One of the 7 Wonders of BC
Bralorne, an area that rolls off the tongue of any knowledgeable explorer of BC back roads, is a must see destination. However little is usually mentioned of the hidden gems you will find along the way. It was May Long weekend, and I had a dream destination, one that had been on my list for years.
I left the lower mainland Saturday morning heading up the 180 km of the beautiful West Harrison FSR; this route is a great beginner off-road exploration opportunity. Nothing too challenging, however it will leave you breathless with mesmerizing waterfalls, hidden coves off trails along the lake, and the vast beauty of the mountains that embrace the waters. After a leisurely drive, and taking a few hundred pictures, I was nearing the Pemberton area as the sun was starting to set.
The Hurley wasn’t open for the season, so I found a quiet camping spot a bit off the main road. The next morning I enjoyed spectacular mountain views as I drove one of my favourite paved scenic routes, the Duffy Road to Lillooet. I made my way to Horseshoe Canyon, stopping to grab a few geocaches along the way,
The Horseshoe Canyon could easily be one of the 7 Wonders of British Columbia, there is nothing more calming then sitting on the edge of the precipice, looking down at the sandy cliffs that hold you up, and gazing over at the walls of the canyon surrounding you. Visible layers show the passage of time, displaying BC’s geological past in a single glimpse.
The primary road from Lillooet to Bralorne is a scenic route that offers a unique half pavement, half off-road experience where you can see the ravages of past forest fires, the culture of the aboriginal peoples, with the option to explore many tougher side roads and offshoots leading to amazing vistas with a little bit of low-range use.
Along the Carpenter Lake road, you have the opportunity to visit the historic sites that still remain since the flooding from the dam, including Minto Mine, located at the well-marked campsite on what used to be the town of Minto. I don’t recommend exploration of abandoned mines, however I could not resist grabbing
a headlamp and taking a quick glimpse.
The growths on the ceilings and walls were mesmerizing, and the colours that I could see through the headlamp were beautiful shades of red, and pearlescent white. Remnants of the working mine could still be seen in the little signs hanging along the walls, the metal spikes, and the wires running along the ceilings. I turned a corner and saw the wooden structures that still remained. Several chutes branched off, along with a larger central room that had a rather large hole in the middle of it, along with what appeared to be drop-in ramps for the carts.
I closed my eyes for a moment, and could hear echoes of the men that had worked here decades ago. I could hear their laughs as they made their way through the day, and their frustrated grumblings when things didn’t work, and feel their pain as they were injured from the carts slamming fingers. It was time to go, I could smell a whiff of air that wasn’t quite right, and knew that I’d return another day to explore more.
Next up was Goldbridge and Bralorne. When you first come into the town, there is a little side road to the right, which will lead you to the magical Will Haylmore Heritage site. You can explore the site, step into the buildings, and see the pieces of machinery that still litter the grounds. It’s a great introduction to what you can expect as you head further into town and outlying areas.
On your way you’ll pass by “The Model Bakery”, which put out 6,000 loaves per week at one time. A little further on are a few businesses that remain running and abandoned cars that will bring a smile to your face. Then, like an episode out of the twilight zone where time has stopped, you’ll see the rows of neat tidy houses, which have stood vacant for years.
A short jaunt up the road, an unexpected afternoon of adventure, exploring and wonder await. Your next stop is the Pioneer Mine and the town built for those who pulled gold out of the mountain. This historic area was one of the most important gold mines in B.C. for most of the 20th century. As you crest the hill, you can see a decaying structure to
the left on a hillside, making you wonder which will give way first. To the right of you is a mechanical graveyard, which will make any photographer feel like a kid in a candy store.
Among the gears, discarded wires, and wood splintered by rusty bolts, you can hear the murmurs of abandoned dreams. You can stand in the dynamite room, a few root cellars, and the remains of the bridge where vehicles once crossed.
A little further up the hill (which can be accessed either by hiking, or directly by road if you go back into town and take a side route) you will find another hidden gem. The homes of “Pioneer Town” are starting to lose the war with Mother Nature. You can still find a lightbulb in a socket, and under the floor joists, plumbing lines that brought all the modern conveniences to this now desolate locale. I was amazed at how well preserved some objects were, standing along side items ravaged by the passing of time.
It was nearing dark and time to head to the Yalokum River Recreation Site, however I made one last stop at the house of ill repute. It really hits you when you’re standing in archways of the abodes of our ancestors how different life was, in a way that you can’t comprehend until you are surrounded by the ghosts of the past. I had attempted, but failed, to find the old RCMP detachment I’d heard rumour of. So many places up here that I still need to explore, an area that will keep me entertained for years to come.