How would you describe a Canadian? There’s a handful of adjectives that universally come to mind- kind, open, tough, hearty, optimistic, adventurous… trailblazing?
There’s one man that I think embodies the best qualities of our country and our people, and it makes me smile to think about him, his adventures and the people he touches along the way.
Killarney Ontario resident Mike Ranta is a canoeing legend. Not a legend in the Bill Mason kind of way, but the kind of legend that is still out there quietly crushing it. While you were reading about Bill or Grey Owl last summer, Mike was paddling and paddling. And, well, he’s probably paddling right now somewhere. With long hair and beard, husky frame, a birch bark hat and a contagious smile Mike looks like someone you want to have a beer with, or 3.
Mike has successfully completed 2 solo canoeing journey’s across Canada (7,500km in case you were wondering) with his dog Spitzii, in 2014 and 2016. And almost completed a third that was called short due to constant weather delays. Cementing him in the record books as the only person to canoe across the continent solo in a single season.
“Spitzii and I are so honored and proud to help your cause! What a great Canadian thing that you guys are doing and please call us anytime so we can keep this puck moving eh! Killarney is proud to get involved too! Ttyl8r my friend and keep on keeping on!” Mike sent us this message- which might be the most Canadian message anyone has ever sent- last year while collaborating with us at Warrior Adventures.
The striking thing about Mike is that he is so open and easy to chat with. He’s not some shut-in ultra endurance athlete that doesn’t want to talk because he’s too focused on his training regime, nutrition plan or strokes per minute output. He’s just a Canadian guy out for a paddle. A long paddle. When I first reached out to him, he quickly sent me long replies about how he loves nature. How he respects our veterans because of his brothers 20 years of service, who now struggles with PTSD. And about how he wants to use his adventures to raise awareness for the great things our men and women in uniform are doing. After reaching him by phone we talked like old friends for an hour about canoeing, veterans, the wilderness and the people he’s met along the way.
“Our military allows us to keep our values as Canadians, and we're known throughout the world as kind, polite and compassionate people because of it.”
Following Mike’s adventures on social media you can see that he takes the time to stop and talk with many people along the way. Spurred on by the loss of a couple close veteran friends, Mike and Spitzii, on their 2016 crossing went from legion to legion meeting “..an incredible number of amazing people that truly touched our (Mike and Spitzii) hearts.” And on his 2017 attempt with photographer David Jackson, they stopped at many First Nation communities to connect with them and to “recognize our country is a lot older than 150 years.”
If you paddle, you know that stopping constantly kills your momentum. In the immediate and in the long run. But Mike doesn’t care. He’s not out there for the records (which he has)- he’s out there to make a difference. What can be more Canadian than that? Paddling a canoe for a purpose. I’m drawn to think of the coureur des bois, epic long distance canoeists during the fur-trade era. An economy, along with the canoe, that helped create this country. And of David Thompson, wilderness explorer and cartographer who was instrumental in mapping and documenting most of the continent by canoe, horseback and foot.
Mike gets it. He understands our mission at Warrior Adventures and believes strongly in the healing powers of nature, as we do.
“I also feel that going into the forest for healing the mind is essential. You probably have seen it yourself and we as a people have been doing it for thousands of years. All in all, the forest = healing and thanks to our Veterans we have opportunity to utilize that.”
Mike will be raffling off the canoe and paddles he used last season at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure show! (Feb 22, 23, 24 2019) All proceeds will be donated to Warrior Adventures Canada and used towards therapeutic adventure programming for veterans and first responders. Mike’s generosity and impact continues even in the off season! Thank you Mike!
It’s the middle of winter, what else are you going to do? Get on down to the show, say hi to Mike and try to win a piece of Canadian history eh!
Follow Mike on Facebook and watch him live stream himself working in his shop- currently creating a monstrous canoe paddle.
Help Mike and Spitzii reach the Arctic next summer by donating to their gofundme page. Mike and Spitzii will be paddling from Fort McMurray to Yellowknife starting on Canada day.