Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gear Review - Scarpa Spark Trail Shoes

Ever since I wore through the last of my stockpiled Cascadia 5s I’ve been looking for a suitable replacement. It’s been a long and exhausting search for that perfect shoe (if such a thing exists) but I’ve finally found something I can live with, at least temporarily. It’s the Scarpa Spark. Most of you have probably never heard of Scarpa but the Italian company has been making quality mountaineering, skiing, hiking and trekking boots and shoes for seventy years.

I’ve been a traditional shoe wearer for years and have never been able to wear any of the minimalist shoes that have become so popular since the book “Born to Run” was published. Low and no drop running shoes cause my plantar fascia to flare up. The Spark, with its 6mm heel drop, is a good compromise between a minimalist and traditional shoe. It hasn’t caused any plantar fasciitis problems for me. I also like that the shoe is so much lighter than my Cascadias.

The Spark fits securely though the heel and mid-foot but has a high volume toe box so your toes don’t feel squished. The uppers drain quickly and breathe well but may not be very durable. I jammed my foot between two sharp rocks on a recent hike and damaged the shoe almost to the point of tearing a hole in the mesh. The sticky rubber sole grips extremely well on wet roots and rocky surfaces but is lacking when it comes to muddy trails. The 2.5mm lugs just aren’t big enough to dig in deep for a secure grip.

Photo credits: Trail Runner Nation

If I have one complaint with the shoe it’s with the hi-tensile fabric strike plate. Sure it saves weight, but it doesn’t offer same the foot protection as a high density EVA plate would. It may not be problem for runners/hikers without any foot issues but after a long day on a rocky trail or mountain, the neuromas in my feet become painful due to the lack of protection.  To their credit, I don’t have any foot issues on smoother trails.


  • Lightweight
  • Roomy toe box\
  • Sticky rubber sole
  • Drains well


  • Inadequate strike plate
  • 2.5mm lugs lacking in deep mud

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it with his own funds.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Two Days,Two Hikes. One Bad,One Good. Both Humid as Heck!

I was hoping to do and overnight hike on the Monadnock-Sunapee Trail this week but the weather looked very iffy so I decided to stick close to home and do two short hikes instead.  

The first hike, at Hale Reservation & Noanet Woodlands, was also my first time visiting the area. These adjacent properties in Westwood and Dover MA offer many miles of trails to explore. The fact that they are only an hour drive from my house was a bonus. I have to say I was disappointed with the hike. Much to my surprise there was very little topography and I was quickly bored with the flat trails. I'm not sure if the super humid air had anything to do with it but the biting insects were out in full force. They attacked me relentlessly throughout the morning and forced me to shorten the hike from the planned 10 miles down to around 6.5. I was never so happy to get out of the woods!

 Hale/Noanet Route

 View of Storrow Pond through the trees.

Calm on Storrow Pond.

 Giant erratic, perhaps 20 feet high.

Collapsed pavilion on Strawberry Hill Trail.

The second hike was at Breakheart Reservation in Saugus. I haven't been to Breakheart in three years and it was nice to be back. One notable change since my last visit here is the presence of beaver in the Saugus River. The ranger told me they have been there for two years. Beavers can be a nuisance and create problems but I really like the chubby rodents. Breakheart can be a very busy place on the weekend but the moring rain kept most people away. I have found hiking on a raining day to be a very peaceful time for me. I should do it more often. 

Breakheart Route

Climbing Breakheart Hill Trail in the rain.

 Remains of old motor and chassis used to operate a rope tow when Breakheart Hill was used for skiing in the 60s.

 Inline six with pistons frozen in place.

 Another large erratic. Note trekking poles on left for scale.

  Steps on the Fox Run Trail. Another change since my last visit.

Looking down on Pearce Lake from Eagle Rock.

 Pearce Lake

Silver Lake

Beaver Dam on Saugus River
Hike on!
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