PHOTO: Mike Ranta with Leo Hunnakko (his editor) and Jon Nelson (who is reviewing the book) at a book signing in Thunder Bay in February.
The week of February 11-18 was a hectic one for Mike Ranta, with Sunday’s book launch at Thunder Bay’s Chapters and Friday’s farewell to his hometown, as he begins preparation for his upcoming cross-Canada paddle, April 1.
Ranta’s book, which chronicles his 2014 cross-Canada canoe trip, generated good interest at after a number of signings around town and at least 70 attending the Chapters signing.
(In this area, his book is available for purchase at Celestial Gold, Revive Resale Shop, and Quetico North, and should be available to order online at Amazon.ca shortly.)
He will promote his book to a wider audience at Toronto’s outdoor adventure show, the Wilderness and Canoe Symposium, February 24-25, and the Canoe Museum in Peterborough.
“I’m excited for that. I get to promote Atikokan,” said Ranta, Wednesday.
The book has been in the works since shortly after ending that journey. It was a labourious task for the first-time author, as he pored through his daily journal entries and FaceBook updates to share the journey in a mostly chronological order. Editor and co-publisher Leo Hunnakko (a childhood friend of Mike’s dad Marty), urged him to keep writing, even when he was feeling bogged down and overwhelmed, he said.
Ranta, who feels more in his element as an orator than author, used a speech recognition software program that transcribed his spoken words, a more comfortable way of composing for him. In that format, storytelling came easily, and “I actually enjoyed writing,” he said.
There are lots of experiences to share from that on trip, but also many tie-ins with his first solo trek from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta to Montreal in 2011 – and his formative years in Atikokan, he said.
“It does deal with a lot of personal aspects of my life in a lot of ways,” he said,
In the future, he will look to share his 2016 cross-Canada journey, but not until after completing his fourth such trek this year, which means he has at least two more books in him.
While each of his three preceding journeys has been unique (the 2011 trek was shorter, and retraced the country’s Centennial Canoe Pageant; the 2014 and 2016 routes across Canada were different), this year’s route will retrace that of Scottish explorer Alexander Mackenzie, who worked for the North West Company. In 1793 Mackenzie completed the first recorded transcontinental crossing of North America north of Mexico, beating Lewis and Clark by 12 years.
It will mean paddling the northerly Peace River route through BC and Alberta, and for the first time, Ranta and Spitzii will not be solo. They will be accompanied by freelance writer, photographer and paddler David Jackson, who covered Ranta’s 2014 trip for Canoe Kayak Magazine.
“I’ve never paddled long distance with someone else before [in another canoe], so that’s the challenge,” said Ranta, adding that Jackson is a veteran canoeist. “His dream has been to canoe across Canada for years. I’m looking forward to paddling with Dave, and if I can assist him with his dream, that’s an honour.”
And Jackson has the one endorsement needed to join the paddling team: “Spitzii loves him, so I have a feeling he’ll be switching between canoes a lot.”
The two are already equipped with canoe carts – and their durability will surely be tested this trip: After paddling for three days from Bella Coola, BC, Ranta and Jackson will hit their first ‘portage’ – 840 kilometres, an estimated three week walk through a mountain range.
With three cross-country journeys under his belt, Ranta knows exactly what he needs to do to prepare physically and mentally. This winter he said daily jaunts out to StrawHat Lake have helped keep his fitness level up, but at the same time, it will be necessary to store up some body fat as well, because weight loss happens quickly in theses extreme feats of physical endurance.
Ranta will spend the month of March in Lumby, BC, training daily for the launch.