Tuesday, August 13, 2013


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.

© 2013
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. As to your inability to navigate you motorcycle home with an injury, it is surprising what one can do when necessary. I recall when I foolishly overcharged an off camber curve at a high rate of speed. All I could see was a barbed wire fence in my line of travel and I swear the two words that I uttered were "Oh shit". I immediately took a enduro stance on that Goldwing to get that barbed wire out of my path and by so doing, I hit the raised section of pavement (about 5 inches) and it shot me like a bullet straight across the road into a muddy section of land that threw the bike to the pavement. When I hit the pavement it broke six ribs, punctured my right lung and filled the cavity with blood. This was a painful incident but the worst part was a hard time breathing. I was 120 miles from home and we were at Knights Landing trying to figure out my way home. One man that lived close by said I could leave my bike at his place and recover it later. His thought was for me! To double up with one of the Oldfarts but that would have been worse for me that to ride my own bike home. Those Goldwings are pretty much bullet proof and after Tricky Dicks constant barrage of jokes that caused me pain from laughing, we made the trek home. It was when I sit down and started to unwind that I decided I needed to go to the hospital. That was a few years back in my late 70ts and the only time I ever spent much time in a hospital. Six days to get the fluids suctioned out and the lung re-inflated. My point is, you can do a lot when you have to like the man caught in a way that he had to cut off his hand to escape.

  2. The above from long-time Pashnit reader (and pal) "Papa Ken." To which I replied on that forum:

    Sounds like another one of your great adventures. I once rode about 50 miles with a busted clavicle after having taken a header in some unforeseen sand - coincidentally right on the road to Woods Lake where I tried out those poles the other day.

    Riding busted up is no fun, but it beats not riding at all!