Friday, February 7, 2014

Why I Always Use a Hiking Pole on Hikes

November 2013 was not just a season of Thanksgiving; it was also the month I injured my hip.

A friend who also leads beginner hikes had joined me to check out a portion of the greenway off Old Harding Pike. After we had walked for about half an hour, it began to get dark, so we turned around to head back to our cars. I don't know if I turned too fast or did an awkward pivot, but within a few steps, I was in such pain I could barely move.

I would take three steps and have to rest. I tried stretching it out; I tried walking in different positions to take the stress off of different points, but nothing helped until we got to a bridge with a handrail. Then I was able to take several more steps before having to rest.

After we crossed the bridge, I soon realized if I had a walking stick to bear part of my weight on the right side, that might help. Before too long, we found a suitable stick in the woods to our right. From that point on, I could take 10 steps before resting as opposed to 3, and the steps were longer and faster than the slight shuffle I had managed before.

When I got home, I immediately began researching walking sticks and hiking poles online. I discovered they come in a variety of styles and prices. For my personal use, I wanted something lightweight and inexpensive.

I found the best price per stick was to buy a pair like the Hikker HP-5 Anti-shock Hiking Pole, 2-pack. The aluminum is lightweight and easy to carry. The extensions allow me to grip the poles at my perfect angle. I usually carry just one, and sometimes I have set it short and used it as a cane, and more recently I have it almost fully extended and just use it as a walking pole. At $25 for the set, each pole cost me just $12.50.

An unexpected bonus was as my hip healed, I was a bit clumsy as my body tried to protect the injured hip. The pole/s help me maintain my balance and keep from turning or falling awkwardly.

Most serious hikers would recommend something more along the lines of this Leki Corklite Trekking Pole, but for my beginner hike needs, I think an inexpensive aluminum stick is just what the doctor ordered. I recommend them highly to those who are injured, out of shape or approaching their senior years, and I plan to carry one when I go hiking for the rest of my hiking days. You don't want to be out in the middle of nowhere and pull a muscle and not be able to get to safety. A hiking pole can make all the difference.

Look for my beginner hikes at HikeNashville and Tennessee Hiking Group.


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