Category Archives: Hiking

The Perfect Backpacking Sweater

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It is coming on ten years since I starting packing for my through hike of the Appalachian Trail. I had completed college in May and was home until beginning my journey in March. My dad and I took over my parents dining room to lay out all of the “essential” items for my adventure. It looked like an awful lot to carry on my back and it felt that way too, but surely I had already parted with everything that I could do without! Of course, my story is the same as most thru-hikers. I mailed home a heavy package of gear within a week. Then, with help from a discerning friend, another package a month later. The longer I was on the  trail, the less I needed. Two t-shirts (one at a time) got me through five months of camping. I still wear the same outfit that I had for the second half of my thru-hike on backpacking trips. The synthetic shorts were purchased in Waynesboro, VA. A size too big, but comfortable and with pockets. I found the mostly cotton-partly wool Mountain Hardware shirt at a specialty store in Delaware Water Gap. With well over 100 wears each, I am impressed by how well the shorts and t-shirt have held up.

Now I am on a mission to knit the perfect sweater for backpacking. It must made of light but strong wool. Warm but not too warm. The fit must have enough ease for a shirt or two underneath, yet slim enough to fit below a jacket and a backpack without bunching in the armpits. Raglan or yoke? Quarter-zip, three buttons, or a crew neck? Opinions on what makes the perfect hiking sweater, please!

Sister’s Lake

Back in September, G and I spent a warm weekend in the Adirondacks. I was desperate for the smell of spruce forests and the feel of cool water. We packed our car, loaded the canoe, and headed east after work on Friday September 22. It is a long drive from Buffalo to the Adirondack State Park, so it was well into the night by the time we pulled over at a trailhead and lay down across the trunk and back seats in our small hatchback. Gazing through the back windshield, the wide canoe on our roof cut a black gash across the starry sky.


On Saturday, we took our time reaching our final destination. We first bought cider doughnuts and coffee in Old Forge, then drove Uncas Road to the trail for Black Bear Mountain. It was a perfect blue-skied day, warm enough for mid-summer though technically autumn had arrived. The maple trees were burning red and orange across the landscape, with the birch just beginning to glow yellow.

When we first arrived, G and I were the only people at the summit, but we were soon joined by an extended family with young children. They reached the peak, and immediately began to search for something. When we inquired, the father explained that one of his sons had passed away a few years ago and he, the father, had carved his son’s initials into the rock as a memorial. Now they were back a year later and could not find the carving. They looked for at least an hour, with no success. Perhaps they were on the wrong mountain. At the risk of sounded insensitive, I must say that we were glad that they did not find their carving. Engraving the Adirondack granite is leaving a trace to say the least. It implies a sense of self-importance and a disregard for the value of a natural area. It affects other people’s experiences. Fellow hikers, please follow Leave No Trace ethics and keep your penknives away.

In the afternoon, we drove to Big Moose Lake, where we parked our car at the public boat launch and headed out for the night. Our destination was a lean-to that lies three miles past the far end of the lake and is only accessible through a combination of boating and walking. This lean-to is perched on the edge of Sister’s Lake, with a natural rock outcrop serving as a swimmer’s ideal entry. We shared the location with three men who were also out for the weekend.

I had brought my Acadian hat with me as the weekend’s knitting project, which I had first knit as a memory piece from our honeymoon to Nova Scotia. The hat is made with Quince and Co. Lark yarn in calming blue-greens that remind me of early twilight. The original was in need of brim modifications. One of the men who was staying at the lean-to saw me knitting and liked my Acadian hat so much, he requested that I sell one to him. And so, I did. Last week, PH received his own Acadian hat, with just a few modification. I hope it keeps his cozy and warm all this winter long.

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Risser’s Provincial Park

Leaving the general store in Petite Riviere, it was a short ride to our home for the night, Rissers Provincial Park. The wind was blowing off the ocean and there were few other campers around. We set up our tent in view of the water and then made our way across the beach to the Rissers Beach Boardwalk. The sand was soft and appealing, but it was far too cold for a swim. Seaweeds were scattered across the shore and bright lichens grew on the rough rocks. I thought about “color stories” and stranded colorwork as we strolled.

I took a phycology course in college. Phycology is the study of algae, and I found it as boring as you are imagining. The professor was kind and quietly passionate about his field. He spoke with endearing excitement about fucus, caldaphora, and dulse, but his excitement was not contagious. His soporific voice made me want to curl up in the back row and fall asleep, lovingly caressing my desk with my cheek. If I had spent more time along the Nova Scotian shore, I might have understood his appreciation of rhodophyta and chlorophyta. I would have seen the beauty of laminariales.


Past the beach, we came to the Rissers Beach boardwalk. This estuarine promenade fits in the landscape as though it grew there. It runs along one side of the calm Petite Riviere salt marsh. Lichen-covered spruce grow on the upland side of the boardwalk and shelter visitors from the open ocean winds. We lingered for the golden hour before twilight and then made our way slowly back to packaged dinner, hard cider, and a hot campfire.

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Snow Geese

Each March, our families and a few good friends make a pilgrimage to the Adirondacks. Last Friday, G and I got on the I-90 in the late afternoon. The wind was blowing fiercely across the open landscape, but the sky was blue and the sun was shining.

After two hours, we were north of New York’s Finger Lakes. G was asleep in the passenger seat and I was in a typical highway trance when a small flock of high flying birds caught my eye. Something subtly different in the shape of their silhouettes made me pay attention. As my eyes shifted across the sky, I spotted more birds until suddenly there were hundreds, moving swiftly west and north in loose Vs.

“Wake up! Snow Geese!”

There are few things that lift my heart like seeing snow geese flying overhead on a clear winter day. It feels like something magical and timeless is occurring. How fortunate we were to be in just the right place at just the right time to see their migration.


The rest of the weekend was spent on cold mountains and by warm fireplaces. Of course, knitting was present at all time, and near the summit of Mount Baker, my sister posed for a few project photos. These hat and mittens are for a generous family friend.

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On Ravelry here.

Hunter’s Creek

A few weeks ago, G and I drove down to Hunter’s Creek in Wales, NY. We have spent most of our time inside this winter, and we were in need of a good walk in the woods. Hunter’s Creek is owned by Erie County and has hiking and biking trails that are maintained by volunteers (thank you!). It is also a Wilderness Weekends in Western New York location.

My ulterior motive for this walk was to capture G modelling my latest knit sweater.
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This cardigan is for my cousin who escaped from project photos because he lives in a different state. In exchange, he sewed a beautiful quilt for us. My cousin chose the yarn, which is from Nanne Kennedy’s flock, but is undyed. Though simple in construction, this sweater was a work-in-progress for almost a year. It included a lot of re-knitting, especially above the armholes. I am pleased with how the final result has come together, and hope it sees plenty of wear in the winters to come.
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Knitting the Isle of Arran

Months ago, I wrote a bit about M and my travels in Scotland, and our time on the West Highland Way. Following our hike, we also visited the Isle of Arran, one of Scotland’s larger islands, located to the southeast.

To reach the island, we took the ferry from Adrossan to Brodick. It was a cloudy, misty day, and our views were minimal, but we could sense the ocean around us and the islands in the distance.DSC_0098

We set up our camp behind a hedge of gorse outside of Lochranza, the picturesque village situated on Loch Ranza…P1020042…and spent the day exploring a section of the Coastal Way.
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The island was beautiful and made me say to myself in an Anne of Green Gables sort of way, “Oh! I wish I could capture this beauty and keep it with me always!” The colors of the coastal seaweeds, lichens, and plants were incredibly bright, yet relaxing to the eye at the same time.
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The ocean was calm, yet full of potential energy, and I was able to forget for a while that we would ever have to leave.DSC_0127DSC_0121DSC_0124


On our second day, the skies cleared, and the neighboring islands were visible across the sea. At the town of Blackwaterfoot, the ocean took on deep shade of green and blues, contrasting with the white houses, the brown seaweed, and the green grasses.DSC_0161P1020086P1020091The world felt perfect.


When we did returned to the mainland, I wanted to knit myself a tangible memory of our time by the coast. I had already purchased two skeins of Jamieson and Smith Shetland wool at Yarn Cakes in Glasgow, but I need a few more shades to capture the blues of the ocean and the sky. On my last rainy day in Edinburgh, I walked across town to Kathy’s Knits, and the proprietress helped me choose four additional colors to use in my Memory Piece. I began knitting on my flight back to the States, and completed my hat a week later. I wanted my hat to reflect the spontaneity of the coast, so I did not draw out a pattern or even think more than a few rows ahead. Just this week, as the mornings have to feel chilly, I sewed in a thin fleece lining. I am looking forward to wearing it this winter, and remembering our few, gorgeous days in the Scottish Isles.
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Fifty Miles on the Ouachita Trail

I discovered the Ouachita Trail while searching the internet for the “best long distance trails in America” and then spent many hours day dreaming about traversing the two-hundred-twenty-mile length of it. Vacation limits did not allow for this, but G has family in Little Rock, near the trails eastern terminus, and we decided to combine a visit and hike into an autumn trip.

7 OCTOBER 2016

DAY 1 EASTERN TERMINUS

After a long flight, Uncle R picked us up at the Little Rock airport. He took us to a delicious veggie lunch in the city, a grocery store, and then drove us out to Pinnacle Mountain State Park and the eastern trailhead. We took our time in the parking lot, laughing with Uncle R and shoving our food and toilet paper into our packs. and Then Uncle R drove away and we set out into the woods feeling fine.OT-1 It only took a few minutes for the path to fizzle out. We retraced our steps and tried again. Surely this was it. After half an hour of stomping back and forth, a consultation with our guide book explained that we were not at the trail’s current eastern terminus. Oops. There was a moment of concern, as it was late in the afternoon and we had was no cell phone service, and no way to get in touch with Uncle R for a ride to the right place. The plan was for him to meet us 5 days and 50 miles away. Fortunately, the simple map in our book showed that correct starting point was a short walk down the paved road. OT-2

We were off!