Monday, July 21, 2008

Hiking Poles

My knee has been giving me problems the last few months. I fell during a hike a few weeks ago and that made me decide I needed to do something a little different. What might that be, you ask?

Give up hiking?

Go to a doctor about my knee?

Hike those flat boring trails around lakes and such?

Nope. I decided to buy some hiking poles. I've seen many hikers using these poles recently and had a couple of friends recommend them. I figured they couldn't hurt. That is until I looked at the cost for poles being recommended to me. Yikes!

I finally decided on the ones shown here mainly because of cost. If I bought them and found out I didn't like them I wouldn't be out a hundred bucks (or more). These two set me back about $30. I picked them because of (1) price, (2) they seemed solid when I put all my weight on one and (3) the grips were comfortable.

The section of trail shown here is an example of some of the hardest terrain I might run into in my hikes.


Not quite steep enough that you would have to scramble (use your hands).

Lots of places where it's like you are climbing stairs only the risers make you lift your foot higher than 10 inches.

This trail leads to the summit of Green Mountain just outside of Boulder,Colorado. It is part of a series of trails that start at Chautauqua park right on the outskirts of town. From where I live (in suburb of Denver) I can reach the trail head in about thirty minutes. It's where I go when I want to hike but don't want a long drive. I thought it would be a good place to try out my new poles.

I started off up the trail and for about the first 10 minutes, I hated them. They felt awkward. I had to get the hang of where to place them so I wouldn't trip over them. They were noisy. Every time their metal tips hit the ground they made a "thok" sound or if it was rocky "tink".

"Thok thok thok thok thok tink tink tink thok tink thok."

There was no way I was going to sneak up on anybody this way.

About the time I got to this vista looking back over Boulder, I started to change my mind.

My balance was better. Even with my tender knee, I never felt unsteady.

Going up stair step type formations in the trail were much easier because I could use a little arm strength to help me out. It was like having built in rails.

By the time I got to the top of the mountain and could look out over to the veiw to the east (the last picture), I was sold on them. I'd be using these for at least this season.

On the way down, I lengthened the poles and found they were just as helpful. Going down usually hurts my joints more than going up. I have to say, it seemed to be less stressful on my knees, once again because I was taking some of the weight with my arms.

I did take one nasty slide on the way down on some loose gravel and put all my weight on one of the poles to catch myself. It bowed but did not crumple and I was able to regain my footing without any embarrassing falls on my posterior.

So here is what I think from one hike.

  1. Noisy.
  2. Take some getting used to especially where the trail narrows. In areas where it is narrow and surrounded by brush, they can get tangled up with your legs and make you curse. Curse bad words that your mother would be dissapointed to hear you say.
  3. Stopping to take a drink, blow my nose or take a picture was a bit of a bother. Too many things to juggle.

  1. Made going up and down stairstep formations much easier.
  2. Seemed to take some of the stress off my legs and transfer it to my arms and shoulders. (Which are aching right now by the way.)
  3. Kept me from falling a couple of times. (Although I'd like to think my cat like reflexes would have saved me if I didn't have the poles.)
  4. Worked nicely in areas where I was moving from rock to rock. Helped me keep my balance while I checked for footing.

What do I think about my cheap poles versus some of the more expensive ones? Not sure yet. Let me get a few more miles on these and I'll let you know.

[All images taken by me during my hike in Chataqua Park 7/12/2008. Feel free to use any of them although if you use the one of me, could you Photoshop my belly to that of a twenty year old sprinter. Please.]

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