Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Get a Grip: Walking Stick or Hiking Stick?

For all of Superdawg's 12 years, I've been carrying a trusty Indonesian walking stick on our walks for added balance and a sense of security. It was a thoughtful gift from my daughter Kristina, and certainly one of the most useful and long-lived I've ever received. But now I discover I've been incorrectly identifying it all this time.

It is a hiking stick, not a walking stick.

I made this belated discovery in re-reading the informative website of Whistle Creek, the name of a business in Colorado where friendly folks craft and sell a great variety of country walking and hiking sticks (www.whistlecreek.com).

My first connection with Whistle Creek came over Thanksgiving when we were visiting the gift shop at the splendid Memphis Zoo. We spotted an assortment of fine walking (and hiking) sticks, and my wife wanted to buy one for me for Christmas. I loved the idea but I did not think the TSA would be thrilled if I walked into airport security with one at the beginning our our journey home. So I got the contact information for Whistle Creek and ordered one.

That's when I learned a thing or two. Whistle Creek explains that hiking sticks are long and tall, and should be 6 to 9 inches above your elbow, with your arm relaxed by your side. The deal is that, "the steeper the terrain you will be hiking, the higher above the elbow it should be -- the length is used to stabilize you as you go down the trail." Makes sense. Although I'd been calling it a walking stick, the Indonesian hiking stick was certainly helpful when Sadie and I did some hoofing along steep sections of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

My Christmas order from Whistle Creek was for a country walking stick -- my first, as it turns out. Walking sticks are shorter than hiking sticks, and typically have a handle. Advises Whistle Creek: "The top of the handle should be right at the break in your wrist, with your arm relaxed and by your side while standing."

My new walking stick is carved from Carolina Hawthorn, with the root of the bush serving as the handle. It is thick and polished, a mighty handsome creation. And if I ever needed it for self-defense, it would deliver a powerful blow upside the head of any evil-doer.

Collecting walking/hiking sticks would be a fun hobby. My wife has a handsome hickory walking stick we ordered from the Scotland Shop in Williamsburg,Va. The elegant sticks are nice to put on display and admire, but they are even better for walking. Or hiking.

© Robert G. Holland 2013

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