Modern-day Voyageur has a tale to tell
Mike Ranta, the solo canoeist who has paddled from one end of the country to the other, shares his stories in new book.
Feb 15, 2017 11:01 AM by: Doug Diaczuk
THUNDER BAY – Mike Ranta is a modern day Voyageur, who has traveled coast to coast in his canoe. He has seen parts of this country the most never have, but now he is sharing those experiences with readers in a new book.
Ranta’s book, Mike and Spitzii’s Great Canadian Adventure 2014, edited by Leo Hunnakko, recounts his 4,750-mile solo canoe trip from the mouth of the Fraser River in B.C. to Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia in 2014 and another cross-country venture in 2011.
“It’s a pretty crazy story,” Ranta said. “I managed to get myself into some hair-raising experiences on both trips. But it’s been amazing.”
It was one of the longest, solo canoe journeys in a single season ever completed, which earned Ranta expedition of the year by Canoe and Kayak Magazine.
On Sunday, Ranta was signing copies of his book at Chapters to an eager lineup of customers wanting to meet this real-life adventurer.
The Atikokan-born paddler has been canoeing for as long as he can remember. For Ranta, and his four legged friend and travel companion, Spitzii, being out on the water is like a return to not only his own roots, but the roots of the entire nation.
“This is how we built our country,” Ranta said. “We never did it with the horse and buggy, we did it with the canoe. We had the amazing waterways running from east to west and west to east and they were our water highways. It’s something that brings me back to my roots.”
Ranta’s voyages across the country in a canoe are about more than experiencing the nation’s heritage and seeing its natural beauty. Ranta paddles with a purpose.
The 2014 cross-country trek was done to raise awareness for the Atikokan Youth Initiative Centre, while a second journey in 2016 was completed to bring attention to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It was for our kids in our hometown,” Ranta said of his 2014 trip. “As a small town in Northwestern Ontario, it can sometimes get overlooked. They tend to put the funding into the larger city centres so they can actually get in touch with more kids. So we wanted to take it upon ourselves to do this trip and show the kids too that sometimes you gotta go out and get things yourselves.”
When canoeing across a country as vast and geographically diverse as Canada, there are bound to be some challenges along the way. One of the biggest challenges Ranta faced on his journey in 2014 was the weather.
“Out of the 214 days I was out, I had over 170 days of rain,” he said. “That was a challenge. But you have to have that mental toughness. We took it on. There were some pretty crazy events. I got indirectly hit by lightning, we flipped a canoe in the river. There were some pretty scary moments. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops out there.”
Ranta said he was really excited to return to Thunder Bay for his book signing, because for him, it is a way of thanking the people of Thunder Bay who helped him reunite with Spitzii after the two were separated near Kakabeka Falls during his 2016 trip.
“I can’t say enough about the people who came out to help,” he said. “Thunder Bay really did show its true colours and that love and compassion and kindness for animals. That’s kind of my way of saying thanks to these people.”
And even if Spitzii does tend to steal the spotlight as often as he can, according to Ranta, he makes these journeys possible, from the start, to the very end.
“He’s my best friend, hands down,” Ranta said. “He’s an amazing animal. He gives me that connection to nature. He’s kind of my translator in that way when it comes to animals and dealing with them in the bush. And he’s as brave as he is handsome and I look forward to travelling with him some more.”
Ranta is already planning his next trip for April, 2017 to raise awareness for PTSD, which will take him on the same route as Alexander McKenzie on the Peace River through the old voyageur paths and waterways.
“We should be so proud and grateful and honoured to be in such an amazing country that we have,” he said.