Monthly Archives: October 2009

Itinerary of our Trip and Guide to the Succeeding Posts

I just had to post another view of a Maine hiking trail….Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Bowing to my usual frustration with technology, I submit the following guide to my recent posts. They do not appear in the order I intended, as I updoaded photographs in too haphazard a fashion. So, they make sense in this order:

1. The Story of Marguerite and the Isle of Demons
2. Vieux (Old) Quebec I
3. Quebec II
4. Quebec III
5. Jacques Cartier Provincial Park
6. Tadoussac I
7. Tadoussac II
8. Baxter State Park I
9. Baxter State Park II
10. Baxter State Park III
11. Camden and Clark Island
12. Acadia National Park
13. Mount Megunticook
14. Pemaquid
15. Farewell to Maine and Salem, MA

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The Story of Marguerite and the Isle of Demons

On our journey to Quebec, Tadoussac and the Saint Lawrence Seaway, I read aloud to Matt from Francis Parkman’s Pioneers of France in the New World, and here set down a marvelous account of female fortitude in the face of tremendous odds. I will quote Parkman, since these were the terms in which I first heard the tale, but there is more to learn from other references, which I will cite at the end.

First, concerning the Isle of the Demons:

“On this dim verge of the known world (the fisheries of Newfoundland) there were other perils than those of the waves…,other tenants than the seal, the walrus and the screaming sea-fowl, the bears which stole away their fish before their eyes and the wild natives dressed in seal-skins. Griffins…infested the mountains of Labrador. Two islands, north of Newfoundland, were given over to the fiends from whom they derived their name, the Isles of Demons. An old map pictures their occupants at length, devils rampant, with wings, horns, and tail. The passing voyager heard the din of their infernal orgies and woe to the sailor or the fisherman who ventured alone into the haunted woods. ‘True it is,’ writes the old cosmographer Thevet, ‘and I myself have heard in the air, on the tops and about the masts, a great clamor of men’s voices, confused and inarticulate, such as you may hear from the crowd at a fair or market-place; whereupon they well knew that the Isle of Demons was not far off.'” Pioneers of France, Samuel de Champlain Ch. 1

Matt and I spoke to a kayaker on the Saguenay who told us waterfalls on either side of this deep fiord of the Saint Lawrence echo one another back and forth in the fog and sound exactly like human voices conversing!

The Story of Marguerite:

“The ominous adventure of New France had found a champion in the person of Jean Francois de la Roque, Sieur de Roberval, a nobleman of Picardy…His commission declares of the objects of the enterprise to be discovery, settlement, and the conversion of the Indians who are described as ‘men without knowledge of God or use of reason.’ — a pious design, held doubless in full sincerity by the royal profligate, now, in his decline, a fervent champion of the Faith and a strenuous tormentor of heretics. The machinery of conversion was of a character somewhat questionable, since Cartier and Roberval were empowered to ransack the prisons for thieves, robbers and other malefactors to complete their crews and strengthen the colony.”

“Roberval…set sail, steering northward to the Straits of Belle Isle and the dreaded Isles of the Demons. And here an incident befell which the all-blieving Thevet records in manifest good faith, and which, stripped of the adornments of superstition and a love of the marvellous, has without doubt a nucleus of truth. I give the tale as I find it.

“The Viceroy’s company was…mixed….There were nobles, officers, soldiers, sailors, adventurers, with women too, and children. Of the women, some were of birth and station, and among them a damsel called Marguerite, a niece of Roberval himself. In the ship was a young gentleman who had embarked for love of her. His love was too well requited; and the stern Viceroy (disorder was dangerous under the iron rule of the inexorable Roberval), scandalized and enraged at a passion which scorned concealment and set shame at defiance, cast anchor by the haunted island, landed his indiscreet relative, gave her four arquebuses for defence, and, whith an old Norman nurse named Bastienne, who had pandered to the lovers, left her to her fate. Her gallant threw himself into the surf, and by desperate effort gained the shore, with two more guns and a supply of ammnunition.

(Notice that Roberval blamed the women only and left them short of lead and gun powder! Wretch!)

“The ship weighed anchor, receded, vanished, and they were left alone. Yet not so, for the demon lords of the island beset them day and night, raging around their hut with a confused and hungry clamoring, striving to force the frail barrier. The lovers had repented of their sin, though not abandoned it, and Heaven was on their side….In the form of beasts or other shapes abominable and unutterably hideous, the brood…, howling in baffled fury, tore at the branches of the sylvan dwelling….Marguerite became pregnant…., but…stood undaunted amid these horrors….Her lover, dismayed and heart-broken, sickened and died. Her child soon followed; then the old Norman nurse found her unhallowed rest in that accursed soil, and Marguerite was left alone. Neither her reason nor her courage failed. When the demons assailed her, she shot at them with her gun, but they answered with hellish merriment, and thence-forth she placed her trust in Heaven alone. There were foes around her of the upper, no less than of the nether world. Of these, the bears were the most redoubtable; yet being vulnerable to mortal weapons, she killed three of them, all, says the story, ‘as white as an egg.’

“It was two years and five months from her landing on the island, when, far out at sea, the crew of a small fishing-craft saw a column of smoke curling upward from the haunted shore. Was it a device of the fiends to lure them to their ruin? They thought so and kept aloof. But misgiving seized them. They warily drew near, and descried a female figure in wild attire waving signals from the strand. Thus at length was Marguerite rescued and restored to her native France, where a few years later, the cosmographer Thevet met her at Natron in Peribord, and heard the tale of wonder from her own lips. (The story is taken from Thevet’s curous manuscript of 1586.)”

For an expanded and less fantastical account read Legends of Newfoundland and Labrador by Donald Wilson Stanley Ryan. There is also a novel called Paradise by Joan Elizabeth Goodman and another called Elle by Douglas Glover (click on Marguerite above).

Sharon Chubbs-Ransom shares her memories of Harrington Island, where her mother showed her the “cave of Marguerite.”

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Quebec III and Samuel de Champlain

These horse-drawn tours circle and circle the upper city and there is quite a lot to see, from the fortifications overlooking the Plains of Abraham on the Southwest, where the French future of Canada received its first blow and Montcalm and Wolfe died, to the Terrace Dufferin and Chateau Frontenac, which overlooks the Saint Lawrence and back up the Grande Allee on which one exits the City Gate and has before one on the right hand, the Hotel du Parliament — not an hotel, but the Parliamentary Buildings and gardens — and beyond to the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille (Battlefields Park) and the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec (Quebec Museum of Fine Arts). We were unable to go into the later because it was closed on Mondays, but we enjoyed the walk.

Stone dated 1647 , once belonging to Governor Montmagny, who wanted to erect a large, urban city on the heights of Quebec. (He was frustrated by the Ursuline, Augustine and Jesuit religious orders, who held large tracts of land there and refused to have them divided up. For that reason, the old city remained largely administrative and religious in character until the 19th Century, when a few elegant residential neighborhoods developed along five streets.) It now overlooks the central courtyard of the Chateau Frontenac.

Quebec City was founded by Samuel de Champlain, a nerveless explorer and colonizer. I was thoroughly impressed by his exploits as retold by Francis Parkman. (One can read about his discoveries and activities in his own words, if one reads French.)

Here is a summarization of the man from Pioneers of France in the New World:

“For twenty-seven years he had labored hard and ceaselessly for its (the Colony of Quebec), sacrificing fortune, repose and domestic peace to a cause embraced with enthusiasm and pursued with intrepid persistency. His character belonged partly to the past, partly to the present. The preux chevalier, the crusader, the romance-loving explorer, the curious, knowledge-seeking traveller, the practical navigator, all claimed their share in him. His views, though far beyond those of the mean spirits around him, belonged to his age and his creed. he was less statesman than soldier. He leaned to the most direct and boldest policy….His dauntless courage was matched by an unwearied patience, proved by life-long vexations, and not wholly subdued even by the saintly follies of his wife. He is charged with credulity, from which few of his age were free, and which in all ages has been the foible of earnest and generous natures, too ardent to criticise, and too honorable to doubt the honor of others….The adventurous explorer of Lake Huron, the bold invader of the Iroquois, befits but indifferently the monastic sobrieties of the fort of Quebec, and his sombre environment of priests. Yet Champlain was no formalist, nor was his an empty zeal. A soldier from his youth, in an age of unbridled license, his life had answered to his maxims; and when a generation had passed after his visit to the Hurons, their elders remembered with astonishment the continence of the great French war-chief.

“His books mark the man, — all for his theme and his purpose, nothing for himself. Crude in style, full of the superficial errors of carelessness and haste, rarely diffuse, often brief to a fault, they bear on every page the palpable impress of truth.”

One of many sidewalk cafes, this one in the Lower City.
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Jacques Cartier Provincial Park

After our day in Quebec City, we drove an half hour north to the Jacques Cartier Provincial Park and followed the river. It was misty and mysterious.

Champlain’s exploration of the northern wilds from Pioneers of France:

“Now they glided beneath overhanging cliffs, where, seeing but unseen, the crouched wild-cat eyes them from the thicket; now through the maze of water-girdled rocks, which the white cedar and spruce clasped with serpent-like roots, or among islands where old hemlocks darkened the water with deep green shadow.

“Aloft, the white pine towered above a sea of verdure; old fir trees, hoary and grim, shaggy with pendent mosses, leaned above the stream and beneath, dead and submerged, some fallen oak thrust from the current its bare, bleached limbs, like the skeleton of a drowned giant. In the weedy cove stood the moose, neck-deep in water to escape the flies, wading shoreward, with glistening sides, as the canoes drew near, shaking his broad antlers and writhing his hideous nostril, as with clumsy trot he vanished in the woods.”

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Farewell to Maine and on to Salem, Mass

David, Maria and Devi on Clark Island
My husband, Matt

The House of Seven Gables

It took us only three and a half hours to drive from Warren, MN to Salem, MA. We debated whether to find a hotel and spend the night, but when we mentioned our desire to drive into Boston proper at the Visitor’s Center in Salem, the response was, “Are you crazy?” He quickly took it back, but we decided to head for home a day early.

Fortunately for us, the House of Seven Gables stayed open for tours until seven o’clock, so we had the time to tour another 17th Century Home, the so-called Witch House. I had an interesting conversation with the guide within about the atrocities of Indian Warfare and he reommended a new history of the Salem Witch Trials that suggests the critical paranoia that led to so many arrests and executions had everything to do with the general terror of attack during the Second Indian War, in which New England settlers were massacred by the Indian allies of Count Frontenac in Quebec. The Puritans imagined that these turns of fortune were God’s punishment on them for their sins and set about rooting out the evil in their midst.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Birth Place
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Pemaquid Point

On our last day in Maine, after Mount Megunticook, we drove to Pemaquid Point, on a peninsula south of the Camden area. It was the loveliest drive!

We watched the breakers roll in about five o’clock. These pictures don’t give an idea of the scale. They were bigger than they look and it seemed that whenever I lowered my camera a really immense one would peak and crash. They could easily pulverize you if you strayed too close to the water.

David and Maria told us that this year in Acadia, some people had been swept off the rocks by a large wave and killed. We respectfully kept our distance.

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Acadia State Park, Maine

Our friend, David, grew up in Ellsworth, the gateway to Acadia National Park, so he was the perfect guide to his old stomping grounds. Acadia is still home to many turn-of-the-century mansions, but many others burned down in the great fire of 1947.

John D. Rockefeller Jr., a skilled horseman, wanted to travel around the mountains and valleys of Mount Desert Island without having to put up with motorists, so he built quiet carriage roads throughout and gorgeous stone bridges over the many streams.

Thunder Hole with tide too high for any thundering

David’s favorite bridge and carriage trail

We beguiled ourselves on the way home by plotting a novel about the Great Fire of 1947, based on a dream David had had.

Blurry shot of trophy buck. Lucky for him he lives in a park!
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Camden and Clark Island

Camden Harbor

Ah! Civilization again….

Our friend, Maria of Maine

Matt and David beach-combing on Clark Island.

A quarry on Clark Island. A visitor said she was going to go swimming here the next day. Well, the water would be warmer than the air, I guess! These New Englanders are tough!
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Baxter State Park III, Views along the Trail

This is a trail. I’m not joking.

Hiking in Maine was a humbling experience. I am by no means a backpacker, but I do consider myself to be in pretty good shape….generally. Well, the words, “Maine Guide” now generate the same level of respect and awe as do, “U.S. Marine.” The only difference between a hiking trail in Maine and a mountain stream bed, composed mostly of boulders, is a few handfuls of soil between the boulders. I was exhausted coming down. I felt that my insides had been jounced to pulp. Meanwhile twenty-somethings are bobbing past, dressed in shorts, with a spring in their step. Would I have liked Maine hiking better when I was younger, I wonder? Just kidding…..It was great!
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Baxter State Park II

The Cirque of Mount Katahdin

On day two in Maine, we woke early to drive to the Roaring Creek trailhead at the base of Mount Katahdin. The temperature had dropped drastically overnight. It was in the forties with high winds. I was freezing!

Our destination was Chimney Pond, which lies at the base of a cirque, above which looms Mount Katahdin.

Chimney Pond
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Baxter State Park Maine I, Cranberry Pond

From Tadoussac, we drove to Maine, wanting to hike in Baxter State Park, home of North America’s highest peak, Mount Katahdin. We stayed in Millinocket, where we found a paucity of newer or posh hotels. We stayed at the Heritage Motor Inn, in which we were quite comfortable, but the town didn’t feature sufficient night-life for us to want to stay more than a night. I think the montane wilderness is the big attraction and nature lovers mostly opt to sleep primitive. I took these pictures on the afternoon of our arrival. We walked to Cranberry Pond, then shared a glass of wine and Brie in a picnic area at sunset.

One of those wonderful chance acquaintances one meets on the road invited us to share one of his family’s (grandfathered) cabins on an island in one of the Togue Lakes at the entrance of the Park. We had to regretfully decline as we’d already paid for our hotel and left our luggage, but apparently we might have awakened in the morning with a view of Mount Katahdin off the front porch. Sigh…..

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Tadoussac II

North of Tadoussac, there are sand dunes overlooking the Saguenay. On the sand dunes, are numerous clumps of birches, which look too perfect to be natural, though they are.

We sought out the vacation home of a French friend of ours, Patrick. Matt spent a week with him on the Saguenay a couple of years ago and wanted to show me the place. We missed Patrick by only a day, as it turned out, but his housekeeper let us in and we took a few pictures.

Charming house in Tadoussac
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“A lonely ship sailed up the St. Lawrence. The white whales floundering in the Bay of Tadoussac, and the wild duck diving as the foaming prow drew near, — there was no life but these in all that watery solitude, twenty miles from shore to shore. The ship was from Honfleur, and was commanded by Samuel de Champlain. He was the Aeneas of a destined people, and in her womb lay the embryo life of Canada.”

“This port of Tadoussac was long the centre of the Canadian fur-trade. A desolation of barren mountains closes round it, betwixt whose ribs of rugged granite, bristling with savins, birches, and firs, the Saguenay rolls its gloomy waters from the northern wilderness. Centuries of civilization have not tamed the wildness of the place; and still, in grim repose, the mountains, hold their guard around the waveless lake that glistens in their shadow, and doubles, in its sullen mirror, crag, precipice, forest…, dark as the tide of Acheron, — a sanctuary of solitude and silence; depths which, as the fable runs, no sounding line can fathom, and heights at whose dizzy verge the wheeling eagle seems a speck.”

(The height of these cliffs are about eighteen hundred feet.)

The opening of the Saguenay onto the Saint Lawrence
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Vieux (Old) Quebec City I, Lower City and the Chateau Frontenac

A portion of the gigantic Chateau Frontenac

After college, I discovered Francis Parkman, the historian. Actually I had heard of him before, but found the first volume of his ambitious account of the struggle between England and France for possession of the North America. It was called Pioneers of France in the New World (1865), and it fired my desire to see old Quebec. Parkman is a wonderful writer and I have injected his descriptions of the St. Lawrence into my pictures of my husband’s and my 25th Wedding Anniversary Trip to Quebec and Maine. This blog may not be about Art precisely, but Parkman’s histories are definitely Literature.

Lower City and Hotel Frontenac on the Citadel

“Here a small stream, the St. Charles, enters the St. Lawrence, and in the angle betwixt them rises the promontory, on two sides a natural fortress. Between the cliffs and the river lay a strand covered with walnuts and other trees. From this strand, by a rough passage…, one might climb the heights to the broken plateau above, now burdened with its ponderous load of churches, convents, dwellings, ramparts and batteries. Thence, by a gradual ascent, the rock sloped upward to its highest summit, Cape Diamond, looking down on the St. Lawrence from a height of three hundred and fifty feet. Here the citadel now stands; then the fierce sun fell on the bald, baking rock, with is crisped mosses and parched lichens. Two centuries and a half have quickened the solitude with swarming life, covered the deep bosom of the river with barge and steamer and gliding sail, and reared cities and villages on the site of forests; but nothing can destroy the surpassing grandeur of the scene.”

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Quebec City II, Upper City and Champlain’s First Winter in Quebec

City Gate and Fortifications (Grande Allee)

From Pioneers of France:”

“On the strand between the water and the cliffs Champlain’s axemen fell to their work….In a few weeks a pile of wooden buildings rose on the brink of the St. Lawrence, on or near the site of the market-place of the Lower Town of Quebec. The pencil of Champlain, always regardless of proportion and perspective, has preserved its likeness. A strong wooden wall, surmounted by a gallery loopholded for musketry, enclosed three buildings, contained quarters for himself and his men, together with a courtyard, from one side of which rose a tall dove-cot, like a belfry. A moat surrounded the whole, and two or three small cannon were planted on salient platforms towards the river. There was a large storehouse near at hand, and a part of the adjacent ground was laid out as a garden….

Jeanne d’Arc Monument

“A roving band of Montagnais had built their huts near the buildings, and were busying themselves with their autumn eel-fishery, on which they greatly relied to sustain their miserable lives through the winter. Their slimy harvest being gathered, and duly smoked and dried, they gave it for safe-keeping to Champlain, and set out to hunt beavers. It was deep in the winter before they came back, reclaimed their eels, built their birch cabins again, and disposed themselves for a life of ease, until famine or their enemies should put an end to their enjoyments. These were by no means without alloy. While, gorged with food, they lay dozing on piles of branches in their smoky huts, where, through the crevices of the thin birch-bark, streamed in a cold capable at times of congealing mercury, their slumbers were beset with nightmare visions of Iroquois forays, scalpings, butcherings, and burnings (pretty much the standard fare of Eastern Indian warfare). As dreams were their oracles, the camp was wild with fright. They sent out no scouts and placed no guard; but, with each repetition of these nocturnal terrors, they came flocking in a body to beg admission within the fort. The women and children were allowed to enter the yard and remain during the night, while anxious fathers and jealous husbands shivered in the darkness without.

“On one occasion a group of wretched beings was seen on the farther bank of the St. Lawrence, like wild animals driven by famine to the borders of the settler’s clearing. The river was full of drifting ice, and there was no crossing without the risk of life. The Indians, in their desperation, made the attempt; and midway their canoes were ground to atoms among the tossing masses. Agile as wild-cats, they all leaped upon a huge raft of ice, the squaws carrying their children on their shoulders, a feat at which Champlain marvelled when he saw their starved and emaciated condition. Here they began a wail of despair; when happily the pressure of other masses thrust the sheet of ice agains the northern shore. They landed and soon made their appearance at the fort, worn to skeletons and horrible to look upon. The French gave them food, which they devoured with a frenzied avidity, and unappeased, fell upon a dead dog left on the snow by Champlain for two months as a bait for foxes. They broke this carron into fragments, and thawed and devoured it, to the disgust of the spectators, who tried vainly to prevent them.

“This was but a severe access of the periodical famine which, during winter, was a normal condition of the Algonquin tribes of Acadia and the Lower St. Lawrence, who, unlike the cognate tribes of New England, never tilled the soil, or made any reasonable provision against the time of need.”

It was these Algonquin tribes, his neighbors, whose part Champlain took for his own and fought their battles against the Iroquois, I must say, very effectively but without the cruelties his friends wanted to visit upon their enemies.

Restaurant aux Anciens Canadiens, Grande Allee, Upper City

“One would gladly know how the founders of Quebec spent the long hurs of their first winter; but on this point the only man among them, perhaps, who could write, has not thought it necessary to enlarge….At the middle of May, only eight men of the twenty-eight were alive, and of these half were suffering from disease.”

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