Tag Archives: camping

Hello, summer

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Summer is finally here. I know it’s technically been summer for a few weeks now, and it has certainly felt like summer for the last month, but I can’t quite escape the grade-school sense that summer starts with Canada Day. Add to that the adult reality that summer seems to be the season when every weekend is planned months in advance and, yeah, we’re officially there.

This year we kicked off the summer with a last-minute camping trip. L’s sister and her husband recently moved to Toronto, and since they don’t start work until today we decided to take advantage of their freedom to get out of town. It has been a few years since we were in Tobermory, but Georgian Bay was as gorgeous as ever, and I’m so glad we went. It was a quick trip, since I had to work on Sunday, but we took our one full day and made the most of it, spending the morning clambering over rocks at Halfway Log Dump/walking through the woods on the Bruce Trail, and the afternoon swimming in Cypress Lake. I even managed a few rows of knitting (plus a fair bit of knitting in the car to and from).

The water may look tropical, but let me assure you it was freezing. So cold it actually hurt. (Also, the colours in this photo aren't edited at all.)

The water may look tropical, but let me assure you it was freezing. So cold it actually hurt. (Also, the colours in this photo aren’t edited at all.)

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This bunny spent a lot of time hanging out in our campsite.

This bunny spent a lot of time hanging out in our campsite.

I was originally hoping to get these socks finished up in time to get some pretty pictures in the wild, but it was a bit too dark by the end of the drive up (I was getting very close to the toe decreases) and once we were there we didn’t do too much sitting around. I finished the second sock on the way home and then ended up ripping out the first toe and re-knitting it (for a better match/fit) anyway, so it was just as well I didn’t try to rush things.

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Details
Pattern: Basic 64 stitch socks
Yarn: Turtlepurl Yarns Striped Turtle Toes in Gatineau Fall
Needles: 2.5mm
Notes: There’s not much to say about these really. I thought about doing a contrast heel, but in the end decided just to knit from the other end of the ball, which worked out perfectly colour-wise and also meant I didn’t disrupt the stripe sequence at all. Ravelled here.

The colours in this photo are a little weird (both too dark and washed out) but it shows off the striping quite nicely.

The colours in this photo are a little weird (both too dark and washed out) but it shows off the striping quite nicely.

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Wool in the wild

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camping1It’s weekends like the one was just had that make me so, so glad that I’m a knitter. L and I, and our friends Sam and Carmen, went camping in almost-Northern Ontario (almost northern because we didn’t go as far as, say, Sudbury or North Bay, but were north of Barrie – this will mean nothing to you if you aren’t from around here, but if you’re curious about where we were, here it is on a map). Basically, it was far enough north to already be fall, which meant it was not exactly warm.

It rained for most of the first day, but it wasn’t too hard, and there were some breaks, and it was warm-ish rain, so none of us really minded. The temperature dropped quite a bit over night, though, and it can’t have been warmer than 8 Celsius the next morning (that’s about 45 Fahrenheit). It was cold and still overcast when we set out for our second site. By the time we got there (about an hour of canoeing) Carmen and I were freezing. It was quite windy and the site, while gorgeous, was very exposed. We set up a windscreen and put up the tents and then L and Sam (impervious to cold) went for an afternoon paddle while Carmen and I tried to warm up.

Here I am, trying to start a fire (with great success a few minutes later). For the record, I'm wearing wool socks, hiking boots, two pairs of pants, a wicking t-shirt, a wool base layer, a medium-weight base layer, a fleece jacket, a rain coat, my shawl, and mitts – and I was still cold.

Here I am, trying to start a fire (with great success a few minutes later). For the record, I’m wearing wool socks, hiking boots, two pairs of pants, a wicking t-shirt, a wool base layer, a medium-weight base layer, a fleece jacket, a rain coat, my shawl, and mitts – and I was still cold.

Luckily, I brought a lot of wool. In addition to a wool base layer, I brought four pairs of hand knit socks (one for each day and a fourth for sleeping – my sleeping bag is rated up to -25 Celsius, but I still need wool socks to keep my feet warm when then temperature drops to single digits); my Sweet Street shawl, which was lightweight and warm and wrapped snuggly around my neck twice, and was basically perfect; and a pair of Camp Out Fingerless Mitts that I decided I really needed about 36 hours before we left and finished in the car on the way there – I will never go camping without a pair of these mitts again.

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I was in a rush when I cast on and didn’t read the instructions properly (what is it about simple-looking patterns that makes me think I don’t have to read the directions?). Anyway, I cast on nearly three-times as many stitches as necessary for the cuffs that go around the fingers. This part is knit sideways, though, so they didn’t end to too big, just very long. I was a little annoyed about this (I only had a few hours to knit these and three times as many stitches means three times as long) but when I put them on I realized it was one of those happy accidents. At full-length, they were kind of like open-ended mittens, which made them warm while still giving me the full use of my hands.

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Rolled-down, they were the perfect fingerless-mitts height, and also doubly warm around my palm. That easy convertibility meant I basically didn’t take them off for three days. They’re a bit felted now (I wore them while paddling) and could use a good wash, but they were exactly what I needed and I’m already planning to knit another pair with a couple of other mods (the main one being to pick up stitches around the thumb and knit three or four garter ridges up, since my thumb did get a little chilly).

This pink sky at night did indeed portend a sailor's (or, canoeist's) delight the next day.

This pink sky at night did indeed portend a sailor’s (or, canoeist’s) delight the next day.

Our last day, yesterday, was absolutely gorgeous. It was that perfect fall day when the sky is a deep, endless blue, and the wind is low so the water is just slightly rippled, like antique glass. It was warm in the sun and our paddle out was perfect. It’s the kind of weather you hope for, and I’m glad we got at least one day of it; even if it was our shortest, it was the perfect way to end the weekend.

Details
Pattern: Camp Out Fingerless Mitts by tante ehm
Yarn: Cascade Eco+ in Lake Chelan Heather (shade #9451) from my stash
Needle: 4.5mm
Mods: Mainly just casting on too many stitches initially. I also shortened the hands/arms because I was in a hurry, and added four rows of 1×1 rib to the bottom. When I knit the next pair, I’ll add a couple of garter ridges to the top so I can pick up a few more stitches for the hand. I’ll also knit up the thumb a bit and, before the bottom ribbing, I’ll cast on a few stitches just to make the bottom a little stretchier. I pulled these on just fine, but even with a loose cast-off, they were tight coming over my hands. I’d probably knit them longer too. Ravelled here.

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How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun? I brought my Skyp socks with me, but didn’t manage to knit more than a few rows while we were camping (and a few inches in the car on the way home).

Cape Breton, you beauty

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It’s true. Even if, like me, you know that Cape Breton is supposed to be lovely and picturesque and scenic and all that, it is still jaw dropping. I mean, it’s spectacular. That’s what we kept saying over and over, for the entire four days we were there. L or I, or both of us, would look out at the view and say “Well. That’s friggin’ spectacular,” and then shake our heads.

We arrived in Cape Breton late Saturday afternoon. We flew into Halifax (and, if we’re being honest, very nearly missed our flight out of Toronto. We had to run, and arrived gasping at the check in, and only just managed to board. It was uncomfortably tight, and I was so flustered it took me three tries to get the cast-on right for the Spruce Jaywalkers.) and picked up our rental and drove to Baddeck. We got in around 5 and I must say I was thrilled to see we were staying here:

The Inverary Resort.

Before heading into the woods for two nights, it’s nice to spend in a night in a good bed, you know?

On Sunday morning, we left Baddeck and headed for the famous Cabot Trail, which just so happens to be the only good way to get to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. They aren’t kidding when they call this drive scenic. We stopped a few times to take in the views (and stretch our legs).

Oh, just some ocean, no big deal.

We made it to the park around midday and loaded up our packs. The hike into our campsite was 6 km, almost entirely downhill. We started at the top of Mackenzie Mountain (335 m) and hiked down to sea level. The forest there is kind of striated, with spruce at the top giving way to birch trees surrounded by a carpet of ferns, which gives way to more spruce, which ends with a mix of oak, maple and birch (and a few spruce) at the bottom of the river valley.

Fishing Cove River to the left, our trail to the right; pretty lovely all around.

It was a lovely hike, and it took us here, to Fishing Cove, which was our home for two days and nights.

The view back up the valley from the beach.

Little tent in the big woods.

On the first night we sat up on the cliff and watched the sun set and were lucky enough to see a pod of porpoises (like dolphins) swim across the mouth of the cove just as the water was reflecting all the red and pink and yellow light of setting sun. It was, well, spectacular.

Sunset in Fishing Cove.

Fishing Cove has eight sites, and on our first night, they were all filled. Ours was tucked a little bit back up the hill – still within view of the beach, but on its own – so it didn’t feel crowded. On our second night, though, we were the only campers, which made the cove feel wilder and more ours.

The view from the tent.

The next day, we got up early and hike out of Fishing Cove (6 km back up to where we left the car). From Fishing Cove there isn’t really anywhere to go, and we wanted to do some day hikes. We hiked the Skyline – all the along the spine of a mountain that juts out into the ocean. Part way into the hike, L and I were chatting when all of a sudden he said “moose!” and I turned around and say a lady moose having a snack about two metres away from me off the side of the trail.

Moose!

It seemed not at all concerned that we were there. I wasn’t sure it could get much better than that, but then when we got to the end we saw whales. Sure, we were at the top of the cliff and they were basking in the water down below, but still. We didn’t have binoculars, so I can’t say for sure, but I tend to think they were pilot whales, which are common off the coast and bigger than the equally as common mink whales, making them easier to see.

After we got back to the car, I was about ready to collapse. It turns out that the combination of sleeping on the ground (I do have a good sleeping mat, but still), hiking more or less uphill for 6 km and then hiking an additional 9 km pretty much immediately after has an adverse affect on my legs and hips. Who knew? Needless to say, I was in pain. Of course, we still had to hike back down to our campsite. There are two ways into Fishing Cove: the short way and the long way. We took the long way in on Sunday because we wanted a good hike and L wasn’t sure if his ankle (which he injured a few weeks ago) would be up to a steeper hike. On Monday, though, we decided to try the shorter hike. It’s the same vertical difference (335 m to sea level), but over 3 km instead of 6. Thus, much steeper, but also much shorter.

See that wee that little inlet way down there? Yeah, that’s Fishing Cove. It looks way farther when your legs are about to give out, let me tell you.

It’s also how we were going to hike out with all our gear on Tuesday, because the parking lots for the two trails are pretty far apart. I won’t lie, I was dreading it. The trail was steep (as expected) and also quite rocky. A good chunk of it looks like it used to be a creek bed (and almost certainly becomes one in the spring), so the rocks were loose underfoot. Between that and the pain in my legs, well, I was worried.

These cliffs were red anyway, but they glowed even redder at sunset.

As it turns out, I needn’t have been. Up is easier than down, and we hiked up and out with all our gear in under an hour! Honestly, if I were to camp at Fishing Cove again (and I think I would – it was gorgeous), I would do it this way again. The long trail is definitely a better downhill hike, because the ground is firmer and the incline not as steep, which made walking down with a pack not too treacherous. However, when climbing out I will take short and tough over long and just-about-as-tough any day. Fifty minutes of pain is, for me, preferable to two hours of pain. Otherwise, both are quite nice hikes through lovely woods, and I would recommend them.

L with his pack on the way in, and me with my pack after successfully hiking out. I don’t even look that tired!

In case you skimmed your way through this whole post wondering about the knitting for heaven’s sake! Don’t worry, there was knitting, and wool shopping, and it will get its own dedicated post. It’s worth the wait, I promise.

The Cabot Trail: totally fun to drive, but even better if you’re the passenger. L and I drove the scenic stretches through the park several times (out of necessity) and we took turns. It’s the best way.