Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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Summer In the Sierra

On Friday afternoon, I was indeed able to get away from Day Jobbe at a reasonable hour. We were actually so far ahead of my original schedule that after I made a stop at Truckee at the Bank of America to get some cash (BofA sold the Fernley branch to another bank; Truckee was convenient to get cash), I suggested, and Lisa agreed, that we take Donner Pass Road (old US-40) instead of the faster I-80 route.

Chinese Wall of the Sierra

Passing the Donner Memorial State Park (where the ill-fated Donner Party was trapped by snow with tragic results) we climbed up from lake level to Donner Pass. We stopped just below the pass to gaze upon the "Chinese Wall," built by Chinese laborers under the direction of the Central Pacific Railroad to carry the tracks of the original transcontinental railroad into the summit tunnel.

Note that there's still a bunch of snow up here. Snowfall like what we had this past winter was just one of the many obstacles the workers had to overcome to drive a railroad through here. The California State Railroad Museum has a large display that celebrates the accomplishments of the Chinese who did so much work to make this railroad possible.

Chinese Wall of the Sierra

The Southern Pacific (successor to the CP) later built the much longer tunnel, and then eventually abandoned the original route so they no longer had to maintain it and spend a lot of money keeping it open in the winter. This saved a lot of money, at the cost of introducing a single-track bottleneck on their mostly double-track route over the mountains. Today you can (but we did not; no time) hike up to the roadbed and go through the old tunnel.

Donner Lake

This is the view looking back toward Donner Lake. The US-40 route is too steep for the freeway, which takes a less-precipitous path up to Donner Summit (which is not the same place as Donner Pass).

Rock Climber at Donner Pass

The original summit tunnel goes through this granite mountain. Look closely to see people on the rocks.

Rock Climber at Donner Pass

This is the maximum zoom available on my camera phone. You can just make out a rock climber.

After this short stop (and a pledge to someday come here with an exploration of the old rail route as our only goal for the trip), we continued over the pass and down old US-40 until forced back onto the freeway where the old highway is no longer available.

In Sacramento, we had an errand to Fry's Electronics. Unfortunately, the Sacramento Fry's selection of audio parts was distressingly small, as if they are intending to discontinue carrying components. We also had some other errands, and by the time we were done with them, it was dinner time, so we had dinner at Sizzler near the last errand before returning to our hotel. (We'd checked in earlier that day when we first passed by it before heading out on errands.)

Today was a very successful trip and a lovely event for my mother, but we've been out since 8 AM and didn't get back to the hotel until 9 PM, and I've not had time to process the photos. I'll write about my mother's remembrance ceremony tomorrow or the next day. We head home on Sunday, but we're very, very tired. Fortunately, we can sleep in tomorrow before heading for home.
Tags: sierra nevada

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