Molly and I have just got back from our latest adventure, camping in Lake Carlos State Park, Minnesota. In addition to some good, old-fashioned camping, we explored Minnesota’s famous and controversial ties with Viking history. Molly’s heritage may be all German, but we both take inspiration from those dauntless Norse adventurers.
Our first stop was at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, Minnesota, home of the replica Viking ship that was sailed from Duluth, Minnesota, to Bergen, Norway in 1982. The crew consisted of 11 men and one woman. Hmm … should Molly and I try this sometime?
Behind the Hjemkomst Center is another striking reconstruction—the Hopperstad Stave Church Replica. Molly was able to view the outside with me. The original church stands on the Sognefjord in Norway and was built in the 12th century. The replica here dates to 1998.
Alexandria, Minnesota, was the closest town to our home port of Lake Carlos State Park—and by all appearance, its citizens firmly believe that the Norsemen adventured to the land of 10,000 lakes. Everywhere Molly and I looked, we saw signs advertising things like Viking Plaza, Vikingland Books, Viking Trail, Viking Sportsmen Association, and even Viking Speedway Races. A statue named Big Ole towers over Central Park. His shield says, “Alexandria Birthplace of America.”
The highlight of our trip was our visit to the Runestone Museum, home of the famed Kensington Rune Stone. Discovered in 1898 by a Swedish farmer, the runes on the stone claim to be scribed by Viking explorers in 1362. Long decried as a hoax and still contested, there is nevertheless weighty evidence to support the thought that the Vikings really did wander as far as the interior of North America. Ja vell, vy not?
The best part about the Kensington Runestone Museum? Molly was allowed inside! She only got to look very briefly at the stone, but she was welcome to explore the outdoor portion of the museum. Called Fort Alexandria, this museum consists of homestead buildings collected from around the area. The Miltona Stage Stop was our favorite.
Just a few blocks down the street from the Runestone Museum and Fort Alexandria is the Scandinavian Gift Shop, where you could buy your very own Norwegian sweater, imported tableware, and trolls in all sizes. They even had dog chews made of reindeer antlers. How thoughtful!
Our time in the outdoors at Lake Carlos State Park was another adventure all together, and another story for another time …