Having secured some specimens yesterday-among them an adult Northern Bald Eagle-I was busily employed skinning all morning.
After lunching we again pushed forward, our course swinging well into the north-east up the lake-like expansion that lies between Sandfly Lake and Black Bear Island Lake. Passing the neighbourhood of the mouth of the Foster River -a river of considerable size flowing from the north-no sign of its outlet was seen, and I have since learned that that was because it empties into the Churchill in the bottom of a deeply inlet bay.
Toward evening we entered Black Bear Island Lake through its maze of channels which flow between the large islands that block its entrance and obscure extensive view. Like the shadows of a big problem were those islands which were crowded in and almost made prison walls about us, leaving us anxious to solve the riddle that would discover the doorway of escape and give again the freedom of the open road. Nowhere do I recall such another eerie, shut-in scene as this. But in an hour or so we had worked our way through to more open water and pitched camp for the night on the north mainland of the lake, viewing, across the shimmering, dead-calm water, and over the tree-covered contour, a glorious sunset among grey and white clouds that had retired to the horizon from the great blue open sky.
No less ungenerous than on the days that have gone before are my entries and remarks this evening on mosquitoes and black flies. They give no peace when on shore : they truly are the curse of summer travel in Canada.
A lovely morning ; calm, and clear, and warm; the continuance of a spell of fine weather without drawback to voyaging. We did not leave in the canoe at once this morning, but explored in the dark forest behind camp among fallen limbs and trunks lying about on the rough, hillocky, moss-covered underbed of the woods. Many of the trees were picturesquely lichen-grown with whitish, close-clinging plant, and with scattered tufts of hairy, moss-like, palegreen plant. At the edge of the forest was an eighteen-inch growth of green grass and weeds. Forested hills sloped upwards from the north shore of Black Bear Island Lake, and at the summit in some cases an outcrop of rock and large boulders protruded prominently. The lake was some fourteen miles in length, and while we remained on it we never quite forgot its somewhat frowning, shut-in aspect. Even birds seemed to shun the neighbourhood, for few were seen, and I recorded it the worst I had so far travelled through in that respect. It has not been common with me to hear the red squirrel's chatter in this territory, but here I heard one to-day. While speaking of creature sounds, I am reminded that it was on this lake that I first noticed the absence of frog-croaking in the evenings, and it was not until reaching Stanley Mission on June 23 that they were again heard. Unfortunately I was too busily employed with other subjects to investigate their apparent absence from this area-a stretch of about seventy miles of watercourse. No black bears were seen, and in supporting its nomenclature this lake was as disappointing as Pelican Lake. Probably, when the course of the Churchill was mapped, a black bear was seen on one of the islands of the lake, and therefore the name-a name selected on the spur of the moment, without perhaps grasping any very great and permanent characteristic. On the other hand, I, in my haste onward, might easily miss such a characteristic, did it in reality exist, therefore it is merely a passing personal impression that I at present record. Had I been the original surveyor I think I would have chosen " Eerie Lake " as name for this strangely silent expansion of dark water, wherein were closeted ghost-like citadel islands, and wherein I never quite threw off the impression that I had intruded on a sanctuary of spooks and fairies of long-past ages.
Day again fine. Noonday sun high overhead, giving the broad earth fulness of summer, and its living season of growth. How blithely it lifts the spirit! How different this to the sun's low, short circuit in winter over land then dormant!
Characteristic of the country are the cone-peaked tops of Black Spruce on the sun-lit hillsides, their branches drooping down a little in extending horizontally outward ; in this respect differing from the White Spruce, which is more straightly outgrowing.
Passed the rapid at Birch Portage about 3 p.m. and entered Trout Lake. We let the canoe down through the troublesome current at the top of this rapid and ran the remainder. We camped for the night on Trout Lake.
It is now twenty-four days since we left Ile a la Crosse Post.
Joe to-night caught a pike weighing seven and a half pounds when trolling with a small blue phantom minnow.
Spent till noon to-day looking for right course on Trout Lake. Yesterday headed out north-easterly in following the small survey map in my possession, but found no outlet. Today, in the forenoon, canoed down the east shore, poking into all side-inlets-but without avail, and we lunched at Birch Rapids, from whence we had started yesterday. From there we set out due north, and found our course through.
About 2.30 p.m. thunderstorm and squall broke over us when in mid-lake, and gave us a rough time until we reached inshore, where we lay up until evening ; then travelling onward, when the wind went down, late into the night. We shipped a lot of water in mid-lake when struggling against the great waves that arose, and at one time feared for the safety of our craft, but finally we got through with little more than a thorough wetting to our persons, the stores and specimens saved by the tarpaulin which I always have laced over the canoe-centre against rain, or spray when running rapids. Such a tarpaulin, and a light platform to keep the kit raised off the canoe bottom, are essential for protection against wet on long, rough journeys of this kind Saw first two blooms of Wild Rose or Briar to-day.