Tis a lovely day for a walk in the mountains -- Friday, 9/25/15

We really, really like the Sierras, especially on a warm, early autumn day, with blue skies and a breeze to keep us cool as we hike along.  Donner Summit is about an hour's drive from our place, uphill, of course.  The summit is over 7,000 ft, so a little huffing-puffing as we climb the rocks might be allowed.  This is our second Friday hike up in these parts.  Last week we explored Royal Gorge, a new one for us.  Today's trek is one we've done before, at least some of it, and it's a trip!

We parked at Donner Summit Bridge (Rainbow Bridge) and set out for the China Wall.  I'm not going to delve into the historical aspects of the area, but a pretty good informational read can be found here, and it's not boring at all.  I hope you can see Jimmy with his glow-in-the-dark shirt, which actually came in kinda handy when we entered the tunnel.

Our route to the China Wall led us past Native American petroglyphs and this neat view of Donner Lake.

Here you see the China Wall and the entrance to the tunnel and snow sheds.

Sort of eerie to walk atop the China Wall and enter the tunnel.  Maybe less so because others have paved the way with their "mark."  Is graffiti art?  Some of it is, tho most of what I see either I can't read or don't understand. These tunnels and snow sheds are covered in color, but only so high ... only as high as a person can reach unless they haul a stepladder up with them (not easy!)  We peeked a little way into the snow shed the last time; today we went hiking, into the tunnel and beyond!

We didn't know till we got to this point that there were "escape routes" in the snow shed.  We discovered this one after walking a good distance.  Returning inside, we kept on going and found another giant doorway. Probably there are escape doors like the one above the entire length of the snow shed.  We covered a great good part of it, but not all of it.  Save some for next time!  We calculated the height at between 25-30 feet!

Look at the size of this thing!  Something you don't notice till you're up against it, or - better yet - inside the darkened shed, is the slits into the concrete near the top.  These let in just enough light to make it okay to be inside; otherwise, it would be pitch black throughout, and you wouldn't find us in there then!

I liked this one, even tho it was right inside the escape door (see the photo above this one), which made it hard to photograph.  You can see how high the graffiti reaches on the wall.  (Notice the window slit at top?)

Enough of that snow shed!  We turned around, came out in the sunshine and continued in the other direction, to this shed and into the Summit Tunnel beyond. This was surprisingly long, dark, and wet, with standing water on the ground.  We had to use our phone flashlights to make it to the other side.  Did NOT want to trip and fall this close to our Big Trip.


Leaving the tunnels, snow sheds, and graffiti behind, we crossed historic Highway 40 and continued hiking up toward Lake Angela, most of the time on crushed granite or "rock-hopping" on granite slabs.  We paused at the lake to eat our lunch and rest a spell.  Part of the time we were on the Pacific Crest Trail, which is a cool concept to us old farts.  

Back in the sunshine!

Oh yes, the switchback down to the car at Donner Summit Bridge.  We will have made a giant loop by the time we get to the Prius.  We are tremendously fortunate to be able to hike in these parts, and I mean that in every sense of the word.

A humongous Jeffrey Pine and my Jimmy in his neon-green shirt.  Love them both!

Jimmy's on the trail down.  We calculated this hike at about five miles with lots of ups/downs, except for the tunnel and snow sheds, which are flat.  What a glorious day!  Next Friday we hope to come back, weather permitting, and do one final 7,000+ ft hike, maybe Alpine Lakes, as high-altitude practice for our upcoming trip.

And we are getting so excited ....


  1. Can we go there next time we are visiting? please???

    1. OK! Get your hiking shoes and we'll go!

  2. That looked SO WONDERFUL! We (O and I) have done a very poor job of getting up to the mountains to hike this year. Ah, well... maybe we would have done better if we were in training for your trip!

  3. Looks like an interesting hike:)


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