My Adventures in Knitting, truly my Yarn-escape!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Yarns - A Hat to Alaska and "A Walk in The Woods"

Maggie, my youngest teen

     I finished my son's hat (Sockhead Slouch Hat in Patrons Kroy Sock FX yarn in Canyon) and I'm getting it in the mail for Alaska on Friday with a bag of Reese's pieces.  I hadn't heard from him since he left at the beginning of June for a job fishing salmon on Kodiak Island.

   He's off the grid so I wasn't surprised by not hearing from him, in college he was sometimes too busy to check in with us.  But there's something about him being off the grid, in Alaska and comments people had made about bears and that they hope he has a gun that made me uneasy. 

 Some shots I got before he was off the grid - Anchorage 

  But I assured myself that I do have confidence in him.  Besides his innate common sense, he trained three times in different Wilderness First Aid courses.

 But even though he's fishing with nets off skiffs during the day, he did say he wanted to test out his hammock.  He designed a warming cocoon around a hammock (I think in preparation for hiking the Appalachian Trail at some point).  But with images of bears planted in my mind by strangers, I started to envision my son as a tasty hotdog roll hanging from a tree (for a bear). 

      No news was getting to me so I asked his girlfriend in Maine.  Of course, she heard from him!  He's alive, well and reading lots of books.  (One book he started was one I gave him for graduation. He had said he wanted to be off the grid to think and contemplate so I gave him - "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values", which he's loving).  Yesterday we received a fat letter, one for each of us.  My son is doing well.  He says Alaska is beautiful but the fishing is hard, the weather blustery and cold (he misses the Bar Harbor, Maine summer), and the haul on fish low this year (he's paid based on their haul).  But he says it's worth the adventure of being in Alaska and doing something different.  I'm relieved.  He works every day, with long breaks between hauling in fish.  They have to close at times when the Alaskan Woods and Waters says they are impacting spawning.  So when down they repair nets, still work hard but no boats are coming their way so letters don't get out. He did mention hiking but said in a letter to his sister that the little speaker she gave him probably scares away the bears.

     In my desire to feel closer to my son I read "The Great Alone", about homesteading in Alaska, which was one of the best books I've read.  After that, I read "Wild", also a good read.  My blog post last week was "Wild" and Easy Goes It Shawl.  So wanting to continue my reading about wilderness and mentally walking these great trails I ordered "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson.  While I waited I started "Lost on the Appalachian Trail" by Kyle Rohrig on my kindle (the paperback is pricey and beware on Amazon "Used" starts at $29 and goes up to $88).  Then my "Walk in the Woods" came early, so I'm reading both.

      "Lost" I'm finding a bit harder to read because the author comes across as this macho guy that's recounting his adventures, but his style just grates on me.  Reading this after reading some great books by awesome authors makes this one a bit of a chore.  I want to know what he has to say, but less of him would have been more.  But many people love his book.   He is recounting the trail methodically and I appreciate that.  One day my son and his girlfriend might be doing the AT and I want to know what it's like.  So diving into "A Walk" as soon as I got it was necessary as "Lost" was annoying me (but I'm working through it).

      Now "A Walk" is an entirely different matter.  The prose is perfect, engaging.  He was already a writer by profession and he is so witty with a dry humor.

"Not long after I moved. I happened upon a path that vanished into a wood on the edge of town. A sign announced that this was no ordinary footpath but the celebrated Appalachian Trail...Who could say the words 'Great Smoky Mountains' or 'Shenandoah Valley' and not feel an urge, as the naturalist John Muir once put it, to 'throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence.?' " A Walk p.3

On bears: (Bryson seemed to be fixated on the potential of a bear attack before he set out, reading a manual on what to do if you encounter one.)

"Through long winters in New Hampshire, while snow piled up outdoors and my wife lumbered peacefully beside me, I lay saucer-eyed in bed reading clinically precise accounts of people gnawed pulpy in their sleeping bags, plucked whimpering from their trees, even noiselessly stalked..." A Walk p. 15

     He does go on to say statistically speaking the event of a bear attack on the AT was low, but jokingly points out basically if you're that guy that is attacked well you don't care about the statistic. He differentiates between the grizzly, which doesn't roam the Appalachian mountains and the black bear that does.  The bears do react differently and it's good if you live in bear areas to know the difference.

"So let us imagine that a bear does go for us in the wilds.  What are we to do?  Interestingly the advised stratagem are exactly opposite for grizzly and black bear.  With a grizzly, you should make for a tall tree, since grizzled aren't much for climbing. If a tree is not available, then you should back off slowly, avoiding direct eye contact. All the books tell you that if the grizzly comes for you, on no account should you run. This is the sort of advice you get from someone who is sitting at a keyboard when he gives it. Take it from me, if you are in an open space with no weapons and a grizzly comes for you, run. You may as well. If nothing else, it will give you something to do with the last seven seconds of your life. However, when the grizzly overtakes you, as it most assuredly will, you should fall to the ground and play dead..." A Walk p. 17

     He describes how different the black bears are, who would love to climb that tree you're in and if you play dead they'll just keep on gnawing on you.  (An interesting comment at the end of the book I happened to see said that Bryson never did see a bear. I don't know if he was disappointed.)  Interestingly, I was reading the "Lost" book at the same time and it's author Kyle Rohrig described how he purposefully didn't obey park rules in the Shenandoah National Park that said to not use a hammock (meant to reduce bear attacks).  He explains how he wants to see a bear, that's one of his goals.  To see as many bears as possible.  Living with bears just outside my door makes me very cautious of bears.  All I could do when reading that was to roll my eyes.  We don't need to be terrified like Bryson, but just knowledgeable of what to do and not do.  And as I've seen my NJ relatives do this summer, don't run towards bears if they're sighted.  Don't look for trouble.  Know what to do and take it seriously as a potential threat.

Come Join Us at Unraveled Wednesday


  1. I love the hat! It turned out beautifully! And, I am so glad you heard from your son! And, what fascinating reading!

  2. Your hats rockin it!! I love it Nice safe, find me in the woods color ! I Loved Bryson's book. The movie..not so much :)

  3. Beautiful photos. I love the hat - such a nice bright color.