Saturday, January 2, 2016

Gear Review: Asolo Fugitive GTX Hiking Boots

Hands down my favorite hiking boot I've ever owned
Trying out the Asolos in the Intermountain West 
Six months of hiking in the Midwest and Rockies in my Asolo Fugitive GTXs has made this my favorite hiking boot I've ever owned. Its sturdy and fairly waterproof design has been delightfully easy on my right ankle which has limited my hiking in the past. Its durability and design make it a boot that's breathable enough for summer backpacking but warm enough to handle most conceivable winter temperatures. 

I would call these my "3.5 season boots". I say this because I can't really imagine getting cold in these boots and they're very compatible with microspikes/snow chains. However, they don't quite replace the need for mountaineering boots in trips with some degree of mixed mountaineering or any setting where crampons are needed. 

Outstanding design for bad joints

I think that most of us have a joint that ends up being the great limiter in our outdoor adventures. For me, that joint has been my right ankle. There's a long history of moderate to severe right arch pain related to my trips involving longer distances. In baby videos of me learning to walk, I was already walking with my right foot turned out and with supination. Its the joint that is the first to get sore and the longest to heal. 

What has made me such an enthusiastic fan of these boots is that after five days of hiking trekking 60 miles with 20,000 vertical elevation gain (all above 8,000ft of altitude) I had no right ankle pain. I walked right in to work the next day as if I had been on a relaxing Bahama vacation. I don't think I've ever experienced this before and I've hiked with sturdy, well-designed backpacking boots for a long time. 
I ran up this class III scree at 11,000ft like it was a paved road
Why I chose the Asolos over the equivalent Lowas, Vasques and Salomons

When it came down to purchasing boots, I was going for something that would be a nice blend of a technical hiking boot but not quite a $500 dollar trekking boot. I wanted something I could take backpacking or for a longer day hike. This is particularly sensitive towards my proclivity to hike through poorly marked routes, not trails. 

Now, when it comes to brands, I'm not married to one but I love my Lowa Mountaineering Boots and my Salomon Trail Runners. The Lowas are now 5 years old and have accompanied me on mountaineering trips from Rainier, Elbert, Hood, Adams, to winter ascents in the Presidentials of New Hampshire. I adore trail runners from Salomon; the've kept me warm and steady when I run on the icy, snow-ridden Chicago lakeshore trail. I started with these two brands for hiking boots.

I somewhat quickly discounted the Lowa Renegades; the angled design of the ankle collar didn't feel right with my ankle. As for the Vasques, I liked them in general but the lace-up design didn't fit my feet as well as the other two. The Vasque material overall seemed more durable but my feet began sweating in them after 5 minutes of walking around the store. They're great boots, but not for me. 

The Asolos were the heaviest of the four, coming in at 3 lbs 2 oz compared to the Salomon Quest 4Ds which were 2 lbs 7 oz. It was a really tough decision at that point. I really loved the lightness of the Salomons which walked and almost felt like trail runners to me. But what really pushed me to go for the heavier Asolos was the lace up design; the boot contoured to my foot better than any of the others. This made all the difference out on the trail. I could hike 12 miles through the trail-less Ruby Mountains and wake up the next day to hike 14 miles through the Wasatch Mountains. My ankle felt no different despite buying a heavier boot.
Asolos passed my test!
Footwear Minimalism

I've gone through several changes in thought processes during the last 10 years of serious hiking and backpacking. At one point I was just a broke college kid who wore through a pair of boots that were thousands of miles overdue for replacement. I suppose every college kid thinks this way but investing in good footwear ensure that you're still hiking on the same joints decades down the line. 

At another point, I switched to either hiking in trail runners or mountaineering boots with nothing in between. This is also somewhat silly as, like everything outdoors, an experienced hiker will have a permutation of boots which can be adapted to many conditions. Now, most of us just don't have the resources to purchase 5 different boots. Call me a minimalist but I think there's three types of footwear that a real outdoorsman/outdoorswoman should have which will accommodate 95% of terrains and trips; Lightweight but sturdy trail runners, three-season backpacking boots and mountaineering boots. Hence, last summer I'm glad I invested in the second category.

I'm so impressed by the Asolos and given my complete lack of ankle pain that's plagued my hiking in the past, I'm sure I'll buy the same pair when these ones wear out. Glad I found my right match!

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Florida Finish! Finally Visited All 50 States

A conference trip in Orlando made it possible to check off a big life goal: visit all 50 US states.
Cape Canaveral National Seashore
The goal of visiting every US state is likely at least crossed the mind of most Americans. Its somewhat of an unusual and meaningless travel goal by most accounts. First of all, there's the issue of what constitutes a visit. Certainly visiting an airport doesn't really count. How about driving straight through a state? Is there a minimum amount of time or activity that must be completed to qualify as visiting? Secondly, there's varying levels of difficulty that are determined by size and distance from the traveler. Finally, should some states count as much as others? California is the size of a half dozen eastern seaboard states. Does the accomplishment of visiting Delaware equal that of visiting Alaska? 

Silly travel goals lead to sillier questions. I'm okay with just saying, "Yes I visited every state and it wasn't just through airport layovers".

Its a bit unusual that Florida, of all states, ended up being my final unvisited state. Its such a tourism and travel destination that you would think I would have had a reason to come down this way. Thankfully, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association's Annual Conference was in Orlando this year. What a perfect reason to come!
Finally saw an alligator!
Really, there's not much to say of a trip that was 90% for professional reasons. However I did find it fascinating to be in a tropical part of the US. All the staples of Florida life were around; palm trees, alligators, theme parks and humid weather. We were happy to shed our winter coats for the warm weather. 

A conference of this size was hosted by Disneyworld, which is another place I'm surprised I haven't been to yet. Though I'm not a hardcore disney fan, I was impressed with the level of hospitality (and organization!) of the affair. 
Disneyworld's Coronado Springs is where we stayed
We did end up visiting Cape Canaveral National Seashore to at least ensure that the visit to the 50th state included a national park trip. We hiked around the seashore taking in the warm weather and sounds of the ocean. Lake Michigan would be offering us these sights! Overall it was a morning well spent.

So where to from here? Well I've climbed 31/50 state high points so there's plenty left to travel. Plus I haven't actually done much in Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas or Iowa. Even my "home" states of California, Maine and Texas have a lot more that needs to be seen. So this is a nice thing to have accomplished but there's much more to see. Don't expect this blog to close down now that goal is finished!

Read. Plan. Get Out There!