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Experience Algonquin Park’s 1st Drive-through Audio Tour

Every road has a story to tell and this one has many!

Geek out and impress your friends with secret stories and historical facts from one of Canada’s most famous roads.

What is the Algonquin Park Driving Tour?

The Algonquin Park Driving Tour is a kind of digital storytelling.

It makes use of some pretty fancy technology to share stories using audio, text, visual, hyper linked resources and so on. Specifically, it’s a type of digital readers’ theatre, where actors present dramatic readings of written texts, in this case news articles published between 1890-1920. Because there are no props, costumes or scenery, it’s almost entirely an audio experience. Since you listen to the stories while driving, you get to imagine the costumes and props, while experiencing the scenery of Algonquin Park where the stories took place, live and in person.

The Algonquin Park Audio tour is a sensory experience.

The content is easy to engage with by people of all kinds of abilities and disabilities in the format they prefer, in essence creating an experience accessible to more people than any single live-person-tour-guide could ever reach alone. Plus, it’s available on demand, when it’s convenient for you.

Who is the Algonquin Park Driving Tour for?

🙌🏽 Hands up if you like trying and learning new things while on vacation.

🙌🏽 Hands up if you drive for a living and wish you could enjoy local entertainment while just passing through.

🙌🏽 Hands up if you’d rather hear something other than “are we there yet?” from the back seat.

^^^ Wow - that’s a lot of hands - lol.

The Algonquin Park Driving Tour is a first of its kind in Ontario, so it’s definitely new. It’s meant to be enjoyed while driving, so no stopping required. The variety of stories and songs will appeal to all kinds of interests and age groups - whether the passenger is backseat driving or simply in the back seat.

FREE to download, use and enjoy, for business or pleasure, you have every reason to give it a try. You can download the tour and enjoy it specifically as you drive through the park, anywhere in between, and in fact, anywhere at all.

  • Families will especially enjoy the two haunting musical performances about Tom Thomson’s artistic legacy, and The Paddle Song with an Indigenous prayer by Rod Nettagog of Henvey Inlet First Nation.

  • History buffs will enjoy learning about lumber Baron JR Booth’s determined personality, and famous visitors to the park, including Tom Thomson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Educators can use the tour in their classrooms to explore the early years of Canada’s first national park (1890-1920), to learn more about the writing and communication style of journalism in the early part of the 20th century, or about the role of water in Indigenous culture.

  • Tour bus operators can play the tour for their passengers while they travel through the park

  • Campers can enjoy songs and stories at their campsites or as they travel between the gates of the park

  • Traveling by car, anyone just passing through either toward Whitney or Toronto can wander in and out of the stories which are geolocated to specific points along the journey. Simply leave your app on while you drive! It plays equally well in both directions, regardless of your direction of travel

  • Anyone with disabilities will make use of accessibility features including visuals, text, audio, and compatibility with text to voice technology.

Who created the Algonquin Park Driving Tour?

When people ask who I am or what I do, I say I am many things - an educator, a librarian, a researcher, an advocate, a community builder. But mostly I’m a storyteller.

🙋🏻‍♀️ I’m Angela Pollak, PhD, and I created this tour (with a lot of help from some very generous friends).

My Interest In Storytelling

Sometimes the stories I tell are fiction, myth or fairy tale. Sometimes they are numerical, or biographical, or historical. Sometimes they are reflective and spiritual. But they are always everyday stories, and they invariably declare some truth about life, experience, or humanity. I’m especially interested in place-based stories - sometimes called living heritage, or intangible cultural heritage. These stories tie us back to the roots of who we are and how we came to be in this place at this moment.

Why storytelling?

Stories are powerful. They entertain and comfort us, stir us to action, make us weep for sorrow, and fear, and pleasure. Whether we hear them or tell them, to ourselves or to others, they are mirrors and windows to the people we were and are, and also to the people we could be. Like an instrument in perfect tune that pleases the ear, the right story at the right time charms us with memories of where we've come from and dreams of what bigger, brighter, better future awaits. Stories lay out in front of us the path. They bestow upon us the energy and inspiration we need to forge ahead.

The Stories in This Tour

This tour is a type of reader’s theatre - audio performances of previously written pieces of work. I gathered together a dozen fun and interesting stories about Algonquin Park now in the public domain and asked some of my friends to read them. I enlisted other friends with recording equipment to help with that technical production. I reached out to the composers of the two songs and asked if they would share. Everyone was so enthusiastic! Then, I put it all together in this tour, for you. That is the power of community - and of stories - to move people.

One good turn deserves another, right? Although the app is free to you, it does cost money to make and to make available. If you enjoyed the tour and want to offer positive feedback, we gratefully accept donations to the South Algonquin chapter of the Dolly Parton Imagination library. Through this partnership, we send a free storybook to every child under the age of five in our community each and every month!

Why was the Algonquin Park Audio Tour Created?

You might be surprised, or you already know, that Algonquin Provincial Park is a bucket list item for more than a million people from all nations, age groups, and walks of life every single year.

No matter their differences, everyone hopes to see and experience the serenity of the Algonquin wilderness landscape for themselves, and often, to learn more about this beloved place: the hidden stories that lie just beyond the trees, rocks, lakes and rivers in this place we call Algonquin Park.

Each of these million visitors are also united by a universal problem: how do you find the stories?

Museums: Museums curate some of the best known stories, of course, but there are only three, and they’re only open at certain times. Ask a local: Lots of people try to travel like locals and hear the real scoop from the people who lived it. But sadly, you can’t just stop strangers on the street to ask, and even the most willing local storytellers can’t live forever. Media: Other stories about this place aren’t even here in this place at all - they’re locked in newspapers, archives, and databases. They’re difficult to access at most times, and simply impossible while operating a car or canoe.

But you, I’m happy to say, are not like everyone else.

🚙 You’ve picked the right place and the right time to arrive.

My hope is that you will find the stories along this tour entertaining, informative, and maybe even educational. I’ve collected many stories about this area over the years, and my wish is that the Algonquin Park Driving Tour will be the first of a host of tours available in the future.

I’m working on a new one right now - A driving tour of the South Algonquin portion of Highway 60 that will take you all the way to Barry’s Bay. Stay tuned for more information coming soon.

What is in the Algonquin Park Audio Tour?

A specially curated collection of ten stories and two original songs are now available free for your listening pleasure on the Four Corners Algonquin app (available on Apple + Google). You can listen to the stories any time, any where, but we recommend listening as you drive through the Highway 60 corridor of Algonquin Park, no wifi required.

The stories take us back to a shared point in history that many of us can relate to. They also introduce people to a part of the world that has long been left out of the conversation - the community of South Algonquin. For me personally, it’s a tiny part of the story of how my family came to live in this part of the world.

There is no avoiding the fact that the story of Algonquin Park is a story of colonialism. I’m especially proud of being able to include The Paddle Song and the Indigenous prayer of Rod Nettagog of Henvey Inlet First Nation. Such stories are especially powerful.

A Brief “Tour” of What’s In The Tour

Historical Advertisements The tour opens on either end with historical advertisements. These historical pieces highlight how the Grand Trunk Railroad marketed the Algonquin Park region, mostly to American travelers, between 1914-1921. At the time, the park was only accessible by train - there was no highway, and it took eight hours to get here from Toronto! Each ad ends with an appeal to write to the ticket agent in Toronto to receive a ‘descriptive folder’ with more information by mail.

Tom Thomson The Tom Thomson story shares the details of Tom’s last few months and years painting in the park through not only his own words, but also the words of people who knew him like his benefactor Dr. James Macallum, and the man who found Tom after he died, J. S. Fraser. We think of Tom Thomson as a successful painter, but you might be surprised to know that he didn’t have his own transportation and so he walked back and forth between Toronto and Algonquin Park. Can you imagine? The Tom Thomson story ends with a haunting rendition of an original song about the painter.

Algonquin Wilderness The story, Where Wilderness is King, which you’ll find at about the half-way point of the tour, was published in 1921 and offers a physical description of the park at that time. It also gives some insight into the different types of outdoor sports available in the park. Surprisingly, due to policies prohibiting motorized boats in the park, not much has changed in the last 100 years in that regard!

The Paddle Song Midway through the tour, you’ll be treated to a musical performance of an original composition called The Paddle Song. Based on the poem, “The Song My Paddle Sings” by E. Pauline Johnson, and including an Indigenous prayer by an elder in Henvey Inlet First Nations, an elementary school choir in Hamilton performs the piece under the careful conducting of their music teacher, Kevin Camilleri.

Wolf Encounter There is a story of a first hand account of a wolf encounter in the winter of 1913. Traveling by dog sled through the park between the rangers cabins, W. Lacey Amy tells of how the wolves kept pace with them as they crested a ridge, and the terrifying sound of the howls as the wolves approached first from in front, and then rapidly from behind. The cagey animals traveled so lightly, that they each stepped in the other’s footsteps so it appeared as though only one wolf had been tracking them. The author was a journalist and novelist from Grey County, Ontario, who moved to Medicine Hat Alberta to run a newspaper.

A Beaver Story for Children Frank Yeigh, nonfiction writer and friend of E. Pauline Johnson, shares a story he wrote for children about the industrious beaver and his home in the water. From the manufacturing of it by twigs and tangled driftwood, to the submerged front door, we hear about the cozy way the beavers play house in all seasons.

Death by a Blackfly Blackflies are a constant aggravation, and have been since the beginning of time I imagine. Listen to a lovely little piece by John Giffen reporting that six people died from blackfly bites in 1907. (When I tell this story to locals, they all laugh. Black flies are awful, but no one here has ever heard of anyone dying from blackfly bites, so I imagine the piece was written in jest. You can tell even the reader thinks so!)

Algonquin Park | Advantage and Enjoyment for All Ontario’s Big Park, published in 1899 explains the legislation that created the park through the Algonquin National Park act, which set aside land for the ’advantage and enjoyment of the people of the province’ of Ontario. The author describes the land as primeval, and details how the government had been instructed to return the park to the conditions that existed proper to 1893, when logging resulted in ‘denudation’ of the land. It also highlights how campers have been welcomed in various ways since the very beginning.

Hunting is Prohibited One of the hallmarks of Algonquin Park is that hunting is prohibited. The article Poachers Punished talks about the consequences faced by two unfortunate individuals who got caught violating game laws by shooting moose and setting traps in 1903. Both men were required to pay fines, and future violators were warned of ‘still more severe’ consequences.

Rustic Camping, Delightful Fishing A delightful story about the time Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited the park appears near the west gate of the highway. They stayed in a ‘rustic camp’ on Smoke Lake, with ‘all modern conveniences’. Apparently, Mrs. Doyle caught a very large trout which was shipped back to England as a trophy.

Lumber Baron Finally, at the west gate, listen to the story of the larger than life personality, J. R. Booth, lumber baron from Ottawa who built an empire on the timber industry and railroads to access his tracts of land. Hear about how Mr. Booth insisted on watching while doctors set his broken leg without anesthetic, and how his one and only vacation was such a miserable experience he left his holiday and came home early… to get back to work.

How do I access the Algonquin Park Audio Tour?

You can check out the app from wherever you are! Go to your App Store or Google Play and type in Four Corners Algonquin - oh and don’t forget to share this tour with a friend - because what are stories if we don’t share them.

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