Day 35: The Last Day (and Reflections on the Donner Party)

Spent a lovely Monday at Donner Memorial State Park. What a difference a day makes--no crowds, had the place to ourselves. Contemplated the pioneers once again. First, at the museum during the cheesy 1970s era film and secondly back in a canyon (where dogs were allowed) that was an actual part of the Emigrant Trail. We didn't see any iron marks on the granite, which apparently are still around some 160 years later, but we did see and walk in some swales in the hardpan. Then we dipped our toes in Donner Lake--gorgeous (but brrrr!).

Lots of lessons from the ole Donner Party:
1. Don't believe everything (and everyone) you hear. The Donner Party believed that the Great Salt Desert was 40 miles across.... We can attest that it is not.
2. Sometimes, a shortcut is not a shortcut. (Or there is no such thing as a free lunch.) They went over 100 miles out of their way in the brutal Nevada desert.
3. When it matters, hire an expert. The other wagon trains had professional mountain men guides. Guess who didn't.
4. Don't dawdle or you'll spend the winter ill-prepared in the mountains.
5. Get along with people, or at least have a competent leader who can ensure that people get along. George Donner was in his 60s (back then, an advanced age. Of course, quite young now ;-) and had zero, zilch, nada experience leading such a party. When the families started feuding (as would be natural when so many things went awry), ole George couldn't get things resolved.
6. Good luck is important. Apparently, the winter of 1846 when they were all trapped up in the Sierra eating each other was the earliest and worst winter in 100 years. This base of this statue shows how high the snow was that year--22 feet.

Pretty good lessons to apply to just about everything in life, I'm thinking. Didn't feel too inspired to take photos today, as we are really eager to just get home now. Spent a good chunk of the day cleaning what we can clean until we unload, filling the propane, dumping, um, other things. Getting ready to prepare the last night camping feast--plan to poach some fish on the grill!

Here's our white-trash-with-master's-degrees still life photo. Nice champagne (the upscale part). All-Bran Crackers (the good for you part). Squirty cheese (the white trash part).

Stay tuned for one final post--a review and what our next trip will be.

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