A Long Weekend in Truckee

We were in Truckee for a long weekend and oh, how I love the mountains. I feel a sense of peace there. Though traveling with kids (ages 1 and 3) doesn’t exactly make for a restful experience. We were there with another couple who have two young kids, so they know the beauty and terror of parenthood. We survived on coffee and catnaps and great plans for what we’d do at night when the kids were asleep, though really what we ended up doing was pass out on the couch.

On Sunday we went to Donner Lake. It’s remarkable how the tragic story of the Donner family has lent its name to a lake, a mountain pass (where they famously were snowed in during the winter of 1846-1847 and resorted to cannibalism), and even a state park. Is there any other country that celebrates its own atrocities, that names its streets and cities after wildlife it has long hunted to extinction and native populations (in this case the Native Americans) it has killed and displaced?

Donner Lake is freezing cold, by the way. It consists of melt water, and this year the mountains finally got a good amount of snow after several years of drought. Our friends told us they knew someone who drowned in the lake a couple years back. He fell off his boat and died of hypothermia within minutes. The Coast Guard could not, or would not, recover his body, so the man’s family brought in a guy from the East Coast who specializes in recovering drowning victims. He suffered some tragedy of his own and now helps other families for a pay-what-you-can fee.

The water was too cold for the kids to go in very deep, which I didn’t mind. Afterwards, we came home and showered and the day slowed to a pleasant crawl. The setup of the house we rented was a little strange. Upstairs was a large playroom, which was great for my daughter (3), and downstairs was a sunken living room, which was a nightmare for my son (1). So my wife and I were constantly chasing after one or the other. But after a day at the beach everyone was tired, and we had a nice dinner, and then I dozed on the couch while watching Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

Last night, home again, there were 4th of July fireworks all over San Francisco. We watched from our sunroom. I got my daughter out of bed so she could see too. I knew she’d be cranky the next day for missing sleep, but they were her first fireworks, and as I stood in the dark, listening to her cries of excitement, I felt at peace again. For a few brief minutes, I had no place else to be.