Sierra Nevada Mountains
California was all about the gold rush and there were only 2 ways to get there. A clipper around Cape Horn or over the mountains. We are camping in the same area as the ill-fated Donner group, in the Donner Memorial State Park. Yet again we are surrounded by cheeky squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays and trees.
The park has a good museum with films and exhibits. The monument is standing on a stone plinth the same height as the snow that trapped the Donner group.
The Donner party; quarrelsome, fighting to death, when an old man got left behind he was just left to die. The Utah desert was twice as long as they thought so the party had insufficient food and water. The party weakened and struggled more and more until snow trapped them over winter. Food became more scarce, especially as they were poor fishermen and hunters. Mid December 15 stronger people left, four died and were eaten. The snow was 20 feet deep in the winter of 1846. 52 were still left in the mountain until Feb 8th. Cannibalism and death occurred here as well as with those that walked out. As late as March Lewis Keseberg was found still living and despite exposed oxen meat, was living off Tasmen Donner. The cannibalism shocked the world and the highlighted difficulties led to the building of the trans-continental railroad.
Out of 91 persons in the Donner party, only 45 lived through the harrowing winter.
The monument is dedicated to all pioneers.