On November 26th, six brave souls joined TLC’s Covenant Manager, Torrey Archer, on a perilous trek into the Sooke wilderness. Well, not entirely, but when immersed in 10 foot tall salal while on the side of a cliff it can certainly feel that way!
Four UVic students, one recent transplant from Ontario and one brave government worker teamed up to help monitor the covenant located beside Camp Thunderbird in Sooke. They entered the covenant via the old water pipeline that is now an informal trail, traversing to the other side of the covenant before plunging headfirst (literally) into the bush – no trails, lots of brush, and lots of running water! They were searching for a seasonal creek and wetland area that isn’t available during the summer months when Victoria typically experiences drought. Summer is also when most covenant monitoring occurs, for obvious reasons, but wanting to get the full picture of covenants that experience seasonal changes, TLC’s crew went into the wet woods.
While it didn’t rain too much during the trek, it had clearly been wet for awhile as the seasonal stream was rushing along under dense vegetation – thick with salal, Oregon grape, oceanspray and ferns, you could not tell where the stream was until you were literally standing in it! The crew established a photopoint that TLC will return to in the summer and use repeat photography to determine how the seasonal changes affect the ecology of the site. Gathering ecological data on a standardized form gave the students a chance to really take in their surroundings – what plants were around, what birds did they hear, was there evidence of deer browse or human traffic? Beyond just monitoring for compliance to the covenant agreement, TLC uses the monitoring visits as a chance to educate staff and volunteers on ecological inventorying and how we can use that information to determine the health of the site.
While crashing through the bush, many mushrooms, plants and birds were seen, as well as a strange blue ceramic piece of “garbage” just off the trail. After returning to the office, Torrey received an email from one of the volunteers, Monica, who had showed her husband, Lorne, the strange object. Clearly intrigued, Lorne delved into uncovering what he could and found that it was actually a porcelain powerline insulator manufactured somewhere around 1920! From Lorne’s research:
“February 3, 1920: Robert M. Johnston of Detroit, MI assigned to Jeffery Dewitt patent for a metal spider-like attachment for suspension insulators. This patent was used for many years by the Jeffery Dewitt company and can frequently be found on their distinct blue glazed suspension insulators. This is in my opinion what the metal is in the picture connecting the porcelain rings for the high voltage power lines. The manufacturing date of August 1920 is the date the porcelain rings were made or the patent for that design was registered. It means they were put up after that. I suspect a high power line went parallel to the right-of-way of the water pipe.
BC Electric (became BC Hydro in 1962) built a power house and dam at Jordan River in 1909 to supply Victoria with power. The high power line went on cedar poles along the coast as far as Sooke and then overland to Victoria and it would make sense for it to go along the water line right-of-way which was already cleared and legally established over private land. By 1912 the dam had more generators and the paper said men were sent along the line to “double-up” the insulators between Victoria and Jordan River which took crews two Sundays. Your example has three rings so the line was probably increased to carry even more in the 1920s. I think you were in the vicinity of its old right-of-way.”
This is one of the more fascinating finds in the forest during covenant monitoring! And, being able to find out what the strange object was is also testament to the fascinating people that volunteer their time with TLC. Torrey would not have been able to figure out what the object was on her own, and TLC is grateful that Lorne took the time to help solve the mystery. A diverse crew of people means that everyone brings something different to the table, and walks away learning more than they thought they would on any given adventure.
Thank you Lorne for your research abilities, and thank you Monica, Valerie, Elise, Romane, Katie and Lena for all your smiles and good cheer during such a wet, bushwhacking exploration of the Packford Covenant. What will we find next?!
You can help TLC continue to protect important landscapes, like the Packford Covenant, sustainably across BC by supporting the monitoring and enforcement of our covenants. Please complete our online donation form to show your support today!