The Mantario Trail is a 63 kilometre long trail that meanders through Whiteshell Provincial Park. It provides a close and personal look at the Canadian Shield landscape. Most of the wilderness that the trail runs through has been untouched by humans since it’s located within a designated Wilderness Zone, which is an area protected from motorized travel and hunting.
Manitoba is known to be flat. While that might be more true in the prairie regions, it most definitely is not true in the Whiteshell. The Whiteshell, being part of the Canadian Shield region, is compromised of rough granite rock and boreal forest which seems to never end.
The Mantario trail provides a perfect glimpse into how wondrous this region is. While following the trail there are many points where you climb up massive granite hills which provide a great view of the forest. The trees stretch out as far as the eye can see. The combination of aspen, poplar and spruce create a unique blend of different shades of green, that combined with the blue sky, is a seemingly perfect masterpiece.
My brother and I started the Mantario trail at 10am Saturday morning. We had never done a hike like this before, but there’s a first time for everything. With enough supplies to last for four days, we set out on our adventure.
Spoiler: It was worth it!
The first several hours of the trail go through a forest fire ravaged region. The new growth is only a few feet tall and the blackened, leafless trees tower above it.
Eventually the fire swept region is left behind and is replaced by an abundance of green. Previously, I could see several dozen meters through the trees, but not anymore. Now the trees and shrubbery are thick. If I left the trail, and wandered into the forest, the trail would disappear rather quickly behind me.
Perhaps the reason why the fire only burnt as far north as it did was because the terrain becomes wetter further north. During the first several hours of hiking, there was very little creeks and rivers, but as the day wore on it seemed like they became more and more abundant.
Halfway through the day, we made it to Caribou Lake, where we stopped for lunch and refilled our water. By 6pm we had made it to Marion Lake which is where we decided to set up camp and spend the night. I really enjoyed the hiking on this day, but sadly my feet didn’t. After taking off my wet and sweaty socks, I counted six blisters. Ouch!
Day two’s hike was painful. With all the blisters on my feet, every step hurt. I told myself to take it one step at a time, one very slow step at a time.
The nature was beautiful. I managed to enjoy it, even with the pain my feet were in. The worst part was the granite rocks. They looked beautiful, but were really tough to walk on. I tried to continuously step on the moss covered parts to soften each step in the hopes that it would make it easier on my blister covered feet. To some extent, that actually helped.
Around noon we past the campsite at Peggy Lake. We stopped here for lunch. It’s amazing how much better food tastes when you’ve been outside performing physical activity all day.
Here’s another example of how thick the forest is. In the first image, the trail appears almost invisible.
Day two, just like day one, had an abundance of rivers and lakes. Crossing them was always an adventure. Sometimes we had to balance on logs, and on other occasions we had an actual bridge. There were even some spots where the trail used a beaver dam as a makeshift bridge.
We got to Moosehead Lake around 5pm which is where we spent the night. I was exhausted. I went to bed as soon as my tent was set up. I woke up a few hours later (around 8pm) and had supper, then went back to bed again.
Day three’s hike was definitely more enjoyable than day two. My feet didn’t hurt as badly and my body seemed more accustomed to the extra wait of my backpack.
The terrain on day three wasn’t much different than on day two, but I still never got tired of those spots where we got to higher elevation and I got to look over the top of the trees and see the distant lakes.
The trail took us along some large rock cliffs, with some spots having rocky overhangs that would have been perfect for providing shelter on a rainy day.
Even after seeing a dozen different lakes, and walking through more than 30 kilometers of forest, everything still looked uniquely different. I thought that after this many hours walking through the wilderness, it would all start to look and feel the same, but it didn’t.
At the end of the day we camped at Ritchey Lake. Tonight I set my tent up facing west, so I got to see the sun set, while my mind drifted off into the realm of dreams.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved when I woke up this morning knowing that today I got to go home. After spending three days outdoors with my only belongings being those on my back, I was ready to head back to civilization.
After a few hours of walking we reached Big White Shell Lake. It’s a beautiful lake. We spent most of the afternoon following it’s north-eastern shoreline. The shoreline would have been perfect for swimming. It was either smooth rock, or soft sand.
Eventually we came across something completely unexpected, an abandoned car, surrounded completely by trees.
Not far from here we reached our final beach. From here the trail turned into an old quad trail. We we were close to the end. Only a few kilometers further to go.
The last few kilometers seemed to take the longest. Maybe it was because it was more of a road than a hiking trail, or maybe it was the anticipation, but either way, eventually we made it to the northern trailhead.