Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shoes and whales

black_and_blue4.JPGI made my last pair of shoes for a while. I finally succeeded at making a pair of hiking shoes. They are polyester fabric for light weight, breathability and quick drying. They have a Vibram hiking boot sole. The blue is flip-flop foam.

I hope to test them on the trails next weekend.

It's totally liberating to be able to make your own shoes. Not just sandals, but shoes. Shoes don't have to be so complicated. They can be really simple. It really bugs me that it is like trying to turn an ocean liner to get shoe companies to do anything different. "Oh no, we can't make zero-drop shoes, people will hurt themselves." "Oh no, we can't make wide shoes, people want their feet to look narrow and pretty." They can go on and on as much as they like now. I'm free of them.

My whale job starts again this week. I will be too busy to make any more shoes. But since finally achieved my goal, I don't need anymore shoes for a while.

I will be listening to whales again. But not much for BP. Seems they were a little too busy last summer to do much exploration. I wish my whale job was my only job. I am not liking my programming job lately.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tested my homemade sandals on a hike today

I tested my recent homemade hiking sandals, the brown ones with the lug sole.

I really like the lug sole. It has great traction.

I like the wide width of the sandals. With the thin sole, I really did feel almost barefoot.

I didn't like the leather top sole. It's too slippery.

The uppers have stretched out as I've worn them and now feel loose. With the slippery top sole, my foot slides around too much. I can't wear socks with them. I may try to glue on a thin layer of suede.

I think future shoes should have a little padding. These sandals don't have any. I could feel a lot of the rocks through the soles. While it's not really a problem, if I want to hike really fast with others, the lack of padding could slow me down. On the otherhand, for running I think the lack of padding feels ideal.

I think future shoes should be tighter around my arch. I don't need an arch support, but having the upper hug the arch would hold the shoe on better.

I'm getting there. I just wish I had the skills to deliberately carry out the features I want. I kind of feel like every pair I just get lucky if they work or not.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I hate my life right now

I hate my life right now. My typical day:

Go to work. Spend the whole day churning away at some project whose parameters change minute by minute. Get yelled at because I didn't read my boss' mind about the latest change. Go back and change it again. Meanwhile, as I'm trying to write the code, I'm interrupted every five minutes with questions, new projects, bugs in other projects, explanations about projects that aren't even mine, training, answering more questions. I cannot complete a thought. I cannot write code in an environment like this.

Go home. Spend a few hours alone with nobody to interrupt me. Ahh, the only peace I get other than while sleeping.

Man comes home. He talks constantly during the TV. He talks at the TV. He explains to me what is going on on the TV. He talks to the bird during the TV so I can't listen. I don't pay attention to the TV and then he interrupts constantly to comment on what is on the TV and then gets mad at me for not paying attention. Then when I pay attention he starts talking about something else. Then he gets mad when I can't remember a conversation or something on the news or whatever later.

I cannot pay attention to everything all at once at the same time. I cannot complete any thoughts. I feel like I have no time of my own except those few hours every day. Every minute of the rest of my day is too jammed with too may tugs in too many directions. I really hate my life right now.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hiker Trash

hikers.jpgThis is what Hiker Trash looks like. I don't know who these people are, but one of them is named Furniture. Anyway, I'm sometimes asked what Hiker Trash means and this is my answer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Latest homemade shoe

homemade closed toe sandalMy latest pair of shoes. A closed-toe sandal made of fabric with a leather sole. It started out as another pair of fisherman's sandals but the right one came out too small so I decided to try a closed toe front instead.

They are a little small for me. I guess the sole tracing I made to the shape of my foot works well for sandals but for shoes it needs to be bigger. And the upper needs to be bigger too. My feet are just so terribly wide. I have to really modify my patterns to fit my duck feet.

I got the plastic buckles and webbing from the hardware store. I stitched the uppers to a thick piece of leather, but under the leather I put a layer of non-stick shelf-liner material. It's sort of like a thin rubber-like material. The plan was to glue a real sole on, and I hoped the shelf-liner would provide a tiny bit of cushion plus a good surface for the glue, but I'm not sure I'm happy with the fit. They fit okay without socks, though.

open_toed_sandal3.JPG Update: I couldn't tolerate how tight they were over my toe so I made them into open-toed sandals. They are butt-ugly, I admit, but I'm going to try hiking in them. At least with the open toe, dirt that gets in should be able to be shaken out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Freedom is found in unusual places

I'm sure all my posts about making my own shoes have been quite boring and annoying. I was reading something online today, a group for barefoot runners. All these people worried about what they can buy to wear on their feet through winter so as to be able to approximate barefoot running without having to be so darn cold. Some people were concerned about having to order all these shoes over the Internet, wasting money trying to find something that would work. I wanted to tell these people to just make a pair of warm, flat shoes to run in!

I feel so free knowing how to make shoes. I am not as dependent as I used to be for something so elemental for my existence. This is incredibly freeing and powerful. Yeah, I still have to buy stuff, I still have to spend time making it, but I can make what I need. I don't have to depend on a capricious market that doesn't even make what I need. It's so incredibly empowering.

That is why I've been posting all my shoe projects under the topic of getting free.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Homemade fishermans sandals from fused plastic bags

I made minimalist running shoes, or maybe for me just minimalist walking shoes. They are fisherman's sandals made from fused plastic bags stitched to a leather sole stitched to a mouse pad for a little padding and to help protect the stitching from the ground (the stitches sort of recess into the padding). They are surprisingly comfortable even if they are extremely ugly. I really want to make a real pair of these in leather someday.
Fused Plastic Bag sandals

I did a google image search on fused plastic bags. There are a lot of creative things being made of this stuff these days. Much better than my crappy sandals. In addition to tote bags there was jewelry, hats, baby bibs and even boots. I should have saved up black plastic bags for these sandals.

Dealing with poison oak

Someone emailed me to ask about poison oak in the Ventana Wilderness after the fires they've had and how paranoid should he be. I remember in Section O on the PCT there were many people freaked out by poison oak. It seems poison oak scares many people more than most things. This is my response to him and I think it applies to hiking in Section O 0n the PCT.

I haven't been to the Ventana wilderness, but if it's anything like the area around Santa Barbara, I can imagine that there is plenty of poison oak. But whether people make too much about it is kind of subjective.

I think it helps to learn all the plants so you don't have to be so afraid. Many people are afraid of Squaw bush because it looks like poison oak. I saw more Squaw bush in the trail in Section O than poison oak.

I always hike in long pants and long sleeves. I use my poles to push the poison oak out of the way. I sometimes hike with loppers and will cut some of it gingerly to get it out of my way. I try to cut it as little as possible (and use gloves if I do) because it will aerosolize if you really hack at it. I will put my clothes in the washer and then take my shower after, (not the other way around) and take my shower with dishwashing detergent. In the field, I will wash with water as immediately as possible if I've touched it. If there is too much poison oak choking the trail, so bad I would have to push through a wall of it to get through, I will turn back. I don't worry about little tendrils crossing the trail that I can step over. I stay as far away from dogs as I can, too. They romp in it so you don't want to touch their fur.

I think it also helps to put it into perspective. It's just a rash. An annoying one that drives you crazy sure, but it's not a disease you will die from. If it's really bad they'll give you medication at the doctor and it'll go away really fast. After many backpacking trips I'll have a few little bits of poison oak. A small rash isn't so bad.

Here in the Santa Barbara area we've had a lot of fires. Many of our trails are not really there anymore, too. In the more open areas I haven't seen that this has caused more poison oak to grow. It likes canyons and shade more than sun (it grows more shrub-like in the sun anyway, easier to avoid.) The canyon areas here haven't burned as much as the slopes. Maybe if you choose a route that is higher in elevation and not so much in the canyons it will turn out that there's just a little bit at the beginning and end and the rest of the way it's clear.

I found a good page online about poison oak strategies in the Ventana. These strategies will apply to anywhere with poison oak.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

There is sun above this horrible fog

The endless fog continues. It's thicker and wetter than ever. It appears to be raining.

I brought an umbrella and rain chaps with me on a hike yesterday expecting to be rained on part of the day. Lo and behold, at about 2500 feet, we broke out of the fog into a gorgeous, warm fall day with light high clouds in the sky. We sat at the summit on East Camino Cielo Rd. in the warm sun and dreaded heading back down into the soup. It's really becoming quite intolerable. It's so dark and gloomy all the time I find myself wearing my headlamp in the house sometimes so I can see what I'm doing.

pink slippersI made another pair of shoes using my Simple Shoemaking patterns, the pattern for a two-piece casual. They turned out more like slippers than shoes.

I made them from a leather skirt I found at the thrift store. I lined the very thin leather with interfacing and the silk nylon lining that came with the skirt. I used aloha shirt fabric for the insole and stitched the upper to the insole and a layer of yoga mat. The stitching came out looking very unprofessional so I glued on some trim to hide it. Then I glued on another layer of yoga mat so I can wear them outside.

When worn they appear very soft and wrinkly so they really look more like slippers than shoes. Otherwise, the pattern is nice.

One thing I have learned from my 3 successful shoe attempts is that I need to pull in the heel area so that it tapers inward against my ankle. The pattern had a straight line from the part that attaches to the sole up to the top of the ankle. But on me, that leads my foot to fall off the back of the sole. If I angle the seam inward, my foot doesn't fall off the back and it's much more comfortable.

I'm hoping to one day get this right. For now, my black ones are the closest ones to getting it right. I'm not sure I see the advantage of the stitched on sole to the sole glued around the outside edges. Unless I can learn to stitch an even, nice-looking stitch, I'll always end up struggling to figure out how to hide the stitches.

I glued mousepads on to my two other shoes so that they'll last longer. I hope that's what will happen. I chickened out of gluing on a boot sole to my black shoes. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to aim right to glue the top to the sole straight. It's very hard to do. Once the two sides touch each other, that's it. They're stuck.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homemade webbing strap sandals

Just to see if I could do it using my new patterns, I made a pair of webbing strap sandals. Before that I tried to make a pair of arch strap sandals but something went wrong along the way and the left one came out so tight I couldn't quite put it on. I may see if I can take them apart someday and finish them, but I'm not sure if it's worth it. But the webbing sandals worked.
homemade webbing strap sandal
I made them out of dog leashes from the dollar store, mouse pads and old flip-flops. The dog leashes were only $1.50 each and came with the buckles I needed. It is impossible to find buckles like that at craft or other store. They only seem to sell giant ones for making laptop computer cases or whatever.

Basically, the only part of my sandal patterns I used was the threading pattern for the straps. Otherwise, the instructions expect you to use leather and to stitch the top sole to the mid sole and use little nails for strengthening the stress points. I just threaded the webbing through the mouse pad then glued it to flip-flop soles, taking care to leave spaces for the continuous strapping to remain adjustable.

I have no idea if they will hold up or fall apart. I can always re-do the top sole and re-glue it to the flip-flop, perhaps use better materials and do the stitching and everything that is in the instructions. I just wanted to see if I could do it.

They work, so I'm happy I gave new life to an old pair of flip-flops. These were the flip-flops I bought in Cabazon when I was hiking the PCT in 2008. I wore one of them for 15 miles one day because my blisters were so bad. I hate flip-flops and have never worn them again. These ugly dog-leash sandals will give them some sort of new life. Unfortunately, mouse pads are really heavy, so their new life won't include becoming camp shoes for backpacking.

Update: These fell apart after wearing them for about 3 miles. Also, my foot falls off the back. Why does this always happen with my attempts to make sandals. Any kind of sandal. This all started with me wanting to make a pair of huarache running sandals like Barefoot Ted, but even those had my feet falling off the back.

Friday, October 08, 2010

My new homemade shoes work!

I wore my homemade shoes on a hike today. I went up the Cold Springs Trail almost to the top. The shoes worked great! Very comfortable. The only thing I might add on a future pair is some cushioning to the sides at the widest part of my foot so if I bump a rock I'm better protected. Otherwise, there are no complaints at all. They are very functional and fit well.

Tarzan and Zelda are here for a visit. We're going to a concert tonight. Maybe we'll all fall asleep after our killer hike today.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

My shoe patterns arrived

My shoe patterns arrived. A few of them are too complicated to figure out without instructions, but a few of them I can figure out without instructions.

I am so excited! I was so excited I sent an email to the lady I bought the patterns from thanking her for helping me. She's helping me get free of the wastefulness and painfulness of endlessly searching for shoes that fit only to find shoes that don't fit or shoes that fit and disappear from the market.

Coming up, more hideous shoes made by me!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Homemade shoes from recycled stuff part II

Homemade shoes 2nd try I've made a second pair of homemade shoes. I think they came out pretty much like the first pair. But after 5 tries, I am pretty happy to have come out with another pair at all.

I used a pair of old swim trunks from the thrift store for the fabric. I also used a table pad for stiffening on the inside and gross-grain ribbon for the eyelets for the shoelaces. I need to get longer shoelaces. The ones shown are the ones that were on the swim trunks, cut in half. The uppers are glued to flip-flop soles like the last pair.

Things I don't like about these shoes is the wrinkle in the left shoe and the right shoe feels a little too tight over my big toe. They are slightly sock eaters but not drastically so. I made the tongues too short so they don't stick up over the laces, which doesn't look good, but you can hardly notice.

Things I like are the looks. I like how the backs of the heels are different on each pair, thanks to the swim trunk fabric. I think they came out really well considering I have no idea what I'm doing.

I will walk around in them for a while and decide if I want to glue a boot sole on them and use them for hiking. Although it would seem that swim trunk fabric isn't very durable, I did line the shoes with padding so they should hold up well. Not every part of the interior is lined, so my feet can breathe, but much of it is.

My next try will be one more attempt at the fisherman's sandals. I downloaded a pattern for fisherman's sandals here. I am going to try making them from recycled plastic bags instead of leather or fabric.

Town stops vs wilderness experience on the PCT

Many people think that when hikers show an appreciation for towns along the PCT it is because they are not interested in a wilderness experience.

I probably talked about town as much as anybody else, including the venerable Billy Goat who I talked about what we were going to do in town plus what we did in the previous towns for half an hour. We talked about the beauty of the trail for five minutes. And what was our activity in town? Eating.

I and the people I talked to were hungry. It wasn't that we didn't bring enough food, it's that the food we brought wasn't refrigerated, fresh, ample or abundantly available. It didn't have bubbles or ice or 5% butterfat. Walk 20 or more miles a day and these things may become important to you, too.

We also talked about town because of the people we met along the way. Town became where I caught up with people I met and met new people to remember. Town becomes a part of the trail in that respect, part of the trail community.

I only spent perhaps 5 days of the entire 6 months I spent hiking the PCT hiking deliberately (as opposed to leap-frogging) with another person. I hiked the trail in two sections, 2008 and 2009, with a little additional section in the Sierra this year. I forged my own route from Santa Barbara to Hiker Town via trails in the very lonely and very remote mountains behind Ventura/Ojai/Filmore. I saw no footprints on that portion of my journey except for those of bears. I had a very solitary, wilderness experience throughout my entire journey.

I feel that I lived outside of civilization for 6 months. I came to dislike walls and ceilings, dislike pillows and padding, dislike paying to sleep, dislike cars and noise and the way civilized people shout when they talk. I still looked forward to town for the chance to rest, the shower, the laundry and mostly the food. It was indeed a necessary evil. We are not rugged individualists living off the land. We are just backpackers and we're dependent on modern technology to accomplish this incredible journey. Not a single person on the trail could have done it without the help of the internal combustion engine and cheap oil at the very least.

Town also marked my progress in a concrete way.

You can take zero days on the trail, but you still have all these tasks to complete when you get to town. It becomes more efficient of your time to take zero days in town so you can complete your tasks and return to the trail. No need to stop at every town. No need to party with frat boys if you aren't interested. No need to visit some of the famous trail angels if you don't like crowds. It's not a total either/or thing.

You can enjoy town, look forward to it and talk about it and it doesn't take away from having a wilderness experience.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Visitors coming

I can't believe that one week ago it was 107 degrees. Today it's freezing and it is supposed to rain tonight. Weather here is just too extreme. A 75 degree comfortable, sunny day? Forget it!

We have guests coming on Thursday night. I'm worried about the birds. Ariel, our umbrella cockatoo, loves guests. She loves them way too much. She gets all fascinated by them and ends up crawling all over them. Especially male guests. She'll get so hyped up on having this guest over that eventually she'll bite, probably on the ear, which is extremely painful. I still have a dent in my ear where she bit my ear once.

I'm also worried about the concert. They guests are coming so they can go to a concert, so we got tickets to the concert too. I have a hard time with concerts. Not only can I not dance at all, I don't like loud music. I can never sleep after loud music and wake up feeling hung over. So I'm dreading it.

I continue to work on making shoes. I decided to try to make some out of a pair of men's swim trunks. I found big ones, size 44. Enormous enough to make a pair of shoes and have a little fabric leftover. Swim trunks come with grommets at the waist with a shoelace to tie them on. If I could find a few more pairs of swim trunks, I would have enough grommets to make lacing for my shoes!

I ordered some more hiking boot soles. I might try to glue them to my Feelmaxes and use them for hiking, or I'll save them for whenever I finally succeed at making a pair of hiking shoes. Meanwhile, if I make shoes that are good enough for ordinary use but not good enough for hiking, I might try using mouse pads for soles. Plenty of those available.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Failure so far at making another pair of shoes

I keep trying to reproduce the shoes I made. But I keep failing.

I tried with some thicker fabric and failed. I tried again and failed again. I downloaded a pattern for fisherman sandals. I failed my first attempt and then my second attempt.

This is turning out to be harder than I expected. I ordered a book of patterns. Hopefully I'll succeed one of these tries.

I had a crazy thought that I could probably glue some hiking soles to my Feelmax Osmas. Then they would become minimalist hiking shoes. It could actually work.