Words by Conor Mihell // Photos by David Jackson
Setting out in April to document canoeist Mike Ranta's third cross-Canada journey from a solo canoe of his own, photojournalist David Jackson knew he was in for a challenge. Jackson calls his subject "the last voyageur." Indeed, Ranta is hard-paddling and hard-partying—the epitome of the happy-go-lucky Canuck. Seven weeks into their journey, after an epic 500-mile portage over the Continental Divide and a harrowing 100-mile transit of Kinbasket Lake, Jackson says, "it's been quite the experience.
"Mike puts himself through a hell of a lot of work," adds the C&K contributing photographer from Ottawa. "I love this type of travel and I was ready for it. On a trip like this, you come to realize when it's good it's good, and when it's awful it's really awful."
Jackson met Ranta on a profile assignment for Canoe & Kayak in 2014, and he was immediately struck by the man's determination and authenticity—not to mention his colorful personality. Ranta and his canine companion, Spitz, have made their canoe expeditions without any sort of sponsorship. "He's a living piece Canadian history," says Jackson. With Canada celebrating its sesquicentennial, Ranta's current goal is to encourage national pride in communities from British Columbia to the Maritimes. Jackson insists he's tagging along simply as an observer—albeit an especially hardworking one.
"I don't want to impart any ego in what I'm doing," says Jackson, who includes no photographs of himself in his regular web and Instagram updates. "The story is about a man and his dog navigating Canada from side to side for the third time. History deserves to have a good account of Mike Ranta."
For his part, Ranta says Jackson has been the perfect companion. "I've always travelled solo and wasn't sure how it would go," he admits. "But we get along great. David is tough as nails. Sometimes I feel like I'm holding back. He just gets out there and gives 'er."
Paddling two solo canoes allows the pair to travel stealthily, which led to sightings of moose, wolves and two grizzly bears in one memorable day on Alberta's Bow River. As of mid-May Ranta and Jackson had travelled over 800 miles. With the brutal, long-distance portages of the Rockies behind them, Jackson is looking forward to more time on the water.
Ranta, meanwhile, craves the experience of meeting Canadians and sharing his story in towns along the way. "We live in such a great country," he enthuses. "It's all about the people and Canada right now."
Stay tuned to CanoeKayak.com for more updates as the expedition progresses. For more Mike Ranta:
- Follow Ranta on Facebook
- Track the 2017 expedition in real time
- Watch exclusive C&K interviews following his 2014 and 2016 expeditions