The Québec maritime Blog
On a warm summer evening, just before the sun sets, I drive on Chemin Duchénier to Canyon des Portes de l’Enfer (Hell's Gate Canyon). The site, located south of Rimouski, in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region, is well-known for its network of hiking trails and unique panoramas. But to experience it at nighttime gives a totally different perspective! Some 75 people have gathered on that beautiful July evening to listen to the colourful storyteller and follow him in the woods, while admiring the fabulous displays of light. Even if we are a rather large group, I feel like I’m in my own little bubble, paying constant attention to the noises of the forest and to the various feelings that the activity has in store for us.
Narcisse, the Boat Runner
It’s a start! I feel like I’m in a holiday camp evening, hanging on our storyteller Polydore’s every word. Everybody is listening attentively, sitting on wood benches in a half-moon set-up, listening to the legend of Narcisse, the boat runner*. The site paying tribute to the log drivers** brings you back in time in an old log drivers camp. The legend takes place in a camp where Narcisse, a boastful and carefree log driver, bets he can go down the Grand-Sault Waterfall in his boat. Of course, as in every Québec traditional legend, the devil steps in and… I don’t tell you anymore! Come and listen to Polydore telling his story peppered with old French expressions that promises to make you smile, such as “ben endimanché” (all done up in one’s Sunday best), “le Diable dans l’eau bénite” (the devil in holy water), and “y jouait d’la ruine-babine” (he played harmonica; ruine-babine literally means “a tool that ruins your lips”).
Portes d'Oniria, the Enchanted Trail
The night has fallen, the legend is over. Polydore invites us to follow him on an enchanted trail, looking for Narcisse. Various displays of light along the trail create mysterious shapes dancing on the trees. Noises and voices can be heard in the darkness, adding to the mystery-filled atmosphere. Adults and children alike seem to enjoy their experience. If it wasn’t for the heat of the summer night, we could believe that it’s Halloween! We walk in a log cabin where the suspense reaches its peak. And then, like real adventurers, we turn on our headlamps (that were lent to us at the beginning of the activity) and see Portes d'Oniria in a different perspective.
All through the activity, there’s a very unique soundscape in the background, that of the Grand-Sault Waterfall raging in the night. And we have the opportunity to watch it from closer! It’s very relaxing and I feel very small in front of this natural wonder. I take the time to breathe in the smell of the forest and to feel on my skin the tiny water drops coming from the waterfall. We walk along the waterfall lit from within with lights of different colours, turning within minutes from blue to red and back to blue. Then, at the end of the trail, we see the grandiose display of colourful water flowing in the Rimouski River. That’s truly spectacular! But unfortunately, it’s now time to go back. Visitors thank the amazing team and the storyteller for having guided us so kindly through the forest and for an almost supernatural experience. Driving in my car on the way home, the story of Narcisse the boat runner still fills my mind.
You would also like to have such a unique evening? Sign up for the evening activity at Canyon des Portes de l’Enfer! It’s not held every night, so click here to inquire about the schedule.
*The storytelling activity is offered in French only.
**Log driving was practised in Canada, notably on the Rimouski River between 1828 and 1963. The current was used as a means of transportation to move the logs downstream. Log drivers had to break logjams on the river, a very dangerous job!