3 Years Around North America, Plus a Few More


In August, 2014 we purchased a 2006 Sprinter from Sportsmobile Texas, where it had been on consignment from the original owners. The High Roof 158” wheel base T1N had low miles (13,500) and was in excellent condition, aside from the tires, which had spent too much time in the Colorado sun. The van stayed in Austin through the fall while Sportsmobile added 200 watts of solar panels, an inverter, Espar diesel heater, and reconfigured the long bench seats to a partial platform bed.

Two friends and I flew to Austin in early December and drove west toward Palm Springs where my wife would meet us in just under a week. Our first night was spent in one of the few state parks in Texas, just outside of Austin. From there we went across New Mexico and Arizona rough camping on BLM lands and empty campgrounds.

We are sea-kayakers and backpackers from Southeast Alaska, so the luxury of a 20 gallon water tank, toilet, counter space and cushions made this a unique experience. In winter we often book forest service cabins as a group, and by the third night the van had been given the name “the Cabin”.

There are no roads out of Juneau, and my driving had been limited to business trips through Interior Alaska for the past 17 years. Traveling 300-400 miles a day was enjoyable, especially after leaving the Interstate. We soon learned that the Sprinter also handled well on two tracks. It crawled across a couple of streams overflowing their culverts in Cochise Stronghold, Arizona, and navigated a rutted out forest service road in California that had been torn up by an early December storm.

The Sprinter's “full Cramden” driving position took a bit getting used to, but isn't a problem. The view from the huge windscreen and side windows is remarkable, and the height surpasses my 4Runner by what seems a foot. It felt nice to be on the road again.

My two friends left the van in Palm Springs where I met Eve who had flown in from Juneau. We spent a couple of nights in Joshua Tree, then headed across the state to the coast and north to Seattle. For the next 10 days we woke to views of red woods or the beach. It was a luxury to flip the heater on to cut the chill and brew tea inside the van.

While the “Cabin” spent the rest of the winter outside of Olympia, Washington, we were preparing for my retirement and Eve's transition to working as a traveling speech pathologist. We also bought a home in Port Townsend, Washington, where her parents would house sit for the next few years. I announced my retirement to my Board of Directors in late January with an effective date of May 1.

A friend and I flew to Seattle in early May, picked up the Sprinter and drove north through British Columbia and the Yukon to Skagway, Alaska where the van was driven on to the MV Aurora for the final leg by sea into Juneau. The Cassiar Highway has lost some character as it gained asphalt, but the mountains remain, as does the endless forest. The Alaska Highway is what it has always been, long distances of boredom interspaced with magical moments of wildlife and views that you just can't believe exist. The two bears who sauntered along the highway digging for voles was one such moment.

The British Columbia and Yukon campgrounds didn't open until mid May, so we found a place to camp each night by turning off a side road where the snow had melted in the increasing light.

Once back in Juneau, I wrapped up the sale of our house, started culling and packing for a 2-3 year road trip around North America.

The move to the Sprinter from our house meant a loss of about 1600 square feet of living space and another 350 from the garage. How could we have enough room to carry everything we would need, including backpacking gear and Eve's work clothing and her violin? More importantly, how would we get along in a 21' van? Neither has been a problem, perhaps because we've tried very hard over the years to keep our kayaking and backpacking base-weight low, and we don't like clutter. There is a substantial amount of cabinet space in the van. The overhead cabinets are used for clothing in the rear and store our cups, pots and pan above the sink. There is a large food storage area under the refrigerator, a counter top with a pull out pantry with an additional 8 drawers, and a storage area for our Baja Burner stove above the microwave. Duffles, back packs and hats are stowed in the voluminous cabinet above the passenger seating area forward. The bathroom cabinets hold more than we could possible fill. There is also room in there for folding chairs and Eve's fly fishing rods. 14867205196_04e172a34a_m.jpg

Aside from a few loud conversations stemming from navigation, we've done well spending so much time together. We've found ways to have our own space in the van. We can't see each other If I sit in the passenger seat facing the rear, and Eve sits on the port bench with her back to the closet. It's a little thing, but it helps. We had thought that a weekly stay in a hotel would offset the seemingly cramped space of the van. It turns out that hasn't been necessary. We did spend one night in a hotel on the road, and another in Labrador, but that was on an island and the Sprinter was on the mainland.

Rebuilding the bed by cutting the bench seats in half and adding a platform over the rear has given us substantially more space for storage, and having that space open to the front of the living area makes it easy to put things out of the way and off the platform at night. Transitioning to the bed is also simple, with half the bed ready for use. Our sleep system consists of two flat sheets sewn together half of the way up the side and closed at the bottom. Our double sleeping quilt is used on top as a comforter and in our tent when backpacking. A 3'x5' Turkish rug is placed under the platform mattress while on the road, and the pillows are used as bolsters. 15999037901_f3766a3413_m.jpg

We began living in the Sprinter at a Forest Service Campground near the Mendenhall Glacier. A leak in the Sprinter's roof appeared the night before we were leaving to meet movers in our new home in Port Townsend. I left the van with a friend who re-caulked everything on top. This proved to be only a partial fix, as a much smaller leak appears in heavy rain when the van is slanted forward. I believe it is due to the seam in the roof under the solar panels, and will have it fixed while we are stopped for a few months in North Carolina.

As of early November, 2015, we've driven 17,000 miles, and most of that in Canada. On July 29th we began this segment of the road trip by taking the ferry out of Juneau to Skagway and then into the Yukon. IMG_2605.jpg

Our first night was spent boondocking at a rough camp on a micro-wave tower road a few miles from the southern bend of the Swift River. We followed the Alaska Highway for two days before turning north onto the Liard Trail toward Yellowknife. The Liard is paved for the first 10 miles then becomes gravel and dirt. Everything inside the van was covered with dust, mostly from passing trucks, though I believe that our own wheels added to the film in the rear of the Sprinter. Our only night along the Laird was spent at the Blackstone Territorial Campground, situated between the highway and its namesake river. It has the best shower (wash) room of any park we've visited. Worth the trip to see the inside, which is more like a hip urban hotel than a campground.DSCF7383.jpg

Ernie Barnhardt stopped us at a road house before the last run into Yellowknife. As a teenager in the 1930s his father left Teller Alaska on a whaler heading to the Beaufort Sea. He left the vessel at Hershel Island, which is near the Canadian border, and made his way up the MacKenzie River to Yellowknife. There he met Ernie's mother and started a family. Ernie was born there in the 1940s, the youngest of many children. We have common friends from the Nome and Kotzebue area, which he has visited during meetings of the Circumpolar Institute.

Yellowknife is a large town with a lot of banks and mobile homes. There is only one coffee shop, and it was closed on Sunday and Monday, which was a “Civic” holiday. There are no barista stands, making this the last market for Starbucks west of the Mississippi. We found the Territorial campground on the edge of the airport and settled in for a few days to explore. The historic old town is walkable and was alive with the last day of a river festival. Colorful houseboats dotted the cove and tour operators left with boats full of happy visitors. We had a wonderful meal at the eccentric Bullocks Bistro, which is housed in an historic building not far from the docks. There is an old boat in the neighbor's yard just off the back deck. The fish is from the Great Slave Lake.

I've used the Prince of Wales Heritage Center's website to research arctic kayaks over the years and was looking forward to a prolonged visit to the exhibits. My expectations were not fulfilled. A portrait of Prince Charles — the current Prince of Wales — in full uniform and mounted on a horse is, unfortunately, one of two things that memory holds from that visit. The other is a 40 foot moose hide boat built in the 1980s. The boat was pretty cool.

The Great Slave Lake screams to be explored, and I wished for our kayaks, which were in Port Townsend hanging in the garage. The Sprinter's roof height at 9' is really too tall for us to maneuver a couple of boats, and the solar panels and AC unit provide little space even if we could reach them. It was a hard call to not bring some kind of water craft with us on this journey. We rationalized that we would rent kayaks along the way, but the only place we asked if we could rent overnight refused.

From Yellowknife we drove the eastern side of the McKenzie Highway loop into Alberta. The Louis and Alexandra falls on the Hay River are spectacular. We walked the bluff trail toward dusk, and were given the sight of a barred owl flying low toward us before veering off and up into a tree.

For the next five days we sped across Canada, keeping as far north as possible in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba before dropping down to the Trans Canada Highway west of Ontario. We were rushing toward the east, as even two months isn't a lot of time with the prospect of campgrounds closing along the Atlantic coast by mid-September.

During this run our days began between 6:30 and 7:00 with showers if available, then tea and breakfast. We were usually on the road by 8:30 and would drive until noon, when we would stop for lunch. Picnic areas and rest stops are plentiful along the blue highways we traveled, and parks are in many of the small towns. We turned off the highway for lunch in Manitoba and ran into a wedding party using the local picnic area for a photo shoot. The young Bride was dressed in white and looked as though she will make a strong farm wife. The bridesmaids were dressed like harlots, with long gowns split up to the thigh. Following lunch we drove, often until 6 or 7 pm and making between 300 and 400 miles a day on the two-lane roads.

Dinner are prepared using a Snow Peak Baja Burner or outside on a small Snow Peak fireplace with gathered wood or charcoal. An adapter allowing the Baja Burner to use Coleman Propane bottles proved useful in parts of Canada, where isobutane cartridges are nonexistent. A small backpacking stove is also available if we need a second pot - which we have not. Having a microwave and 3.5 cubic foot refrigerator has helped a lot too. Most of what we have for dinner is prepared using just one 3.5 quart pot. The microwave speeds things up when necessary and can act as a second burner if needed. Every couple of days we would stop at a local market for vegetables and fruit.DSCF7446.jpgDSCF7502.jpg

Canadian provincial and national campgrounds are abundant along this route and we would start to look for one toward the end of our day. Most were pleasant, though the Marten River Campground on the Lesser Great Slave Lake was overcrowded and filthy. Marten River only accepts on-line or phone reservations. There isn't even an “iron Ranger” in which to deposit your fee. As our phones didn't work in Canada, and we had yet found anyone who would sell us a short term account, we slipped out early the next morning to avoid embarrassing questions that might arise from a campground employee.

Boondocking wasn't as easy as I had hoped, though I imagine that would be different if we were more familiar with the area. We did camp rough on a number of occasions in Canada, at trail heads and out-of-the-way overlooks. We also stayed in a few ferry terminals in order to make early morning sailings. We've managed to avoid staying in Wal-Mart or other parking lots, more on principle than necessity.

We are settled for a few months after four months traveling. Eve has a 13 week job here Shelby, North Carolina. We decided to rent an apartment -- unfurnished -- instead of a large house fully furnished on a lake outside of the city. This allows us to walk to restaurants, galleries and music. And besides, we didn't want to take this adventure and live like we would at home. The Earl Scruggs Center in the former County Court House, and the Don Gibson Theater — which offers live music — are just a couple of blocks away. The “Cabin” is used on weekends to explore the National Forests and State Parks of western North Carolina. So now, it's back to university days with no furniture aside from what we took from the van.

I'll post another section in a day or two.

More photographs are available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/umnak/
See, Cabin on the Road, Road Trip 2014, Road Trip Canada albums
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Welcome to North Carolina!

What a great story!

Welcome to North Carolina. You're not far from some fine whitewater, and the hiking/backpacking opportunities are almost endless. Enjoy!

Raleigh, NC


What a great story!

Welcome to North Carolina. You're not far from some fine whitewater, and the hiking/backpacking opportunities are almost endless. Enjoy!

Raleigh, NC

So far we love Shelby and Western NC. Have done one backpacking trip and a couple of campgrounds in the National Forest. Looking to explore the Linville Gorge later this month.


Active member
If you can snag a campsite on the lake at Julian Price Memorial Park, I'd recommend it. It's gorgeous and right off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone/Blowing Rock. If you go I'd recommend eating at the Coyote Kitchen in Boone; try one of the "Boats."

The Mt Pisgah NF area is also a really nice place.

Have fun!


We stayed at the Julian Price Park, on our way down the BRP. It was a great camp site. Also have stayed at Lake Powhaten, South Mountains and the Davidson River Campground.

A few additional images from the Yukon and Northwest Territories
Waking up in the Yukon.jpg
Waking up in the Yukon

Tea in the Yukon.jpg
Morning Tea - Liard River

Liard Highway.jpg
Liard Highway

Yellowknife Camp.jpg
Yellowknife Camp
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The Plains to PEI

SPOT Waypoints from the Yukon to Alexandra Falls
Yukon to Alberta.jpg

And from Alberta to Ontario

Stopping in small towns for fuel and groceries gave us a sense of rural life in the Plains Provinces. Some of that was predictable such as the extensive agriculture and oil/gas infrastructure in Alberta and western Saskatchewan. Other vignettes are less so. In a small town market I saw three Moslem women with head scarfs at one end of the store and two Mennonite women wearing even more modest dress and smaller head coverings at the other end. I wonder if the two speak with each other, if the longer settled Mennonites offer encouragement and advice to the new neighbors?

An old man sat in the information cabin entering Big River, Saskatchewan. We had stopped to get a provincial map, and to ask about campgrounds. It seems like a good opportunity for him and the community, as he gets to talk to the occasional traveller and the town gets a volunteer service that would otherwise be absent. And he knew everything about the area.

In Manitoba amid the huge grain towers the sign that welcomes us to Tisdale reads, “The Land of Rape and Honey”, and we understood why most places call it Canola. The grain elevators have the name of the community prominently displayed on their tall metal sides. They look like ancient siege engines cobbled together over the course of many wars.

Alberta Hay Field.jpgHay Field

All along the highways from the Yukon to Ontario are abandoned dreams in the form of lodges, road houses, service stations and shops. The distance between the towns shrank with improved roads and faster vehicles, and people found other options along the road. These buildings are in various states of disrepair. Some have tow trucks and equipment rusting in the yards, others are burned out or vacant hulks. I imagine it wouldn’t take many winters to age anything in this country.


Our first night in Ontario was spent at Kakabeka Falls, which is the barrier from Lake Superior to the Lake of the Woods and was the portage from hell over the 120’ falls.


A long time kayaking guide friend and his wife live in suburban Ottawa. I’d not seen him since we were on Baffin Island in 1998, and was ready for a good visit. We spent a night with them in Orlean, and a weekend at their cottage in Quebec. The “Cabin” did well on the road to the cottage, which is little more than a two track with steep approaches and descents. And we were able to paddle their kayaks! It was here that we saw our first mannequins placed in odd situations out of doors. Weird Canadian thing, as we saw similar examples in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Sedans replaced the ubiquitous Ford F150 as we made our way along the St. Lawrence toward Quebec City. At some point in Alberta we noticed that we had not seen a car all day, though to be fair, we had only seen a handful of vehicles.

Quebec City Camp.jpg

We stayed in Quebec City’s Bassin Louise Gere parking lot in the downtown Marina. The price was more than double what we had been spending at campgrounds, and there were no services, but it was within walking distance of the old town, which we were able to visit twice without having to worry about finding a place to park. Here we discovered that by closing the privacy blinds we could stay anywhere. Anyone planning a trip to Quebec City would be wise to consider this option. I thought we might stay in a hotel once every 10 days to offset the cramped space of the "cabin". It turns out we only spent one night in a hotel along the road system during our three months. The Sprinter is a comfortable place to be.


There are no billboards in Alaska, and even storefront signs are limited in terms of visibility to the road. That isn’t the case in Canada. All along the highways billboards display the attempt at real estate agents to cultivate personality cults among potential clients. Women posed wearing tight dresses and republican hairdos, men smiling with open shirts, but still in the suit they arrived in at the photographer’s. And if the ad isn’t about property happiness, it’s about the coming of the anti-christ or tearing at your heart strings to stop for the school bus. There is little advertising for anything else.

Gaspe River.jpg

We decided not to drive the Trans Labrador Highway from west to east as planned while we were in Quebec. The math just wasn’t working out in terms of having the time to be able to explore Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and drive the highway. So, we drove across the Gaspe Peninsula into New Brunswick and on to Prince Edward Island (PEI) instead. Decisions are often like that, opening up other opportunities.

Quebec to PEI

Quebec -PEI.jpg
More photographs are available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/umnak/
See, Sportsmobile Sprinter, Road Trip 2014, Road Trip Canada albums


Prince Edward Island and Fort Louisborg, NS

SPOT Waypoints

PEI .jpg

I’d never read Anne of Green Gables, but can now attest to having seen the house that inspired the book. Eve had read it as a young girl and filled me in on the background. We ate well at the local seafood restaurant. The campground at the national park is forgettable, but the beach is very nice. The ocean is as warm there as that of the mid-Atlantic states. Charlottetown is a comfortably sized capital.

Green Gables.jpg
Green Galbles

There is no fee if you take the bridge onto PEI, it’s $28 Canadian for the return. The bridge is very long and very tall. . We crossed to Nova Scotia on the ferry, saving a hundred miles. The ferry was cheap compared to the Alaska Marine Highway, and that’s without the 30% exchange rate in our favor. Everything in Canada was 30% off, which put the price of diesel at a little over $3.00/gallon. We were getting 22-24 mpg depending on the road. Not bad for a 7900 lb. van.


PEI Hay Field

And speaking of being frugal. Park Canada offers a discount pass that is worth the price at about $50 Canadian for geezers and $60 for others. We bought them at the PEI campground and used them whenever we were able. They offer free admittance to Parks Canada historic sites and discounts on campgrounds. Provincial passes are also available, and we purchased those in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. I also purchased the Senior pass for US Parks and Federal Lands, which cuts the price of campgrounds in half. That is, if you purchase the campground site at the park. The online version outsourced to recreation. gov adds a $9 service fee to any reservation. That can result in the campsite costing less than the add-on fee at Forest Service locations.

My father was born in Halifax just after the great munitions explosion of 1917, and I was pleased to see that my family name still has a presence in parts of the Province.


Our first run through Nova Scotia was along the southern shore of the Cape Briton Island. The mist and fog were too thick to see the coast. In places, the road was the worst we had driven including the Liard Trail in the NWT. The occasional workboat anchored in a small creek made the bumps worth the ride. We came this way to visit the reconstructed Fortress of Louisborg 3, which is a Parks Canada historic site based on the early 18th Century French fort that was taken by the English in late 1740s, initiating the Acadian diaspora. The Canadian government rebuilt the fort in the 1960s-70s as an economic stimulus to counter the loss of mining in Cape Briton.The miners became carpenters, stone masons and, eventually interpreters. We spent three hours looking into the various buildings and speaking with the staff in period costume. Those men and women were remarkably well informed of the time and their characters.
Louisborg 2.jpg

We had reservations on the MV Blue Puttes the next morning and crossed Cabot Strait to Newfoundland and then Labrador, where we spent the next three weeks.

Ferry To Nova Scotia.jpg

Lucky j

Nice trip!

but you did realy high tailed it accross canada and quebec. You've mist all of the the Charlevoix area north east of quebec city, actually you saw it accross the st-lawrence river when you drove the trans-canada highway 20 between Montmagny and Riviere du loup before turning south to New-brunswick, you also misted north shore area between Tadousac and Kegaska, the new east end of the 138 highway, an area witch is heaven for sea kayak, on the east coast anyway, and whales watching, you have mist gaspesia and it inland park and mountain as well.

But I guess that in three years total, you will have yje time to come back.

Have a niçe 3 years on the road!


Nice trip!

but you did realy high tailed it accross canada and quebec. You've mist all of the the Charlevoix area north east of quebec city, actually you saw it accross the st-lawrence river when you drove the trans-canada highway 20 between Montmagny and Riviere du loup before turning south to New-brunswick, you also misted north shore area between Tadousac and Kegaska, the new east end of the 138 highway, an area witch is heaven for sea kayak, on the east coast anyway, and whales watching, you have mist gaspesia and it inland park and mountain as well.

But I guess that in three years total, you will have yje time to come back.

Have a niçe 3 years on the road!

We will be back for the north shore of the St. Lawrence and the rest of Quebec -- then on to the East and the Trans-Labrador. I've been to Mount St. Albert in the past and saw the Caribou, and ate the dried cod in Gaspe


Into Newfoundland

Newfoundland SPOT

The ocean going ferry that left from North Sydney, Nova Scotia is large and comfortable. A nice lounge/bar toward the bow offers escape from the large television screens in the main seating area. We crossed Cabot Strait in 6 hours on flat seas arriving in Port aux Basques in the rain and fog. The country along the coast of Port aux Basques looked like a successful Aleutians city, treeless and rocky. The land gradually produces tress as you travel north on one of the best roads we had driven in Canada.


We had begun our multi-year adventure in early July with a flight to Dutch Harbour/Unalaska and, after a visit with friends, sailed to Kodiak on the monthly Alaska Marine Highway ferry. We were now on the opposite side of the hemisphere, as far away as one could be and still think of yourself as being a part of North America.

Port aux Basques
Port aux Basques.jpg

Newfoundland was Britain’s first colony. Port aux Basques was one of many reminders that the Basque had been in this part of the world for a very long time, well before the French or English settled the area permanently. And, of course, in L’anse aux meadow, there is the oldest European settlement, however brief it was occupied. Newfoundland/Labrador is the most recent full member of the Canadian Confederacy, being admitted as a province in the late 1940s after shaking off the yoke of British Colonialism through a public vote. There was talk of becoming a republic and setting off on their own at that time, but all that came of that effort was a tricolor flag, which we are proud to display as our only adornment aside from the Sportsmobile decal. It’s a huge island, and though we had hoped to see more of the land, we were happy in the end to do as we are want to do, get to know a smaller area well.

I had a conversation with two men who were riding their motorcycles to St. Johns as we waited to depart the ferry. In response to my usual question as to what we shouldn’t miss, they gave the predictable answers of Gros Morne — where we did spend a lot of time — and Fago Island — where we didn’t travel. He finished by saying that you could buy beer in the grocery stores everywhere here, but not pot. This led to a general discussion about marijuana, and I mentioned that Alaskan and Oregon voters had legalized pot in the past election, making the west coast the “weed” coast. He said that everyone in Newfoundland smokes pot, “even my doctor”. He said pot was less dangerous than alcohol. That perception is shared by a wide range of people in Alaska, with a common theme that no one gets stoned and decides to beat their wife, unlike what happens with alcohol.

And with that, we headed north to Barchois Pond Provincial Park, where we found a wonderful camp site and some nice neighbors.

Entrance to Gros Morne

The approach to Gros Morne national park is as dramatic an entry as one could imagine. Flat topped mountains create a corridor along the road. There were even more interesting places farther along the road. We walked the short trail along the Tablelands which is one of the few places on earth where her mantle is exposed. Very little grows on this expanse of rock and mountain.


We stayed in a campground along a very rutted road out of the small fishing community of Trout Pond.to Gros Morne.

Trout River Pond Gros Morne.jpg


Gros Morne & Green Garden Backpacking

Garden 1.jpg

We got a backpacking permit for Skinners Cove along the coastal Green Garden Trail. The trail moves through a variety of land forms and micro climates as it passes over the edge of the Tablelands onto the coast and then weaves in and out of the forest to a beautiful and isolated cove.The coast is dramatic, with seastacks, bluffs and large monoliths. Feral sheep grazed at a few spots along the trail, hardly noticing our presence. We passed a number of places that, in Alaska, we would have stopped and spent the evening. Having to be told where to camp is something we would get used to over then next few months.
Garden 2.jpg


We arrived at the designated camp site hot and sweaty in the near 85 degree heat. Eve jumped into the stream and doused herself with cool water while I sat and sweated. We explored the beach and considered a fire, which would have been against the park’s rules, but decided it was too hot to even attempt. After dinner we sat on the beach and watched a full moon rose over the gap and behind our tent, which we used for the first time. We’ve spent years under tarps and in bivies, but decided that the ground bugs and snakes present in most of the country we would be in warranted a tent. I’d much rather shoo off a brown bear than deal with a snake. The next day we hiked the other half of the trail, crossing twice Wallace Brook that emptied into Skinners Cove. The hike isn’t hard, although the heat made is tiring.
Skinners Cove.jpg

Crossing Wallace Brook 1.jpg

The next day we tried to rent kayaks for an overnight in the town of Norris Point, but when I asked the owner of the shop if that were possible, was met with an emphatic “no”. As he had no interest in explaining his response, I had no desire to pursue the question. A kayak in the fjords would be a lot of fun.
Norris Point.jpg

There are a lot of things that we do traveling that we’ve not done in years. One of those is frequenting a laundry mat. Our first month traveling included a weekly search before learning that most privately owned campgrounds have a coin operated or honor system laundry facility. It was simple to find one of those every 7-10 days. These proved to be far more interesting than when I did my wash while at university. The locals were eager to share information about their area and to ask questions about Alaska, and the travelers were a great source for what lay ahead on the road. In Rocky Harbour I met an Acadian family from the northern shore of Nova Scotia who spoke French with each other, but automatically switched to English when addressing others. The father had heard of my grandmother’s home town in central Nova Scotia, and his response confirmed what we would learn in a few weeks; that we were fortunate her family left when they did.

Rocky Harbour.jpg

Rocky Harbour has a number of good restaurants and is close to a couple of Grose Morne’s camp grounds. The weather wasn’t clear enough for a hike up the large mountain, Gros Morne, so we realigned and headed north to L’anse aux Meadow.

Gros Morne Camp.jpg

More photographs are available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/umnak/
See, Sportsmobile Sprinter, Road Trip 2014, Road Trip Canada albums


L’anse aux Meadow

L’anse aux Meadow

The coast is rugged and close along the road north of Grose Morne. The villages have spread out some from the small coves and now approach within site of the highway. They offer a tidy mixture of traditional and modern houses. The latter it is said belong to those who went off to Alberta and worked in the oil industry, the former to the fisherman. The French had a coastal fishing monopoly up until the beginning of the 20th century, a result of a treaty that settled some conflict between them and the British.

Roadside Garden.jpg

There are gardens along the road leisurely fenced off with spindly logs or wire mesh. The road crews had, in places, turned enough soil to create a base for these gardens, and the locals have made good use of their efforts. Potatoes and broad leafy greens are staples in the gardens.

We missed the dirt road to an ecological preserve ( think BLM and National Forest) and ended up in a private campground near L’anse aux Meadow. That night we heard coyotes barking at the full moon rising over the meadows. They are newcomers to Newfoundland, having made their way from Nova Scotia on the ice in winter. I would have assumed they came across the strait from Labrador, but was told there are none there, yet.


A combination of imagination and geography led us to L’anse aux Meadow. We were not disappointed. It is on the edge of the hemisphere and at the far reaches of childhood dreams.

Lanse aux Meadow1.jpg

Lanse aux Meadow2.jpg

We spent most of the day at the site and at a reconstructed Norse village across the cove. We could see our L’anse aux Meadow guide’s home from the long-house, and he told of watching the excavation begin as a boy. He later worked on the second dig in the 1970s. His stories — told with a unique accent and word choice — gave the ancient site a local flavor.

Long House.jpg

The reconstruction of the site is well done. The interpreters inside the long house working wool and making tools are a great addition, and one that Canada seems to do well. I can’t speak to the authenticity, but the presence is very positive, stirring if one has spent the past 50 years hoping to see this place. The current thinking is that this site was not intended as a permanent settlement, but rather a way-station for others going on to New Brunswick. Regardless, this to me was Vinland.

Enterior1 .jpg

enterior 2.jpg

We celebrated with a wonderful dinner at the Daily Catch just outside of L’anse aux Meadow.
From L’anse aux Meadow we headed back along the road south to meet the ferry to Labrador, which sails out of St. Barbe. Though the vessel, at over 300 feet, has a large capacity for vehicles, this sailing was limited to 35 people due to the presence of a propane truck, making it a “dangerous passage”. The crossing on the Apollo cost just $27 for the two of us and the van.
Ferry to Labrador.jpg

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