I remember the first thing I bought was a pair of Vasque Cascade backpacking boots. They were the last pair from an outfitter just outside Albemarle, NC. At the time I had done some day hikes in the Uwharrie National Forest and sneakers were inadequate. Plus I had read up on The Complete Walker by Colin Fletcher, and it was pretty obvious that more substantial hiking gear was needed for whatever sort of trip I was going to take.
Unlike boot care today, I had to SnoSeal those babies to soften the leather and then walk around with them for weeks to break them in. I wore them to work at the radio station, around town, in the mall, pretty much anywhere I could.
Wildly rugged and accessible only by a washboard road which goes well off the asphalt, Linville Gorge Wilderness is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East” and offers a stunning challenge of hiking trails, from simple visits to an overlook to drops into the deep, cool environs along the riverbank.
For me, the first break-in hike was up to Table Rock, which soared over the eastern rim of the Linville Gorge. Table Rock was a bear to climb, but it proved the boots were more than up to the task of
putting down serious trail miles. Sturdy and reliable, I never so much as turned an ankle. The added insurance of stiff leather hugging my ankles firmly went a long way to boosting my confidence when negotiating strenuous trail. And nothing else beat the exhilaration of standing on top of the summit without so much as a blister.