All the archival digging, library browsing, Internet sleuthing was no longer enough; I needed to research the actual physical site for my novel. So, this past week I took a two night, three day adventure with my husband and two smallish children as they indulged me. I do live in British Columbia, so much of the wilderness is readily at hand, but a goldmine… that is not so typical, in Vancouver at least. So, in the car, up the highway, onto the logging road, snaking around a mountain at 20km/hr, over bumps and ruts and beyond any cell connection we went.
The Hurley (the road has name, like a river) was the main evacuation route from the recent forest fires around the Gold Bridge in the Bridge River Valley, and had been recently graded to handle all the traffic. It was true; I saw the new patches of gravel over culverts that kept the creeks from washing out swaths of the road. I was thankful for the improvements. I couldn’t imagine our mini-van handling the road in its raw form prior to the patch-up. The kids were fine, we all laughed at our slow bumpy ride. We saw only two other vehicle over the two hours on that road and they were both very large 4wheel drive trucks, not mini-vans. We passed a field of wildflowers and hummingbirds, a stand of whispering birch, several small brown hares, a low flying bald eagle, one coyote and one black bear on our road trip. The kids kept track of each new wild encounter, ticking them off like items on a scavenger list.
The faded wooden sign read ‘Bralorne 23km,’ and pointed to the right, Gold Bridge, the other way with no particular distance indicated. Well, we were going to Bralorne, so right it was. An hour later, we passed the foundations and remnant fireplaces of a house, followed by a bridge over Cadwallader Creek, and finally the goldmine and town of Bralorne, the place where my mother-in-law was born.
The population posted at the entrance to town read 59, with the nine formed with a black marker over a painted white seven as there had been a recent addition to the town. It was hard to imagine this quiet, quiet town, where the only sound is the roar of the creek over rocks. To my children’s untrained ears, it sounded like Kingsway, a busy Vancouver Street known to never slow or sleep, but to flow like an unrelenting creek. (Mental note to self, get them out of the city more often, and take them to more creeks and waterfalls.)
We checked into the Pub for the motel down the road and set up. The only telephone servicing the motel was in the postal box room attached to the community hall, one building away. The payphone worked, but only for outgoing calls. We still had no cellular reception at all, and of course there was no internet. So, there we were, with two computers, two cell phones and no way out. This is good, I thought, I would be able to feel the disconnection, the remoteness of my characters whom also had come from Vancouver to this area.
The next day we woke to clouds and a light mist of rain. It was lush and tranquil when we ventured further into the next township, to the museum where we found a photo of Graham’s grandfather on the wall. He was the first Union president for Local 309 representing the gold miners of Pioneer Mine, the mine next to the Bralorne Mine. We also found my mother-in-law’s name listed on a birth registry in the hospital display in the museum. Finn, my youngest child announced, “My grandma was born in a museum!” Indeed, there was a bassinette and baby supplies, but they had been gathered from the old Bralorne hospital and are now on display in a one room museum with walls lined with shelves of artefacts along with news clippings and photos held up with pushpins. I tried to take in all I could, to steep myself in the time and being there. We’ll see how it all comes out…
In the afternoon the clouds burnt away for our trip to Pioneer. Heaps of twisted metal, and wire, mounds of rock and machinery make its ruins. How quickly the earth recovers from our temporary structures! Little remains of the old Pioneer mine, the one that once boasted the greatest yields in the British Empire. We crossed over a lightly repaired bridge over rushing rapids. Have to say it was one of the scariest things I’ve done! ( I have a thing about bridges without railings over rapids.) Then we took our time picking through the rubble along the far bank of the creek. Chloe and Finn dug for gold, and then we found it! No kidding, plain as day in the bits of ore you can see small chunks and shavings of yellow metal sticking out in both the grey rock and blending in with the quartz. If that wasn’t enough, we went under the bridge to where the churning waters slowed and found the water sparkled in the sunlight over the silt and sand. It became so apparent to me, to all of us, how the rush of discovery can take hold of one and drive them to search for more. What a treat!
On our way home we took the route along the cliff’s edge of Carpenter Lake, adrenaline rushing and beautiful as it was long. I took lots of photos, as once is enough to do that trip. Next time, we’ll take the Hurley, but all the way to Gold Bridge and skip the East Hurley all together. Now we know…