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Adventures in the Red Dirt Castle

Danielle Vilaplana, aka. Sonic, is a long distance adventurer and photographer. Danielle was the first prototype tester of our new Pro II sandal on a muddy Hayduke Trail thruhike. Below she tells another southwestern story and highlights the new Hook-Heel Strap found on our Pro II line, launching Monday March 9th on Bedrocksandals.com. Find more of her photos and tales on instagram @vilaplanet.


“Whisper nice things to the boat,” Gabe said. I did, because there’s not much else to do as emotional support passenger, and because my desire to swim a rapid was as limited as Gabe’s desire to wreck his dory on its first multi-day trip. But crash and swim we did, as one can expect when rafting Cataract Canyon at low water in a tippy wooden boat. I remember the nauseating crunch of wood on rock and a quick shot of Gabe’s head disappearing into water though I don’t recall falling in myself. I should have been prepared to be tossed into rapids - I’ve jumped into waves with a surfboard and flip my packraft every time I take it out - but the cool October morning didn’t make for an ideal ride. 

We waded in the soft sand and climbed over rocks for several hours as we righted and unloaded the dory, and I accounted for the lost items - our hats, the coffee pot I’d used to bail water out of the boat after the bilge pump broke, most of the food - while Gabe began repairs. I salvaged silty Oreos while considering the color of my toes but never thought about my footwear itself, the sign of a good shoe. It wasn’t my first experience with Bedrock’s new heel-hook strap sandals, though; Matt and Dan sent early prototypes to me when the Hayduke Trail’s relentless shit bogs proved too much for velcro. The original Cairns have been perfect for summers of granite and clear water in the Tetons but only the hardiest of gear can withstand the gritty, salty hell of Wyoming’s vermillion neighbor. 

Our new Heel-Hook strap, launching on the Pro II line, Monday, March 9th. 

Utah is the dream state of every outdoorsmen, as indicated by the climbers crowding Wall Street and cars stacked with mountain bikes along River Road. I’ve gravitated to the master of none route, diving into every endeavor with the gear and skills to be considered competently mediocre. But collecting hobbies is a time-consuming and expensive pursuit, and the ones most committed to the dirtbag lifestyle are often those who can least afford it, at least within the confines of the privileged outdoor community.I can barter Debs and Nuun on trail but somehow I don’t think Armada is going to accept that currency. 

Which is why we rode gravel bikes rather than mountain bikes on Canyonland’s White Rim Trail. Andrew and Josh managed to crank up sharp hills with occasional success while I gave up on my minimalist 1x drivetrain and pushed my bike up the climbs. My bones shook over sandstone and down steep, sandy descents that challenged my thin tires and brakes. Each instance of hike-a-biking rubbed velcro corrupting dust into Andrew’s sandals, but had no effect on my prototypes. Such underbiking (riding a bike unfit for the particular route) also ate time we did not have in the waning October daylight and we stopped in the dark fifteen miles before our campsite. We still had the enthusiasm to marvel at Joseph Smith’s creations through mouthfuls of cheese and seaweed blunts, and facetiously exclaimed “we live here,” though “here” really means the Cottonwood Heights Walmart parking lot. 

My first Bedrocks did not seem ideal either for a cold spring hike from Arches to Zion, where sneaky mud demands sacrificial shoes and cacti reach for hasty toes. Yet in the Hayduke's 800 or so miles I rarely felt at a disadvantage in my sandals and was impressed by their ability to stick to sandstone walls and wedge into corners of chimneys and chinle. We crossed our doppelgängers in Glen Canyon and raced Stoney Baloney and the Scooby Squad down cliffs and canyons to the Needles Outpost. Ultimately I was the only one of my group to finish the real-life video game though, and I sat among a jarring crowd of hiking boots in Zion with the mixture of misery and relief that comes of seventh dimension fun.  

Utah’s backcountry is not the place for ill-preparedness, yet its harshness demands a cavalier attitude. If we didn’t have the requisite wilderness skills and familiarity with the region I might worry, but this pairing of competency and absurdity rockets each trip into the furthest unforgettable dimensions. It may be exciting or terrifying or both, but I know I can hike 500 miles on a potato ankle and Gabe can steer his big water boat through 29 of 30 low water rapids. 

This attitude is why I continue to wear Bedrocks and pushed for the heel-hook strap on pro models. What planning I put into my trips goes toward permits and survival logistics and sandal-crampon compatibility, and I’ve solidified my gear list so that the staples require no consideration. It’s a relief to know that there’s footwear that can withstand everything I’ve thrown myself into, whether I’m jumping into quicksand or digging the truck out of a snowbank with a broken leg and crutches. When the going gets hard, the hard turn around and order Dominoes, and these sandals have carried me from the Escalante pizza shop to the summit of the highest peak in the Uintas and will continue to do so wherever I feel inclined to go. 


All photos and words © Danielle Vilaplana. Follow Danielle's adventures on instagram

2 Responses

NoRm Chomsky

NoRm Chomsky

March 03, 2020

All Hail The Nuun Economy!

Clare Olson

Clare Olson

March 03, 2020

Literally the wittiest piece of writing I have ever read, I’m off to buy my own sandals, tallyho!

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