Donner Pass is one of those locations that everyone has heard about, we all have a memory of the Donner Pass story, even if we don’t really know what happened. Donner Pass falls in the history books with Lewis and Clark and Sacajewea. We all know, but yet, we don’t know.
The Donner of today is lots of traffic, it’s the I-80 corridor over the big mountain pass. It’s chains required and of course, it’s the California Agriculture Inspection Station – where they ask if you have any fruits. Has anyone ever answered yes?
If you get off the freeway at Truckee you are treated to a terrific little town if you go to the “Central Downtown” Truckee area, it is old and quaint – totally touristy, but fun all the same. I like this section of Truckee. Today we stopped for brunch at Smart’s Wagon Train Coffee Shop. It’s been there since 1947, built up by the Smart family and enjoyed by everyone, locals and tourists alike. As you come in the door, be prepared to be tempted, there is a bakery case full of beautiful pastries. I couldn’t resist ordering a wedding cookie even before I got my breakfast, all that yummy powdered sugar surrounding the almond center. I should have bought a dozen, I’d be swimming in powdered sugar by now.
The road crisscrosses the highway from the Downtown section to the next, to the best Ace Hardware anywhere. It looks like 6500 square feet of everything, and their employees are everywhere to help you. In the summer, it is packed, everyone is in Ace Hardware entertaining their visitors. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Follow the road through Truckee, weaving back over the interstate, by Donner Lake. In November, it’s beautiful. In the summer months, I’m sure it’s beautiful around the lake, but there are so many people, it’s hard to see anything but the traffic along the road. I’d love to look, but not while I’m driving.
The view from the top is gorgeous though, as you stand up by the bridge, recognizing how inhospitable the area really is, and thinking about how the wagon trains crossed in this area. It is no wonder a tragedy like the Donner Party happened.