Embrace your inner codger with trekking poles
July 28, 2005
I used to think trekking poles were for weenies – walking sticks for gearheads. Then I got old(er).Apparently, so has everyone else. A decade ago, I rarely encountered anyone tapping along a trail, poles in hand, but now they’re a common fixture in the fists of the fit.I’ve long used a pair of ski poles during my wintertime uphill ascents of Buttermilk. On the way up, the poles seem to help me keep a rhythm and push up the steepest pitches; during the descent, they take some of the strain off my complaining knees. The latter was the attraction to trekking poles. But I was loathe to buy a pair, as though the purchase was an admission of codgerdom. So, someone else bought them for me.My REI Traverse poles ($75) have an on/off anti-shock system – a shock absorber to cushion wrists and arms during descents, carbide tips and removable baskets. The three-section, aluminum shafts are retractable, shortening down to about 27 inches to fit in a pack. They extend to 57 inches at maximum length – practically nose height on me.During my inaugural hike, the poles stayed in my pack all the way up a high valley. I thought, “Well, these are handy. Just a little extra weight to carry.” (One pound, 5 ounces, to be exact.)But I yanked them out on the way down for a stream crossing and discovered the first real plus to carrying trekking poles, as my sense of balance is about as finely honed as my sense of direction. That is to say, I haven’t any.They came in handy a second time, down the final quarter-mile pitch of a gravel-strewn trail. Bearing down on the poles kept a foot from going out from under me at least once.