From renowned cycling routes to tour-friendly vineyards, dark sky reserves to fjords and ferrata—it’s all about the green and the blue and the spectacular view in Canada’s biggest province
+ After the Tragedy in Lac-Mégantic
+ Outpostings: Where to go and how to do it
Yolande, the Huron-Wendat storyteller, wore moccasins, which made her feet seem small, and cat-eyed blue glittering glasses, which likened her eyes to the moon. In her traditional garb, she spoke from memory.
“Mother Earth’s children will forsake her,” she said, as her sparkly watch caught the firelight. “We will cut her hair, the trees.”
Scissors for fingers, she snipped at the air.
“And yet,” she paused, the sole of her hand held out in front of us, “she will always be there for us. She will be there when our spirits pass to the West, through the Milky Way, when our body returns to the earth.”
Gesturing gently above her head, her hands floated like birds on the wind of her words. Silence filled the longhouse, light danced off of furs lining bunks against the walls, and Yolande took a sip of soda, closing her dinner-plate eyes behind those jewelled lenses.
I looked over at Dan, Andrew and Will, each a storyteller in their own right—words, film, photography—but I didn’t catch a single eye. Like boys at Grandma’s story hour, they sat on their log stools in silence, their cameras on their laps, the firelight flickering off their faraway faces.
“Yo,” she said, looking at each of us, one by one. “This is how I express that the story is finished.” She paused. “It means: I join my spirit to what has been said: Yo.”
Finally, her hands rested.
Yolande led us to a fire outside. We rolled dough around sticks and placed them over embers while competing over whose bannock was best, as Dan’s fell apart in the fire. We clinked our cups filled with tea and said “Salute,” while keeping our tradition of looking each other in the eye for luck.
Then Yolande sang, and we kept a beat with the rattles she’d given us. Dan and Andrew competed for the loudest shake, as Will kept an actual tune. The song ended with a crescendo, a long rattle into the night.
We left Yolande, the longhouse and furs behind, made our way toward the main building, with its modern lodging, crisp white sheets and fine-dining restaurant for a dinner of wild boar. The Wendake reserve is just 15 minutes outside of Quebec City. It’s a suburb but simultaneously a self-governing territory, containing a modern hotel, museum, centuries-old church and life-sized recreation of a longhouse.
The juxtaposition of a long cultural history with new-age values was not lost on me—Yolande’s moccasins and sparkly glasses, the Wendat’s oral tradition explained on their Facebook page. Somehow the marriage of both made everything more beautiful because it meant this generation is fighting to keep it.
You can spend melodic days here—and I highly suggest you do—hearing the stories of the Huron-Wendat people, and remembering that the history of this vast land runs longer and deeper than 150 years. The story of a place is weaved into its people—that’s what the Huron-Wendat say—and that’s exactly what I’d learned at Wendake, and exploring and cycling around lower Quebec with Team Outpost.
When Dan, Andrew and I—three strangers—arrived at Will’s farm in Quebec’s Eastern Townships some ten days earlier, the sun was shining, the leaves were green and the air was warm. Summer showed no signs of slowing and fall, no signs of showing.
Long fields and rolling hills, this was the Eastern Townships. Not the cobblestones of Quebec City, but country roads with few traffic lights. Not the glitter of Montreal, but farms and hay bales, evergreens and deciduous trees, McIntosh and Cortland apple fields, the occasional plantation of pears.
As travellers always do upon first introduction we talked about the weather, our jobs back home, and the stops we’d make on the trip to come.
“The Dark Sky Reserve will be amazing!”
“I didn’t know Quebec had fjords until today!”
“Just wait until you try the maple sugar pie!”
As a cow mooed in the distance, Dan asked if it was broken. Will shook his head, while Andrew looked questioningly at me. I shrugged my shoulders and laughed. Will led us down a hill. The grass was already wet with dew, which sneaked through my shoes, and we discussed how we’d best capture the views.
The sun began setting and we scrambled to assemble our tent poles in its dissipating light. Distracted by the sky and colours that I didn’t even know existed, I was slower in my assembly than I would have liked. Before we said goodnight, we craned our necks again. Stars pixelated the sky like a mirror of the dew, and despite being in the Quebec countryside and away from the city lights that I usually tend to know, I was at peace.