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  • Writer's pictureRuby's Winding Road

Speak Softly and Carry A Big Walking Stick

At an arts festival many years ago called Art in the Park in Columbia, Missouri, we came across a booth of super cool walking sticks. The walking sticks were uniquely exquisite with their contorted figures, grisly knots, and incredible natural colors highlighted in shiny lacquered finishes. We had actually been looking for a sturdy walking stick and one from this vendor was sure to fit the bill. John was drawn to a particular stick with a small turquoise pebble mounted into a divot in the wood. None of the other walking sticks at the booth had one of those that we saw. So, that was the one we picked.

After getting our new treasure home, John added a rubber tip to the bottom end for better walking stability. He replaced the natural-colored wrist cord with one that was black and gold to match the colors of his college alma mater. That was just the start.

Walking stick with medallions
Our walking stick

Through the years, the walking stick has had a metamorphosis of sorts. As we've visited various national parks, historic monuments, state parks and other unique travel locations the walking stick has become bedazzled with medallions from park stores and the like. At first, we didn't think the medallions would fit the contoured stick shape. However, we found they tend to mold themselves onto the walking stick and it was no trouble at all. A little tap with a small hammer on the medallion tacks and done! Groovy.

The medallions started as just a funky and inexpensive souvenir to tack onto the walking stick. At first, we weren't sure we wanted to litter our cool walking stick with the medallions. Seems we got over that thought. Over time, the walking stick has become a scrapbook of sorts. A memento of places we've been. It's easy to spend a bit of time looking at it and reminiscing about our past adventures.

Many of the big ones are there like Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Then there are the smaller locations like Wupatki National Monument in Arizona, Agate Fossil Beds in Nebraska and Sunset Crater Volcano in Arizona. Some of the medallions contain embossed colorful images and others are brass-colored plates. Some sparkle in the sun and others have a matte finish. They're as much a sight for the eyes as they are for the fingertips as you roll the walking stick through your hand.

Crater of Diamonds State Park sign
Dig for your own diamond in Murfreesboro, Arkansas

The stories that come to mind when you see all the places you've been... Ooh, there's the medallion for Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Yeah, that was a rainy June day spent digging in the mud for diamonds. No better way to channel your inner child than playing in a muddy dig site on a rainy day. Sound gross? Actually, it was quite fun! In fact, the overall mood by those there that day was pretty jolly. People were digging, singing, joking and hoping to find a diamond with each sifting/washing of rocks from the bucket of dirt they had shoveled from the ground. Not many people thought they'd actually find a diamond; they just hoped to find one. Occasionally, we'd locate what we'd consider a "top pocket" find as they'd say on the "Oak Island" treasure hunting television show (some neat looking pebbles from the bucket and a park medallion from the park store). Crater of Diamonds State Park is a pretty fun place to take a kiddo. They can get dirty and mom doesn't really care. Sweet!

The medallion for Capitol Reef National Park highlights the red rocks and dark night sky. Is there any other place in the U.S. that the stars shine as brightly at night as in Capitol Reef? Well, possibly, but that's what we remember. Stars by the billions. Spectacular! The petroglyphs are pretty interesting, too.

The medallion for Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado should come with a warning label. Super magnificent and wonderful place to visit, but you'll never ever get all of the sand out of your shoes! Never. Ever. We dumped the sand out after climbing in the dunes. With sand still running through our toes the next day, we hosed our shoes out. Sand. Finally, we threw our sneakers into the washing machine. Guess what? Sand.

Looking out the windows of the Washington Monument.
Looking out Washington Monument's tiny windows

Of course, you don't necessarily need your walking stick in places like the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington D.C., but what would a trip like that be without memorializing it with a medallion or two on your walking stick? Looking at our stick now we spy the light blue medallion highlighting the Washington Monument. Yes, that was a fun day traveling to the top of the monument and looking out its tiny windows for a view of the area. We had our teen daughter with us at the time. It was a cold and mostly rainy spring visit and the cherry blossoms were preparing to bloom. We bundled up and walked and walked and walked the National Mall (okay, maybe the walking stick might have come in handy). The National Mall is an important place of reflection and remembrance. It's definitely a needed place to visit. Then, there are the national museums full of treasures. Dorothy's ruby slippers on display at the Smithsonian remind us there's no place like home. True! But there certainly are some awesome places to visit.

Sometimes, we find the "oh, yeah" medallions when looking at the walking stick. You know, the places you have to be reminded that you visited. Geez, how could we forget? Other times, we'd spend several minutes turning the walking stick around and around looking for a medallion we know is on there even though we can't seem to find it. Occasionally, we find a medallion in a backpack that never found its way onto the walking stick. Hmmm. How can that possibly happen? Then there were those times we were having so much fun we just completely forgot to buy a medallion, Drat.

Our walking stick
Can you find the turquoise pebble?

This particular walking stick is getting pretty full of medallions. We're not sure how many are on there and likely won't count for now. There's still just a little bit of room at the bottom of the stick for a few more medallions. Even so, we're on the lookout for our next walking stick to fill up.

Someday after we've hung up our travel wheels, we'll likely speak softly and still be carrying our big walking stick (or sticks) of memories. Maybe at that point we'll count the medallions. Until then, the journey continues,

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