About the time the Pilgrims were landing on Plymouth Rock, French explorer Étienne Brulé was already visiting Lake Superior's Apostle Islands just off the north shore of present day Wisconsin. He was the first European explorer to venture beyond the St. Lawrence River into Canada.
Over the next couple of years, Brulé continued his travels among the native peoples deep in the interior. He remarked on the many powerful and warlike nations (the Iroquois, of whom he was at one time captured by and tortured, then saved by his own wits). He made his way as far as the junction of lakes Erie and Ontario and then to the Susquehanna River. He was the first to explore Pennsylvania.
Brulé was eventually denounced by a friar for his immoral life-style among the Indians and was further discredited for not being on the up-and-up with France, playing a two-sided game of working for the administration under Champlain but also for the fur merchants who opposed him.
In 1629, after Champlain gave up his colony (Quebec) to England's Kirke brothers, he wanted Brulé to return to France with the company, but Brulé, along with a fellow interpreter Nicolas Marsolet, claimed they'd be hung if they returned, so they remained behind.
Later on, while the colony was still under English rule, the young and adventurous Étienne Brulé was killed by the Hurons he knew so well. Word reached Champlain in 1633.
It's hard to imagine these explorers and their native allies covering such vast amounts of rough country and becoming so well adjusted to the life styles they took on. I love thinking about those days, the grandeur they first laid eyes on, and trying to coax from my visions of that time something akin to what it must have been like, don't you?