A cross-Canada paddle trip not for the faint-hearted, Part 2

Lake Superior offers a massive hurdle for Canada's last voyager.

All photos by David Jackson.

When we last left our Canadian paddle exploration story about Mike Ranta and photojournalist David Jackson canoeing across the entirety of Canada, they had just reached Kinbasket Lake, a reservoir in the Columbia River watershed near the Continental Divide.

Winds and freak snow storms drastically set them back on their anticipated excursion across Lake Superior -- two months to be exact. Which meant they were arriving in September, just when Lake Superior started mimicking an ocean with its storms.

“It’s so late to be just reaching Gichigami [Lake Superior],” Ranta admitted to Canoe & Kayak.

Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall for the duo from the start of embarking onto Lake Superior. Any hopes of them reaching saltwater in Nova Scotia began dissipating as they hit bad weather from the start on Superior.

“We will give it an honest 214 days,” Ranta said, referring to his altered goal of spending 214 days attempting the continental paddle crossing. “That’s all a fella can do.”

After being pinned down for the first day on Superior due to wind and big swells, the duo rattled off a 40-mile paddle on day two. But then more weather rolled in and they were settled for another five days, continuing a cat and mouse game with Superior and its legendary fall storms for two weeks.

Hitting 100-mile-an-hour wind gusts and snow squalls, Jackson hit his limit. “I just needed to get off the lake,” he told C&K.

Upon reaching the community of Red Rock, Ontario, Jackson called it quits. But Ranta was determined to continue.

“Superior still wanted to have a conversation with me,” Ranta said, who continued on alone with his dog, Spitz, for three days. “Those few days by myself were amazing, but I had a couple of bad experiences. Everything would be fine and then the wind would come out of nowhere. It was scary. I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing out here?’ Everything told me to swallow my pride.”

While all trips are not necessarily successful, as Ranta himself admits, it would seem that this shortened expedition still achieved plenty despite not reaching its original destination. Ranta called it quits on Oct. 8, Day 191 of his fourth nationwide journey. The decision to end this 2017 expedition was made much easier by the fact that he’d already completed three cross-Canada canoe trips, including a 200-day, 4,750-mile journey in 2016.

“If one element shines through on this great journey, it is that Mike Ranta has boundless resilience and everlasting perseverance,” Jackson said “He might be the last connection to the voyagers, and my photos may be the last record of a generation we may very well not see again.”

Clearly Ranta is like a character from history books -- he is some strange mix between a pure-hearted Canadian, wearing hockey jerseys and touting the maple leaf flag, and an original Canadian fur trapper from two centuries ago. Trips like these are not done anymore, and for Jackson the trip was most certainly a success.

“Every day is an adventure for Mike,” Jackson notes. “Every corner has potential for something exciting. You never know what you’ll encounter, who you will stop and talk to. It’s such an absorbed way to live and it took me away from the trivial problems of everyday life.”

But Ranta didn’t necessarily do this for himself. It would seem he does it to prove that despite all our comforts as a modern society in the 21st century, feats like this can still be undertaken by a guy who operates on his knowledge, experience and sheer willpower.

“The whole deal is to inspire others to get out there,” he says. “It’s amazing to have that kind of effect on people.”

Read Part 1 here.

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