Tag Archives: hiking

September adventure

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Last week I took off from Toronto and went to visit my sister in Fort St. John, B.C., which is pretty far west and north from me (it’s more-or-less in line with Fort McMurry and almost as far north as Juneau, Alaska). The travel time was a bit crazy, especially since I missed my original flight (which is to say, I missed the baggage cut off, by four minutes, and so while I could board my bag couldn’t, which meant I couldn’t really board, so I had to wait for the next flight. Ugh.) but it gave me lots of knitting and reading time.

Anyway, it was, of course, entirely worth it. I hadn’t seen my sister since May (right before she moved up there), so getting to hang out with her and her boyfriend — and their dog and their cat! — was awesome. That they happen to live in a beautiful part of the country, and that I managed to time my visit perfectly, was really just a bonus. I don’t have any photos of the actual town, but here’s a little tour of the countryside.

View of the Peace River.

View of the Peace River.

I had never seen chipmunks climb grass before!

I had never seen chipmunks climb grass before!

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Charlie Lake.

Charlie Lake.

Tully! He's an Australian Shepherd, incredibly well behaved, and super energetic at 4.5 months old.

Tully! He’s an Australian Shepherd, incredibly well behaved, and super energetic at 4.5 months old.

The view driving into Monkman Provincial Park, in the Central Rocky Mountains.

The view driving into Monkman Provincial Park, in the Central Rocky Mountains.

Kinuseo Falls, from the top (where we had lunch).

Kinuseo Falls, from the top (where we had lunch).

Kinuseo Falls after hiking down to the bottom. They're actually taller than Niagara Falls, though there's less water moving over them.

Kinuseo Falls after hiking down to the bottom. They’re actually taller than Niagara Falls, though there’s less water moving over them. (I took this just before it started to rain, so there are a bunch of photos from that day that have water splotches on them.)

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After the rain.

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View looking back over the mountains toward Tumbler Ridge.

That last photo, of the wind turbines, is a really good explanation of what it was like up there: both wild and completely affected by industry. There’s a lot of mining and oil and gas work, so even when you think you’re somewhere untouched you turn around and see that the side of a hill has been carved up or terraced. It’s a strange dichotomy, but makes for very striking views. Rest assured, if they’re still living there in a year, I’ll for sure go back.

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California, part 2

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Holy moly, the Pacific Coast Highway is not fooling around. Every time you turn a corner (and there are a lot of corners) you’re greeted with a new and stunning view. Honestly, it was all I could do not to pull over at every little off-road pocket. Stunning, stunning, stunning.

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Can you tell how happy I am to be on the road? This is the second big coastal drive L and I have done together (the other was on our Cape Breton trip) and it really doesn’t get old. We shared the driving, with whoever was in the passenger seat responsible for deciding where to pull over for great views. We left San Francisco in the early afternoon and drove as far as Carmel Valley, where we stayed for two nights. Having an extra night gave us more time to explore the area, and also to go for a hike. Our Airbnb was really close to a trailhead, so on the second day on the road we set off on foot. I would be lying if I said I enjoyed the first half of the hike (basically a continuous, and relatively steep, climb for two miles, in the heat), but as usual it was totally worth it, and once we were up, the hike along the ridge and then the descent were very pleasant.

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While I’m not sure Carmel Valley is every exactly lush, the drought was very evident there. The lower part of the trail had some interpretive signs, one of which talked about spawning fish in the river, but there was no river. The trail was sandy and very dry, and near the top there was a little plastic container with a sign asking hikers to donate some of their water to help the local wildlife, which we happily did.

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After the hike we were all geared up to swim, so we went back to where we were staying, took very quick showers, and set off for Carmel-by-the-Sea. Never was California’s micro-climate so stark: where the valley had bee hot and sunny, Carmel was cool and overcast, and too chilly for me to swim. L was debating whether he was going to swim and then we saw dolphins (!) so that settled that and in he went. Swimming with dolphins. It just about made up for our late arrival in Monterey — in what is becoming an unfortunate holiday tradition for us, we got there just a half-hour before the aquarium closed, which made the admission fee just a little too steep. Next time for sure, though (Audry recently went to the aquarium, so if you’re wondering what we missed out on, she has all the details.)

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Day three was another big driving day — Carmel to Santa Barbara, through Big Sur. We didn’t have the best weather when we started out (that’s the bridge right before Bixby Bridge, but of similar design), but once we got over a few hills we found the sun.

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We stopped at two beaches in Big Sur. We stopped at Pfeiffer Beach, which was bright and sunny, but also windy, for lunch. We had a little picnic, and I was napping in the sun when L came running over to tell me there were whales just offshore! All our photos are of the puffs from their blowholes, splashes from their jumps, and the rise of their tail flukes, but we think there were at least three, and our best guess is that they were Gray Whales, which migrate along the coast of California. We were too busy watching them frolic to take very good pictures, but they were amazing to see so close up. After Pfeiffer Beach we drove along to Sand Dollar Beach, which was overcast with no wind (or whales). The lack of wind was really nice though, so I finally went swimming (the water was really cold, but definitely worth it). Naturally, L swam at both beaches.

After our beach stops we really had a bust a move to get to Santa Barbara before it got too late. We were driving along and doing pretty well at not stopping for every view when L said, “You need to pull over.” I thought maybe he didn’t feel well, but when I pulled off the road he looked at me and said “Whales.” That man has eagle eyes. We were up quite high, but over the cliff and out in the ocean he’d seen them: four or five more whales, just playing. There were some German tourists stopped and watching them as well, and one of them said he thought they were Orcas, but I’m pretty sure they were more Gray Whales. L did quite a good job to get one in mid jump, I thought.

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After that we really had to get going. We stopped at Taco Temple in Morro Bay for dinner (Audry, thank you so, so much for the recommendation, it was amazing!) and drove abandoned the coast for a speedier highway to Santa Barbara where we spent the night. We wandered through a city a little in the morning and then got back on the road to drive the last leg to San Diego. Let me just tell you now that driving from Santa Barbara to San Diego (218 miles/350 kilometres) takes longer than flying from Toronto to San Francisco (approximately 2,500 miles/4,000 kilometres) and leave it at that. L drove, I knit, peace remained. San Diego was a bit of a whirlwind for me, and it was the only day of bad weather we had — not that we could complain about a rainy day in a state that so badly needed it. It seemed like a fun city, though, and I would definitely go back. There were a lot of restaurants I would have liked to try.

Such a fun trip. It’s almost hard to believe that I was there just last week.

It’s Boxing Day and the knitting is easy

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I finished! It was a bit close – I cast off and blocked my dad’s hat on Christmas Eve – but I finished on time and without tears. What makes this really impressive (at least to me) is that on Dec. 20, after arriving in New Brunswick, I cast on for my Christmas socks because I needed some public knitting. I worked on them at my grandparents’ (and then knit on the mittens in secret at night) and then in the car on the way to Nova Scotia (a 4.5 hours drive) and then around the house, and managed to finish the first one in just three days! So, that means I finished a mitten, knit two thumbs, most of a hat, and a sock in four days. While socializing and shopping and eating and everything else that the holidays require. Not bad, I say.

I was just starting the pattern of the second sock on Christmas morning.

I was just starting the pattern of the second sock on Christmas morning.

I’ll do a proper Christmas post later this week, but I just wanted to pop in and wish you all Happy Holidays – I hope your Christmas (or just your Tuesday, if you don’t celebrate) was wonderful and well spent. I’m never sure if this is my last Christmas at home, so I always try to make the most of it, including going on chilly hikes with my dad on Christmas day. Here are a few shots from that to carry you through your turkey leftovers.

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We’ve hiked the same trail on Christmas day for years, and it never disappoints.

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If you look closely, you can see that my dad is wearing his new hat.

If you look closely, you can see that my dad is wearing his new hat.

The tide was mostly in when we started, but way out by the time we got back to the car.

The tide was mostly in when we started, but way out by the time we got back to the car.

If it’s going to rain, it’s good to be at home

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I’m not sure how we managed it, but the best weather of our trip was when we were camping. I don’t know if my morale would have held up if I’d had to hike out (and up) in the rain, and the drive from Cape Breton back to the Annapolis Valley (about 6 hours) would definitely have been wasted on bad weather. It’s just as well, then, that it didn’t rain until next day, our first full day at home.

Rain in Nova Scotia is not like rain in Toronto. In Toronto, we rarely get a full day of consistently torrential rain; in Nova Scotia, a rainy day is a very rainy day. Very rainy. Luckily, we were coming off several days of outside activity, so an indoor day wasn’t entirely unwelcome. I blogged, L caught up on some work, and then I taught my sister to knit.

Would you just look at that concentration?

Her birthday was last month, and I told her that, as a present, I’d give her a knitting lesson. She came by the shop a few weeks ago and picked out her wool (she went with Berocco Ultra Alpaca in a pea green sort of colour, which was a good beginner’s choice, I think) and since we were going to be visiting our parents at the same time, we decided that would be a good time to start. I packed needles, she packed wool, and on Wednesday, the lesson began. I taught her the cable cast-on, and then knitting and purling, so she can make a nice stockinette scarf. I thought about just teaching her to knit a garter stitch scarf, but that gets boring after a while and you may as well learn both stitches from the get-go.

Jenny does not like purling, but otherwise was doing well. I had to rip out a few sections for her (at her request, I should add) because of holes and, twice, because she’d reversed the stockinette, but by Sunday she had a pretty good hang of it. She’s going to come visit to learn how to cast off.

After the first rainy day, the weather improved a little. It was still overcast and wet, but not full-on raining, so we decided to head out for the afternoon. We went wine tasting. The area where I grew up has steadily become wine country (there are six wineries within 20 minutes of my parents’ house) and the wines are fantastic. We set out to visit all of them, but because the tastings are so generous and plentiful, we had to stop after four.

While I do not know what kind of grape this is (it’s about a month from harvest, though), I can tell you it was at the Sainte-Famille winery.

It was a grey day, but the view from Muir Murray (that’s Blomidon on the horizon) is always gorgeous.

We visited (and tasted at) Sainte-Famille, Muir Murray, and Gaspereau Vineyards, and also walked around the Domaine de Grand Pre winery, but decided we needed a breather. We still bought six bottles of wine: two bottles of maple wine (did you know you could ferment maple syrup? Neither did I), a maple port, a Muscat, a Baco Noir, and a Marechal Foch. Nova Scotia is acclaimed for its white wines, but I find it hard to pass up its reds. (My dad, deciding that wasn’t enough, then bought us a seventh bottle at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market on Saturday – Blomidon Estate Winery‘s Tidal Bay (a white), which we tasted at the market and agreed was very good. The winery is just down the street from my parents’ and because we both already know and enjoy their wine, we didn’t stop in.)

I think visiting twice each time I’m home is totally reasonably and normal behaviour.

Our little wine tour brought us past Gaspereau Valley Fibres, one of my most favourite yarn shops. Yes, we stopped in. It was there knitting day, so the shop was filled with happy knitters. Honestly, between that and all the new fibre, I was so overwhelmed I didn’t buy anything. Then, of course, I kicked myself all the way home. We went back the next day. (I’ll tell you about that on Wednesday).

We had five days at home, and while I would have been quite content to knit and read and hang out, L wanted to be out doing stuff (and rightly so – he didn’t grow up there). On Friday we went into Halifax for the afternoon with Jenny. Our third sister Connie (the middle) was working, so we walked around Point Pleasant Park and then met up with some friends for coffee before having to scoot home where my parents were hoping to have dinner in the garden.

It’s kind of amazing to think that this park juts out into the water beside the Halifax seaport and is still so lovely and wild-seeming.

Unfortunately, before we made it back, it was rainy again. We thought we could tough it out, but then it started pouring, so we gave in. This is what it would have looked like though, if the weather had behaved.

My parents (especially my dad) do gardening on a different scale than most people. This is the eating shelter in the walled garden in the meadow. Yeah, I know.

On Saturday, we went to the market (as I mentioned) for breakfast and then went hiking. My dad, Jenny, and L went off to Cape Split (which is a gorgeous hike) and my mum and I walked the dikes instead (in this context, dikes are the earthen walls built to keep the ocean out of the plains where the farmers have their fields, just in case you were wondering), which is a very nice long walk.

Another view of Blomidon, this time including mud flats! The tides in the Bay of Fundy (and the Minas Basin) are the highest in the world, and the water level rises and falls 50 vertical feet twice a day. Thus, when the tide is out, there are kilometres of mud flats, and when it’s in, everything is covered.

The tide was out, unfortunately, but we still saw two bald eagles and soaked in some sunshine. We all managed to get home at more or less the same time, and then L and I headed back into Halifax for dinner and a birthday party at the Keith’s Brewery.

Walking around the “garden” (my parents have 5 acres) is a singular pleasure, and often the cats will trot along with you. Here they are (Cosma on the left, Samya on the right) doing a sort of synchronized rolling routine in the bocci court. It was adorable.

In addition to the walled garden, the traditional walk also includes the ponds, which are in the ravine behind the house. It’s a pretty nice place to visit.

Sunday was lovely and sunny, so naturally we spent that day packing. Considering how full our bags were in the first place (hiking + camping + regular visiting = a lot of gear), I think we did quite well to fit seven bottles of wine into our packs. My yarn purchases required an extra bag, but even that seemed reasonable. We loaded up the car and drove back into Halifax to visit with Connie and then head to the airport to fly back to Toronto. I can hardly believe I have to go back to work today, but I guess that’s the sign of a good vacation.

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.