Category Archives: On the summit

Donner Summit in 360 degrees

One of my favorite photographic formats is the 360º panorama which gives one the opportunity to experience the total wrap around view from any given location. Over the years I have accumulated a large collection of these 360º  panos from … Continue reading

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The Winter of 2017 – An Historical Perspective

(Download a pdf of this article) Now that we have all survived the winter of 2017 on Donner Summit, it is time to see how this winter stacks up to those of the past. Donner Summit is famous for its … Continue reading

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Who owns the Summit? – An Update

We asked this same question way back in August of 2011. Much of what was said in that previous post is still true and really worth the read (see this link). Over the years since that post the biggest change … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week – Palisade Falls 6-7-16

This week with the spring melt still in flow we hiked over to see Palisade Falls. While the flow wasn’t at it’s peak, the falls were still spectacular. This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful spots on … Continue reading

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2016 Schedule for Donner Summit hikes

The schedule for the 2016 summer hikes in conjunction with SLPOA is now available. These hikes are led by George Lamson and Linda Cashion with their three golden retrievers, Calla, Maggie and Lily. The hikes are spread around the Donner … Continue reading

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Castle Peak Trailhead Becomes Public Land

This week it was announced that the US Forest Service has acquired the 408 acres along I80 on which the trailhead to the Castle Peak area is located. The acquistion was facilitated by the Truckee Donner Land Trust and The Trust for … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week 3/26/16 – View from Mariah

(Click for a larger image) This week we took in the wonderful view from Mariah Pt of the Royal Gorge, Snow Mountain and Devil’s Peak. There is no better view of the headwater area of the North Fork of the … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week 3/15/16 – Winter Wonderland at Donner Summit

Donner Summit has been experiencing a pretty “normal” winter this year as far as snowfall is concerned. We have had some of our biggest storms in March. This weeks picture is right after a big storm that dropped 4 ft … Continue reading

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Yuba Flooding Aftermath

In a previous post the causes of the Yuba River flooding event on January 31st and Febreuar 1st of this year at Donner Summit were discussed. In the aftermath, the damage from the flooding event is now evident. Due to … Continue reading

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Anatomy of a Flood

  On January 31st, 2016 there was a severe flood on the South Yuba River in the Soda Springs area. The flood inundated Soda Springs Rd at the road bridge and cut off the Serene Lakes community for about 8 … Continue reading

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Forest Watch of Donner Summit

Today’s mapping resources as a result of high resolution satellite mapping are a modern wonder. The new information that these resources provide are invaluable to finding out what’s going on around us. Global Forest Watch is a new service that … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week – Donner Summit Sunrise

(Click on image for larger view) Autumn sunrise over the crest of Donner Pass. From left to right – Donner, Judah, Stephens and Stewart peaks

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Summit trail use revisited – Yes, everyone can get along!

Now that our second summer of trail use in the Royal Gorge area is coming to an end, I would like to revisit what we have learned from these two years. As many of you will remember, there was quite … Continue reading

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The Digital Backcountry – never get lost again

I am sure this happened to everyone that ever went into the back country armed with a map and a compass. No matter how careful you are, you eventually come to situation in which where you think you are and … Continue reading

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Castle Valley Petroglyphs

Everyday during the summer many hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail walk through the beautiful Castle Valley in the Donner Summit area. Little do they know that they walk right by signs left by Native Americans that shared the same … Continue reading

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Wildflower Explosion

With the current drought, our question early this spring was how would it affect the summer wildflower season. Well after taking a walk out to Lyle’s Lookout yesterday, it appears that the wildflowers have gone crazy out there. In spite of … Continue reading

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Kellogg’s Lewisia are blooming

There are many unique features of the Donner Summit area, but probably one of the most unique is the small plant that only grows here and a few other places in the Sierras, the Kellogg’s Lewisia. This hearty plant grows … Continue reading

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Very, very early Camas alert

  It has become a yearly tradition for this site to let everyone know when the Camas Lilies are flowering. Camas Lilies have beautiful blue flowers and are truly a treat to see when they are flowering. This year everything … Continue reading

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One of those special moments on Donner Summit

If you haven’t picked up on it already, I have a very strong addiction, namely, wildlife photography. I’ve been afflicted with this compulsion for going on 30 years and it doesn’t seem to be subsiding. This week I had one … Continue reading

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Incredibly, It’s Time to Kayak Lake Van Norden

Just two weeks ago we were skiing out on Van Norden after what looks like the last significant snow storm of the winter. This week spring has sprung and the lake is clear of ice and ready to kayak. This … Continue reading

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Picture of the week – May in February 2/21/15

  This picture of Van Norden Meadow may look like it was taken during the spring melt, but it was actually taken the day before this post. Where you would expect to see 6-8 ft of snow blanketing the meadow, … Continue reading

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Making Lemonade Summit Style – Palisade ski

The winter started out pretty well on the Summit this year and for a while it looked like winter was going to return to its snowy ways. Unfortunately, after the storms just before Christmas, the dreaded Pacific high pressure moved … Continue reading

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Happy Holidays from the Summit 2014

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Picture of the week 12-14-14 — First track

Real snow finally came to the summit this week. Took advantage of a beautiful day and wonderful snow to do a back country ski through Tiny Tim meadow. This is the first track through the meadow.

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Picture of the week – Winter coming slowly to the Summit 11/30/14

Winter is coming slowly to the summit this year. This early teaser storm dropped about 4 inches of the white stuff, but was gone in 3 days. While we have had a couple of potentially good storms come through, they … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week – First snow 11/2/14

  (Click on image for larger view) We had our first real snow on the summit this week. A pretty cold storm rolled in and dropped 4-6 inches over the entire summit area. On our first ski of the season … Continue reading

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Picture of the week – Donner Pass pano 10-25-14

This week we spent some time over at Donner Pass hiking around. It reminded me of the little trek we took a couple of years ago out that rock promontory right out in the middle of the pass. It’s a … Continue reading

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Picture of the week 10/5/14 – Autumn comes to Donner Pass

This last week autumn really started kicking in here on the summit. We even had our first storm of the season that left a dusting of snow. Here is what a stormy autumn day at Donner Pass looked like this … Continue reading

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View of the week 9/30/14 – Donner Summit from Beacon Hill

This week we hiked up to the top of Beacon Hill which is the Soda Springs ski hill in the Donner Summit area. It was just after the first snow of the season. Here is a 360° view of the … Continue reading

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Beaver family on the summit

About this same time two years ago our picture of the week was of a beaver that had taken up residence in Lake Van Norden. Over those two years we have heard from many people about their own sightings of … Continue reading

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The King Fire – why Donner Summit should be concerned

For the last week the summit has been inundated with heavy smoke from the King fire which was an arson started fire near Pollock Pines along Highway 50. Unfortunately for the summit we lie northwest of the fire and the … Continue reading

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Finally some data and survey says…

Readers of this site know that there has been considerable controversy concerning the original trail plan developed by the Truckee Donner Land Trust for the Royal Gorge area. Several posts have been published on this site discussing the plan and … Continue reading

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Shame of the week

This week we took a little walk up to Catfish Pond in Donner Pass. Unfortunately, we found a pretty shameful sight on the way to this little pond. Apparently, a group of visitors left their calling cards all over the … Continue reading

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Royal Gorge renovating warming huts

Anyone that has skied at Royal Gorge has probably appreciated a little break at one of the warming huts strategically located on the many trails at the resort. If you have taken advantage of these little shelters in the last … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week 7/27/14

This week we would like to share a rare sighting up here on the summit. We found this Washingtonian Lily tucked in the foliage on the Sterling Canyon trail just about 50 yards the other side of the newly restored … Continue reading

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They are back at it

Yes they are back out in the forest again. This week the forest restoration project being carried out by the Truckee Donner Land Trust has started up in the Royal Gorge area surrounding Serene Lakes. The map in Figure 1 … Continue reading

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Alpine Lily and Fawn Season

Well the Alpine Lilies (Lilium parvum) are out this week on the summit. This is a little early, but then so again are all the other wildflowers in this very dry year. Look for these orange beauties in shady areas along the … Continue reading

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Save the Buckeye Path

I am starting to notice a new and totally unexpected trend in my life, ever since the acquisition of the Royal Gorge Properties. Contrary to my expectations that we had saved Donner Summit I find that we seem to actually … Continue reading

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Time to kayak Van Norden Lake

It’s time to get the kayaks out and do a paddle on Van Norden Lake. With this very dry year, the water level is already dropping below the spillway and the seasonal lake will be drying out very early this … Continue reading

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Hike of last week – Rowton Peak

We had a great hike last week along Razorback Ridge and up to Rowton Peak. The weather was perfect and many of the wild flowers were out. Now is the time to get up there to see the last of … Continue reading

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Time to Climb – Castle Peak

I finally climbed up to the top of Castle Peak this week after 15 years of having a cabin here on the summit. I know, all you old timers are thinking “what a tenderfoot”. It’s funny how every year I … Continue reading

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A new trail for all footpath lovers

As readers of this blog know, there has been a lot of discussion on this site concerning the trail system that Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT) is developing on the Royal Gorge open space. There have been claims put forward … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week 5/25/14

 (Click for larger image) This week Serena Creek is running at full flow over the Serena Creek dam.

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Hike of the Week – Serena Creek Falls 5/25/14

This week we are hiking down to Serena Creek Falls. Please come and join us on our first hike of the season. For more information click here.

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Video of the week 5/16/17 – The Birds and the Toads in Van Norden Lake

If there are children in the room you might want to send them out for this video (tic). As spring comes to the summit valley the wildlife is doing their best to carry on the species. This week I tramped … Continue reading

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Shock of the week 5-12-14

This week we received disturbing news concerning an icon of the Donner Summit area. The Truckee Donner Land Trust  (TDLT) revealed their plan for the future of Van Norden Lake. The future of the lake is that it has no … Continue reading

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Sound of the week 4/28/14

Another sign of spring on the summit. Skied out to Lyle’s lookout and was pleasantly surprised to hear the bullfrogs croaking up a storm

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Picture of the week 4-27-14

Click on the image to see a larger view This week we had a late springs storm that dumped 2 ft of snow on the summit. Broke out the skis again and headed up to Palisade Peak. It was a … Continue reading

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Open Space Use On The Summit – Trails 101

(Download a pdf of this post) In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to see quite a bit of commentary and user feedback concerning the trail system in the Royal Gorge area. It is evident from many … Continue reading

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You know that spring is here when the falls start flowing

I mark this week as the beginning of the summer cycle here on the summit. It is when the snow melt is in full progress that the water falls start to flow. This week we skied down to Palisade Creek … Continue reading

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Open Space Use On The Summit – Horseback Riding

(Download a pdf of this post) As promised, this post about open space use will deal with equestrian users. For this topic I feel that because I don’t ride horses and really don’t know all the issues, I would take … Continue reading

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A little positive feedback

Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been dealing with some controversial subject matter lately concerning trail use. I have to admit that some of the issues are creating a negative vibe. I feel like it’s time for a … Continue reading

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Open Space Use On The Summit – Mountain biking

(Download a pdf of this post) In this installment about open space use on the summit, I would like to discuss what seems to have become one of the hotter of the hot button issues concerning trail use, mountain biking. … Continue reading

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Van Norden Meadow land swap completed

As many of you probably know part of the acquisition of the Royal Gorge Properties by Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT) hinged on a land swap deal with Sugar Bowl. A large portion of the Van Norden Meadow was owned … Continue reading

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Open Space Use On The Summit – Trail use

(Download a pdf of this post) In this second installment about open space use on the summit, I would like to discuss some of the issues concerning trail use and regulation as it pertains to the trail plan proposed by … Continue reading

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Open Space Use On The Summit

(Download a pdf of this post) In the last two years there have been historic changes in the status of land ownership and use at Donner Summit. Due to an momentous effort led by the Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT), … Continue reading

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Picture of the week 2-23-14

Snoops Loop had plenty of snow coverage in Van Norden Meadow this week.  

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Picture of the week 2/9/14

 Snow has finally come to the Summit this week. This was a beautiful day of skiing on Mt Disney at Sugar Bowl.

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Picture of the week (January 2014)

I am cheating this week. This is actually a picture of Sugar Bowl from the same week last January. Just to remind us all what a real winter looks like.

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Save Van Norden Lake and Wetlands

This week I am going to refer you to a new website that has been created to promote the preservation of Van Norden Lake and its surrounding wetlands. Please visit and explore this site to learn more about this important … Continue reading

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PG&E Power Line Clearing in Summit Valley

Anyone driving up Soda Springs road will notice that there is a new view of Van Norden Meadow from the road. That new clarity is due to a forest clearing project by PG&E that started last September. Apparently PG&E was … Continue reading

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First ski of the season to Lyle’s Lookout 10/30/13

The summit received its first significant snowfall this week, so it’s time to break out to the skis. We did our first ski out to one of our favorite spots on the summit, Lyle’s Lookout. There was about a foot … Continue reading

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New Crow’s Peak lift – Part 2 10/21/13

Any of you Sugar Bowl skiers out there will be glad to see this update on the new Crow’s Peak lift. On Saturday, Oct 19th, I could here the chop-chop-chop of a helicopter over the summit area. I grabbed my … Continue reading

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New Crow’s lift at Sugar Bowl 10-6-13

  Took a walk up to Crow’s Nest last week to check out the new lift at Sugar Bowl. As you can see from the pictures below, the top of the lift is still in the construction stage. I was … Continue reading

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Royal Gorge Forest Restoration

(Download a pdf of this post) Figure 1. The ¼ mile forest restoration perimeter around Serene Lakes community. For 2013 the 120 acres west of Hillside Dr is currently being restored. (Click on image for larger map) When the Truckee-Donner … Continue reading

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Picture of the week 10/6/13

This week we get a little moody as autumn asserts itself and winter is on the way on the summit.

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Picture of the week 9-29-13

This week picture is sort of a repeat of last week’s picture except that I thought it would be interesting to see the new forest in 360 degrees. For those of you that have Java enabled on your computer, you … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week 9/15/13

So who is this tagger decorating our trails?  Well it’s none other than TDLT’s stewardship czar, John Svahn. John was out this week marking the trail drainage points that will be excavated on the Royal Gorge trails starting this week. … Continue reading

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Just when you think it’s safe to go into the forest…

Regular readers know that there is no bigger advocate for getting out into the new Royal Gorge open spaces than this author. I have often had people ask me if it safe to go out in the forest. The person … Continue reading

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Not so happy trails?

In my last post I featured the new proposed trail system for the Royal Gorge area designed by the Truckee Donner Land trust (TDLT). I commented that most of the feedback I had heard was positive and supportive of the … Continue reading

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Happy Trails to You

The Plan Ever since the acquisition of the Royal Gorge property in Dec of 2012 by the Truckee-Donner Land Trust (TDLT) we have all been waiting to get a glimpse of their new plan for the use of the property … Continue reading

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Sometimes keeping it simple just won’t work.

The Mission As many of you that visit this site know, I am passionate about preserving Van Norden Lake and its surrounding wetlands. For the last year I have been advocating this preservation and what I considered a simple plan … Continue reading

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Picture of the week 7/14/13

This week we visit the headwaters of the South Yuba located at Sugarbowl near Harriets Hollow. It is prime wildflower season right now and the outflow area is beautiful.

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Picture of the week 7/2/13

The White Pelicans have taken up summer residence in Van Norden Lake. These large birds are a sight to behold. There is still plenty of water in the lake so get out there in your kayaks and watch these beautiful … Continue reading

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Picture of the week 6/23/13

Let’s get small this week. Nature is busy going about its business out on the summit.  I caught this rather colorful little beetle earnestly going about his business and at the same time pollinating this Cinquefoil flower.

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Picture of the week 6/18/13

Van Norden Meadow is at its prime this week for wildflowers. The Meadow Penstamon are really spectacular this year. This 360 degree pano gives you some idea of how great it is out there. Technote: The viewer that is used … Continue reading

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Camas Alert 2

Calling all wildflower lovers again. We found another bloom of Camas Lilies, this one is up at Tiny Tim meadow on the way to Rowton Peak. The plants are in much fresher condition than the ones we saw in Van … Continue reading

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Camas Alert

If you’re a lover of Camas Lilies then you need to get down to Van Norden Meadow in the next couple of days to see this years crop before they dry up. I have included a map of the meadow … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week 6/9/13

Summer has come early to the summit this year and it’s time to get out and hike. This week we took our first hike around Van Norden Meadow.

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Picture of the Week 6/2/13

Spring is in full swing on the summit and the wildflowers are making their splashes of color. This week I found a couple of Brown Peony plants over near Beacon Meadow on the east side of Serene Lakes (many thanks … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week 5/26/13

This week we’re tooting our own horn a little. Linda and I installed our Historic Hwy 40 sign on Van Norden dam with Bill Oudegeest this week. We are proud to sponser this sign on one of our local landmarks. … Continue reading

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Serena Creek Falls are flowing 5-15-13

If you are a waterfall lover like me, this is the best time of the year on the summit. With the snow melt at its peak for the next couple of weeks, the creekas are full and the falls are … Continue reading

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History of Wildfires On Donner Summit

(download a pdf of this post) The good news about this post is that it is going to be short because there really isn’t much history to talk about. This post is a follow up to my previous post concerning … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week 4/28/13

We had a special treat out on Van Norden Lake this week. A pair of Sandhill Cranes was taking a break at the lake on their migratory flight back up to Canada. These are magnificent birds and they put on a bit … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week 4/21/13

Welcome back Lake Van Norden. This is the earliest melt of the lake I have seen.  

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Picture of the Week 4/14/13

Waterfall season is coming early to the summit this year. Here is top of Palisades Falls running almost full bore. This is one of the most beautiful sites on the summit.  

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Picture of the Week 3/24/13 – Yuba River snow melt

    The melt is starting early this year. The South Yuba has started to flow in Summit Valley.

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Forest Service Ridge – Backcountry ski

The resurrection of the Royal Gorge cross country ski resort this year under the management of Sugar Bowl has been great for all us skiers, both skaters and striders, that like to burn up the groomed trails. However, there are … Continue reading

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Picture of the Week 2/24/13 – Powder day at Sugar Bowl

Powder day at Sugar Bowl. The view of Donner Summit area from Fuller’s Folly run at Sugar Bowl.

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Royal Gorge lands – What’s next? (Part 3) – Wildfire and Forest Restoration

(Download a pdf of this post) In the previous part of this article about the future of the Donner Summit Open Space Area (DSOSA), the issues of public access to the area were discussed. In this part of the article … Continue reading

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Royal Gorge lands – What’s next? (Part 2) – Public Access

(Download a pdf of this post) In the summer of 2012 a phenomenal thing happened on the summit. Through a sequence of remarkable events, 3000 acres of prime open space on the summit was conserved for public access by a … Continue reading

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Royal Gorge lands – What’s next? (Part 1)

(Download pdf of this post) Most of you that frequent this site are well aware that of the big changes that have occurred with land ownership on the summit. After a whirlwind summer of local fundraising by several different organizations, … Continue reading

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Not just another fish story…

This post is a cautionary tale to all the dog owners that visit the summit. Anyone that frequents this site probably knows that we have two golden retrievers that we share our lives with up here on the summit. Calla … Continue reading

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Picture of the week 7/1/12

Crossing the natural bridge when we come to it. This unique formation is on the ridge near Rowton Peak. Camas Alert For you Camas Liliy freaks, there are a few plants still blooming in Van Norden Meadow east of the … Continue reading

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Picture of the week 6/24/12

Kellogg’s Lewisia is one of our local treasures. We are just at the end of the blooming season.

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The birds are back

Winter visitors to the summit are usually here to enjoy the skiing, sledding and other snow-related activities. The cold sterile white landscape of winter keeps our warm weather visitors away. After the snow melts, however, the warm weather crowd returns … Continue reading

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Revisiting Rowton Peak

This week we took advantage of the early spring we are having on the summit this year and did one of our favorite hikes, up to Rowton Peak (see the trail description here). As with most hikes here on the … Continue reading

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Picture of the week 6/10/12

White Pelicans are a frequent summer visitor to the summit. They like to hang out at Van Norden Lake on their special rock.

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Picture of the week 6/3/12

The snow is gone and it’s time to strap on the hiking boots and get out to the forest. This is at the meadow along the Eastridge trail out to Mariah Point.

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Picture of the week 5/27/12

Spring continues on the summit and water is everywhere. This week’s photo is of another beautiful waterfall currently running at full blast in Serena Creek Canyon. For more info about waterfalls on the summit see this weeks blog post.

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