There is was squeezed right onto the bottom of the Christmas list that my grandma requested from me every year. I wanted a hammock. A nice, strong hiking and camping type of hammock. Why? Well, it certainly wasn’t for me to use at home. With one tree in my yard, it would be pretty difficult to try and string up a hammock. But, like pretty much everything else that year, all I could think about was camp. This camp, like many others is filled with swimming, crafts, sports, a bunch of other activities to satisfy any child. It’s also filled with loud songs, crazy traditions, crazier counselors, and the craziest off-brand cereal themed game of capture the flag you will ever play (okay, probably the only). After 8 years of being a camper, the crazy becomes normal. Within all of these wonderful crazy things is the perfect little sweet spot between being a camper and being a counselor. They call it the Leadership Training Program, and along with fulfilling 3 years of service at camp learning how to interact with children and adults alike, there are also “trips”. Though they are extremely fun, that’s not quite what the “trips” are about. The first year is about building leadership skills among your peers. I guess they decided that the best way to do that was to put 8 teenagers and 2 adults (they’re young adults, but it counts) together in the woods and hike, so that’s what we did. We did 27 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail in 5 days with the first and last days being a mile or less each. For more experienced hikers, this journey may seem like nothing, but we were a bunch of teenage armatures. I didn’t even break in my hiking boots. What I did have with me, for the whole journey, was my neon yellow, pink, and blue, DoubleNest ENO hammock. Let’s just say that I was not blending in with the woods at all in that thing, but it was perfect in every way. I was not the only one with a hammock, they were actually quite popular in our group, and even the people without hammocks had reserved spots in others’ DoubleNests. No (wo)man left behind.
Each day as we trekked along, we discussed our plans for that night (who was sleeping in whose hammock, whether or not we would set up the tents as backup), and each night, we promised each other that we would all sleep in the hammocks that night. The first night, we just got there too late. The second night, it was raining and wouldn’t let up, the third, no good trees. We arrived at our fourth and final campsite determined that that night was THE night. We set up our hammocks before dinner. There was not a cloud in the sky; the trees were perfectly placed for our setup. We were totally ready. We ate dinner, sat around a campfire, told some scary stories, and headed off to our hammock village for a good night’s rest under the stars.
Except… we were two scared. As funny as it may seem, the scary story that our director told us about a family going camping (I’ll spare you the rest of the details) left 8 15-17 year olds too scared to sleep outside, so back to the tent we went (because tents are way more secure…). My hammock dreams were dashed. After all, I had been a hammock owner for a whole six months, and I was just itching to sleep in it, but back in my hiking bag it went. After camp was over and I headed home, back in my closet it went. Hidden from me, rarely thought about until I was packing for camp a year later. Another list was made.
(What can I say? I like lists.):
Again, squeezed right onto the bottom. I didn’t figure I would need it this time. After all, most of our time would be spent at camp with a 3 day service trip at the end, but ENOs are small, so I figured “Why not?” That “why not?” quickly became a “why did nobody think of this before?” As a group, we rearranged our bunks and set up the hammocks between them. Maybe not the safest thing, but the way they were set up allowed for the perfect weight distribution so that no bunk beds (or people) were harmed in the process. This new set up allowed us with not only a fun place to hang out but a relaxing place to destress after a long day or dealing with a difficult camper because believe it or not, camp is stressful when you aren’t a camper anymore! Because the hammocks were like this, I spent my first official full night in a hammock indoors which I guess is kinda like cheating. Then, we all decided that we’re we’re going to bring the hammocks along for the service trip, after all, we were camping out at night. Upon arrival at the campsite, we were disappointed. Not by the fact that we were camping at the base of sand dunes with the shores of Lake Michigan just on the other side but by the fact that being sandy, the trees at our campsite were sparse. There was one small cluster of trees for 10 hammocks and 14 people, but with never give up attitudes, we set them up. Like the bunk beds, there was some concern of the trees breaking down, but that was a risk we were willing to take for one perfect night in a hammock. And it was perfect. Wearing about 10 pounds of extra layers and bearing sleeping bags we all climbed into our hammocks (with the people on top careful not to step on anyone else’s face on their way up). As the breeze from the lake swung my hammock and rocked me to sleep, the comfort and warmth of my ENO DoubleNest (that I was sharing with a friend) swaddled me as I slowly fell into my dreams. The fear of sleeping in my hammock that I had the year prior was replaced with the feeling that there was absolutely no place that I’d rather be.