After years of trying, we successfully captured the Donner Party “brand” in a season-ending group run. A couple years back someone almost got lost in the woods. Another year it snowed the day before our run. One time Steve Bulena got hungry and took a bite out of Adam Kimble’s arm (okay, I made that one up). The point is that we’ve always had a pretty type-1 celebration run to end our season, complete with beer and smiles and stellar lake views. This one had all of that, but a WHOLE lot more.
Inauspiciously, our day started on Commons Beach with a beautiful sunrise over Tahoe, calm wind, and a downright decadent ambient temperature. It was so nice, actually, that after enjoying his Anchor California Lager for the toast (every year we toast the Donner Party at the start of the season-ending beer run) Michelino Sunseri decided he should take his shell out of his running vest. About 35 of us toasted our namesake, and left Commons Beach around 8:15 with high spirits.
Flowing singletrack took us up the TRT to the Missing Link trail, which we connected to the classic Western States trail down to Highway 89. There, a small aid station comprised of donations from our friends at Ultra Trail Lake Tahoe (thanks so much!) both fueled runners for the big climb ahead and ruined Spearmint forever. As we ascended the Western States trail through Squaw Valley, ominous clouds started to envelop the surrounding peaks. A “Where does this trail go, exactly?” question was answered with pointing in the general direction of accumulating snow below Emigrant Peak, which was shrouded in clouds and mist. Up we went!
Upon clearing the Escarpment, we were buffeted with 40+ mph winds that now pummeled us cleanly on the west side of the crest. It was this or a lot worse until we cleared Mt. Anderson some time later. A delightful mixture of sleet and snow and mist danced in the gale around Tinker Knob, our run’s high point.
Conditions were so deplorable that some runners later took shelter in the Benson Hut on the West side of Anderson to stave off the hypothermia around a warm stove that some hikers had fired up some hours before.
Once on the North side of Lincoln conditions were much more hospitable, and everyone seemed to regain feeling in their hands and some positive energy. Another aid station at mile 29/Donner Summit amplified enthusiasm for the final 5k down to the Pub.
Our finish line doubled as the new-this-year Pub at Donner Lake. Their heated seating area was a well-loved respite from nature’s wrath and warm food and cold beer was enjoyed by all. A few runners made this adventure their first 50k, and I’d like to commend them for their belligerence. It gets easier from here, boys and girls!
Til next year..