Mike Ranta and Spitzii: paddling dream team sets new goal
Atikokan paddler Mike Ranta is dedicating his latest cross-country paddle to veterans
Less than two weeks into his latest solo cross-country journey, northwestern Ontario paddler Mike Ranta, and his faithful dog Spitzii, have already had a close call in some strong currents on B.C.'s Fraser River.
"Spitz fell overboard and disappeared underwater and I thought I had lost him," Ranta said. "I thought I'd lost my best friend."
It was "by a miracle" that the dog resurfaced, and the pair were able to make it to shore, and continue their journey from the coast of Vancouver, to Cape Breton.
Mike Ranta, who hails from the small town of Atikokan, is no rookie when it comes to gruelling wilderness adventure.
His 2014 solo cross-country paddle was named Expedition of the Year by Canoe and Kayak magazine, which recognized Ranta for completing the longest solo canoe expedition in a single season to date.
That trip took seven months. This time, he wants to do it in six.
"I want to show the kids, no matter how crazy your dream is, always go for it," said Ranta.
Along the way, he's trying to raise awareness and funds for the Atikokan Youth Centre, and for veterans.
"I just want [veterans] to know ... they're not forgotten," he said, adding that he's stopping at Legions along the way, meeting veterans and asking them to sign his canoe.
Despite the scare on the Fraser River, Ranta said he's feeling optimistic as he prepares for the next leg of his journey: the trek through the Rocky Mountains, which will include some long portages, pulling his gear and canoe using an aluminum cart.
"I feel good and I've got that veterans spirit behind me and I feel just unstoppable right now," he said.
He began in Vancouver on April 1 and hopes to arrive in Cape Breton by his 45th birthday at the end of September.