The Restigouche-With Notes Especially On Its Flora
By G. U. Hay, 1896
And yet in that whole settlement there was not a shade tree worthy of the name, but instead a mournful line of wretched swellings strung out along the road. The man had been swallowed up in the wood chopper and he thinks only of chopping down the native growths, clearing up the vines and trees and shrubbery and sacrificing everything to present utility. He begrudges a few inches of soil to the rightful owners, who would thankfully bless him every day of his busy life for sparing them. But instead of thinking of the tree as a friend the settler looks upon it as an enemy, one that must be rooted out and destroyed. And tree murderers are not confined to Madawaska County.
But I started out to write notes on the flora of the Restigouche. A few miles from St. Leonard's we saw a honeysuckle which proved to be the Swamp Honeysuckle (Lonicera oblongfolia), a plant new to our provincial flora. Through the settlement we found the same weeds disputing the possession of the soil with the farmers we see in other places. The Ox-eye Daisy and the Coneflower (Rudbeckia hirta) in the grass-fields, the Wild Mustard in the grain fields, and a profusion of Campion flowers (Silene Cucubalus) on the roadside. When we entered the forest our road, which had to be cut at intervals, lay along beautiful stretches of woodland chiefly rock maple and yellow and gray birch, with a beautiful undershrubbery of Viburnum lantanoides [Note: the hobblebush, which has a white flower] The gentle ascents were clothed with mosses, the Twin Flower (Linnaea borealis) scenting the woods with its fragrant odor, and the White Oxalis (Oxalis acetosella), in contrast with sphagnums of the hollows with dense shrubbery of viburnums and cornuses, with pyrolas in bloom, and with some fine specimens of Habenaria orbiculata [note: the round leaved orchid], its loose spike of greenish-white flowers with their long spurs reminding one strongly of tropical orchids.
This watershed, dividing the St. John from the Restigouche, is a gently undulating tableland, elevated about eight hundred or a thousand feet above the sea-level and well-watered. Many of the streams trickle slowly through swamps and find their way either to the tributaries of the St. John or the Restigouche. It has a soil, to judge from the vegetation on it, nowhere exceeded in richness throughout this province except in the alluvial valleys of its chief rivers.
Derived from the disintegration of the underlying Silurian slates, the soil is apparently of considerable depth, remarkably free from stones, and would form a rich agricultural district if rendered more accessible by post road and railway. A railway across the northern part of New Brunswick from the Bay of Chaleur to the valley of the St. John, would open up for settlement this rich tract of watershed and the upper Restigouche, and bring into general view some of the most rugged and picturesque scenery of Eastern Canada. [Note: this was done, with the construction of the INR from Campbellton to St. Leonard across the north of the province.]
But this grand primeval wilderness would be blackened and desolated by forest fires-the sure attendant of frontier settlements. The shrill whistle of the locomotive would be daily heard in those solitudes whose silence is only occasionally broken by the gentle sounds of the canoeman's paddle, the whir of the angler's rod, the ringing echo of the sportsman's gun, or the clear strokes of the lumberman's axe. The adventurous spirits who love these solitudes might wish that "the greatest good to the greatest number" would be indefinitely postponed, and that the difficulties in the way of railroad communication may prove an insuperable obstacle in breaking up this sportsman's paradise.
About four o'clock on the afternoon of July 25th, our ears were gladdened by the welcome sounds of rippling waters, and in a few minutes we stood on the bank of the Restigouche, whose praises have been celebrated in poetry and prose by delighted anglers from both continents. Its clear waters now gliding swiftly over the pebbly bottom, now reposing in some quiet pool, gave the anglers an invitation to "cast" which was promptly accepted, and a few speckled beauties gave promise of sport and welcome additions to our not over-abundant camp supplies. We found the water very low-not deep enough in the shallow places to float a loaded canoe-and that meant work for the canoemen. But who would object to a little work in that clear mountain air and the prospect of a run over a hundred miles on the Restigouche! We pitched our tent on that famous camping ground near the mouth of the Waagan, the resting place for many years of voyageur like ourselves-a pretty bit of meadow but whose edges were blackened by the fires of too careless campers of other years.
The camp of the absent warden was taken possession of by our guides, and before sundown we had everything in good shape for a comfortable night. But we had reckoned without our hosts-the flies. They came in swarms-mosquitoes, black flies, sand flies, bite-'em-no-see-'ems and others of the vile horde that are the anathema of woodsmen. We used all the resources at our command-smudges, veils, ointments and the mildest adjectives that our vocabulary would allow us to use, but they would not off. They wanted tribute and, like Macbeth, they would have blood. We paid the tribute as calmly as we could, and gained in experience what we lost in flesh. I took a bottle of villainous ointment that caused me more discomfort than the flies; a mosquito net kept out the largest and was not uncomfortable on hot days, with a breeze that would drive the air through it. A "smudge" is effective but it is as likely to drive you out of the tent as the flies. The best plan we found was to choose a camping ground in the woods, and when we did so were nearly free from discomfort.
One night, at the mouth of the Gounamitz, we slept on a sand beach. We never repeated that experiment. The recollections of the moonlight effects on the bluff that towered more than a hundred feet from the water on the opposite side of the river, and the rugged beauties that the morning sunlight flashed back to us from those pinnacles of rock and tree, were no compensation for that night of sleepless torture. Never sleep on a sand beach; choose a ground a trifle elevated and leafy; build two or three fires not far from the tent door; keep good hours and close up the tent early; then, if you haven't been dodging the fish warden through the day, and your conscience is clear in other respects, you will probably sleep soundly.
To be continued.....