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After decades of exploring, where do the boldest sea kayakers, whitewater boaters and canoe trippers fantasize about paddling? That’s the question that inspired Paddling Magazine to query some of our long-time contributors and favorite nomadic aquaphiles to ask after their dream destinations, most challenging expeditions and what a life of exploration really means anyways.

In this series of profiles, these exceptional water-wanderers share their top trips, best advice and biggest blunders. And whether their ambitious journeys were taken in the name of discovery, education, environment or glory, these legends affirm what we already know: There’s far more to explore by paddle than anyone could fit in a lifetime—but don’t let that stop you from trying.

Three-time cross-Canada paddler Mike Ranta is usually spotted under the broad brim of his trademark birchbark hat with canine friend Spitzii by his side. His 5,000-mile continent-crossing trips raised funds for youth, veterans and first responders, highlighting the country’s interconnectedness and canoe heritage along the way.

Location: Killarney, Ontario
Occupation: Paddle maker
Latest Project: At press time, Ranta was putting the finishing touches on the world’s biggest canoe paddle. Named the Big Dipper, the 110-foot-long, 15-foot-tall paddle will reside on the shores of Georgian Bay in Killarney, Ontario.
Man wearing large-brimmed hat, dirty coat standing in field with river in background.
Modern day voyageur.| Photo: David Jackson

Q & A with Mike Ranta

1 The one place I dream of returning to is…

Lake Superior. This location captivates the soul. Its vastness is humbling, and you get a true sense of well-being.

2One place I dream of paddling but haven’t yet is…

Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. I’d love to circumnavigate it. I love the isolation.

3One thing I can’t live without is…

my best friend, campsite soldier and bear scarer—my pup Spitzii!

Dog sitting in canoe as man pulls it down a road as snow falls.
Mike and his trusty companion Spitzii. | Photo: David Jackson

4My biggest pet peeve is…

Spitzii farting in the tent.

5The greatest advice I ever got was…

“stay in control cause if you ain’t in control, you’re in trouble,” and that was from an old friend, Bobby Davidson.

[ Also watch: Mika Ranta Saves A Drowning Moose Calf ]

6The canoe I paddle now is…

a Swift 17-foot Prospector.

7The best paddling companions are…

dogs and that’s true when they’re sleeping.

8The hardest part about making your dream trip happen is…

mustering up the courage to take the first steps. The second hardest thing is to stop making more trips—I haven’t figured that out.

After quitting his job in the oil industry and selling everything he owned in 2011, Ranta paddled 130 days from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, to Montreal, Quebec, retracing the route of the 1967 Voyageur Canoe Pageant. Three years later, Ranta and Spitzii departed from Vancouver and paddled for 214 days intending to break the world record for the longest single-season solo canoe trip. They made it as far as Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, just 93 miles short of the goal. The following year, in 2015, Ranta and Spitzii once again departed from Vancouver and 200 days later made it to Dominion Beach, Cape Breton, claiming the record. Two years later, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Canadian confederation, Ranta attempted to do it again (read here: Mike Ranta’s Third Cross-Canada Trip).

Man paddling a canoe with dog in bow, snow on trees in background.
Mike Ranta on a winter training paddle. | Photo: Alan Poelman

9My best advice to young paddlers is…

enjoy the small things.

10Happiness is…

solitude. Sitting with my bare feet in the water and listening to the symphony of nature.

11My most challenging trip was…

paddling from Killarney, Ontario, to James Bay and back. It taught me patience and how to travel up wild rivers.

12What scares me most while tripping is…

weather. Big storms and wild winds are our biggest dangers.

13My favorite camp meal is…

fish and beans. Spitzii’s too!

14The true gift of big trips is…

the people you meet along the way.

Paddling Magazine Issue 63 | 2021 Paddling Trip Guide Cover

This article was first published in Paddling Magazine Issue 64. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or download the Paddling Magazine app and browse the digital archives here.

Modern day voyageur.| Photo: David Jackson


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