Photos by Chris Babitz
Captions by Chris Babitz and Jim Rose
On August 19, 2006, Jim Rose led a car tour of the “Overland Emigrant Trail-Truckee Route”, which was opened in 1844 by the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party. The tour-group, of approximately 30 people, met at Donner State Park and traveled by car, making several stops along the way to discuss various important points of interest along the trail.
A local resident, a golden mantle squirrel, met our group at Donner State Park.
The tour group met at the base of the “Pioneer Monument”. Jim talked of the significance of the monument, and the myth that the snow was as high as the pedestal of the monument during the winter of 1846-47 when members of the Donner party were trapped there.
Jim talks about the monument that was placed in honor of Moses Shallenberger, who was a teenage member of the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party. Moses had to winter, by himself, in a makeshift cabin near the monument’s site.
Our first stop was the Donner Lake overlook near the “Rainbow Bridge” on Old Highway 40, currently called Donner Pass Road. Jim was instrumental in getting a monument placed here, commemorating the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party, and a mountain peak named in honor of Elisha Stephens.The group walked to the opposite side of the parking lot to view remnants of the “Trail” as it winds it way from Donner Lake, up to the pass, and beyond.
The “China Wall”, built by Chinese workers during the construction of the “Intercontinental Railroad”, is easily accessed from a nearby parking area. If one is observant, one will see ancient Indian petroglyphs, etched into the surrounding rock cliffs, along the way.
We made a brief stop at the Sugar Bowl parking lot to view the backside of Roller Pass and Lake Van Norden.
We stopped at the Big Bend Visitor Information Center. Jim gave a brief introduction. Then Ranger Phil Sexton took us on a walking tour of the area. After which we all then took a much needed lunch break under the towering pine trees.The Sugar Bowl parking lot to view the backside of Roller Pass and Lake Van Norden.
Jim and Ranger Phil have known each other for many years. Ranger Phil, a recognized historian on the Big Bend area, is in charge of the Big Bend Visitor Information Center.
The sleepy Yuba River winds its way past Big Bend. The old campground was converted to new picnic area after last year’s floods. The bridge was rebuilt to access the new picnic area.
Ranger Phil talked about the “Hub Tree” in the background. Pioneers used it as a pivot point to lower their wagons down the steep rocky ledges.
In the same area, one can see rust marks on the granite rocks. The scraping of the wagon wheels over the rocks made the rust marks.
Along the walking tour, we stopped at an abandoned road house, located near remnants of the “Lincoln Highway”. Phil is looking for money to help restore the historic building and surrounding grounds.
After a stop in Bear Valley, we continued our driving tour up Hwy 20, to the Alpha-Omega rest stop and overlook. Alpha and Omega were two bustling gold mining towns, long ago abandoned to history. The “Overland Emigrant Trail” was clearly visible in the sandy soil near here, as were the Sierra Buttes in the distance.