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August 8, 1997
Geoffrey Peake, Chief Guide of the Hide Away Canoe Club (HACC) writes:
First of all I apologize for missing yesterday's journal. Normally I try to make enough time in the day to write it up, but even writing at full speed, the whole process takes me about an hour. Some days there just aren't enough hours in the day, and yesterday was one of them. Tonight I'm writing from a cabin about half-way up Indian House Lake. It's dark out now and I'm using the light from a coleman lantern to help me see the keyboard. (my blindfolded typing isn't what it used to be) We heard some wolves howling earlier in the evening, but I think that they, like everyone else in our group, has gone to bed. For now It's just me tapping away on a lone keyboard in a derelict cabin somewhere on Indian House Lake.
Yesterday we finished the upper river, and in a dramatic way. The last rapid threw up some large waves for us. Normally I hate running in the middle of the river because this reduces your options for getting to shore in a river this size. We had run the first section close to the right bank, and as Tom and I drifted down toward the end I noticed a lot of 'action' ahead close to our side of the river. This is where timing is crucial, you see, because we are rushing along downstream about 15 k.p.h. or so, bearing down on this obstacle and I have only a few seconds to decide--Should I head out into the bigger waves in the middle? Or can we slip inside this wave? We drift closer...400 feet...300 feet...100 feet. Finally I see that the large white wave that looks much larger and insidious than those in the middle is from the river pouring over a ledge that extends out from shore. The decision is made--head out--FAST. "FORWARD!" I yell and we both lay on the power, sideways to the current, out of the grip of that churning wave. Finally clear I dig my paddle in and pry sharply, turning the boat directly downstream again just as we enter the big ones. About 4 feet high, they are very steep and Tom takes one right in the lap and through his spraycover. We ride the next few out, dodging the last few rocks that block the path--a trap for the unwary. Finally we pass the last riffle and at last reach Indian House Lake.
We were all relieved to reach the lake, and the completion of the upper George. As Tom and I paddled down the first stretch he pointed up onto the bank. I looked. There, in grey weathered spruce poles, almost perfectly symmetrical, was a teepee frame--or an Indian House. I recalled that a similar site greeted Mina Hubbard in 1905. For her, arriving in Indian House was one of the greatest days of the trip. Leonidas Hubbard had dreamed of meeting the Naskapis who lived on this lake and writing about their traditional lifestyle. That night, August 20, she wrote in her journal "A great day and what a day for Laddie (her pet name for her husband) if he could only have had it. We reached Indian House Lake and the Nescaupee (sic) Indians, the real ones that dress in skins...They told us that when they were in Davis Inlet 10 days ago the steamer Pelican had not yet come. So we are now in good hopes that we shall be in time to catch her".
The lake is a much quieter place now. No one lives on the lake anymore, and of the three fishing camps that once operated here, not one is still in operation. We have the lake to ourselves. Indian House is sparsely treed with majestic ridges flanking both shores, several hundred meters high. Rushing creeks flow of the surrounding plateau in bold white streaks--and even the occasional patch of snow lies hidden away in deep furrows that the sun (a rare commodity at the best of times) has not yet had the strength to melt. This is how I imagine the Scottish Highlands would look--with one notable exception. Since the plane dropped us nearly a week ago, we haven't seen a single person.
Tomorrow will be the halfway point of the trip, and we hope to be within a few miles of the end of this lake, weather permitting, of course. Well, the wind is now howling outside and the lantern is getting dim--I'm off to bed.
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