Mike Ranta’s April 14 canoe journey down the Similkameen River from Princeton to Keremeos was not without its share of adventures.
The resident of the small northern Ontario community of Atikokan is on an 8,000 kilometre cross-Canada canoe journey to raise money for Atikokan Youth Initiatives.
Ranta set out from Richmond on April 1, paddling into the Pacific Ocean before heading down the Fraser River to Hope.
“There’s a way to ride the current – it’s actually quite easy to paddle upstream, once you know how,” he explained matter-of-factly.
“You have to stay close to shore, and watch where you place the canoe.” Ranta said the Fraser was starting to rise, but managed to make it to Hope unscathed.
If you were driving to the coast last week. you might have seen Ranta, portaging the Hope-Princeton Highway, pulling his canoe and accompanied by his faithful companion Spitzii, a Finnish Spitz dog.
“He’s good company,” Ranta said of his canine companion. “We look out for each other, and we get along really well – although he has his moments, and I have mine.”
Ranta and Spitzii made Princeton last Sunday, April 13, spending Monday on the river as they made their way downstream to Keremeos.
“It was getting pretty crazy,” he said Tuesday after arriving in the village. Around Bromley Rock, the duo rounded a corner in the river and hit white water. Rather than take a chance on the river, he put the canoe on the rocks, swamping the boat in the process.
“I went right underneath it,” he said, “but at least it wasn’t in the middle of the river.”
Calling the incident “refreshing,” he said he was fortunate not to have lost any gear.
“I ended up having to line the canoe much of the rest of the way,” Ranta said, “there were places where I could literally see the water level going up.” Calling the day’s journey “educational” Ranta said he nonetheless really enjoyed the Similkameen River.
“It was fun, and fast,” he said.
Ranta camped out at Red Bridge, arriving there sometime after dark on Monday night.
He ran into further problems Tuesday when he found his canoe cart had a broken weld.
“I can’t thank the people of this village enough for the help they’ve given me,” Ranta said early Tuesday afternoon after he had completed his repairs.
“There was a fellow named Don who gave me a ride up the hill to Central Fabricating, where Mike welded my cart back together, and Dan (Dan’s Automotive) let me use his yard to make the repairs. Everybody has been very welcoming.”
Ranta’s gear was spread out behind Dan’s shop Tuesday morning. Finishing repairs which included a flat tire, he explained the purpose of his odyssey.
“Youth in Atikokan need a place to go where they can be mentored without being subject to peer pressures,” he said. “I was a troubled youth, but I had a mentor – a fighter by the name of Bob Davidson. He saved me, rechannelled my energy.
“He was the 1967 Golden Gloves champion, tough as nails. I respected him.”
For Ranta, this trip is all about channelling his former negative energy into something positive, and giving something back to the community. He’s hoping to make the Guiness Book of World Records upon completion of the journey, which he is accomplishing unaided. Ranta is very adept with a canoe, and is using up to date technology such as GPS and satellite tracking devices.
Ranta left Keremeos early Tuesday afternoon, heading for Yellow Lake by nightfall. From there he hopes to make Penticton, eventually trekking up the Okanagan towards Revelstoke and the Columbia River. That’s where he fears he will encounter the toughest part of the trip.
“It’s been a tough spring, and a strange winter cross-country,” he said, noting that the rivers emptying the Rockies could be in full flood by the time he reaches them.
That challenge lies a week or so ahead of him, however. For now, as he leaves Keremeos he’s upbeat and enthusiastic about the adventure still lying ahead.
“I feel strong, I feel good,” he said.
You can follow Mike Ranta’s journey on Facebook: Mike Ranta’s Paddle
His website is: Atikokan Youth.org
Donations can be made to Royal Bank Account 002221003201