Sleep and I love each other, but like all couples we have to work at our relationship. Let’s just say it’s not always a bed of roses. And then again maybe it is, consider the prickers and whatnot. A bed of pine needles would be much more comfy.
The point is I enjoy hitting the sack as much as anyone. Plenty knocks me out flat; a full day outside, a vigorous hike followed by a good meal and some wine, the usual. Sleeping when the opportunity presents itself, or is seized upon, is not an issue. The issue is everything else. Meaning, everything else in life that isn’t sleep.
Sleep is domineering. When we’re asleep we’re not able to build a kayak, write the next great American novel, learn to fly, or even mow the lawn or shovel the driveway. Well- yeah, okay, we, our corporeal selves, are doing lots of things while sleeping; repairing cells, carrying out complex metabolic processes and this and that, but otherwise when sleeping we’re not doing anything much but lying flat, stone idle.* And herein lies the problem. My problem. I respect sleep, understand its importance, love it like a puppy. But still I have a hard time choosing it over other uses of my time. And there’s always coffee.
So- about hiking and sleep: I’ve done some of my best sleeping while on hikes, or more precisely I’ve done some of my best sleeping while on extended hikes, big exciting hikes involving heavy backpacks and creative camping food. And notably all of this sleeping was done in a tent, a hexagonal, dome tent I bought many moons ago from Eastern Mountain Sports. This tent is so old it’s olive green. I love my tent.
Some of my best (or most memorable) sleeps:
• On the West Coast Trail, any night of the 8 total: I slept so well I don’t remember sleeping… except the night after we’d eaten lentils for lunch and lentils for dinner. There’s such a thing as too much of a good thing…
• In a lean-to on Mt. Katahdin in Maine: I only remember this night perhaps because my brother and I dreamt the same dream. In the middle of the night I sat upright in my sleeping bag saying loudly “We’re sinking, we’re sinking!” and my brother still sleeping called out “We are, we are!” There was a torrential downpour outside, but we, under the shelter, were dry and not sinking in the least.
• Every night of a solo trip x-country: I especially remember the night I followed a shooting star to a campsite. Driving in my faded yellow Toyota Corolla I’d choose a campground on my map and navigate to it while listening to Tom Waits on my stereo. Every night. Once inside my tent, though a young woman traveling alone, I always felt safe and luxuriously content. I slept like a baby every night of the trip.
• In my backyard: I love sleeping in my tent so much that I sometimes choose it over the good old bed. I especially love sleeping in my tent when the wind is whipping, owls are hooting and light rain is falling. Worst night sleep in a tent:
• On a trip with my high school hiking/outdoor adventure group: Freezing cold on a winter expedition I nibbled on my chocolate-heavy trail mix, slept maybe 5 minutes, and rose with a pounding headache. Take home message: go easy on the chocolate in trail mix and be equipped with a sleeping bag of adequate temperature rating when winter camping!
* Go on- take me up on this, leave a comment.