Hanging in There

Hanging in There

Traveling Thursday
August 16, 2018

Over our travels, Ren and I have had our disagreements over the way we travel. or more specifically the way we sleep while traveling.  We both love the outdoors, but Ren also likes her comforts.  I would camp every chance I get, Ren often prefers a hotel room.  When we had the RV, this was not an issue.  We got to camp and have our beds with us at the same time.  When we are ready I expect we will have an RV again, but meanwhile, we needed another option.

We have slept in the back of our SUV a few times.  A full-sized air-mattress will fit snugly in the back, and this works reasonably well in colder weather.  It is not a good solution when it is hot.  A tent with an air mattress on the ground is less and less acceptable as we get older, and we never found a cot setup that we really liked.

We stumbled across the answer by accident.  While we were camp-hosting at Eisenhower State Park, I picked up a cheap hammock.  When we set it up, it turned out to be more comfortable than our beds in the RV.  A little research showed that a lot of people camp in their hammocks.  This thought stayed in the back of our minds. As we were planning the remodel of the RV we even considered replacing the beds with hammocks, but couldn’t figure out how to fit it in.  Hammocks are rather longer than beds.  We had even picked up a few hammocks we found on clearance at the local outdoor shop.

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After we sold the RV, we decided to give the hammocks a try.  On our trip to Palo Duro Canyon, we spent the night at Copper Breaks State Park.  Ren slept in the SUV, while I slept in my hammock, hung from two support poles under the shelter.  It was a beautiful, clear summer night in Texas, with a nice breeze to keep the bugs away, and I slept out under the Milky Way.  I was hooked.

A few weeks later we were headed out to Tennessee and planned to spend the evening at a National Scenic River in Missouri.  When we called ahead to see if there were suitable sites, we were surprised to learn that the Park did not allow hammocks to be hung from trees.  We had the proper straps to keep from damaging the trees, but a lot of people just used ropes, and the Park had just banned all hammocks on trees.  Fortunately, Missouri State Parks had no such policy, and we spent a wonderful evening at Lake Wappapella State Park.   Once again we were fortunate to have good weather, and this time Ren slept in the hammocks as well.  On the way back from Tennessee we spent another evening in the hammocks at Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas.  By now Ren was hooked too.  We now knew that we were hammock campers.  We also knew that we could not depend on always having great weather, and would need to upgrade our gear.

A few weeks later, as we were planning our trip out to western Oklahoma, we found out that a lot of campsites out that way, don’t have suitable trees, or even any trees.  We also learned that we might not be allowed to hang our hammocks from the trees even if we found a suitable site.  While we could not find any official policy banning the practice in Oklahoma State Parks, we did find several reports from people who were told by the park staff to take theirs down.  It was time to look at other options.

We looked at a few stands on Amazon and found that the cheap options were not portable, and the portable options were not cheap.  We had a budget for this trip, and it was not going to stretch to buying portable hammock stands.   So we turned to YouTube.

A quick search on YouTube turned up just the thing:  The Turtledog Hammock Stand.  As near as I can tell this was developed by members of The Hammock Forum and copied widely.  The design is simple, functional, relatively inexpensive, and can be built in an hour or two with minimal tools.

I won’t go into too much detail here, because we filmed making the second one, and it will make more sense to just watch the video.

Here is a breakdown of the parts list and what we paid at the local Home Depot.  Your prices may vary.  This is what we bought to make 2 of them.

  • 12  2X2  pine.  Cut to 6.5 ft.                    3.98 each       $47.76
  • 3  10 foot   1-3/8 inch fence top rail.       9.72 each        $29.16
  • 4  5 inch Gate hinges                             4.47 each        $17.88
  • 4 packs of 4 T-nuts, 5/18 inch                1.18 each        $4.72
  • 90 foot of paracord                                0.10 / ft            $9.00
  • 4  1/4 inch shackles                                2.67 each        $10.68
  • 16  5/16 x 1-1/2 in  bolts                         0.20 each        $3.20
  • 4  Rail end caps.                                     0.98 each        $3.92

Total cost to make 2 sets.   $126.00

We chose to have our rail that the hammocks hang from to be 12 feet long, for our 10 foot hammocks.  Using 10 foot long fence rail we needed three rails to make 2 stands.  Be sure and get the rail that has one tapered end that fits into the next rail.  We cut our rails in half so they would fit into the SUV.  It’s all explained in the video.

We also needed a rain tarp as there was a chance of rain in the forecast.  We did not get the chance to try out the tarps before leaving on our trip, so we would have to figure it out when we set up camp.  We camped for three nights in two different locations, we did not set up the tarps on the third night.  The hammock stands worked just as we hoped they would. They went up quickly and easily.

The tarp system still needs some work.  Normally you string a tarp just a bit higher than the hammock, on a separate rope.  We were needing to hang them from the stands.   When hanging a hammock from the stands, all the horizontal force from the hammock is against the pole, and all the force on the tripods is straight down.  The tarps were trying to pull against the stands and not the pole, so the stands became a little unstable.  We eventually figured out how to adjust them to deal with this, but in the dark after a long drive, is not the best time to be working these things out.   We need slightly smaller tarps so we can stretch them on the pole and not the tripods. Stretching them from the tripods made them a little higher than ideal.  We were lucky in the weather again.  I’m not convinced we would have stayed dry if there had been a storm; however, it did all work.

We love sleeping in the hammocks.  It is very comfortable, really more comfortable than our beds at home.  Tear down is a snap, and setup is not much harder.  We do still need to work on our gear with under blankets, tarps, and bug nets. But all in all I consider this to be a success, and we have ideas on how to improve.

Hang in there.
Scott

You Mean I Get To Live At The State Park?

You Mean I Get To Live At The State Park?

Traveling Thursday
August 9, 2018

How would you like to live in one of the amazing state parks in your state…  for free?  It could happen. It happened for us during 2017. We lived in our RV from March until August at Eisenhower State Park at Lake Texoma. Granted, Scott was still working in Irving at the time, but we enjoyed our five months at the lake and never had to pay for a day of our stay.  I can hear your comments of surprise and doubt, but it’s true. I was working as a Park Host through the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Park Hosting Program.  We were allowed to live on site in one of the campsites in exchange for my working as a host 20 hours a week. My duties were not hard at all, but rather fun and enjoyable.

What exactly is a park and/or campsite host? This is a person who supplements the park staff to help them take care of the park and their visitors. Often you will find the hosts are retired seniors living in their RVs; some are fulltime travelers while others only host during certain seasons of the year. Not all park hosts are seniors, you will find younger couples involved; however, it is not as often. The work these volunteers do varies from customer service duties such as greeting visitors at the front gate to cleaning bathrooms and campsites to assisting the office staff in the office. Some parks even encourage their park hosts to help out with activities like group hikes, nature presentations and the like.  The hours a volunteer will work varies from state park to state park.  Where one state may only require 20 hours per week per couple another state will require up to 40 hours a week divided between a couple.  In exchange for their work, the park provides a campsite with hookups. These volunteer positions are viewed as ambassadors of the parts, being examples of what a model camper should be.

During my time as park host, I found the work enjoyable. I was one of the customer service clerks in the office and out in the gatehouse where we helped to guide and check-in guests and take entry fees. The people were excited about their time at the park and often shared their stories from their day. When I was not working at the gate or office, I could be found assisting with guided hikes and nature presentations. This was one of my favorite activities because I was able to meet people from many places and see how much they appreciated the park system.  Being new to the park hosting, we were able to learn from other hosts who had been all over the state hosting and some that had only hosted at this park. Their knowledge was amazing and extremely helpful and their friendships are very cherished.

When we weren’t working, we were able to sit back and enjoy being a living at the lake. There were bike rides through the camping loop, hiking the various trails, and walks along the lake. We were able to enjoy being outdoors. There is something about sitting out by a campfire experiencing the world of nature every minute of the day. You living in the weather, no matter how rainy or hot and it becomes part of your home. I miss those days so much; hopefully, we will be able to return to park hosting in a few years.

Park hosting is important to our state and national parks. Hosts teach guest how to be a model camper, help parks get work done, and they enable people to get outside of their comfort zone and experience life. If you are interested in park hosting in your state’s parks, head over to their website and see how you can start today.

Safe travels everyone,
Ren

 

 

Time For The Change

Time For The Change

Normally on Traveling Thursdays, we put up a post about one of our favorite travels, but today we wanted to share something that we feel is huge.  Over the past few months, I have been trying to decide if we needed to change the name of our website so it was more relevant to what we do; however, I kept putting it off because neither Scott or myself had a clue what to rename the site.  Too often we threw out a name and it just wouldn’t feel right until about a month ago.

At one time, hand embroidery was my life. I would spend hours, often eight to twelve hours, sitting in a chair doing nothing but embroidery. My eventual goal was to travel to Ireland and learn Mountmellick Embroidery from the people who created the style. I had planned to use this website “Stitch’n Travel” to document that journey. Unfortunately, this was never to happen. As we went about our days, we began traveling to Texas State Parks and eventually began planning a move from a 2,000 square foot house to a 122 square foot RV. We found ourselves traveling to as many counties in Texas as possible. Eventually, we found we had a new travel goal, to visit every county in the United States.

Because the website really is dedicated to our collecting of United States’ counties, we knew a name change was needed.  After a few weeks of searching, we came across a name that said exactly what we do, Cross County Travel. This was a perfect name for the website enabling people and web searches to find us a bit easier.  Now that we decided to make the change, it was time to get everything switched online.

You can find us on Twitter as CrossCountyTravelers (@xcountytravelr).

You can find us on Instagram as crosscountytravelers.

Then there is Facebook. You can find us at @crosscountytravelers and Stitch’n Travel.  Yes, you read that right.  Facebook is giving me a total headache on this name change.  They are saying that the name change does not represent what the page is about.

I have appealed this decision and hope they will change the name to Cross County Traveler. As soon as we get the name changed, we will let you know.

We hope you all understand the reasons we have made the change and that it is not too frustrating for you all. You will be able to continue using http://stitchntravel.com for the next year, but we ask you bookmark our new address at http://crosscountytravelers.com.  Thank you all so much for sticking with us and following us as we journey from county to county. We appreciate every one of you and love that you are traveling along with us.

Safe Travels,
Ren