When I went camping in the backcountry of North Cascades National Park in Washington state, there were two things that saved me: one, my Eagles Nest Outfitters hammock, and two, a potentially dubious park ranger.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure of the park ranger’s intentions from the start. A ranger by the same name had been quite rude to me on the phone just the night before, though this one said he wasn’t working that particular day. There was yet an air about the man that made it seem like he knew something that I didn’t about our interaction. So, when he selected a particular site that he ‘liked,’ I wasn’t sure if he was picking me one that was unique awesome, or one that was actually horrible in some way.
After winding through the valley for a couple miles (which can be unnerving by yourself), I made a turn away from the main trail toward my campsite. And when I got there, I learned that the trail up that valley ended immediately after the entrance to my site, as there had been fires and the rest of the trail was closed. This meant there certainly weren’t people staying at least 10–20 miles from me in one direction.
I hiked down to the site, which housed many campsites. On that evening, none of them would be occupied but mine. I was unequivocally, and for miles, very alone.
And I felt vulnerable.
Even so, as I descended the lonely trail, I realized how beautiful the campsite really was. The most prime real estate were the sites that sat on the top of a 20 ft cliff, overlooking a teal fast-moving river.
In my mind, I was still susceptible to mountain lions and rogue park rangers, but at least I’d ‘go’ in a beautiful place.
When it came time to set up camp, I knew it would be the perfect night for my full Eagle’s Nest set up. For one, because it wraps you up like you’re back in the womb and I was planning on being scared. For two, the site was out-of-this-world peaceful and the trees near the cliff allowed me to make my own campsite as close to the drumming of the river.
I picked two trees without moss and with durable bark and tied up my hammock taut enough to provide stability but loose enough to have some curvature for me to lay diagonal in (laying so allows you to lay completely flat despite the shape of the hammock).
Next, I slipped the bug net over the entirety of the hammock, unzipped it and threw all my sleeping gear in.
Finally, I was pretty confident it wasn’t going to rain, but I wanted all the protection I could get. So I tied the eight small guide wires of the Dry Fly to trees and rocks to make sure I wouldn’t get wet over the night, even if it rained.
As the sun set, I finished praying that I’d live out the night, unzipped my bug net, and then slipped seamlessly into the awaiting blankets of my hanging bed. Although I was still a bit jumpy, the night was largely one of the most peaceful I’ve ever had.
So, thank you park ranger, for your great site recommendation. And thank you Eagles Nest Outfitters, for your great hammock sleep system. What, in my mind, could have been a night of trouble turned out to be extravagant and peaceful.