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Cruising Through Big Time – La Motte

Cruising Through Big Time – La Motte

Isle La Motte

A Journey Through Time

The Wetland

To read more about my N. America Sola Camping Trip Start here, go to Table of Contents, or follow the links below


From the Grand Isle campground I set out to check the island. Here are some views I captured on the way:

Lake Champlain on way to Isle La Motte

Juerusalm Place - Isle La Motte

I crossed the fourth causeway to isle La Motte. This was clearly my kind of place: in a beautiful wetland, right where the causeway reached the island, a blue heron was waiting for me…

The wetland, Isle La Motte, VT

Blue heron at wetland, Isle La Motte, VT 

The Shrine

The road led on to St. Anne’s shrine.

Incredible how external and internal weather are synchronized. This is especially noticeable on a camping trip.

St. Anne's shrine, Isle La Motte, VT

Way to Calvary on Isle La Motte

 St. Anne's Shrine's historical plaque, Isle La Motte, VT

As expected, I found the full-size Jesus, as well as Mary, Joseph and saints at St. Anne’s shrine. This is one of the oldest places in the U.S built by Europeans. Pueblo Indians built houses before, but this is generally ignored. Santa Fe, NM, boasts the oldest church and oldest house in the U.S., but apparently there’s some competition from here in Vermont…

The church was built in 1666 as part of the French fortification of Lake Champlain. It was the first European settlement in Vermont and the site of the first Roman Catholic mass. According to the shrine’s website: “As early as 1666, the French erected a Fort and Chapel on Isle La Motte as their southernmost post against hostile Indian attacks on the settlements in Montreal and Quebec.”

According to the plaque shown above, the shrine was established as a memorial to the victory over the Mohawks. Somehow I imagined that by now people would feel remorse about the overall treatment of the native tribes, and will refrain from celebrating an asymmetrical victory. Clearly, I was wrong. Notwithstanding, the buildings and grounds were beautiful, the church elegant, the location inspiring.

I walked around respectfully, then sat on the grass by the lake, ate my snack and wrote in my diary: 

Why import religions from the over-crowded old world to this pristine sparsely populated land? Why bring here the conflicts, violence and intolerance so inextricably entwined in their history? It would have been better to adopt and adapt elements of the native religions into the settlers’ existing faiths, give them respect, learn from them, rather than impose their own creeds on the natives or, worse, use God and religion to “justify” and glorify the conquest of this land, subjugation of its people.

I move from the grass to a bench in front of the lake, worrying about potential ticks. A blessed sun is bathing everything, myself included. Incredible how external and internal weather are synchronized, especially on a camping trip like this. An elderly couple enter their kayaks, planning to sail over the wondrous quiet lake. The water sparkles blue. Various water birds pose for pictures. Water lilies quietly float in the coves. Weeds. Magic and wonder. I can’t take a picture of every bird, every boat, every lake or every tree. Beauty is everywhere. As david Abrams says in “Becoming animal”:

We are inside Consciousness as bodies are inside the physical despite each body’s or each soul’s individuality, separateness.

David Abrams

A seagull picks food from among the rocks. Free spirit. I’m jealous of the seagull…

The kayaks stir waves around the lake. I’m jealous of the elderly couple…

The seagull now floats in the water, pondering its world, thinking it knows what’s important and relevant. She’s right, of course.

Yesterday when I came, it was winter. Now it is summer. Under the trees it is winter, near the lake it is autumn…

An amazing place. 

Where do We Come from? Goodsell Ridge Preserve

The world exists in every place in multiple dimensions. St. Anne’s Shrine took me back to the history of the American conquest. In Lake Champlain I received explanations about the last glaciation and the Sea of Champlain. This afternoon, on Isle La Motte, I was transported even further, all the way to the Ordovican. Here, in the Goodsell Ridge and the Fisk Quarry preserves, I saw the oldest fossilized reef in the world! And if that wasn’t enough, there was also the WTT (Walk Through Time) trail, walking me through the entire history of our Planet…

When I reached the preserve, the last other visitors have just walked out, verifying to me it was worthwhile to see. Otherwise the place was empty. 

The ingenious thing about the preserve is the combination of the fossilized bedrock, the live fauna and flora, and the incredible WTT project, that takes you on a scaled 1-mile tour through the entire planetary history. That combination puts you squarely where we are in the bigget scheme of things. To take you back further to the Big Bang, 2.5 more miles of trail are needed.

Interesting comtemporary plant, Goodsell Ridge Preserve, Isle La Motte, VT
An interesting contemporary plant. Goodsell Ridge Preserve.

Right outside the parking lot, you find wooden boards with biological-geological history explained, as well as a complicated map of crisscrossing colored trails. I chose the white trail, but ended up somehow on the WTT . I walked it in chunks, but mostly backwards. That annoyed a guy who was mowing the grass and could not grasp the idea that I would start from the present to the past rather than “go by order”…

For me, a marine biologist and Red Sea diver, finding the oldest known reef in the world was auspicious…

The reef, which is now found in North America, was formed in shallow waters of the Southern Hemisphere. The land mass was actually located around today’s Zimbabwe. Animal life had not made it to Land yet, only algae, mosses and some primitive plants. The fauna in these eras was oceanic and invertebrate. Diving in the Red Sea and doing my thesis on symbiosis in jellyfish, I am fascinated with the invertebrate phyla, their extraordinary beauty and diversity.

The panels directed me to look for Gastropods (snail-like crits), Cephalopods (ancestors of squids and octopuses), Bryozoans (an ancient extinct phylum), Porifera (sponges) and the exotic Stromatoporoids. The most conspicuous and esthetic were the Gastropods and Cephalopods, that were sometimes marked by encircling stones on the bedrock. The rest were a bit blurry.

The Chazey Reef is presumably 1000 miles long and 480 million years old. It has outcrops in Quebec, Vermont and Tennessee, but its best showing is here in La Motte. The interesting thing about this reef is that it is not a coral reef, even though corals can be found here (I haven’t seen any). The reef was constructed by Bryozoans, Stromatolites, Stromatoporoids and sponges, depositing their calcitic skeletons. The gastropods and Cephalopods were free swimming as were some trilobites. Crinoids (water lilies) and various algae were attached to the reef. Apparently, the oldest fossils are found at the south end of the island. At the Fisk Quarry Preserve, which I saw two days later, stromatoporoids dominated, while here at Goodsell there was a younger mélange of different groups.

   Fossilized gastropod from ancient Chazy Reef, Isle La Motte   Gastropods in bedrock, Goodsell Ridge Preserve, Isle La Motte

Gastropods in the bedrock, Isle la Motte

Cephalopod in bedrock,, Goodsell Ridge Preserve, Isle La Motte
Cephalopods, the progenitors of today’s squid and octopi. Goodsell Ridge Preserve, Isle La Motte.

Fossilized Cephalopod in bedrock, Goodseel Ridge Preserve, Isle La Motte, VT Fossilized Caphalopod on bedrock, La Motte island, VT

More Cephalopods, Ilse La Motte

Stromatoporoid? Sponge? FOssilized Chazy Reef, Isle La Motte, VT
Stromatoporoids and sponges?? Goodsell Ridge Preserve, Isle La Motte

Fossilized Stromatoporoid, Isle La Motte, VT

By the entrance to the Walk Through Time (WTT), there was the Gaugin picture “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” This picture had always thrilled my imagination, evoking wonder, mystery and love of the Natural. 

Gaugin's masterpiece: Where do we come from?

The geology of the Northeast is just so fascinating. Going back to Newfoundland and “Green Point“, the Chazy Reef is the “next evolutionary stop”, while the Tablelands go even further and deeper into the Earths’ Mantle… I’m so lucky to have been able to see all of that.

Walking along the WTT I read just about every panel, giving myself a chance to delve into the “Where do we come from?” and “How come we are who we are?” issues. I took pictures of those that interested me in particular. The most fascinating aspects for me were those that most people pay less attention to: the unicellular evolution, the creation of the first Eukaryotic cells, first Prokaryotic cells! 

The longest period of time was needed to create the unbelievable molecular “cell machinery”, the wondrous apparatuses for respiration, metabolism and photosynthesis. It’s a world where molecules act like what we are used to think of as living creatures (I opine that they actually are!). Once this was achieved, everything else followed. 

I learned that Cyanobacteria were saved from the products of their own making, namely oxygen, by breathing, and that “in the beginning” there was no aggression… There were enough molecules to go by, so no competition for resources. The first multicellulars had no defenses. Gradually we worked our way through the various exoskeletons, prickles, scales, armors, teeth and claws and all the way to the hydrogen bombs. Next time, I’d rather be an octopus…

According to the NBC Science, these amazing fossil preserves host only about 3000 visitors a year. They sure deserve more attention.

And on the Way Back...

I paid my respects to a dilapidated barn, a green corn field and an amazingly dense array of starlings perched on the electrical lines.

Delapidated house, Isle La Motte

Corn field, Lake Champlain Isles

Starlings, Grand Isle, Champlain, VT

By an outdoor ice-cream/burger joint were some charming Amish little sheds for sale, begging to have their pictures taken…

   Amish selling country sheds, Isles Champlain   Country sheds, Amish hand-made, selling on Champlain Isles

…and the most awesome moonrise over the hills yonder

Moonrise over Grand Isle, VT

With Flutes on the Beach

After dinner, I set out for my evening outing to the beach. Every night I spent on the Grand Isle Campground (four altogether), I would go to the beach to play my recorders. Crossing the grounds, I’d walk down among the trees in complete darkness, feeling out where the path was, where rocks and branches were. I had my head flashlight as a backup. Eventually the beach would open up from among the trees; the starlight or moonlight would reverberate through the lake water, as well as the human lights afar.

The water would burble and slosh at the shore as peacefully as can be imagined. I would feel its breath, its Being, asking me to merge with it all. I’d play a mélange of soulful Brazilian, Israeli, Russian, American songs as well as my own, using my different pitched recorders, a bit like the flutist from Hamelin, but unlike him, nobody human or other was drawn to my sounds in the darkness…

The next day I attended to some business, but also picked some fresh Vermont apples…

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