The Australian Outback, the Sahara Desert and the Steppes of the Ukraine – internationally known landscapes that conjure romance and adventure. Add another to your list, The Canadian Shield. When we are being modest it is also known as the Precambrian Shield.
The Shield covers 2/3 of the province of Ontario, stretching from the tiny tip in Southern Ontario to the north. Ever widening as one travels further and further north. The photo was taken in Bala, along the southerly edge of the Shield. The farther north you travel the taller the rock faces are and the scrubbier the trees that cling atop them.
When we drove home yesterday, the rock cuts were bejeweled with icicles, sparkling in the sun. But as we drove south, the jewels melted and the vegetation was advanced in comparison to North Bay. North is relative in Canada. Bala is farther North than Toronto, North Bay farther north than Bala, Timmins farther north than North Bay. Nunavut is farther North than Ontario.
Of all the Norths we are, the North of the Canadian Shield may be the least known to foreigners. Dotted by lakes and crossed by rivers and streams, the Shield is canoe country. There are plenty of parks in which to camp. If you are looking for 4-star accommodation in a wilderness environment, the Shield offers that too.
Wildlife watchers can add moose sightings to their life list. I drove past an athletic field one morning in North Bay and saw deer grazing. Bird watchers with a penchant for waterfowl will love the Shield.
If you like getting muddy on all terrain vehicles-there is a spot for that too. We accidentally found ourselves in the middle of an ATV meet, surrounded by two dozen vehicles caked in mud. They were attended by a few drivers equally mud spattered.
Living on the Shield a century ago was dangerous. A timber accident killed a relative. Miners lost their lives digging out the riches buried beneath the surface of the Shield. Railway workers lost their lives in explosions as tracks were built across the rocky landscape.
The Shield still balks at change. A new divided highway is nearing completion. The rock cuts we passed on the newer stretches of road were marked by the holes drilled to take the explosives required to move tons of rock.
Those craggy cliffs and scrub bush; the beaver huts surrounded by ponds; birds circling over carrion; and the call of a loon – that landscape defines home for me.