By Jessica Nyznik, The Peterborough Examiner
A northern Ontario resident’s love of Canada was the inspiration behind three solo canoe trips across the country.
Atikokan’s Mike Ranta most recent trek took him from Vancouver to Cape Breton from April to October. He paddled 7,500 kilometres in 200 days.
Ranta dedicated the journey to Canadian veterans as a way to raise awareness about the sacrifices they made and to show is appreciation.
“I wanted to take the time to say thank you to that generation … they really did truly sacrifice for Canada,” he said.
Ranta, 45, stopped at Legions along the way to meet veterans and have them sign his 18-foot canoe. He visited about 50 Legions along his trip, collecting more than 1,000 signatures.
“I got to listen to their stories and I got a lot of positive from these guys and looking down at those signatures is what pushed me on every day, especially when things got a little tough,” he said.
Ranta stopped in Peterborough on Thursday to share his experiences and some photos at an event at the Canadian Canoe Museum on Monaghan Road.
Though he paddled solo, Ranta wasn’t ever alone, his eight-year-old Finnish spitz, Spitzii, by his side the entire time, including during the presentation.
In 2011, he made his first solo journey, travelling 5,400 km from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta to Montreal in 130 days.
Then in 2014, he went from Vancouver to Tatamagouch, N.S., crossing 7,500 km in 214 days.
He dedicated his first two trips to his community youth centre, hoping to inspire young people to follow their dreams.
“It was a great way to show kids no matter how crazy your dream is, go for it. It’s only a failure if you stop.”
He chose to honour veterans during he last trek after his heart broke from hearing news that some veterans were living on the streets.
“I couldn’t think of a more Canadian way to say thank you than to paddle from legion to legion, shake these guys hands and hear their stories.”
During his trip, Ranta collected pieces of nature from each province to create a wreath to lay in Ottawa on Remembrance Day.
He placed it on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Nov. 11 during the service.
“That was amazing. It was a real closure to the trip.”
Ranta is already planning another trip for next year to celebrate Canada’s 150. He going to cross Canada again, taking a slightly altered route.
His trip in 2014 earned him recognition as first person to cross North America solo in a canoe in one season.
The Canadian Canoe Museum lives and breaths canoes, so having Ranta in to share his story was a great fit, said James Raffan, former executive director of external communication at the museum.
“The opportunity to have him back here to tell his story helps ground who and what we are and we’re very, very excited to inspire other people with some of the things he’s done,” Raffan said.