It was a dark and stormy night when I started putting up my hammock in preparation for a night of restful and dry sleep. The rain was driving downwards with the intensity of a high pressure shower drastically limiting visibility especially when looking upwards. I chose a likely set of stout looking trees. The trunks felt strong and were certainly more then thick enough based on my previous experience hanging a hammock.
Eventually the hammock rose between the two trees and it's welcoming dry interior drew me like a moth to a flame. Just before climbing inside I performed my routine check of applying some downward pressure to the hammock to help pretighten the lines. Everything seemed snuck and ready to go.
After changing into my sleeping clothes I climbed in to the hammock in anticipation of a good sleep. Unfortunately the next few seconds were impacted by the descend of the hammock to the ground in a jerky, ratchet-like manner followed less then a second later by an incredibly lound crashing noise as one of the supporting trees crashed to the ground a foot away from where I ended up in the hammock.
After this shaky first attempt the driving rain forced me to restring the hammock between two more trees and attempt to have a restful night despite the close call. Had that tree landed on me then I could easily have been injured or even killed.
The next morning I checked out the tree in strong sunlight. It quickly became apparent that the tree I chose in the rain had some internal issues in the trunk that had greatly weakened it. The tree was also surrounded tightly on all sides by other trees making it difficult to see above the lowest branches. It was the tight intervweave of the surrounding branches that likely prevented the tree from coming down directly on the hammock. The problematic tree had no branches at the lower levels but higher up I could see dead ones showing that the tree had likely died some time before I arrived. The weight of the tree was quite heavy and had I been underneath it trying to push it up then I believe that I would have experienced an incredible amount of trouble getting out from underneath it.
I was using a Hennessy Hammock at the time of this incident but it wouldn't have been any different had I been using a different hammock type. Once my weight was applied to the hammock the trees were forced to either carry the weight or collapse. For the first time a tree chose to opt out and had I been in a less densely forested area it's very likely the tree would have landed directly on me. By the time the tree is speeding towards the ground it's really too late to do anything about it.
Protecting yourself against this problem seems deceptively simply. Take the time to look very carefully at any tree that you intend to attach your hammock to. Look for signs of damage, holes in the trunk and of course the presence of dead branches above. These are things I had always done in the past and that I intend to continue to do moving forward. I believe that in this case a major contributing factor was not being able to really look up and see the dead branches due to the driving rain.
This event occured last summer prior to my Lake Ontario tour. I went on to use the hammock another ten times without any problems. I intend to use it again this summer during all of my tours.
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