Mike Ranta, the Fort Frances-born and Atikokan-raised “modern-day voyageur,” passed through here earlier this week during his third cross-Canada canoe trip.
Ranta left Bella Bella, B.C. on April 1 and plans to travel all the way to Dominion Beach on Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia).
“We’re doing it to raise awareness around PTSD for first responders and we’re saying ‘Happy Birthday’ to Canada,” Ranta told the Times during a brief stop while portaging through town Monday afternoon.
“We are also recognizing that it is a lot older that 150 years and paying homage to the very people who, without their welcoming ways, it would be hard to say what kind of country we’d be in,” he added.
Ranta is making the trip with his dog, “Spitzii,” who has been on many expeditions with him before, and David Jackson, a photojournalist travelling with him for the first time.
Despite this being Ranta’s third trip (fourth if you count his 2011 trek from the Rocky Mountains to Montreal), this is his first time he’s come through Fort Frances.
“Normally I’ve taken the traditional voyageur routes and with the water being high and pressed for time, I’ve always taken the high water route going through Nestor Falls and the northern route-bypassing Fort Frances,” he explained.
But this year’s trip is more relaxed and so he had the time to come through our area.
“I was born in Fort and raised in Atikokan so Northwestern Ontario is a very special place for me,” Ranta said.
“To save this trip and come through on Canada’s 150th birthday really meant a lot for me.”
Although Ranta is known for his solo journeys across Canada, he said it’s the people he meets along the way that makes them special.
“We are saying thank you and stopping in communities along the way, shaking hands and meeting people from across this wonderful nation,” he remarked.
“It’s an addicting way to travel here, that’s for sure.”
Ranta admitted even though this is a more relaxed trip, they are getting pressed for time as he’s usually 1,000 km ahead at this juncture on his previous trips.
He said winds have played a part, but it also is their tendency to visit and meet people that’s to blame.
“We’re kind of holding ourselves back and really enjoying this trip more, with time to meet the people and take time to speak at schools when I can,” Ranta noted.
Those visiting with Ranta are encouraged by him to sign the canoe and sincerely are thanked for being Canadian.
“Just saying thank you to a great nation,” he said.