Sept 7, 2022
I took this picture while paddling furiously downstream trying to maximize distance travelled before the tide turned to flood.
The Hotel Frontenac and the Citadel are two of Canada’s most iconic structures. Here is where the history of North America abruptly changed course. Here is where the Canada we know today began to take shape.
For me, it was also tieing off a thread that encircled the globe. James Cook, then a Master aboard HMS Pembroke, played a pivotal role in completing the hydrographic survey of the approaches to Quebec City that thereby allowed the British to land a force of some 4,500 men unexpectedly behind French lines.
Cook’s astonishing talents had already come to the attention of Capt Hugh Palliser while they both served in North America during the Seven Years War and it was Palliser’s weight and influence with the British Admiralty that catapulte Cook’s career. The rest, as they say, is history.
It was in Cook’s wake that I circumnavigated the globe, sailed to Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island’s west coast, Alaska, the Bering Sea, and the Aleutian Islands. And now here, on the St. Lawrence below the cliffs that form Quebec’s natural defences, I found myself once again awash in his extraordinary wake.
This paddling past, hell bent for leather on just one more kilometer, borders on the criminal. I have paddled and portaged petroglyphs, pictoglyphs, fossil beds, forts, battle grounds, holy ground, architectural masterpieces, and cultural wonders all for the sake of just one more mile. It is the price that must be paid to cross the continent in a single season solo in a canoe.
Looking up at the Citadel and then down again at the river flowing swiftly eastward, I wonder if I have struck a poor bargain.