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Swagman1956 - Appalachian Trail Journal - 2018

Entry 23 of 26
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Country: United States
Begins: Feb 4, 2018
Direction: Northbound

Daily Summary
Date: Thu, Jan 11th, 2018

Journal Stats
Entry Visits: 54
Journal Visits: 2,211
Guestbook Views: 9
Guestbook Entrys: 0

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Last of the Great Lumber Toters

Ye Ole Walking Staff

A lot of my hiking buddies laugh at me for being one of the last lumber carriers on the trail. While I do see the advantages of trekking poles (balance, pace and makeshift tent poles) there is something primordial about carrying a traditional walking staff, pole or stick. Not only is it a symbol of authority, it can with a little skill and training, become a formidable means of self-defense. Now I’m not saying my walking staff is a weapon; by all means it is not but rather it is a tool available to the accomplished adventurist to fend off unwelcome advances from agressive animals and in some situations belligerent humans without simply surrendering to the inevitable . After a short search on the internet I was able to locate a couple of disciplines ranging from some ancient marshal arts techniques from the Far-East to an obscure document in the National Archives illustrating a self-defense method using an umbrella or gentlemen’s walking cane. Armed with this knowledge I set out to devise my own style using a walking stick. Remember that scene in the 1984 “Karate Kid” where the actor Pat Morita gives the famous show me wax on, wax off; paint the fence and sand the floor to Danielson? Well that may seem very “Hollywood” but there are some fundamental moves prevalent here; most notably blocking and deflection. These moves can be incorporated into a walking staff defense and I stress defense because there are virtually no offensive moves involved with the exception of a thrust and striking blow but they are only used after defending an attack and to deter further agression. The walking staff is routinely a weapon that law enforcement is reluctant to target for confiscation. Remember that scene in the Lord of the Rings trilogy “The Two Towers” where Gandalf the Gray tells one of Theoden’s soldiers “you wouldn’t separate an old man from his walking stick now would you” then breaks Saruman's spell over King Theoden. You get the picture. We as a civil society just can’t go around confiscating every walking staff, stick and canes from the elderly because that would be… well you know just plain stupid and mean spirited.

It was physically stimulating and a lot of fun going through the moves in slow motion. I highly recommend that if you try this to do it outdoors where there is plenty of room to maneuver and almost zero chances of accidentally destroying anything valuable. Going through the motions in slow-mo is a great way of walking through the maneuver and if necessary, stop, back up and try again if you stumble all over yourself. The fluidity of motion is important because as you transition from say high block to striking blow, to a low sweep then thrust it is important to find a point where you stop the current maneuver, choose the next maneuver then commence the next; block, strike, sweep, thrust, or recover. Once you establish a routine of moves it becomes second nature or automatic as each sequence is rattled off without hesitation or blunder. With practice and repetition a pattern emerges that can be randomly sequenced to keep an advisory guessing to your next move.

There are also physical fitness and flexibility benefits in these routines. One routine I like to do is put on some music and through the tempo generate a good cardio workout. Additionally, before starting each routine I take five to ten minutes to simply stretch out using my walking stick for both a tool to stretch and to keep one’s balance. Which also brings me to another side topic every thru-hiker should work on and that is of course balance. There is an elevated concrete block retaining wall in my backyard about thirty inches high, twenty feet long and nine inches wide. I like to hop up and walk as far down the nine inch path keeping my focus about four to six feet ahead of my feet. This exercise is to build confidence in traversing all those narrow pathways and logs along the trail and it works! Try it at home sometime and see what I mean. The trick is not to look at your feet but in front as you naturally walk. Once you gain the confidence and master the skill to place each step in line with the other it’s only a matter of repetition and time where you’ll be scrambling across logs like a sure footed squirrel on the tiniest tree limb. In retrospect, all these exercises are nothing more than confidence builders that will pay off handsomely along the trail or in town when the need arises. Weather it’s traversing a log over a babbling brook or hopping from stone to stone to the other side, your true state of mind is critical in achieving each feat and overcoming all physical and mental challenges.

Entry 23 of 26
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Postcards From Paradise

Enjoy the Hike... Swagman
This will be my third and hopefully final attempt to thru-hike the AT. 2010 attempt ended with a family emergency. 2012 ended with a fall off of Mount Bemis in Maine. 2015 I was diagnosed with Squamous cell throat cancer so no hike. Recovering from the effects of radiation-chemo therapies and very, very retired now days. Please hike vicariously with me in 2018. AT registration is #A841


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