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The Gearboat Chronicles

Relaxation gone terribly wrong

Greetings, river rats and esteemed members of Team Winding Waters.

River updates: Hells Canyon is still heavenly. Lower Salmon persists in being gorgeous and trout fishing on the Wallowa River is in high gear. Fishing guide Tom is loving it down there and if you hanker for a guided tour that involves wiggling trout on your fly rod.

Now for a cautionary tale….

I’ve had my share of injuries over the years, but never been wounded in a sleep-related incident until now.

I take that back. I jumped out of bed last summer during a dream that had me on a Huck Finn-type raft drifting down a river at night with no way to control it and I could hear a rapid just downstream. So I jumped for shore but shore turned out to be the dresser in my bedroom and my elbow removed one of the metal knobs on the dresser, causing blood and confusion because I still wasn’t awake and had a hard time understanding how my bedroom dresser got there on that riverbank.

That’s an interesting element of being on the river for months. Instead of waking up disoriented on a camping trip wondering where you’re at — it’s such a rare occurrence to be at home in your own bed that you wake up and can’t make sense of all this strange furniture and wall things and roof.

So. I didn’t get as far as dreaming on this last sleep-related injury. Hammocks bring to mind relaxation. Lazy enjoyment. Suspended reclining. Not crashing onto rocks. Pain. Wrist injuries.

First of all, let me say that I have dearly loved my Eagles Nest Outfitters hammock for a long time and in no way hold them responsible for me giving it rough treatment over the years, hanging it where the fabric got poked by sticks and thorns and such, then letting it sit in the sun on my porch back home, getting UV’d to a perilous state. ENO, you are cleared of all responsibility and, in fact, your hammock held on to the very end.

Then it didn’t.

There are two trees at Maloney Creek on the Lower Salmon River perfect for stringing your hammock. Splendid location. I’ve slept there many times. So I’d just clicked off my headlamp, put my book down and whispered, ‘Goodnight moon…goodnight river…goodnight sleeping bag, thanks for making me not shiver…’

And closed my eyes and rotated to get comfy and — WHAM — I’m on the ground and hurting.

No ripping noise. No gradual tearing. The drawback to that ideal hammock spot turns out to be the rocks underneath that cause an ouchy if you are to fall upon them, especially with your one arm between you and the pointy rocks.

Pictured: Not the ideal view of the bottom of your hammock. There’s far too much air there.

Also pictured: The ground. Which hurts.

So I can’t help but notice I was just a second ago drifting off to sleep and now I’ve got dirt and sand and sticks in my mouth and I’m hurting. It gets your attention. And I wondered how rowing a boat was going to go tomorrow, since my wrist was filing complaints against the rock it just landed on.

I guess I could use it as a fancy clothesline now.

Lesson learned. When your hammock is showing signs of fatigue either get a new one or don’t hang it over sharp, pointy things.

The rest of the trip was great. I saw this hawk being all majestic the next day:

One person’s majestic flight is another small rodent’s bothersome threat. Watch out, mouse, you’ve got a bogey.

En route to the Pine Bar boat ramp I noticed this new helpful graffiti on the side of a dumpster where you fill out your river permit, pointing to, uh, the river. Which you can pretty much see from where this was spraypainted. Thanks, person with spraypaint.

See you on the Riv. Which is to the left.