Coast-to-coast canoeist paddles through Nelson

Mike Ranta stopped at Lakeside Park on his way across the country to talk about his adventure.

Mike Ranta takes a break at Lakeside Park on Tuesday. Ranta is canoeing his way across Canada to help fundraise for the legion and youth centre in his hometown of Atikokan

Mike Ranta sat on the end of his red and white canoe and soaked in a sunny afternoon. Just getting to Nelson had already been plenty of effort, and Ranta has a long way to go before his journey is complete.

Ranta is canoeing across Canada to fundraise for his hometown legion and youth centre in Atikokan, Ont., which describes itself as the canoeing capital of Canada, as well as to raise awareness for veterans in need.

“It’ll be a cool Canadian adventure,” Ranta said during his pitstop at Lakeside Park on Tuesday. “I can’t think of a more Canadian way to say thank you to our veterans than to canoe across Canada. It’s the way we built our country, and [I’m] able to shake these guys’ hands as I go from legion to legion.”

It’s the second time Ranta has paddled — and walked when there’s no water — his way across the country. He previously did it over seven months and 7,500 kilometres in 2014 while raising $10,000 for the Atikokan youth centre. But he didn’t quite complete the trip from Vancouver to Cape Breton Island, with poor weather conditions forcing him to stop near Tatamagouche, N.S.

This time Ranta is determined to go the distance.

Ranta, wearing a homemade birchbark hat and a beard that makes him look like a Heritage Minutes character, set out from Vancouver on April 1. His trip has already nearly ended twice, first by strong currents on the Fraser River and again by a stump that got caught on his canoe that took Ranta for a ride.

The days are already long enough without the risk of capsizing. Ranta paddles 12 to 15 hours a day, and caps his walking with the canoe on a cart at 12 hours a day.

Luckily he’s in good company. Spitzii, an eight-year-old Finnish Spitz who was also along for the 2014 trip, rests at the front of the canoe as Ranta speaks. “He’s as brave as he is handsome,” said Ranta. “He’s an amazing pup. Definitely my best friend, hands down.”

Another person close to Ranta provided the impetus for his trip.

Ranta’s brother, Kevin, served in Bosnia with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in the 1990s. Kevin returned to Canada suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which he still copes with. “Him and his unit are having all kinds of issues. It seems like there are a lot of roadblocks in the way of these guys getting help,” said Mike.

Ranta’s patriotism stands out on the water. His canoe is decorated in painted Canadian flags and covered in signatures from veterans he’s met along the way. He points to one such signature from a man named K.K. Davis, who turned 100 last Christmas.

“A lot of people out there really need help,” said Ranta. “The gist I’m getting out of a lot of Canadians who I’ve talked to is we’re kind of getting sick and tired of our government throwing money at all these places to clean up other people’s backyards and we’re not cleaning up our own. We’re not taking care of the very people who give us our way of life here. It’s disappointing. It needs to change.”

His break over, Ranta said goodbye and pushed off into the water. He pointed out a nearby Canada Goose to Spitzii, who barked at the bird for good measure before the pair drifted toward the orange bridge onward to the Atlantic.

Follow Ranta’s journey at mikeranta.ca.

Just Posted

Avalanche Canada issues special public warning

Very weak layer buried under recent snow a cause for concern

KBRH on watch for bed bugs after two recent cases

Spokesperson Mandy Lowery says there has not been a bed bug sighting at KBRH since Dec. 8

Coffee card donations return at Wait’s News

The program supplied over 200 cards last year

Trafalgar students build home for sanctuary horse

Grade 8 students collaborated on a project with a local farm sanctuary

Nelson won’t restrict parking amnesty to West Kootenay

So far, more than 800 people have responded with amnesty payments

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Man dies after falling from B.C. bridge

Intoxicated man climbed railing, lost his balance and fell into the water below

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

B.C. fire chief pleads with Ottawa for traumatic stress support

Campbell River fire chief Thomas Doherty presented concerns to federal government

21 detained before Paris protests as police deploy in force

There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

Most Read