No matter where I set up to sell my hand carved walking and hiking sticks the most frequent comment I hear is “I don’t need one yet”, the persons referring to the fact that they are not old and feeble enough to need a walking aid.
I then try to explain to them the many reasons to carry a walking or hiking stick. First of all if you are not a walker or hiker then of course you don’t need one. But if you want to live a longer healthier life then you should consider a daily walk and an occasional hike.
Anyways for what it’s worth, for those of you who are walkers and hikers or are thinking of taking up this healthy activity here are some good reasons to carry a walking or hiking stick with you:
1. A Weapon
When one is walking or hiking there is always the thought in your mind “what if a strange dog or person shows up and threatens me, what will I do”. Well, in a case like this it is human nature to first look for a stick or stone to pick up to defend yourself with. Now, if you are already carrying a “walking stick” then you can concentrate solely on the danger, instead of looking for a weapon. Somehow carrying a “walking stick” just gives you a more secure feeling.
2. A Third Leg
Especially when hiking, a hiking stick is almost like having a third leg. If you meet a fallen tree across the trail the stick can be placed in front of you (on the other side of the tree) to help maintain your balance as you step over the tree. If the tree is large enough that you have to climb onto the trunk and then jump off or have a long step down the other side, the stick can be held at the top and used to ease yourself to the ground. It works almost like a third leg (a long one).
When crossing a steam there is always the danger of slipping on the bottom or possibly stepping into a deep hole. Probing the ground ahead of you with the hiking stick will determine the depth. If you should start to slip the hiking stick can be a great help in preventing a fall.
4. Marking your Route
Often old cut roads (roads made by the Forest Industry to remove cut timber) are used or encountered while hiking. These roads can go for miles and often run in circles, or intersect other cut roads, or branch in two or more directions. It is always a worry if returning on the same route that a wrong turn will be made and you will end up lost. A lot of these roads are sand or gravel so your direction of travel can be scratched into the ground (you guessed it) by using the tip of the hiking stick. By drawing an arrow indicating the direction of travel the same arrows can be followed in the reverse direction when returning.
If the ground is not suitable for marking with the hiking stick then stones or sticks can be placed to form an arrow on the road.
5. Steep Inclines or Declines
A hiking stick can help steady yourself as you are climbing up or down inclines.
6. Steep Drop-Offs
Some trails follow the edge of ravines and cliffs. A slip or fall could be disastrous. The tendency is to lean away from the edge while walking. This is much easier with a hiking stick as you can lean on the stick while walking and should you trip you will automatically fall opposite to the steep edge.
7. Clear your path
A stick is very handy to push brush and brambles out of your face as you make your way through a thicket or underbrush.
8. Spider Webs
Spiders like to string their webs across hiking tails. Waving your stick in front of you will prevent
those sticky webs (and maybe a spider or two) from ending up in your face (yuk!).
9. Emergency Crutch
There is a possibility of injuring a foot or leg while hiking.
A good tip is to use a hiking stick that comes up to your arm pit. In an emergency on the trail you have a ready crutch. Wrap the top in a tee shirt or other soft material and away you go.
10. A walking stick in the hand just feels right
John from Woodstock, Illinois, USA puts this feeling into words:
"I use a stick to focus my body on the rhythm of walking. I find that if I use a stick matched to my height and gait-- lined up with the point of my pelvic bone on the right side of my hip works for me-- the swing of the stick in my hand, the roll of my feet as I step, the sound of the tip tapping on the pavement create a kind of music. I am no longer trudging along, I am dancing with the earth beneath my feet. Time ceases, there is only now. Without a stick, I resent walking to the mailbox. With the right stick, I could walk the world".