Discovery with a Paddle: Canoeing the Restoule and French Rivers

When Samuel Champlain paddled down the Restoule River with a party of Ottawa nation aboriginals in the early seventeenth century, he believed he was beating a trail of discovery to a great, westward river that would lead to the mer de l’ouest, the ocean on the far side of what was, to Europeans, a new found land.

Photograph (c) Richard A Johnson
All photographs (c) Richard A Johnson

In the Canada of Champlain’s peers, the frontier emerged from obscurity beneath each footstep and paddle stroke of he and his men. What became known as the French River was the first of many underestimations of Champlain, who was by all evidence one of the more gifted of the early European explorers of North America.

Champlain stood at the confluence of the Restoule and French Rivers and believed the latter flowed over the western horizon to the salted sea. (No doubt his indigenous guides, who may never have come across anything but fresh water during their inland lives, struggled in translation with this alien concept of saltwater.)

Champlain was wrong. But in his wrongness, he made if not a discovery then at least a revelation.

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Mount Rainier: (Almost) a Circumambulation

The 150-km Wonderland Trail circumnavigating Mount Rainier, plus 15km (round trip) ascent to Alpiners’ base at Camp Muir (10,080 ft / 3073 m)

July-August 2008

Holga 120N Medium Format, f/8 Holga 60mm fixed lens at 1/100-second shutter

Fuji Neopan Acros Pro 120 ISO 400 Black & White, shot at 6×6, processed C-41.

Ratio of marmots observed to marmots observed to be elite Greco-Roman wrestlers:

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