Just Add Water: Recipe for the Perfect Hang

by Ryan Saunders

There are two reasons I love to hang my hammock near water. First, water is just one of those things that makes for a great view. Ocean waves, meandering streams, sparkling lakes, waterfalls…it doesn’t seem to matter what form it takes, water always finds a way to put the mind at rest and improve the mood. Second, Southern Arizona gets hot. Being able to take a quick dip from time to time makes almost any outdoor adventure more enjoyable. It was with these reasons in mind that I set out for Canyon Lake in Tonto National Forest for a quick hammock session.

I needed to do something that was simple and that didn’t take much time. So once I reached the lake, I pulled off the side of the road, grabbed my pack, and scrambled down to a large flat-topped boulder that extended into the lake. There weren’t any trees in this area, but that was part of the plan. I set my pack down, unzipped it, and pulled out a dry bag. Dry bags are great. They hold your gear, keep it dry, keep it from sinking, and—perhaps best of all—they’re a lot cheaper and smaller than a boat. So I tossed all my gear into the dry bag, sealed it up, and tossed it into the lake. Then I jumped in after it and, using it as a floatation device, set out in search of a couple decent lakeside trees.

Before long, I had found what looked like a good spot. It wasn’t too far off and my makeshift floatation device made the swim nearly effortless. When I got to land, I could see that the trees were a little further apart than I would have liked. They were also on a steep slope. Fortunately I was rocking my ENO Atlas XL Straps which gave me just enough length to pull off the hang. Of course, the slope required me to secure the hammock high and tight to keep from sitting on the hill when I got in, but it all worked out in the end.

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Canyon Lake attracts many visitors, so it doesn’t exactly provide the solitude that I prefer in my outdoor adventures. Still, the place I found was tucked away enough that I was able to kick back and relax. The high cliffs that surround the lake, the saguaros that line the hillsides, and the sunshine that gleams across the water’s surface—all of it helps summon that chill we all need at the end of the day.

Aside from a cool dip in the lake, and a relaxing hammock session, there was something more to this mini-adventure. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to work with, but I felt like I made good use of the time I had. I could have simply drove around to a spot where I could step straight from my vehicle to a perfect set of trees. I would have had more time to hang, but I would have missed out on so much. I narrowed it down to two things that made this quick hammock session great. One, by taking the effort to swim to my hang spot, I was able to find a more secluded location that offered a beautiful view of the lake. And two, the simple act of putting forth a little effort before stringing up the hammock, made relaxing more…relaxing.

Our busy lives make these kind of slick, time-efficient, compact adventures almost necessary. The big adventures are less frequent for most of us, so we have to get what we can get during the little moments we can spare. Taking my quick lake session as an example, we can examine it a little closer and find a very simple formula. First, set yourself up for a little challenge before the hammock goes up. Hike, swim, bike—whatever, just keep it simple and within your time limits. Then, hang your hammock and add water. The water isn’t necessary, of course, but it’s almost always worth it.

Ryan_SaundersABOUT RYAN: I’ve lived most of my life in Alaska, but am currently living in the desert of Arizona just to mix things up. I love the outdoors in all its varieties and I do my best to seek out adventure and awesomeness wherever I am. Author of MemoirofGnar.com.