On any given summer night, Edina teenager Henry Adams lies in his hammock, watching hungry mosquitos buzz into the netting above. Other noises come and go: the distant hooting of an owl or the howl of a coyote. He waits for sleep.
His parents slumber inside the house, just feet away.
Going on two years, this month, in a hammock—two years since Henry last slept in his bedroom—he knows that the mosquitos will give up eventually. The same cannot be said of him.
“I thought this would just be a phase,” says Jay Adams, Henry’s dad. “Like, eye roll. ‘Whatever, Henry. Have fun. We’ll see you at 3 a.m.’ But he keeps on going.”
Henry made his first hammock out of a 50-pound rope and a bedsheet half his size. He and his friends tried sleeping outdoors as a group. Then it got cold. Their hammocks sagged. They retreated inside.
But Henry, who graduated this year from Edina High School, wasn’t finished. The fresh air draws him. He feels “almost claustrophobic if the wind isn’t moving a little bit,” he says. He climbs the tree with a climbing rope and a system of ropes attached to a harness, so he can haul himself to the top of a tree in no time. (There’s a reason he has earned the nickname of Tarzan – in addition to the fact that he’s outdoorsy and always climbing trees, he also sports shoulder-length hair).
“Sometimes, if it’s just a terrible night’s sleep, I’ll get out and tweak it an inch,” he says of his Fox Outfitters hammock, which he has variously hung in the front yard between crabapple trees, oak trees and porch railings. Just a little bit in the straps can change the angle of his body. Then he can lie straight, with a pillow under his knees to keep them from hyperextending. “And then, it’s just super- super-nice, and I can fall asleep like it’s nothing.” Cozier than a bed, he says; also an unintended fix to his typically fidgety sleep.
When Boyd Huppert covered Henry’s sleep hobby for a February segment of KARE 11’s “Land of 10,000 Stories," many of the comments on the video’s YouTube page skewed negative. Henry doesn’t know what to make of the attention. He’s never had a goal in mind. “I’m just a guy, sleepin’,” he shrugs.
“It’s really just because he likes being outside,” says Deb Adams, Henry’s mom. “There are the little challenges”—adapting to weather and achieving the proper hang—“but honestly, he’s just an earth-munchin’ kind of kid.”
When he can, Henry responds to positive online comments—many of them openly longing for his friendship.
Although he will give up the hammock when he enrolls at Montana State University in 2018, this summer, he wants to hang his hammock in a tree.
“It’s my saving grace that he gets serious altitude sickness,” Deb says after bringing up the climbers who strung their tents off the sheer face of India’s Mount Meru.
“I want to do that,” Henry says, grinning.
With as much lightheartedness, he reflects, “If you don’t have a little discomfort in your life, the comfort doesn’t feel as comfortable”—whether that discomfort be cold, awkward posture, or dangling from a cliff.
Wisdom aside, Deb still has anxious-mom moments. One subzero winter night, she feared he might suffocate. He snuggled in there, making a tunnel for air. When he woke that morning, he peered through tiny icicles clinging to fleece—frost formed by his breath. But in Minnesota, we understand layers and how keeping warm is often easier than cooling off.