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Bold: Northerners love their rocks and trees, trees and rocks

There are a lot of reasons why ‘rockhounds’ enjoy the great outdoors looking for their favourite rocks and minerals. In Sudbury it helps that a meteorite crashed here 1.8 billion years ago. 

Some years ago, a clever Southern Ontario wag — the great and talented Wendell Ferguson — wrote a funny song about Northern Ontario called Rocks and Trees.

And that's what his song is about, what you see when you travel Highway 17. Rocks and trees, and, trees and rocks. Give it a listen

That might help explain why so many Northern Ontario residents have such an enduring interest in the rocks of Northern Ontario. They're just everywhere. And people will travel throughout the North to find rocks and minerals that are interesting. 

In many circles this is called “rockhounding” and it's one of those activities that inspires people to enjoy the great outdoors.

Ruth Debicki is a well-known Northern Ontario woman (and rockhounder) with more than an enduring interest in rocks and minerals.

Along with being the current vice president of the Sudbury Rock & Lapidary Society (SRLS), Debicki is also a professional geologist. If you have ever attended Sudbury's popular Annual Gem and Mineral Show, you may have met Debicki. 

The show just marked its 40th anniversary. Debicki has attended more than 30 of those shows. 

She said finding rocks might be easier in Northern Ontario, but the interest in rocks goes far beyond this part of the province. 

"Well, I don't think it's just in the North, it may be though, that people in the North have more opportunity for exposure to rocks. And you know, even when we were kids, it was always the treasure hunt, you know, where we're going to be able to find gold, or we're going to be able to find the pirates chest, whatever," she said.

Debicki said it helps that Sudbury is the only municipality in the world that has the remnants of two meteorite impacts within the city limits.

She said the annual mineral show helps perpetuate the interest in rocks and gemstones. 

"People who come to the show come for a whole bunch of reasons. I mean, we have people who come and say, ‘you know, I haven't come until this year, and I wish I had come before because I just thought it was for the miners in town.’ And it's totally not," she said. 

Rockhounding appeals to many people for a lot of different reasons, Debicki added.

"So there are people who love nature. They like getting out there and hiking around and looking at the plants, the animals and the rocks that are underfoot. And we say as geologists, because both my husband and I are trained as geologists, that rocks speak a different language. But once you understand that language, they have real stories to tell. Okay so that's part of it."

Debicki suggested there are a lot of ways for ordinary rock lovers to learn about the geology of Northern Ontario especially if they do a Google Search of Northern Ontario Geotours.

She said the Ontario government website provides information on tours for the Sudbury region. Or, for those who are willing to travel a bit there is information on geotouring across Northern Ontario. This includes Cobalt, Kirkland Lake, Timmins, Thunder Bay and several other northern destinations. 

Len Gillis covers health care and mining for Bold is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.