When talking about my hiking and backpacking pace, I joke that I am an overweight asthmatic. It is also the truth. I feel no shame and in fact, I use the way my body is as a source of empowerment and motivation. My body is powerful and strong and is capable of doing incredible things. I know what feels good for me and I try not to let standards set by others negatively influence my confidence. I am very confident with who I am.
I read an online Mantario Trail Hiking Guide in preparation for my overnight hike from the south trail head to Caribou East campsite. The total distance each way is 12.3 KM and the estimated hiking time is 4 hours and 45 minutes.
My hiking partner and I started at 8 AM. The forest is magical in the morning and it is my favourite time to hike. Critters are scampering around with their morning tasks, the air is generally cooler, and there tends to be less people on the trail. Starting early also ensures that I can take as long as I need and want.
I very much enjoy looking at nature close up and feeling it on my fingertips. I am a literal treehugger. I stop to take a lot of photos of the scenery, I savour the views, and I rest when my body needs it. My dad passed away when I was 9 and from what I am told and can see in photographs, he enjoyed spending time outside. I feel a connection to him when hiking and we have conversations as I saunter. My maternal grandparents also entered my mind on this recent trip and I was filled with memories of my childhood days spent on their farm.
Hiking and backpacking is very much a mindful, spiritual, and emotional experience for me. It’s like my church.
My hiking partner and I arrived to Caribou East 6 hours and 30 minutes after we began. With plenty of time to relax, I laid on the hot stone, practiced yoga, waded in the water, and spent time inside my tent reading and journaling.
The hikers that stayed overnight at Caribou East were all women and I saw more women then men on the trail overall. I was stoked to see us representing in the backcountry. I chatted with a few people about their plans and most were out for a night or two including two nights at Caribou East and hiking between Caribou East and West for two nights on the trail.
This hike gave me the opportunity to reflect on my motivations for being on Mantario and the direction I want my outdoor leadership to flow. I have an obvious connection to the outdoors as place of healing. I would love to lead hikes with women who may have low self-esteem and feel shame for the way their body looks. The outdoors is an amazing place to grow confidence and prove to ourselves how amazing our bodies are, regardless of its shape and size.
I can hike the same distance as anyone else, just in a different time frame. I would love to pass that confidence on to other women. I want to continue leading outdoor activities that have a focus on mental health as a whole and reach women who have depression, anxiety, and who are sober / sober-curious.
My motivations for hiking on Mantario are that it is close to home and I enjoy the physical challenge it offers even though it tends to beat me up. I have thought about thru-hiking it on many occasions and I will one day but truthfully, with limited time to devote to backpacking, my heart is in Riding Mountain National Park. I want to continue exploring backcountry trails there as time permits. The Whiteshell is closer for quick one night weekend warrior trips.
The morning was absolutely gorgeous and I took advantage of the minimal bugs and crisp air to slowly sip a couple cups of coffee. The sky was clear and the water was crystal-calm.
We departed camp at 9 AM and made our way along the trail. I found the air to be thicker than the morning prior. The humidity felt sticky and I required a puff of my Ventolin. My asthma primarily acts up due to environmental issues like high humidity, really cold air, and pollen. I need to take an allergy pill whenever I plan to spend time outdoors. My asthma generally isn’t exercise induced.
We stopped around 11 AM and I mixed up electrolyte powder and gulped it down. We stopped again around 1 PM for a longer break and enjoyed homemade zucchini and pumpkin muffins that I loaded with coconut and hemp. Delicious food is a great way to boost my morale.
We were within 20 feet of the old logging road where the trail begins and I could see the wooden Mantario sign in sight. I tripped over a single branch protruding off a fallen tree and it took me down. SMACK! My left hand hit the ground first and then the side of my head. I was a tad embarrassed and felt ridiculous that I hurt myself that close to finishing the hike.
My go to meal after a challenging hike is a burger. It’s something I look forward to and day dream about while hiking. I love supporting small, local restaurants near hiking trails. In this particular case, I felt disgustingly stinky, even with fresh clothes put on, and my head and hand hurt. I certainly didn’t want to sit in a restaurant and I wasn’t in the mood to wait for take-out so I picked up a cold, fizzy Coke and some gummy candies instead. I had a burger for dinner when I got home.
Overall, the trail was in good condition for the type of rugged trail that Mantario is. Expect fallen trees, mud and slippery roots in the boggy sections, and solid steep climbs to get your heart rate pumping. I told my hiking partner that I wasn’t even going to pretend to breathe quiter. Oh yeah, and watch out for single branches ready to take you down!