Unexpectedly Beautiful : Sudbury to Whitefish

Muggy is a very descriptive word, and it fit pretty much perfectly what the world this morning felt like as we headed out of downtown Sudbury on the Sudbury Camino.

Our first stop was the Farmer's Market, which wasn't open today, but is one of the waypoints on the Camino. It was located right beside the VIA Rail station, and adjacent to a train yard. As we passed through a tunnel below the tracks, which was decorated with interesting graffiti, a train was passing overhead, reminding us that much of the trail we are hiking is closely tied to Canada's railway history.


We made a quick pit stop at the grocery store for resupplies on the way, and then were delighted to find that the next few kilometres of trail followed a wide crushed stone trail through a treed corridor beside Junction Creek. Spiky Red Pines, tall White Birch, and young Aspens provided shade. Goldenrod was blooming yellow on the side of the trail, and it was mixed with purple milkweed and other colourful shrubs. A plethora of young, still speckled American Robins preceded us down the trail, torn between feeding on the ripe red berries and avoiding us.


As we wove through quiet neighbourhoods on the sun dappled trail beside the creek we passed several signs for Dynamic Earth. Dynamic Earth is part of Science North, consisting of an interactive museum offering earth sciences and mining experiences. It is currently closed due to the pandemic, but we visited the tourist attraction on a previous visit to Sudbury, and can highly recommend the underground tour of the mine, which features Canada's only underground mail box among many other interesting things.


Dynamic Earth is also the location of Sudbury's Big Nickel monument. The Big Nickel is the largest coin in the world, and it was minted in 1951 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the discovery and naming of the element nickel. It is located in Sudbury to honour the contribution this town has made to the Canadian economy through the production of nickel.


Although we passed the signs for this iconic attraction, we didn't catch even a glimpse of it from the trail. Instead we eventually came out in an industrial park, which was also home to the 46 North Brewing Corp and the Crosscut Distillery. We stopped at the Kelly Lake Convenience Store, which had some really cool rock art out front, and then made our way down Southview Dr, beside the shores of Kelly Lake.

This road was pretty busy, and didn't have a sidewalk or any shade. However, quite a few of the drivers honked and waved as they passed, or called out encouragement for our cross-country hike as they drove by. We appreciated the encouragement as we trekked along.

In retrospect, we think there was a waypoint on this section of road - the Southview Greenhouse Growers, which we passed with a breezy "Oh, look at the cute red roof!" while completely failing to realize we needed to take a photo for our Camino. Oops.


Just before the road joined with the Trans Canada Highway, we happily diverted onto the Kelly Lake Trail, which followed the shores of Kelly Lake. Across the water we could see a train line running out to the edge of a huge pile of slag, the buildings surrounding Vale's South Mine in Coppercliff, and the tall smoke stacks of the Vale Copper Cliff Nickel Refinery. As I look at the satellite imagery of the area the exposed rocks look yellow, red, and black, there are large open pits, and the lakes on the far side of Coppercliff are turquoise. Apparently the mine is currently in the development phase, and is expected to open in 2021. I think that everyone who relies on products made from materials that are extracted from deep within the Earth should witness what that process looks like.


On our side of the deep blue lake we followed a gorgeous footpath through pine forest and regenerating birch and aspen stands. Wooden boardwalks took us through cattail marshes filled with grasshoppers and wildflowers. A pleasant breeze blew in off the lake, and the forest was alive with scolding red squirrels and flocks of curious and fearless Black-capped Chickadees. A Red-eyed Vireo sang at the water's edge, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker worked it's way up the trunk of a Trembling Aspen, and a Black-and-White Warbler foraged for insects in the branches of a conifer. We heard the eerie call of a Common Loon out on the water.


When we reached the far end of Kelly Lake we came to the Fielding Bird Sanctuary. This section of trail included several lookouts onto the lake. From there we could see large groups of Double-crested Cormorants roosting out on little stony islands in the lake. Loose groups of Canada Geese and Mallards bobbed up and down on the choppy waves. A pair of Common Mergansers flew past low over the water, and a Common Goldeneye floated out near an island. The blue sky above was filled with the raucous screams of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. This is a beautiful stretch of trail, and offers great opportunities for bird watching.


As we approached Fielding Memorial Park, we passed a picnic spot beside a dam in the river. There were lots of Mallards, Canada Geese, and Herring Gulls fishing at the top of the small waterfall. It was obviously slippery, and it was quite entertaining to watch the birds slip and slide as they foraged. We particularly enjoyed a pair of Mallards that were waggling their rumps in the air like they just didn't care, their orange feet paddling like mad, as they foraged on the bottom.


A short walk across a sports field and we reached the Kinsmans Sport Complex, which marked the end of our walk along the Sudbury Camino. Many people who complete the Camino de Santiago in Spain struggle with how to keep the Camino spirit alive when they return home, and make the positive energy experienced on the trail part of their normal lives. The Sudbury Camino is a great way to do that. It was truly a beautiful walk, and we were sad to reach the end of it.

After the sports field we found our second construction blockade of the day, and diverted around it through the residential neighbourhoods of Mikkola. At the far edge of town we discovered a bridge was out, requiring us to divert onto the shoulder of the very busy Old Highway 17. We took a break in the shade and had a cold drink before tackling the hot trek down the road.

A few kilometers farther along we began a routine we followed for the rest of the afternoon. We began walking on a dirt track that was signed as a pedestrian walkway, but seemed to be more of an ATV track. It ran parallel to the highway, weaving from one side to the other periodically. We were very grateful to be off the shoulder of the busy road, but the deep sand of the trail was like walking on a beach, which was tiring in the heat with the cart. 


The walk wasn't without highlights though. The trail edges were lined with raspberries, which made for a tasty snack now and again. Many of the puddles were filled with spring-loaded Leopard Frogs that scattered as we approached in huge leaps and bounds. We spotted several large Garter Snakes sunning themselves on the trail, and as we crossed a small wooden bridge we watched a beaver swimming by in the pond below.


As we wove through Naughton we got a lovely view of Simon Lake, which was ringed by cottages. Several people were out fishing in boats, and we passed quite a few families out for a stroll. As we left the small town we passed a whole row of very creatively painted rocks placed along the guardrails of the road. By this time we were pretty hot and tired, and they cheered us up considerably.


In the end we followed the dirt track to the small community of Whitefish. Sean's feet are really hurting from several blisters that have taken off the skin between his toes and are threatening to remove his toenails. He also wasn't feeling well in the heat. Although it was only a 32 km hike, it was pretty tiring, and we didn't get to Whitefish until 7 pm. A long day, but filled with many blessings. We have severe weather warnings for tonight, but we are hoping the high winds, hail, and thunderstorms miss us.

See you on the trail!

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