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Crossing Canada Day #15: North Bay and Samuel de Champlain Park

We continue our Chronicles of Crossing Canada. Welcome back!

Waking up with the same headache was like a reminder of our previous day’s frustrating drive but my spirits were up because I knew we only had a short drive today.

Highway 120 North, Ontario by Jaime Lee Lightle (2022)

We found a Mr. Lube not far from our hotel in Sudbury, and bonus, it was close to a Timmies! The nice techs at Mr. Lube changed the truck’s oil and transmission fluid which was also due and well worth the $500 price! By 11am we were off again, our next stop: the Nickel!

The Big Nickel, Sudbury. Photo credit: Jaime Lee Lightle

Sitting atop a shelf of rock it stood, tall and shimmering in the mid-day sun, the large replica of the Canadian Nickel. The brainchild of former Sudbury firefighter and now entrepreneur Ted Szilva and sculptor Bruno Cavallo, the Big Nickel stands on a hill and is meant to represent the efforts of Sudbury nickel miners. The massively iconic coin is an exact replica of the actual currency as it was designed in 1951, although much harder to spend. It was constructed in 1964 using a series of steel plates designed to weather the Ontario climes, all attached to an inner frame and welded together to make it look like one solid coin. The Nickel stands on a base that allows visitors to walk under and around the giant bit of spare change” (

Selfie at the Big Nickel, Sudbury. Photo credit: Jaime Lee Lightle

The museum was closed but that didn’t matter so we took photo selfies in front of the Nickel and walked around and explored the grounds. As we pulled out of the parking lot, Jim played Stompin Tom’s ‘Sudbury Saturday Night’ on his phone. I left Sudbury feeling a positive vibe – Nickel town – you’re good in my books!

Our next destination on our trek was North Bay for supplies for the cooler. As we drove, the trees continued to show their reds and orange highlights as Fall was getting close. I forgot how much I enjoyed the scenery from Hwy 17; the familiar geography, and beauty that I took for granted for most of my life.

At this point on our travels, we’d already seen hundreds of road signs advertising the businesses that are in the communities along our journey but the one I saw as we were coming into North Bay blew me away unexpectedly. The Arugula Restaurant in North Bay is a Neapolitan stye fire over pizza restaurant in downtown North Bay. For our first wedding anniversary way back in 2013, we spent the weekend in Calendar Bay and had dinner at this wonderful restaurant. The pandemic lockdowns and mandates wreaked havoc on many businesses across Canada and I felt relieved to see that this place where we made such a precious memory still existed.

We took the exit into North Bay and grabbed supplies at the No Frills. When we set off again for our next destination of the day, Samuel de Champlain Park, we noticed a long lineup in the parking lot of the mall where I recall I bought some boots back on our anniversary trip. The lineup was for the ‘Vaccine Clinic’, yes, a vaccine clinic in the parking lot of a mall. I had to turn my eyes away from the lineup of masked-zombie-like figures to keep the rush of sadness from filling my heart. “We cannot avoid seeing things we don’t want see” I told myself.

It was only another hour of driving before we got to the park. We were getting used to the self-serve check-in – yet another vestige of the time we’re in. Luckily for us, the Park Shop was open. The store had lots of real neat things, gifts, camping accoutrement, plus the usual ice and wood. The prices were good and so Jim bought me a sweet Swedish Knife like the one he got from his brother.

We got to site #7 which backed on to the Amable du Ford River. Just up from us was Moore Lake. There was a nice bench to sit at the water’s edge plus a dock, boat rentals and beaches. It was quiet in the park as not many people camp mid-week in mid-September.

The facilities were immaculate. We relaxed as we waited for our laundry to cycle through the wash/dryer. We dipped our toes into the Lake at the beach, the water was so warm! Jim was happy to be able to feed a Red Squirrel some of our peanuts right out of his hand. All is well when you’re in nature. We made plans for our next leg of the journey. Only five days of freedom left. We had another picnic style supper, then a nice, warm fire had us up until 11 pm.

Jim writing….

Waking up in Sudbury there was only one thing on my mind: get truck-house serviced which we did at Mr. Lube. The mechanics were mostly Sikh; as in the rest of the country, the immigrants were hustling. They did a great job, and it gave me the reassurance that truck-house would make it the rest of the way. The sun is shining so we did not hesitate to get back on the road.

Oil change, Sudbury. Photo credit: Jaime Lee Lightle

With the truck serviced, our second destination of the day was the Big Nickel. The big beauty was great to see. I heard the Stompin Tom Conners song Sudbury Saturday Night so much when I was younger it only made sense to play it when we drove away from the big Nickel. “Da girls are out to bingo and the boys are getting stinko and we think no more of INCO on a Sudbury Saturday night”.

After Sudbury, we headed towards North Bay. The last time we visited North Bay was for our first-year anniversary, yet this place reminds me of my Grandmother because on our first year anniversary my Grandmother Lightle passed away. This time we will have no sadness in our hearts, just the joy of shopping and seeing signs of places we have been before.

After doing some grocery shopping, we headed further east towards Samuel Champlain provincial park. We passed signs of new cannabis shops, and towns that we passed in our past. We were heading towards Mattawa and Big Joe Mufferaw (Joseph Montferrand), yet we didn’t make it all the way to see big Joe.

Samuel de Champlain Park was something to behold. I felt as if I had found this park while I was still living in Pembroke we would have camped here. We learned that the park river is enjoyed by many who come to go tubing. We tubed in New Brunswick on the Nashwaak River with my brother and his wife before they had kids. When his kids get older, we should go back. The park office had all the amenities that one would need. I was able to buy Jaime a Morakniv knife. It is always good to have a knife on you in the woods. It is always good to carry a pocketknife in general, they come in handy all the time.

Moore Lake, Samuel de Champlain Park. Photo credit: Jaime Lee Lightle

We walked the campground looking at the different setups people had, but we still had the smallest set up of all. Truck-house might be small, but it has everything we need to get by. We did our laundry in what seemed to be a very new building and walked more of the park as our clothes went through the cycle.

I chatted with a lady who spent most of her Summers at this park and she gave me the lowdown of everything fun to do while staying at the camp. I felt bad that we were only staying one night, there was a good energy there.

With the laundry all done, all that was left to do was make supper and a fire. A little red Squirrel ate out of my hand which made the experience better. As the night fell over the camp and the fire a-roaring, we were heard some rustling around our bag of peanuts I had bought. I shined a flashlight over in the direction of the bag to see little mice doing flips and carrying peanuts. Such a funny sight to see, one looked as if it was doing parkour.

With the dying down of the fire, we made our way to bed.

Dog River, Saskatchewan by Jaime Lee Lightle (2022)

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