A cross-Canada paddle trip not for the faint-hearted, Part 1

Mike Ranta is a Canadian canoe explorer from a bygone era.

All photos by David Jackson.

Canadian paddler Mike Ranta may seem like your average dude. But give him a canoe and it becomes apparent that the burly bearded fellow is more akin to an explorer of times long ago.

Take for instance the fact that he has paddled across the continent of Canada three times -- not something average dudes do. But combine that with his rather “passive approach” to planning one of those canoe trips, as Canoe & Kayak’s David Jackson found out earlier this April, and it’s a testament to Ranta’s sheer force as a paddle voyager.

Earlier this year, Jackson joined Ranta on another cross-continent paddle -- And the epic trip is easily one for the ages. Ranta’s preparation for this serious excursion consisted mostly of eating and fattening up. As Jackson says of Ranta’s approach, “[It] goes against all logic you’d read in a health magazine. He doesn’t take rest days. He smokes and drinks. He pushes hard and, most impressively, he doesn’t give up.”

The trip included a 500-mile portage across the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and began with a 30-day walk on the hinterland highways of northern British Columbia and routinely offered freak snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures.

While Ranta suffered grueling shin splints after a week of carrying his canoe up and down steep grades, the explorer spirit would never be beaten out of him by the wild.

“I don’t look ahead. I just pick a route and go,” Ranta told Jackson. “I call it ‘explorer’s surprise.’ I love that.”

The duo eventually reached Kinbasket Lake, a reservoir in the Columbia River watershed near the Continental Divide. Upon reaching this milestone they were pinned down for four days by wind as they aimed to continue their incredible trek.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this incredible explorer story.

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