Swinging In Shade

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I’d always seen hammocks as comfortable yet never really gave them much thought. It was one of those luxuries where once and awhile I’d get to lay in one and that would be my hammocking experience for the year. A mixture between distrust and disinterest always kept me from owning one. The thin fabric of some looked like a waste of money due to the inevitable ripped seam or slight tear grown larger by my body weight. (Hey, whoa, I’m not fat just grown.) Well recently my father brought home a simple net hammock* meant to be hung between two trees. For awhile it sat collecting dust because no one really knew how to hang it up. Out of sheer curiosity I brought it with me to my patch of woods along with a bundle of 550 paracord* and decided to give it a chance. Hanging it up was as an amateur job as they come. I simply wrapped the paracord around the tree a few times looping the end of the hammock through the rope and suspending it between two trees.

It looked good. The hammock sat under the shade of two oak trees and gently rocked in the breeze that meandered its way through the forest. I tested the hammock with my hands at first and it appeared safe enough so I sat down, straddling it between my legs and balancing to get my feet inside. With both legs in, I laid down.

Whoa

The first thing I noticed was the hug. The hammock seemed to conform to and support all the arches on my body so there were no uncomfortable bumps or edges to deal with. If I sat or lay on the ground there would be plenty of sharp rocks or sticks to play like a bad masseuse on my back. In the hammock however I was well away from the ground. When the breeze came by, it flowed through the material and touched my whole body in a spreading coolness.

It only took a small push to get me rocking like a baby in a rocking chair. I was really enjoying this hammock. Shade, wind, birds, trees; this was really comfortable.

Since this small experience I always bring the hammock and test out features such as napping and book reading comfortableness(it’s definitely a thing). Both of which are awesome in a hammock.

My once closed eyes have been opened to the magic of the hammock in an outdoor setting and the market has now turned a new customer.

Think of a bed that fits in a backpack and can be set up anywhere there are trees. Sounds nice? That’s a hammock.

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*550 Paracord– Parachute cordage that is sold as 550 paracord for its 550 pound breaking limit. The versatility in it for outdoor activities leads it to be one of my favorite ropes to carry in a bag.

*Net Hammock– Also called mesh hammocks, these types of hammocks are an open weaved style which allows for maximum airflow and are usually very easy to clean. These, in fact, can be made using 550 paracord using simple weave designs.

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Grow The Addiction

dsc_5282I love the fisherman’s high. At a very young age I was lucky enough to have a father who took me fishing and a mother who supported my outdoor endeavors. Some of my fondest memories are set within casting distance of a body of water. As a result I have grown with an appreciation of the outdoors and nurtured qualities such as those that a fisherman would have. I grew patience waiting for a bite, respect when handling a fish, and, most important of all, a desire to show others why I love what I do.

This is not just a fishing story or how to or wistful musings from times of old. This is a plea from a member of the next generation to show all of us, fisherman or not, your secrets, values, and passion. I am a young man born and raised in Colorado who knows all too well other addictive mediums that kids in my age group use. They look for some sort of escape or fulfillment in their lives that they have trouble finding. Some end up glued to television screens and game controllers living viscerally through their online persona. They fall out of touch with their real lives and lose knowledge of what lives they could lead. Some end up plastering their faces on social media to find personal satisfaction in stranger’s comments and “likes”. Others still will resort to violence and misbehavior for the excitement and attention gleaned from overt acts. All end up detached from the outdoors as a personal outlet.

One of my close friends, prior to taking him fishing, told me, “My parents say that we’re a hotel family.” He was not young, not poor, not disabled. His family came down a long line of “hotel people” and he was set on a path that life, modern life, has handed to him. All his life lead to believe that going fishing is boring and when you go you never catch anything anyway so why bother. His few trips, to no one’s fault, were done in ignorance. Wrong bait, wrong tackle, wrong place, wrong time, throwing rocks, swimming dogs the list is endless. Well on our trip, he went with a fisherman. Now he ties the rigs and baits the hooks that catch the fish he’s looking for. One trip. The birth of a fisherman. Now he has actually experienced the fulfilling sport of fishing and asks me to take him more. Now the problem is that although I have showed him our sport I cannot always be there to support his growth. His parents do not take him and his family does not fish so that it falls to me to give him the opportunities to make more memories. On another note, he has told more friends about his experience and they want to go as well. I do not have the time nor the money to stage a one man movement to teach the world to fish.

As much as I would like to live my life abiding by the rules of the old proverb (see below) I cannot do this alone. I know that I was born fortunate, into an outdoor oriented family, and had many positive experiences and opportunities to form them. Others are not and will never be given the chance to.

Some fish for different reasons, by different means, holding different values, but residing in the core of all of us lies the hook for a hobby that can last a lifetime.

Believe me when I say that among my age group, rare it truly is to see a fisherman. Not one who “has been fishing before” but one who fishes for life. I see it in the midst of fishing trips. All those I see are mostly grown-men, many who are aging and grew up in a time when the outdoors was synonymous with everyday life. In today’s culture we see a trend where living inside is safer or more normal than spending time outside. This being the case, I see that fishing is a very powerful catalyst for getting someone outside and them growing a fondness for being there.

To me, fishing is much more than catching fish or competing for size or eating everything on the end of the line. If that’s why you fish, more power to you. However, I fish for memories. Years from now I will not remember the time I spent watching T.V. or playing call of duty. There was a time I heavily did. I will remember the evening with my father when we had an elk herd run in front of the car, illuminated by just our headlights and the slowly rising sun. I will remember the smile on my friend’s face fighting a huge fish all on his own and holding it up for his victorious picture. I will remember, and appreciate, my mother driving me to and from lakes and ponds many times at the drop a hat and always asking me, “Did you have fun?” This is because I do have fun, and I want to show others the same.

The success and growth of these values relies on the “breeding” of more fishermen. If they are not born, fishing will not live. It is in my humblest opinion that we are endangered, and it is solely up to us to save our bloodlines.

Take someone fishing. Sacrifice some of your time and grow the roots for the future of our sport.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

In both body and soul.

My Outlife Experience

Evening SunMy prior experience with the ocean had been small. Living utterly landlocked in the middle of the United States, the little time spent at the ocean was in the relative safety of picturesque beaches and their shallow water. Perfect for the summer vacationer I was.

Here the ocean was always calm, the sky blue, and beachgoers elated laughs swirled through the beach. The whole scene was postcard worthy and that was how I viewed the ocean. Inviting, gentle, bright and happy. The warm water would tease your skin and every little organism was cause for celebration and wonder. Much to my surprise, I would come to find that the ocean had personalities much like any person.

My trip to Japan took place smack dab in the middle of typhoon season and as luck would have it a typhoon had churned the water into an angry boil days before we went out. The night prior to leaving I was told that because of this the odds were not in our favor to catch something. Due to my severe inexperience, I was not sure what any of this meant. Would the waves be big? Is the shore eroded? I couldn’t be sure. That night, I had arrived at my father’s friends house around 8 o’clock in the evening and wholly expected to go to sleep and wake up early in the morning per what I was accustomed to. We had been sitting in his living room discussing equipment and methods when he asked if we would like to leave now.

Whoa, what? My excitement had already been building but it exploded with his question.

Now?

The gravel crunched underfoot as I stepped out of the car and listened to the distant roar of the waves coming from over a bluff in the distance. It was just light enough to make out the top ridge of the hill which obscured my vision of the beach. It was evident that certain parts of gear we wore had not received a thorough cleansing for awhile. The dried salt flaked off in white speckles and some buckles on the life vests would not tighten properly because they were caked in the minerals. I struggled with them as we walked and failed to realize we had crested the small hill until I heard my companions footsteps stop swishing through grass. I was dumbstruck. As far as the eye could see was an unbroken stretch of beach barely illuminated by the moonlight. The roar of the ocean was louder now, unimpeded by the hillside.

“That’s the sound of the waves?” I asked my dad incredulously. The look on his face echoed my disbelief.

Holy crap.

We stood in silent reverie. The wind blanketed us in its heavy humidity and the air smelled like the ocean’s unique mix of seaweed and rotting leaves. I was sure that the sound would be deafening standing down there. My father and our guide stood in conversation. He didn’t like the look of the ocean here. I swallowed… it looked daunting for sure. Another moment and we decide to move locations.

The area we moved to had submerged breakers designed to slow down the waves right before they hit the shore. After a short drive, the same process ensued; putting on the gear, tightening straps, walking out. Instead of a hill, this area required a stream crossing to get to the water. The stream was only barely above ankle deep yet it was brimming with life. The most abundant organisms were large freshwater shrimp and hundreds of small crabs scuttling their way up the bank that took cover whenever our headlamp beams shone upon them. There were so many that their movements sounded like pebbles tumbling down the rocky embankment. Coupled with the glowing, light-refractive eyes of the shrimp, the whole environment was creepy and mesmerizing at the same time.

After the stream crossing was over I walked the sandy beach to the water’s edge. The sand stuck to my skin and ground against the bottom of my feet where they touched the sandals. The aching wind blew with force and now I was up close and personal to the sea. My interpretation of the noise was that of the nearing vibration of a jet plane overhead. The waves would crash further down the shore and continue rolling down and beyond us into the dark. Easily thirty feet down, the water would tumble away as the wave receded and come back at us like a stampede of bulls only with a more archaic sense of anger.

 I was scared.

It would be all too easy to have your feet swept out from under you and become swept around at the mercy of the aggravated waves.

This is not the ocean I was used to.

This ocean screamed obscenities and shook a scar pocked fist at you under the veil of a hooded cowl. I summoned up the courage to stand at the water’s edge and feel the calf deep water drag sand against my bare legs. My shorts and t-shirt offered no protection from the elements. I plodded along anyway. The first location, as the waves receded, resulted in a huge wall of water about as tall as a normal adult. This area was only slightly less violent but less violent it was so we commenced to fishing.

The technique was simple. Cast out a lure as far as you can and reel it back through the water. I was doubtful that any creature could survive in these conditions but our guide said that the fish prowled just beyond the white breakers looking for fish that were caught in the waves. They swim into the boil, snatch a fish and dart back out again. These scenes flashed through my mind and my original fears began to ebb. I would run down, following the water; cast, and run back again at a full sprint. In this fashion I played tag with the currents, goading Mother Nature into catching and ending my swiftness. Really though, these realizations only came after I had left the beach. It was so loud that a person’s thoughts seem to be swept out into the water as well, drowning in the onslaught of bubbling, crashing, and fizzing waves. Bioluminescent plankton would wash up in the foam and the glowing balls of bright blue light would swirl around your legs and fade out as quickly as they’d come. It was like watching the reflection of shooting stars in a mirrored lake; calm and fleeting.

Screeeeeeeee! My rod doubles over and the drag screams out in a warning. I panic and yank the rod in a hook set. I start fighting it, reeling in when it relaxes and letting it run when it strains against the rod. I was so speechless that for a few moments I was unable to shout in excitement. Finally it came. “Got one! I got one!”

I flipped on my headlamp and continued the fight. My group ran over and questions I didn’t answer rattled back at me.

“You got one?” “Is it fighting hard?” “What is it?” “How was the strike?” “How big is it?”

I was focused in the moment, the feel of the fish forced my hands to work on auto pilot adjusting line drag and reeling in line. Soon it was quiet and all eyes focused out into the dark waves hoping to catch a glimpse of our quarry. The headlamps swept back and forth like watchtowers. My father reached out and asked if he could feel the fish. I relinquished my grip and his eyes betrayed a puzzled expression.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

He looked up at the rod tip a moment before stating, “I think you have some trash or something.”

What?

He reeled in line as fast as possible and it was only then I happened to notice that the “fish” fought as the tide went out and relaxed as the tide came in. As if it was being swept around in the current.

“Oh man!”

He proceeded to drag a mess of line lure and seaweed up onto the shore. No fish. I was disappointed but able to laugh at myself at how caught up I had been in thinking I had one.

We continued to fish long after my excitement had abated but were still not able to hook up with anything.

Out of everything that happened this day, I managed to catch a bug for adventure and new experiences. I am overtaken by wanderlust when I remember the crashing waves and ghostly lights in the dead of night. I learned the name and philosophy of the outlife which became inspiration to live a unique lifestyle. I know that more experiences like this one are out there.

Living an OutLife will show me them.