Long Trails

Week 13: Donner Pass

I leave the Pacific Crest Trail for the Donner Pass Tunnel hike.

Donner Pass Tunnel

This creepy tunnel hike is just feet off the Pacific Crest Trail.

Donner Pass Graffiti

The abandoned tunnel is rife with graffiti.

Donner Pass Darkness

I love creepy things — and this tunnel is creepy.

I love hiking at exactly 6pm. The sun shoots its rays straight and wide. Each sun beam smashes against everything around me, all seeking the last warmth of the day before the night settles. I am listening to music that brings subtle joy to the moment.

Today I woke up far too early and hiked as dawn did the same thing the sun is doing now, just in reverse. The ridge I walked along was waking up with me and I listened to the last of my Peter Pan audiobook looking at the vast views stretching out on either side of my feet.

I arrived at the Donner Pass Ski Ranch just as Ant was arriving via motorcycle. The ranch had food, but they wouldn’t open for another hour and half, so we planted ourselves outside to wait. The lack of motion was pure luxury.

After a late breakfast of a random assortment of fried things, Ant and I walked to the abandoned railroad tunnel. It was incredible — eerie, graffiti laden, filled to the brim with history — it lived up to every expectation I had of the place.

Even better, Ant and I got to walk it together, Ant took beautiful pictures and I memorized the texture of the walls. We both love creepy, abandoned things, and a decrepit tunnel through the very spot where the Donner Party horrors happened is certainly creepy.

When I finally got back on trail late in the afternoon my feet almost immediately became unbearably painful. One had a bit of plantar fasciitis and the other had settled on tendinitis of the top of foot. I stopped to take a bunch of pills from my mother (an acupuncturist and herbalist) and ate tons of candy.

I felt almost immediately better, put on some pop music, and hopped along the trail until the sun stretched long. Then, as my dinner simmered, I set up camp and settled into another night in paradise.