The morning of Tuesday, Oct. 18 dawned with typical autumn weather on the North Atlantic. It was windy when Mike Ranta launched his canoe on Day 200 of his 4,750-mile journey across Canada. Ranta and his faithful canine traveling companion Spitz toughed out an hour of ocean paddling before being "kicked off the water big time" by the weather.
On a typical day Ranta, 45, would've holed up and waited out the blow. But he was too close to the finish line to quit. He set up his canoe cart and portaged overland to the River Ryan, which flowed directly to his destination at Dominion Beach, Nova Scotia. One hundred and fifty supporters, including his father and brother, greeted Ranta at the easternmost point of mainland Canada. It was Ranta's second trans-Canada canoe journey in three years.
A few days later, Ranta laughs, "I really haven't stopped partying yet." Slowly, the magnitude of his accomplishment is settling in. "People stop me on the street and say, 'You're the guy who paddled across Canada,'" he says, "and then I realize 'Wow, that was me.' I've been lucky to accomplish a great thing."
Geography aside, Cape Breton was an obvious destination for Ranta. Years ago, he journeyed west to work on the oil rigs of Alberta. Here, he says, migrant workers from the Canadian Maritimes "helped me find my feet.
"I wasn't well off financially," says Ranta. "But Cape Breton Islanders took me under their wing. Once I got established, I made a point of helping out the new guys. So many of them came from the East Coast. I still keep in touch with these guys today. A lot of them were waiting for me at Dominion Beach."
Ranta is slowly transition to life off the water. He plans to remain in Nova Scotia for the next week, sharing his story with school groups. Mostly, he wants to reinforce the three tenets he lives by: Stay strong, stay true and paddle your own canoe. "If kids grow up with these values, they can accomplish anything," he says.
Ranta is also continuing his message of support of Canada's veterans, for whom the expedition served as a fundraiser. "I met so many of our great veterans along the way," he says. "When I paddled up to the beach every one of these people was in the canoe with me. I was able to do this trip because of the people who protect our way of life. We need to step up for our warriors so we can continue to help the world."
No doubt there will be more partying when Ranta returns to Atikokan, the self-proclaimed "Canoe Capital of the world." Then, Ranta plans to get back to work, hashing out the logistics for another big journey to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday in 2017. "I've got a lot of trips left in me," he says.
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