BY CONOR MIHELL / PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIKE RANTA
When Mike Ranta's canoe cart suffered a "catastrophic breakdown" in the Rocky Mountains of southern British Columbia, it didn't take long someone to reach out and offer him support. A fellow native of Atikokan, Ont., transplanted to Cranbrook, B.C., contacted Ranta on Facebook and, just like that, Ranta's canoe cart was welded back into shipshape. So goes the happy-go-lucky Ranta's third trans-Canada canoe expedition, which recently crossed into its second month.
"I'm feeling it right now, I'll tell ya," says Ranta, winner of the 2015 C&K Award for Expedition of the Year for his 4,750-mile trans-Canada epic in 2014. "It's been a warm spring in B.C. and that means lots of water in the rivers. I've been battling upstream."
For his third go, Ranta and his dog, Spitzii, started on the Fraser River near Vancouver, B.C, on April 1. This time, he veered south, aiming for the Crowsnest Pass, where he'll crest the spine of the Rockies and paddle his way onto the Canadian Prairies via the Old Man, South Saskatchewan, Qu'Appelle and Assinaboine rivers. At Winnipeg, he'll get back on familiar waters en route to the Great Lakes and the historic fur trade route to Montreal. Ultimately, Ranta's goal is Cape Breton Island, on Canada's east coast. He hopes to arrive in time for his 45th birthday on Sept. 29.
After raising money for the youth of Atikokan, Ranta is now fundraising in support of Canadian veterans, selling T-shirts along the way and collecting donations on his website. "I'm representing a lot of good people out here," he says. "It's a positive message."
Besides dealing with high water, Ranta took a "near catastrophic spill" on the Fraser. He's encountered two mountain lions and two black bears--"Par for the Canadian course," he says. Both he and Spitzii are fairing well. "We'd like to be a little faster, but there have been a few hiccups along the way," he adds.
Ranta's favorite part of paddling across Canada by canoe is the people he meets along the way, including the truck drivers who've "honked and waved" as he portages along Highway 3. "I can't say enough about the kindness and the generosity," he says. "It's addictive. That's what keeps me coming back."
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- Learn more about Mike Ranta on C&K's Inside Line
- Check out Ranta's Ride