Hammock TimeJun 09, 2009
by Richard Lawton
photo by Stocksnap
When just being where you are is enough
With more free time on my hands, I’ve begun to venture out and explore more of the local area. It’s full of hiking trails, winding side roads, small towns, art galleries and restaurants—of which I’ve only explored a small fraction.
On a beautiful sunny day last week, when I had planned to stack firewood, I opted instead to drive down to Minnewaska State Park for the first time. I packed my day pack with a light lunch, a bottle of water, a book, a trail map, and the backpacking hammock that my girlfriend gave me a couple of summers ago (which I’ve only used a few times).
Upon arriving at the parking lot, I discovered that lots of other people had the same idea. The crowds thinned out the longer I hiked, though. While I usually prefer solitude in the outdoors, it was good to see families and people of every age hiking and mountain biking in such a spectacular setting, and with such obvious appreciation. Minnewaska is the Indian word for “frozen waters,” and its clear glacial lake is surrounded by a network of hiking and carriage trails.
After a couple of miles, I took a small footpath leading to a rock outcropping with an unbelievable view of the entire Hudson River valley. Lunchtime! I hung my hammock between two trees, took in the view for a while and broke out the trail mix and apple. The book I brought along was Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, by Rolf Potts. I’ve always enjoyed traveling and exploring new places, but the last time I did any real “vagabonding” was when a couple of my friends and I spent two months backpacking through Europe 30 years ago. This great book has rekindled dreams of perhaps doing some long-term travel in this new phase of my life.
Feeling a little sleepy with the rocking motion of the hammock, I put the book down and listened to the sound of the breeze in the trees, looked at the passing clouds and the shadows they cast on the valley below, and watched turkey vultures and hawks gracefully ride the wind currents. What a beautiful, special place. Amazing to think that it was my first time here, though it’s just an hour drive from my home. In the seven years since buying my Catskills property, I’ve been to Italy, Hawaii, Alaska, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and Sedona and Maho Bay St. John, and taken two bareboat sailing trips in the British Virgin Islands . . . but I’d never been here, even though it’s in my own backyard.
Reflecting on this while nestled in my hammock, I simultaneously felt the sensations of being suspended in midair and firmly connected to the trees and earth. As I began to doze, the breeze blew through the trees, through the about-to-bloom mountain laurel, and through my mind while the hammock seemed to stretch out connecting me to memories of other times in a hammock when simply being where I was at that moment was more than I could ever want: the refreshing taste of a cold beer on a hot summer day after mowing the lawn of our suburban home, feeling the rise and fall of my then infant daughter’s breathing as she slept while lying on my chest, and thinking of my dad and how 30 years ago he used to lie in the hammock I gave him for Father’s Day on Mount San Jacinto overlooking the Coachella Valley in California listening to the Dodger game on a transistor radio.
There are lots of other places to discover and explore right outside my door . . . and these mountains are full of trees, so I’ll be bringing my hammock from now on. Besides, I’ve got all summer to stack the firewood!