We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, September 20. 2023
I like a walking stick - a fallen branch broken to length - when taking a tramp without a firearm. It just feels good. Fact is that a walking stick or hiking poles put you almost on three or four legs, and also lessen the wear and tear on middle-aged joints. Especially on hills.
I thought they were nurdy until I saw everybody using them (except us) during our hiking trip in the Dolomites. My Mom always used them after her knees went sour.
We have a hiking trip coming up in a while to the Hebrides and Outer Hebrides (quite similar to Johnson and Boswell's), and their main recommendations are rain gear, hiking poles, day-pack, and waterproof hiking boots. Leave the sun screen at home. I assume they provide the whiskey. The hiking part will be about 7 hrs/day, with fishing boat lifts between islands. Spartan B&Bs with Highland "cuisine." Hmmmm.
It's gloomy and nasty up there in Trump's maternal homeland, and it's easy to understand why so many of them jumped on boats in Glasgow and Liverpool to come to America where the livin' is easy and there ain't no Lairds.
BTW, if you are new to the delightful Boswell, I recommend all of his stuff. In many ways, he was more interesting and amusing than Dr. Johnson who was pedantic - but who could also slide the knife deftly into somebody's pretensions. Also, Johnson knew everything.
Pic is LL Bean telescoping poles.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The only time I use a hiking stick is when I hike up the Virgin River in Zion. I use a "stick" not a walking stick. I find the walking sticks (for me) to be unnecessary and distracting. But I do have a suggestion or two for those who do use them. If you tie them to your pack point sticking up please be careful getting in and out of busses etc. And, no! "Excuse me" isn't adequate if you stick me. Also when hiking on the trail and someone is passing in either direction it is your responsibility to not stick your stick in their way or in front of their foot. And just one more; if you put your sticks under one arm so you can take a drink or use your camera please put the point facing down and be careful how you move around.
Those may all be good points but where do you hike, in a crowded refugee camp? When I hike, I very rarely am within 20 yards of anyone other than a hiking companion.
Sticks are also excellent protection against aggressive dogs or other critters. Just be sure it's a good solid hardwood. If you break a pine stick over the head of a pissed-off dog in attack mode, you're in a world of hurt.
We use poles. Very helpful when you have bad knees, especially on more rugged terrain
There are times when a stick works for me, but when the going gets rough, two trekking poles are what I want. First time I used them I felt like a spider, but I got used to them.
I am a believer in trekking poles after several backpacking trips in the Grand Canyon. Not very helpful on level ground, but they add tremendous stability going downhill with a full pack. On steep uphill pitches you can "schuss" and shift effort to your upper body. Be careful of your feet when you get tired so you don't trip on the poles (embarassing).
Pack the sunscreen, I live on the island of Lewis (Ranish) and have been boiled like the proverbial lobster a couple of times. It has been somewhat wettish during the summer months these last couple of years, but when the sun's out it is glorious. On your trek ( which I very much hope you enjoy ) do not forget to pack anti - midge spray/cream, preferably one that has a flame thrower attachment, ( just kidding ) when the weather is warm, muggy and overcast they are out in force, but the sea breezes tend to keep them away.
Some years ago, on a Sierra mountains backpack with our Scouts, they asked me "Mr. Fleming, how come you don't use hiking poles?" (several of them had them), to which I instantly and scornfully replied, "Hah! I don't need no grandpa poles, never have, never will." Well sir, the die has been cast. If I need hiking poles, I might as well get in that rocking chair.
I do carry them sometimes lashed to my backpack. "They're for emergency use, in case somebody gets hurt, you know, be prepared", I tell them. I have a self-made walking stick, all smooth and stained and finished like a fine gun-stock, and I will sometimes bring that (it's my Gandalf stick), but mostly I just carry it horizontal or give it away to one of the Scouts.
Hiking poles were invented by mountain climbers, who discovered that their lightweight adjustable ski-mountaineering poles allowed them to travel farther and faster with less effort, especially on rough and steep talus and scree. On a recent mountain climb, my companions broke out their ice axes to get past a slippery spot. I just motored through with my mountaineering poles, my axe still lashed to the pack.
When the hut-to-hut hikers in the Alps saw what the climbers were using, and started mimicking them, the revolution was on. That's the nature of technology improvements in outdoor gear. It allows you to do the old classics faster with less effort. And then go do new things the pioneers could only dream of.
Hah! Highland cuisine. Bloatmeal with butter and berries in the morning, and haggis and blood sausage with whiskey at night. What's not to like? Highlanders didn't get that reputation for nothing, y'know. All else you need is a spit of mutton.
Also essential will be plenty of industrial grade midge repellent.
I carry one with me when walking my dog. She was badly mauled by a lab-rotweiler mix a year ago. The dog belonged to a neighbor whose teen age kids had it out with no leash. My female basset is very gentle and was totally submissive as he was tearing at her belly and chest. Kicking it could not get it off and it kept returning. Finally the owner came running and got it off. At least they paid the $1400 vet bill for emergency care.
Now I have a hiking pole with a spike on the end. Don't leave home without it if I have the dog.
For some unknown reason I thought of Boswell's Life of Johnson earlier this week, recalling my dad had a copy on his shelf. I then wondered if anyone reads it anymore.
I read the first "book" (roughly half) of it last year. I needed a break from Johnson at the time, but I'll finish it this winter.
Sticks make a huge difference in hills.
Wonder why it took so long to figure it out.
We hike in the high desert. Hilly, rocky terrain with little level area. Hiking poles take some of the load off my old knees. Also great for maintaining balance when I stupidly try to keep up with the youngsters on a fast downhill ascent. They have saved me from a fall several times.
Try pacer poles. Made in England by a physical therapist. Pacer poles are the best, they allow you to walk with correct perfect posture. With other poles you swing your arms forward causing your upper torso to be ahead of your lower trunk causing lower back pain in the long run. Trust me, I hike allot, check out pacer poles and you will have the best.
I still have the wood stick my parents got me on a family hike up Mt Fujiyama around 1965, when I was 8. At various stations on the way up, for a yen or so, you could get a mark burned into the wood, to show you’d made it that high on the mountain. We climbed at night to catch the sunrise at dawn. We didn’t make it to the peak, due to bad weather.
We sat in a VW bus on a back road going over the mountain between Austria and Germany. A long line of senior citizens walked toward us--maybe 50 people in all. Almost all (90%) walked with two walking sticks like the ones you get at REI. I am sure their's was a German or Swiss made, but the same idea. When I stopped one of them to ask where they were going and why the long line of walkers over a steep hill they answered my questions. Then I asked "why does everyone have those two poles?" Their answer changed my life. "It lifts the weight of the torso and transfers that weight through the arms onto the sticks" For someone like myself with asthma those sticks make all the difference! They transfer the weight of my torso into my arms and onto the poles, making it so much easier for me to walk! I use them at the airport, for strolls in unknown downtown areas, on the trail of course, and sometimes just down the street.
Exploration geologist for 50+ years. My job was to hike and I've got lots of miles on these legs. Never used a hiking stick/pole but now that I'm 75 I wish I had. Not on the radar in my career. I can still get around and about 5 years ago I got a shooting stick for big game hunting and the bell went off in my head--ding...I should have had one of these during my working career. Sometimes wisdom does come with age.
Or to read the referenced book online:
It's been a while since I read it but, if I recall accurately, Boswell's preface to Life of Johnson is a hoot. He regales the reader with his sexual exploits in a such a civilized manner!
Pole user here in the mountains (?) of middle Tennessee. I use them not just because of my knees, but we have a couple dogs that run loose here. And when I walk in the parks, I keep the poles between me and the turkeys.