The Highlands

Greetings from the northern tip of Nova Scotia, home to the hamlet of Meat Cove, which sits at the end of a 13 km gravel road that hugs the steep coastline; a short but very rough road, featuring hills, switchbacks, big muddy holes and washboard ruts. This is Nova Scotia’s northern driving limit.

Actually, I captured the above photo a short distance back down the road from the settlement, just to get a little privacy and a better background view. On my arrival in Meat Cove, I was dismayed to find no available scenic parking space, due to a large gathering of RVs, SUVs and vans…

No Soup for You: The Chowder Hut was closed on the day of my visit…

This was my first visit—and the Pontiac’s first visit—to The Maritimes. I’d say that Cape Breton Island is my favorite part of the area; lots of rugged beauty there and plenty of hiking opportunities, which I hope to experience on a future journey.

After leaving Meat Cove, I made my way down the western shore of the island. I was quite happy to find a campsite perched above the pounding surf, with a nice view of the setting sun…

Below, the campsite view just before sunrise. The constant hum of the crashing waves made for a good night’s sleep…

A nomad’s life must have great charm. And though we rate the nomad low in the scale of social progress, his life, for all we know, may be the richest in contentment. His moving is at once the reflex and the cure of discontent. Home being always where he has chosen it to be, he’ll always love his home.

~ Rockwell Kent, from the book Salamina

Wachiya/Welcome/Bienvenue

But what affects the traveler is the hospitality he meets, the warm and generous welcome everywhere. That is a frontier specialty. Its roots are in our need of it; we need it most where men live far apart. And near the wilderness it grows luxuriant.

~ Rockwell Kent, from the book Salamina

Before I began last month’s journey, I had expectations about the terrain and the scenery I would encounter. What came as a pleasant surprise was the human element of the adventure. Never before have I arrived in a distant community and been so warmly welcomed by those who live there. If you’re a fan of traveling to places where the people are friendly, eager to speak with you and willing to help you in any way that they can, I highly recommend a visit to the Cree Nation of Chisasibi.

(Roadside Poutine: When visiting Chisasibi, be sure to enjoy a generous serving of Chef Clayton’s delicious poutine. Just look for the big red chip wagon.)

My deep thanks go out to all of the residents of Chisasibi who made my stay so memorable.

And I’d like to give special thanks to Clayton and Reggie, who told me a great deal about life in Chisasibi. To Edward, the local Tourism Coordinator, who was very helpful both before and during my visit, providing information about the places I wanted to see and the services I would need. To Louie-Rene and the excellent staff of Auberge Maanitaaukimikw, for a welcoming and comfortable stay. All of my aurora photographs were captured in the Auberge’s back yard, right on the La Grande River. And to Jerry at Long Point Adventures; if you’re interested in a more rustic experience, stay in one of his cabins or pitch your tent right on the cold, hard stone of the Canadian Shield, surrounded by the softly-lapping waters of James Bay.

On my final night in the area, I was staying at the Auberge along with a nice group of visitors whose work centers on welcoming people to the region—business owners and representatives of organizations such as Voyages Eeyou Istchee Baie-James, COTA (Cree Outfitting and Tourism Association), and Tourisme Baie-James. As it happens, some of these folks work alongside the very people who were so helpful to me by telephone and email during the summer, when I began planning this adventure.

We had a great time watching the night sky together and talking about life in northern Quebec. My sincere thanks go out to this group for their hospitality and kindness, for giving me so much useful information about the region, and for being so accommodating with my inability to converse en français.

If you would like to experience the James Bay area someday, be sure to contact these fine people. They will be happy to provide you with all of the information you’ll need for wonderful adventure.

Carl’s Library: Salamina

Our friends at the Rocky Mountain Land Library have been sharing photos of a few of the wonderful books in their vast collection, set against the scenic backdrop of the Buffalo Peaks Ranch. Though my own library is much, much smaller, and the view from my apartment is not nearly as inspiring, I’d like to follow their lead and occasionally show you some of the beautiful old books occupying my shelves—particularly, books about exploration (that is, exploration back in the glory days before GPS, digital cameras and North Face jackets). I have many books about the American West, Canada, and the high latitudes of the polar regions; books about journeys of discovery over unforgiving terrain and survival in dangerous weather conditions, books about boundless tracts of wild land and the flora & fauna therein, books about Indigenous Peoples living in harmony with nature, books written by those who have successfully explored and charted unmapped territory, and books about those who died in the attempt. I’m able to experience the wilderness for only a few weeks out of each year; I’m happy that I can read and dream about it during my time at home.

~ ~ ~

Recently, during an email conversation about books, my friend remarked that a book she’d read at a young age had just popped into her head for some reason. It was a story about life, love, nature and culture, accompanied by striking illustrations. She revealed that the book had changed her life. That book was Salamina by artist and writer Rockwell Kent…

I was surprised that I had never heard of this book, or the author. From my friend’s glowing description, I knew that I had to see it for myself. And because the artwork is a key component of the book, I decided that I wanted to get a nice copy; thanks to the internet, I was able to find a 1935 first edition in great shape, and reasonably priced. It is the most recent addition to my library…

The book tells of the author’s life among the native population of Igdlorssuit, Greenland in 1931-32. He went there not just to live and explore, but also to paint and draw. Like my friend, I enjoy the pen & ink drawings opening each chapter and the many full-page portraits done in Conté crayon…

I hadn’t gone far into the book before I realized that I was very happy with my purchase, and grateful that my friend had brought this title to my attention. And I knew that I would be acquiring more books by Rockwell Kent the moment I read this wonderful passage:

Let all your dreams have been of warmth and tropical luxuriance; let what at last is given you be bare, bleak, cold, in every way unlike your thoughts of earthly paradise, your chameleon soul cries out, “By God, I love this barrenness!” Why otherwise have men gone out from comfort, from the pleasures of city life, from all the cultivated beauty of a developed countryside, and in hardship and poverty, in unremitting labor, in all the hard conditions of some frontier life, found happiness? Why do men love the wilderness? For its mountains?—there may be none. For its forests, lakes, and rivers?—it might be a desert; men would love it still. Desert, the monotonous ocean, the unbroken snow-fields of the North, all solitudes, no matter how forlorn, are the only abiding-place on earth of liberty.

Beautifully stated, Mr. Kent. And quite true.

Illustrations and text: Copyright 1935 by Rockwell Kent.

(Posts about my library are archived through this link: ridingwithcarl.wordpress.com/tag/library.)