Love Sticks? There’s an Instagram for That.

Stick Nation was born last summer, during a hiking trip to Arches National Park in Utah.

Boone Hogg, Logan Jugler and some friends were cracking jokes as they trekked toward Delicate Arch. From their free-associative silliness came the notion of reviewing a stick as you might a sculpture or valuable antique.

Later, Mr. Hogg, 30, took out his phone and shot some video of Mr. Jugler, also 30, as he mused on the qualities of a stick he had picked up from the ground. It seemed to be more interesting than the sticks nearby — it had the approximate shape of a handgun, for one thing — and Mr. Jugler found that, to his surprise, he had plenty to say about it.

“It was really weathered and worn, and felt great in the hand,” Mr. Jugler recalled. “There was a nice trigger spot for your finger. I think I gave it a 7 out of 10.”

In any other era, the idea of weighing in on the aesthetic qualities of sticks might have been left behind in the wilderness like stray bits of gorp. Instead, Mr. Hogg and Mr. Jugler created Official Stick Reviews on Instagram.

The account, which bills itself as “the internet’s go-to for stick reviews,” quickly attracted 40,000 followers, many of whom offer commentary on the sticks under discussion. They also submit photos or videos of the specimens they have come across for possible review.

Mr. Hogg manages the social media accounts (there is also a TikTok), while Mr. Jugler tends to the content. He was the one who came up with the idea for a Stick of the Month, which is typically selected by the two from users’ submissions. February’s winner, curved at one end, resembled something that a character in “The Hobbit” might carry as a walking staff.

Mr. Hogg, Mr. Jugler and their followers have come up with various metrics to judge a stick, including size, shape, color and texture. An especially large stick earned a mere 5 out of 10 rating because it “may cross the line into log territory,” one commenter said.

Like almost every online community, Stick Nation has had its debates. One mildly contentious discussion concerned how to judge the beauty of a natural stick (a “natty,” in the group’s parlance) against one that has been sawed-off or otherwise modified (or “modded”) by human hands. As a result, Official Stick Reviews has established separate categories for each.

Sticks are also run through a battery of pseudoscientific tests, some with fanciful names coined by the account’s creators. The McMurray Bend, for instance, provides a framework for “looking at the overall bend of stick,” Mr. Jugler said.

The Tennison Curve Scale is named after Kathleen Tennison, whom Mr. Hogg identified with a wink as “a scientific figure.” (“In my mind, Kathleen Tennison is real,” Mr. Jugler said.) The pair also award extra points to sticks that easily lend themselves to being spun like propellers.

What started as a wilderness jest has by now morphed into something slightly less tongue-in-cheek. The act of finding, handling and appreciating a good stick seems to speak to one’s inner 5-year-old.

“Sometimes it’s a bit, with people leaning into the internet-ness of it,” Mr. Hogg said. “But a lot of time it’s a sincere thing that people are connecting with. They’re appreciating something as basic as a stick.”

In the more than six months since they started Official Stick Reviews, Mr. Hogg, who works in marketing, and Mr. Jugler, a physician assistant, said they have been surprised to encounter so many hobbyists who are passionate about fallen bits of branch and the like. One commenter shared that he inherited his mother’s treasured stick after she died.

“We’ve facilitated this common ground that people have,” Mr. Hogg said. “Not to be too heady about it, because it’s just sticks.”

The two men regularly field questions from people who want to have a better sense of the guidelines for what makes a stick aesthetically pleasing.

“I don’t know that the rules are super coherent,” Mr. Jugler said. “We tell them, ‘The answer is in your heart and your soul.’”

The creators and followers of Official Stick Reviews are not alone in their appreciation of these humble pieces of wood. The artist Patrick Dougherty has had a long career thanks mainly to the sculptures he has fashioned out of saplings, sticks and twigs. And home décor websites are filled with tips on how to make attractive branches into adornments for the foyer or living room.

Mr. Hogg and Mr. Jugler have created T-shirts, bumper stickers and other Official Stick Reviews merchandise as they continue to develop lore around the concept of the stick aficionado. But they are making it up as they go along, just as they did on that hiking trip.

“Wherever the stick-heads in Stick Nation want to take it,” said Mr. Hogg, “we’ll go.”


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