I have pinned Gold Bridge and Bralorne on my Google Maps “Want To Go” for a while. Last year, I passed near the area during a group trip to Poison Mountain. But since we were following the team lead, I only saw the sign pointing towards Gold Bridge direction without turning in.
This time, however, I have all the freedom and control to myself. I get to plan where I want to go.
Coming out of the forest road in Lillooet, I headed West.
Gold Bridge and Bralorne are gold mining ghost towns dating back to the 1930s. They are roughly 70km north of Pemberton, BC. So if you are coming from Vancouver, You would take Hurley River Forest Service Road from Pemberton and heading north.
Since I come from the East, I would be heading the opposite direction.
There were sections of construction along Lillooet Pioneer Road. A mixture of gravel and pavement later, we came to a downhill hairpin overlooking the beautiful Bridge River.
Continuing west. soon you’ll see Terzaghi Dam on your left. There was a rec site leading to right under the dam. Trailer accessible.
I took over an hour’s break here. Peeled an apple for a snack. Hai has taken the group south of Lillooet after we said bye in the Canyon. He used satellite messaging to update me that they have gotten to a beautiful lakeside camp. Since I am already so far west, I decided to explore on my own today and maybe catch up to them again tomorrow.
The long stretch of Carpenter Lake started shifting from clear turquoise colour to hazy green. As another turnoff, I walked down to the riverside. The water level wasn’t high at this time of year to see the level marks on the base on the river bank.
As we cruise along the road, signs for Gold Bridge started to show up. A left turn passing a bridge, we are now in the ghost town.
Due to COVID, the iconic pub at the entrance of the town was closed. I saw some residence walking their dogs unleashed. So yes, people still live here.
I kept driving on the main road. Another 10 km later, we entered Bralorne. There was a sign saying “population 99”. I wonder how accurate that is…
The largest building here is possibly the Bralorne Fire Hall. In the summer, ghost towns situated in the middle of the mountains play a crucial role in fighting bushfires.
I parked on what I suspect to be a major neighbourhood avenue in Bralorne. I didn’t walk far because the sheer silence made me extremely uncomfortable. I could hear my own breath and the sound of my hair rubbing on my T-shirt. There was no fog but definitely “Silent Hill” alike. Being out in the wild alone, I am used to silence by now. But the image of a community made me subconsciously expect some noise as a sign of human establishment.
There’s nothing. Absolutely no sound.
Once in a while, I hear some noises. I saw a guy riding a dirt bike from the hill down. He looked at me weirdly when passing by, as if I was a wild animal standing in a city street. I couldn’t help but wonder if I actually saw a human or…. am I starting to see things now that I’ve been alone for so long?
Ghost towns were not an option for me to spend overnight. Maybe I’d enjoy it more coming with friends. But alone? I felt a sense of fear so deep in my bone. And yet, I cherish this feeling so much because it was so real. I felt the abandonment and fragile houses falling apart. I felt the history come and go. My mind was so intuned with the environment that I could “feel” the story of this town instead of reading it off a signpost.
So coming back out from Gold Bridge, I aired down to head into Hurley River Forest Service Road. The main FSR has been plowed. However, snow was still present on all other sidetracks. This road is constantly around 1000 meters in altitude. Although I was sweating inside the vehicle, the snow up here isn’t going to melt any time soon.
There were many tracks leading to the river but I couldn’t get in any of them due to snow. So I kept driving… There wasn’t any spot to camp at.
Until I reach to potentially the last 20km to Pemberton. The Spring Melt on the ground pushes the vehicle to the side no matter how straight I was steering.
I put chains on to try again. At this point, I didn’t want to turn back. Going to Pemberton and find a motel stay sounded like a way better option than going all the way back. Turning back at this point means I have to return to Lillooet – the last fuel stop and intersection to get to anywhere else. It was at least 200km away.
I was never a big fan of snow wheeling. The 5 Jeep accident on a snow hill back when I had a Rubicon left me a big scar.
However, in this past snow season, I’ve faced snow so many times alone, even camped in a snowstorm. I thought I got a hold of it by now.
Chains on, we tried again.
The Landcruiser struggled for a distance, then eventually went into the side ditch again. That’s when I had the thought of distance. How long of this struggle do I need to go to get to Pemberton? If it’s just 100 meters, I can probably suck it up. But if the rest of the road is all this, I don’t think I can do it without sliding into a ditch somewhere. Here I have trees on both sides, so I am relatively safe. But once the trees clear out and expose me to an open hill, the story would have a whole different twist. By then, I would be so deep in the snow trail that backing out becomes difficult as well.
Ugh why didn’t I think about this earlier! I should’ve set the drone up to see how far the snow stretches to….
I have heard of spring melts. But I thought, isn’t it just slushy snow? Sure it’s annoying, but how bad could it be?
Only until facing it myself, I realized how powerless we are. Airing down more or putting chains on. Nothing grabs. The melts will slide you to the side.
When my drone transmits beautiful scenery to my controller, all I see was miles and miles of impossible roads. It was a truly humble experience that tamed my wild heart after a snow season.
Took the chain off and turned around. Camped at a big opening area on the trail as the sun was setting.
I went to bed early this night, exhausted both physically and emotionally. The next morning, I started the car to catch the road back. All the way back…