Look, I learned how to ghost town in Alberta. It’s flat. Everything is designed on a grid system. The township roads run east to west and the range roads, north to south. I could set the truck on cruise control, hold onto the steering wheel in one spot and swivel my head from left to right, looking for abandoned barns and farmhouses or 1950s cars sitting in a field.
If I missed a slight curve in the road, the worst that could happen would be driving out of the wheat field and right back onto the road.
OK, it isn’t always that easy.
But it sure isn’t like British Columbia.
The roads are twisty and turny. On one side of the road is the side of a mountain. On the other side, that mountain keeps going with a drop into a canyon or valley.
I spent Friday afternoon looking for a destination. I found a gold mine of old or ghost towns northwest of Lillooet. Settled by men in search of gold, places like Brexton, Bralorne and Pioneer Mine dot the area around Gold Bridge.
They’re all recreation areas now, but some buildings remain standing.
And so, Shep and I set forth. My trusty co-pilot was satiated with an A&W Momma Burger in Cache Creek and the odd roadside stop to smell the air and take pictures.
We drove through Lillooet, and Shep nodded when I mentioned how cool it might be to spend a weekend camping in the summer time.
The left turn to Gold Bridge is at the other other end of the town of Lillooet. On a warm, sunny March Saturday, we drove past dog walkers, picknickers and hockey players, hopeful of winning the Tier 4 midget triple-A provincial championships.
The sign at the bottom of the road said “Gold Bridge 101.”
101 kilometres? Man, I can do that with my eyes closed, I thought.
The scenery, like so many other spots in this amazing country, is incomparable.
But oh wait … if you look closely enough, you can see where the road to Gold Bridge travels.
Here, let me help:
Right? After about 15 clicks from that base point, the road stopped being pavement. And it kept going uphill, with the plunge on the other side of the road getting deeper and steeper.
My stomach tossed a bit and I found myself clenching the steering wheel just a little bit harder than I ever had. I knew if my old ghost-town partner, Jack, was driving, nothing would have stopped us.
But these trips aren’t supposed to be stressful and fear-inducing. They’re supposed to be about relaxation and freedom.
And so, I found the widest point I could, pulled a tight-as-hell three-point turn and headed back, my shoulders sagging just a tiny bit.
Of course, I don’t take failure and fear easily.
On a day when I can set out earlier and spend the night, dear Gold Bridge, I’ll be back.