Dana shares his favorite DIY hiking sticks and the history behind them.
Back in the day growing up in the steep hills and wooded bluffs of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers, a hiking stick was picked up when the going got rough or slippery and was discarded in the woods when no longer needed. Later on I had a “shroom stick,” just an old yellow broom stick that I used mostly to brush aside the under growth when foraging for tasty wild edibles. It served to steady me when needed and would be used to defend myself from the Northern Timber Rattlers that live in the area.
Now that I have retired to the mountains of Northern Arizona, I find myself walking and hiking both for entertainment and to keep me and my furry four legged friend, Taani, from getting fat and lazy. Hiking sticks are now pretty much something that I feel is necessary when hiking the rugged trails.
I now find that I am the owner of five hiking sticks. One is a modern lightweight, collapsible aluminum stick that I got for backpacking adventures years ago. It hung from my pack most of the time but was really handy to have when I needed it. But it’s not my favorite.
My favorite stick was created by necessity on a week long pack trip on the Ozark Highland Trail in the mountains in Arkansas with my two sons Zak and Gabe. Gabe had stepped on a loose rock and sprained his ankle. We wrapped the ankle in an elastic bandage and soaked it in the mountain streams when we came across them. But the going was rough, so I cut a branch off of a fallen Ash tree and made a hiking stick that he could use.
As we proceeded with our hike, we improved the stick with items we found along the trail. A piece of para-cord hanging in a tree became a grip. A drawstring found at a campsite made a lanyard, a shotgun shell became a tip to keep the bottom end from splitting. As we rested in camp during the evening, we decorated it with a turkey feather, carvings, scorching over the fire and even etched with a nail heated in the fire which we found in a tree. Gabe died a couple years later and his widow gave it to me as a keepsake. I treasure those memories.
My “every day” stick is a hickory push broom handle, to which I added a rubber tip and a leather wrapped grip. It’s not fancy but is light, sturdy, and strong enough to defend me and my dog from any overly aggressive free roaming canines. It’s great for use around the neighborhood and developed recreational areas. I will probably decorate it more as time goes on.
I made a primitive stick for my wife Regina from a birch sapling. I shaved most of the bark and some of the inner bark off of it to give it the “look” that she wanted. It is now used as a curtain rod in our “primitive” guest room and looks great.
My latest creation is a fearsome survival tool, made from a piece of bamboo I ran across at a home decorating store. I did put a lot of work into it and placed a rubber tip on the bottom to keep it from splitting. But the real genius of this stick is that I knocked one of the cell partitions out of the upper end so that I can store essential survival supplies inside the tube. Then I made a decorative, removable cap that secures the contents and serves as a mount for my Survival Knife. It is an awesome weapon for defense from some of the very dangerous wild animals that inhabit the remote regions I like to explore. And I always will have water treatment tablets, water proof matches, fish hooks and 25 feet of high strength cord for snares, shelter building or maybe even a bow string.
There will probably be more hiking sticks in my future. Undoubtedly, I will find an interesting stick somewhere and another creation will follow. Stay tuned!
Dana Fleming retired from John Deere after 42 years of employment last year. He, his wife, and their loyal dog Taani (Shh!…she doesn’t know she is a dog), recently moved from Iowa to the mountain region of northern Arizona where they are enjoying exploring their beautiful surroundings and the old-west history. Dana has been keeping busy with a variety of DIY projects which he will be sharing here at Imperfect Women.