By Conor Mihell
Mike Ranta admits he got lucky last week when tropical storm Matthew barreled down on Atlantic Canada, lashing the Maritime provinces with powerful winds and torrential rains. Ranta was paddling the Nova Scotia coastline of Northumberland Strait on a glassy calm day when he noticed the northeast wind. "Around here, they always say to take shelter when the nor'easter comes," says Ranta, who is making his second canoe journey across Canada, from Vancouver, B.C. to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. "I set up camp on a nice lady's lawn.
"She said, 'You know there's a storm coming, eh?'," recalls Ranta, 45. "But it seemed like it was going to pass to the south."
In the wee hours of the morning, Ranta awoke with his tent plastered to his face. "It's a folding tent," laughs the affable Atikokan, Ontario native. "It folded up with me inside!"
Ranta and his dog, Spitz, hastily broke camp and set off eastbound along the highway, towing his canoe and gear on a cart. "It was pretty sketchy," he says, "especially when the big trucks went by. Luckily with all the wind and rain the highway was pretty quiet."
The storm hammered parts of Nova Scotia with upwards of eight inches of rain. Ranta and Spitz eventually found shelter at the Red Roof Bed and Breakfast near Antigonish, Nova Scotia. As it happens, the owners' son and daughter-in-law both served in the Canadian military in Afghanistan. Ranta, whose journey is in part a fundraiser for Canadian veterans, was fascinated by the couples' tales of their experiences. He says the storm—which caused widespread power outages—only added to the moment. "All along the way people have treated Spitzii and me like family," says Ranta. "Maritimers have had it tough. The storm hit some towns really hard but they made it through. You could tell this wasn't their first rodeo."
Now, with Matthew behind him, Ranta's 4,750-mile journey is a long weekend's paddle from being finished. His route will take him across the tidal waters of Cape Breton Island's Bras D'Or Lakes to Dominion Beach, at the eastern edge of mainland Canada, where he anticipates touching down and visiting the town's Legion Hall for a cold drink. "Right now I'm feeling like a million bucks," he says. "I definitely found a new strength on this trip."
- Read more about Mike Ranta's Souris River Wilderness 18 and check out a video interview with him after his 2014 cross-Canada journey.
- Follow Mike Ranta on Facebook.