The person pulling a canoe through Nelson Tuesday with this trusty dog, bear fighter, navigator and best friend, Spitzii breaking trail is Mike Ranta.
Ranta, from Atikokan,Ont., which just happens to be the Canoe Capital of Canada, is no stranger to solo expeditions having already crossed North America continent solo, over one summer.
However, once is not enough for this 44-year-old former oil rig worker.
“I started April 1st in Vancouver and have come all this way almost to Nelson in 20 some days,” Ranta told The Nelson Daily during a pit stop at Monday at Taghum Shell, 10 kilometers west of Nelson.
Ranta made a promise to paddle to the shores of Dominion Beach in Cape Breton to show appreciation for men and women of the Canadian armed forces.
And he plans to keep that promise, stopping at Canadian Legions during his trip to have veterans sign the top of his canoe.
“Looked at our freedoms and protection we have,’’ Ranta explains. “And there’s no place else in this world I could paddle across the country if it wasn’t for them and what they do for us.”
“That’s just the bottom line of it,” Ranta added.
“I just want to say thank you to all the veterans. I lost a couple of friends in wars who were very special to me . . .. They were truly amazing people.”
Ranta made his inaugural trip in 2014 from Vancouver to Tatamagouche, NS. The cross-Canada trek set a record for the longest solo canoe paddle at 7500 kilometers accomplished in just 214 days.
Warming up for the cross-Canada trek, he paddled and portaged 5,400 kilometres from Rocky Mountain House in Alberta to Montreal on the St. Lawrence River in 2011.
The 112 day trek would have been a world-record canoe trip if he’d informed the people at Guinness prior to leaving.
To connect to rivers and lakes, the avid canoeist regularly hauls the canoe out of the water, towing it, equipment and supplies on a specially built wheeled trailer over the hundreds of kilometres of land.
Monday, starting in Castlegar, Ranta paddled up Kootenay River, portaging around the Fortis Dams along Highway 3A a stop just outside Nelson.
Tuesday, he trekked into the Heritage City where he met some veterans and got Spitzii’s paw checked out before tossing the canoe into Kootenay Lake for the paddle to Creston.
“This trip is a little shorter than the last one,” Ranta said.
“I want to show kids in our communities that no matter how crazy life gets or how crazy your dream is . . . just go for it.”
“It’s only a failure if you say so.”
Ranta has stopped to talk to local media to promote his trip and has CBC Radio following his progress.
And, of course, when people see a man and a dog towing a canoe, they stop to ask, “what are you doing?”
“It’s been a blast,” said Ranta. “It really has.”