Old socks and memories

Backpacking on Mt. Princeton

Backpacking on Mt. Princeton, CO - 1999

I got to thinking the other day about how certain socks (or other knitted items) carry strong memories. One pair in particular got that ball rolling for me.  I had been on a knitting hiatus for a few years, but was shopping for wool socks for a backpacking/mountain climbing trip – I don’t recall now whether it was the 1999 or 2000 trip.  I was not thrilled with the retail options, so I changed my focus and went yarn shopping.  (This is a continual hazard for me… “Well!  I could MAKE that for a lot less, and I’d like it better!” … which often enough means I end up doing without whatever it was.)  I bought some Patons Kroy 3-ply in deep pine green heather.  I wanted to make as long a leg as possible, but couldn’t remember how much length I could get out of a ball of yarn, and didn’t know about toe-up construction then, so I did the only reasonable thing I could think of – starting in the middle!  I did a provisional cast on at the ankle and worked down to the toe.  Then I went back and picked up the cast on stitches and worked up the leg in ribbing until I used up that ball of yarn.  I knit the second sock top-down, since I now knew how long I could make them, and was very happy with the result.  This is one of my favorite pairs of socks, and I still wear them a lot.

Not the summit - I'm on the far right, front row.

Not the summit - I'm on the far right, front row.

That first trip took us to Mt. Princeton (14,197 ft.) in Colorado. During the 5-day trek, we did some rappelling, then hiked to and set up our first camp. The next day, we hiked up to our high camp spot just below treeline, and made ourselves at home. We relaxed the next day, getting acclimated to the altitude, then set off for the summit the following day. Unfortunately, we did not make the summit. A thunderstorm rolled in, and on the strong recommendation of our guides, decided to hike more or less horizontally around the shoulder of the mountain instead. Later, we learned that an experienced climber had been struck by lightning on Mt. Princeton and killed only four years before.  That did help us put our little disappointment in perspective.

The green Trek Socks

The green Trek Socks

The next year, we went back to Colorado’s Sawatch Range, this time to Casco Peak (13,897 – 13, 908, depending on who you ask) which is just across a basin from Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado.

I wore those green socks almost continuously on that trip, frequently with another pair as well.  That was mostly for cushioning, since it was warmer than the previous year, when nobody was wearing shorts!

Casco Peak - 2000

Casco Peak - 2000

We did summit Casco, and could not have been more delighted!

Casco Peak summit - Mt. Elbert in the background

On Casco Peak summit - Mt. Elbert in the background

The following year, in 2001, I started another pair of socks as travel entertainment.  I used the same Kroy yarn in deep rosy pink, with the Lace Ankle Sock pattern from Homespun, Handknit, a classic work in my opinion.  (Incidentally, that was the pattern I used for my very first full-sized socks.  Those I knit of light pink wool raveled from a moth-damaged sweater.  I wore them out.)
I carefully fitted the project socks and dpns in my backpack, then worked on them in camp on the way to Grizzly Peak (13,988 ft.) on the Continental Divide.

"High camp" on the Grizzly Peak trek

"High camp" on the Grizzly Peak trek - a great knitting spot!

(I wore those dark pink socks several times, then one disappeared.  I hung on to the other for a looooong time, hoping its mate would resurface.  I  eventually threw it away, and later did find the lost one – behind the dryer, a former mouse nest.  We live in the country, so mice come with the territory, so to speak. *sigh*  I would have felt much worse though, if I’d found that sock whole.)

Headed back down from Grizzly Peak - 2001

Not only did we summit Grizzly Peak, our guides informed us that we did the round trip in record time.  Sweet.

In the picture at right, I’m the one in the turquoise t-shirt.  You can’t see the green socks, but they’re there.

Do you see the dark areas of dirt behind us?  The long one is where I started sliding down in slow motion (keeping my balance, but not stopping).  Brian, the young man behind me, reached down and grabbed the back of my shirt to stop the momentum, so I could start moving forward.  Just then, whoever was behind us called out, then snapped the picture.  I wonder if Brian remembers that moment…

Somewhere along the line, not connected with a Colorado trip, I decided to knit some cable socks.  Those took forEVER to finish – they had lots and lots of cable crosses, and of course turned out shorter than other socks, because of the way cables eat up yarn.  The process was arduous enough that this pair does not inspire the happy feelings that my other socks do.  Fortunately, they were toe-up, so at least I didn’t have to worry about having enough yarn to finish the foot.  I also learned not to tie my shoes too tightly with these socks, or I’d end up with tender little indentations all over the top of my feet!  And they pill.  I don’t wear these too often, mostly just in bed on cold winter nights.

"Seattle Sea Socks"

"Seattle Sea Socks"

I bought the off-white yarn for my “Seattle Sea Socks” in Seattle while on a business trip.  The colors are all leftovers from the three above-mentioned pairs.  I really like the way these turned out, in spite of the non-stretchy corrugated ribbing and Fair Isle pattern, and they go with a lot of the solid colors I wear.



I expect that I associate the socks with events and places partly because they are portable and therefore good travel knitting, and sock yarn is an inexpensive travel souvenir.  And partly – mostly – because events and feelings seem to end up being knit into their fabric.  Certainly, memories of the people I shared those trips with are intertwined with the yarn in these socks.

My hope is that all gift socks have the virtue of bringing good feelings and happy thoughts from the knitter to the wearer.

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One Response to Old socks and memories

  1. KiniaCat says:

    Thank you for sharing your hiking memories – and sock memories.
    Nice way to start the year!

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