Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Knitting in the Bush

I didn't think I'd actually have time to post (or even access) while I was up north this summer, but it seems I do, if just a little..

This is a photo of a weather system moving across the sky. I think the most beautiful skies in the world can be found in northern Alberta, Canada. There are certainly places in the world where the clouds are just as impressive, but I haven't discovered them yet. I'm frequently awe-struck up here.

Naturally, no bush camp would be complete without broken shitters held partially closed by ZAP STRAPS!

Onto the knitting...

My friend Dre and I held our own Stitch and Bitch next to the wood-stove in the dry tent on a day off. She was working on 'hiking socks' from the Paton's sock book, and I worked on the Pomatomus socks from Knitty with the hiking sock wool my secret pal sent me. Unfortunately, my printer printed off the pattern sideways and I lost part of chart B! I had to move on to other projects during the fly-in.

That turned out well, as I finally finished my Estonian Socks by Nancy Bush.(Warning: I have scary, white, bug-bitten, wild rose scratched legs. Only look at the socks!)

Up close.

The Estonian socks have a unique heel. I'll have to check the book to see which type it was... I'm honestly not sure if I'm fond of it as it's quite narrow, but here's a good look at it.

For our wedding anniversary, I made John a pair of socks too. He wears a size 14 shoe, so knitting socks for him is always a major undertaking. The pattern is fairly basic. I used size 5 needles, 56 stitches and ribbing to make them stretchy. I didn't have enough balls of one colour to make 'boring' socks for him, so I alternated different browns of Mission Falls washable merino.

Here he is, Mr. Bigfoot, being an agreeable sock model in back of our hotel.

As for non-sock/knitting news, I had my first up-close bear encounter a few weeks ago.

I always tried to imagine what I would do it if ever happened. Would I panic? Would I scream my head off. Would I remember step by step what I was supposed to do.

We were planting in a block heavy with bear activity. When we flew in to plant it several days later, a mama bear and two cubs were at the snow cache, rooting through all the garbage. Our helicopter chased them off. (It's fun actually, staring down below your feet and watching bears run through the woods while you fly after them.) After chasing off the mama bear and cubs, we divided up across the cut block to plant. We carry whistles and bear mace, but generally we're several hectares away from help, too far from the emergency radios and too far away for people to hear our whistles. These facts are not all that comforting, but when bear encounters are likely, people buddy up plant and the foreman keep their guns handy. This was day one in this block. Nothing major happened.

Our cut block was shaped roughly like two fat 'Y's strung together, with uncut bush as the negative space. On day 2, I was off in the tip of one of the slanted parts of the Y, very far away from everyone else. Within an hour of beginning work, I heard gun-shots. My foreman showed up shortly afterward to tell me that eight (yes, that right, EIGHT!) bears had been spotted across the block and they'd shot off a few rounds of rubber bullets. That's eight bears in an area roughly thirty hectares in size, which might sound big but really isn't when they're wandering around and cutting through the patches of bush where nothing has been cut, jumping from one side of the Y to the other. And if you shoot rubber bullets at a bear, there's no telling which part of the block they're running to. You can try to control it, but once they get into the bush and you can't see them, they can hop from one clear cut to another.

At this point, I shouldn't have been planting alone without so much as a dog or a radio. About an hour later, I was working toward my tree cache when out of the corner of my eye, I saw my backpack move! I froze and looked up slowly, only too see a bear twenty feet away from me, nosing through my gear.

It was bigger than me. Not more than waist high, but round and stocky and well over three hundred pounds. Definitely faster than me, were I to turn and run. At the same moment I saw it, it saw me. Shaking, I slowly reached into my pocket for my whistle with one hand, and with my other hand I reached into my back planting bag for my bear mace. (We'd just bought our mace before the fly in. I'd only taken the plastic wrap off it two days earlier. Imagine being charged by a bear and stuck trying to get the plastic off the mace?) I managed to yank the safety clip off the mace and get the whistle in my mouth. At the sound of the whistle, the bear darted back a few feet. Then it stopped, looked at me, and took a step off the road into my land, watching me. For five of the most terrifying minutes of my life, I backed away very slowly blowing the whistle, trying to figure out what direction the wind was coming from in case I had to use the mace. The bear kept watching, unafraid, as if it hadn't decided what to do about me. Backing away over cut land covered in slash and brush isn't easy. Scared and klutzy, I dropped my whistle once and fell once. When I was about fifty yards away, the bear finally decided to go through my gear in search of my lunch rather than come after me.


It took me another five minutes to reach the pinch in the treeline to where the cut block opened up and find my way to other people.

About an hour after this happened, we heard whistles in another section of the block, then, several gun-shots. A foreman had to shoot and kill another bear which was venturing too close to people. The helicopter slung it up on a long line, and then we watched as the body was flown out of the block so that it could be dumped far away from us.

That sort of stuff should never happen. We're people wandering into the bears' territory, not the other way around. There were several human mistakes made which led to the encounter, which is usually the case up here.

That's all for now. I hope everyone is having a good summer and I wish I had more time to browse all of your blogs!


SpiderWomanKnits said...

It is so good to hear from you!

My pulse is racing from reading about your bear encounter. I am thankful everyone is ok. My DH and I just finished watching Werner Herzog's documentary 'Grizzly Man'. When you get out of the bush you should definitely watch it if you haven't already. It is so thought provoking.

All of your FO's are lovely esp. the Estonian socks. I love your little stitch and bitch too :-) Glad to know there is a fiber friend up there with you. Sounds ideal to me!

Keep having fun under those beautiful skies. Oh, and happy anniversary to you and yours.

sue b said...

Oh my gosh that bear story had me glued to the monitor ! Good grief that must have been unbelievably scary. I can't even imagine !

Donni said...

Too Weird - I am here in suburbia in Wollongong Australia, reading about your bear encounter when guess what movie started on Playhouse Disney? Give up? Brother Bear! Now that is WEIRD. Glad you stayed safe to knit another sock another day - don't envy those disgusting looking bush toilets though.

Leigh said...

Very sitting-on-the-edge-of-my-seat interesting about your encounter with the bear. Brought back memories of my own encounter.

Your socks are great. I especially like the Estonial socks. I have Nancy's book but never took a good look at that lovely heel.

Jana said...

Say it's so good to hear from you! And so good to hear you survived your bear encounter! You are so brave! Your socks look awesome, and that sky is absolutely beautiful. What a neat adventure you are having, I really hope you can enjoy and savor every minute of it. And it's so cool that with all that stuff going on you still got to squeeze in a stitch and bitch meeting.

JessaLu said...

So good to hear from you! Glad to see you have found knitting time. Those socks are beautiful!

We had two bears in our front yard a few weeks ago - I was scared while in the house, I cannot imagine coming face to face with one. Glad to hear you made it okay :o)

Dorothy said...

Love your Estonian socks. They are really beautiful. Very cool sky picture!
No more going off on your own again! Bear country is dangerous country. When they are hungry you look like food. Humanity means nothing to a hungry animal. You are simply meat that has a funny/sometimes inedible tasting outside. It's the law of nature and why most prey animals (that would be you) roam in packs. There is safety in numbers. Please stick to the pack and make it out of the bush alive.

Iris said...

How terrifying! I'm glad you are OK!

As for your knitting projects - the Estonian socks look beautiful. :-)

Take care of yourself and I'm looking forward to your return to blogland!