The Grand Canyon is aptly named, but beyond the depth and breadth of the span, there is a stillness and quiet found on the trails that can’t be captured in photos. Edward Abbey introduced me to the notion in Desert Solitaire in which he reflects on a summer in Arches National Park. Southwest heat brings time to a crawl. When the sun is high the critters sleep with no movement save for the occasional crow or vulture half dozing on rising thermals. The feeling is exacerbated when stumbling across a rusty steel wheelbarrow brought to the canyon for copper mining in 1893, but long since abandoned to the dust. Such a reticent world is so foreign and rare it feels almost uncanny, and thus such a respite to level the keel is all the more welcome.
And for photographers there is a depth like no where else. As the sun begins to set the harsh light transitions into a warm glow revealing a gradient of discrete, jagged layers of earth created by the repeating buttes and mesas formed by the wandering Colorado. The palette stretches from depths already black in shadow, swatch by swatch, to the raw intensity of the sun before repeating, softly mirrored in the clouds.
Photos were taken from the Desert View Outlook, Grandview Trail, and Page Spring Spur off Redwall Trail. It’s recommended to begin at first light to avoid the worst of the midday heat. Learn more at nps.gov
Both of these sunglasses are made by fairly new companies. SOLO began as a San Diego State University MBA project to create a eyewear brand that gives a portion of profits to restore vision to those in need (similar to Warby Parker). Sunski was born through a kickstarter campaign that raised sixteen times their
original goal and is now a member of 1% for the planet, meaning they give 1% of net revenue to a vetted environmentally minded organization of their choice. Both companies manufacture their glasses in China.
Red Wing Iron Ranger 8111 in Amber Harness (size 12D). USA. $300. Purchase.
I set out to find a handsome pair of brogue-less, cap toe boots that are made in the USA of veg-tanned leather and finished off with a commando sole. Such a boot is nearly impossible to find (if you’ve found it in a size 12/13 without a six month wait, speak up, unless they are Viberg’s $710 Service Boot, whose price I cannot justify). The Red Wing Iron Ranger was ultimately the closest I could find to my ideal, however it does have a few shortcomings.
UPDATE [9.24.14] J.Crew has created a Red Wing Iron Ranger x Beckman, basically the Iron Ranger with the Beckman sole. Not sure what Brick Settler leather looks like in person, but the design is right.
UPDATE [11.06.14] New before/after photos posted below from a maintenance session with Obenauf’s leather preservative. The original laces have also been replaced with a leather set.
UPDATE [9.7.15] A reader has informed me that Red Wing recently released a new model of the Iron Ranger in Oxblood Mesa with a mini lug Vibram outsole that they’ve numbered 8119. They’re $320 on Amazon and, until I get a pair and document, customer photos can be found on reddit.
Constructed in the worlds first Fair Trade Certified Shoe Factory, these Oliberte Mogado Hi’s are socially responsible and helping to shape the future of ethical shoe production. They have a rugged aesthetic, but are very comfortable, with a thin, nearly flat sole and a soft pliable leather upper. After about 2 months of wear I decided to punch a few more lace holes and clean them up in the same method I outlined in How To Clean Desert Boots post using saddle soap and leather preservative. The results can be seen in a side-by-side below.
I then strapped them on my feet as my sole pair of shoes on a road trip from Austin, TX to San Francisco, CA that included hikes in Big Bend, Grand Canyon (shown), and Sequoia National Parks. They were actually great for camping since they can be easily slipped on and off and used as slippers when untied or laced up and day hiked in (I wouldn’t use these for real hiking, as their thin soles don’t have enough support or rock protection). Through all the abuse they have held up great, looking better with use than they did new, and I’m still wearing them daily. They’re very informal, so probably best used on weekends or in casual office environments.
Ethical Note: While I have written this post objectively, these shoes were purchased at a discount and I stand to benefit if Oliberte succeeds.
Ratio Clothing Blue Oxford Campus Shirt in 50’s Single-Ply Cotton. USA. $98. Purchase.
Bonobos Premium Denim, Flatiron Dark Rinse, Slim Straight Jeans. USA. $145. Purchase.
Timex Weekender Watch with Red, White, & Blue Strap. $50. Purchase.
Aptly named for a custom shirt maker, Ratio Clothing is a young company based out of Denver, CO that has set out to provide reasonably priced, American made, dress shirts. My Blue Oxford Campus Shirt fits perfectly, which is very unusual for my 6’5″, beanstalk build. Bespoke shirts sound like an unnecessary extravagance until I take look in my closet at all the poorly fitting shirts I try not to wear. If your weight doesn’t fluctuate it makes sense to buy a few staple shirts that will fit great, never go out of style (such as blue or white oxfords), last for a long time, and stay tucked in. They also guarantee the fit and hold on to your measurements once you’re dialed in. When thinking about purchasing be aware that Ratio’s shirts can take up to a month to arrive if you order during the holiday season–I ordered mine on Dec 12th and received it Jan 13th. Thankfully they warned me in advance so it wasn’t a surprise and, now that I have the shirt in hand, I can assure you it was well worth the wait.
I ordered my first pair of Bonobos back in 2009 when they were made in the USA with organic cotton. Since then some things have changed (as of March 2013 they’ve raised a total of $73M in funding) however their denim is still made in the USA, albeit of conventional cotton. Of course the pants themselves still fit great and over the years they have become the only brand of pant I wear. In January 2012 I moved from chinos to denim with my first pair of Flatirons. As my Levis slowly disintegrated and my Flatirons began to show my cell phone I pulled the trigger on the second pair you see in these photos. They are a simple dark wash jean that skip the factory pre-sanding so they look great and will fade on the actual creases of wear. They are a bit tighter than the straight slim chinos, but look fantastic and invite many compliments. I might do a future post on Bonobos chinos, but if you’re looking I highly recommend the Hickory Slicks or Jet Blues.
38oz Stainless Steel Nalgene. China. $50. Purchase.
Muji Notebook. $3.75/5. Purchase.
Rhodia Pocket Notebook. France. $5. Purchase.
Parker Jotter Ballpoint Pen. UK. $10. Purchase.
Fenix E01 Flashlight. Imported. $18. Purchase.
Benchmade Mini Griptilian 556. USA. $95. Purchase.
Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Scotch. UK.
Neon Orange Paracord
From left to right:
- Alden for J.Crew Natural Cap Toe Jumper Boot (size 12). USA. $547. Purchase.
- Oak Street Bootmakers Natural Cap Toe Trench Boot (size 13). USA. $426. Purchase.
- Red Wing 9016 Beckman in Cigar Featherstone (size 12). USA. $330. Purchase.
- Wolverine 1000 Mile Rugged Boot in Brown (size 12). USA. $355. Purchase.
- Timberland 6 Inch Zip Earthkeepers Boot in Burnished Tan (size 13). Imported. $170. Purchase.
- Bonobos Premium Denim, Flatiron Dark Rinse, Slim Straight Jeans. USA. $145. Purchase.
To preface, I’m partial to the following: a true goodyear welt for resoling and longevity, cap toes to aesthetically break the length of the shoe (I wear a Brannock size 13, but for those that run a size large I ordered down as noted above), a method for speedily donning the boots, clean edges on cut leather (as opposed to broguing), a sole with traction since these are for NYC winter, leather lining for boot longevity & comfort, and made in the USA. It should also be noted that I’ve updated this post a few times to improve the formatting and better articulate my thoughts.
Clarks Desert Boot in Bees Wax Cleaned with Saddle Soap.
I’ve had these boots for a year and have worn them hard; daily in NYC, as well as on short hikes in Austin, TX and Portland, OR. They’re not the ideal hiking boot, but when traveling, they are so light and versatile it’s too easy to wear them to work, the airport, and have them as the only shoe on a trip. During this year of abuse, the only care they’ve received was a new pair of laces after the original pair gave out on my walk to the office. With winter approaching, it was time to clean and restore them before the salt water puddles resume their assault on the dried, porous leather. The technique used here is quite simple and successfully brought my boots back to life. As visible in the photos they were thoroughly scuffed, but after a quick clean are, once again, presentable. Saddle soap was used because of the amount of dirt caked onto the shoes and the length of time gone without cleaning. However, it mostly cleans, so always use a conditioner after cleaning with soap. These boots have been worn frequently in the rain, which pulls oils from the leather, so they were pretty dry going in. I’ve selected Allen Edmonds Leather Lotion as the conditioner to add oils back into the leather and prevent drying or cracking. All it takes is a damp cloth, saddle soap, a dry cloth, leather lotion, and a bit of elbow grease.
Remove laces and use a damp cloth to gently wipe off surface debris. Gently, because you don’t want to scratch the surface of the leather with the dirt currently on the shoe. This is the same concept as when you’re washing a car, so wipe in a direction where the small scratches that inevitably do occur won’t be noticeable (this is usually parallel with the existing scratches).
Thoroughly rinse the cloth of debris and give a good squeeze to return to damp status. Rub the rag in saddle soap and apply a thin film to the leather uppers. The saddle soap is a translucent whitish color, you want to put on enough to let the leather soak up some of the soap, but not so much as to have clumps of the translucent soap visible. It won’t hurt if you over do it, but it’s wasteful. Let it soak in for a few minutes and wipe off any excess along with this second round of surface debris.
Apply more saddle soap as needed and buff it into the shoe. This is also the time to scrub away any serious build up of dirt or dye. I’d worn a new pair of dark blue chinos, which deposited dye onto the leather, but with a bit of scrubbing it was possible to remove the blue from the shoe.
With your shoe clean and lightly oiled from the saddle soap, it’s time to add the lotion that will condition and penetrate into the leather to maintain the leather’s flexibility and prevent water from being able to soak into the leather. Do this with a clean, dry, cotton cloth. Lightly buff the shoe to a dull sheen, aware that the color will be darker than it was originally.
Breakneck Ridge to Dia:Beacon route on Google Maps.
In the penultimate train car, at 10am on a Saturday, I rose to my feet eager for the next stop. As we approached it became clear that I was not the only New Yorker trading the city for the woods on this weekend in September. The leaves had yet to begin to turn, but the sweet smell of fall was already lingering on the morning’s perfect, cool, crisp air. As the train slowed to a stop, a queue of roughly 75 hikers formed between the last two train cars. Two by two we hopped down onto the wooden Breakneck Ridge platform and reflexively took a deep breath while looking up from forest to partly cloudy sky.