I visited my parents this weekend. I took advantage of their large yard with stout trees to test out my hammock. This is the part where I launch into a lengthy explanation about the hammock. If you’re only here for the hiking, scroll down until the font color changes.
One of my sisters-in-law gave us this hammock for Christmas. I have no idea why. I don’t like hammocks – I’ve always found them incredibly uncomfortable – and we’ve never expressed any interest in a hammock. But hammocks are having quite a ‘moment’ in the outdoor enthusiasts’ community, so I decided to do some research about hammocks. The people who love them claim they’re much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground, and my body is not loving sleeping on the ground. I found a few descriptions from other folks who sleep on their sides (as I do) that led me to decide to not reject the idea outright. (Apparently the trick is to lie diagonally. More on that later.)
There are negatives. First, this set-up is not only heavier than my bivy sack set up, it’s friggin’ heavier than my tent. In addition to the hammock, one needs suspensions straps. If there’s a chance of rain, or if one wants some privacy, one needs a tarp. If it’s buggy, one needs bug netting. Sleeping in a hammock is colder — when one sleeps on the ground, one’s body heats up the ground immediately underneath; in a hammock, all that body heat is being transferred to the air. Some folks use an underquilt, which is essentially a second sleeping bag. In the hiking world, lightweight gear is prized, and lighter weight comes at the cost of a dearer price tag. That’s the second negative: more gear means more money. The third negative is that while one can use a hammock in places one cannot put a tent (sloping, wet, or rocky ground), there are also places one cannot put up a hammock (no trees). I found a description of how to rig up hammock gear in lieu of a tent. This led me to decide to try the thing.
I purchased a set of hanging straps. Straps are preferred over rope as a 1″ wide strap will not damage the tree. I ordered a tarp, but I knew it wouldn’t arrive in time for me to use it on this experiment. That meant I had to hope for no rain. (My sleeping bags are down. Wet = cold night.) Saturday afternoon, I set up the hammock. I used my 15°-25°F sleeping bag and my Z-rest foam pad. (The foam pad helps the hammock feel warmer by holding some body heat.) Getting into this thing was interesting. It feels so flimsy, despite the fact it’s rated to hold 400 pounds (not sure I’d want to test that weight limit.) Finally I just plopped myself into the hammock. I did not fall out or through it, so I’d call that a success. I still couldn’t figure out how one manages to lie diagonally even in this hammock that’s built for two, nor can I imagine two people being in this thing without ending up mooshed together. But here I am, in a hammock, not hating it.
In the evening twilight, I headed to bed. I needed to figure out how to make this work as a bed. Where to my shoes go? What about my glasses? What about my Kindle? The manufacturer suggests leaving shoes out of the hammock, but I decided mine would go at the foot end of the hammock. That worked perfectly, as I could easily reach them and they didn’t migrate around within the hammock. I put my water bottle on the ground, and it was easy to reach. Initially, I put my glasses in a pouch hung from the hanging strap. I didn’t like them being out of my immediate reach, so I putting them on the ground in my hat. I didn’t like that much, either, so I moved the pouch to the side of the hammock, near my midsection. That worked well.
I slept really well, but I never did master the diagonal side sleeping position. When I tried it, I felt like I was going to tip out of the hammock because my center of gravity was no longer along the center of the hammock. My rear end was off the Z-rest pad, and I immediately felt the difference in warmth. That’s going to take some work.
The Kindle ended up underneath me. That was not ideal, but I’d already done my evening reading.
The verdict is that it’s worth my trying this thing while hiking. However, I’m not convinced I’ll use this hammock. First off, it’s 24 ounces – more than my bivy sack. This hammock has a string of LED lights along the edges. That’s a silly thing. And it adds a fair bit of weight, even without batteries. (The standard double hammock is 19 ounces. The single is 16 ounces, and ENO makes a 10-ounce ultralight hammock for weight-conscious hikers. Yes, I’m considering buying it.)
And now, the hiking:
During the drive home, I stopped at Snoqualmie Pass to hike. I figured Snoqualmie Pass was a good option as it didn’t require a detour, and I could do an easy out-and-back hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. I brought a pack with me, partially filled with stuff. (I’m guessing it weighed about 25 pounds. My overnight pack weighs about thirty.) I forgot my hiking boots, so I did this hike wearing my too-large trail running shoes. That’s not an ideal choice, but it worked. It also helped rein in my ambitions. I’d initially hoped to make it to Olallie Meadows (about 4.5 miles from the trailhead) but I opted to turn around after about three miles.
The first part of the trail is in the forest. It’s lovely, although the roar of traffic on I-90 is ever-present. The hiker is then thrust into the treeless slopes of the ski area. The slopes are pretty well covered in brush, much of which was in bloom. It’s a pleasant distraction from the climb. At less than a mile, the hiker reaches Beaver Lake. Such a pretty little lake. I’m quite curious about the building. Adding to my curiosity is the existence of narrow-gauge rail ties leading up the hill. My guess is that the rail line ran to this little building, and that both have to do with mining in the area before this became the playground for Pugetropolis. (I’ve done some preliminary research and haven’t found anything specific to this spot.)
After Beaver Lake, the trail loses all the elevation it just gained. The noise of I-90 fades away (for a while, at least). There’s a lovely stream/waterfall that crosses the trail shortly before Lodge Lake. I didn’t take a picture of either, and I wish I had. I did encounter an invisible hiker at Lodge Lake, though.
I took this picture at the spot where I turned around. I-90 is quite the noisy beast!
I was surprised by how many hikers I encountered on my way back to the trailhead. Westbound I-90 had a significant back-up, and I suspect some of them decided to get off the interstate and go for a hike. Not a bad option.
Along the way, I encountered this sign. It set me to thinking… and yes, I’ve already mapped out a next hike along this section of the PCT.
The trail was pretty damp — in many places, the rocks were covered in condensation — bug the bugs weren’t as bad as I would have expected. And I’m happy to note that my experience at Lake Wenatchee was not repeated. It’s possible those mosquitoes were especially aggressive. However, I’ve decided that I haven’t lost my powers, that I am not relegated to the ranks of mortals, and that I am still a titan.