailHours: Open all year round.

Fees: Free

About:  The Good Water Trail was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  It follows the path of an old roadbed and stays near the shoreline of the San Gabriel River and Lake George.  The trail itself is rather flat with almost no elevation change.  At the start of the trail, there are bluffs on the opposite side of the river.  Further along, bluffs appear on the trail side.  Many hikers traverse between the bluffs to obtain an amazing view from the top.

Good Water Trail - San Gabriel River - Bluffs of the North ForkYou pick up the trail at the parking lot.  There is a set of outhouses at the trailhead.  The first half mile of the trail is tree lined and shady.  After that point, it opens up to large fields on the right and the river on your left.

Continuing on, the trail intersects with an old roadbed, turn left here.  Continue on until you see a stone column with a sign that reads 1.8 to the Tejas Camp.  Pass by the sign and continue on around the river bend.  You will then see a 9 mile post.  This sign indicates that it is 9 miles to the Cedar Breaks Park.

If you turn around here, you will have hiked about two miles in, thus creating a four mile hike.  If you do want a longer hike, you can go to the 8 mile post or even further.

San Gabriel River - Good Water Trail - Bluffs of the North ForkThe Hike: This hike was in early October, another warm day in Austin.  Not a cloud in the sky and almost no breeze.  We arrived at the parking lot around 10:00, so the sun was already high.

We welcomed the shade at the beginning of the hike.  At this time, all of Texas had been experiencing a drought for over a year.  Because of this, the river, at least in this section, was a dry river bed.  No water in it at all.  We were disappointed at this, but there was still greenery and birds around.

The fields were filled with dried foliage.  It appeared that beautiful flowers had bloomed a few weeks earlier.  All that was left were the stalks.

The bluffs that rose above the valley floor were a brilliant white.  They towered above the river bed.

After we had walked about a mile and a half, the sun was really beating down on us.  We reached the 1.8 mile marker and went a bit further before deciding to go ahead and turn around.

Tips:

  • Make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen.  A lot of this trail leaves you exposed to the sun.
  • We were met by a man at the parking lot that warned us that hunting season had begun and to make sure that we did not deviate from the trail even a little bit.  Be very careful during hunting season.

 

Hoping you next hike is Relaxing, Safe and Inspiring,

Russell

Hiking Apps for the Droid Phone

Do you have a smartphone?  Well, there are a multitude of hiking apps available for it.   I have reviewed a few of the apps available for the Droid operating system.  (I am sure that the IPhone has similar, if not the same, apps available).


Google has an app called My Tracks.  This app is really designed for the runner or biker that wants to keep track of their time on a reoccurring route.  It will map your route onto google maps and record your time.  You can also take that data and download it into a spreadsheet to log your training.  It can be a useful app for hiking as well, but you cannot download any topography maps.  Thus, you are limited to hiking trails that are within cell tower range.  The best thing about this app is that it is free.


Another app is called Back Country Navigator Pro.  It is made for hiking, but has one major drawback, it doesn’t display elevation change.  You can download maps and it does a very good job of tracking your progress.  But, I like to see a graph of my elevation change.  You can download it for free and use it for 14 days.  After the trial period, it is $9.99.


Finally, there is Backpacker GPS Trails Pro.  This app was created for hiking and backpacking.  You can download topography maps and it graphs your elevation change.  It is rather cumbersome for downloading maps, but it gets easier once you get used to the interface.  This is my recommended app to purchase ($9.99).  It has an online component where you can send all of your hiking experiences, storing them online at Backpacker.com.


I will say that there is no app that is as powerful as a stand alone hiking GPS unit.  The antenna on a cellphone (to connect to GPS satellites) is not as powerful nor as accurate.  Not to mention the high battery usage.  You will probably run down your cellphone battery in about five hours of hiking while using one of these apps.


Other apps available are Backpack Planner, Camp Checklist and Camping Trip Planner.  These are basic list programs.  They can help you make sure that you have everything you need for your next trip.

John’s Mountain Trail – Chattahoochee National Forest

Trail:  John’s Mountain Trail – Walker County, Georgia – Chattahoochee National Forest

Directions:  Directions From Atlanta

General Information:

Terrain:  This trail starts off at the top of a ridgeline.  It follows it for about 1.8 miles then starts a slow descent to the convergence of three trails: Pinhoti, Keown Falls and the Johns Mountain Trail.  At this point the Johns Mountain Trail follows the Pinhoti for a steep one mile 400 foot increase in elevation.

Distance: Approximately a 3.5 mile loop.

Elevation Change: 540 Feet

Family Oriented: Probably the best part of this trail is the observation deck at the beginning of the trail.  If you have young kids or adults that are not in good shape, this trail is not for you.  But, I do recommend you driving to the top just for the view.  Otherwise, this is a nice ridgeline trail with a strenuous end.

Johns Mountain Trail - Observation DeckDogs Allowed: Because this is a part of the Chattahoochee National Forest, I assume that dogs are allowed.  I would advise checking with the local forest ranger before bringing your pet with you.  Your dog must be on a leash.  You must clean up after your animal.

Hiking Fees: No Fee.

About:  This trail is “off the beaten path” to say the least.  In order to get to it, you must take the Forest Service Road 208.  This is a two mile, gravel road.  It can be steep in areas and also slightly washed out.  I would think that a regular sedan would be able to make it to the top, but I would suggest a vehicle with high ground clearance.  Four/All wheel drive is not necessary.

Johns Mountain Trail - Sign PostUpon reaching the top, there is a nice parking area and the observation deck.  I will have to say that this is one of most spectacular unobstructed views that I have seen from any of the Georgia trails.  It is a pastoral scene with a church and fields with cows, as well as other smaller mountains.  The view alone is worth coming up for.

To find the trailhead, go in between the large rocks on the edge of the parking lot.  You will see a communication building.  The trail goes right behind it.

During the first mile and a half, the trail follows the ridgeline.  The trail is lined with beautiful stones.  There are numerous locations with large boulders on the side of the trail.

After the ridgeline section, the trail starts a gradual descent.  The rock formations disappear and it looks more like your typical Georgia hill area flora.  When you reach the low point of the trail, you will see a trail sign where three trails come together; the Pinhoti (meaning Turkey Home) trail – a 335 mile trail across Alabama and Georgia, the Keown Falls Trail and the John’s Mountain Trail.

Johns Mountain Trail - Keown fallsAt this point, if you go to the right, you will see an overlook deck.  This deck is currently in disrepair and you should not walk on it.  But, the Keown Falls Trail travels beside the deck.  You will reach a flight of stone steps built into the rock.  If you take these steps and then turn to the right at the bottom of them, you will see Keown Falls.  It is a cave type structure with the falls flowing over the edge.  The trail does go into the cave, you can stand behind the falls.  These are really wet water falls, so if there has not been any rain for a while, the falls may be just a trickle.  This was the case for our hike.

Going back up the staircase and to the signpost, the John’s Mountain Trail continues on for one more mile.  This part of the trail coincides with the Pinhoti Trail.  This last mile can be grueling.  You are gaining 400 feet in elevation in less than a mile.

Johns Mountain Trail BerriesThe Hike:  Like other trails, we knew we had to get up early and face a long drive to get to the trailhead.  We arrived at the parking lot at 8:30.  The gravel Forest Service Road was in good shape and we had no problem making it to the top in our SUV.

The parking lot was empty.  It was mid-September and the air was a comfortable 59 degrees.  Great hiking weather if you ask me.  There were some high clouds, but a lot of blue sky.  Stepping onto the Observation deck was great.  The view was extremely serene.  A wonderful place to just be.

We bathed in the beauty of the scenery for a few minutes and then headed down the trail.  The leaves had only barely started to change.  I figured that they would be at their peak of color in about six more weeks.  The trail is easy to follow.  The blazes were comprised of white and green rectangles.  The green were plastic and the white were paint marks.

We followed the ridgeline down to the trail post and then went down the Keown Falls Trail to see the falls.  Because it had not rained in over two weeks, the falls was a trickle at best.

We headed back up the staircase and onto the final demanding mile uphill.  The trail was hard, but it made for a good work out.

We made our way one more time to the observation deck to enjoy the view and then headed back home.

Johns Mountain Trail Pinhoti Trail BlazeTips:

  • The last mile of this trail is extremely steep and rises 400 feet in just one mile.  Be prepared.
  • The trail is well blazed, traveled and maintained.
  • The Forest Service Road 208 is a gravel road to the top of the mountain.  A regular sedan is not recommended.  A vehicle with better ground clearance would be a plus.
  • If you are going to enjoy the Keown Falls, then go a day or two after a heavy rain.

 

Hoping your next hike is Relaxing, Safe and Inspiring,

 

Russell

Cloudland Canyon State Park – Rising Fawn, Georgia

    Cloudland Canyon State ParkTrail:  Waterfalls Trail

    Directions:  From Atlanta, take I-75 North to exit 320, highway 136 west towards Lafayette.  Stay on highway 136 for approximately 47 miles.  Turn right onto Cloudland Canyon Park Road.

    General Information:

    Terrain:  The trail to the waterfalls from the parking lot is very steep and has multiple levels of staircases.    It is extremely strenuous.  There is a total of over 1200 steps.

    Distance: Approximately a two mile round trip.

    Family Oriented: This trail is great for older kids, 12 and above.  Younger kids will not be able to handle the amount of stairs. It is not suited for younger children.  Because the trail is steep and slippery in some locations, we do not advise that you carry any young children in a front or back pack.

    Waterfalls Trail - Cloudland CanyonDogs Allowed: Yes, must be on a leash.  You must clean up after your animal.

    Hiking Fees: Because this is a state park, there is a $5.00 fee that you can pay at the parking lot.  You can also purchase an annual state parking pass, which is good at all state parks.

    About:  This hike is quite a workout.  You may not realize it when you are going down into the canyon, but you have to climb all of those stairs to get back out.  But, it is well worth it.  These waterfalls are two of my favorites in the state.  They are elegant, simple and juxtaposed against huge boulders and old growth trees.

    The trail begins at the top of the canyon at the rim.  There is a spectacular overlook that takes the viewer’s sight down and out the mouth of the canyon.  The canyon walls are mostly forested, but large outcroppings of rock reveal themselves at different elevations.  The variation in colors from the deep green forest to the oranges and tans of the rock provides you with an awe inspiring scene.

    Also at the overlook, you are greeted with the sound of the waterfalls below.  They are mostly hidden from view because of the thick vegetation.

    This trail is wonderful to hike all year round, but it is spectacular during the fall with the leaves changing and in the spring, early summer with the local flora in bloom.

    Cloudland Canyon - Waterfalls TrailAs mentioned above, the terrain is very steep.  The Georgia state park service has created an amazing set of staircases to help you to the canyon floor.  There are numerous benches along the way, that you will utilize while ascending back up to the canyon rim.

    The trails are well marked and it is nearly impossible to get lost.  Just keep heading down.

    Many rocky overhangs adorn the trail.  Be careful if you have a pack.  Also, if they have had any rain recently, the trail will be wet and slippery.

    Cloudland Canyon may be hard to get to, but it is truly a jewel in the crown of the Georgia state park system.

    Waterfall two - Cloudland CanyonThe Hike:  We got up extremely early, knowing that we had a three hour drive ahead of us.  We wanted to be on the trail in the early morning, so it would be cool.  We arrived at around 8:45 and were greeted with about 60 degree temperatures.  It was mid-September.  Looking out at the overlook, we saw the sun touching the western rim of the canyon.

    After enjoying the view for a few minutes, we decided to head down to the canyon floor and the waterfalls.  Because we did arrive that early, we almost had the entire trail to ourselves.

    The stairs just kept on coming.  No sooner would we reach the bottom of one flight, just to be greeted by another set.  The stairs do hug the canyon wall.  There are beautiful mammoth boulders jutting out from the cliff face.

    The entire hike down was completely shaded.  This kept us and the surrounding area cool.

    We took the fork to go to the second waterfall first.  Arriving at the waterfall overlook, we were presented with a beautiful cascade of water falling over what looked like a 60 foot drop into a clear pool.  There was a viewing platform which we were constrained.  There are numerous signs in the park that state no climbing on rocks, swimming or wading.

    It was then time to climb part of the way back up to go to the first waterfall.  It was just a spectacular as the previous.  You are able to walk right up to the pool.  This waterfall appears to be a bit taller.

    Waterfall one - Cloudland CanyonAfter enjoying the sound of falling water and the solitude of the place, we started the climb back up to the top.  We found ourselves having to stop a few times to catch our breath before we moved on.

    These waterfalls are truly incredible.  They are the definition of a waterfall.  I highly recommend this hike to anyone.  They are not to be missed.

    There are other hikes in the park:  The west rim loop trail, 5 miles; Sitton’s Gulch Loop Trail, 6.5 miles; Long branch trail, 5.6 miles/one way; Two-mile backcountry loop trail, 2.5 miles round trip.

    Tips:

    • This is reverse of a normal mountain hike.  You start at the top and hike to the bottom.  Know your limits.
    • The trail is well blazed, traveled and maintained.
    • Camping areas as well as the parking lot fill up fast on the weekends.
    • This trail is a great alternative to hiking on ridge lines or mountain tops.  The falls are spectacular and the tree cover keeps you cool.

     

    Hoping your next hike is Relaxing, Safe and Inspiring,

     

    Russell