With the cold wind blowing across his face, and his skin tight from the salt air, Leif Ericson looked out over the new land that he had recently discovered. The bottom of his boat began to scrape into the beach sands, and as he stepped out onto the shoreline, of what we now know to be the northern tip of Newfoundland, he declared that this new land would be called Vineland!The year was 997, almost 500 years before Columbus.This very important piece of history, as well as my own Scandinavian heritage, formed the backdrop of my vacation in the summer of 2007.
During that summer my family traveled to Newfoundland with some close family friends to explore our ancestry, as well as 2 World Heritage Sites in these eastern Canadian provinces. The trip started in Nova Scotia, a long 16 hours drive from my home in Rhode Island, where my friends have a simple yet beautiful cabin on the coast of Cape Breton. After spending a night to refresh we were off on the adventure I will never forget. Both families crammed into a single minivan, loaded up with gear driving to catch the overnight ferry to Newfoundland.
After landing, we traveled up the west coast to the Gros Morne National Park, the first of 2 World Heritage sites we’d visit, to camp for several days.This park, with its varying extremes of geography, is recognized by world organizations as a place of major significance.The first hike was up the Tablelands, an arid, moonlike area. From the road you could see the snow topped summit a short distance away. The main trail did not go to the top, but that did not stop our family from getting to our destination. We hiked off trail and making our own path. At the top there was sadly no view because the fog rolled in, but that didn’t stop us from having fun, including a snowball fight in the middle of August. After conquering the Tablelands we drove to Gros Morne itself, one of the most beautiful alpine areas in the world. Hiking all the way to the top and seeing the amazing view was worth the trouble.
After a short jaunt across to Labrador & back, we moved on toward L’Anse aux Meadows, the place of Leif Ericson’s settlement, and the highlight of the whole trip. L’Anse aux meadows was really exciting because I was able to see how my ancestors lived a thousand years ago. It’s the historic site of where the Vikings first landed and settled in North America. The museum hasreplicated the original settlement based on archeological digs and old Viking Sagas, and reenact how they lived. The archeological locations of buildings have also been mapped, including the chief’s quarters where Leif Erikson likely slept. I was able to lay down right where Leif Erikson laid a thousand years before I was born.During our 2 days at the site, I was also able to spend time with the blacksmith; making arrow heads from bog iron ore. For a few hours I felt like a Viking living on this remote coast of North America
After leaving L’Anse aux Meadows, we headed eastward toward St. Johns, passing “Iceberg Alley” along the way.My trip ended with a rough 17 hour ferry trip back to Nova Scotia, where we were caught in a gale.Standing on the deck, before being ordered below, it felt exciting to have the cold wind blowing in my face, and the salt air against my skin.
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