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Come canoeing—the Superior way

There are a lot of unique gigs in this country for folk and roots musicians, and I’ve done some wild ones, but The Rossport Folk Tour must be one of the most exciting musical opportunities I’ve ever been offered. Imagine spending five days paddling the ancient First Nations and voyageur fur trade route to the west, in a 36 foot freighter canoe. Imagine nights around campfires on the islands of Lake Superior, the inland ocean that holds the world’s greatest, and wildest reservoir of fresh water.

The shoreline from Rossport, to Red Rock is an ancient highway of Canadian culture and history. How fitting, then, that each year, the Rossport Folk Tour takes a crew of modern-day voyageurs on a 90km excursion through this living wilderness—and how perfect that it arrives, after five days of glorious paddling, at the fantastic little folk festival in Red Rock.

Each year, one lucky musician gets to make the trip. Last year it was Dave Borins, who reported back about his extraordinary journey. In previous years, leading lights of the Canadian folk scene have taken their turn: Katherine Wheatley, Alex Sinclair & Anne Lindsay, Rodney Brown, Ian Tamblyn. Modern voyageurs all, who have made the song, the story, the campfire and the journey a part of their musical practice.

I‘ve had the privilege of making this trip before—I went as a paddling photographer and videographer on the Rodney Brown trip, and was moved by the adventure of travelling through the landscape of the songs and stories that make up Rodney’s brilliant Big Lonely album.

This year, I have an even bigger privilege: I’m the musical host. And I’m hoping you’ll join me. As followers of my blog, and fans of my songs know, the spirit of this country is something I’ve been long trying to express in my work. ‘Zen Canadiana‘ is a term I’ve used from time to time, but another way to refer to it is ‘getting out on the land, and getting into it.’ There’s no better way to do that than with a great crew in a big canoe.

With a dozen or so passengers, it’s pretty easy paddling in a freighter canoe: safe, stable, and comfortable too. The folks at Naturally Superior Adventures, fans of folk music and lovers of the outdoors, take good care of their guests, and they know how to make the outdoors enjoyable. This is a journey of appreciation, of getting close to nature, culture, and history. With good food, cooked for you!

And this is a great year to make the trip. Live From the Rock, a little festival I’ve had the privilege of playing a few times, is a rare spot of thriving culture in a town that’s struggling, in a part of the province that needs your attention and love. They’re celebrating ten years of bringing music to that remote shore.

Northern Ontario is at the centre of the country, and yet is often remote from the priorities of government and business. The mills and the mines have struggled in recent years, and jobs are scarce. All the more reason to support eco-tourism, and appreciation for living culture and history with a visit to the Thunder Bay region.

Like all great journeys, this one is something of a quest for me. I’ll be singing songs and telling stories, to be sure —and I hope to deliver a series of campfire homilies just for the occasion. But more than anything, I’ll be listening, and watching, for the spirit of the land and the water at its great and beautiful best.

There are still a few openings for paddlers on the Rossport Folk Tour and we heartily encourage Roots Music Canada readers to come along. Click to visit Naturally Superior Adventures and find out more!

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3 comments

  1. avatar
    brent mason 11 May, 2012 at 07:29

    boy would i love to go! david is such an articulate and compelling storyteller, i can just imagine how beautiful those nights around the campfires arer gonna be! great
    songs to boot…

  2. avatar
    Dave Borins 14 May, 2012 at 22:53

    This was an absolutely unforgettable trip, Mr Newland will be the perfect musical guide, I highly encourage people to join him & come face to face with the mighty superior!!

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