I have wanted to spend an entire night in my hammock for quite some time. There were a couple times in the past when I attempted to do this, and both were colossal failures. The first attempt involved my hammock being attached to a metal pole during a thunderstorm, and the second was thwarted my one of the guys I was with waking me up in the middle of the night to go back to campus because he couldn’t sleep. Clearly, I have had bad luck with hammocking in the past, so I set out to change that this summer.
It was mid-afternoon on a Saturday when I got the bright idea to spend that night in the great outdoors. Seeing that there wasn’t too much time to get everything planned and started before nightfall, I was quick to text my sister Jenny and our friend Olivia. I had mentioned the possibility of camping outside with them in the past, so it was not a huge surprise for me to text them with plans for a camping excursion. Within a few hours, we were heading to the state park near my house filled with excitement about what adventures might be in store for us.
Upon reaching the park, we said goodbye to my sister Abby, who had been kind enough to drop us off, and began hiking. We had the idea to set up our hammocks near a ledge that overlooks the incredible gorge at Letchworth State Park. Once we had hiked to the spot, we set up our hammocks and prepared for an amazing night outside. Quite a bit happened during the night in the park, so I will break it down into three lessons that I learned from the experience.
- Taking artsy photos of someone in a hammock looking peacefully over the stunning landscape actually takes quite a bit of work. I have always seen what feels like thousands of photos peppering my Instagram feed of adventurous people relaxing in a hammock that is perched against a beautiful backdrop. Since I am clearly an Instagram star (with a whopping 213 followers), I wanted to create a similar photo. So I took about fifteen minutes to set up my hammock in a place that had an incredible view and got Jenny and Olivia to take turns snapping photos of me. I felt exuberant as the photos were being taken, because I knew that they would look incredible. Unfortunately, there is a little more work involved in those “#liveauthentic” photos than a hammock, a person, and a beautiful background. After seeing the dark photos that showed my hammock sitting mere inches above the ground, I realized that those Instagram users most likely utilize a photography crew, professional lighting equipment, a DSLR camera, and ample amounts of Photoshop to make the photos look so “effortless”. Needless to say, I have realized that my calling is not to shoot adventurous Instagram photos.
- A state park is not much of a solace from the craziness of everyday life. I imagined that being situated far from the road that winds through the park would give us the opportunity to hear nothing more than the sounds of nature and my sister Jenny talking in her sleep. I was wrong. Shortly after we had settled into our hammocks for the night, what I can only assume was a full-blown cocaine bender began near the road that we had walked from. I guess that the shape of the landscape magnifies noise or something, because I could envision the entire party that was going on below us. I soon kissed my hopes of a peaceful transition into sleep goodbye as I listened to what sounded like one of Lindsay Lohan’s home videos being filmed in the distance.
- It gets cold at night. Being the practical, space-saving person that I strive to be, I made sure to pack light for the trip. Knowing that it was close to 90 degrees during the day, I figured that it would remain hot throughout the night, so I brought a small blanket to keep me warm as I slept. I had the brazen attitude of a seasoned Mt. Everest climber as I packed my tiny blanket, because I “knew” that I would probably not even need it during the night. Again, I was wrong. At roughly 3:00 AM, I awoke feeling as if I was being cryogenically preserved. The blanket that I had brought along, which was the size of the napkin that a flight attendant gives you to set your drink on, was doing absolutely nothing to keep me warm. I shivered and shook for what felt like hours until I finally fell asleep. The sleep was fitful, and I was only able to make it until 6:00 AM before I was fully awake.
Once the three of us were all awake, we packed up our campsite and headed down the trail towards the road. We had planned for Olivia’s sister Claire to pick us up, so we began walking down the road to meet her. We may have looked like refugees from a war-torn country, but we walked with a spring in our steps. We had survived the night and were better people because of it. Ok, so maybe not better people, but we were at the very least a tiny bit more knowledgeable about the type of coverings needed for a night in the woods. It may not have been the easiest goal that I have accomplished, but I am happy to have been able to spend an entire night hammocking outside. I will probably never do it again, but I can at the very least share the experience with the next generation, who will undoubtedly question me about my former hipster lifestyle.