Eva and I were just in Truckee, CA for a couple of days. It's high up - 7,000 feet - in the Sierras, just above Lake Tahoe. We were considering the possibility of spending as much as a month there sometime this coming winter. (If we do, she will spend as much time as she can on cross country skis and I will spend a lot of time writing - and probably drinking.)
Luckily, with a population nearing 15,000 it has come a long way since the Donner Party missed the trail there in 1846, leading to the deaths of 42 of its members and the consumption of several of their corpses by the others. Here's where they took their wrong turn:If the hotel - wood building in background - and the 76 station had been there 165 years ago probably none of us would have ever heard of the Donner Party.
Here's the monument to them:If any of you out there reading this can figure out what the hell the inscription means, let me know in the comments. I sure can't figure it out.
It is a beautiful area:
Chinese workers built the western half of the transcontinental railroad right across what is now Donner Pass and down into Truckee:
They built long tunnels to house the tracks so that they wouldn't be impassable with snow in the winter. And they propped up the tracks with boulders where the mountain curves didn't cooperate.
This is tunnel 6, dug 1,600 feet through solid granite. They were able to dig about four inches a day. It would have taken them 17 and a half years except that someone had the bright idea to bore a wide hole through the top of the mountain, halfway into where they wanted the tunnel to go. Workers were lowered down into it so that the tunnel could be dug out from four places at once: both ends and each way from the middle.
We have a whole lot to thank Chinese laborers for, at least historically.
I'm on a quest to find the oldest, continuously operating Chinese restaurant in America. If anyone has any thoughts on the matter, please let me know.
I hereby, probably rashly, promise that should we spend a month in Truckee this coming winter, I will write a blog every day. The Donner Party kept diaries, there's a tradition for me to uphold.