Loading up an inflatable Zodiac with their instruments (wrapped in garbage bags) and piles of food and gear was a lot like loading up a tour van, said indie rocker Olga Goreas of The Besnard Lakes and hip hop artist Shad. They were about to raft down the Nahanni River with Goreas's husband Jace Lasek and a film crew. A tour van, though, isn't likely to dunk you into a cold river and Shad didn't look too sure about the adventure.
Filmmakers invited them north last summer to spend a week in Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories - 4,766 square kilometres of wilderness in the Mackenzie Mountains, an area known for its whitewater, deep river canyons and Virginia Falls (which has a vertical drop twice the size of Niagara Falls). Here, the city-livin' musicians hoped to be inspired by the wildlife, the weather and the stunning natural surroundings.
By the time Shad (above, right)got off the float plane, his third since leaving Whitehorse, the 28-year-old rapper - who grew up in London, Ont. - was shell shocked. He had never even gone camping before. "It was a totally bizarre experience for me. I was like, 'Wow. There is no one here at all!' If you get hungry you can't just order pizza."
The National Parks Project is a series of short films and documentaries that sent 52 Canadian musicians into 13 national parks. It captures their incredulity at the landscape, the mosquitoes and eventually, their desire to capture those feelings in music.
In a raft on the Nahanni, Shad rapped about the trip, but also jammed on his guitar with Goreas and Lasek as they floated near a natural amphitheatre of limestone cliffs. "It was cool to do something different and out of my comfort zone," he said.
Narrated by Gord Downie and shot in cinéma vérité style, this making-of series is far more engaging and entertaining than the dry Great Canadian Parks documentaries that still air. In tonight's two-part opener, Sarah Harmer, Jim Guthrie and Bry Webb sail into B.C.'s Gwaii Haanas reserve and are overcome by the park's haunted history. The second episode follows Sam Roberts, Matt Mays and Kathleen Edwards as they make camp in the mosquito-mad, polar bear sanctuary of Wapusk National Park in northern Manitoba.
The National Parks Project airs Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET, 10 p.m. PT on DiscoveryWorld HD.