The Sam sandal

Last summer, H, A, and I decided to do the Hancock Loop, north of the Kancamagus Highway. North and South Hancock (technically, I think, the north and south peaks of Mt. Hancock) are 4,000-footers. The trailhead is right at the hairpin curve that is so prominent toward the west end of the Kanc.

This is a wet walk, with lots of brook crossings, and at a substantial wade a few miles in, I shucked my trail runners, tied their laces together, and barefooted daintily across with them draped around my neck.

With me on the other side, H decided to toss her shoes the 20-30 feet across the swift-moving stream. As she wound up for a good overhand heave, I suggested that she make the throw underhand for better control. She, of course, always takes fatherly advice (which is to say she generally humors the old man), so she began again. Back swung her arm, then forward, and the shoe, catching oddly on the end of a finger, flew almost straight up in the air, and to the sound of three people bleating “Oh, noooo!” plunged into the churning water. It briefly caught an eddy on my side, but I couldn’t get to it because the bank was too steep. Off it went like an unruddered boat, sluicing downriver with me chasing it on one side and A on the other, while H hopped around emitting sounds of disgust and dismay. I quickly ran cursing into an impenetrable wall of underbrush, but A swiftly disappeared downstream, shadowing the runaway footwear as it plunged through minor rapids and occasionally paused tantalizingly in small eddies.

I scrambled back across the stream, and with H limping alongside, headed downriver to see what success A might have had. No joy. He returned empty-handed from the rougher water downstream. So here we were, several miles from the trailhead, with six feet and five shoes. The walking wasn’t too rough by White Mountain standards, but it wasn’t verdant greensward, either. We agreed A should continue over the peaks, while I would slowly walk H back out to the road. She began by keeping a sock on her shoeless right foot, and I thought we would switch when she needed a break—she could slip one of my shoes on, and I would go socky for a while, and so forth.

But when the time came for a change, H had a better idea. An EMT with a certain amount of experience in the woods, she always carries a Sam Splint in the bottom of her pack. She pulled it out, rummaged in her first aid kit for a triangular bandage, and with a little trial and error, created this elegant sandal that saw her comfortably out.

This does not, of course, mean that she avoided being teased mercilessly. Hey, nice arm, kid!

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