This post at Shakesville brought back many happy memories of skiing near Donner Lake with my parents (aka mom & stepdad) growing up.  I always wanted to go downhill, they always wanted to go cross-country, so we’d usually do cross-country during the day and then I, by myself, or sometimes with my mom, would go night skiing at a downhill place once during a 3-4 day trip. 

There was this one cross-country trail we always would hit after packing up on the last morning – if the weather was good – we’d stop at this forest service trail right near the summit of Donner Pass – right off of I-80 – and ski up, up ,up the timber road until we’d reach this high plateau of blue sky, white snow and baby pine trees.  We were up so high (on top of the mountain next to the top of the pass) you felt like all you needed was to reach up and you could touch the sky.

We’d stop, drink water, eat some chocolate, then glide down these big gentle s-curves of snow-covered timber road down the mountain (in cross-country skis, so the turning’s a bit tricky).  I’d be using my poles heavily with my tween & teen need for speed, my stepdad would be doing prudent sitz marks** every quarter mile to slow down, my mom slow and steady.  In later years, the few times we went while I was in college, we’d bring Boogie, our lab-Australian healer mutt who would run panting alongside.***  I’m thankful I have memories of the sky and the mountains – I know I didn’t fully appreciate them when I was there.

Anyway, back to the Donner Party, referenced in the linked post above.  We would usually stay at this little inn with kitchenettes right on Donner Lake.  It was really kind of a hokey, divey little place, but well kept up, with a hot tub you could sit in after skiing, sipping wine (the parents) or hot chocolate (me) and looking out over the lake.  You could walk down the road to a general store where they sold chocolate covered donuts (I for one believe that it is impossible to go skiing without having consumed Entenmann’s chocolate covered donuts for breakfast).  We’d drive into nearby Truckee for dinner.

And, often, we’d spend some time at the Donner Lake State Park, which had details on Donner Pass and the numerous parties of early western settlers who crossed there going west, most famous, of course, the Donner Party.

My stepdad, known and beloved for practical jokes and bad puns, would, every single time we visited, find some naive park ranger and ask them earnestly why he couldn’t find the Donner Party cookbook in the gift shop.


 * How’s that for a grabber of a post title?

** We had this silly cross-country skiing ‘guide’ for a while that described the various marks one could make in the snow, depending on how one fell while skiing.  The “sitz-mark” is the pattern one made by falling on one’s butt.

***One year, we were hosting a “winter break intern” from my school, who worked at my mom’s office for a few weeks.  P, who was blind, was thrilled to go skiing.  We did both cross-country and downhill. I’d ski behind him yelling “LEFT!” “RIGHT!” “STOP, OMFG, STOP!!” Jeez, was he insane, but very cool.  Unfortunately, I’d had a really, really bad semester before we hosted and aside from the ski trip was very bitchy towards him.   Wherever you are P, I’m really, really sorry I couldn’t rise above my own self-centered bitchiness, I owe you about ten.