While this photo was snapped in summer

SOOKE HISTORY: Sooke’s semi-alpine lakes

There were a number of cabins dotted amongst the lakeshores of Crabapple, Sheilds, Grassie and Peden lakes

This photo was taken about 1960, at one of the finest little retreats once found in the Sooke Hills. Eric and Marjorie Bernard are posed here by their romantic getaway cabin, just a few yards from the shoreline at the east end of Crabapple Lake.

In the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there were a number of cabins dotted amongst the lakeshores, not only at Crabapple but at Sheilds, Grassie and Peden as well.  In addition, of course, there was the substantial lodge of the Alpine Club of Canada, built in the late 1920s on the west shore of Sheilds Lake.

When Eric Bernard began logging in the hills, with truckers such as Bert Acreman doing his hauling, the access road up into the hills as far as the base of Mount Empress was improved to the point where many of us living in Sooke and Saseenos would drive up regularly to enjoy the semi-alpine beauty.

Then when access restrictions prevented driving later on, hiking continued. I do recall hiking up one memorable summer day with Liz Johnson and swimming in Crabapple alongside the Canada geese. Eric had built a small wharf extending out between the waterlilies. Perhaps it’s a note of interest that Canada geese did not start to overwinter here until the 1980s.

Temperatures in the hills could range as much as 10 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit colder than at sea level, which meant that in winter there was good ice on the lakes. Skating up at Sheilds and Crabapple during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s became one of winter’s thrills, with families and young couples alike.

I remember one particularly spectacular clear moonlight night at Sheilds, when the ice seemed to shimmer in the moonlight as young courting couples swept gracefully across the ice. In particular, I recall a group which included Bill Pedneault escorting his girlfriend Sandy Nix.

This is the same Bill Pedneault so well known in salmon enhancement circles today, and his wife Sandy who is also well-known, perhaps especially in regard to Ayre Manor.  I’m sure this long-married couple recall with fondness that beautiful winter of 1960.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.