Friday, March 4, 2011

Across The Snowy Sierras

It was nearly noon on Tuesday before I actually left the Reno area and commenced careening my way west across I-80 through the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains, leaving behind a thankfully rapidly fading memory of my Reno casino overnight stay.   There looked to be at least ten feet of snow along the road sides, and as I came upon Donner Pass at 60 mph I could not but help thinking about that party of travelers in their covered wagons, trapped by a Sierra storm and confronted with choices they otherwise would never have had to make. 



Interstate 80 winds through the Sierra Nevada Mountains

 Forty miles later the landscape flattened severely.  I blew swiftly through the northern Central Valley and past Sacramento without stopping.  Seemingly mere inches from San Francisco (although I never did see the skyline)  I turned northwest off I-80 onto Highway 37 at the edge of Napa-Sonoma wine country, then onto narrower and narrower secondary roads through lush green wetlands teeming with thousands of water birds.

The road soon climbed through scenic steep hilly pastureland where contented California dairy cows grazed lazily on the emerald green grass.  Tucked here and there were patches of grape orchard, often seeming to be just someone’s small front yard landscaping.

After miles of twisting, narrow winding roads barely wide enough for an auto and a bicycle I found myself at Point Reyes Station, wondering if I’d ever find the route out again.   Of course I missed the turn-off to Bear Valley Road and the Point Reyes hostel, my accommodations for five nights.  As luck would have it, though, the next sign I saw was for “Happy Hour” from 4 PM til 6 PM.  It was five o’clock in the afternoon and a local draft microbrew or two was waiting for me in the cozy Olema CA bar.  After two days and nearly 800 miles of driving, I found the hostel very easily after that refreshment.

Point Reyes from the Limantour Road

Darkness descending on the Limantour Road, Point Reyes National Seashore


  1. I'll bet a lot of mt passes have similar stories of unprepared early travelers. Maybe even some modern travelers.

    What a contrast, from snowy mts to shoreline.

    I'm impressed with your 800 miles in two days. Took me 4 days to get out of Arizona. Deming NM tonight and maybe Alpine TX tomorrow.

  2. Have always wanted to go fossil hunting around Kayenta. So far the
    only thing that I have found around here is the Dinosaur Tracks at Tuba City and billions of pottery shards where I live around Polacca on the Hopi.

    Your pictures of I-80 bought back a lot of memories. I used to scuba dive in Donner Lake and pick trash off of the bottom with our Dive Club. This winter the Sierra got slammed with snow as the winter of 92-93 (800 inches !).

    Jeff Carolla

  3. JMCPHS - There is definitely a lot of snow in the Sierras!

    Rained all day yesterday as I left Point Reyes - A couple inches fell last night across South Lake Tahoe as a fast-moving storm moved through, but this morning US Highway 50 should be clear to head east into Nevada.

  4. Hi Gaelyn - I'm taking 3 days to get home - 800 miles in 2 days was a bit much!