This virtual conversation took place Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
It is likely that for most of us living in the Truckee-Tahoe area that the tragic story of the Donner Party is a familiar one. While stories of hardship, starvation and eventual cannibalism fascinate followers of the emigrant’s journey it is the intrepid tales of heroism and the instinct to survive that captivate the imagination.
On December 16th, 1846, seventeen members of the original Donner Party set off on another attempt to cross the mountains and reach Sacramento in hopes of bringing back a rescue party for those trapped and left behind. Only seven members of that group survived the 33-day, 90 mile ordeal. That brave group became known as the Forlorn Hope and although little is known of their precise route, their heroic and selfless journey has captivated historians and adventurers ever since.
In honor of the Forlorn Hope group, after years of meticulous planning and historical research, four adventurers recently set out to recreate the possible route from Donner Lake to Johnson’s Ranch in the Sacramento Valley. Bob Crowley, Tim Twietmeyer, Jennifer Hemmen and Elke Reimer left Donner Lake on December 16th – 174 years to the day after the original group. Their journey would take them 5 days to complete and traveled up and over the snowy Sierra at Donner Pass, across the high chaparral, into and across the daunting North Fork American River canyon and down the foothills to the northern Sacramento Valley.
We retraced their steps over 100 miles and five days and felt their presence constantly. This was a tribute to these ordinary people doing something extraordinary to selflessly risk there own lives on behalf of others; American pioneer legends.”