En Route with the Last Voyageur: Mike Ranta

After a monthlong 'Great Portage,' Mike Ranta and David Jackson prepare to paddle

Mike Ranta glances toward Valemount, B.C., nearing the end of a 500-plus-mile portage to kick off his third voyage across North America. Photos by David Jackson (Follow him on Instagram @davidjackson__), and see more of Jackson’s work covering Ranta’s previous voyages.

It would be easy to question the sanity of Mike Ranta's latest cross-Canada canoeing challenge. For the past four weeks, the 45-year-old native of Atikokan, Ont. has been carting an 18-foot canoe on a 500-mile hike across British Columbia's Coast Range, from Pacific Ocean tidewater to Kinbasket Lake, on the Columbia River, where he'll finally float his boat in freshwater. Yet for Ranta, winner of the Canoe & Kayak Awards 2015 expedition of the year, this type of sufferfest is routine: It's his third 5,000-mile continent-wide canoe epic in the past four years, this time celebrating Canada's sesquicentennial.

Like his previous journeys, Ranta is traveling with his faithful canine companion, Spitzii. As always, the affable Ranta is enjoying the hospitality of Canadians along he way, including recent stops for beer and coffee along the Cariboo Highway. This year, C&K contributing photographer David Jackson is also tagging along, documenting the exploits of "the last voyageur" on his website and Instagram feed.

Since the team departed in early April, Jackson's posts capture the sheer hardship of a month spent manhauling canoe and gear across the ridges, valleys and plateaus of the northern Rockies, and camping in roadside ditches:

April 27: "As the heavy rains raged on, Spitz blinked at the wild in the trees and dreamed of squirrels in the ditches. Soon, the rugged west coast will fade into the ripples of Ranta’s canoe."

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April 14: "With the daily kilometre count now reaching into the 40s, each step is a struggle of mind and body. 'It’s a game of attrition, just move and make what distance you can from sun up to sun down,' explains Ranta."

April 10: "Staring down at the cracked pavement of highway 20, a chill setting in from the sudden onset of a high plateau snow storm, Mike Ranta decides to pull off the road and wait for better conditions. The last frontier, as some locals refer to it, Highway 20 runs 420 km between Williams Lake and Bella Coola. Perhaps it’s sudden snow storms or a lone wolverine crossing the road, but with zero cell coverage and few communities, the highway boasts potent beauty and urges frequent respect."

By early May, Ranta, Spitz and Jackson will have completed the journey's longest overland section. As Jackson explains, "Once over the Great Divide and British Columbia, Ranta and Spitzii will put on the Bow River and paddle, save short portages, nearly all the way to Cape Breton" on Canada's Atlantic coast.

Stay tuned to CanoeKayak.com for more updates and dispatches as the expedition progresses. For more Mike Ranta:

Follow Ranta in real-time at mikeranta.ca.

Follow him on Facebook
Track the 2017 expedition in real time
Watch exclusive C&K interviews following his 2014 and 2016 expeditions

 

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