Go To Sleep: Catching Shuteye in the Outdoors
Have you ever stopped to think about all the places you have slept? Both readers probably already have sly grins on their faces but I am specifically referring to outdoor-related napping sites.
This thought came to me yesterday as I was wedged for over four hours in the tiny backseat of a friend’s pickup truck during a hunting trip. Since our trio included a buddy who spends a considerable amount of time in the gym and is the size of D7 Bulldozer, it seemed better that the writer ride in the jump seat behind the front seat.
Wedged into this uncomfortable space, I decided lie down and take a nap because we had left home at 4 a.m. as is typical for outdoor adventures. Finally, using two rolled-up floor mats, I wiggled around into a position that was only moderately uncomfortable and dozed off while listening to the murmur of conversation coming from the front seats.
I awoke a short time later when everything south of the Mason-Dixon Line had fallen asleep and was now protesting the awkward position into which my legs had been twisted. When we finally arrived home, I had a Charlie horse that could have won the Kentucky derby and I needed the fire department Jaws of Life to extract me from the truck cab. Overall, it was a fine day.
Yesterday was a typical outdoor expedition and I’m sure many readers have also spent time trying to catch a few winks while crammed into a truck for several hours. In fact, it could be said that such experiences are almost universal to the outdoor lifestyle.
Another such experience is trying to doze off against a rattling vehicle window after spending a miserably cold day afield. This is sheer desperation borne out of the incredible sleepiness that overtakes you once the heater begins pumping out its soothing warmth. Such napping is desperation because the thin skin covering the human skull makes a poor cushion between the hard window glass and the equally hard bone. You are more likely to sleep with your head on a runaway paint mixer.
The alternative is laying your head on the shoulder of the buddy who is crammed into the middle seat between you and the driver, but this is never done in proper circles. If you ever consider such a technique, consult an attorney and your religious advisor beforehand.
There are other, more interesting places where sleep is attempted during outdoor adventures. Ice fishing shanties are a prime spot even though I have never been comfortable dozing off in these tiny offshore cabins because ice in Indiana is such an ephemeral concept and taking along an emergency scuba tank seems like overkill.
Deer stands are a ubiquitous sleep spot. In fact, I have had several world-class bucks slip past me while I caught a few minutes of inadvertent shuteye. At least, that is my story and I dare you to prove different.
Sometimes sleep is a great antidote for anxiety caused by knowing that you are going to be killed within a few minutes. A couple of years ago I pulled down my jacket hood and tried to doze in a sitting position while a fishing guide practiced his routine for the upcoming “World’s Most Dangerous Boating Stunts.” I couldn’t sleep but at least I couldn’t see the things we nearly hit. The same thing also works with buddies who enjoy looking at the scenery while driving rather than the oncoming semi-trucks.
One of my most memorable outdoor sleeping spots was lying sprawled atop our camping gear in the back of a van as we drove to Kentucky for a paddling trip. My friends in the front seats were getting very upset at the stares they received from passing motorists until they discovered that I had awoken, put on a pink plastic kayak helmet and was making faces and licking the rear window in a demented fashion. It was highly enjoyable.
I don’t include camping in this discussion even though it does feature sleep as prime part of the experience, stretching out on a comfy air mattress or sleeping pad is worlds apart from trying to catch a few winks in the bed of a bouncing pickup trip all the way from West Virginia because it was that or walk home.
As with most things in life, it is not the bucolic and satisfying experiences that are so memorable as is the miserable. Think of all the leg cramps, backaches and sore necks that have accumulated over a lifetime of trying to grab a small siesta while engaged in outdoor pursuits. In fact, after considering all the fun that was had in spite of the discomfort, you might even decide that the pleasure was worth all the pain.
Just don’t try telling that to my right calf.