Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sudbury to Lake Huron

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pretty amazing day. With two choices to turn out of the motel in Deep River this morning, I went East. After 9 kilometers I regained my senses, turned around and headed West. Spectacular country: the Near North of Ontario along Rt 17, the King's Highway, is vivid, deep greens, splashed with crystal blue lakes and small ponds, predominately pines and softwoods, endlessly fascinating. Naturally, the logging trucks and trains with cars specially developed for carrying logs can be found here and there on the landscape but without the sense of violence one feels in Oregon and Washington passing mountain sides completely clearcut. The off road reality might be different, but its impossible to see very far into the dense forest cover. The Canadian Shield of bedrock to the surface is much in view the entire length of the 300 miles or so I drove today. With glaciation and thin soils, bed rock is exposed almost everywhere--fascinating for the geologist and the interested layman like myself.

Lunch found me in North Bay, larger version of the smaller towns and villages along the route, but nestled against Lake Nipissing where I found the most amazing hamburger joint. Hamburger World lived up to its billing. Packed with local folks taking a break from there work , lined 6-8 deep to order the one young man at the flaming grill was yelling orders and his assistants were jumping to bring more plates, more burgers, more fries, more everything. the resulting cheese burger with the works: relish, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, dill pickles sliced thin and longways, hot peppers, ketchup and mustard was fantastic. Sensibly, if stupidly, I ordered a single when i saw the triple burgers! going out I was envious! I beat it before I succumbed to temptation.

Sudbury helped to suppress my appetite. Nickel and copper have been dug from the rocks here for a long while, smelting, with the largest smokestack in the western hemisphere (once the largest on earth if memory serves me), has spread toxic wastes mostly acid for miles to the east--reaching just to the western outskirts of North Bay. With each passing mile the once beautiful landscape becomes bleaker; the trees more stunted, white birches all broken at the tops more and more exposed black rock. I first passed through Sudbury on my way back to teaching at the University of North Dakota, then it was an absolute nightmare--no vegetation to speak of at all--just soils of a gray clay; no trees and a landscape more akin to the moon. Today its much better thanks to the environmental concerns raised by young people and others following the first Earth Day in the early 1970s.

Immediately to the west of Sudbury the landscape shows little ill effects of the acid that follows the prevailing winds to the East. In a few miles, Rt 17 intersects the North Channel of Lake Huron at a place called Spanish. From here to Thessalon, where I'm staying the night, Rt 17 traces its way along the shore of the lake; here and there one is offered glimpses of extraordinary natural beauty. The day, after yesterday's rains, is cold with blustery winds but incredibly bright and sunny. A great day for traveling through the past and present of Ontario. Rt 17 as it winds its way up from Ottawa is also following the Ottawa River for several hundred miles the path of choice for the Voyagers including Samuel D. Champlain who traversed much of the distance by canoe that I followed in my trusty old car today. Was a nice day. See you tomorrow.

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