DONNER SUMMIT, Calif. — We race from place to place to get more done in our more complicated lives and Interstate 80 is a conduit for us, complicit in our haste.
There is an enjoyable alternative though, especially in the fall. Get off I-80 and take Old Highway 40. Most people in the Truckee area are familiar with Donner Pass Road to the Summit with its spectacular view of Donner Lake, mountain peaks, and the sight of rock climbers scaling sheer granite walls and bicyclists straining up the hill.
What most have never done, even if they know of it, is take Old 40 instead of I-80 much farther.
Next time you’re returning to Truckee from the Central Valley, get off at Rocklin and take Old 40 to Truckee. You will see a part of California not seen since before I-80 at a much slower pace, enabling you to see great sights: old towns, Americana, lakes, local history, and fall color. There are lots of places to get out and walk at Old Town Loomis, Colfax, Dutch Flat, on old pieces of the Lincoln Highway (Eagle Lakes, Big Bend, and Soda Springs). You’ll travel along the Yuba River. There are places to hike like Red Mountain at Cisco, Loch Leven Lakes at Big Bend, or the really popular Judah Loop Trail at Donner Summit.
Along Old 40 at Donner Summit there are 35 20 Mile Museum signs explaining the history of Donner Summit, listing activities to do, and telling stories. One of those signs was done by the children at Sierra Expeditionary School in Truckee.
Stop at the Donner Lake overlook at Rainbow Bridge where famous artists and photographers have been recording the scene for more than 100 years. Explore Donner Summit, perhaps the most important, historically, square mile in California.
The Donner Summit Historical Society has a brochure outlining turn by turn how to take Old 40 from Rocklin to Truckee. It’s available in the Soda Springs museum, but too large to download. You may download the text from www.donnersummithistoricalsociety.org/PDFs/Highway40route.pdf.
Stop in the Museum and browse through an array of memorabilia.
— Submitted by Bill Oudegeest, who has been a part of the Donner Summit community for more than 30 years and is a board member with the Donner Summit Historical Society.