If you truly and truly want to have fun hiking in hills or mountains, you need a hiking stick. Some other names for this handy “stick” are a walking stick, climbing the pole, trekking pole, hiking pole, and a unique one thought up by the author, bear repellent. Hiking sticks are commonly used by those hiking through the European Alps. These useful sticks are not as common in this country, but their use is definitely increasing – perhaps because American hikers are just starting to learn their many virtues.
Why Use a Hiking Stick?
Hiking sticks are so useful it doesn’t seem smart not to use them on every hike. Hiking sticks help in crossing streams, going uphill, breaking falls, pushing aside spider webs and thick brush, and can even be used for self-defense if you come upon something unfriendly in the wilds. Common sense is the best defense when dealing with unfriendly, wild things. If you are hiking where bears or cougars are common, it may also be wise to have the adult you are hiking with (hike only with an adult) carry along a pepper spray.
What You Need for the Natural Wood Version:
* 1–fairly straight 5-7 foot length of a small, hardwood tree or large root that is 3/4″ to 1-1/4″ in diameter. (Sometimes, they can be found on a river bank or lake shore.)
* Varathane (or similar wood finish)
What You Need for the Broom Handle Version:
* 1 or 2 old, broom handles
* 7/8″ cane tip (available at pharmacies)
* 18″ length of a leather lanyard (can be cut from an old belt)
* 1-1/4″ 6-32 machine screw
* 6-32 nut (optional)
* 1 small washer (optional)
Making the Natural Wood Version
If the stick you are using is from a piece of sturdy dead wood, all you need to do is cut it to the proper length and sand it. While such a simple stick will do the job as is, it is best if you cut (or file) one or two handholds near the top and one near the “stick’s” middle–and give the stick two coats of Varathane or a similar wood finish. The best place to find a well-dried stick is along a river bank or the shores of a lake or the ocean. If you can’t find a good, already-dried stick, you can cut one yourself. If you live on a forested piece of property, it should be easy to find a good, straight, small sapling. If not, perhaps you have a neighbor, relative, or friend who has a wooded lot. Remember, you must have permission before you cut any tree no matter how small.
For your stick, select a small sapling that is fairly straight and is from 3/4″ to 1-1/4″ thick at eye level. Cut the sapling so that you have about a six-foot length.
Next, use a sturdy knife or a small hatchet to strip off the bark. Cut the stick to the desired length–five feet is often a good length. Let the stick dry inside for a few days–the longer the better. Use a round file or wood carving knife to make the hand holds as shown in Drawing 1. Sand the stick well and apply two coats of Varathane or a similar wood finish. Make sure you let the finish dry overnight between applications.
Making the Broom Handle Version
Cut the bottom of the old broom handle and then push a cane tip onto the cut end. The wrist strap is made from a leather lanyard. Drawing 2 shows the simplest way of attaching the lanyard. With this method, drill a 3/8″ hole near the top of the handle and string the lanyard through this hole. Tie it as shown in Drawing 2. The other method is shown in Drawings 3A and 3B. Here you drill a 1/8″ hole near the top of the hiking stick as well as in the leather lanyard. A 1-1/4″ 6-32 screw, nut, and washer are then used to attach the leather lanyard to the hiking stick.
Is the Hiking Stick Really a Bear Repellent?
Well, it seems to be from personal experience. I have never seen a bear while taking a hike with a hiking stick! Although I have to admit I have never seen a bear when I was taking a hike without hiking stick either!