Eastern Canada road trip - Tablelands, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

So, it's been a while...

Summer showed up and it's been non-stop for months. It's been hard to find the time to edit and post but I'm sure everything will settle down eventually. 

Back to our east coast trip and a beautiful evening hike in the Tablelands. The landscape here is otherworldly. It would seem more at home in the desert landscapes of the American southwest than in Newfoundland.  To hike in the Tablelands is to walk on the mantle of the earth, which is normally far below the earth's crust. Peridotite was forced to the surface during a plate collision several hundred million years ago. The rusty colour indicates high levels of iron.  Highly toxic minerals and a lack of nutrients results in little plant growth - thus the barren landscape.

Our hike was the perfect end to a stressful day.  It was a warm evening and we had the trail to ourselves. Three girls in a vast, quiet landscape.

Eastern Canada road trip - Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne National Park

It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at Gros Morne National Park. After pitching our tents, we laced up our boots and headed out on a short hike (3km one way) to Western Brook Pond, one of the easiest and most beautiful hikes in the park.

The day was beautiful. The sun was shining, the sky blue and full of fluffy clouds. Even as more clouds rolled in and the wind began to blow, it only added to the atmosphere of the landscape. We passed over limestone ridges. The wind whipped the water from the bogs onto the boardwalk.  We arrived at the lake just as the clouds completely covered the sky, but hot chocolate from the shop warmed us up. Boat tours were available through the fjord but we arrived too late to catch the final cruise of the day.

The fjord was incredible. More than a hundred glaciers surged through the Long Range Mountains during the last Ice Age, each one scraping, carrying and wearing down metres of rock. The movement of the glaciers created deep ravines, forming dramatic landscapes such as the cliffs that tower over Western Brook Pond. The weight of the ice sheet put pressure on the land, forcing it downwards until the lowlands were below sea level. When the ice started to melt, the valley between the 2000-foot high cliffs filled with saltwater, turning it into a fjord. The departure of the heavy ice caused the land to rebound, as 2km thick glaciers were no longer pushing it down. The lake was cut off from the ocean by the rebounding land and the deposits left behind by the glaciers. The salt water was eventually flushed out and the fresh water now found in the lake has an extremely high purity rating.

Eventually, threatening skies and the encroaching darkness forced us to head back to our campsite and a warm dinner prepared over an open fire.

Eastern Canada road trip - L'Anse aux Meadows

In the last decade of the 1400s, two Italian explorers set off to chart a new route to the Orient, seeking their fortunes in the trade of spices from the East. Financed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, Christopher Columbus was the first to set sail, departing from Palos de la Frontera in 1492 with three ships and the promise of great wealth and power over land and sea if the voyage was successful.

In early October, after spotting land for the first time in five weeks, Columbus made landfall in the Bahamas. While on the island, which he named San Salvador, Columbus caught a glimpse of one of the great treasures of the New World - gold. No route to the East was found, however, Columbus returned three times to explore the islands and coastlines of Central and South America. 

A fellow Genoese navigator, John Cabot, was the second explorer to set sail across the unknown. Departing from Bristol, England with a royal patent from King Henry VII, Cabot's first voyage to discover a route to the East was a failure and he was forced to return after battling bad weather and running low on supplies.

Sailing on the Mathew on his second voyage, however, Cabot went ashore on June 24, 1497 on the coast of North America. The location of Cabot's landfall is disputed - it could have been Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia or the United States - and it lasted only a brief moment. After standing on land in the New World one time, the rest of Cabot's exploration was made from aboard the ship as his crew traveled along the coast. Cabot made a third journey to North America but little is known of the trip.

And so, for more than four centuries, credit was given to a pair of Genoese explorers for the discovery of the Americas despite Norse sagas, which claimed the Vikings were the first Europeans to reach the New World some 500 years before Columbus.

In 1960, in a small fishing village on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, resident George Decker led Helge Ingstad to what the locals believed to be an 'old Indian camp'. Helge, an explorer, and his wife Anne Stine, an archaeologist, were searching for Vinland, a place mentioned in Norse sagas as the settlement established by Leif Erikson around the year 1001.

Seven archeological excavations, led by Anne Stine Ingstad, unearthed the remains of eight buildings at L'Anse aux Meadows, including dwellings, workshops and a smithy. It is believed that the intriguing and fierce Vikings lived and worked in sod buildings for a short period of time.

Presently, L'Anse aux Meadows is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the only conclusively proven Norse settlement in North America and the place where the first noted presence of Europeans is found in the New World.

Although the original excavations were reburied to protect the site, you can tour a recreated version of the Norse settlement and view the ruins of the original camp. Visit the Interpretation Centre to learn more about Leif Erikson and the Vikings who lived at L'Anse aux Meadows more than 1000 years ago.

The original ruins, reburied to protect the site

There is a beautiful coastal hiking trail at L'Anse aux Meadows. Although it drizzled during the tour of the settlement, our guide promised that the rain would soon stop. He was right. As we headed out on the hike, the clouds scattered and the sun came out. The wind was brisk. A stunningly gorgeous afternoon emerged. In the beginning, the trail followed the rugged coastline, over rocks and hills, up stairs and then down again. Eventually it turned inland and boardwalks led over bogs and marshes, where we enjoyed fresh cloudberries and a close encounter with an enormous moose.