The “Sleeping Giant” was shrouded in eerie banks of fog rolling in across Lake Superior. This “giant” is, in fact, the rocky backbone of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Superior, Canada. Looking across the big lake from Thunder Bay, it appears to be a huge stone figure lying on its back, gazing into the heavens above. This silent giant rises many hundreds of feet above Lake Superior, its sheer cliffs dropping dramatically into crashing waves far below. Canada’s Aboriginal people have passed on many fascinating legends and myths about this sleeping giant over past centuries.
Today, my two oldest grandsons, Derek and Malachi, and I were exploring this natural wonder. We’d driven many miles along narrow winding roads criss-crossing the top of this gentle giant to the very tip of the Sibley Peninsula.
Peeking through layers of fog as raindrops splattered around us, we were surprised to find the tiny community of Silver Islet. Once upon a time, as in 140 years ago, there was an active silver mining community on this site. The old clapboard General Store, built about 1870, still stands on the rocky point that juts out into Lake Superior.
The ramshackle store was closed, but a sign on the door invited us to ring the bell if we needed anything. We did. An elderly man greeted us, inviting us in. It was a step back in time. Nothing much had changed since the days when the miners purchased their supplies here. Surrounding the store, tucked back into the forest, are a number of the original miners homes which have now been converted into cottages for summer residents.
There happened to be another gentleman hanging out in the old store. He sported long hair and a beard, looked as if he’d been living in the wilderness for a while. In fact, he reminded us of a French Canadian voyageur…which was exactly what he turned out to be!
Mike Ranta, a 39-year-old explorer from the little town of Atikokan, Ontario, Canada was on the journey of a lifetime. He was paddling his canoe, alone, with his faithful dog, Spitzii, along the old Voyageur route. His 3,231 mile journey will take him from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada all the way to Montreal, Canada. He will be the first person ever to complete this journey all alone.
The boys (and I) were intrigued, just listening to his stories. Mike is doing this to raise money for his hometown Atikokan Youth Center. He delivers a powerful message to all whom he meets along his journey, particularly the youth.
His message is simple but very powerful – “Anyone can do anything. There is nothing you can’t do! Nothing worth anything comes easy. It takes preparation, confidence, honesty and hard work. But… YOU CAN DO IT!” This gentle man radiates motivation, determination, and self-confidence. He has no doubt, despite the dangers of his journey, that he will succeed and reach Montreal. He reaches out to young people along the way, encouraging them to follow their dreams.
It was a chance encounter, one that my grandsons will always remember. One that I plan to integrate into my own writing. We would not have met Mike Ranta if Lake Superior hadn’t been rough enough to force him in to shore that day – or if we hadn’t changed our travel plans.
A coincidence? Perhaps…
Stay tuned and please stay in touch!