Tag Archives: travel

Goldenrod Vest

The yarn that I bought from the crowded Margaree Harbour Craft & Gift Shop on Cape Breton Island is thick and sturdy and wooly. The wool comes from Canada’s Atlantic providences and is spun by MacAuslands Woollen Mills on Prince Edward Island. We stuffed all six large hanks into our panniers and biked with them for over a week. Months later, I dyed it a pale yellow with goldenrod from my mother’s garden.

The night before this purchase, G and I stayed at the Cheticamp Motel. We arrived there late in the afternoon and found just one vacant room remaining. The elderly proprieter slowly added us to a handwritten logbook with a shaky hand. We paid in cash, and, as he counted our change, I admired his handknit vest. It was a natural-colored v-neck vest of stockinette stitch with a simple knit one-purl one rib. Comfortably fitted. “Did someone knit that for you?” I asked loudly. “Oh, probably. A long time ago. I don’t remember,” he responded.

I have been planning to knit a vest for G based on hotel proprietor’s simple well-worn garment. As a swatch, I worked up another basic baby vest for my child. Knit on size 10 needles, it still came out a bit stiff, so a swatch on 10.5’s will also be needed. I like this aran weight yarn and think the baby vest will wear nicely (better than his last of Lion’s Brand Fisherman’s wool), but a collared shirt underneath might also be required. The pattern (my own) is simple, with the stockinette body knit in the round and the garter stitch chest knit flat, allowing for straight stitch the whole way. An extra stretchy bind off at the neck makes it easy to get this on and off my squirmy little one.

Oregon and a Wee Vest

Oh Oregon, beautiful state.

In early October, we travelled to McKenzie Bridge, Oregon for a friend’s wedding. It was a short vacation, especially considering the time spent in airports and cars, but it felt worthwhile. The flights went smoothly and we had excellent views of the Grand Tetons and the Cascades. Seen from above, the forests of Oregon were dark green with bright yellow bursts of autumn aspens.

In the three days we were there, we celebrated love between two good people, ate delicious food, visited with family, and walked in beautiful forests. We were able to identify most of the trees, but the forest understory plants were unknown to us. Being in a place where we did not know the flora was both fun and frustrating. Why didn’t we pack all those field guides for the west that have been gathering dust on our shelves?! (Answer: no room between all the diapers.)

The understory plant with compound leaves shown in the photo below was abundant at the wedding venue and along every trail. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even after we retuned home. Searching internet photos led me to an answer. This plant is dull Oregon grape, also known as Cascade berry (Mahonia nervosa). Hurrah.

In preparation for our trip, I knit a wee vest for my child. I improvised the pattern, with careful consideration to fit and features as well as ease of knitting. It came out perfectly and, oh goodness, does he look adorable in it. Now I see why baby knits are worthwhile even if they are only worn for a few months or even weeks.

Lupines in Wool

Route 4 through Nova Scotia does not have the vistas offered by many of the other roads in the province, but it does have lupines. In June, the verges were lined for miles with tall purple, blue, and pink inflorescence. Nothing, it seems, is more purple that a purple lupine.


Upon returning home, I started knitting lupines. This is something that I have tried out with before without satisfactory results. It turned out that buying almost every purple available from Jamieson and Smith was essential, and I was able to design a motif that unmistakably represents a lupine in full bloom.

I have wanted to knit a sweater for my mother for a long time, and for a long time I have wanted it to be purple. This is because she once owned a purple Archie Brown & Son yoke knit of Shetland wool. She says that she bought it in 1983 while vacation in Bermuda. Sometime in the 80’s, the sweater was stored away in the basement and it remained there until my sister and I found it around 2000. There were dozens of moth holes, and I wore holes and all it for a decade before discovering darning. It now has mends, some more visible than others, as well as elbow patches, and I wear it regularly.

Shetland_SweaterThis photo was taken about two years ago, before the elbow patches.Shetland_Yoke

Using Kate Davies’ Foxglove pattern as a template, my sister and I decided to knit a lupine cardigan for our mother’s birthday. In July 2017, I shipped main color yarn to M, she knit the sleeves and shipped them back to me, and then I joined them with the body before knitting the yoke. When my mother’s birthday came in early August, I had just joined the body and sleeves. She was patient through the fall and early winter as I finished knitting the yoke, cutting the steek, and painstakingly sewing a ribbon over the steek’s raw edge.

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For those interested in knitting details, Kate Davies’ Foxglove pattern is available as part of her YOKES book. Kate Davies’ sweater sits nice and flat across her chest, but this is not the case for many other knitters. Based on Ravelry photos, I think that knitters have struggled with the yoke shaping and the neckline sits high and wide on many women. I modified the yoke, beginning with extra short rows in the back at the join of the arms with the body, and then more short rows at the top of the colorwork. I also decreased more within the yoke than is called for in the pattern. This allowed for a closer neckline that is wide enough not to scratch our mom’s neck. I cut the steek without reinforcement and then hand stitched it in place, rather than using a crochet reinforcement. The method that I used is described in Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting and works well with Shetland wool. My Ravelry project page is here.

We are all three – M, Mom, and me – very happy with this cardigan and hope it sees decades of wear.

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.




Tandem Cycling the Cabot Trail – Cheticamp Rug Hooking

Tandem Cycling the Cabot Trail – Part 4

G and I left came out of the Highlands against a strong headwind, arriving in Cheticamp in the late afternoon. The last several miles were a trial, and we were exhausted. We arrived just moments too late to view the exhibits at the Les Trois Pignons, the Museum of Hooked Rug and Home Life. I had been looking forward to learning more about the craft of hooking and was disppointed. I pressed my cheek to the glass exhibit doors for an oblique peek of Elizabeth LeFort’s famous portrait work.

Two employees were still standing at the front desk, waiting to lock up when the clock struck exactly 5. I asked them what breed of sheep grew the wool that was used in Nova Scotia rug hooking and they said, “Oh, it’s just wool. Good sheep wool.” They were fairly certain it came from Montreal, but had never thought about it further. I asked this question of three different rug hookers at different shops and none of them could tell me. Does anyone know?

We spent the night in a clean and simple room at the Cheticamp Motel (kind, helpful, and adorable owners dressed in handknit wool, clean room, quality laundry machines, all the motel stars). To our surprise, a bright red tandem was propped at the door to the next room down. Our neighbors were a couple from Australia who had been touring the world via tandem. They cycled from Vancouver, BC to Detroit, MI in 2016 and were now finishing up a Detroit, MI to Sydney, NS leg. Their plan was to take the ferry from Sydney, NS to St. John’s, NL and then fly to Europe. G and I loved hearing about their experiences and getting their take on different tandem set-ups and components. They were an inspiration!DSC_0442.JPG


Tandem Cycling the Cabot Trail – Connections

Tandem Cycling the Cabot Trail – Part 3

The first thing that drew me to Nova Scotia as a honeymoon destination was it’s clear cultural ties to Scotland, especially cultural ties expressed in wool. M and I made a trip to Scotland in 2015, and I had since been interested in the historic and present ties to New Scotland.

In the 1800’s, the infamous Highland Clearances took place across northern Scotland. Landlords forced thousands of peasants from their homes in favor of sheep. These people were forced to settle in Scotland’s less arable lands and many risked emmigration rather than eek out meager livings on the plots allowed to them in Scotland. Scots arrived at the harbors of Cape Breton and made new lives for themselves as fisherman, subsitence farmers, and, later, coal miners. (I suspect that these people included my maternal grandmother’s Murray ancestors, though my great great grandfather ended up in Montreal rather than Cape Breton.) Commercial fishing, farming, and mining have all declined, but Nova Scotia’s Scottish heritage continues to thrive in the language, music, and dance of Scotland, which have evolved into endemic styles.

Less attention is given to the geological ties between these lands. The Aspy Fault slices through the Cape Breton Highlands just as the Great Glen Fault cleaves the Scottish Highlands. Two faults are in fact one in the same. They are both part of the 300 km fissure known as the Great Glen Fault formed millenia ago when Newfoundland, Cape Breton, and Northern Scotland were all part of the Avalonian subcontinent.

Travelling the Cabot Trail brings you to a number of Aspy Fault viewpoints. If you are moving by pedal bicycle, these points are good places to rest after climbing the steep road.DSC_0419DSC_0413DSC_0410

The vegetation makes for a different looking landscape, but standing at a Cabot Trail overlook of the Aspy Fault, I also saw the view from Conic Hill in my mind’s eye. I like to think that the ancient geological connection between Scotland and New Scotland is part of what drew thousands of Scots to settle the northwestern Atlantic Coast. True, these people were low on options, but perhaps the Canadian land felt surprisingly familiar to its new residents and allowed for the flourishing of Celtic-Canadian culture that continues to this day.




Tandem Cycling the Cabot Trail – Smokey Mountain

Tandem Cycling the Cabot Trail – Part 2

Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail boasts four significant climbs. This is true whether cyclists travel clockwise or counter-clockwise, but the counter-clockwise route involves slightly steeper slopes on the uphill sides of Smokey, North, MacKenzie, and French Mountains. G and I spent a long time considering which direction to take. In Goudsborough, we made up our mind to travel counter-clockwise, so that we would go up the steeper slopes. We made this choice because our tandem is equipped with V-brakes. Tandems that are built for touring should have disc brakes, which are more powerful, and some even have an extra brake that is operated by the stoker (that’s me in the back). Without these features, we were nervous about the steep declines. G would have to be careful to pump our brakes regularly and we would surely reach speeds that make me uncomfortable.

For us, the climbs began on our second day. We prepared ourselved with too much breakfast at the Wreck Cove General Store. Eating at a picnic table on the lawn, we were blessed by a luna moth siting. This one was a little worse for wear, but still beautiful.DSC_0310DSC_0312DSC_0318

We would have left Wreck Cove sooner if not for other friendly visitors who each talked to us for a long time, not sensing our eagerness to depart before the coming rain.

Smokey Mountain boasts the steepest slope of all the Cabot Trail grinds, but it is also relatively short. We reached the base as misty fog crept in, blocking any views of the ocean to our right. We were fortunate not to have any strongs winds – we didn’t realize just how fortunate at the time – and were able to make steady progress up the hill one stroke at a time. We reached the top, cornily declaring “We smoked it!” and feeling rather smug.DSC_0319DSC_0323

From the peak of Smokey Mountain and Cape Smokey Provincial Park, it is mostly downhill to Ingonish and then Cape Breton National Park.DSC_0326DSC_0332We stopped in the Visitors’ Center there to look at maps, ask about camping, and buy a few souveniers. Then we were off to find a swimming spot. Our first opportunity came at Broad Cove campground. The Parks staff told that there was a beach with frigid water, and we were welcome to swim but probably wouldn’t last long. They were right, of course, the water was freezing, but the sun was warm and it felt wonderful to be outside in the sun with warm breezse blowing on our skins. I only managed to wade in up to my knees, but G was brave enough to take a quick plunge.DSC_0339.JPGDSC_0387DSC_0392

We left the beach feeling refreshed and happy, and still confident from our ride up Smokey. It is fair to say that this was the last time that we felt proud on the Cabot Trail. Our inflated egos travelled with us until the turn-off to Neil’s Harbour and Aspy Bay, at which point we left them lying limply at the bottom of the rolling hills of White Point Road. White Point Road is a detour that was recommended to us by the cashier at Wreck Cove General Store. He told that this detour was beautiful and that there was ice cream to be found in the base of the light house there, but forgot to mention that this road is obnoxiously hilly and there would be strong winds off the coast. We agree that this detour is beautiful, but we cannot recommend it to fellow cyclists, not least because the ice cream shop appears to be no more.DSC_0398.JPG