It was a summer filled with dreams come true. When Anna asked if I’d like to be a Camp TOLT ambassador I was honored. See, I love TOLT and everything it stands for. Although I have yet to visit, I feel connected to TOLT through visions of wooly wonders, images of the great outdoors and the emphasis on adventure. During my undergraduate and graduate school years in Washington I recall a care-free time filled with learning, fiber arts and miles of adventure. So TOLT brings me back to a time near and dear to my heart and being an ambassador represented coming full circle to those care-free days.
For the past 20 years, my husband and I have dreamed of the day we could spend an entire summer at “the cabin” built by his grandfather in 1941 located in McCall, ID. And finally, we made it happen. Just the family, the forest and some chilly summer mornings complete with snow perfect for knitting.
Nothing says summer like snow in July
Walking through Payette National Forest each morning allowed me time to reflect on how to live life more simply and the need to connect with others with less dependence on technology. McCall and the surrounding area is a well-kept secret. If you are seeking new forests, mountains, lakes and rivers to explore…this is the place. One could walk, bike, fish, boat and knit for a lifetime and never need venture any farther.
Meandering through miles of magnificent trails in Ponderosa State Park
The plans for the next leg of our adventure had been in the making for over a year. So while I felt sad to leave the forests of Idaho, the tickets were already in hand for Scotland. Needless to say I was excited about the upcoming trip but very nervous as I struggled to leave my children considering the current global conditions.
My husband and I walked 10 days exploring the Highlands and Trossachs with no set itinerary. Collectively, we went with one goal: walk. But I also had knitting on my mind. Because I wanted to pack light and leave some room for a few yarn purchases in my backpack, I only had one project with me, the Camp TOLT bandera pattern which just so happened to miraculously match the pattern of the carpet in the place we stayed.
Ard Daraich, Gaelic for “under the old oak”. Mystical oak forests abound in the Highlands.
Mission accomplished. We walked miles and miles along parts of West Highland Way, Rob Roy Way, Great Glen Way, summited Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom, and climbed Buchaille Etive Beag.
Summit of Ben Nevis which means in Gaelic, “hill with its head in the clouds”
Our climb to the top of Buchaille Etive Beag was especially monumental as it is the neighboring mountain to Buchaille Evite Mor, the mountain made famous to knitters by Kate Davies in her book “Buchaille.” To have that mountain in my sights while I worked my way to the peak “Stob Dubh” provided inspiration and encouragement, much needed as the weather turned foul as we reached the peak.
I may have left a little Camp TOLT momento at the top of Ben Nevis. It truly was Camp TOLT that motivated me to make it to the summit. It was a physically demanding climb but the weather had also taken a turn for the worse with limited visibility…it wasn’t dangerous (yet) but it certainly was scary. But I wanted to get TOLT to the top. So, if you are ever at the top of Ben Nevis look on the door of the warming hut!
Next was a 9-day visit to Shetland. My husband headed back to the States and I began my adventure to Shetland to attend Gudrun Johnston and Mary Jane Mucklestone’s knitting and walking retreat.
A visit to Uradale Farm, an organic croft with incredible wool from the Shetland breed
After the retreat finished I was able to spend one more day on Shetland. I walked for hours; just me and the sheep. Walking in Shetland is a wee bit different than walking in the US as there aren’t typically “trails” except for narrow paths here and there made by the sheep but nothing definitive. The terrain can be uneven in places with holes covered by moss and heather. I fell several times that last day avoiding an injury but unfortunately, I lost my much beloved Camp TOLT water bottle. Albeit sad, I took it as a sign that my knitting and walking adventure was coming to a close. Liz, a fellow retreater, knitting extraordinaire and talented photographer sent me this photo of the most adorable sheep. All I could do was smile and think that some sheep found my water bottle and must be delighted with her new Camp TOLT treasure.
My heart and soul have been truly stirred by this experience. I’m inspired by the people I’ve met, the sights I saw, the places I walked, and the ways in which knitting connects people throughout the world. I will definitely return to Scotland and Shetland. I’m ready for the next step; the sequel will be a solo venture to fully immerse myself in wandering, pondering, meeting more people, and of course, knitting.
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