July 18 - 19 (20)
On October 21, 1875 a group of pioneers from Iceland landed on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg to make a new life in North America. Famine caused by harsh winters in Iceland, a sheep disease that killed 200,000 animals and the eruption of two volcanos that blanketed the land with ash precipitated this migration of 20,000 Icelanders. There is a strong Icelandic heritage in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba that once were part of the "Northwest Territories" back during this migration period. This heritage is preserved today in a wonderful museum we visited in the town of Gimli (like the name of the dwarf in Lord of the Rings). Our interest was especially high, since we had been in Iceland only last year and had not heard anything of this migration.
As we headed south along the shore of Lake Winnipeg toward our next destination of Birds Hill Provincial Park, we took a long dirt road diversion to visit the landing place of these settlers. Along the way, there were many marked heritage sites that were originally settled by these hardy people. It was like being in a living museum as we explored this part of the lake.
Birds Hill (named for Mr. Bird) is a gigantic provincial park near Winnipeg and we had a very nice site. The bicycle trails are paved and while there is some slope, the peddling is quite easy. There are large man-made lakes with a swimming beach on one lake and fishing in others. The deer were particularly accustomed to humans and did not flee, even when approached on a bicycle. Tom saw a doe and her fawn grazing in a small meadow just off the bike trail. This would have been a nice place to stay another day, but we had reservations at the next stop in Ontario, so we had to leave.