Tag Archives: Cape Breton

Yarn crawl

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I have had a rough couple of days, which involved my computer crashing and my hard drive needing to be erased, and well, the only way I know to solve that kind of stress is knitting. So let’s talk yarn, shall we?

As you know, I packed the Spruce Jaywalkers plus an insurance skein of Indigodragonfly as trip knitting. This was more than enough wool to see me through my trip, but I’ll admit to leaving a little extra room in the top of my bag for one or two skeins of souvenir wool – something I wouldn’t be able to get in Toronto.

This was the plan, and it lasted for a whole day. On Day 1, we drove to Baddeck. Baadeck Yarns was closed, so I didn’t buy wool. Instead, L and I went out for a nice dinner and walked around the town, and then holed up in our room to watch a movie (we were both exhausted). I had cast on the Spruce Jaywalkers on the plane, but because I drove from the airport, there wasn’t much done. I knit, we watched silly TV – nothing crazy.

The next day, we left Baddeck and headed north to the Cape Breton Highlands National Post. L drove, so I knit on my socks. Then we passed a sign that said something like “viewpoint: 500m.” We turned a corner, and sure enough, there was a great view (this happens pretty much nonstop on the Cabot Trail, just so you know). We saw a little parking area to the right and decided to pull off and take a picture. We got out of the car, and I glanced up at the sign in the parking lot and, well, I saw this:

I swear I didn’t notice the sheep sign when we pulled in.

I decided to just pop in and see what they had. You know, be polite. After all, we were in their parking lot, intending to stand on their picnic table to take a picture; it seemed rude not to at least make a casual perusal of their wares. That’s when I saw the yarn. Lots and lots of yarn. 2-ply, worsted-weight, milled in PEI at MacAusland’s Woollen Mills from Maritime sheep, yarn, for $4.50 a skein. Casually (by which I mean, after picking up and putting down a half-dozen skeins and exclaiming about the colours) I asked about the yardage. At $4.50, I figured it had to be paltry. Nope: 200 yds per. At $4.50. I bought a sweater’s worth.

Originally, I was going to get a dark blue, but then L pointed out that I always wear blue, and I looked down at my outfit ready to contradict him and realized I was, indeed, wearing all blue. I think green is a nice spice up.

We got back on the road, and, as you know, had a lovely time camping. That yarn, though – well, I thought about that yarn a lot. I went through my mental catalogue of sweater patterns I’ve been wanting to make, and I narrowed it down to two. During the more painful hikes (and I was in pain), I’m a little embarrassed to say that thinking about that yarn and what I was going to knit with it distracted me enough to get me through. Should I knit the Shapely Boyfriend, for which I had enough wool in the car, or should I stop in on the way back and pick up the skeins necessary to knit Kate Davies’ Bláithín?

Look at me, knitting my Spruce Jaywalkers, not even thinking about the yarn in the car. So dedicated.

 

The morning we left the park, we stopped in a Tim Horton’s for coffee and I made L look at the two sweaters and tell me what he thought. His solution: buy the extra skeins since it’s cheap and decide later. The man is a genius.

I am pretty much sold on Bláithín now, I must say.

Despite this windfall of lovely (and affordable!) yarn, I still wanted to stop in at Baadeck Yarns. I was so beside myself that I forgot to take a picture, but trust me, it’s a woolly heaven. Pat carries everything you could ever want, but because I was on a mission to find yarns I couldn’t get in Toronto, I went for the Handmaiden custom colourways. The Handmaiden is the daughter of the Fleece Artist (who is based in Cape Breton) and let me just say, an eye for colour runs in the family. I splurged. I bought three skeins of Casbah (a merino, cashmere, nylon blend in a fingering weight). I figured that for all in all (considering my super deal on the PEI wool), I was doing okay.

Two skeins of Lupin, which is enough to make almost any shawl I want, plus a skein in Bras d’Or Lakes, which will become socks, probably for my mum.

By the time I got to Gaspereau Valley Fibres, though, I was starting to feel a little guilty about the money I’d spent. I mean, I work in a yarn store, so maybe all of this was a little excessive? I went in and was immediately overwhelmed. They had so much Fleece Artist. And so much new stuff in general. Honestly, I couldn’t choose and after making a tour and touching a lot of wool, I left empty-handed. The next day, though, I was feeling a little incomplete (and also maybe a little ridiculous). There had been a basket of Fleece Artist Merino 2/6, a 100% superwash merino sock yarn, in this beautiful mottled brown and copper colourway, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was convinced it was going to be gone by the time we got back, but I decided we should go anyway, just in case.

Gaspereau Valley Fibre’s designated greeter.

It was there. Three skeins, and it was even lovelier than I had remembered. I asked Manda, the manager, what colourway she thought it was and, based on the colourcard, we estimated Earth. Well, that sold me. I bought two skeins, which are slightly different, but if alternated should be fairly seamless. I’m thinking about a shawl.

Honestly, how could I pass this up?

All in all, it’s quite a hall, and my stash has officially reached a critical point (it is overflowing its containment area). Honestly, though, I don’t care. I mean, look at this! And all wool that was a now-or-never purchase, and that I have tentative plans for. So no worries.

Samya looks skeptical, but I think that’s because I stole her bench.

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.