A good walking stick is like a third
by Rob Horne
Actually, it doesnít even have to be a ďgoodĒ walking
stick. Almost anything will do. Here is a short list of various creatively
designed walking sticks I have seen people using.
Sawed off shovel handle
A stick found along the trail (Gee)
Bamboo (modified to hold spare batteries)
Century Plant (The shoot)
Of course you have the store bought wooden sticks.
Usually $30 and up, these are often made from branches of willow, oak,
sassafras and have been aged, sanded and varnished. Randy Spencer of
Walking Sticks has made a business out of selling rustic walking sticks. Some
of his more interesting products are old tobacco sticks.
The sticks were used for hanging and drying
tobacco. Located in old barns of eastern Kentucky, the farms no longer produce
tobacco and the sticks were abandoned.
The avid hiker knows the importance of possessing a good
hiking stick. They provide support on the downhill and help keep your balance
when crossing a stream. Iíve used mine to prop up my pack during rest stops,
as an emergency tent pole, to probe for snakes when traveling through brush
and as a camera support.
Lately Iíve been hearing more about sticks being carried
as a form of protection. This actually makes sense when you consider that just
about every national and state park in the country prohibits the carrying of
fire arms. A few years back, when the cougar population was expanding in the
Cuyamaca State Park, rangers recommended that all hikers carry a stick. That
same year a women was killed by a cougar on the Cuyamaca Peak trail and every
available stick for miles around was picked up and carried away by park
visitors. A reminder had to be released asking people not to break limbs off
of live trees and to leave their stick behind when they left. Actually, they
even discourage the harvesting of dead tree limbs.
I have to admit an early resistance to the idea of using
a walking stick. It just seemed so affected and trendy. The current boom in
expensive, high tech, collapsible, ski pole type sticks just seems like
another transparent attempt at providing yet another faddish status symbol.
The $125 price tags are also a deterrent for me.
I canít say Iíve changed my mind about the ski pole thing
but I am definitely convinced about the usefulness of a walking stick. On our
Sierra backpacking trips my pack usually tops 60 pounds. I canít express
enough the amount of help a walking stick is when youíre with full pack
teetering on a shaky stone in the middle of a thigh deep Sierra creek. Heck,
even if you do fall in the stick can still help you get back on your feet.
Probably my favorite use of the stick is for propping my
backpack up when we take a break. Often Iíve backed up to suitable boulder
and been able to slip out of my pack and prop it up in the perfect position
for later re-entry.
My biggest problem now is finding a free hand to carry
the thing. Not being perfectly organized, I tend to carry a lot of junk that
I like to have readily available. Itís become a logistic problem juggling my
camera, water bottle, two way radio and GPS along with my walking stick.
Admittedly itís a small problem considering the benefit of the stick.