Wed Feb. 11 (day 3)

It’s a clear start to the day, the first blue sky in 3 days. A hard packed skidoo trail over this portion of North Tea Lakes makes for fast pulling. I wonder who is riding skidoos in a provincial park? it seems a long way from anywhere.

There is a short 420m portage between North Tea and Manitou Lake. It’s a gentle up and then down but this change in elevation makes for technical challenges that are new to me. It takes four people to haul the loaded komatik up the incline: one person stands between the traces, three others pull on a long thin rope that has especially attached to the front as a pulling tether. Looks like a chain gang! with the rope over a shoulder, everyone heaves on ‘three’. The komatik lurches out of semi frozen ruts and slowly moves up. It takes us 30 minutes to get 6 sleds up 40 meters.

The downward slope presents a different challenge. With a pole brake (6’ to 8’ long stick), a single person can control komatiks downward speed. It’s jammed in front of the komatik, the resistance acts as a brake. I find this hard to manage, the sled runs over my pole brake and crashes out onto Lake Manitou. Luckily, no one is hurt, no sleds are damaged, and the lake is frozen solid. Obviously, a skill perfected with much more practice.  

We’ve covered 3.5 km and a 420m portage since breakfast. I’m famished and glad for lunch. The well packed skidoo trail continues into Manitou, and with little chance of tripping over uneven surfaces, I pay more attention to the landscape than the trail. A small speck moves across the lake surface, its either a dog or deer…the instant he swings his head around for another look at us, I know it’s a wolf. He’s moving fast and disappears into the thick brush on one of the larger islands. We keep moving and I keep watching. Eventually, I notice him looking at us from the other end of the island. He’s wary and doesn’t cross as we continue to approach, then pass by him.

The rays of the sun reflect off  the snow, warming our backs but the occasional puff of chilled wind encourages me to keep the wind anorak on. Our destination for tonight is the south-eastern arm of Manitou where a 2860m summer portage leads into Three Mile Lake. It’s late afternoon when we reach the end of the wide bay. The western exposure gives a fantastic view of the setting sun, which is back lit low on the horizon, pinks-purples-mauves. The tent site is deeper in the bush, sheltered from the westerly winds which have exposed the bay’s sand beach. I make my first dinner of the trip: pasta and sauce. I could have used less pasta (than the 2 x 900gr) and more stuff (veggies, meat, olives, mushrooms) in the sauce. All the fruit cake is eaten. Great, no leftovers, the sign of a successful meal. A 10km day.