My plane was running late from Denver to Phoenix and I was barely a minute late getting to the gate headed to Santa Barbara. I was put on a later flight and told everything would be alright, but what I was not told was that I would still have plenty of daylight to search for a safe, secluded area to hang my hammock on my first night being “homeless.”
After landing and watching the sunset as I made my way to a 24 hour McDonalds, where I planned on pulling an all nighter on YouTube, I recieved a call from Gabe Wilke, a good friend of mine. I was resting at a park and told him to get on google street view so he could see exactly what I was seeing. It is a pretty cool feature actually. He got on and found where I was and realized it was daytime on google.
“Dude, I can find you a tree on here.”
Those were the most beautiful words I had ever heard. He led me to what looked like a nice hidden area and I set up my hammock and gear all up in the tree. The tree was backed up in a corner 50 feet or so from a bike path with a tall brick wall and an even taller tennis court fence on the south and east sides. There was full coverage from the bike path and the street and I figured no one in the parking lot behind the brick wall would be looking in trees for Eno’ers after their graveyard shift at the factory.
There was a 6 foot gap between the other side of the tennis court and the brick wall making a sort of alley leading directly to the base of my tree, where I was hanging within hands reach from the ground, completely exposed. There was leaves all around and it was very hard to walk without making a ton of noise.
It was around midnight and I was finally sitting in my hammock ready to crash when the incredibly nerve racking thoughts flooded my mind. What if the police come? What are you going to say? What if they take you to jail? You don’t know anyone to bail you out. What if a homeless man assualts me? What if a tweeker wants something from me? I guess these thoughts eventually wore off and I dozed off into a light sleep.
I woke up.
Someone was walking down the alley. I lay there frozen as the footsteps, obviously human, slowed and stopped directly under my back at the base of the tree. He’s probably just peeing. What if he doesn’t see me? He has to see me I’m right here. I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die. No, you are fine. Just look over the edge and talk to him, he probably is just curious. Wrong again, it’s like 3 in the morning, all he wants is trouble.
I was frozen until it felt like ten minutes had passed. I had not made a single move and found myself regulating my breathing to be silent. I reached into my shirt pocket and looked at the time. 12:48. Okay Tardy, at 12:50 you are going to look over the edge, you won’t be able to sleep until you do. I froze for what felt like two minutes and went to look at my phone again. I realized I had to do something as soon as I found both of my hands to be clenched in tight fists and my jaw furiously locked shut. It was 1:00.
I pulled myself together and jerked my upper body up and looked over the edge of my hammock. My fists were clenched and my face was ready to take a punch and I immediately darted my eyes to wear my predecessor was. Nothing. Everything was just as it was when I got in my hammock an hour ago. I guess I dreamt the footsteps.
That dream sucked.
I got up for the day at 4:45 that morning, 45 minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off due to my cumpulsive shivering and lack of proper PJs. Thankfully that was the worst night I have had so far, though I have been cautious when sleeping in new trees.
What I did not realize about that first night was that I woke up without my back aching. No matter what position I slept in on a bed, I always woke up with a sore back and felt tired all morning. Somehow sleeping in a hammock has changed that. I wake up with only 5 or 6 hours of sleep every day and love it. My body feels rejuvenated, my back does not ache, and I am wide awake every time from the moment my eyes open.
I have figured out the perfect tension to hang my hammock and I fall asleep almost immediately after laying down. As long as I know I am safe that is. But then again, on my last night in Santa Barbara as I was lying in my hammock on Facebook, a man walked directly off the street towards my tree, examined my longboard at the base of the tree as he peed, and continued on about 30 feet to the next set of bushes where he layed down to sleep.
A week earlier and I would have wet the hammock, but I shrugged it off and got back on Facebook. No big deal.
I looked up the benefits of sleeping in a hammock (http://www.treklightgear.com/treklife/sleeping-in-a-hammock-guide/) and they are pretty numerous and very accurate. I can honestly say I have experienced them all and would highly recommend throwing a hammock up in that dorm room of yours, it just may be worth the switch.