Sometimes I wish carrying a walking stick was more acceptable in daily life. Maybe it’s just my yeoman heritage or my fondness for the old ways…
To do so now, you tend to either look like a hoodlum or the walking wounded. Living for so long in wild country I found that a staff was a handy tool that lends some confidence when encountering a wild hog, a rutting elk, or dog. In my professional work as a field scientist it isn’t common to carry one either due mostly to the logistics of carrying a map, notebook, compass, GPG unit, pin flags and the like. The reality is, you only have two hands.
However, in the perfect world of semi-fantasy that I inhabit, I tend to keep a walking stick nearby and have several on-hand at any given time. I’ve wavered over the years as to whether or not the extra burden is worthwhile and the truth I have settled upon is “yes, mostly.” Other than the confidence it gives in an unwanted encounter, a staff really helps a walker crossing a stream or other rough terrains when heavily loaded.
As the great traveler Colin Fletcher wrote many years ago, “it converts me when I am heavily laden from an insecure biped into a confident triped” The Complete Walker.
In the mean time, if you are contemplating becoming a walker yourself, or already are, you may enjoy Henry David Thoreau’s short essay on the subject. It’s a favorite of mine from a surveyor and philosopher who spent much time walking in the woods.