Who’s Bruckner? What’s Bralorne? And where’s Bradian?
Let’s begin at the beginning.
I grew up in a house full of music, including the classical composers and performers of the day and four piano players (one of them considered concert grade). There was a time when I was perfectly content with all the usual suspects … Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Ravel, Rachmaninoff … the traditional pantheon of the greats. Then I accidentally stumbled across a stunning piece I’d never heard by a composer I’d never heard of. Mozart sneered, Beethoven grumped, Brahms rolled his eyes, Ravel made rude noises in a language I didn’t understand, and Rachmaninoff simply glowered (I hear he did that a lot). But inevitably they made way for the new love of my musical life, Anton Bruckner. If you’ve never sampled his music, be warned, he’s an acquired taste; but he’s a taste well worth acquiring.
So, what’s with Bralorne? Bralorne, permanent population 43, is a somewhat defunked gold mining town tucked away in the South Chilcotin Mountains a couple of hundred miles north east of Vancouver. If you’d asked me a month ago for the name of my favourite “ghost town” I’d have said Barkerville – a very destination un-destination of another defunked gold rush town that’s now a Provincial park, but still a great place to photograph. The difference is that Bralorne is a living, breathing community with real people, rather than a well primped and preserved relic on government life support. And as a bonus there’s Cadwallader Creek, a noisy, rushing, tumbling, rambunctious little gem of a river that flows right by the town. Move over Barkerville, Bralorne has arrived. The Bruckner experience has repeated itself … and Rachmaninoff still glowers.
Bradian is just a whistle up the old dirt road from Bralorne. It was the “suburb” (bedroom community) for the mine. Many of the houses are still there accessible from the roadway or buried among the trees of the new growth forest that’s reclaimed the site. A true “undestination”.
So, why Bralorne and Bradian? The “five pack”, my little gang of travelling photo crazies had originally planned our spring excursion for the Northeast coast of Vancouver Island, up to Telegraph Cove and Alert Bay. Needless to say that quickly became a pandemic casualty. But things had eased somewhat and the overwhelming majority of cases here have been in the “Lower Mainland” area around Vancouver with very little impact on the interior of the province. In early June, I stumbled across a You Tube video by a local lad who explores out of the way places and abandoned sites. Abandoned Town Hidden in Woods. pt 1 Adventure #8
I shared it with the group and the response was “When do we leave”. Boot up Google, locate a local caravansary right in Bralorne, book rooms for 3 nights in early July, organize logistics … unfortunately Dave couldn’t make it. He’s recovering from leg surgery and undergoing chemotherapy. He’s doing fine and the prognosis is good.
Take Highway 99 North (the bright blue line) from Horseshoe Bay at the western tip of North Shore, up the Sea to Sky Highway (rated by National Geographic as one the ten best scenic drives in the world) past Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton into the south Chilcotin Mountains. At Mount Currie we took a detour into Lillooet (“lil-o-wet”) for lunch.
On the Bridge River road north of Lillooet we crossed the Bridge River that yielded the image below shot from the bridge.
Follow the road to the Terzaghi Dam, at the east end of Carpenter Lake. The road skirts the north side of the lake into the east end of town at Gold Bridge; watch for the Bralorne Road turnoff (we missed it and got a little lost). Follow the road up the mountain into Bralorne. Bradian is just up the road from Bralorne and the old mine site is about a mile (1.6km) further south of Bralorne.
But here’s the thing; Bralorne and Bradian are not especially photogenic. There’s little to see in Bralorne except the museum, which was closed. The exterior of the houses in Bradian do offer some opportunity; the interiors are a pretty much a loss – dark and empty. The real gem is the scenery along the route and the surrounding area. The old mine site is a tumbledown abandoned wreck with plenty to photograph if you like that sort of imagery. I got distracted by other things and passed it by; Ron got some really interesting images.
Go to the top of the hill in Bradian and on the right is a still in tack two story house with access. The bedroom window on the top floor looks back down the hill and across the valley to the jagged peak of Mount Sloan. The drizzly stormy clouds and light made it look like a brooding giant with the rain swirling around his head.
By the road to the old mine site sits the locally famous old car. Our research narrowed it down to a strong possibility of a 1935 Packard sedan. The mine closed in 1971, but it’s clearly been there much longer. It ate up quite a few pixels.
Carpenter Lake is the reservoir for the Terzagi dam 25 miles (40km) further east. It’s fed by the Hurly River flowing into the western end of the lake just east Gold Bridge where it creates a delta of sandbars and meanders. We noticed them on the way in and stopped for a few shots, but the late afternoon light wasn’t the best. On the way out the mid morning light was spectacular with puffy white clouds and the trees of the southern wall reflecting in the glassy water broken up by the sandbars … photographic Nirvana … perfect infrared conditions.
So, what’s the prognosis for Bralorne and Bradian? Will they slowly vanish into history? There are signs of hope. The area has become a Mecca for off roader and dirt bike adventurers and there is a very a active local group promoting the area as “cottage and outdoor adventure country”. Bradian’s been purchased by a Chinese investor group. They have replaced the roofs on a number of houses as a first step in halting their deterioration, but plans for development are still not clear. The jury’s still out.
On the way home we took the Eastern route (the light blue line) for the expressed purpose of dropping in on The Vulture Garage in Spence’s Bridge, a favourite stop whenever we’re upcountry. But, thereby hangs the tale of another Backyard Gem … watch this space.
And a parting shot … OK! OK! The devil made me do it.
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