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The Man Who Walked Through Time


Colin Fletcher (1922-2007)

Today I got into a conversation with my co-workers on the subject of footwear. It’s not something I talk about very much, so I surprised myself how much I was influenced by the thinking of one man some thirty years ago. The man was Colin Fletcher, an indefatigable hiker who wrote several books about his long walks, most notably:

  • The Thousand Mile Summer (1964) about a walk from Southern California by the Mexican border all the way to the Oregon border—along the ridge line of the Sierras.
  • The Man Who Walked Through Time (1968) about his hike along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
  • The Complete Walker (several editions) in which he talks about the gear you need (and what you don’t need) to walk long distances.
  • The Man from the Cave (1981), about his researches tracking down a man who lived in a cave in the Desert Southwest and left many of his belongings behind.

From Fletcher, I learned to wear only socks that have wool content, the more the better. And I learned to buy only those shoes whose soles and heels would wear like iron—which is why I am partial to Rockport walking shoes and various well designed hiking boots and shoes.

For many years, shoe salesman lied to me about my size. At best, I wear a size 9-1/2 shoe (American) EEE, though I can wear a 10 EE. Most shoe stores, however, stock only D-width shoes. Rather than lose the sale, they will sell me a size 10-1/2 D or even an 11 D, which leaves about two inches of storage space between my toes and the leading edge of the shoe or boot. Needless to say, I avoid shoe stores like the plague. It’s L.L. Bean or OnlineShoes.Com for me.

Being reminded of Colin Fletcher, whom I had forgotten for so long, I remember the happy hours I spent reading his books and paying close attention to his advice. Much of his hiking advice is now a bit dated because of the recent influx of new materials that have revolutionized the gear situation for camping and hiking, but the basic information was solid; and Colin tested it all himself the hard way.

If you can find any of Fletcher’s books, you may well find yourself falling under the man’s spell. I particularly recommend the first, second, and fourth books I listed above. The Complete Walker needs to be substantially revised, though I have no plans to get rid of my fourth edition copy.

3 thoughts on “The Man Who Walked Through Time

  1. I’ll recommend SAS (San Antonio Shoes)
    as being extremely comfortable
    long wearing
    and coming in good widths
    Usually found in Comfort Shoes stores
    Pricey but worth it

  2. Martine wears SAS Shoes. They’re nice, but their soles are not for the type of heavy-duty walking that I do. In L.A., they have their own stores.

  3. Shortly after I moved to Arizona in 1968, my father sent me a copy of _The Man Who Walked Through Time_. I took it with me every time I went to the Canyon. It has disintegrated now unfortunately, and I haven’t thought about it in some years now. Perhaps it’s time to find another copy. I think I might take a look at _The Thousand Mile Summer Also_.

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