Monday, August 17, 2015

Hiking Poles

To pole or not to pole.  That is an oft-asked question!

Poles really do help, they take some of the weight off by distributing it through your arms.  They help keep you steady going down steep hills, they help keep you upright when crossing water and they are great for poking into holes and knocking webs out of the trail.

Downside includes: takes up both hands and they are with you the WHOLE time.  And you have to shorten and lengthen them to accommodate various terrain.  You want your arm at a 90 degree angle, so shorter on the uphills and longer on the downhills.  They can collapse if you lean too hard on them.

This does not bother most folks, but I feel panicked/trapped if I have both hands full.  It's not entirely logical, but it's true.  For many years, I would not take poles because I don't like that feeling.  Then, I started falling. A LOT.  Slips, falls, butt busters, so I started carrying poles again.  And had the worst fall of my life resulting in a badly injured ankle with one pole going this way and the other going that.  Back to no poles, and a reinjury.

I hit upon the perfect solution, one I have tried out on several trails and am quite happy with.  I use one long wooden pole with a brass pointy end, it comes to my chin, it's just shy of 5 feet tall.  I can move my grip up or down instead of fiddling with the height, I don't worry about putting my weight on it because there's no way to collapse it.  To go up hills, if I need both hands to help haul me up, I plant it sideways across the trail and push off with both hands.  It's light so when I don't want to poke the ground every step, I just hold it in one hand parallel with the ground.  It has enough heft that if I needed to whack a dog in the head, I think it would do the job. Sorry, dog lovers. I have been attacked before, so it's always in the back of my mind.  I have 4 of my own and would never strike an animal unprovoked.  But if you are out in the woods, you need to be aware of your limits.  Mine include fending off dogs barehanded.

I like the security of a single pole, though I do wish it had the following: a PEZ dispenser with caffeine tablets, a gnat zapper, a level to see if my head will be going downhill in the tent that seems to be on level ground until I lay down and a camera mount!  Those are all the modifications I have daydreamed about, though to be honest, I'd take just the zapper and be happy.

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