The first storm of the Winter is here and Donner Pass is going to be out of archaeological reach until Spring. Even at my 1500′ elevation as much as a half-foot is predicted. Therefore it’s time to hit up the local archives for Placer and Nevada Counties.
I had a talk with Jack Duncan yesterday. He is the author of several books about the region including “To Donner Pass from the Pacific” which is an exhaustively researched map/history of roads (of all kinds) through the Sierra Nevada and Donner Pass. I also learned that he and I have a common interest in the Henness Pass road of Gold Rush times. That will be a subject of much research over the winter and numerous field trips in the Spring. Talking to Jack was exciting since he is such a font of knowledge about my areas on interest.
I continue with my wish to acquire a Model T Ford this coming year. I can think of no more fun than exploring the region in an old car just our forbears did. I get a little giggle in my heart when I see some photographs of the early cars traversing some impossible topology. If you are interested in this kind of thing then you should Google “Foote Sierra Nevada Model T” and also look here: Tahoe Nuggets 186. This is a short version of the story of a crossing of the Sierra Nevada in 1911 to win a silver trophy offered by the Tahoe Tavern. Here is an excerpt:
“Despite the Tahoe Tavern’s well-advertised award, it wasn’t until June 2, 1911, that anyone dared try it. Arthur B. Foote led the charge. Pushing, pulling and dragging an automobile over the roadless Sierra would be a major physical and logistical hurtle. He convinced several men he knew to help.
“Drifts had blocked the trail and the car occasionally fell into deep crevices in the snow, but each time the men used their block and tackle system to pull it out. When they reached the Yuba River it was roaring with snowmelt and the bridge was out. Both Foote and Starr were accomplished engineers and they quickly rigged a metal cable over the raging torrent and
slid the car to the other side.”
An exciting adventure indeed. Most of the original road at that time has been paved over or lost to nature but many parts are still drivable.