I traveled the hills of West Virginia for years with a single hiking stick. I loved the feel of the wood in my hands and the rod came in handy for balance and some added “oomph” up the hills. When I began to look at the long trek up the Appalachian Trail, I wasn’t sure if the rigid, long stick would serve me well or not. I liked the idea of being able to fold up my trekking poles and attach them to my backpack when I might have to climb over boulders or traverse terrain demanding that my hands be free.
I decided to try out some trekking poles before I experienced my summer Grand Canyon hike. I immediately felt a bit uncomfortable using a pole in each hand, but after one long day’s hike I really fell in love with the support and balance they provided. I purchased some Black Diamond poles with cork handles. The grips were comfortable and the straps provided a nice secure handhold.
A challenging hike with some significant elevation changes provides the optimal use of the poles. I found that a hike with a lot of up’s and down’s offers a significant upper body workout. I don’t have much of an upper body so it doesn’t take too much to provide a workout for me. I love the extra power I experience going uphill when my arms add some push-power. Going downhill, the poles contribute great balance and “brakes” when needed. Recently I had to ford the Bluestone River (four times) in West Virginia – the poles worked beautifully in giving me stability as I navigated the current.
When the journey does not demand the poles, they scope down to a size that easily attaches to the side of my pack. With a total weight of only 1 pound 2 ounces, the poles do not add a significant load when not in use.
I have heard that the poles can come in handy when faced with angry dogs or snakes or even bears – a defensive spear of protection… a weapon of intimidation… an extension of your arms that make you look much bigger than you really are. I sure hope that I will not have to use my sticks for these functions but they may be exactly what I need.
I find it rather hard to walk in a straight line without them anymore!