Category Archives: Knitting

Bicycling the Cabot Trail

Cape Breton is, perhaps, the most famous region of Nova Scotia. It is known for dramatic vistas, for Celtic music and dance, for Cheticamp rug hooking, and for the Cabot Trail that links it all together. It is also known for its hills, which Nova Scotians had been warning us about since our arrival in the province. G was confident that we could climb any hill, but I was uncertain, especially due to a deep and unignorable pain that had developed in my left hamstring. Still, there was no way to know until we tried, and really no alternative anyway after we had already come so far to ride The Cabot Trail.

We left Port Hastings on Highway 104, which is a true highway with plenty of trucks, tourists, and resident islanders travelling north. 104 does have a large shoulder, but riding a pedal bicycle on a highway is never pleasant. The pain in my hamstring became unbearable as we climbed the rolling hills toward the Cape Breton highlands. It seemed to take over my mind and all I could think of was the sensation. We were on a tight schedule to reach Cape Smokey Provincial Park for the night, but we were forced to pull over repeatedly for me to take breaks. This was the way of things until we reached Baddeck, the first town of our route on The Cabot Trail. Baddeck is home to Baadeck, a yarn shop of course, so we took the time to peak at the yarns before buying thick, pasty all-natural sunscreen at the drug store and chatting with a M’kmaw man in the parking lot. In the heat of late afternoon, we were in desperate need of ice cream, but there was none to be found. This ended up being the first of several ice cream hunts that ended in disappointment.

The rest of our afternoon was uneventful but for a very short ride on the Englishtown cable ferry.DSC_0300.JPG

Many of the craft shops were closed by the time that we reached them in the early evening. This was disappointing, but we had nowhere to store woodwork or pottery anyway. It was getting toward civil twilight when we started to look for a place to stealth camp rather than continue to Cape Smokey. We came across several places that I thought would do just fine, but G felt that they were too exposed, too visible, too this or too that. We had made up our minds that we would continue to Cape Smoke Provincial Park in the dark after all, which meant climbing Mount Smokey first, when we stopped for a hamstring break in the parking lot of Wreck Cove General Store. The store was closed for the night, but the owner was outside packing a trailer for a trip to Halifax. It only took a few moments of chatting with pathetically tired me for this man to realize that I truly did not want to continue on and climb the steepest hill of Cape Breton after dark, and he offered us a place to camp by the woodline behind the store. There were thousands of mosquitoes back there, he said, but no one would bother us. Not only this, but he brought us each a cold beer to have with our dinners. G and I have been both treated well by many strangers while we are travelling – Appalachian Trail angels and magicians, Warm Showers hosts, drivers giving hitches, the list goes on – and we never take it for granted. We are always more grateful than we can express and can only hope that we are able to pay kindness forward.
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Lunenberg

Lunenberg is one of the best-known towns in Nova Scotia, having received UNESCO world heritage site status in 2012. The town is exceptional because it represents one of the only examples of a planned town in British colonial America. 289 years after it was founded, Lunenberg still boasts small wooden clapboard houses, a strong sense of local pride, and surprisingly steep roads.

We rode to Lunenberg from Rissers Provincial Park via route 331 and the LaHave cable ferry – a first for both of us. It was cold and wet and the ferry operator allowed us to warm up in the staff cabin. DSC_0163Unfortunately, we reached the ferry before the LaHave Bakery opened for the morning, but this put us in a good position to patronize Lunenberg’s #9 café. We also, later, had one of our best meals of the trip at The Salt Shaker.

Lunenberg is an artistic town and we spent most of our day in the independent book stores, gift shops, and art galleries. In the Lunenberg Bound book shop, we bought three large and heavy tomes entitled Flora of Northeast United States and Adjacent Canada Volumes I, II, and III. I have since weighed them and they total 6 lbs 8 oz.

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Later that night, looking skeptical about the wisdom of our purchase.

We did also stop into the Mariner’s Daughter, the local knitting shop, but there was no wool yarn that met my particular requirements.

A must-see in the town of Lunenberg is the Musuem of Fisheries. We began our tour of the museum on the ground floor aquarium, which ranked as the most depressing aquarium I have ever seen. Many of the tanks were drained and empty. The tanks that were inhabited were dark with scattered stones and a few sad fish or crustaceans. Fortunately, the other exhibits in the museum were more educational and enjoyable. We learned about the evolution of cod fishing, the life cycle of lobsters, the interactions of north Atlantic currents, and more. There was even a bit of fisherman’s knitwear on display!

We left the museum in late afternoon and it was time to head out of town. We detoured by The Bluenose – Nova Scotia’s pride and joy- and the small grocery store, and then we were back on the path and heading toward Graves Provincial Park for the night.DSC_0170


Graves Provincial Park is located on an island in Schnare Cove. It is connected to the mainland by a short causeway. We stayed in one of the walk-in sites and had the area to ourselves.DSC_0178DSC_0181

South Shore

The second day of our bicycle tour around Nova Scotia started with strong black tea brewed in a Royal Albert china teapot graced with white trillium flowers, homemade strawberry jam on toast, and well wishes from our host. An auspicious start.

We rode from Tusket to Barrington along the Yarmouth County Rail Trail. The trail in this section is well maintained and lined with vistas.
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Our ride went a little less smoothly when we turned onto Oak Park Road. Our map called this out as suitable for cars with 2-wheel drive, and this was true at the start.
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This became decidedly Not True as we progressed.20170604_130855Deep puddles with soft sediment proved challenging. We even took our first, and so far only, tandem tumble, and then were forced us to walk Leonid for a few short stretches.

All our struggles were worthwhile because the municipality of Barrington hosts a must-see for the knitter-tourist: The Barrington Woolen Mill Museum.DSC_0054

Thanks to the knowledgeable and skilled staff, this small museum was a treat. It is full of the original equipment and even displays wool in multiple stages of processing from when the mill was operation, though this all looked more than a bit dusty.

The museum also houses a beautiful tapestry and embroidery made by the women of the area. The entire piece is made of hand-spun and hand-dyed wool.

The tapestry was meant to show Nova Scotia first three groups of settlers: the Acadians, the Loyalists, and the Scottish. We appreciated this, but also couldn’t help but think, “And where are the M’kmaw?”


Leaving Barrington, we met another bicycle tourist. Our new pal told us that he was headed to the Boxing Rock brewery in Shelburne. This sounded too good to pass by, and we worked our little legs non-stop until we reached the beer. There is simply nothing as satisfying as a good beer and a nice meal after riding all day.

Acadian

After driving from Buffalo, New York to Portland, Maine and then taking the ferry from Portland, G and I arrived in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia just as the sun was setting. There was a chill in the air, but we were warm with excitement. Our destination for the night was a bed in the neighboring town of Tusket.

Our route followed the Yarmouth County Rail Trail for 15 km/9 mi to the center of town. The trail was soft with loose gravel and we were still unaccustomed to our tandem, so we rode slowly. To our either side, the silhouettes of spruce and fir were dark against the sun’s twilight glow and we could just make out the bright white blooms of apple trees. Spring peepers were singing.

Passing by the oldest standing court house in Canada, we arrived tired but energized.

We took no photos during our ride, but here is our view from the ferry.

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I have already knit a memory piece for this night – a tribute to the Acadian Forest, my favorite ecoregion. It is now carefully blocking.

Canada Warbler

G and I are preparing for a trip to Nova Scotia. We are planning to ride The Leonid Meteor Shower (aka our tandem bicycle), the length of the Nova Scotia peninsula and the rough circumference of Cape Breton Island. We have been looking at maps, making lists of potential destinations, locating knitting shops (me), and gathering essential components for Leonid (G).

Our upcoming travels are already influencing my knitting, and last week I knitted a hat inspired by the plumage of the Canada Warbler. This little bird will soon be arriving in Nova Scotia to breed in the moist deciduous-coniferous forests. This hat, however, is staying here in Buffalo with a friend.

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On Ravelry here.

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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