To my beloved Chaco sandals:
Our love-affair has been long – it’s spanned years, road miles, river miles, and even a country mile or two. Brand new, you were the prettiest shade of emerald green. Your many adjustable straps were confusing, but when I got them just right, it was heaven strapped to my little feet. And the best part of you? You came in a very comfy size seven wide.
Admittedly, our first few months together were rocky. Your straps were still stiff and every time we played together, you gave me a blister on my right pinkie toe. I couldn’t figure out if I loved or hated your big toe strap (turns out, I hated it). But I quickly learned to love your super-supportive foot bed and your thick, grippy Vibram soles. Those thick, black rubber soles kept me from busting my ass so many times on slippery river rocks.
I won’t mention (for fear of embarrassing you) how my friends forced me to clip you inside the cockpit of the kayak as we traveled by car between adventures. I mean, the smell. Really? So, so bad. I’m glad we outgrew that and continued our adventures.
Your sassy strappy self meant three seasons of the year saw my feet sporting the iconic “Chaco tan.” Those crisscross-y stripes were badges of honor; proof we’ve been outside together – a lot!
You’ve been my reliable companion for almost 12 years now. We’ve been on dozens of paddle trips through the sparkling clear springs of Florida and down all eleven of Duke Power’s dam-created lakes along the Catawba River in the Carolinas. You’ve held me in good stead paddling nearly a dozen mountain lakes in Western North Carolina and through week-long trips on Lake Jocassee in South Carolina. Our weekend excursion at Lake Powell in Utah, river trips through Browns Canyon in Colorado, whitewater rafting the New River and the Nantahala – all awesome! You were there for me as we helped create the Mecklenburg Regional Paddlers Club (the MRP) in Charlotte, NC in 2000. We were together for all of those trips we lead, through friendships that lasted, and those that didn’t. And together we took enough shit from whitewater kayakers that we tried that together, too (for a year, at least).
During the winter, we paired up with Smartwool socks and were ready to go paddling in the snow, at night under a full moon (even in December), or just for quick trips to the grocery store. We know fashion, don’t we? Let the people stare! Together, we handled anything.
Our biggest adventure was in 2013. Grand Canyon rocked our world didn’t it? Throughout the sixteen days and 225 miles, you stuck with me. Through 46 degree water, 115 degree daytime temperatures and so much sand. So. Much. Sand.
You know what surprised me about you, though, even after all these years? You turned into my faithful hiking companion during that trip! I took hiking boots with me, but never once pulled them out of my bag. Instead, we just took off through the sand and over the rocks!
We hiked to Elves Chasm, clambered up the backside chimney and launched ourselves off the mossy ledge into the clear, green pool below. Missing out on the Nankoweap hike was my fault – I failed to drink enough water that day. I think I made up for it, though, with our hike up Unkar Delta to see the pictographs.
The best was hiking up to the top of Deer Creek Falls to enjoy the green shade and coolness of Patio. Wow! The Little Colorado, Matkat, and Havasu didn’t disappoint us either. I earned my Chaco tan on that trip!
The point of this whole letter, though, is to admit it might be nearing time to say good bye. Your foot bed is cracking from top to bottom at the arch. The rubber supporting your back straps is ripping. And your color is badly fading.
It’s so hard to say goodbye. I’m not ready…not yet. Instead, I wanted to write this love letter to you, to thank you for your many years of support and for your adventurous spirit. We may yet have a few more adventures between us. Let’s keep going for as long as we can!