FKT: Jamieson Hatt - Ottawa-Temiskaming Highland Trail (ON, Canada) - 2020-05-20

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
3d 0h 52m 30s
GPS track(s)

Oh boy, I feel like I could say a lot about this one. I only found out about this trail a month or so ago. It is renowned as the toughest trail in Ontario. So of course it intrigued me! I did my research and figured that May would be the best time for an attempt. May would hopefully have good weather, less bugs, less vegetation and more reliable water sources. I was right! It did however have literally thousands of downed trees. Oh well, hard to have everything perfect. And the trail did have to live up to its reputation. The unsupported, multi-day stuff is fairly new to me. I still feel like I have a lot to learn. My original plan for this trail was to out and back it. It just makes it way easier logistically. I started laying out my gear about a week before. I constantly went over it and decides what I needed and what I didn't need. The final cut was less than what I started with. When my gear food was finalized, I did the official weigh in. Since I was planning on doing an out and back, I carried 5 days of food. I figured 5 days was a worst case scenario since the trail was only 100km. More on this later haha. So, I took my naked weight first. Then weighed myself with all of my gear minus food and water. This was 15lbs. This included shoes, clothes, camping gear etc. Then, I added all the food and water I would start with. This weighed in at another 15lbs. So 30lbs beyond my naked weight. I really don't know if this is good or overkill. I do eat a lot and I really didn't want to play the low calorie game too much. But damn, climbing steep inclines with the weight sure makes a difference. I was sure excited for my first real challenge of the year though. Let's go!
Day 1-I allowed myself to sleep in Sunday morning and leave whenever. I knew it would be my last great sleep for a few days, so I wanted to take advantage of it. The drive to Latchford for me was about 3.5 hours. I parked and made some final adjustments and was ready to do. Things got underway at 12:35. I felt great and was moving well. My plan was to go a little later into the night since I didn't think I would sleep well the first night. I felt like I needed to tire myself out somewhat. I really was enjoying the trail and the views. The streams were clean and cold. It didn't take me long to realize how rugged this trail is though. You don't know what you feet are going to do a lot of the times when you put your foot down. The downed trees were also overwhelming at times. It's not the downed tree where you just step your leg over and keep going. It's the kind that it massive with branches way over my head that you have to bushwhack to get around. Then, 10 feet later there could be another one. Sometimes I could sneak under on all fours and try and not scrape my pack too much. There's no point in getting frustrated. I knew how tough this would be. You almost can't mentally prepare for it though. You just have to deal with it the best you can. My first day ended around midnight where I found a nice camping spot. You really have to make smart decisions. I could have kept going, but the next camping spot could have been hours away. There's really no spots to camp on the trail with the rugged terrain. So when I found this spot, I took advantage of it. I set up my gear and tried to sleep...
Day 2-I didn't sleep as well as I wanted, but I did manage a few hours. It was usually pretty chilly in the mornings. Threw my puffy jacket on and got moving to warm up. I must say, overall, this trail is very well blazed. The little vegetation there is in May really helps too. There were some sections that were confusing. I did have the paper maps printed off of the website which really helped. I think it was about halfway into day 2(1 day total) where I started thinking that an out and back would not be possible. There was just so many downed trees! I'm not exaggerating when I say at least a thousand. The ascents were crazy steep too. And the descents were actually pretty dangerous. I fell many times. Many descents are rocky with pine needles all over them. My feet would just slip out from underneath. I eventually would just start sliding down on my butt at times. After going all day, I found a nice campsite just before dark. I decided to shut it down early and get some good rest. I figured I needed it knowing how tough every day out here would be. And doing these descents in the dark is pretty crazy. I know at one point I thought to myself, if I finish this trail without breaking a bone, it's a victory. So instead of breaking a bone, I broke a pole. I was lucky to still have 3/4 of a pole to use and i just chocked up on the other one.
Day 3-My feet are now bruised pretty bad. I usually wouldn't feel this so early into an adventure. The terrain will just beat you up though. I believe it was day 3 where I got sorta lost on the side trail loop. I kept going in circles until I finally found the right way to keep going on the main trail. I have no idea why this side trail loop was blazed white. It should have been blue! It's all part of the game though and I should have studied the maps better beforehand. I could have also checked the maps more, but so often I just relied on the blazes which worked so well. I for sure knew that an out and back would be so epic, but was not in the cards for me. I realized it would probably take me more like 7 days to do that. And with only 5 days of food, it wouldn't be possible. It's funny though, because I prepared for and out and back is the reason I was successful for a point to point. If I was doing point to point from the beginning, I wouldn't have carried so much food. I would have most likely ran out. Which wouldn't have been pretty. The 100km distance is just so deceiving. My original worst case scenario would have actually been best case scenario. Underestimating this trail is a big mistake. I did underestimate it, but I was lucky to have an option of still doing the entire trail due to my original goal. I never thought it was possible for a 100km trail to take over 3 days to finish. I was hoping that I could push hard though, and possibly get done before 12:30am which would have me finishing in 2.5 days. That goal then got changed to breaking 3 days haha. I had to shut it down and spend another night out in the bush. I knew I could get the job done though and just had to keep doing my thing.
Final day-I woke up at about 4am freezing cold. I only own summer camping great and I think the temp was getting closer down to freezing. I packed up my kit and got moving. My goal was to get this thing done. My feet were also blistered pretty badly at this point. I didn't bother attending to them since I should be finishing soon. A lot of the trail towards the end is by the shoreline. The camber was brutal and was really taking it's tole. The hills also never really let up. I wouldn't expect nothing less at this point. I was extremely excited to finish. I made it to the end(ATV trail) at 1:39pm on Wednesday. What an amazing journey. My next journey involved having to get back to car which was very far away. I took the ATV trail into Thorne and saw my first civilization in a few days. I crossed over into Temiscaming, Quebec to go to a gas station to get some food other than trail mix and bars. I thought I would have to spend another night outside and figure things out the next morning. I am very lucky though and my girlfriend arranged a shuttle for me. I knew this shuttle existed, but I figured the person shuttling would like some actual notice haha. So trail angel Doug came and picked me up and brought me back to my car. I think followed him home to Temagami and stayed in his lodge on the lake. A shower and bed felt amazing. Thank you Doug for saving my butt! I drove home and reflected on this journey. This trail will chew you up, spit you out and ask for seconds. I'm very thankful to have made it out in one piece. I always think of how I could have went faster. But, for going into this fairly blind, I did the best I could. I highly recommend the trail, but be prepared! It's no joke. And you really have to do it to know what I'm talking about. Time to recover and hopefully do something easier, probably not though...