- Our Town
Cross-country paddlers approaching Williams Lake
Mike Ranta and his dog Spitzii are on a mission to canoe 8,000 kilometers across Canada and will arrive in Williams Lake some time Monday.
On Easter Sunday, Ranta, Spitzii and photographer David Jackson, who is documenting the adventure and paddling as well, were coming down the long Highway 20 hill approaching the Sheep Creek Bridge from the west.
A modern day voyageur, Ranta told the Tribune he is paddling and portaging from sea to sea to honour the country’s first responders, raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and to celebrate Canada’s 150th.
“We plan to be in Williams Lake Monday, do some repairs to my canoe, let my leg heal a bit and then paddle your lake Tuesday,” Ranta said.
Along the way Ranta is inviting the public to paddle with him, stop to chat and sign his canoe.
“Let’s paddle and portage one of the first Canadian highways and pay respect to the traditional routes of our ancestors,” Ranta said.
Jackson has been posting photographs on his website davidjackson.com whenever he has internet access.
'We left from Bella Coola to recognize Alexander Mackenzie who was the first guy to cross the North American content,” Ranta said. “I always wanted to mimic a little bit of his route and I’d heard about the grease trails. I wanted to throw a bit of history into it.”
Departing from Bella Coola added more of a challenge, he said, noting 800 kms is the longest portage he’s ever done.
While in the lakecity, Ranta connected with Gene Tetreault, 83, who kayaked 5,600 kilometers from Rocky Mountain House to Montreal, Quebec in 1967 to celebrate Expo.
“I met Gene in Ontario and one of the guys who paddled with him, Joe Meany, was my canoeing hero,” Ranta said. “I have a memorial to Joe on my canoe.”
After paddling Williams Lake, they will portage down Highway 97 and then paddle Lac La Hache. From there they will portage north on Highway 24 toward Valemount and then paddle the full length of Kinbasket Lake, hopefully by the end of April.
“We will pull out by Donald and then we will walk to Lake Louise,” Ranta said. “Once we put in at the Bow River she’s water all the way across the continent.”
Originally from Northern Ontario, Ranta has been a professional solo canoeist since 2011, recording more than four million strokes and 7,500 km of paddling in a single season.
He and Spitzii are the recipients of Canoe and Kayak Magazine’s 2015 Expedition of the Year award.
In 2016 Mike and Spitzii completed their second cross continental solo canoe expedition; they arrived at Dominion Beach, Cape Breton after 200 days of paddling, again honouring veterans while experiencing wild Canadian adventures.