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History: Donner Party Hikes are back

The Donner Party Hike encompasses and recognizes the tenacity of our early pioneers. This past year has been tumultuous but once again we get to enjoy the history of our area and explore the outdoors.

For those not familiar with the Donner Party Hike it is all about learning the history of Donner Summit and the surrounding ‘most historically significant square mile in California.’ The Donner Party Hike is a weekend of interpretive hikes, walks, talks and exploration of the region’s history.

The unforgiving Sierra Nevada winter of 1846-47 set the stage for an agonizing story of human desperation. In April of 1846 the Donner Party went out searching for new found fortunes in California. A series of errors, mishaps and tragedy followed in their footsteps.



On the interpretive walks you can almost hear the sound of the oxen teams and rumble of wagon wheels as countless emigrants scaled the Sierra in search of a better life. Learn about the treks of the early pioneers (including the success of the Stephens Party and the tragedy of the Donner Party), the building of the railroad, the significant contributions made by the Chinese community, the hidden lakes, and much more.

Saturday offers hikes to seven locations around the Donner Summit area. The hikes are based on interest and technical level and are led by historical guides that will share the rich history of that specific hike.



The hikes include:

• Railroad Snowsheds (Easy, about 3 miles round trip)

• Summit Canyon/Dutch Flat Wagon Road (Easy, about 3.5 miles round trip)

• Summit Valley (Moderate, 4 miles round trip)

• Donner Peak/Coldstream Pass (Moderate, 4.5 miles round trip).

• High Sierra Lakes (Moderate/Strenuous, 6 miles round trip)

• Roller Pass/Judah Loop (Moderate to Strenuous, 6 miles round trip, 1100 foot elevation gain)

• Historic Donner Pass (Strenuous, 2.5 miles round trip).

More details on each hike, weather, local terrain, what to bring on each hike and more can be found on the web at http://donnerpartyhike.com.

After the Saturday morning hike, we will meet at Donner Ski Ranch to enjoy an afternoon with music by Rick Mitchell and Touch of Gold, a hamburger lunch and a presentation from local historians. This year’s presentation is from two of the four extreme athletes who spent years retracing and then implementing the Donner Party’s Forlorn Hope route. They will talk about their experiences, the emotional toll it took on not only the original Donner Party but also the re-enactment team, and their next steps. It truly is a story of despair, hope and the human spirit.

Sunday is an optional secondary walking history tour. You get to experience where the Donner Party split and left part of the group at the current Donner Camp Picnic Area. (Not so aptly named due to what happened with the Donner Party!). From the picnic area participants will drive to the Donner Memorial State Park to see the Murphy Cabin Site and Pioneer Monument. Admission to the State Park and movie documentary are included.

Space is limited so reserve your hike at donnerpartyhike.com. Tickets for Saturday’s hike, lunch and presentation are $65/person. For the Sunday tour, tickets are an additional $20.

So join us in learning about the history and pioneers of the area. We want you to appreciate Truckee/Donner Summit and recognize its historical significance.

Judy DePuy is a member of the Donner Summit Historical Society and on the board for the Truckee Donner Railroad Society and Museum of Truckee History. She resides in Tahoe Donner with her husband, Dave, and their dog, Morticia

KNOW & GO

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 18

WHERE: Meet at Donner Ski Ranch, Highway 40 (Soda Springs exit off I-80.) at Summit (across from Sugar Bowl Judah Lodge entrance).

WHEN: Between 7:30 and 8 a.m. (depending on the hike)

WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 19

WHERE: Donner Camp Picnic Ground located on Highway 89 approximately 8 miles north of Truckee at the Alder Creek site that is believed to be the site of the Donner family cabin.

WHEN: Meet at 8 a.m.

The Donner Party Hike it is all about learning the history of Donner Summit and the surrounding ‘most historically significant square mile in California.’ The Donner Party Hike is a weekend of interpretive hikes, walks, talks and exploration of the region’s history.
Provided photo
The Donner Party Hike encompasses and recognizes the tenacity of our early pioneers.
Provided photo
A map overview of the various Donner Party Hikes.
Provided photo
Space is limited so reserve your hike at donnerpartyhike.com. Tickets for Saturday’s hike, lunch and presentation are $65/person. For the Sunday tour, tickets are an additional $20.
Photo by George Lamson

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