Tuesday, August 13, 2013
BLACK DIAMOND TREKKING POLES – OR ANY TREKKING POLES, FOR THAT MATTER
A product review
Besides motorcycle adventures, a favored activity of mine is a hike in the high country. It might be genetic. My postal-worker dad used to spend his weekends on the trail somewhere. He always used a walking stick. As a kid, I, too, used to carry a walking stick. Not because I needed it, but because I wanted to be like Dad. And since I wasn’t really using the stick, if oft-times was left in camp or used as campfire wood.
Fast-forward a half-century: My knees are sixty-one years of age. They’ve been temperamental for about forty of ‘em. Those high country hikes are breath-taking, and, for the most part, enjoyable, except for the pounding my knees take when hiking downhill and the tentative nature of my gait, always concerned about twisting or hyper-extending something. Injured, I could never safely mount the bike for the ride home.
After ruminating about this for some time, and after consultation with, of all people, my dental hygienist, I found myself in possession of a pair of Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Flicklock Trekking Poles. These lightweight tools telescope down to a length compact enough to strap on the motorcycle without exceeding the GSA’s ample width. They also fit nicely into the ski-pole slots on my daypack.
They easily extend to a length equal to where my hands are when my forearm is parallel to the ground – and then some. A cam locks the sections of pole securely into place.
The cork grips nicely fit my hands, the loop working exactly the same as the loop on those cross country ski poles I haven’t used in twenty years because of concerns about the painful confluence where snow skiing meets my poorly designed knees.
My first real use of the poles occurred on a recent Sierra high country day hike. The route required about an 1800-foot elevation gain in about a mile and a half. The descent would be about the same. The trail, although nicely groomed, involved stretches of uphill and downhill on ball bearing-like scree or sand slickened granite.
Going uphill using the poles in rhythmic concert with my gait, I didn’t feel any particular relief on my legs, but upon achieving a summit and resting, I noted that my arms and shoulders felt as if they were receiving a gentle workout.
Heading downhill with the trekking poles properly extended, almost, immediately, I wasn’t concerned about the errant foot slip that would have prompted my involuntary knee-stiffening reflex.
Only when crossing a small stream on a log was I so concerned about where I placed the poll tips that I nearly fell in.
On the five-mile loop, I was aware that most of my fellow hikers were using a similar appliance. One who wasn’t struck up a conversation admitting that he was nearly fifty, thinking about getting a pair and wondered how I liked them. That’s the moment when the above comments began to gel.
The following morning I awoke with pleasant memories of a hike in the high Sierra. My arms, shoulders and upper back felt as if they’d spent a little bit of time at a gym I never visited, and my knees? No acetaminophen necessary.
Dad, in his way, was right again. I should have purchased some trekking poles long ago.
Church of the Open Road Press