Southwest summer in full sway

Teenagers find peace through “hammocking” in Southwest Minneapolis

A flock of hammockers at nest in the trees. Credit: Jill Bachelder

Lie back and the thin yet sturdy cloth will cradle your body, rising to envelop you. A hammock can hold you above the world, so all you can see are the sky and leaves of the trees supporting you.

Everyone has their own story for taking up hammocking, the trend of hanging out in hammocks that has seemingly skyrocketed in popularity this summer, particularly among young teens. Groups of friends meet in parks, as well as areas near lakes, rivers and creeks, stacking their hammocks high in the trees and chilling for hours on end.

Toby Feldman and Owen Thornquest are two good friends who often hammock at the Lyndale Park Gardens, directly across from Lake Harriet. Listening to music and talking about skateboarding is how they spend their afternoons, all while swaying in their hammocks.

“Most of the times, nowadays, kids, when they hang out, they just sit at home and go on their phones, so it’s nice to be out in nature and relax and talk with your friends,” Feldman said.

Though hammocking might not seem like the most obvious way for young people to spend time together, they love it because of the cozy, laid-back environment hammocking creates and the opportunity it provides to take part in this year’s beautiful summer scenery.

“It’s surprisingly comfortable, because [the hammock] kind of molds to your body, and if you’re swinging it’s relaxing,” said Ellie Skemp, noting the best hammocking spots are areas with few people and nice scenery. Skemp and her friends, who will attend eighth grade in the fall, also love coming to the Lyndale Park Gardens, one of the most well-known hammocking locations in Southwest.

Nicole Stomr, who was at the park with Skemp and a few other girls, summed up the hammocking experience.

“You’re in a dynamic where anybody can say anything,” Stomr said. “You’re all just, like, doing your thing.”

In the past, hanging out in a hammock was something people did alone; hammocking as a social event has only in the last few years become popular, mostly on college campuses and among hipster communities. But this summer it surged in popularity in Minneapolis, with Southwest being a primary location for hammockers due to its many lakes and parks.

The increase even sparked the interest of the Hammocking Initiative, a North Dakota-based hammocking group, which chose to host its National Hammocking Day celebration at Lake Nokomis this year due to the fast-growing popularity of hammocking in Minneapolis this summer.

Despite the increased use of Minneapolis parks for hammocking, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has no problem with it, as long as the increased use of trees for hanging hammocks does not damage the vegetation, restrict park use or create a hazard to areas such as pathways and buildings, Dawn Sommers, a Park Board spokesperson, said.

Sommers noted she finds this new trend remarkable, saying she only recently heard about hammocking and is thinking of taking it up.

Anna Seitz, another hammocker at Lyndale Park Gardens, said hammocking is parent-approved.

“Our parents, they would rather have us hammocking than … playing video games,” Seitz said. New to hammocking, Anna doesn’t have her own hammock but shares with her friends.

Some do get hurt while taking part in this unusual passtime. Though serious injuries appear to be rare, hammocker Keenan Conley said her friend Pete sprained his ankle during a hammocking mishap.

Sophie Radam said some of her hammocking friends do tricks in their hammocks.

“They do really extreme stuff,” Radam said. “They’ll do 360s. They go crazy with it.”

Keenan also demonstrated how to get into a hammock from the bottom and “flip in,” adding she likes to do tricks, too.

As soon as falling out came up, the girls immediately started laughing and pointed to Skemp.

“She falls out every time!” one of them said.

Those new to hammocking buy their hammocks from an outdoor recreation store like REI or online, where modern, extra-comfy nylon hammocks can be obtained for anywhere between $20–$100. But some hammocks come with more of a story.

Andrew Burridge, a senior in high school, said his hammock was given to him by his dad, who used it while training for the military. Burridge still uses his dad’s old hammock when ’mocking with his friends, which he now does around twice week.

It was a combination of his love of nature and persuasion from his friends that got Burridge to start hammocking this summer. Chilling with his neighbors next to Lake Nokomis, Burridge said the new trend surprised him in the way it revived this age-old technology.

“I just find it interesting that something that’s been around for such a long time just picked up new speed and is getting more and more popular,” he said.

But the part that makes hammocking a truly special experience, Burridge said, is being able to silently experience nature.

“You can be quiet and just focus on peace of the world around you,” he said.