We had a plan. A really great plan. But, you know what they say: humans plan, God laughs...
So, hiking is our thing, Mike and I. He has a good idea of the vistas and sunsets he wants us to experience here in the US southwest. Neither of us are natives but Mike seems to have taken to the Nevada wilds better than I so I tend to let him lead the way. Most people would say the desert isn’t beautiful but it takes my breath away. I love the stark landscape that gently gives way to bristlecone pine trees and snow-capped mountain peaks. It’s a hundred and ten degrees in Las Vegas and a cool 72 in the mountain.
I love our adventures together but often my challenge is dealing with my paralyzing fear of heights. Acrophobia. I don't like being high enough that the fall could kill me, so how is that a phobia and not just a reasonable way to live? In any case, Mike has the patience of a saint sometimes, especially when my fear strikes me to the point of being immobile.
On this trip, though, there was another challenge. Let's call it the Hammock Challenge. Here was the plan: Mike and I hike up the mountain to the perfect vista. We find the perfect set up and string up said hammock for an amazing time spent taking in the view, basking in the the well-deserved rest earned from gaining that view, and enjoying each other. What could be better? I was sold.
Until I tried to buy what I was sold on. The hammock turned out to be on sale for seventy dollars. When had they gotten that expensive? Then, the prepackaged hooks needed to string up the hammock was an additional forty-five bucks. Right off the bat we’re supposed to invest, with taxes, about a hundred and twenty dollars. What nonsense! Mike and I decided to buy nylon rope, with a tensile strength of about 400 pounds because the cost of that?...five dollars. Perfect!
Now, for those of you who are hammock virgins, there are certain rules one must anticipate.
1) Everything slips. No matter how strong your knots, no matter how firm a grip your rope has on the supports, no matter how well secured is the canvas to the line, until you actually commit your full body weight you do not know how much everything will slip. What does that mean? With your weight, knots tighten, the supports give, the rope slides down if your support is a tree, the canvas gives… Everything slips. The result is the hammock will hang much lower than you expect or seems apparent when it is first strung up, taut and empty.
We spent a healthy part of the day climbing our mountain. Once we found that perfect spot, strung up our hammock, it was lunch time. We had a hammock, we had sandwiches, we had drinks. Mike strung up our hammocks between two trees and we sat in it. Instantly, we realize our mistake…in being that Mike is five foot six and I’m five foot four. Not enough height to reach the optimal distance needed to make a hammock work. Instantly, the rule that everything slips kicked in. The canvas spread open and swallowed our bodies. Humans, sandwiches and beverages all disappeared into the cloth. Then, rule #2 kicked in and we fell directly onto the hard, rocky ground butt-first. The tensile strength of our bargain rope was a lie as it snapped apart and whipped me on the arm. Finally, the no cousins rule engaged and what had once been six distinct entities became an involuntary mass of human-beverage-sandwich sexual relations – and not in a good way like in the movies.
After several minutes of struggling, we finally emerged from the hanging bag of horror, bruised, scrapped and unable to look our lunches in the eye. With a big hole now in the center of the hammock, we said good-bye to that fantasy, packed up, and trudged back down the mountain.