4185RE: [Hammock Camping] Winter Thinking
- Dec 18, 2003
MessageRick, I'd say you're entering the "Freedom" part of hammock camping. I subtitled my book The Complete Guide to Comfort, Convenience and Freedom" to express exactly the very "place" your hammock will take you, not physically, but mentally. We're all familiar with the comfort and convenience--Ah, but the freedom part is the real heart of hammocking! The journey has just begun. Thanks for your thoughts....Ed-----Original Message-----Winter Thinking
From: ra1@... [mailto:ra1@...]
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2003 11:30 AM
To: hammock camping
Subject: [Hammock Camping] Winter Thinking
The long nights of winter and hammock experiments allow me a great deal of
thinking time. Some of that time is very productive, and some of it is purely
emotional in a primordial way. I have sometimes been challenged to write a
little more about my feelings than my findings. As a scientist/engineer that is
not always easy. However, that is what this post is all about.
The thought of going out into the cold and sleeping in a hammock can be quite
daunting. Yes, I reassure my son, I know it is completely safe. If I begin to
shiver I will come in. I will escape to the warmth provided by a big warm house.
And those words reassure me too.
Somewhere in my primitive defense mechanisms, words of warning scream though the
rational thought pattern. "You are going to die in the cold," my brain whispers
to me. "You are going to get sleepy and never wake up." So, in response, I pick
up the hammock, the quilt, and some additional insulation into my arms. I step
into the frosty world of swirling wind, crunchy snow underfoot and realize the
little hairs inside my nose are freezing to one another with each breath. In
this environment I will spend a night, trusting the materials I have put
together with my own hands to keep me safe, even if not comfortable.
Why? Well, it all started when a friend who would be going with me to the
Boundary Waters Canoe Area asked me to make sure the hammock stuff would work
well on our mid-summer's trip. I recognized the look in his eyes. I have had the
same look when considering a trip to the wilderness with a friend. "Is he going
to drag me down? Is he going to be begging for extra food? Is he going to be
miserable and even beg to go home early because he has not thought through the
implications of his choice of gear?" The thought went something like this: If I
can spend comfortable nights across the worst of Ohio's April with the gear, I
should be able to do anything the border lakes can throw at me in August.
Exactly how this snowballed (sorry for the pun) into sleep systems for Ohio's
January, I really don't know. Maybe a few too many testosterone molecules got
lodged in some wacky part of my primitive brainstem... But last year I started
seeing how cold I could go. Whenever I think rationally about it, the devotion
to this cold problem in a hammock seems quite un-rational. Too bad! It, like the
figurative mountain, is there and begs to be climbed. The realization that no
one else has ever been this path before is part of the adventure. The
realization that there is a reason no one has been this path before is just
something I stick in the TravelPod as extra insulation...it is like a bunch of
The result finds me, again, swinging between two trees in a 15 mph wind, with an
air temperature hovering around 20. I feel quite snug, even smug, lying there
looking into the sky through the little slit in the Travel Pod.
Some nights, the sky is as clear as interstellar space. I again look to my
childhood friend, Orion, and name his stars. Up and to the left is the beautiful
red tinted Beetle Juice (I use the phonetic spellings here just for fun) and her
cold blue twin Rigel down and to the right. How a single constellation ended up
with so many beautiful objects has always amazed me and is a powerful reminder
that random groups are not homogeneous. Random distributions, in fact, are often
wonderfully complex with beautiful clumpings of splendor. Back to the upper
right of Orion is that Amazon Woman named Bellatrix. How I again thank God that
my wife is not like her! To the lower right is the misnamed Saiph or sword.
Between Beetle Juice (Betelgeuse) and Bellatrix is the fainter Meissa, easy to
overlook when the sky is obscured by moon glow. The beautiful stars of the belt
are there: Alnitac, Alnilam, and Mintaka. I use my last name (Allnutt) to
remember the beginning of the first two. The suffixes come to be because there
once was a great Air Force command called the Tactical Air Command (TAC) and
because my sheep in the back yard each began as a winter born lamb. I look at
the structure of M42 in the sword and judge the clarity of the sky by how much
of the cloud I can see with my bespeckled glasses.
Other nights, the moon shines partly obscured by clouds through the waving
branches of the trees over my head. I try to concentrate on the movement of the
limbs, thinking about how much of the motion is due to my swinging and how much
is due to the limbs moving in the air. In the cold, the limbs sometimes crack as
the water in their thin skins freeze and then the ice breaks with a sudden
movement of the limb in the wind. I worry a little about them coming down and
spearing my abdomen, my life ending in a pool of coagulating and freezing blood,
alone. It begins a singsong washing back and forth between the melancholy
sterility of the emotions of winter and the logical improbability of any such
event. I know I probably will not die this way. It is much more likely I would
simply be badly wounded and crawl bleeding into the house. Small comfort as I
look up again at the cold moon through the branches.
Then there is the thought that this pod around the hammock will be my shroud.
When will I wake with ice infesting the whole zipper? Will I be able to push the
zipper through the ice, or will I have to resort to pulling the cloth apart at
the seams. How well did I build the seams? Will I be able to get enough grip to
break the threads? Should I have carried a knife to be with me so I can slit my
way out? What about a gun, as has been suggested? Will some demented creature,
man or beast, decide on this improbable cold night to attack me for warmth, or
food, or out of meanness? Maybe it will be for my warm down quilt that they will
sacrifice me on the cold black altar of death.
With pleasant thoughts as these, I drift off to sleep. Dreams of cold caves and
trees and warm lakes and summer breezes run through the dreams. Getting up to do
the necessary at midnight and again at 2 or 3 AM, I wonder that I am so warm;
and that I get cold as fast as I do. Back in the protective covers I warm up
again and feel kinship with my kind that have been able to survive winter for
these many generations. I wonder how many of them tried to do so in a hammock
and how many of them would have thought me daft for trying. So great a cloud of
witnesses debate about the merits of my thinking as I drift off to sleep again...
And so it goes. Sometimes with only a few interruptions to turn on a different
side, and sometimes with even hours of lying partly awake wondering when sleep
will ever come and if the night will ever end.
This is what it is like for me when I sleep in a hammock in the middle of the
All in all, it is a wonderful way spend a portion of the hours of life given to
me. It is a wonderful way to live.
To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
Yahoo! Groups Links
- To visit your group on the web, go to:
- To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
- Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
- To visit your group on the web, go to:
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>