Not very often do I find a consecutive Friday night and Saturday morning where nothing is going on. I took the opportunity to go out alone and camp overnight. The weather was ideal, if you don’t care for clear skies and dry ground. This was a great opportunity to test out my new rain fly (borrowed from an old tent), and see what it is like to sleep in a hammock.
After some tactical consideration, I chose to camp in Green Canyon where I wouldn’t wake up to any surprises on my car windshield. At the parking area I surveyed the landscape and chose a direction to look for a campsite. I wasn’t feeling very ambitious, so I found a general area about a Frisbee throw from the parking area.
I stumbled onto a fire ring made of rather sharp rocks, and decided that I had gone far enough. It was about 7:00 Friday evening. After scouting the area to assure that I was the only inhabitant of the new digs, I strung my hammock and managed to get the rain fly raised and configured in record time — about 45 minutes. If my carefully coiled rope hadn’t been so well packed it might have taken longer.
The sleeping quarters looked good, almost picturesque. From the inside I had a great view of the trail so I could see who came and went. To get an idea of what it looked like just think of 4th and Main. A stop light might be appropriate on the weekends.
I knew the dark would be on me before long, so I explored the area and found a dead juniper tree. That is where I spent the next 30 minutes, gathering firewood. With an ample supply on hand I turned my attention to the fire pit. Tall grass stood all around it, making it almost invisible. Not only would the grass get in the way, but it might be hazardous. So I trimmed out a circle 2 feet larger than the fire ring, one handful at a time, using a knife to cut it. It was painstaking work, but it looked pretty neat when I finished. Soon the air was filled with the crackle of flames and the scent of juniper smoke.
The world got darker and darker, but at some point it actually lightened a shade or two, enough to see shapes clear across the canyon. It was the lights from town reflecting off the clouds. I walked out into the field to observe what I could beyond the fire glare. From there I could see the city lights lining the mouth of the canyon. Then I noticed a strange sound, barely audible. It sounded like a distant gun shot, coming from over the North mountain ridge. First a faint boom coming from one side, then an echoing report from the other side. I stood for several minutes just listening. It happened again and again, with a few moments in between. They got louder. Soon I could see dim flashes of light on the ridge. It looked like the front lines of battle on the other side or somewhere not too far. I thought about what it would be like to live someplace where every day you knew the war was just one ridge away from your home. An ominous thought, it gave me the chills.
After a while the fire died down to a nice bed of glowing coals. My excursion was such a last minute affair that I went up without any good food to roast over the fire. That was a bummer. I did pack myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I can’t imagine a bed of glowing coals improving the taste any. Since I had no food to cook and no friends to tell ghost stories to, I decided to turn in early. I don’t like ghost stories anyway.
I didn’t worry about the fire getting out of hand, a new volley of rain came through every 20 minutes or so. I got into my hammock filled with sleeping bag. It was so soft, and the air was so warm, that I considered just sleeping on top and not worrying about getting inside. Experience told me that it would get colder in the small hours, besides, I needed some protection from mosquitoes.
As I settled into bed and prepared to sleep, a group of guys at the parking lot gathered together and raucously shared their experiences. Who knew “salty” language could be so unsavory? Next time I do something like this I’ll go someplace not so busy.
I woke up several times during the night. I realized that a hammock is a hassle when you gotta go. I also noticed the sound of mosquitoes. They sounded like they were trying to get to me from underneath. Surprisingly (and thankfully) they never came up topside. Other than that, it was nice not having rocks and roots sticking into your back (even with foam pads). In the morning I felt like a banana. I laid there about an hour before peeling myself out of bed. I was a little stiff, and thought if I tried to straighten up I might break.
The first thing I did was check my backpack to see if it was safe and sound. It was dry, but alarmingly it was covered in bugs! A congregation of pill bugs gathered for a revival. I’ll probably be pulling pill bugs out of there for weeks. Note to self: get everything off the ground. I’m glad that I put my shoes in the hammock instead of on the ground.
I started the fire again, just to prove that I could after a rainy night. Once it had died down enough I got my stuff together and took off. I think I’ll need a nap.