Footprints are sometimes there even though we can’t see them.  Those who have come before tread on the grounds, leaving behind a little something of themselves.  For those who are acute these ghostly outlines of the imprints are not lost forever, rather they are as evident and as fresh as the day they were left.  As a photographer certain scenes call to us, invite us to seek beyond that which is obvious and to find the stories that lie just beneath the veneer.  Such is the Old Stone Butter Church to me.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

As we’ve mentioned previously, Vancouver Island does not get a lot of snow over the course of our winter.  When it does come the entire valley takes on a different feel, but only for a very brief time.  The snow melts quickly, and with that life returns to normal.  The scenes are fleeting and pure only for the briefest of moments, and if you are trying to capture great images the window of opportunity is very short.  This past weekend we were hit with such a snow event and the temperatures lingered well below the freezing mark.  We knew we only had a few hours to get up to the church perched atop Comiaken Hill to photograph pure scenes with no footprints.

At least no footprints that were obvious.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

A quick visit to our online gallery reveals many photographs of the church.  For those with a passing interest this might seem redundant, like we’ve created a record that skips.  But for those who like to look deeper, we find scenes that take on unique personalities entirely dependent on the time of year and the natural light.  And thus we begin to understand why we are called back to this place time and time again.  It’s my muse.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

As discussed in our previous post “Old Stone Butter Church“, the church was constructed in 1870 and only saw service for a very short time.

Excerpt from original post:

Such a incredible place, it’s even been featured on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” who referred to it as “The church of no services…in which no congregation has ever gathered.”  While not entirely true, the church was in service for only 10 years before it was abandoned for a newer location in the valley.  Ripley’s goes on to say “the Indians will not go near (it) because all those who actually built it died mysteriously.”  Again, these are stories woven to add to the fabric of the tale, but the words resonate as you stand on the grounds taking in the incredible energies that swirl around.

Fabulous details on the story behind Old Stone Butter Church can be found at “Myths and Legends of the Cowichan Indian People – Coast Salish history“.

Clearly the story of the Old Stone Butter Church just started after the last service was conducted.

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

What once was a doorway or a window is now just a frame to the outside world.  These scenes feed the artist deep within me, always looking for natural tension and a story in a single frame.  We’ve said it before and it bears saying again… the silence is deafening up here.  The only sound that we heard was the crunching of our footsteps in the frozen snow and the occasional expression of amazement as we took in the experience.

View From Atop Comiaken Hill at Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

View From Atop Comiaken Hill at Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

As we turn to leave once again, I begin to look forward to our next visit.  We look out over Comiaken Hill down into Cowichan Bay below and find ourselves in a state of wonder.  A perfect blend of history and the contemporary come together in the place that may be forgotten to many, but certainly is not to us.

Mount Tzouhalem from Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada

Mount Tzouhalem from Old Stone Butter Church – Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada –

A final glance at Mount Tzouhalem as we turn to head back to our car…  the skies open just at that moment to let a sliver of sunlight cut across the majestic mountain, highlighting the intrinsic beauty of the mighty rock formation under a light dusting of pure white snow.

Yes, we’ve been here many times before, but with each visit comes a new discovery.  These experiences are tangible and indelible, leaving a mark upon us that can never be replicated or removed.  What will we find on our next visit?




  1. avatar Don Barton says:

    Scott, this is a beautiful story!

    I somehow missed previous posts and photos of Old Stone Butler Church. This one and its links allowed me to visit it through your eyes over many visits.

    Being no stranger to your part of the world, I’m always amazed at how you mine it to reveal rich photographic treasures missed by the casual observer. And the more I appreciate your photography, the more I admire your poetic perspective expressed in the words you write. I’m not sure whether it is your photos or your prose that draws me back repeatedly.

    Thanks for this wonderful story, my friend.

    • I am completely honored and humbled here this morning with your comments, Don! Thank you for your kind visit, and for taking the time to leave us your wonderful thoughts. This kind of feedback means so much to us, you inspire us onward with our work! Many heartfelt thank you’s from both Mrs. Toad and I to you and yours! 🙂

  2. What a difference a little snow makes. The scene begins to look somewhat ghostly and very beautiful as well. Going up there at this time was a great idea and it shows in the photographs. The light is awesome and the small vistas framed by the different openings in the building are special to say the least. And the rope still hangs the same as ever, lol.

    • Wonderful to see you pop by, Joseph, thank you so much for leaving your comments! That rope will always be there, I figure, I notice it on each visit myself. Really appreciate your visit here, Joseph, thanks so much! I’ve fixed your website URL on your comments here, I hadn’t realized you had moved your blog, I will be setting up my RSS reader to follow you today! 🙂

  3. avatar Bev Oliver says:

    The Stone Butter Church is looking so icy cold these days; finding the beating heart of it seems improbable, and yet, we always look……flickering candlelight in those old windows, perhaps? Strains of the Huron Carol, at the first midnight mass, so many years ago? Ghosts, all. I hope you keep searching for them, Toad.

  4. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Absolutely stunning images Toad. I can’t believe you got snow. We were at 12C on sunday. Now that’s a switch!

    • Thanks Edith! We can’t really believe it either, to be honest. In the next 48 hours, the temps are expected to rise quite a bit and this scenery will be gone. Thank you so much for your kind visit, my dear friend!!

  5. avatar Lisa Gordon says:

    My goodness, you live in such a beautiful area, and this church is simply wonderful.
    I wish both you and your wife a blessed holiday season.

  6. avatar Rick Louie says:

    What an absolute beautiful setting for a church. It’s amazing it’s not being used. Wonderful images, Toad!

  7. Wow… just, Wow! Beautiful clouds, snow and subject, throw in the streaking burst of light on the mountain and it all adds up to Wow!

    I’m betting your flippers got a bit frosty from all the time you must have spent here. The “Frames” have me mesmerized I could get lost staring into them discovering all the intricate details of the world outside the frame.

    Great work, I’m so glad you took the chance and effort to get there in time.

    • How can we begin to thank you for taking the time to visit and for leaving these simply wonderful comments, Howard? You’re a great friend to us and we appreciate you taking the time to pop by and support us in friendship as you do. Best wishes to you!!

  8. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    Terrific images Toad. I wish we got the amount of snow your island gets but unfortunately the amount of snow here in New England makes me want to hibernate.

    • We’ve got plenty of room on the island here for New Englanders, Len!! 😀 Thank you so much for taking the time to come visit us my friend, it means the world to us!

  9. I remember the first post, love this place, great work!

  10. avatar luis says:

    A great set of photos, well processed and good reportage to go along with them. thank you for the nice reading!

    • Thank you so very much Luis, it’s been a pleasure to have you pop by The Hollow here for a visit! Thanks so much for your wonderful comments, we really appreciate it!