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Mike Ranta and Spitzii (his Finnish Spitz dog) arrived in Penticton Thursday afternoon during their cross-country trek to set a Guinness World record and raise funds for Atikokan youth.
Ranta, who paddled from Rocky Mountain House, Alta., to Montreal in 2011, is looking to break the record of 3,200 kilometres by paddling from Vancouver to Cape Breton Island, a distance of more than 8,000-km.
Ranta’s main purpose is to inspire the youth in his hometown of Atikokan, Ont. known as the Canoe Capital of Canada. Ranta’s trying to raise funds to keep the youth centre going. Atikokan Youth Initiatives, which operates the teen centre, is acting as Ranta’s partner on the trip. It hosts regular updates, including en route videos and photos, on its website, and is selling memorabilia as a fundraiser.
“The kids need a place to go,” said Ranta, taking a breather from his paddling at the midway mark of the Channel Parkway. “It’s really important to us, especially in our small town. It’s really hard for us to get funds.”
Ranta’s and Spitzii’s journey started on April 1 and it has been a tiring adventure with the added challenge of difficult terrain.
“I paddled up the Fraser, that was incredible,” said Ranta, sporting a hat made of birch bark that said Canadian Made on the front. “It took a lot out of me. It took me everything I had. All my skills as a canoeist to get up that.”
For the areas he can’t paddle, such as his journey between Hope and Princeton, Ranta towed his canoe and gear, weighing about 91 kilograms for seven days. Ranta uses a specially built Souris River canoe and he worked with the canoe designer to develop a unique wheeled-trailer he will use during the long portages on the mountain sections of his route. The canoe includes a cover so that it can act as a shelter, something he expects to need in the mountains.
“I have to do everything by hand and foot,” said Ranta, who got sucked into a canyon and also took a spill into the Similkameen River. “I had a very difficult and very fast choice to make. It was either go down some white water or put her into the rocks and somehow get out of it. I didn’t want to go down the white water. I ended up bailing out of the canoe going under in the Similkameen River. The water is very cold right now (he laughed). It was a good refreshing wake-up that’s for sure.”
Spitzii, 6, has joined Ranta on trips since he was eight weeks old.
“Spitzii is loving the trip. Every girl in this part of the world is chasing him,” he joked. “Such a handsome boy.”
The challenge for Ranta, 42, a former rig worker, is walking the hills.
“Truck drivers and everybody has been courteous on the road. It’s been an absolute blast. Everybody honking at me and waving,” he said. “I even had some girls flash me. There aren’t too many solo canoe groupies out there.”
Ranta, who lived in Vernon and Kamloops nearly 20 years ago, loved Penticton and its scenery, especially getting into Skaha Lake.
“I’ve never been to France or Italy,” he said, with the canoe parked at the side of river channel and Spitzii relaxed on top. “I’ve seen the pictures and that’s the first thing it reminded me of. All the vineyards and stuff like that. This is just a beautiful paddle to this part of the country.”
Ranta is now making his way to Vernon. He is targeting his arrival in Cape Breton Island, N.S. on Sept. 29, his 43rd birthday. Ranta is hoping to raise $50,000 for the youth centre and said anyone who donates more than a dollar gets their name engraved on the world’s largest paddle he plans to build with the youth.
“It’s a way to say thank you for supporting on the trip,” said Ranta.
Ranta can be followed on his route by going to www.atikokanyouth.org/ranta-route-2014.html and he posts updates on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/pages/Mike-Rantas-Paddle/117469248331877.
Anyone interested in helping him raise money for the youth centre can do so by going to the Royal Bank. The account number is 002221003201.