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There’s a lot of research that shows that spending time outside in a natural area can help a person relax. Not only does nature help a person de-stress, it also helps lower his heart-rate and his blood pressure. Spending time in nature really helps people slow down, relax, and focus, actually causing them to be more productive in the long-run. Because of this, some hospitals really try to provide all of their patients with an outdoor view and keep fresh flowers in their rooms.

I’m thankful to live on a college campus that is surrounded by nature. With a river running right through the campus and with ponds all about, there are always animals about and pleasant, calming sounds to enjoy. There are also plenty of parks within the city and hidden trails throughout.

Pitching a Hammock

Pitching a Hammock

The other day, my Nature & the Quest for Meaning Class took a small trek down one of this hidden trails, owned by the Greenbelt Alliance. We met with Todd, our tour guide for the day and began our journey.

After venturing further into the wilderness, we stopped within a small clearing and listened to our guide explain the Greenbelt Alliance and the benefits of natural areas. He advocated spending time within nature and taking advantage of the many naturals trails that Greenbelt managed. He then began rummaging within his backpack and pulled out a very colorful object.

“This is a really great hammock,” he explained. “If you’re going to get a hammock, go down to Mexico and get yourself one of these.” He began to unravel the small bundle of rainbow threads and starting setting up the hammock on one of the trees. “If you keep one of these hammocks with you, they’re easy to bundle up and keep in a backpack and really easy to set up. In a few minutes, you can set up a hammock just about anywhere and enjoy the natural area. Also, it won’t effect the area.”

After finishing one end of the hammock, he began tying up the other end. Within a moment, the hammock was complete and ready for a swing!

Low-Hanging Hammock

Low-Hanging Hammock

After setting up the hammock, our guide slowly lowered himself in and took a quick rest. There was silence as his words stopped, his eyes closed, and he merely took a break. The hammock actually rested quite lower than hammocks I have seen before. The bottom of the hammock was merely inches from the ground. Also, the hammock didn’t have any rods or sticks within it like other hammocks do. Because of this, the hammock was able to be rolled up and placed into a backpack and was very slack when tied to the trees.

We all stood around for a bit before our guide pulled himself out and continued talking with us. “If anyone wants to take a break, close their eyes for a bit and go ahead,” he invited. At first, everyone stood around, too shy to try out the hammock, though I could tell that several people wanted to test it out. Not long afterwards, students started taking turns in the make-shift bed.

"Leo was the first to try out the hammock."

“Leo was the first to try out the hammock.”

Leo was the first to try out the hammock. Following our guide, he climbed into the hammock the same way and in the same position, with half his body hanging out the side of the hammock, allowing his legs to push against the ground and give the hammock a light swing. He agreed that the hammock was incredibly comfortable. Because the hammock was so low-hanging, though, his back started scraping against a few sticks that were sticking up from the ground. After tossing the sticks to the side, though, it was perfect.

The sun was really irritating.

The sun was really irritating.

After Leo, Kyle gave the hammock a try. He was the first to actually fully spread out in the hammock and lie in it as if it was a bed. It looked pretty comfortable, but the sun quickly began irritating him as it glared in his face. He tried covering his face with his arm before he ended up using the hammock as a shield. By pulling the excess hammock across his face, Kyle became completely engulfed within the sling, looking like a caterpillar wrapped tightly within his cocoon.

Mrs. Hanson Taking a Rest

Mrs. Hanson Taking a Rest

After several other students tried out the hammock, our professor finally gave it a try. She struggled to get in at first, but after she sprawled out in a reclining position, she was just another person to confirm that it was incredibly comfortable. She looked very relaxed as she leaned back and closed her eyes while relaxing.

Getting out of the hammock was difficult for Mrs. Hanson as she was unsure exactly how to get out. Our guide quickly aided her, explaining that most people make the common mistake of straddling the hammock with a leg on each side while trying to get out. He explained how that wasn’t a good idea because once one leg was lifted up, the hammock would shift dramatically and throw the person out. He told everyone that to efficiently get out of a hammock, you should grab one end up towards where it’s tied to the tree and slide both legs out one side.

“Oh, just like a canoe!” my professor exclaimed.

“Yeah, just like a canoe.”

I never did try out the hammock; I was too busy taking photographs and walking about the natural area.

More on the Greenbelt Alliance: Greenbelt Alliance

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