August 16, 2018

The 7 Ps

I awoke with flat ground beneath me, a rock jutting into my shoulder blade and leaves rustling next to my head.
The situation was surreal considering I fell asleep four feet above ground, comfortably cradled in my new Alpha Outpost hammock. Groggy with sleep, I wondered if this might be some cruel dream. Both my head and feet were still hoisted, so I knew I’d not fallen out of the contraption.
I decided to handle the situation like any other mid-night crisis — go back to sleep and deal with it in the morning.
Drifting off again, I listened to the breeze meander through the woods, cicadas croak their dreadful tune and frogs bellow amphibian lullabies.
Pennsylvania sounds beautiful at night, I thought.
Slipping further into a fitful rest, I thought about the green pastures, old barns and horse-drawn buggies I saw along the Appalachian countryside earlier that day.
I replayed my conversations with the young artist who’d offered his farm as a camping spot.
He told my friends and I about his family, local history and the preponderance of spiders inhabiting the area.

Spiders. Millions of them. Skittering all over the countryside.

I was awake.

Laying still so as not to make myself a target for the venomous, carnivorous insects that likely coated the ground I was now laying on. I pondered my plight before deciding the only solution was to get out of my hammock, barefoot, and get a proper look at the problem.
It was a quick fix. The bungee cord I used to secure the hammock to the tree needed to be wrapped around the trunk one more time, which would create enough tension to keep the fabric suspended as I slept.
But instead of sleeping, I lay awake commiserating about the snafu.
More than a month prior, my friends invited me along for a ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains. They would provide me a motorcycle, and in return, I documented and photographed their adventures.
My wife recently bought me a hammock, and since I knew I needed to pack light, I figured the ride would the perfect opportunity to test out my new outdoor sleeping system.

This was mistake number one.

With a month’s lead time, I should have been testing for weeks, ironing out the kinks before my entire existence depended on my ability to set up camp on a moment’s notice in the dark on unfamiliar terrain.

But it was a hammock and a tarp. How hard could it be?

First off, with the right system and perfect setting, a hammock could be a quicker, easier set up than a tent and bed roll.
During the five-day trip, however, I was consistently the last to set up and break down my camping gear.
Secondly, bungee cords are not suitable rigging for hanging a hammock. While my bungees were heavy duty and did not struggle to support my weight, it was nearly impossible to stretch them around a tree tight enough to prevent my hammock from sagging to the ground.
Lastly, my hammock came with a nifty tarp I assumed would be big enough to stretch out above me as cover from the rain. Yet, when I set it up on the first night of the trip, I discovered I would need to make a choice — my head could be dry or my feet, but not both.
Luckily, our route ran by several Walmarts, so I was able to rectify each problem that popped up.
Those purchases added up, however, meaning I had less money for trinkets and cold beers. At the end of the trip, I had a pack full of supplies I could have brought from home and certainly didn’t plan to take back.
With years of adventuring under my belt, I am more often the guy bringing along the kitchen sink than I am the one standing in a check-out lane waiting to buy basic camping items such as tie-down straps.
But experience can be a weak crutch, and I expected to be able to wing it.
I was not wrong about my ability to work through the problem with the help of my trusty credit card and at the cost of a few nights’ sleep.
Unfortunately, the final tally was a few dings to my pride and ultimately, my ability to enjoy the ride to its fullest potential.
As we rolled into our last stop, I recalled a saying my father was fond of throughout my youth: “Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance.”


4 thoughts on “The 7 Ps

  1. Best advice I was ever given! Surprised the sound of the other hammock doing the same didn’t wake you up!

  2. Enjoyed this accounting so much because it smacks of my own camping in PA!
    Ike, you tell it so much better than most people I know.

  3. I enjoy spending time outdoors during the summer. My friends and I would take our camping gear, drive up th the foot of the nearest hiking trail, set up our tents and sleep under the stars. It’s an amazing experience.

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