The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
WOLF LAKE — It’s my second day on Wolf Lake, a beryl-blue beauty socketed in quartzite hills north of Markstay, when I trip across the core samples.
Perhaps a dozen in all, these palm-length cylinders of rock — some a marbled pink, most the same greyish-white hue you see on the surface — form a weird pile at my feet, like the petrified scat of dinosaurs.
Paul Tukker, a former reporter with Sudbury CBC and my supposed companion on this trip, is currently AWOL. We’ve paddled over from our campsite on the eastern shore to explore this southwest bay, but he’s slipped away on me again.
To cool off, would be my educated guess. It’s another scorcher, and Tukker has already swum about six times since we set out yesterday from a public launch on Matagamasi Lake, crossing a couple of smaller lakes and two short but taxing portages en route. One time he disappeared mid-portage, when there wasn’t even any water in sight, and reappeared soaking wet. He’s a walking divining rod, this guy.
In his absence, I poke around the old mining camp, which also seems premised on a kind of divination to me, although in this case the goal obviously isn’t water or even oil, but minerals, and, in particular, that mother of all minerals, gold.
I’ve heard this from a few commentators before I make my trek to Wolf Lake, but it’s confirmed for me on my return, when I get an email from Murdo D. McLeod of Flag Resources, the Calgary-based firm that holds two leases and several claims in the area. Although the company’s website mentions other precious metals, as well as a few base metals, as targets of its subterranean probing, the “recent focus,” writes Mr. McLeod, “has been on gold occurrences in the area.”
This picked-over point isn’t the only spot where Flag has carried out exploration work — the latest activity, McLeod says, has been in a spot some 500 metres south of Wolf, near a glorified pond called Jess Lake — but it’s clearly seen a lot of use over the years. There’s a set of tire tracks going down to the shore, a coil of discarded plastic hose and several rusty tubes sticking out of the ground — ports, evidently, for the diamond bits of Flag’s mighty augers. I’m in what basically amounts to a chewed-up clearing, and I don’t think beavers are to blame.
All of this comes as stark contrast to the rest of the lake, which strikes me as nearly perfect. From the rocky shelf where we’ve pitched our tents, you look out over a heart-slowing expanse of preternaturally clear water, its surface studded with spiky islets, its shores thick with angular boulders, lofty pines and a profusion of pink flower I later learn is sheep laurel.
You could be in a far-flung corner of Temagami or Killarney — it’s got the oversized conifers of the former and the pearly rock of the latter — yet in reality you’re just a few hours away from Highway 17 and the fish and chip shack at Kukagami Jack’s.
You are, in fact, still in Sudbury. I look at my topo map while drying out around a fire on our first night — a thunderstorm struck just as we were setting up camp — and verify that, yes, as much as we feel like we’re in the middle of nowhere, we are within the municipal boundaries.
Were the city fathers ever interested in attempting some jurisdictional acrobatics, Wolf Lake could become the wildest urban park on the planet.
In the meantime, Wolf Lake is not any kind of park, even though there are lakes immediately north and south of here that are encircled in the protective arms — rendered as thick green bands on my topo — of the provincially designated Chiniguchi Waterway system.
It’s not a regulated park, but it’s a park, meaning canoeing is in, and ore extraction is out.
Fans of the Chiniguchi were assured in 1999, when this wilderness tract was established, that Wolf Lake would eventually be added to the fold — as soon as existing mineral rights lapsed or expired. Last year, however, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines renewed one of two leases held by Flag at Wolf Lake, and the other was granted a similar 30-year extension this spring. Together these holdings span 340 hectares and won’t come up again for renewal until 2031 and 2033, respectively.
Chiniguchi, I’ve read, means “Guts off to the side” in Ojibway. The same original inhabitants called Wolf Lake “Ma-heen-gun,” their word for wolf, so I guess it’s the haunt of a wild canine however you cut it.
But this lupine lake is also arguably the most scenic and ecologically significant link in the whole Chiniguchi chain, most of which has already been deemed worthy of preservation. In this sense, it’s not so much some scrap of viscera left off to the side as a hole in the very middle.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Sudbury Star website: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2012/06/30/is-this-a-park-or-a-mine-site