Through the Uplands to Telegraph Cove

Connell ventures beyond Cadboro Bay to tiny Telegraph Cove where he encounters an interesting example of Nature’s rock work and the remains of the work of a past generation of people.

From the Victoria Daily Times, March 12, 1932-

The Uplands car for about half a mile before it reaches the terminus runs through a level and somewhat boggy area favored by clumps of willow and occasional pines of recent growth. Dark green rushes dot the grass and assert the land’s need of drainage. As it rises toward the paved streets and avenues it assumes a different appearance: oak scrub, California lupine, and gorse now golden with scented flowers form a natural introduction to the Uplands proper. Midland Road is marked by a remarkable assemblage of glacial boulders, among which the student of geology may find excellent specimens of the Coast Range granitic rocks. On the left or west side the land rises towards Cadboro Bay Road. To the summit occupied by the Uplands Golf Club the charts give the name of “Pemberton Heights”, although the designation is applied on the topographical maps to the high land on the far side of Cadboro Bay. Midland Road eventually slopes down as it approaches Cadboro Bay and, joining Shore Road [Beach Drive], issues from the great entrance pillars to unite with Cadboro Bay Road.

Telegraph Cove

Circling the bay the road soon brings us to Telegraph Cove, so named because a cable takes its dip into the sea at the further point. A few years ago the Telegraph Cove road was a quiet out-of-the-way lane; today it has taken on more of the appearance of a suburban avenue. It is not till one is nearly at the Cove that the road deteriorates and houses are left behind. On the right are the lands of the old powder plant, now used as a farm. Above it rise the cliffs of Prevost Hill, as the charts call it. Between the pasture fields and the cliffs is a broad band of fine second growth fir. On the left the scene is entirely different. Here the bare grey rocks descend steeply from about from about 20 feet precipitously to the sea. The forest stands well back, marked off by the rugged inhospitality of the land’s edge. The cove terminates on the right in a rocky point whose worn and ribbed gray extends well back in the pasture lands like some great sea monster half on land and half in sea. And so it comes that tender green grasses and all the company of waiting bulbs, annuals, etc., of Nature’s garden cling to its flanks, make little sallies up a hundred openings in its frame, and even establish themselves in scores of dimples and wrinkles.

Off the point lie some tiny islets, between which the tidal waters flow like so many tumultuous little rivers. Here is the favorite haunt of the harlequin duck, the most picturesque if not the most beautiful of our water-fowl, with its white stripes and patches of slaty color. It’s summer home, Taverner says, is found in the “brawling glacial streams” of the mountains, and hence no doubt its predilection for the islet channels. There were half a dozen of them there last Saturday. Behind them the rocks were fringed with the snaky-looking necks of cormorants, perched one above the other on the steep slopes of the rocks.

“Where Longshore Birds Foregather” by Robert Connell, 1943

Pleasant as the life of the birds seems as in the bright sunshine they breast the waves or dive after their prey, or take their rest in the water-encircled rocks, a note of tragedy is persistent. Of this evidence is found in the dead bodies occasionally encountered along the shore. Thus close by the point I found at one spot a grebe, at another a red-breasted merganser. Some of these dead birds may have fallen to illegal or mischievous gunning, but others are undoubtedly victims of other birds. Thus a resident of Cadboro Bay reports that a few days ago his wife and he witnessed the killing of a “butterball”, or Bufflehead, by a gull.

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)

The gull attacked the little drake from the air in the approved modern fashion, striking at its head. The duck dived, but immediately it came up its enemy was there to make another attack. Thus the duck was eventually wearied out, and after being killed was taken on the rocks and eaten. The companion of the dead bird was next attacked, but its life was saved by the intervention of the spectators. The wonder is that neither of the ducks sought to escape by flight. Gulls and ducks are so commonly seen together and on the most peaceful terms with one another that such occurrences strike one as very odd, yet it is probable that they happen more frequently than one imagines, and some may escape their enemy’s appetite to die a lingering death from wounds and exhaustion.

A Strange Survival

From Telegraph Cove the coast can be followed some distance either by the short grass above the rocks or by the old wagon-road of the days when the powder works were in operation. All this area abound in ruins, the stone and cement foundations of the various units of the plant. It gives a curious human touch, this evidence of other days and human activities, though less than a quarter of a century distant from today.

The Giant Powder Works explosives plant at Telegraph Cove, c1900. BCA image.

Gradually the shore-line draws near to the forested side of Prevost Hill, and at last the road disappears and the trail that succeeds diminishes to a vertical crevice in a wall of rock half buried in wild shrubbery. Below, the sea breaks against gaunt, bare cliffs into which the waves have worn irregular coves and gullies. Down into one of these I descend and there, looking up at the twenty foot face of rock, I see with astonishment a section of stratified rock inserted as it were in the great body of diorite which forms the shore and indeed the whole mass of Prevost Hill from side to side and from end to end. Obviously the stratified rock is older than the gradiorite and than the volcanic rocks into which the diorite was intruded. It is therefore at least Jurassic.

It is composed of coarse, brownish claystone with small worn pebbles, the largest about the size of a pea. There is a good deal of black carbonaceous matter. The claystone is cut by a number of white bands of quartz and felspar, which again are related to the veins of the same material that cut the surrounding diorite. But while in the claystone the veins are parallel, and swell and contract in their course through the soft and yielding material, those in the diorite are confused and netted, showing a multiplicity of cracks such as one would expect in a harder and denser substance. The sedimentary rock is plainly a survival such as is the great mass of Gonzales Hill.

Through the Young Forest

Returning from the cliffs I took the road that leads along the foot of the north end of Prevost Hill, and in doing so passes through a very pretty piece of young forest consisting of Douglas and balsam firs. Only a few years ago the trees along the road were well branched from the ground up but now, owing to their growth and the resulting shadowing, they are fast suffering natural pruning by the death of their lower branches. Still, there is something very pleasant in threading the youthful forest by the old well-worn road. The ground is cushioned with tawny needles, and the occasional dead branches are clad in the exquisite green of vigorous ground cover. No sound of bird or beast is heard; the lightest breeze does not penetrate the privacy of these woods. Then comes in sight a great stone building, one of the magazines of the past. Nature is busy mellowing the walls with moss and lichen and the ironwork with stains of rust. I have come across just such walls of the tough country rock in Scottish woods, the ruins of some old keep or hunting tower. With no more claim to the picturesque than this powder magazine, the other would have about it a charm that could call up the past and stir the heart. It fitted into history and tradition and legend, and made them live. Our powder magazine cannot do that: it is the misfortune of a “new country”. Yet there among the silent woods it linked itself with memory of other times and other places, and that is much.

Leaving the road and passing to the open fields through the trees I perceive before me a pretty landscape. The closely-cropped green sward passes down to a little hollow in which lies a pond, and beyond is the beach with the blue waters of the cove. From the hollow the grass rises up to the rocks of the point, and on the slope a group of cows, one standing, two lying down, make a scene for all the world like a picture by T.S. Cooper. Far away beyond the rocks rises San Juan Island, with the archipelago of which it is chief. Great banks of grey and white clouds obscure Mount Baker and the Cascades.

Published by Ben C. Baker

The best stories, I think, are those that connect us to place, and as an historian this is the focus of my interest and work here in Victoria, BC, Canada.

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