Trekking poles are a big part of my existence these days. You will see these things all over the Camino. But, of course, not everyone carries them. Many young people choose to do without. Some people just carry one pole. Some carry a single wooden staff, in the tradition of peregrinos long past. Some carry a branch they picked up along the way and fashioned into a walking stick. All I know is that I couldn’t do without them.
Next to my boots, my trekking poles are the single most important item I brought with me. They have saved me walking down steep, slippery slopes. They have helped me when I was tired and would have tripped if I was depending on just my two legs and feet. They help me establish a walking rhythm as I move along. A 1999 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine found that trekking poles can reduce compressive force on the knees by up to 25 percent. Because of the rhythm you establish, they can often increase your average speed. To be honest, I feel a bit naked when I am not using my walking poles. They are a real help on this journey.
Most profoundly, trekking poles remind me that I cannot do this walk (or my life) by myself. I need help. That is the most difficult thing for me to admit in my life. I want to be able to do it alone. I want to be able to utilize only my own resources. I don’t want to admit that I can lose my balance and fall (literally and metaphorically). Taking walking/trekking poles is an acknowledgement of my weakness. Luckily, I can still look cool with these light, sleek, collapsible, foldable aluminum sticks.
Today was one of those days of weakness. We chose an alternativo route and things ended up taking longer than I had hoped. My ankles hurt. The wind was cold. We were alone on much of the alternative path. What was to be a short day turned our a bit longer (somewhere around 15 to 17 miles). Along the path there was a sign painted with some graffiti that read, “think of 10 things you are grateful for.” I was too frustrated at the time to take a picture of the sign, but I did heed its advice. The first thing I thought of was having Lena as a partner to do this with. But I assure you that among the things I was most grateful for was my trekking poles—and what they teach me about life.
One more thing. This morning, We were given a rainbow. Draw your own conclusions.