ON SECOND THOUGHT
DONNER STATE PARK, CA
When I travel, I veer away from crowds. I do like visiting large cities - I mean, I love Chicago, London, Rome, San Francisco, and so on and so forth. But I always try to customize my own itinerary to do the things that resonate with me, instead of going where everyone else goes. Whenever I see a tour bus, it's such a buzz kill so when I do spot them, I tend to run the opposite direction FAST.
We've been having a lion of a winter this March and when a blue bird day fell on a weekend, I knew it was a sign. It was not even a question. We had to go play in the mountains. We picked an easy snowshoe hike at Donner State Park close to Truckee. The stoke was high when we arrived. The sky was so unbelievably blue and it was such a contrast to the brightness of the snow on the ground and on the trees. Of all the days we had snow this winter, this could well be my favorite of all.
And then I spotted the tour bus. And yes, it was full to the brim with tourists. RUN!
Side story. I had a co-worker who just got back from Thailand. Before he went, he was telling me how riding an elephant is high on his priority list. I was aghast! Riding elephants just sounds so cruel (and honestly, pointless to me). I tried to dissuade him, but he was intent on this stupid bucket list idea. When he came back, he told me all about the experience. They actually ended up picking an elephant sanctuary that just worked with rescued elephants. They spend a lot of time educating tourists (my friend included) about elephants and the advocacy they are doing to prevent cruelty to these elephants. In the end, even my friend came out of the experience better educated and enlightened about how some choices we make as travelers impact the environment, the world in general.
So that was really encouraging. And it shifted my perspective on tour buses, if you can imagine that.
A busload of people is an opportunity to educate and enlighten. If even just five people from that tour group come away from their day at a State Park feeling like either they need to spend more time outdoors or to be more engaged in conserving our fragile planet, then who am I to say they don't belong?
Donner Memorial State Park is located at 12593 Donner Pass Road, Truckee CA. If you're headed east on I-80, it's on the south side.
It costs $5 to park a vehicle. Stop at the Visitor's Center for a map, trail suggestions, and perhaps a quick movie about the history of the place.
Donner Memorial State Park's website is here.