On May 22, 2014, I picked up a couple of hot coffees from Tim Horton’s and drove my family to the Bow River in Calgary at the ungodly hour of O’Dark-thirty. We’re not keen to get up early when we could be sleeping in, but the sun had risen and it promised to be one of the best days of the year. Besides, it’s not every day you get a chance to catch a man they call a Canadian hero, a man with humble roots in my hometown of Atikokan, Ontario.
Our intel was good and, wearing his trademark homemade birchbark hat, he appeared before the coffee got cold. With his dog Spitzi at the bow, Mike Ranta paddled his way around a bend in the river, trailed by his photographer David Jackson in a second canoe. Mike smiled when he spotted me waving and waved back, a big smile on his face. He headed for the boat landing under the bridge where others waited to greet him.
Mike was as friendly as people said and his handshake was real. We talked about the trip and about this year’s cause, First Responders and PTSD. Inevitably, his dog Spitzi stole the show with his handsome looks and serious attitude. He’s a working dog and I think a lot of people follow Mike’s journey to keep an eye on what Spitzi’s up to.
We gave him a copy of Canadian Shorts, a collection of short stories from authors across Canada to keep him entertained around the fire at night. After hugs, and a chance to sign Mike’s canoe, he replenished his supplies at the local store and headed off down the river. Here’s the video I compiled from photos and video we took that day. You can follow Mike Ranta’s expedition at mikeranta.ca or catch him on Facebook.
Author of the Intuition Series