I got back a few days ago from my trip to the Pacific North West. This trip was quite different than most I have made, and very interesting. I have posted a few pictures over in the gallery, although I can't find half of them. I didn't take my camera, other people were taking the pictures. So I don't have as many of the hammock related aspects of the trip as I would like. Our group consisted of two hammock hangers and one pair of ground dwellers.
After various delays en route, we finally completed what turned out to be a much longer drive than anticipated from Seattle to the western side of Olympic national Park, parking at the Hoh River visitor center outside of Forks Washington. The sun was already setting is we hit the trail. Finally we found ourselves hiking in pitch black night, at the foot of 300 foot tall trees that were anywhere from five to 10+ feet in diameter. It was a truly overwhelmingly dense and gigantic forest, with the trail going along side of a raging river which drained the glaciers that sat about 3000 feet above us. As we hiked along, I started to become discouraged about the aspects of finding a tree small enough to wrap some webbing around and hang my hammock. It wasn't looking good, and I figured I was going to spend the night on the ground, and was thankful I brought my pads. And there was an incredible amount of deadfall and fallen gigantic trees everywhere you looked.
We were hiking along by headlights, and we finally figured out that we had overshot our planned first night's camp. I'm glad we found a useable spot by the river. Because, as hard as it was going to be for me (I thought) to find a hanging spot, I don't know where anybody would have pitched a tent in that jungle. Giant roots covered the ground everywhere, as well as all other forms of dense vegetation. So this first camp, as were several others, was basically in a dry section of river bed. The Park service actually encourages camping on these gravel bars. At this spot we had no trouble finding a flat place for the tent out from the jungle, the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" as we started calling it ( Hoh river trail, actual name). But there was a lot of trouble finding trees suitable for hanging. But on the way in from the main trail towards the gravel bar, we had spotted a few likely ones, and after dinner Tom and I left the ground dwellers and headed back off that way. My friend Tom had a shorter version of the Hennessy hammock expedition, and we were quickly able to find a couple of trees suitable for him. It was a little more difficult for me, because the trees that we had found were just a little too close together for my ultralight Explorer. But after a bit of fiddling I got it all done. This is all done, again, at night by headlights. But when I got up the next morning, I did notice quite a number of suitable trees that separated a small dry Creek, with trees of the right size and right distance apart on each side of the creek! But I hadn't been able to see these in the dark.
It didn't seem like it was going to be very cold, so after I loosed the tarp and hammock from the snake skins, I placed the super shelter under pad inside and attached it. I left the space blanket and kidney/torso pads inside the pack. I crawled in the hammock, somewhere around nine or 10:00 p.m., and was soon passed out. For the whole trip, I think the lows were in the 40s to maybe low 50s, highs 60-70. For some reason I failed to leave my watch out and get an actual measurement, but it was definitely not as cold as the trips I normally take in the Rockies. Although, it was always very humid and/or foggy or raining. I slept warm and toasty and comfortable all night, and I was very glad I was not in a shelter with any of my loudly snoring mates. It was much better to hear the snoring going on at a distance. Actually, when I look back on that night, I don't remember ever sleeping that good the first night out on a backwoods trip. Even if I'm very comfortable, the first night out away from my normal place of sleeping, is usually not a good nights sleep. I usually wake up a lot. But if I'm recalling correctly, I didn't even get up once to take a leak. I don't remember moving until I heard my son making noise getting the food bags down out of the trees. That's amazing, and completely different from my first ever night in a hammock last year in Wyoming at 10000 ft. Where nearly freezing to death caused me to have to abandon the hammock and get on my sleeping pads on the ground. But, I had no idea what I was doing at that time. Thank goodness things have improved a bit!
Then I got to experience a bit of enjoyment from the skills I have gained with the hammock, not to mention the great help in taking down and setting up camp which is afforded by snake skins and webbing/buckles/cleats(one on each end). On last year's trip, I struggled with everything related to the hammock, and part of that was because of an unusually severe case of altitude sickness. So I was always very slow in getting my camp set up and breaking it down when we were ready to go. Well on this first morning in camp, I nearly had to dump my other hammocking friend out on the ground to wake him up. It was unbelievable how soundly he was sleeping while the rest of us had been up for an hour and a half. I had already finished breakfast, and had to go over there close to his hammock and yell his name several times before he finally responded! So when I went back to where the tenters were finishing their breakfast, and told them that Tom was just getting up, one of the young smart asses, remembering my struggles last year, and thinking that hammocking was time consuming silliness, said "yeah, and Tom will still be ready to go before Bill is". Well that kind of worked out better this year! I walked back over to my hammock, pulled the under pad out and stuffed it in its sack, slid my hammock into the snakeskin's and took it down, slid my tarp into their snake skins and took it down, stuffed the sleeping bag back in the pack and strapped the snake skins on top of the pack, and I was ready to go in a matter of minutes. I was packed and ready to go two hours before Tom (sleeping beauty) finally got ready to go and a good hour ( or more) before anybody else was packed up and ready to go! Need this to say, I had to remind them of this later on. Every time we got to camp or broke camp, I was always the first to complete the task, even though the tenters had two people to work on setting up and breaking down and packing their tent. Sweet!
I'll give some more details in a later post. Suffice it to say, it was a completely satisfactory hammocking experience!
I can't figure the whole gallery thing out. I'm doing something wrong and pictures are missing. Anyway, maybe you can see a few pictures at these links. If you will notice, in the thumbnail pic you can see extra pads and such under my tarp. The tarps became a gathering place for every one to hang out during the long periods of rain!