I love Indian Summer: Sweet warm days, cool fresh nights. Days with brilliant azure skies. Wednesday was one of those days -- it was way too fine outdoors to stay inside. We packed a hearty picnic lunch and took off "up the hill" to Donner Pass Road and one of the best hikes we've ever done: Donner Summit Pass. At this elevation, we took it easy, especially when climbing; the hike is only three miles R/T, but throw in our usual lot of sidetracks and backtracks and our trek ended up being longer. The colors in this rarefied air were outstanding; quaking aspens were decked out in dazzling yellow and local grasses and shrubs had metamorphosed into a hundred shades of scarlet, orange and yellow.
Our hike would take us along the route where people have crossed the Sierra Nevada for thousands of years - by foot, wagon, car and train (and plenty of bicyclists today!). We saw petroglyphs; a massive "China" wall built for the Central Pacific RR by approx 12,000 Chinese laborers - in its race east to meet up with the Union Pacific RR in Promontory Summit, Utah (the first transcontinental railroad); walked thru RR snow sheds and tunnels; clambered over granite slabs on the Pacific Crest Trail; past a small pond to a vista overlooking Donner Lake; backpedaling to Lake Angela, and finally down a switchback trail to the car parked at Rainbow Bridge. What a singular day!