“Our goal is to raise awareness of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as it affects first responders – not just ambulance, firefighters and police, but anyone who goes in when others are going out. Sometimes civilians are exposed to things they aren’t trained for. There aren’t a lot of programs for them.”
That was how Mike Ranta explained why he and David Jackson plan to cross Canada by canoe. The pair were in Clearwater on Tuesday afternoon, April 25.
Ranta has the experience for the adventure. He has crossed Canada by canoe two times already and apparently was the first to cross North America by canoe in one season.
Jackson is a photographer and videographer and hopes to produce a documentary record of their trip.
Ranta comes from northwest Ontario while Jackson is from near Ottawa.
The pair left Bella Bella on April 1 and hope to reach Cape Breton Island before the end of the season.
Their trip will end on Oct. 31 no matter where they are, said Ranta.
They paddled from Bella Bella to Bella Coola, where members of the Nexalk Nation gave them a traditional welcome on the beach.
The day was pouring rain, they said, but the sun came out and there was an amazing rainbow as they stepped out of their canoes.
Since then they appear to have been portaging their canoes, pulling them along next to the highways using backpack shoulder straps attached to the vessels’ bows.
Each canoe weighs about 250 pounds in total.
Although there is a notorious hill coming out of Bella Coola up onto the Chilcotin Plateau, the toughest part of the trip so far was coming down the Highway 24 hill into Little Fort, they said.
“My thighs were just burning after that,” Ranta said.
The pair planned to travel to Birch Island before finding a place to camp on Tuesday.
They are traveling about 40 km a day while on the road. When they reach Valemount they plan to paddle the length of Kinbasket Lake to Golden. From there they will portage over the Rocky Mountains, then put into the Saskatchewan River drainage for the trip to Lake Winnipeg.
A special member of the team is Spitzi, a Finnish Spitz.
The small dog is great protection against bears, Ranta said.
Wildlife seen so far on this trip has included a wolverine crossing the road in the Chilcotin. They also had two foxes visit.
A proud Canadian who describes his background as Metis, Finnish and Ojibwa, Ranta said he would like to see this country take in more immigrants, not fewer.
“Then I would like to get them into a canoe and make real Canadians out of them,” he said.
You can follow their progress by going to https://mikeranta.ca/.