Snapping my hiking pole into place and having the segments line up and become rock hard is only part of the thrill of using two poles. The rhythmic arm movements force you to twist across your abdomen using muscles that are not normally worked while walking and give a feeling of great power. The power to conquer not only the groomed path on the way to work, but possibly a much steeper ascent. I admit that I had a romantic notion that I would be able to take a single walking stick. This all came to pass when I bought my knapsack.
Knapsacks are quite complicated. With the help of a woman that had some idea of what I might need in a knapsack I tried on several, all in the 50 – 60 litre range. That apparently is how much space you need to carry just the basics. Enough clothing to wash some while you wear some, sleepwear, sleeping bag and toiletries. Other than my iPhone, hat, raincoat and jackknife, I pretty well did not need anything else, other than perhaps a second pair of shoes.
The knapsacks are all adjustable to the extreme. Once we found one that fit me with the right combination of pockets, clips and supports, the woman from MEC put 25 pounds into the sac and both my knees gave way.
It wasn’t all that surprising to have my left knee wobble a bit under new weight. It has been unstable for over three decades and numerous doctors have strongly recommended surgery. I have found that if I keep the muscles around the knee strong, through regular exercise, I experience little discomfort, so why bother with surgery that is not going to be discomfort free? What shocked me was that my good knee shifted with the extra weight as well.
The beauty, and the selling point for me, of having two poles is that you can carry thirty percent of your weight on your upper body. Wobbly knees…two poles. What I was unprepared for was the impact it would have on the actual experience of hiking. The rhythm, the sound of the poles hitting the ground, the extra focus as I made sure that my foot and the pole had somewhere solid to land, was invigorating.
It made me sad to lose the romance of carrying a stick that I had found in a wooded area near my place. The white birch was only the third branch that I touched and it seemed to be waiting there for me. Birch is a symbol of taking a positive step forward. It combines male and female energy and is associated with growth, adaptability and exploration. From a practical perspective, it is virtually imperishable, strong, light and has a natural resonance that will amplify energy. This sounded more appealing to me personally than, “it will fold up and go into your suitcase”, but I didn’t know that I might need two poles to increase my chances of making the trip successful.