Sock on the water

This weekend was a grand success. We left Toronto and drove north, headed for backcountry at French River instead of Algonquin, having been tipped off that there weren’t many sites to be had there. (I have a nightmare where we paddle and paddle looking for a good site and can’t find one.) French River is a little harder to get into, and therefore quieter. Our odds were way better. We went with Joe’s brother Chris and his lady Robyn…all the better to share the workload and paddle for help when you are gored by a bear.

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Saturday was spent paddling far out, looking for a good place to stop. Just before sunset (dudes, you do not want to canoe in the dark) when we were getting pretty far out in the middle of nowhere and had seen and rejected a whole bunch of places…

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and we were starting to worry, we saw an inukshuk pointing round a bend…we followed it and found, I kid you not, the Hilton of all stopping places. It was a small island and obviously someone has loved and cared for this place for many years. There was a long smooth rock point to pull canoes onto,

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There was benches built by a beautiful fire pit (which someone had thoughtfully stocked with firewood)

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There was a table built from a split log and rocks…

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and, in some sort of backcountry miracle…

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There was a seriously high end latrine. (It had an actual toilet seat. It was fantastic. I was stunned to discover that after only one or two trips into the woods without one, finding a box in the woods is like finding a spa. I never thought I would think that sort of thing constituted luxury…but there you go.) We had a lovely evening and woke up the next morning ready to take on the world. We headed down the part of the river that had either some rapids, or a very long portage. We thought we would have a look at the rapids and make a decision about whether or not it was safe. We paddled (upriver and into the wind, very rough going) and came to the spot. We pulled in the canoes and walked the rapids, trying to assess if it was doable, or…at least, if it was doable by us.

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There was some fun rapids, then some swift water, then this 1 metre drop, which, while I know it doesn’t look big here, is really, really, really huge if you’re the one talking about taking a canoe over it. Joe and Chris puzzled over it for a while.

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What they finally settled on was this:

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We would come round the S bend after the fun rapids (class 1, for anybody in the know), and swing hard left to do the slowest part of the swift water. This would mean we weren’t going so fast when we came to the drop. We would avoid the ledge with the white water, coming down to the right of a huge honking rock, then down the fastest but simplest part and then navigate the white and swift water and the rocks after the drop. We were especially going to avoid the rocks marked with Xs. As we went back to the canoes and tied everything down and pushed off from shore, I asked Joe what he thought what the odds were that we were going for a swim.

“50-50” he said, “Just avoid the rocks my Honey.”

Well. The sock and I probably wouldn’t have pushed off if we had asked the question before getting onto the swift water.

As we came round that first bend we were perfect. We came exactly as the diagram indicates. We swung round perfect and were feeling pretty good as we came to the right of The Rock. That would be This Rock.

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This picture is deceptive. The drop to the left of the rock is actually about 1m ( that’s about 3feet), that’s HUGE. The Rock is massive, extending far under the water. The part sticking above the water is about a metre as well. Big Rock. Big Bad Rock. As we came up to it, following our plan brilliantly, the wind suddenly gusted from our right and drove us over to The Rock. We hit it with the left side of the canoe and because of the shape of the canoe, that effectively rolled us over. Thus began just about the scariest 3 minutes of my life. As the canoe tipped right, I remembered everything that I ever learned. I pushed off hard from the canoe with my feet so that it couldn’t roll on me, drew up my legs, pulled in my arms, pointed my bum to the rocks (rule one: protect the head) and began a path through the rapids…sans canoe. I did very brilliantly well, yet, hit (I believe, it all happened very, very, very fast) the rocks indicated below.

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When I regained control, I swam hard across the current of the river and clambered up onto the rock I took this picture from. I was stunned, as I dragged myself up, to discover that incredibly, I still had my glasses, still had my paddle (good girl) and most amazingly, due to some thoughtful toe curling on my part…. had not lost my birkenstocks. Joe was fine (better than fine, he thinks this sort of thing is big fun) as well, though he did lose his paddle and sunglasses.

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We have some spectacular bruises. Chris and Robyn followed a few minutes later, having pulled harder to the right when they saw our sorry arses bobbing in the river. Our canoe (and Joe’s paddle) were retrieved

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and I looked to assess the damage. My sock and camera ride here when I canoe.

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The camera rides in my sock bag inside of a dry sack (a bag that is meant to keep stuff dry) but it’s not meant to be entirely submerged, certainly not for the 30 minutes that this stuff was underwater before we got to it. I was prepared for disaster.

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The camera was fine, just fine. Spotlessly dry, and the only damage, other than an extraordinarily wet sock in progress and a huge bruise on my arse and arm, is that there is now a Knitpicks 2.25mm dpn at the bottom of the French River. Never fear though….

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I had another sock in my backpack.

The rest of the weekend passed without incident, if a little damply. (Takes a long time to dry out from a dunking like that.) We had a fire and some whiskey,

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and by the next day,my shoes were dry and all was forgotten.

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We took pains to leave the Hilton campsite a little better than we found it by building an end table/ beer stand out of some found objects. and we took the time to mark the point of the island with an inukshuk to mark it as a good shelter for the next passers by. (People sometimes build these just to be art, but used right, they are pretty handy directional markers.)

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We paddled for home.

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It was fantastic. It was rugged. It was empowering (and bruising) as all get out.

I am Canadian Knitter. Hear me roar.

(Ps. My yarn is almost dry.)

218 thoughts on “Sock on the water

  1. Could there be a more Canadian way to spend a long weekend! How cold was the water? Most of those rivers never really get warm.
    Glad the sock survived.

  2. Better you than me though it’s fun to live vicariously through you tough Canadians. I would never think ahead about protecting the knitting and I’d be sol after a dunking like that!

  3. Wow. And wow. I’d pay a dpn for a trip and experience and views like that, definitely. (Combined, truth be told, with, you go, hon, I’ll knit safely from here.)

  4. I wanna hear more! Such fun– but I’m glad I wasn’t the one getting bounced off rocks.
    Tell us what the brightly-colored yarn is in the wet sock. I’m seriously in love.

  5. Yeeeehaaa! Sounds like a heck of a good time…glad it was only bruises and one lost dpn…although I did have a tear in my eye over that. Hate to lose a good needle, but you saved the Birks!!!!! Good job!!!

  6. What a fantastic weekend. Now I want to go canoeing more tha anything. It’s been years… Glad the camera and sock survived the adventure.

  7. Well, I can understand about the luxury toilet. My great-aunt in Virginia called us and talked to us for 3 hours about how fantastic it was that she finally had an indoor toilet. Maybe it’s a girl thing…
    Glad to see you made it through the rocks and water with only a dpn (maybe a little pride) sacrificed.

  8. Wow! What a ride! But I am curious as to how goring by bears can come about while canoeing…

  9. And you got to wear your cowboy hat!!! Wee haw (as my 2 year old says it) that sounds like fun. Can’t wait to see you in Seattle, 10 days and counting.

  10. Must never let hubby see this entry – he would start refusing to let me plan any of our trips. Soooo, not a water kinda guy, but a first class hiker. Of course, he might have had his doubts once he saw I had brought the knitting. sigh Spectacular to look at though, thanks for thinking of us homebound bodies when you packed the camera.
    Uh, was the house still in one piece upon your return to the girls?

  11. Now that the eldest is a BOYScout and no longer a cub scout – I am camping more and more – and I’m having experience much like this one (less the beer, plus teenage boys). I like the idea of parents only trip here!
    and at least you didn’t sprain your wrist like I did on my last canoe trip!
    April

  12. Question from those of us who think container gardening is quite enough of a dose of the great outdoors: what exactly is an ‘inukshuk,’? (I assume it’s the rock formation, but how big is it and how does it give directionality?

  13. Sounds like fun! I was certified as a rafting guide once, though thank goodness I never actually guided. I remember from the training how tricky those rapids are. You can scope and scope all you want, but it’s always much different on the way through! Well done remembering your training and not bumping your head on any rocks.

  14. Sounds like a glorious amount of fun! Now I want to vacation in Canada – it’s hard to find well cared for backcountry in the states. Particularly for those of us that live in the eastern half of the country, where most people’s idea of wild translates as “out of sight of something paved”.

  15. Wow, sounds like you had an adventure, love your pictures too. I took my teenage son canoeing this weekend as well (just for the day). The two of us go every labour day long weekend. It’s SUCH a Canadian thing to do ;-). Unlike you, we had an uneventful paddle.

  16. Now that you’re safely ashore, braving the rapids sure beats that long portage, I think. Congratulations for keeping your head (and your glasses, paddle and shoes) during your unexpected swim. Bravo!

  17. So—- Bears aren’t the only ones that p**p in the woods, huh?
    (THAT was very bad- and I apologize for not resisting….kind of)
    Back up knitting- Brilliant.
    Dry camera- a happy surprise.
    I suppose my love for camping with a/c, microwave and bathroom in our travel trailer would never suffice in Canada….
    I am a wimp. But a knitting wimp!

  18. Lovely pix and what an experience. Glad you’re ok. The sock and yarn will endure. . .
    In Colorado, we call those things cairns and they are awfully handy for marking trails above treeline.

  19. Dude, you SCORED on the campsite! Nice job. And excellent way to ride the rapids – been there, done that, don’t really need to do it again. I spent my long weekend in the other type of back country – at the cottage, with the beer nice and cold. My socks stayed dry, and I didn’t lose a needle – lucky me. I wonder if KP will send you out just one if you send them a picture of your bruises?

  20. Paddling must be the Canadian thing to do on a long weekend!
    Saturday my hubby, daughter and a friend took off in the canoes to paddle down the Ohio River here in NS. Class 1 rapids, a sluice, a small waterfalls … guys had fun, daughter screamed her way through. πŸ™‚
    Monday found him out in the canoe again, fishing. Then out with a friends exchange student from Columbia.
    No canoeing for me – my knees can’t take it. πŸ™

  21. Awesome trip – I am so jealous! Reminds me of our canoeing trip in the Everglades last summer. We (husband, 8 year old son and myself) canoed out through the mangrove islands to open water. then the tide came in and a huge motorboat just about broadsided us. The waves and the tide knocked us into a mangrove and flipped the canoe (about 5 miles from shore). We clung to the mangroves, prayed there were no sea snakes smelling our scratched up legs, and eventually bailed the canoe out enough to climb back in. The most amazing part of the ordeal was my son pulling me up by the scruff of my neck (I was the bad mom who didn’t zip up her PFD) and saying, “it’s allright, Mom, I got you!” Still makes me tear up! Since it was salt water, we lost the camera, even though it was in a drybag, and a really nice Winona paddle. These kinds of stories make life exciting!

  22. Green as a step-out sock with envy, I am.
    Honestly? I feared more for the camera. The sock can take some impact, and it can always dry out. The handy emergency back-up knitting slayed me, my dear. πŸ™‚
    Digital camera: $400
    Drybag: $18
    Lost dpn: $2
    Unforgettable canoe trip with a bum-first ride thru the rapids and a tended island for a campsite: priceless!
    I used a canoe small drybag for my camera, tucked into my daypack, through the entire Katrina rescue efforts. Those things are worth their weight in gold. My OCD arse also put the camera in a baggie.

  23. Sounds like a great weekend! Been somewhere like that, and done that (tipped canoe trying to run the rapids instead of portaging) and survived too! I will have to check out your route sometime it really looks beautiful!

  24. Mark & I have been wanting to try the French River sounds like a great trip, that campsite sound tempting. My guys say you aren’t really canoing if someone doesn’t end up in the drink, you’re just site seeing.

  25. Wow – brings back memories of college canoe trips. Glad to hear that only sunglasses and a paddle were sacrificed to the RiverGoddess(tm) and that it was done earlier rather than later. While whiskey seemed to work for you, Blackberry Brandy was always the cure up in the Wisconsin northwoods. Well done!
    Separately – were those the latest RSC socks I saw on the needles?

  26. S–I’ve read and loved your blog for awhile now! I’m an outdoor sports enthusiast as well as a knitter and really enjoyed reading your trip details! My husband and I took an open water canoe trip in Southern Oregon when we first started dating…70 miles, long portages, maneuvering over a drop like you talk about, actually paddling through some class III in a hail storm…! It made me smile remembering our trip as I read about yours! Congrats for making it through smiling!

  27. Wow! Canoe-tipping and all, that still sounds like the best long-weekend trip ever. It has been so long since I’ve done a long outdoors adventure by any means (on foot was my last adventure, although I would like to do another by bike), and this just makes me so envious. Congrats on finding that Hilton campsite and for getting through the ‘rapids’ so well. I would have been glad for the backup sock too.

  28. That sounds like all kinds of fun! Except the being flipped part. I once was flipped in a canoe that hit a rootwad broadside. Ever since then I’ve been a little gunshy of rough water. Other than that, sounds like you had a blast!

  29. Glad to hear you survived your trip in the woods! Your canoe adventure reminds me of the times we went canoeing. The one time, we hit something and the canoe tipped over. I went over and under. Thank God there was some one else to grab me up – my husband was too busy saving the cooler of beer!!
    Linda in VA

  30. I can definitely relate to the ‘scariest 3 minutes’ part! Except mine happened during a trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho during high water. I was soooo relieved at not being drilled in the head by a fully loaded cataraft that I almost didn’t mind the swim. Glad you remembered your training and came out (relatively) unscathed.

  31. Aaaack! Now I’m gonna have “Smoke on the Water” going through my mind all day!
    Looks like you had a ton of fun! πŸ™‚

  32. Oooh, I normally just lurk but had to comment today. I love the French River, so much more peaceful than Algonquin on a long weekend. We always called the luxury toilets ‘thunder boxes’, they’re all over the place on the French. I’m impressed that the socks & camera made it through, I’ve never been brave enough to take my digital canoeing!

  33. Sounds like a wonderful trip…even with the spill and bruises! At least it was a chance to relax and enjoy nature!!!

  34. Wow – what a great trip. Brings back memories of my (only) rafting/canoeing trip on the North Saskatchewan. Three days, about 20 people, ice-cold (glacier-fed) water. We lost most of our supplies, including camp stove, cooking implements, and a few sleeping pads when the supply canoe bumped a raft in the rapids and tipped. It all seemed disastrous at the time, but, looking back, it was a lot of fun finding ways to do without all the ‘luxuries’, and figuring out how to do all our cooking with one big pot and canoe paddles as spoons.

  35. Possibly the thing I enjoy most about your blog are the tales like this one – just the right amount of info, commentary, knitting, detail, and pictures to really pull me in and make me feel a part of the adventure. Glad you had such an excellent weekend!

  36. Sounds like a great trip. Makes me long for summers spent on the Allagash and St. John rivers in Maine. There’s nothing like white water trip canoeing.

  37. Man! Something similar to this happened to me on my first trip river kayaking. I’ve never come as close as that to thinking I might not make it home & that my parents were going to kill me for falling out of my kayak & drowning. Luckily, I too managed to keep not only the paddle & my sunglasses on, but I also managed to keep my hat.

  38. Just think, one day hundreds of years in the future, someone will find that dpn lodged in the dirt. They will ponder it and realize, Knitters were here! πŸ˜‰

  39. Mr. Happy and I didn’t get to go camping this summer, and I keep reading about camping trips. It’s filling me with regret. Sigh.

  40. What a fabulous story and also a great lesson on planning ahead to avoid disaster. Obviously a dry sack is a great investment. To the commenter who said you can’t find wilderness in the US: Haven’t you even been to a national park ?? Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Zion, Glacier, Yosemite – they are all fabulous. Get out and travel. The US is beautiful. Betsy
    http://www.culturedpurl.com

  41. Next item for your socks into the wild should be a Stitchkeepers. Helps keep dpns in a wip stay put and not be washed away by rapids. Glad to see it was an enjoyable and refreshing weekend.

  42. Not only are you good in a canoe crisis but are a knitter prepared with a second sock in the backpack. I am completely impressed.
    Did you bring coffee with you and how did you prepare it? Over an open flame?

  43. Too cool, Steph! Sounds like you had an awesome time. And, thanks, Miss Ewe. I listen to an “oldies” rock station all the time and the aformentioned song is on just about every day! Twice! I will never hear the original words again. And, I will laugh every time I hear “Sock on the Water”!!

  44. You are an amazing woman.
    PS — try SealPaks. They buckle into the boat and they really do keep cameras and everything else dry. Mine was submerged for 15-20 mins in the Assabet River (with camera, no sock though) after a similarly rambunctious maneouver, and all was well. Oh, and this was an 11-year-old SealPak, not a brand new one, so they last pretty well too.

  45. You make me want to go canoe camping. With the drought, we’ve only gone canoeing a few times this year because dragging on rocks all day isn’t fun, even if you are drinking beer!
    I will no longer call them “ducks” but inukshuks.

  46. A great vacation and pictures; quite vigorous yet seems like dreamy evenings at the ‘Hilton’. Glad your get-away was refreshing – bravo on keeping the glasses and the paddle.

  47. Good for you guys! Looks like you had a lot of fun. My idea of camping is the Fairmont, theatre tickets and a reservation at a posh restaurant.

  48. That’s awesome! I think I would have peed my pants, but hey I’d be in water, who would know?
    You may be a Canadian, but you look darn good in that cowboy hat!

  49. Now THAT is a proper campsite!
    Don’t you love it when you find the good ones?
    I love adding to them too. Even when we just car camp we usually leave behind painted rocks as little treasures for the next group to find.

  50. I saw that diagram and my first thought was “Umm-hmmm, that ain’t happening.” if a rock has two different speeds of water on either side of it, it’s a bigun. Sure enough. Glad you two are alright though and that you didn’t lose your Birks, camera or socks. That would really suck. Looks like a great place to canoe and camp though.

  51. You had me on the edge of my seat. Thank goodness you and Joe are okay, though bruised. And you saved both the sock AND the birkenstocks. Way to go.

  52. Wow, you are so Canadian! While I think plumbing was one of humankind’s greatest inventions you make your wild weekend sound great fun! I enjoy living vicariously.

  53. Ooh, sounds like fun! Good job remembering everything you know and surviving your little swim. And interesting that you call the rock piles inukshuks – in my part of the continent we call them rock cairns. I learn something new every day! πŸ™‚

  54. I bow before you yet again. We (my family) were/are waterskiers. We just bounce off the water’s surface when we crash. I thought that was “fun”–rocks must be waaaaaay better! πŸ˜‰

  55. I’ve camped on sites in Algonquin with the box latrines, but never really appreciated them!till now… and now I know how to pack my valuables next time in the event of a tipping – way to survive in style!

  56. The last time we went camping on a little backwoods island, my husband, gentleman that he is, build us a latrine out of fallen wood and duct tape. He was the hero of the day – there were, after all, three women and five children on the trip. We did cheat and take a motorboat instead of a canoe, though!

  57. Fabulous adventure! I can’t believe you had another sock in your backpack (wait a minute, this is Stephanie we’re talking about. OF COURSE she had a spare sock-in-progress), LOL.

  58. What you won’t do to lose one of your sock needles.
    Honestly, I think it’s so years ahead, future generations will happen upon them. And wonder why a knitter would leave them just one.
    πŸ™‚
    Oh and now I can’t get Smoke on the Water out of my head.
    Thanks.
    πŸ™‚

  59. Looks fantastic. I do believe the loss of a single DPN to such a spectacular event is clearly the makings of an official sacrifice to the knitting goddess.

  60. With all us readers, you probably get WAY too many suggestions — still, if I were you, I’d think about getting a pair of Keen sandals for your next trip. Comfy, provide good footing in the water, dry FAST, and only dorky looking in a cute way. Glad you’re OK and had a great time!

  61. what an awesome weekend. i need to continue to train my boy. i’ve gotten him onto fibre (and willingly making stops at random farmer’s markets to add to the stash) but need to work on that camping etc = good. his idea of roughing it is a hotel room with a shower-stall only, he *might* RV… *sigh* he’s a good man, i’m keeping him, but he needs more training.

  62. Am I the only one who remembers these lyrics to an old Jackson Browne song???
    “Rock meeee on the the water, honey won’t you soothe my fevered browwwww….etc.” hehe.
    glad you made it back (mostly) in one piece.

  63. Sounds something like my first ever canoe trip (also my first date with my now-husband). Ours was an uncharted river in Labrador (which we learned after the fact was considered unnavigable by the local First Nations). Many, many bruises, one broken leg and two SAR missions later, all four of us got home safely. (The canoes stayed behind in little pieces).
    Glad the camera stayed dry – hooray for good gear! I think the DPN was a fitting sacrifice to the Knitting Goddess.

  64. What a grand adventure!!! I can’t wait until we can get back to camping and paddling. We haven’t been able to do any of that this summer since my husband had shoulder surgery……BUMMER!

  65. I too am a Canadian knitter and hear me roar is right !! IF anyone EVER plunked me down in the bush without the ammenities I am accustomed to , I’m afraid there would be much more than a roar from this Leo the lion . Cats so I am told love to be pampered so I guess I was born under the right sign. Happy to know that there are still some voyageurs in this country So glad you got home safely.

  66. Boy did that look familiar, except it was on the Yough River at Ohiopyle in Fayette County PA (I think the rapids were class 4 that day, though), and it was a four person raft. The rocks and the failure of the rock avoidance plan was remarkably similar.
    I feel your bruises.

  67. Just picture me green with envy – I am too old & worried about broken bones to do something like that now. But over 30 years ago, I spent an entire summer on a huge camping trip. We went in a big circle – starting from Madison Wi. & returning to the Chicago area – we hit just about every National Park west of the Mississippi – Badlands, Yellowstone, Glacier, Redwood, Yosemite & Grand Canyon as well numerous national forests & state parks & 2 major urban areas – Seattle & The Bay Area (for a few days each) as well as a commune in Idaho & the Oregon coast which is phenomenally beautiful. I find I can only go so long without the beauty of green trees & fresh air – even if it’s only in a state forest of a few hundred acres. But now I have to stay in motels & it’s just not the same as sleeping under the stars.

  68. Dear God in heaven.
    I am climbing into bed and pulling the [dry] covers over my head. I just came out of a class on Poetry and 20th Century Media which was using foreground and privilege as verbs and intertextualization as a noun (all the undergrads have dropped out since class #1, leaving MFAs as the bottomfeeders among the circling PhDs) and yet I swear that your narration is scarier. Let me go on record — while I admire, I Do. Not. Envy.
    Lordy.

  69. Rooooooar
    Thank heavens you’re ok. It leads me to think that it would be very interesting to see all the places that the sock has traveled.

  70. That sounds fantastically fun! I didn’t even take out the canoe at our cabin in northern MN this year. There aren’t any 1m drops or rapids on the lake though.

  71. You had me at the little row of xxx’s. Dude, you Canadians are nuts. That water looks cold. Those rocks look hard. And since I so rarely can tell up from down in real life, there is no way I would be able to remember instructions while being whacked about by rocks and cold water.

  72. Looks like crazy stupid fun! I can’t believe you didn’t wear shoes that actually strap to your feet!

  73. *envy!*
    *envy!*
    *envy!*
    Wow, what a fabulous adventuresome time! The next time you face a room full of knitters, remember this and think to yourself, “What’s there to be afraid of? I’m a badass!” Because lady, you totally are.

  74. Oh big fun! Makes me want to go.
    My younger canoeing self would so have done the drop without thought (did some like it, even). My older canoeing self recognizes the lack of a sufficiently skilled partner might have unpleasant consequences. So we’re prudent.

  75. When you first described the Hilton-ish campsite, I thought, “Stephanie’s going to do something to leave it even better.” And of course you did. Thank you for being that wonderful kind of person.

  76. My socks live in Zip Loc bags while I am knitting them. If I were on a river, I might even double bag. I am pretty sure they are available in Canada so I shouldn’t need to send you some. They make boats with motors in them now a days, too. You just have to be different don’t you? (That is what I love about you, I would love this adventure AFTER it was over.)

  77. I LOVE CANOEING!!! That spot of yours looks PERFECT. It’s amazing the difference a good campsite can make. I even picked the college I went to based on its proximity to the Boundary Waters Wildernes… I had gone once in 9th grade and fallen head over heels. I lived up there for 3 summers in college and go back every year at least once. I’d live out there if I could… I LOVE CANOEING! (did I say that already??) Glad to hear you are alright after your swim. πŸ™‚

  78. 1. Purdy campsite!
    2. We call them “ducks” here in California. (Those inukshuk thingys, that is.)
    3. I am very impressed by your quick thinking (and quick toe-curling) during the unexpected dip. May your next toe-curling experience be more fun and less scary.
    4. Hope your bum feels better.

  79. YOW. Awesome. I wonder if the wool sock helped keep the camera dry.
    Now, see, if you knit your socks on FIVE dpns, then you could easily drop back to four and not have to bring an extra sock to knit. (Oh wait, what am I saying?)

  80. Oh, what fun! I did my first whitewater rafting trip this summer, in the mountains north of Vancouver and it was the most. fun. ever! Including class 4 rapids. If you get the chance, you gotta do it! Ice cold glacier water, beautiful scenery, big water. It doesn’t get much better.

  81. Whew! Sounds like a wild ride there for a moment. It’s good to hear that you and the birks and the knitting made it through in one piece.

  82. I [heart] Canada. I really, truly do, and your descriptions let me [heart] Canada all the more! I also learned a new word today: “inukshuk.” Woot!
    Laiane (from Michigan — So close!)

  83. Oh my goodness, Canada is so gorgeous! I have to travel there one day. It’s just a long, long way away for me (in Australia).

  84. That’s awesome, it really is. A couple weeks ago I visited my Mom in Oregon. Your story and pictures are making me terribley homesick even though I’ve only been back in San Diego a couple weeks! I’m tentatively making plans to move up this summer. I need nature!!

  85. That was truly awesome… and that sock will definitely dry. (I think anything that gets me bruised besides walking over legos is empowering…it’s sad how sedentary my life is…)

  86. Stephanie, when all of us tell you how hard you rock, you are NOT supposed to go out and try to prove it!
    Nothing better to put you to sleep than a good day’s labor, a fire in good company, and scotch – with the stars overhead and the wind in the trees, well, it’s just heaven.
    And of course there was a spare sock – this is a woman who will never be caught without her knitting (underwear, OK, maybe – but blame that on th airlines.)

  87. The first time my dad took me out in the canoe we were happily paddling along and the sneaky old coot flipped us on purpose “to teach me.”
    Ack!
    After a few tries, I was able to right the behemoth of a canoe and scramble into it, but I put cayenne in the next chocolate chip cookie I baked for him!
    If you ever get the chance, canoe up the Green in Wyoming to the lake at the base of Square Top. Stunningly beautiful. (Watch out for the moose, though.)

  88. Big sigh of relief! I’m certainly glad that all you suffered were bruises. You had me worried for a couple of minutes there. Here I am, worrying about flying to Paris, and you are paddling the rapids of the wilderness with no *gasp* indoor plumbing! What a woman! Kudos to you.

  89. Sounds like a great trip! I recently went white water rafting and also experienced a dunking. I definitely had a large bruise on my leg, which was either paddle shaped or giant rock shaped, I was not sure which. I am glad to hear you and Joe and the sock are ok. πŸ™‚

  90. Okay, so now you are a travel writer as well – I felt like I was there and wasn’t, but wanted to be at the same time. That must be some sort of existential time warp or something. You go, girl!
    My jealousy knows no bounds. Sounds like the sock even had fun.

  91. Holy crap!!! camping? WITHOUT running water??? i just cannot imagine it!! you are a star!

  92. Melinda<—does not camp because she lives in the woods already, however..
    I am dead impressed with the glasses save. The Atlantic ocean has eaten countless glasses of mine (cheap sunglasses over the contacts) and the high dollar kind-that-could-almost-phone-home-alone kind of my husband (he is forbidden to get wet and see at the same time now). That dpn will float downriver to some knitter on some other campsite who lost hers when her husband used it to poke a hole in the bag of trail mix and broke it. Pay it forward, roaring Harlotta!

  93. Um…not a camper, but I did like to hear about your holiday. You *go,* Girl! You can camp for the both of us.
    Carry on!

  94. I’m with Penny’s SO. Roughing it is a hotel room with no tub (alternatively, or no cable tv/wifi).
    Although, the one canoe trip I *did* take, in Northern Michigan, was beautiful. (We stayed in cabins, which was pretty much roughing it…)

  95. Your experience is commonly referred to as being maytagged (because it’s like being put in a washing machine) – in your case, I guess you were Mr. Washied,
    Remember the river in the movie Deliverance? *That’s* a fun river although I wouldn’t go near it in a canoe. We all fell out but they taught us to go feet first and hold onto the paddle on your stomach.
    As far as camping, the closest I get is staying at a motel without room service. I have camping trauma from school trips as a teen where there was a distinct tinge of Lord of the Flies about the experience.

  96. The first time I canoed the French River I was a teenager with my friends and all our siblings. The guys insisted on canoes only having males in them and we (the girls) could have our own – this had something to do with them being faster. We didn’t flip a single canoe as we went though every single set of rapids (portaging is a lot of work). The big strong boys couldn’t stay in the canoes to save their lives. My brother will never live it down.

  97. Inukshuk, huh? We call them ducks down here in the western US. Your name is definitely more interesting, and harder to confuse with something else. ;o)
    Great wilderness story, Steph. Glad you had such a great time!

  98. WOW!!!!! I am a frequent (who am I kidding–daily) lurker to your blog, but this inspired a response. As a recretional presbyopic canoer/kayaker, I am ASTOUNDED that you manged to hang on to your glasses, the true miracle of this story. Bravo, I say–saving the sock is just icing on the cake. Seriously, happy to hear that you’re safe. And yes, from experience I know that these moments are utterly empowering. Way to go you, I say!

  99. Sounds like a fantastic trip!
    I’ve been dumped out of my fair share of canoes (and dumped myself out of a kayak, 3 times, it was my first time in a kayak) but never in water quite that rough. Very glad everything survived relatively unscathed!
    There’s something so wonderfully peaceful about being out in the wilderness like that, even if the water isn’t all that peaceful itself!

  100. Rollickin good story! (btw I used to canoe in the dark, between the biology station and the bar!…Cranberry Lake in the ADKS NY). Now to read your quickie…I posted about a quickie (paddle) yesterday! (and do you know the joke about What do (insert least favorite beer here) Coors and sex in a canoe have in common? They’re both awfully close to water! (and I can tell ya, it wouldn’t be good for your bruised parts)

  101. Not to get all technical and stuff, but I believe bears maul. Only things with horns and tusks gore. Although, I guess the end result is the same: messy and painful.
    And still, all these hours after I first read this post, my overwhelming response remains: are you INSANE???

  102. Wow. Having read this, I’d like to start collecting good dry sack stories, if for no other reason than to have an excuse to (1) boast on your behalf, and (2) say “dry sack”.
    Impressive. Most impressive.

  103. Not to be picky, but you can’t be gored by a bear. Now you could be gored by a boar (if there are any in the area) or just about any other horned or tusked animal (like a steer or a muskox).
    And for Christine: I’m pretty sure Inukshuk is a Canadian First Nations word. Cairn derives from the British Isles (Scots Gaelic, and Old Irish and Welsh). Both are markers, but with slightly different purposes and significance.

  104. “Gored by a bear”??? You must have different bears in Ontario than we do in Saskatchewan, or else you are arming the bears with spears or bayonettes. All in all, looks like you had a great time- when is the needle rescue mission?

  105. Your story of your fantastic weekend brings to mind a trip almost 40 years ago. Picture a native New Yorker, who grew up in the suburbs, *but* spent every summer at Grandma’s bungalow on the East End of Long Island. Tiny (440 sq ft), cold water and an outhouse. Five of us lived there all summer.
    Now, picture that kid, 20, a rising senior in college, taking a field course in geology in the Rocky Mtns. Never been west of the Delaware R. Never flown in an airplane. Dropped off in Rapid City, SD, by a DC3 (I swear) prop plane, a puddle jumper that landed every 20 minutes all the way from Minneapolis to Rapid City. The plains, the mountains, the West. Oh, my God, I was in a state of shock.
    A week or so later, the whole field class was in Yellowstone NP, on the Firehole River. The folks who taught and ran the course knew a great swimming hole, complete with hot springs and a wicked current. In we all went, eventually, and “ran” the “rapids”, arse first, to be dunked after one turn by the current, then brought to the surface again. That’s my entire “white water” experience, but it was a gas. The alternation of cold river water with hot water from the scattered hot springs in the river was not to be forgotten.
    Your trip sounds great, but I’m nowhere near the 20 year old of 1968. I’ve turned into a wuss. I’m happier to hear about adventures like that than to do them. But, Lord, it sounds amazing.

  106. Someone already said this, I’m glad I’m not the only confused one. Inukshuk, inukshuk? Oh, Cairns! There are plenty of hikes in the US southwest that are on bare rock, cairns are your only clue. I once went over a canyon ledge on my stomach, practically crying I was so frightened simply because there was a cairn at the end and so I had to go. Beautiful trip, thank you for the pictures. By the way, you can get huge drysacks, keep everything dry. Kim

  107. Oh, it sounds like heaven! I am envious, even (almost) of the dunking, though I am certain it was very scary as an actual experience.
    You Canadian knitters are really making want to migrate, or emigrate…

  108. I never did hear of the “toilet box” in the backcountry until hubby and I went to Lake Superior Provincial Park. They call them “treasure boxes” there. Wish we had more here in the US. That’s just smart camping, that is.
    By the way, my two cents: an Inukshuk is a specific kind of cairn to my experience. It looks something like a little person in the way it is constructed…it’s more than a pile of rocks. Is this accurate?

  109. Looks like a great place! Hope your boo-boos feel better. And Knit Picks does say they “travel the world” to bring us affordable knitting! I wonder if a bear is sitting on rock trying to knit πŸ˜‰

  110. yea! my kind of weekend! that sounds like so much fun…the perfect camp site! we have also had some interesting canoing adventures. we did 70 miles on the Delaware River down in NY/PA/NJ with the Boy Scouts; everyone else flipped but my hub and I – I refused to be dunked. every time we came close, I yelled “NO!” and did whatever was necessary to prevent it. (I’m sure luck etc. was a factor, but I like to think I had some control over it). What a riot! Did you see any bears or moose? I am so jealous. What a wonderful trip! Glad your camera was okay. I especially love the picture with the birks. I am now passing this over to my hub to read, he will appreciate it! glad you had a great, safe trip!

  111. We went camping this weekend, too. The remote campsite was not as luxurous as yours. We did not have a toilet. But the hike down canyon to the natural hot springs and deep creek was wonderful. Not as exciting as the canoe trip though. I knit in the car on the way to California. Forgot the extra colors, so just a little knitting.

  112. I wonder if your arse looks anything like mine did after my rock incident — which was much milder than yours. I am seriously impressed at how well-made cameras and Canadian knitters are these days.

  113. Isn’t the French River also a Provincial Park? Between guide maps and topo maps, campsites are fairly easy to find….but to hold out and then find the Hilton! And no one already there!
    I got confused with your directions….you were going downstream, then upstream, then downstream?
    Yeah, rapids can be misleading unless you get close. I’ve never been dunked in rapids, sounds like you did everything right!
    One thing I have learned–either wear shoes that dry quickly, or can be ditched easily but have a spare pair, LOL. Love my Mark’s WorkWearHouse sport sandals.
    Too bad about the dpn! One good thing about the cold water dunking—no felting, LOL!! Interested in going to the Yukon/NWT next summer?

  114. Wowsa, *what* a trip; great pictures, great narrative, wonderful post! The campsite looks amazing; Hilton indeed. Makes me remember a certain lovely spot up at the very end of a 4-wheeling road up on Mt. Hood, on the top of some thousand-something-foot peaklet with a little glacier lake about 100 feet below…where we did not end up staying more than a few hours, because my boyfriend managed to whack his shin with the ax while chopping wood. Dammit. (No, I’m not heartless; it wasn’t *that* bad, although it looked bad enough. 4 hours back to Portland, and they ended up using…not stitches, but band-aids.) I’m envious, except I’d rather have done the horseback version. πŸ˜‰ I’m not a canoer. But glad you had so much fun and survived! (And thank you kindly, Due South, for educating me in yet another bit of Canadiana; I knew what an inukshuk was!)
    Oh, femiknitzi – without the outhouse box? You find some thick bushes and squat. Best be young and limber, or at least limber. [g]

  115. Wow, what an adventure. I’m jealous about the box in the woods…I never seem to find one when I need one.
    Glad the sock(s) survived (you too!).

  116. Now,that sounds like fun! One question though…could the lost needle have been avoided if you had the lovely holders I gave you?? Just a question. Thank goodness for the backup sock. What a disaster to be that far out without knitting! I’d have to fashion some twigs and other matter just to keep my hands going.

  117. Way to go!!!! I am amazed that the birks were not left in the river after all that tumbling. Good thing it was a warm day, huh. I have been dunked by strainers and by class II errors. Getting almost everything back is fantastic. Beautiful scenery too. Any moose along the way? Any wolf howls at night? And now you have socks that have wilderness experience. VBG
    namaste, Susan

  118. Now its a toss up, my favourite canoer steph, or trudeau? although I do love his fringed leather jacket, but your hat is rather stunning in itself…

  119. Wow – you canadians are kick ass knitters!!! I can see that I need to brush up my outdoorsy skills – knitting while sipping lattes just doesn’t cut it next to you rugged types!!! I thought knitting at BBQs was exciting!

  120. I’m so jealous! Those are wonderful pics. I love to canoe but alas my DH is a total chicken. He freaked when I took on a class 1 at 8 1/2 months pregnant. The water was so still you literally had to put a leaf in it to see which way it was flowing!(I did find a nice little riffle for a bit of body surfing though.)Nice handling of the roll. I’ve seen people freak over much less. You get bonus points for saving the glasses and birks and a big gold star for the camera and knitting! I to this day use a small dry bag to carry my knitting. I know it’s crazy but you never know what could happen.

  121. You know, I’m absolutely obsessed with inukshuks. I have all kinds of websites bookmarked about them. I love that they are around and being used!!! I’d put some up around here for directional markers but I don’t think the Wisconsinites would “get it.”

  122. I wonder how tempted you were to dive in after the lost needle? Did you check to make sure maybe it wasn’t stuck in your hair? hehe.

  123. Unlike some others here, I’m seriously ok to just take your word on the location and spectacularness of the bruises. Don’t need to see ’em.
    And I’m still amazed you kept the Birks.

  124. Sounds like a fantastic time says this fellow Canadian who loves roughing it (and drinking with those near and dear around the campfire πŸ˜‰
    Just got your third book via Amazon today. Looking forward to curling up in bed and devouring!

  125. Amazing woman! I envy you your excellent adventure (but do not seek to emulate you, as I consider “roughing it” to mean staying in a hotel without room service.)
    Beautiful scenery, by the way.

  126. Wowsa is right! Makes my weekend of paperwork and knitting seem so wrong, so lazy!!
    My only experience with white water was in – and quickly out of! – a large rubber raft, with my 12-year-old son and a friend, quite a few years ago. We hit a giant rock on a sharp, hidden turn and in we went. Friend got back in quickly, as did son. But my larger bum prevented my re-loading! I also was amazed to watch my son become a man, of sorts, as he grabbed my arm – “I’ve gotcha, Mom – hang on! I’ve gotcha!” and held me as I dragged behind the raft and arse-bumped every rock through the water to the end of the ride. He hadn’t been at all interested in the trip, but this really changed him. We were on the Wolf River in northern Wisconsin, which the locals could have told us was wilder due to much rain earlier in the week. I didn’t know a thing about tuck-and-swim…..We beached, I walked over to an empty picnic table, climbed onto it, and passed out. Not much interest in river trips since then, but camped for years.
    Where does one get a dry sack? Probably an outdoorsy store of some sort. BTW, Dry Sack is another name for a most delicious sherry – could have used some of that!!
    These days I often wear in summer a pair of black Italian diving sandals – most comfortable, and exactly the thing for in-water travel. Made of some poly stuff – they look like old tires! But cushy and easily dried. Of course at some years into Social Security I’m careful about which water I’m traversing on foot!
    Great tip about wikipedia for “inukshuk”. It’s very informative. We bought a little inukshuk of local stone when we went up to Churchill (polar bear country) a few years ago. A cousin and wife have a marvelous inukshuk/cairn/duck at the entrance to their driveway in the woods near us. Not many Minnesotans know what they are, either!! I’ve been collecting good-sized stones since we moved to our home in northern Minnesota 4 years ago so I can make an inukshuk at the entrance to our own driveway. This Chicago gal has learned so much since leaving the big cities! Cairn and inukshuk I knew, but duck was new to me. Always learning!
    Happy to see you home safely, YH. Really puts everything into perspective, doesn’t it?
    Nancy in N MN

  127. Holy mary! Glad you didn’t lose the beer cooler or your marbles!
    Kudos on the adventure. I’d have killed myself about 10 minutes into it. City slickers unite!

  128. Glad y’all had a great time. However, I’m a strong believer that had G-d meant for us to go camping and canoeing he wouldn’t have had us build Marriot hotels and outboard motors. Just sayin’

  129. I’ve only skimmed the comments so maybe I’m not the only one to notice the irony of you keeping your Birks on during a dunking in river rapids. If I remember another blog entry from a few years ago correctly: you accidentally ‘lost’ a Birk on the roof of a hotel. How do you do those things?
    Wait , don’t tell us. It’s part of what makes you and your blog so charming.
    I’m really glad your OK. I second the suggestion of Keen footwear…. maybe even while visiting hotels πŸ™‚

  130. Thanks so much for finally explaining to me what the purpose of the rock towers are. People here build them all the time, but mostly just for fun, although I’ve always thought that there somewhere must be an actual reason for building them.
    Sounds like the perfect weekend, despite the bruises. I’m with Joe on this one. That sort of thing is way cool!

  131. Yikes! I hope the bruises aren’t too bad. But good on you for keeping your head, paddle, glasses, shoes, head again (important, heads), knitting, and camera safe. That’s serious good thinking and instinct showing itself.

  132. How can one be gored by a bear? Do Canadian bears have horns? (big grin) Stephanie, loved the photos and the trip description. I’m so thankful that you (and the sock) survived. I haven’t been wilderness camping in a loooong time, but it was fun to live vicariously through your adventure. Thanks.

  133. Your inukshuk is a cairn to us in the U.S. – a stacked rock marker out in the woods or on a trail, typically.

  134. Looks like a seriously good time was had by all. I’ve adventure vacationed (family term for ‘Lori is nuts’) enough to know the luxury of the outdoor toilet described. Actually the whole camp site was truly cush. You are braver than I to take the digital camera in the canoe, even with the dry bag. I have a special waterproof 35mm point and shoot reserved for this sort of fun, and it does it very well.
    I have to admit that I trade my clogs/birks for Tevas on the river as they don’t come off when you go into the water. And I have a truly ancient pair that have worn like iron since I got them 20 years ago. (Back in the day when Teva advertised them as river shoes rather than a fashion accessory.)

  135. Can we start a group called “Kanoers who Knit”??? Catchy, I think…we canoe on mainly flat, dark water rivers here in the SE US and love every minute! Paddle solo, sleep tandem!

  136. Wow – great weekend! I had no idea you were a paddler. I spent a lot of time exploring Temagami while living in northern Ontario and have now relocated to the Yukon. There are some spectacular rivers here. I never did get a chance to see the French river but it looks like a must-do on a visit home.
    I’ve been studying your pics trying to figure out what kind of canoe you have. And I have also been inspired to pack some knitting in my drybag on my next trip down the river.
    Congrats on your excellent recovery technique in the rapids by the way – knitters are tough!

  137. That looks like so much fun.
    The day I read your post my local paper published this article on “glamping”.
    http://www.startribune.com/484/story/1382879.html
    It’s “camping” for people with more money than sense who want nature neatly packaged. I actually would pay money to see someone who wants a Butler and slate tiled bathroom on their “camping trip” react to your “Hilton” biffy. (which I agree is high living on the river)

  138. I would drive to Canada just to find one of Stephanie’s needles that washed up on shore. Unfortunately I have a dreadful fear of water that would prohibit me from diving for it.
    Can you imagine how much someone would pay for that on Ebay. HEY! What a great fund raiser that could be. A set of Stephanie’s used sock needles with a picture to document them in use. OH MY! That could raise a lot of money. What abuot that Steph??????

  139. THE SOCKS AND BIRKS WERE SAVED!!!!
    HALLELUJAH!!!
    …and you know there’s a very observant pack of squirrels that watched you go overboard and are twittering with glee.
    I’m glad you’re all right, too, by the way. Thank you so much for the lovely pictures. I feel as though I was there :-).

  140. I spent most of my adult life canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and the Quetico in Canada. That campsite was truely impressive! One time we went into Quetico and paddled for a week and saw one person. We always took our kids and sometimes the dog and the knitting stayed home…your way might be better…

  141. Yee Haww! Nothing like feeling really alive!! So glad you made it out with only bruises! What a great sounding island. Did you hear lots of Loons?

  142. What a fantastic trip! In all my outdoor days, I’ve never seen quite a campsite like this. What a wonderful find. Glad you also found a good time to wear a cowboy hat! It looks perfect.

  143. I am beyond impressed. To come away with glasses, paddle AND shoes? Wow.
    I went down some rapids on the Frio of south TX when I was about eight. I remember each and every rock. Sit carefully, my friend!

  144. All that and you only lost 1 needle!?! Amazing. Did the poor sock that got dunked in the river recover?
    Reminds me of the last camping trip I took. We had two tents, and discovered one leaked during a horrendous storm. The women tricked, uh, persuaded the men that it would be best to let us have the dry tent, while they got to be wet. Next day we found out we were only a quarter mile from a cabin . . .

  145. Years ago while living in Alaska I and several other nurse friends tipped our raft (okay so we hit a bridge pillar) and ended up swimming our way right on to “Rescue 911”. The description of your trip brought back memories. I miss those adventures. Life has gotten a little too sedate since having kids. (I can’t believe I just wrote that last sentence!) It’s just that the types of adventures have changed. No more flying off into the bush in a float plane etc.

  146. Oh, what fond memories (and insane jealousy)! We used to go camping as a family at Algonquin when I was younger. I hadn’t yet learned white water paddling at that point, though–it would be even more fun to go now!

  147. Stephanie, you are unbelievable! Wow. What courage! What fitness level! Sorry for all the !!!, but I just finished reading your post (I was away for the Labor Day holiday) and am amazed at your stamina. I do love adventure, living it or reading about it.
    Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Rosane.

  148. Do all Canadians have the same dry humour? Laughed like a drain. Some of this scenery could almost surpass ours in Oz. We don’t have grizzlies but you do have to watch out for drop bears!!!

  149. Sounds like a great trip. You are a marvel. On our recent canoe trip I drowned a brand new cell phone and lost my shoes to the James River. I bow before your superior canoeing abilities.

  150. Stephanie, I was there with you! I’ve canoed through class 5 whitewater in a 2 man canoe and tipped many many times. WV’s Gauley and New Rivers have some of the best whitewater in the world. Most people will not believe that class V rapids can be canoed but I have proof-raft companies usually post photographers at strategic spots to get good pictures and they snap the canoers as well as the rafters-I’ve got two such photos in class V rapids. Glad to see the socks made it with only a small offering to the water goddess (she kept your knitpicks needle, she knows a good thing when she sees it!)
    Take care and loved the post.

  151. I can’t believe it! My husband and I canoe. We have canoed the boundary waters but plan to truck up to Canada to conoe your beauty. I have a dry bag but was never brave enough to place my knitting in. I wear my stuff on my back ready to hold tight and above water. I’ll look for your “better than I came upon.” I Love It!

  152. Thanks for the memory trip! Spemt 45 of our 53 married years in Quetico/Boundary Waters doing plant research. Many portages, many campsites, none with “boxes” in 1953! Never took my knitting–shame what I missed. Now, at 84, stuck in the desert with A/C and fans running. Love your site and that intrigueing sock cuff. Have you ever socked with that spandex stretch yarn?
    Thanks again!

  153. i have read all of your books, but have never seen your blog before. you are a really good author!

  154. I adore the French River. It’s been years since I’ve been there and your blog post is bringing back some great memories. I loved to stretch out on the rocks in the glacial grooves and it felt like tens of thousands of years just disappeared and I could see the glaciers a mile high scraping across the land.
    My sympathies for going into the drink though. That water is COLD even in the middle of July. If it makes you feel any better I know someone who wrapped their canoe around the rocks in much smaller rapids.
    Incidentally, I think some of my family may have camped at your spot years ago, but of course there is probably more than one camp site with a table and pine trees and rocks on an island in the French River.

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