I love to use walking sticks hiking up hills for increase stability. Mine is like an old friend, smooth in my hand and it is something to rest on while I am catching a breath. It was cut from a sturdy piece of bamboo growing in my uncle’s Arizona backyard and has lots of unique twists where a vine strangled the stalk as it was growing. Now it has worn smooth where my hand holds it. I would miss it on a leisurely hike in the nearby Smoky Mountains National Park.
Benefits of Using Walking Sticks Hiking or Trekking Poles
Most people find it difficult walking downhill especially on rough steep trails. The pounding can be very hard on the knees. The Great Smoky Mountains have some beautiful back country trails, a favorite trail is Rainbow Falls which is quite steep and rocky in places. Using a walking stick becomes a necessity and you might consider an upgrade to trekking poles for hiking this rough trail which are meant for more serious terrain. Once you get used to using trekking poles for hiking you’ll love all the benefits.
The first thing you must learn is to create a good rhythm in your stride and synchronized it with your arms. It takes a little practice. If you have never done that before start slowly. It reminds me of the motion used for cross-country skiing which requires the same type of rhythm.
Besides reducing the strain on knees, trekking poles for hiking can help to improve your balance over rocky trails. I have weak ankles and prone to twist an ankle if I’m not careful and going too fast. They are great when crossing streams for stability. Here is a personal story I would like to share. One summer afternoon when hiking down from Mt. LeConte a huge thunderstorm came sweeping in over our hiking party. Our rocky trail downhill was turned into a river making it twice as dangerous. The lightening was terrific and the thunder rolled through the mountains. We were deluged in torrents of rain, the trail was extremely slippery, very rocky and hard to see. Our trekking poles made all the difference, reducing the impact on our joints with faster hiking and braking our descent. I’m sure I would have fallen without them otherwise. The support was indispensable during that anxious hour downhill until we finally saw the trail head and made it to our cars.
Hiking Safety – Bring a Walking Stick
As you can see from my story, having a set of trekking poles were able to provide safe passage over rough terrain by increasing the points of contact with the ground. In the Smoky Mountains the terrain can change drastically over just one hiking trails. The trail heads start out pretty level, but usually the ascent come quickly after that. My arms were able to take some of the weight transfer, reducing the likelihood of falling. When hiking uphill, a walking stick or set of trekking poles can help propel you forward as you use them to lean into and push off of them.
I’ve come across bridges over creeks made of a narrow cut log. That’s a time when you can use your walking stick or trekking poles to help steady yourself. Or use your poles to test the depth of a creek and keep you steady as you move from rock to rock. Mountain terrain can surprise suddenly, I’ve come around the bend and the trail became icy and incredibly slippery. At that point, two feet can’t do it alone. That’s when trekking poles become very handy, use them for stability and to help you keep your balance to reduce your risk of falling when the footing is not secure.
Need to check conditions ahead? Use the extra length of your hiking stick to test the unknown condition before proceeding. It’s a great way to make sure of a rock’s stability to see if it is safe to step on.
Other Uses for Walking Sticks Hiking
It is best to travel as light as you can on a back county hike. Let’s look at some other uses for your walking stick or trekking poles on a hike. Use a pole to catch water out of safe reach by strapping a cup to the end to dip it into the water. If a sprained ankle unfortunately occurs, a walking stick can be used as a crutch, by keeping the pressure off of the injured leg. A more serious injury might need a walking stick tied to the leg as a splint. Some people have even used their trekking poles to support a tent for a shelter anywhere, or even quick support for a hammock.
Finding a Good Walking Stick
There are so many choices of walking sticks and trekking poles. As I mentioned, I have a favorite bamboo walking stick given to me which is lightweight, strong and durable. If you plan to hike near a National Park, I bet you can find crafters that make beautiful walking sticks for use and as a souvenir. Or there are trekking poles that are
collapsible and lightweight which are perfect to carry along with a daypack or backpack. Be sure to purchase a walking stick or set of trekking poles that are adjustable so you establish the perfect fit made just for you. You don’t want to struggle or exhaust yourself out on the trail with the wrong size poles. To fit properly, your arm should be at a 90-degree angle when holding the walking stick or trekking poles as you are standing straight and tall on both feet.
Did you ever think of making your own hiking stick? That can be a fun project if you love to work with wood. It’s inexpensive and you’ll have a personal treasure and a friend to take with you for many years to come.
Planning Your Next Adventure Hiking Outdoors
Pick a hike that everyone in your party is able to do together and take a map along. Pack everyone’s daypacks with a simple lunch (we like to grab some Subway sandwiches from the cooler) fill everyone’s water supply and grab your walking sticks or trekking poles. Get ready for a great adventure as you explore a world of natural beauty outdoors with your feet.