Completing a journey of more than 7,000 kilometres in just 200 days, Ontario native Mike Ranta finished the longest solo paddling expedition of his career- a journey dedicated to the veterans of Canada.
Ranta and his trusted companion Spitzii started off their journey from Victoria, B.C. on April 1.
Over the course of six months, Ranta made some unforgettable memories as he trekked through the interior of Canada and witnessing the country’s nature at its finest, even having the opportunity to save a baby calf.
“It was amazing. We have such a beautiful country. It was quite the journey,” said Ranta.
The journey also had its fair share of challenges as well like combating weather conditions, facing mountain lions and losing his dog and best friend Spitzii on multiple occasions.
But the challenges ultimately were justified by Ranta’s passion to reach his destination and his cause – to thank veterans across Canada.
During his expedition, Ranta made it a point to visit as many Royal Canadian Legion outposts as possible and had his canoe signed by close to 1000 veterans. Many of the veterans who signed his canoe were in their 80s and 90s, with the oldest veteran being 102 years old.
“It’s pretty humbling when you have these people initiate compliments saying ‘that’s amazing. What you’re doing is amazing.’ These people have experience. They’ve bared witness to amazing things their whole lives. For them to give me that kind of recognition is extremely humbling. They are an amazing group of people,” noted Ranta.
He was inspired to dedicate this journey to veterans after a few elder veterans close to Ranta had passed.
“We’re losing this World War Two generation very fast…you gotta think who sacrificed the most to get us our country. If you think about it, it is our World War One and World War Two guys.
“I wanted to take this time to say thank you to these guys. There are so many behind me on this message. There are so many Canadians that absolutely love our veterans wholeheartedly,” said Ranta.
Ranta has a personal connection to the military as well. His brother Kevin Ranta served in the Canadian Armed Forces and completed several tours including one to Bosnia.
His expedition has given him the platform to put out a non-partisan non-political message for veterans, especially those who are on the streets, something Ranta says is unacceptable.
“If we have the money to clean up these countries we should have the money to help our men and women that protect our way of life so we can continue helping around the world. That’s the message I really wanted to get across,” stated Ranta.
On Oct. 18, after 200 days and four hours, Ranta finally reached Dominion Beach, Nova Scotia.
“Once I pulled up, and I realized I had reached my destination, it was pretty surreal,” recalled Ranta.
A crowd, including Ranta’s brother, were there to welcome him on the completion of his journey.
This wasn’t the first time Ranta had paddled and portaged across Canada. In 2014 he made the journey from Vancouver to Nova Scotia but fell 150 kilometres short of Cape Breton. So, making it to Cape Breton in October was especially significant for Ranta.
However, his months of journeying reached their culmination on Remembrance Day when he was asked by the Royal Canadian Legion to lay a wreath, made of branches and leaves from each province he paddled through, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“It was an emotional day. That was the end of my trip to me, Remembrance Day when I laid that wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I felt like everything had some good closure,” said Ranta.
Though he’s completed his journey, for now, Ranta assures that this isn’t the last we’ve heard of him and a third expedition could be on the horizon.