Cross-country skiing, snow play, pioneer history at Donner Lake Essay

The deep snow at Donner Memorial State Park somehow seems differentfrom snow at nearby Lake Tahoe resorts–perhaps because it calls to mindthe winter of 1846-47, when 22-foot snows stranded a company ofCalifornia-bound pioneers called the Donner Party.

Park visitors, needn’t fear sharing the Donner Party’sfate, but they can learn about the group’s tragic story. A smallmuseum, open space for family snow play, and easy nordic ski trails makethis a good stop off Interstate 80, 2 miles west of Truckee on DonnerPass Road. The museum presents the life of indigenous Indians, chroniclesmining in the area, and–through a display of relics and a 25-minuteslide show–explains the ordeal that claimed the lives of 42 of the 89Donner Party members.

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Hours are 10 to noon and 1 to 4 daily; admissionis 50 cents for adults, 25 cents for children. Snow-booted winter visitors can follow a short trail past siteswhere some Donner Party families built crude cabins. And nordic skierscan take a marked, level 2-1/2-mile loop to within view of Donner Lake.Ranger-led ski tours and programs start at 10 on the mornings ofFebruary 9 (you ski 6 miles; difficult), February 24 (3 miles; somehills), March 17 (6 miles; moderate), April 6 (railroading program), andApril 13 (easy walk). For details, call (916) 587-3841 or write to thepark, Box 9210, Truckee 95737.

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