Sunday, January 17, 2010

Eat your heart out Donner Party: No snow in the Sierra Nevadas

My daughter Ashley's boyfriend Hugo had never seen snow before and seeing snow was very high up on his to-do list. "Can we drive up and see snow on my birthday?" he asked. That sounded like a reasonable request so we all snagged up baby Mena, slapped her in a carseat and headed off for the snow. And drove. And drove.

"You'll see snow almost immediately after you drive past Sacramento," the internet assured us before we left Berkeley and took I-80 east toward the Sierra Nevadas. But when we reached Placerville it was still sunny and warm.

Then we stopped at the Boeger winery to give young Mena a break and let her run around in the vineyard. "How far to the snow?" we asked the vineyard people.

"About 20 minutes." But two hours later, we were still driving. 2,000 feet -- no snow. 4,000 feet -- no snow. 6,000 feet -- no snow.

Finally at 6,500 feet, just 50 miles west of Lake Tahoe, away the freak up in the middle of the Sierra Nevadas, in 65-degree weather, we finally found snow.

Hugo loved the snow. Mena had no idea what to do with it. I complained about cold feet. Ashley slid down a hill on her bottom -- in one foot of snow. (Ashley says that there was at least two feet of snow up there but she's wrong. That was just the left-over stuff from the snow plow. Had there actually been two feet of snow on the ground, I would never have gotten out of the car.)

Remember the ill-fated Donner Party back in 1846 -- and how, even though it was only October, they ran into a severe blizzard and got snowed at 5,698 feet (that's 1,000 feet lower than we were) up in the wretched Sierra Nevadas for the next three months and couldn't get out and had to resort to cannibalism just to survive? Imagine if they had been crossing the Sierras during October of 2010! They coulda all walked out alive and been safely home sitting by a warm fire in San Francisco in plenty of time for Thanksgiving. And even if they had crossed the Sierras like we did -- in January -- they still would have made it safely down to Frisco by Valentines Day.

PS: Here's a video of me, Ashley, Hugo and young Mena cavorting in some hard-to-find snow.