‘Tis the Season: Davis spring pastimes

KELSEY GREGGE / AGGIE

Finding ways to get outside, pass time without commute

White snow carpeted the ground and trees, sparkling in the sun like diamonds. UC Davis students Cielle Watjen Brown and Ruby Baruth sat in their hammocks, accompanied by friends and enjoying the oddly warm day after a hike in the El Dorado Hills. It was in this moment when they realized that what they were doing was not only beautiful and peaceful, but it was also fun — the kind of thing they believed everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy. They figured there had to be others at UC Davis who held shared similar interests.

“I feel like a lot of it people are intimidated to join big outdoor clubs because they’re not really good at skiing or water skiing or whatever […] so we wanted to make a very inclusive club that anyone could join,” said Watjen Brown, a second-year human development major.

And so came the creation of the Hammock Club at UC Davis, through which people could come together in different places around Davis and relax in their hammocks. In addition to  leisure opportunities, the club also facilitates activities and games to spark an interest in hammocking itself as well as a sense of community. Earlier this year, Watjen Brown and co-president Baruth put on a scavenger hunt for their members.

“[It] was really, really fun,” Watjen Brown said. “We’re planning on having a lot more events this Spring Quarter because this is more like the season for hammocking and going outside.”

For members of the Hammock Club, UC Davis is great because of the prime location: not too far from the city, the beach or the mountains. But people who live in nearby don’t have to venture all the way to El Dorado Hills to fit in a good hammock session for a fun outdoor activity. Watjen Brown points out there are a number of places to hammock or get outside in town and even on campus.

“I definitely feel like the most popular place [to hammock] is the Arboretum in the redwood forest, [which is] beautiful and you can stack your hammocks,” Watjen Brown said. “Rock climbing is really awesome here [too], […] and even just taking bike rides out towards Berryessa. Just spending time outside here, there’s more than you would expect. We have Putah Creek, which is really cool, there’s a rope swing and you can go swimming. There’s so many fun things to do in Davis, I think you just have to […] find the groups that are on campus.”

One student who is no stranger to taking trips outside of Davis is Matt Finkle, a third-year environmental policy analysis and planning major. Finkle loves to go backpacking, camping, skiing, rafting and, like Watjen Brown, rock climbing.

But Finkle doesn’t spend all of his time in regions outside of the town of Davis. To rock climb, he will often grab a friend and show up at the local rock climbing gym, Rocknasium. But when the weather becomes pleasant he can sometimes be found outdoors, either on the Quad or other parts of campus walking across piece of flat webbing that resembles a tight-rope — something that’s actually called a slackline.

“There are different types of slacklining,” Finkle said. “There’s tricklining, which is kind of what I like doing, or there’s highlining, which is slacklining really, really high between trees. Even at Whole Earth [Festival], people come out with their one inch webbing and they string it really high between trees but it’s super loose, so it bends down in a giant ‘v.’”

Finkle believes slacklining is like riding a bike: Once your muscles learn how to do it, the memory never totally fades. He can get on a slackline after months of being away from one and still do tricks like butt bounces, flips and 360s.

Both hammocking and slacklining are great pastimes in a community like Davis, fashioned with it’s flat landscapes and an abundance of sturdy trees. Not only are these activities relaxing and fun, but they can be done in a group or independently. One that offers all these benefits but without the requirement of specific gear, though, is considered a little less leisure and a little more active: parkour.  

“For me, I wasn’t really committed to doing parkour when I first started,” said David Cherney, a lecturer in the Mathematics Department. “For years I was training a lot. A couple of times a week I would go out and train, but I had no idea what any of the names or moves I was doing were or whether or not I was using ‘proper technique,’ but that doesn’t matter. [Parkour is] playtime, it’s fun, it’s loitering, it’s a combination of social time and treating the world as if it’s your playground.”

Parkour is a nebulous discipline that doesn’t lend itself well to competition. According to Cherney, “having the right technique” isn’t the point. Cherney said that having to explain why he likes parkour is like having to explain why he likes to have fun.

“We go to public spaces, parks, campus, just some places with cool hand railings […] and just goof around there,” Cherney said. “A lot of it is social, just being silly and joking around with each other like kids would, and part of it is very physical when we go out into a public place and we’re jumping around. [When] other people see us, a lot of people stop and give indicators that they wish they were doing it too. It seems like everybody wants to play and have fun.”

Cherney often trains for parkour with others, regardless of whether they are students, locals from the community, people from out of town or even kids — whoever wants to join is welcome to participate. Occasionally he can be found around campus or town with a scaffolding set-up for himself and others to train on. He also uses it to set an example for passersby that parkour is not just doing backflips off of two-storied buildings like it’s often depicted on YouTube.

“[Parkour is] all sorts of tiny fun movements,” Cherney said. “I like to be in public for part of my training to help normalize it and generally give people the impression that they can do whatever they want, they can expand their horizons of all the stuff around them. Hand railings don’t have to be just to help you get down the stairs, they can also be a playground.”

UC Davis is conveniently close to places like Point Reyes and Tahoe, but there is a plethora of fun activities in which students have the opportunity to engage every day right here at school. People often find unconventional ways to spend their time outside and make friends while they’re at it.

“Of course there’s the mountains and the ocean really close by, but it’s awesome that you can do things in Davis,” Watjen Brown said. “There’s a lot to do here as well, which has been really fun to discover.”
Written by Marlys Jeane — features@theaggie.org