Chukkas on Trails! Emily and Will Put Their Softstars to the Test

Chukkas on Trails! Emily and Will Put Their Softstars to the Test

If you're an outdoor enthusiast, like many of our shoemaking elves, then western Oregon is a giant playground. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be within easy reach of mountains, oceans, rivers and moss-ridden forests that look like they belong in Middle Earth. Our location offers us a wealth of outdoor activities, including skiing, snowboarding, surfing, rock climbing, kayaking, camping, hang gliding, mountain biking, paddleboarding and of course... HIKING!

You can literally ride a bike from the center of our small town of Corvallis and in fifteen minutes find yourself at a trailhead leading into an 11,000-acre forest. If you're willing to drive for an hour or two then you have the whole Coastal and Cascade mountain ranges at your disposal, not to mention the mythical Columbia River Gorge. It's no wonder that so many of our elves wave goodbye to civilization on Friday afternoons, head toward the hills and don't emerge again until they punch in for work on Monday morning. Among the most adventurous of our team is seamstress Emily and her husband Will.

Emily and Will routinely save up their vacation time for long-term backpacking trips. Over the years they've explored countless long distance hikes in the Pacific Northwest, including completing most of the Pacific Crest Trail between Mexico and Oregon. They just returned from their latest adventure in the form of a 2-week backpacking trip—short by their standards, but very exciting for our shoemakers because Emily and Will decided to hike in their new Hawthorne Chukkas!

We designed the Hawthorne Chukka to be a classy shoe with less rugged use in mind, but after making dozens of them herself Emily determined it could work very well as a trail shoe. She decided to put them to the test and sewed a currant-colored pair for herself (with a turquoise strip on the heel—her personal touch) and a hickory pair for her husband. Before they hit the trails, the outgoing couple let us take a few "before" pictures as soon as the shoes were done.


Emily's and Will's brand new shoes.


Emily's personal touch: a turquoise heel!

Their adventure started at the mouth of the Columbia River that runs between Oregon's northwest border with Washington. From there, they hiked 40+ miles down the Oregon Coast Trail—a segment they selected because it would keep them away from Highway 101. The first 16 miles were entirely on a long stretch of beach, so they were able to see the ocean all day and camp on the sand. They then had to cross several headlands that gave breathtaking cliffside views and allowed them to mostly avoid contact with civilization. This coastal hike ended when they reached the small town of Manzanita.

Now that they were sufficiently warmed up, Emily and Will hopped on a bus that took them to Mt. Hood, a famous snow sport peak of 11,239 feet. Instead of heading to the top, our elves followed the beautiful and historic Timberline Trail. This trail leads around the mountain with great views of the the Cascade volcanoes, including Mt. Ranier, Three Sisters and Mt. Saint Helens. Starting 5900' up at Timberline Lodge (famous as the filming location for The Shining), it dips down to 3300' through deep forests that pass the fountain-like Ramona Falls and rises up to 7300' of barren lava flows on the east side of the mountain. Although the direct route contains 39 miles of trails, Emily and Will took on many side routes and alternate trails that ended up more than doubling their hiking distance.

In the end, they completed just over 150 miles of hiking on their 15-day trip, averaging about 10 miles a day.

So, how did the shoes hold up? See for yourself:



Here's a side-by-side comparison, after we wiped off the dust:


According to Emily, they more than met her expectations:

"I can see myself hiking a lot further in these shoes. I like how the stitching protected my toes. When you're hiking, you usually run your toe into a lot of rocks or logs and these kept my feet protected. The Geo sole was super comfy... and the height of the shoe was just right for keeping a lot of debris out." ~ Elf Emily

Everyone in our shop had different predictions for how well the shoes would be holding together after the trip, but we all agreed that they still looked pretty good after 150 miles of rough terrain (aside from getting covered in dirt). Most impressive, however, were the shoes' Geo soles, which showed hardly any wear at all!


Suffice it to say, we're very happy with the results of our hiker elves' shoes. We think this will encourage more of our shoemaking staff to try their Chukkas on their next Oregon adventures. We also love to make shoes that can be used for multiple purposes, whether it's dressy footwear for work, shoes for everyday errands or traversing up the side of your favorite mountain.

Have you taken your Softstars out on any summer adventures? Let us know!

Learn More About the Hawthorne Chukka

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  1. Jennifer Matthews
    Jennifer Matthews
    Thanks for this. I never know what to wear backpacking. I always wonder if maybe some support is a good idea when wearing a heavy pack. I go from wearing softstars or fivefingers everyday and then structured hiking boot when backpacking...never feels right. How did you find the weight of the pack, with no support?
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Jennifer. Emily says the shoes were plenty sturdy for her pack weight and were never a problem. She also added that their packs were very light, about 30 pounds each including food.
  2. F. H.
    I am considering these as minimalist, lightweight, and packable shoes for travelling. I am only put off by the lack of gusseting of the tongue. I don't suppose you could make mine with a little gusseting?
    1. Elf Martin
      Thanks for your interest, but I'm sorry to say we can't do this as it would change the design and fit of the shoe.
  3. Kyle Harvison
    How did they do on the trail when dealing with rain or snow?
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Kyle. They hold up reasonably well, though eventually the leather will become soaked through. You can waterproof them with leathercare products designed for full grain leather, and we sell a couple different brands on our website.
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