Going to the Snow

Going to the Snow

How our day trip to Donner Memorial Park reminded us to stay resiliant.

Miles, my 17 year old, pointed out to me that only in California do we say things such as, “going to the snow.” The snow is not so much a place as it is a weather condition, but despite that, in California we “go to the snow.” Growing up this phrase meant my family was going to pack up in our mini-van and drive up the mountain. Usually it was a couple of hours until we found a spot, conviently located close to the side of the road. Then we would hop out of the car to go sledding, make a snowman, and then go home. Say what you will about my home-state, the ability to drive equal distance to the snow or the beach will always be one of the main reasons I continue to reside here.

One such trip to the snow as a child occurred in the late-80’s, early 90’s, when my family spent the day at Donner Memorial State Park. Located off of Interstate 80, this park has a small museum and statue memorializing the fate of the Donner party, who got snowed in at this particular location while trying to migrate to the west. They got stuck, people died, and some of those people got eaten. 7th grade me, along with my 3 brothers, made LOTS of jokes while we were at the location. But the magnitude of this event has always stuck with me. Especially when you take into account the fact that the memorial statue is built to represent the height of the snow these pioneers were stuck in. It’s leaves you awestuck at the fierceness of nature and at the resiliance of humans when faced with a seamingly impossible task. 22 feet of snow stopped those pioneers in their tracks. And still, with the help of others, they made into the North Valley of California. Not how they had planned, but they persisted.

The Miller’s at Donner Memorial in 2021

The Nelson's at Donner Memorial in the late 80's early 90's

So, when my kids asked to go to the snow a couple of weeks ago, this was the obvious choice. It took us just a couple of hours to reach the park, which was teaming with people in the parking lot, but which was spacious enough to let us all comply with social distancing guidelines. The snow there on this day, wasn’t as tall as the statue, in fact it was only about a foot or two deep, but it was enough ot make some snowballs and have a couple failed attempts at snow angels. Most important, it got us out of the house for awhile. With all that 2020 had thrown at us, any excuse to get out into nature is a welcome excuse.

As soon as we got out of the car I was hit with the cold-clean fresh air; such a welcome change from the indoors. I was instantly relaxed. The kids too seemed to relax just by the mere fact that they were outside. We walked over to the monument and spent just about an hour in the snow. We tried our hardest to make snow-balls, snow-angels, snow-anything really. The absurdity of chunking out ice and then throwing rock hard bits at one another had us all laughing out loud.

Unfortunately, the snow was not fresh and there was far-less than 22 feet of it. We really didn’t mind the lack of resources. The important thing was we were outside and we were making do with the circumstances as they were dealt us. With everything my kids and husband have had to deal with over the last year, quaratine, staying at home, grief over the life we used to live, my kids rarely get the chance to just be kids anymore. And with Miles about to go on to college, he rarely lets himself act his age. For just a little bit, my kids and husband spent time just being themselves without a worry for all of those problems waiting for them once we returned.

Going home, we felt a bit lighter, refreshed by the outdoors, and grateful that we live in a place where such day-trips are possible. One thing is for certain, in 2021 I am grateful for the ability to “go to” just about anywhere. Getting there may not be what we planned, but we’ve made it ours just the same.

Looking for more informaiton on Donner Memorial Park? Here is the link to the website: Donner Memorial Park