What an Adventure

Mike Ranta’s Top 5 brushes with death

Danger isn’t his middle name, but it might as well be

By Amy Hadley, CBC News Posted: Nov 01, 2014 8:00 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 03, 2014 5:55 AM ET

Atikokan solo paddler Mike Ranta hopes he's broken a world record for the longest solo paddle.

Atikokan solo paddler Mike Ranta hopes he’s broken a world record for the longest solo paddle. (Catherine Dulude/CBC)

It goes without saying that a cross-country canoe trip through the Canadian wilderness is going to have its dodgy moments, and Atikokan paddler Mike Ranta has had his fair share of close calls over the past seven months.

Ranta, and his trusty dog Spitzi, set out from the shores of Vancouver in the spring and ended their journey on Halloween day, in Nova Scotia.

It’s been a long and sometimes rocky road. Luckily, the affable Ranta has a good sense of humour, and was happy to recount his five most memorable misadventures:

5.    Close call on the Kam River

There were more than a few points along the way where Ranta had to contend with dangerously strong waters. When it comes to close calls, “a lot of them have been currents and my own foolishness,” he joked.

“One was going down the Kaministiquia River, and shooting a small set of rapids, and misjudging where a rock was and getting knocked into even a bigger set of rapids.”

4.     Strong winds on Superior

Overall Lake Superior “was very good to me,” said Ranta. But the big lake did have its moody moments, including one stormy cliff-side stretch.

“I braved along a set of cliffs and I got caught in the wind and some swells and it was very treacherous going through some of the waters… at one time I really had to watch what side of my face I put my tongue on, my canoe was that tippy!”

3.    Losing steam with elk in the stream

While paddling down the North Saskatchewan River Ranta encountered an unexpected barrier. He came around a corner, and nearly collided with a herd of elk crossing the waterway.

“That was pretty trying because they did have little ones there, and like any good mother they’re very protective of their children. That was a pretty scary moment, ” Ranta said. “I came very close to a few of them.”

2.    Terrifying tumble

Ranta’s cross-country journey included some punishing portages. At one point, he was scrambling down a set of falls during a trek from the Dog River into the Kaministiquia, when his footing gave way.

“I fell about 15-feet, I guess it was. And I banged up my leg and my ribs and the side of my head a little bit. Rung my bell, but I was alright and [Spitzi] had a good laugh.”

1.    The real shocker

The swollen Winnipeg River presented challenges of its own. But it wasn’t the strong currents that gave Ranta his biggest scare. It was a bone-rattling near miss from a bolt of lightning.

“My ears rang for a day and a half,” Ranta said. “It was very close.”


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