The Mantario trail goes south to north in the Whiteshell provincial park, briefly crosses the Manitoba/Ontario border, and covers 63 rugged kilometers with incredibly varied terrain. The trail can be quite over grown and difficult to find at times. During the trek you find yourself overlooking lakes while traveling over large granite ridges, down in thick forests, through tall grasses, scrambling up or down rocks or huge boulders, negotiating wet bogs, beaver dams, streams or mucky trails, all while dodging (or at least trying to dodge) boot-fulls of water.
Day 1 (late September, 2017)
We began the trail fairly early, starting at the south trailhead. The weather was great and the trail was dry compared to last year’s attempt. What took us 9.5 hours last year took us only 7 hours this time! We covered about 18.5 kilometers and made it to camp at Marion Lake before 4 pm. This timing was excellent as we had enough time to set up camp, cook dinner and clean up before the rain began around 7 pm. We were woken up around 1 am from intense lightening and thunder.
We started the day with pleasant temperatures and no rain. As the day went on a fine mist was coming down but the day and temperatures made for a pleasant and shorter trek. We hiked around 5.5 hours before making it to camp at Moosehead Lake. During our hike we ran into a group of 4 trail runners who we then camped with at Moosehead. The group camped here shared a fire and we all had a chance to dry our wet socks and chat for the evening. We felt great making it approximately half way in the journey. Rain began to fall at 1 am and it never stopped.
We woke up to continuous rain. We skipped a hot breakfast and packed up. As the day went on so did the rain. We had the option of setting up camp at Ritchie Lake after hiking for about 6 hours but decided we’d push on because we were already soaked from head to toe and the rain continued. We made it to Hemingway Lake after hiking about 8.5 hours (21 kms) with breaks totaling no more than 15 mins and little food in our bellies. We set up camp in the rain and did our best to not let our gear get more wet than it was. Thankfully by about 6 pm we were warming up in our sleeping bags and our gear was only damp instead of soaked. The rain finally stopped around 7 – 8 pm.
We felt so thankful to wake up with no rainfall. I savored my hot coffee (especially since the day before I didn’t bother boiling water, and instead added my Starbucks Via pouch to cold water and drank it that way). It was a cool morning and since we covered so much ground the day before we were able to start the day slowly. We finished the trail just before noon after hiking for about 3.5 hours through some very muddy sections. Victory!! I felt like a totally hardcore bad-ass!! This trail really pushed both of us but it was a great experience. I would definitely do it again!
Through this hike I felt confident in my abilities. There were many technical sections to get through and most of them I went through with ease. It was also confidence boosting when I noticed my husband didn’t need to constantly check back on me after a tough section. It’s really empowering thinking of how far I’ve come in my abilities!
So, Backcountry Women, I’d love to hear your adventures and accomplishments in the comments below!!