Mt Jefferson

Saturday began with a 5:30AM alarm, as I rolled over in the cold, dark stillness and groaned. Nope. I didn’t want to hike. Forget it.

But roll out of bed I did, and soon Michelle arrived to pick me up and drive us to the White Mountains. This drive never fails to impress, especially when coming around the bend into Franconia Notch.

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After driving through the notch, we found our way to a dirt road that led to the trail head, and parked. We were hiking Mt Jefferson, 5712 feet, on a 2.5 mile hike beginning at 3000 feet and scrambling over rocks and hills to reach the summit.

It was partly cloudy, but the air was fresh and cool and the leaves were bright. We began our hike in good spirits, walking through mossy forests and up a steady but manageable incline. Then we reached the misty treeline and the real hike started. We began a steep ascent that did not relent until we reached the ‘caps’ (a series of rocky ridges that we scrambled over before the real summit loomed before us in the fog). My legs screamed and ached, and a few times I stopped and told Michelle to keep going without me. (SUCH a drama queen - I know). She of course refused, and gently urged me on.

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The summit. Gratifying, no?

The summit. Gratifying, no?

We ate lunch before the summit and I sat on a cereal box to keep my butt somewhat warm. I gulped down my sandwich and apple before my muscles had a chance to tighten up in the cold wind, and we kept on climbing.

After much groaning and moaning on my part (see… drama queen), we reached the summit. Not after some struggling over the rock scrambles - I’m not super fond of heights at the best of times, and literally pulling my body up over some challenging rocks was scary. But I made it with the help of Michelle and her incredible encouragement, and we reached the top! Which, as you can see, was a little anticlimactic - no view, no sign, and no sun. The wind was bitterly cold, so we hunkered down among the rocks for a few minutes to catch our breath and laugh as more hikers made the summit and exclaimed at the lack of fanfare.

As we turned to make our way back down the slope, something marvelous happened.

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The clouds parted like magic, and the valleys were spread out before us in all their glory. A woman on the trail above us shrieked in delight, and we all laughed as her joyful shouts increased as the clouds parted further.

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I was pretty sore that night and the next day (and the next), but I’m always glad when I do a hike. This one was a success - climbed in book time, and experienced some beautiful views. Not to mention got to laugh with a dear friend to boot! And isn’t that the point? My memory has already begun to block out the cold and the pain and the fear-of-heights bit. You can tell because I referred to the hike as a success. ;)

International Textiles

Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to travel, so to speak, through textiles! A new friend who was a missionary in both Papua New Guinea and the tiny island nation of Yap shared some beautiful pieces she brought back with her. 

First up, the bilum bag.

These bags from Papua New Guinea are very similar to crochet, but they are made of yarn or fiber that is untwisted and re-twisted by hand, and knotted into a mesh fabric using a tool made from an umbrella spoke. They can range in size from large enough to carry a toddler in to small enough for a little project or some produce. The larger bags are carried hung from one's forehead, or hung around one's neck to carry in front, leaving the hands free in both cases. 

Traditional Bilum Bag

The one my friend gave me was made from twisted grass fibers, and dyed in the center with yellow to create a beautiful stripe. (You all know how I feel about yellow!). The style of this bag is more openwork, while some bilum bags are much more tightly knotted from colorful acrylic yarn to create a dense fabric. You can see more examples of bilum bags here, here, and here. The best part? Australia has funded a project to help women in Papua New Guinea increase their income through their bilum bags. You can read more about this project here

Next, the lavalava skirt.

These skirts, made in the tiny Micronesian nation of Yap, are tightly woven from handmade looms using very thin fibers akin to single embroidery threads. The fabric is very dense and sturdy, but with plenty of drape. Worn like a sarong, they are wrapped around the hips and tucked in at the side, allowing the fringe to drape down in the front.

Traditional Lavalava Skirt
Traditional Lavalava Skirt
Traditional Lavalava Skirt

There's even a sort of ritual or routine to fold these skirts properly - it was fun to learn how. The colorwork and intricacy of these skirts is just incredible, and they are woven completely by hand! The looms used to weave these skirts are similar to belt looms, and they are usually made from found objects. The most interesting loom my friend saw was one crafted from the parts of a plane that crashed during World War II. You can read more about lavalava skirts here and here

I'm really happy to own textiles made on the other side of the world, and be able to enjoy their beauty and intricacy in my own home. It's incredible to me how various cultures create cloth, and what they make with the cloth they've woven. Even the colorwork - it's so special. I hope you enjoyed this little international journey through textiles with me!