“Any day above ground is a good day!”
Returning to Doe Lake a few weeks after our wedding, things looked different. There were still plenty of people, but fewer RVs, trailers, and tents. The parking lot was full, but I only counted a handful of tents. How could this be?
We were at the 5th annual Hammock Hang, invited by Lil Ricky to give our How to Hike the Florida Trail presentation there. Hammocks of every shape, size, and color hung everywhere. Almost every tree had one. A few had two. Have you ever seen a “bunk bed” hammock? It’s two hammocks hung very close together, on the same tree and under the same tarp.
Chowder and Timber, the “Head Hangers” in charge, did not have to worry about trees. Their custom build H.U.T trailer provides them with hanging arms, a roof, and a comfortable living room.
We had not been there for long when I heard “Is your name John?” I must admit that I hear this more and more often, with our growing following on Facebook. But this time, the face pre-dated Facebook by almost two decades. It was my very old cycling friend Tom, who I rode with back in the 80s and 90s. We participated in a week-long bicycle trip once a year around Florida. The last time I had seen him was on the ride in ’94. Three days earlier, while returning from our extended honeymoon, we had driven through Tom’s hometown. I told Sandy that the next time we were here, I was going to look him up and knock on the door. I had no idea he was a hammock hanger.
“Grinder,” as his hammock hanging friends know hime, is a talented fellow. More than once, I overheard someone say “ask Grinder, he built his own.”
Hammock hanging, like everything else, comes in levels. There were plenty of minimalist hangers using nothing more than a hammock, a tarp, and a backpack. Then there were hammock complexes, where the oversized tarp became an awning, providing covered for folding tables and chairs. Gear was kept neatly in large plastic boxes. More than one complex had their own dog run and portable shower or outhouse. If I looked harder, I am sure that someone had a kitchen sink.
No trees, no problem. I saw so many cool homemade supports, and a couple of vendors had folding kits for sale, ready to set up and use.
What is great about a gathering like this is that you can spend time with like minded souls, get new ideas, and talk to some of the vendors who specialize in hammocks and their unique equipment. And best of all, make new outdoor friends.
While listening at the Sheltowee Hammocks display, I heard then ask “are you a lefty or a righty?” Not having a clue why that would be important, I “hung” around for the answer. It’s the side for the zipper when you get out of your hammock: left or right side.
As the sun began to set, the camp came alive with dozens and dozens of LED lights. Many of the hammocks were decorated with Christmas lights and many more had small LED lights next to the tie-down stakes.
For this weekend of hammocking, they were expecting over two hundred hammock hangers, some from as far away as Maine. It might get a little cool here in Central Florida, and you might need your underquilt. But most of the attendees from the north were enjoying the mild Florida winter.
Yes, these are the masters of hammocking! But there is something that they also do well: food. The outdoor kitchen was buzzing all day. For dinner, a row of Dutch ovens baked an assortment of cobblers. They invited us to join then for dinner before our presentation. And the meal was superb.
I own a hammock, I have for years. The only time I ever went to hang it, I found only a single tree large enough to support it. This was long before I found out about the hard-core hammock hangers. Even as a greenhorn, I found a way to make it work. I tied one end around the tree and the other to the spare tire on the back of my little 4X4 GEO tracker.
As for us converting to hammocks in the near future. I’m afraid not. My new bride doesn’t want to sleep in his and her hammocks. She’d rather share.
As we were leaving, I spotted a nice old Westy set up in the parking lot, covered with stickers of their travels and the same bike rack. I was starting to get a little homesick for Primrose. I bet we’ll be welcome next year if we show up in our Westy!
If you’re thinking about trying the hammock hanging lifestyle, check them out online and start planning to attend the 6th Annual Hang next year.