An Introduction to Hammock Hanging

Well, it’s not really an introduction, per se. It’s more like an introduction to an introduction. How about we call it a book review?

The Ultimate Hang - An Illustrated Guide To Hammock Camping, written and illustrated by Derek Hansen

The Ultimate Hang – An Illustrated Guide To Hammock Camping, written and illustrated by Derek Hansen

I’ll just jump right in.

This is the best book I’ve found on hammock hanging – bar none. Heck, it’s more than a book – it’s a veritable cornucopia of resourceful information. A must have for any hammock hanger or hammock hanger wanna be.

The book is called “The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping” by Derek Hansen. And it has everything you ever wanted to know about using a hammock and then some.

What I like most about the book is that it’s short, to the point and easy to read. Not that I can’t handle more technical stuff or longer books, but who’s got time for it?

I’m the kind of guy that won’t read long birthday cards, so you can be sure I won’t waste my time on a book that takes too long to get to the point.

But don’t worry if you’re into that geeky, technical stuff. What’s great about Hansen’s book is that it has ALL the technical data you could ever want; calculations on how it hangs, measuring forces, different knots and fasteners and even a complete DIY section.

And like the title suggests, it’s illustrated. That’s right, tons of great and humorous illustrations.

Hennessy Hammock

This is my Hennessy Hammock Ultralite A-Sym

The topics covered include site selection, how to hang it, different types of hammocks, staying dry, staying warm and staying bug free.

Throughout the book you’ll also find QR codes you can scan for more info, great websites and even a “hammock hang calculator.”

Who knew a book could be so helpful and informative. In fact, the appendix alone is worth more than the price of the book itself. Seriously, I learned more in 130 pages than I did in four years of college. Don’t tell my folks.

You can learn more about this book and how to order it by visiting

And just for the record. I am not an affiliate or in any way paid for my stellar opinion of this book. It simply made a huge difference for me and I’d like to pass that onto other hammock hangers – or people looking at it as a possibility.

Are you a hammock hanger too? I’d love to hear about your experiences with hammocks, what you like about ’em, what you don’t like and what’s your favorite hammock. Please comment below.

See ya’ on the trail

On The AT: Tellico Gap to Burningtown Gap

Trails Illustrated Map, National Geographic

Trail at a glance
Mileage: 4.8 miles
Elevation change: 1500 ft
Water sources: Springs

We couldn’t have asked for a better day. The sky was clear and the temperature, though only 30 degrees when we left home, soared to 66 by noon.

And, as you know, there’s nothing like being on the Appalachian Trail on a beautiful day, hiking with friends, taking in the sights and sounds.

My oldest daughter and I met up with some members of the Nantahala Hiking Club (NHC); 16 people in all, plus a couple of dogs.

The plan – called a “key swap,” which was new to me – was to split up into two groups; one going southbound (SOBO) from Tellico Gap and one going northbound (NOBO) from Burningtown Gap.

My hiking buddy for the day.

My hiking buddy for the day.

The idea is to exchange car keys when you meet in the middle of the trail, hike to the opposite trailhead, drive to a designated rendezvous point and get everyone back into their correct car.

The plan actually worked out well.


Being in the SOBO group, we made our way to Tellico Gap (3850 ft), which is easily accessed from the east or west via SR 1365. There’s a small parking lot at the trailhead where the AT crosses SR 1365.

Packs on, our hiking poles extended, we paused for a few minutes to talk to a couple of thru-hikers coming down the mountain, heading north on the trail. They were excited about the warmer weather and eager to make some good miles today.

You can visit Robin and Mary’s trail journal if you’re interested in their progress or if want to get a sense of life on the trail.

Copper Ridge Bald viewBefore the day was over, we would bump into 7 more thru-hikers, a couple of section hikers and several day hikers. It was a busy day on the trail.

I can’t speak for everyone, but, for a moment, I certainly wished I was going north with the thru-hikers. A thru-hike would be an amazing adventure. Someday.

Back to our hike!


The walk out of Tellico Gap is a steep one, but surprisingly enjoyable. As the trail climbed higher, the views through the still bare trees got better and better.Rocky Bald sign

We had a clear view of the fire tower on Wesser Bald and all of the surrounding mountains and valleys, including a great view of the Smoky Mountains.

At one point we even got a glimpse of Lake Nantahala, peeking from behind the mountains.

But the highlight of the first half of the hike was Rocky Bald (5030 ft). It’s just a short blue blaze trail off the AT and well worth it.

Rocky Bald, as the name implies, is a giant, treeless rock face with stunning views of the Cowee and southern Nantahala Mountains. We spent several minutes exploring and enjoying this amazing vista.

Rocky Bald

Rocky Bald

Another great thing about Rocky Bald is that it marks the end of the dramatic 1.7 mile climb out of Tellico Gap.

Being almost noon, we marched up the trail a short way and stopped for lunch. It was a great chance to chat and get to know our hiking buddies a little better.

After lunch, we met up with the other group at Copper Ridge Bald (5080 ft). We exchanged keys – and stories – and got the run down on what’s ahead for us. There was a small section of trail on the north side of a mountain with some snow and ice. Nothing serious, but we were careful of our footing.


Looking southeast from Rocky Bald

Looking southeast from Rocky Bald

The highlight of the second half of our hike was Cold Spring shelter (4945 ft).

Cold Spring shelter is the oldest shelter in the Nantahala Mountains. It recently went through some major renovations to make it a much more comfortable place to spend the night.

Two feet of head room was added to the shelter when the lower two logs, weak from years of being wet, were replaced with new ones. The NHC also added a new floor and graded the surrounding area to keep run off from damaging the logs again.

Cold Spring ShelterBeing a rather small shelter, the NHC has also groomed some campsites less than a tenth of a mile north of the shelter. It’s a great place to stay when you’re hiking, complete with a moldering privy (sorry, no pic – someone was using it) and a bold, clean spring.

With only about a mile to go before our hike ended, it was all downhill from here…literally. A gentle downhill grade leads to the parking area at Burningtown Gap (4236 ft). It would be time to go home.

I always get somewhat sentimental when a hike is coming to an end. I wish they wouldn’t end. It would be nice if there were jobs for perpetual hikers. I’d take that job. If anyone’s offering a job like this just let me know.Vintage AT sign

But all great hikes must come to an end sooner or later, right? Even a thru-hike has an ending point.

I can’t complain. After all, it was a great day on the trail. Then again any day on the trail is a great day. In fact, a bad day on the trail is better than a great day in the office.

Where would you rather be – on the trail or in the office?

See ya’ on the trail,

A Day Hike With My Son

Phyto and Forest at Siler's Bald

Phyto and Forest at Siler’s Bald

I imagine you would have done the same thing – dropped everything and headed for the trail. After all, it’s not everyday you get an invitation like this.

I adore my kids, and I’ve come to realize they are incredibly unpredictable. Just when I think I have them all figured out, they do something that completely baffles me.

When it happens, I imagine I look as silly as a dog that just heard a strange noise; my head cocked to one side and a blank look on my face.

You know how it is being a busy parent. We have to prioritize our time. We can’t fulfill every request. But there are some invitations you can’t ignore. Not because you feel obligated – because it’s the right thing to do. Damn the priorities.

So, when my oldest son asked me to go hiking with him, I put on my shoes, grabbed my day pack and headed out the door.

We used to hike a lot together, but, like most kids, the older he got the busier he got. And, there’s always the possibility that hiking with Dad isn’t as “cool” as it used to be.

I don’t push it, but I’m happy when he wants to go.

Since he’s never been to the top of Silers Bald, I thought it would be the perfect hike for him. It’s challenging enough to hold his interest, but not too hard to make him want to turn around.

And, thankfully, the hike couldn’t have started off on a better foot. There was a car load of University of Michigan students on spring break putting on packs as we got to the trailhead. They were friendly and excited to be there.

There were three couples and a single young woman. She was the friendliest of the bunch and more than interested in chatting up my son. I could see in his face backpacking was getting cooler by the minute.

All the way up the trail we kept running into other hikers; section hikers and thru-hikers. Every one of them was the same age or slightly older than my son. This must have been new for him.

He’s accustomed to seeing only hikers my age.

AT Thru-Hikers: Dovetail and Caribou

AT Thru-Hikers: Dovetail and Caribou

The coup d’état of his perception of hikers came at the summit of Silers Bald. We bumped into two northbound thru-hikers, Caribou and Dovetail; a couple of young men from Pennsylvania, taking a year off after graduating before they start college. (Wish I did that.)

My son was very impressed by them. He was impressed they would take on such a journey at their age – his age. I don’t know if it was their independence, their courage or their freedom that most inspired him – it doesn’t really matter. What matters is it opened up a new world of possibility for him.

Hiking suddenly looked like the coolest thing in the world.

I don’t know if it will get him out on the trail more often. I hope it does. Only time will tell. I’m just thrilled he came with me today. I’m tickled that everyone we ran into was his age. And I know hiking has gotten much cooler than it was before the trip.

He asked if we could do it again soon.

You never know, do you! There I go again, looking like a dog who just heard a strange noise.

See ya’ on the trail,