Wandering musicians wind their way down Connecticut River through walking tour

  • Massachusetts Walking Tour musicians pose with the author of “Easy Walks in Massachusetts.” From left: Amy Alvey, Raianne Richards, Mark Mandeville, author Marjorie Turner Hollman, Mark Kilianski and Vito Caccavelli. Contributed photo

Recorder Staff
Thursday, June 14, 2018

If you’re out on the Connecticut River and hear banjos coming from shore, don’t fret.

It’s not a scene from “Deliverance.” It’s the musicians of the Massachusetts Walking Tour.

Since 2010, folk duo Mark Mandeville and Raianne Richards have assembled a handful of other musicians, packed their instruments and camping gear and hit the road — or, more accurately, trail.

This year, they’re changing things up, and trading in their walking sticks for canoe paddles.

“Basically, we’ll be paddling all the way from Northfield to Holyoke,” Richards explained. Once there, they’ll start walking again, ending up in Longmeadow.

Along the way, they’ll be playing 11 shows, many of which will be held in parks and libraries.

Besides bringing their music to people, the Walking Tour seeks to promote hiking trails in the state. This year, they’re singing the praises of the Connecticut River Paddler’s Trail. It’s a series of primitive campsites spaced about every 5 miles along the river. Richards said campsites start in Vermont and New Hampshire and as far south as Whately now, and there’s interest in expanding it all the way to Long Island Sound.

From their riverside campsites, they’ll hike to their shows. Richards is glad to be departing from the usual hiking-only tour.

“When you’re paddling, you can bring different equipment, because you’re not worried about weighing yourself down and straining your back,” Richards said. “You can camp a lot more comfortably.”

She’s just hoping the weather holds out — because the tour is on, rain or shine.

One year, they had to abandon their preferred camping spot when they found out a thunderstorm was on its way.

“Later, a microburst and small tornado touched down less than a mile from where we were before,” she said. “We were lucky to miss that, but there was a lot of lightning and thunder. It’s deafeningly loud when you’re in a tent.”

Richards said she doesn’t mind getting wet — as long as it’s not due to a capsized canoe.

“I really really don’t want to end up in the river,” she said.

They’ve also had some great experiences on the walking tour.

“In Northfield, we stayed at the (Richardson-Zlogar) cabin on the NET (New England National Scenic Trail),” she said. “We had a concert there and invited people that have helped with the NET. We had a big barbecue, hung out, played music, and a bunch of people stayed the night.”

That year, they hiked the NET from Royalston to Longmeadow. While in Franklin County, they played shows in Warwick, Northfield, Erving and Montague.

All told, they’ve played more than 100 shows since 2010. They’ve even earned

In addition to Mandeville’s guitar and banjo and Richards’ ukelele and penny whistle, this year’s lineup includes Mark Kilianski on guitar and banjo, Amy Alvey on the fiddle, Vito Caccavelli on guitar and Kristen Sykes on ukelele. Local guest musicians will join them at a few stops.

They’ll be holding some public hikes along the way as well, and also welcome others to join them on the river. Their website, www.masswalkingtour.com, has their travel schedule posted so people can meet up with them.

Richards is particularly excited to play atop Mount Sugarloaf Sunday as the sun sets over the river.

“They’ve never had a concert there, so they’re going to use us as guinea pigs, to see how it goes,” she said.

The tour kicks off Friday at 6 p.m. at the Northfield Golf Club pavilion in Northfield.

For more, visit www.masswalkingtour.org.

Show schedule

All shows are from 6 to 8 p.m. unless noted.

June 15: Northfield Golf Club pavilion, Northfield

June 16: Great Falls Discovery Center, Turners Falls

June 17: Mount Sugarloaf summit, Deerfield

June 20: Mount Holyoke summit house, Hadley

Thursday: Forbes Library, Northampton

June 22: Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton

June 23: Mount Tom pavilion, Holyoke (5 to 7 p.m.)

June 24: Holyoke Canoe Club, Holyoke

June 25: South Hadley Public Library, South Hadley

June 26: Chicopee Public Library, Chicopee

June 27: Richard Salter Storrs Library, Longmeadow

Admission is free, except for the June 24 Holyoke Canoe Club show, where nonmembers must pay $5.