A little hike in the high country -- Thurs, 7/6/17

At breakfast, the day's plan was up for grabs, till we settled on heading for the cool high country, hiking the Sagehen Creek Trail.  It didn't take us long to pack lots of water, granola and granola bars, and nose the Prius east.  Funny how plans can change in an instant.  As we approached the snow sheds and the China Wall on I-80 not far from Donner Summit, I said to Nannie, "You said you wanted to "do THAT hike" the next time you visited."  She said, "Yeah!" so I got off the freeway at Donner Pass Road and parked near the Rainbow Bridge.  I looked around.  Mountain peaks with patches of snow were etched against a clear azure blue sky, and though it was already warm when we stepped out of the car, it sure was pretty.

Nannie checked the sign board before we began our trek up to the red arrow.  We stopped to look at a few of the petroglyphs as we rock-hopped.  It being such a fine day, we encountered quite a few intrepid folks, including families with kids ... everyone seemed happy to be Out and About.

The historic China Wall (at the arrow) is a 75-foot high hand-built retaining wall.  It was built between two tunnels to support the railroad tracks by filling in a ravine. The craftsmanship used was so exceptional that it's a marvel still after standing 150 years. Imagine if you can, thousands of Chinese laborers worked around the clock every day, all year long, for roughly four years on the Transcontinental Railroad until its completion in 1869.  Located at Donner Summit is a memorial plaque dedicated to these Chinese laborers and it's known as the "China Wall."

Jimmy and I have been here several times, and it's fascinating.  This was Nannie's first time, and she was equally awed.  You see the upper China wall at right.  The unique snow sheds were hacked out of Sierra granite to protect transcontinental trains from monstrous snow drifts and avalanches ... and thereby keeping California connected with the rest of the nation  In effect, the snow sheds we walked through were abandoned railroad tunnels, now overflowing with graffiti. 

Being inside this snow shed was like entering a building with air conditioning.
And very welcome!

What a surprise to see this Pussy Willow plant right outside the snow shed, its fuzzy catkins as soft as kitty fur (which Nannie is caressing).  And, hoy, another discovery was a snow pile at her feet.  Hot weather has melted much of the Sierra snow, at least below 7,000', but we were delighted to see drifts like these. 

Just a touch for a second -- nice, cold snow!

Ohmygosh, wildflowers could be seen in every nook and cranny.  Clockwise, from top left are (to the best of my knowledge):  Western Buttercup, Yellow Monkeyflower, Mountain Pride, Mountain Spiraea, Azure Penstemon, and Jimmy beside some of the above!

I tested the middle section of a long cascade.
Yes, it was quite chilly.

We crossed over Donner Pass Road, giving a nodding glance at the Rock People, and started our climb up to Lake Angela.  Some of it was easy-going, some kinda tough.  You see Jimmy waiting patiently for us.  The trail is not clearly marked and we wandered out of our way at times.  We were hiking at approximately 7,000' -- so we had to stop to catch our breath occasionally, especially Nannie, who lives at sea level.

The snow sheds resemble a long curvy snake.

We crossed several of these snow fields, smiling the entire time.

Donner Lake in the distance.

We spied many more wildflowers like these on the north side of Donner Pass Road.  Again, clockwise from top left:  Mariposa Lily (with bee), Pretty Face, Spreading Phlox, Lupine, Frosted Wild Buckwheat, False Soloman's Seal (Western), Pussypaws, and I don't know. 😁

Pretty much the only shade up here is beneath gnarly Juniper trees.

We stumbled upon this spring-fed pond, known as Maiden's Retreat, or Catfish Pond.  Spying a few small catfish, I scattered some granola crumbs, which drew 'em in like moths to a flame.  The story goes that catfish were brought in to feed the Chinese laborers way back when.  Hard to believe catfish can live through harsh alpine winters, with ice and snow covering the pond for up to seven months a year!

Looks like a turtle peeing on a tree!
Nature at its best!

High atop this pile of granite, Nannie points to the snow sheds, sort of where we began this hike.  We wandered a bit more, trying to find the trail that would lead us down the endless switchbacks to the road.  Boy, we were tired by this time.  I think the hike was about six miles, and we were ready to be done!

* * * * *

We had great and hearty meals at Jax at the Trax in Truckee, and then thought we'd check out the dam where the Truckee River begins its flow out of Lake Tahoe.  After seeing the river high and dry for the past couple of years, it was a treat to see water gushing through two gates.  And the lake?  Oh my, the lake that had retreated hundreds of feet from the shoreline is now within a few inches of its maximum legal limit, wowee-zowee!  Wonderful.

Well, as usual, a dorky picture was taken on the boardwalk behind the dam. 
Yup, we're silly, we know it.  But we have FUN!

Talking to the Canada geese.  We call 'em poop machines.

We eased our tired bodies into the Prius and aimed her toward home.  Got in at 7pm and headed straight for the showers (again)!  It really was a grand day, and despite the elevated elevation, our flatlander, Nannie, enjoyed our trek in the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains, and so did we.  Who wouldn't?  Maybe we'll give our hiking feet a rest tomorrow!

This isn't the exact route we took, but it has some of the elements of our hike.  It's a good one which we can  recommend!


  1. Oh that looks wonderful! Hopefully sometime we can get to your way when the mountains aren't covered in real snow, I would love to do that hike. Gorgeous wildflowers, and yes, that water is so wonderful.

  2. What a beautiful place to hike!

  3. What a stellar hike on a beautiful day! Thank you guys for taking me up there!

  4. Amazing hike, pictures, story, and even the names of plants. Thank you!

  5. Wow! Rose and I could go up there on our training hikes! Maybe you would like to join us?

    1. Maybe we could, Sande ... but I don't recall seeing any dogs up there.


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