The Bridge River Valley

August, 2015

Bridge River Valley, BC

 There is a love of wild nature in everybody an ancient mother-love ever showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties.

John Muir

As we sit on the banks of False Creek in the middle of Vancouver, I can’t help but marvel at how lucky Vancouverites are. They have the best of both worlds, all the delicacies that urban life brings, surrounded by natural grandeur. Before my avocado and lime popsicle is even digested, we can be in the wild nature of the mountains. And that’s just what we do.

A perfect lunch stop

A perfect lunch stop

Let's get baked

Let’s get baked

An avocado and lime popsicle! So good.

An avocado and lime popsicle! So good.

The Sea to Sky highway takes us past Whistler and into the wilds of the Coast Mountain Range. Pemberton is the perfect stop for dinner with close by camping at Nairn Falls. The next day we wind our way through the fertile Pemberton Meadows lush with crops of potatoes,  which will lead us to the beginning of The Hurley Main, a steep, rugged active logging road that takes us up and over the mountains and down into the Bridge River Valley. It’s a wild ride with breathtaking scenery, the road is a bit rougher than we anticipated. I’m sure when Volvo designed their cross-county wagon they weren’t thinking of the sharp tire-eating rocks, the anticipation of logging trucks around each bend, the tight, loose gravel switch backs or the vertical drop-offs of the Hurley. After several hours that threaten our leisure a couple of times, we are really ready for a cold beer at the Gold Bridge Hotel.

A rainbow over Nairn Falls just outside of Pemberton

A rainbow over Nairn Falls just outside of Pemberton

Pemberton Meadows is full of farms that produce the famous Pemberton Potato, among other things...

Pemberton Meadows is full of farms that produce the famous Pemberton Potato (let’s get baked!) and other delicacies that grace the finest urban tables

A Vegetable and Book exchange on the road to The Hurley

A Vegetable and Book exchange on the road to The Hurley

Looking down into Pemberton Meadows and the Lillooet River as we climb the Hurley

Looking down into Pemberton Meadows and the Lillooet River as we climb the Hurley

The views are fantastic

The views are fantastic

A crashing waterfall on the Hurley Main

A crashing waterfall on the Hurley Main

It's often better to look up rather than down over the edge on this road

It’s often better to look up rather than down over the edge on this road

The pub at Gold Bridge is wallpapered with currency

The pub at Gold Bridge is wallpapered with currency

And finally a cold beer!

And finally a cold beer!

We set ourselves up at the Gun Creek campsite on the western shores of Carpenter Lake – which is actually a reservoir formed by the 1951 damming of the Bridge River. It’s an amazing milky glacial turquoise. The campground is on the alluvial fan (I’ve been reading the Roadside Naturalist by Richard and Sydney Cannings) of Gun Creek, on a bit higher ground than the old townsite of Minto which was flooded by the damming of the river. All those ‘urban delicacies’ unfortunately come with a cost.

This is the site of the remains of the old gold mining town of Minto that was flooded by the Bridge River Power Project in 1951.

The site of the remains of the old gold mining town of Minto that was flooded, along with acres of ranch land by the Bridge River Power Project in 1951.

A Volvo in the grass

A Volvo in the grass

This valleys history lies in gold mining and Bralorne was the richest goldmine in Canada producing 3 million ounces of gold in its 40 years of operation. This was a thriving mine that flourished through the depression years but was forced to close down in 1971 with plummeting gold prices. This valley has felt many effects of the outside world. The mining town of Bralorne, carved into the side of the Cariboo Mountains with hundreds of miles of tunnels running around it, was a going concern with schools, churches, post office, houses, pubs, town hall, hospital and so forth to service a population of over 3000. Forty something years after the shut down these buildings are still here, some occupied and some vacant, echoing the glory of its golden years.

Population 77

Population 77

An odd find in a remote town. The 'Heart of Gold' Labyrinth is designed after the one at Chartres Cathedral.

An odd find in a remote town. The ‘Heart of Gold’ Labyrinth is designed after the one at Chartres Cathedral.

At the centre of the labyrinth

At the centre of the labyrinth

The pattern

The pattern of the Chartres labyrinth “mountain sized” in Bralorne to 96 feet across

An old fire truck sits in the lot outside the museum

An old fire truck sits in the lot outside the museum

Brightly painted houses remind us of the Yukon

Brightly painted houses remind us of the Yukon

Echos of days gone by

Echos of days gone by

An art studio

An art studio

The Pioneer mine and the Bralorne mine were close to each other and two of the most important gold mines in BC

The Pioneer mine and the Bralorne mine were close to each other and two of the most important gold mines in BC

The old timers say that Gun Lake was named by an old prospector who lost his gun in the creek that feeds it. Oddly enough, Gun Lake is apparently shaped like a pistol when seen from the air but had its name before that could have been known.

The old timers say that Gun Lake, another part of the Bridge River Valley, was named by a prospector who lost his gun in the creek that feeds it. Oddly enough, Gun Lake is apparently shaped like a pistol when seen from the air but had its name before that could have been known.

The water of Gun Lake is crystal clear and warm enough to swim in....so there are hundreds of cottages circling its shores.

My shadow on the lake bottom. The water of Gun Lake is crystal clear and warm enough to swim in so there are hundreds of summer cottages circling its shores.

The Lajoie Dam which creates Downtown Lake

Downton Lake ends abruptly against the concrete wall of the Lajoie Dam, one of three dams of the Bridge River Power Project

A prospectors shrine

A prospectors shrine at the beginning of the trail leading up from Gun Creek

Overlooking Gun Creek

Overlooking Gun Creek

A Hoodoo on Gun Creek

A Hoodoo on Gun Creek

After a couple of days poking around the area we leave the Bridge River Valley along the Carpenter Lake Road. Although it is only partially paved, and is really a reservoir rather than a lake, it may be one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. We hug the shoreline of the milky aqua reservoir for about fifty kilometres then follow the Bridge River sometimes reaching high onto grassland plateaus. It’s simple breathtaking.

We take a brief detour to se Tyax Lodge

We take a brief detour to see Tyax Lodge

A river rock fireplace in the entrance hall

A river rock fireplace in the entrance hall

The bar where we had the best cappacino imaginable

The bar where we had the best Americano imaginable, a little bit of urban luxury set deep in the wilds

The stunning grounds roll down to Tyaughton Lake from the lodge

The stunning grounds roll down to Tyaughton Lake from the lodge

Carpenter Lake Road

Carpenter Lake Road from above

The Bridge River

The Bridge River

The river from a high plateau

The river from a high plateau

As we pull out of this river valley with its hydroelectric dams and rerouted waters, we pull into Lillooet where it’s forty-five degrees celsius (113 f) – the world is definitely heating up – and I could really use another popsicle; a high-hydroelectric indulgence. I know what a drain refrigeration is on the boats battery bank, the same strain is on our natural resources. There is a love of urban delights in me along with “a love of wild nature” that John Muir refers to. I struggle to find a balance in this.

Reaching Pemberton over the Duffey Lake Road completes our circle. We find a forestry campsite along Cayoosh Creek and cool off, without refrigeration, in its clear mountain waters. No valleys were flooded in the making of this comfort.

Duffey Lake

Duffey Lake

Cooling off in Cayoosh Creek

Cooling off in Cayoosh Creek

Our circle route

Our circle route

 

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