Well, this is our first big hike – and it will prove to be a great one – and one which will lead to other hikes of similar nature.
Our family has always spent their leisure time outdoors. Camping, hiking, snowshoeing, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, skiing – you name it, we probably like it. Maybe it is just that we like campfires, well any fire actually, and being outdoors allows for us to feed that need.
My two sons and I started planning to do the Mantario trail some time ago. We live in Manitoba, so if you want any multi-day hikes, it is either this one, or one of the trails in Riding Mountain National Park. Beyond that we are driving or driving and flying to get to our chosen hiking location.
Prior to setting out on our hike, we called one of the local Manitoba Conservation offices to check on the state of the trail, as there had been quite a bit of rain in the area recently. They said that yes, the trail was wet in spots, and maybe impassable. We were also told there were no picnic tables at the sites, nor were there any bear boxes (these are locked metal containers usually chained to a tree that food in put in overnight so the bears don’t visit your tent). Some of the campsites had a rudimentary toilet. The advice was less than accurate.
TRAIL SPECS & INFO
The 63 kilometer Mantario Trail is the longest trail in the Canadian Shield in Western Canada. It extends through a large area of Precambrian rock and forests. This trail is in Manitoba’s first designated wilderness zone and was originally built by a wide variety of organizations and funding sources. The trail is pretty much fully contained within Manitoba, with a small section of trail veering into Ontario in order to pass around the east side of Caribou Lake. There are 25 lakes within one kilometer of the trail and 32 lakes within 1.5 kms. If it is a rainy season, this makes for lots of black flies, no-see-ums and of course the Manitoba mosquito.
It is not a trail for beginners, and is one in which advance planning goes a long ways to ensuring a good hiking experience. In the Guide, they suggest the trail will take about 25 1/2 hours of hiking time. The trail itself is marked with white arrows on a dark blue background (this is important at the south end and it intersects with some other trails) and along the many rocky areas, cairns of rocks have been piled to signify where the trail is. Often the only clue is to look and see where the lichen has been worn right off the rocks and this is the trail.
The guide says all designated sites have picnic tables, food storage (bear) boxes, toilets and metal firepits with grills. All of the campsites except 1 are on the side of a lake. These lakes for the most part will either have walleye or pike in them, which could be used as a food source – just make sure you have the proper fishing license – and you clean your fish away from where the tent is set up. Wood is not supplied and so will be found in the vicinity of the campsite. On the heavier used sites, the wood gets scarce. All garbage must be packed out, as is the rule with any wilderness trail. Bears do frequent the area so at all times when hiking or at a campsite, be aware of your surroudings.
Due to the ruggedness of the trail, good solid hiking boots are a must. A second set of shoes for use around camp is a good idea.
Something that is not in the guide is a discussion of thunderstorms. This trail for most of its length is on solid bedrock, which at times can attract lighting. Do not get caught in a severe storm on top of a ridge – essentially being a human lightning rod.
The south access to the trail can be found at Caddy Lake, just on the north side of highway 44. The north trailhead is at the very northern end of Big Whiteshell Lake and is accessed by highway 309.
Maps for the trail can be found around the Province in outdoor stores or can be ordered from www.canadamapsales.com
They can also be ordered by calling 1-877-627-7226.
The trail is patrolled and maintained by Manitoba Conservation. Friends of the Mantario Trail is a non-profit, volunteer wildernes organization and also assists with some maintenance with the help of private donations, government grants, and of course volunteers.
With all of that, it is time to start hiking.