Track Ranta’s progress HERE, from the interactive map pictured above.

On a misty morning on New Brunswick's St. John River, Mike Ranta answers my phone call on speaker. It's Day 178 of his 4,750-mile solo canoe journey across Canada, and Ranta's voice is hushed. "It's just a beauty morning," he whispers. "Wait…there's a deer! This is the perfect day to come up on critters."

The always enthusiastic Ranta admits to feeling "absolutely fantastic" after so much time on the water. But he's a bit miffed that his dog, Spitzii (who is also "doing awesome"), has been "steeling all my thunder when it comes to the pretty French Canadian girls."

"The Maritimes are second-to-none when it comes to hospitality," adds Ranta. "I've been meeting up with some great people and eating some awesome food."

This is Ranta's second canoe trip from Vancouver to Nova Scotia in three years. Currently, the Atikokan, Ont. native is about two weeks ahead of his 2014 pace. He hopes to finish in on Cape Breton Island, at the eastern edge of mainland Canada, in three weeks.

Ranta raves about all aspects of his expedition, including his 18-foot Souris River Wilderness canoe. Over the past six months his canoe has collected the names of thousands of signatures, in support of Canada's war veterans. "At 18-feet it's about all I can handle solo," he says. "It tracks so nice and goes with such little effort. Plus it's bulletproof. I'm not scared to hit it into rocks." His favorite part of the journey so far was the 23 days he spent on Lake Superior's remote north shore. "That's the gem in the crown of a cross-Canada canoer," says Ranta. "It puts out a positive energy that brings the best out of you."

On Canada's national birthday, July 1, Ranta paddled into his hometown of Atikokan, located on the doorstep of canoe country and Ontario's famed Quetico Provincial Park, to a hero's welcome. "Could it gent any better?" he enthuses. "I spent Canada Day in Canada's Canoe Capital!"

Meanwhile, Ranta will soon have a birthday of his own to celebrate. Ranta turns 45 years old on Thursday, September 29. "I should be just past Fredricton [New Brunswick]," he says. "My plan is to pick up a case a beer and sit by the shoreline, to play my yukelele by the campfire while Spitzii howls me happy birthday."



Watch Ranta save a baby moose during an earlier leg of expedition in Saskatchewan