After seven wonderful days visiting the Northwest including the Columbia River Gorge, Mt St Helens, Seattle, and Crater Lake, TW and I are home again. As always, I love to head off into the unknown for a vacation, and then am equally thrilled to return home again. Our annual road trip was filled with amazing sights, good food, new adventures, and best of all, time to be together, just the two of us. This year was the first time we included a city as a major destination point in the trip, and while we had a terrific time in Seattle and enjoyed the city very much, we both concluded that our biggest pleasures came from the natural environment - towering mountains, lush forests, beautiful rivers and lakes, and the like. Cities have wonderful things to offer, but they make for a very different type of trip, and we will keep that in mind for future planning.
The decision to include the stops at the Columbia River Gorge, Mt St Helens, and Crater Lake was a last minute one, which also precipitated our departure a day earlier than originally planned, but those were the parts of the trip that really moved us deeply. Mt St Helens was the highlight, I think - there's an observation center astonishingly close to the crater, with a panoramic view of the devastation area from the 1980 eruption. The mountain is huge, even with a significant portion of it having blown up during the blast, and it inspired nothing short of awe. The volcano itself is still completely barren, but the forests a little farther away have grown back (many of them re-planted by the lumber industries). The volcano is still technically active, but not in any kind of eruption cycle at the moment.
Part of the visit to Seattle included a ferry trip over to Bainbridge Island on a beautiful, sunny day. There's quite a nice yarn shop on the Island called Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, with lots of good yarns, sample garments, patterns, etc. A small section of the shop had a variety of tea for sale along with teapots, cups and saucers, etc. I always love to pick up some souvenir yarn while on vacation, and this time it's a double pleasure, as TW bought me a gorgeous skein as both my souvenir and a birthday gift. Along with several other brands of hand-dyed yarns the shop carried some yarns by Shoalwater Bay (I haven't been able to locate a website for them). The yarn is dyed with natural dyes and is a local company, so it's something I probably wouldn't be able to get anywhere else. It's a cotton/rayon slub yarn dyed a luscious aqua blue-green that will be beautiful with the turquoise earrings TW gave me last year. He also gave me a copy of A Fine Fleece, a beautiful book focusing on knitting with handspun yarns. There are a number of patterns based on traditional Aran and Guernsey designs, but each one is written for both handspun and commercially available yarns. While I would have liked to see some close up photos of the handspun yarns and/or fabrics, the sections discussing the author's thoughts on spinning, fibres, and design are well worth the price of the book. There are several scarf patterns in it, and the Shoalwater Bay skein is destined to become one of them.
And did I knit at all on the trip this year? Yes, I did! I got a good start on the Monkey socks, completing most of the leg. As I mentioned in last week's post I am using the variations from Cara of January One (see links in previous post), but did 5 repeats of the stitch pattern before starting the heel rather than the 4 she used. I also did a slip stitch heel flap instead of the plain stockinette in the pattern. I find hotel rooms to have poor sitting conditions and lighting so I didn't make a huge amount of progress but am enjoying the socks so far. This is my first experience with Socks That Rock yarn. The yarn itself is soft and spongy, which I like a lot, but I must admit that I am not really in love with such highly variegated yarns. The colour changes are quite frequent and are a little distracting from the stitch pattern. But I have decided to go ahead and use it for these socks as that was my original intention in purchasing it, so for once I will attempt to actually do what I set out to do, knitting-wise.
I am still on vacation this week, but will be spending it at home and am cooking up a major project to occupy myself for the week. What will it be? I'm not sure yet, but stay tuned........