GWL – Dunes, a Trading Post and Snowshoe Thompson

Day 32 – 2,674 miles

washoe_entrance.JPG

We stayed at Washoe Lake State Park for three nights. Named after the Washoe tribe that originally inhabited this area, we enjoyed our stay here, though windy and brisk. Several birds visited the campsite … pied magpies, robins, blackbirds and one colorful little guy that we thought might be a little exotic. Turned out to be a house finch … hmm … I was hoping for more.

 A house finch ... I was hoping for something a bit more exotic, but he was colorful.

A house finch ... I was hoping for something a bit more exotic, but he was colorful.

Only on our third morning here did we venture along the lakeshore for a walk and it was surprising. We followed a narrow dirt path through the sagebrush and grass until the ground got soggy and we thought we’d have to turn back. David found a log to cross and we skirted across the wet and into the dunes. I guess we weren’t expecting dunes here … along the Atlantic and the Pacific shores or in the desert, of course, but not along the shore of a small inland Nevadan lake. 

 Dunes at Washoe Lake

Dunes at Washoe Lake

This is wild horse country and we were on the lookout. We saw none this morning, but hoof prints were apparent in the sand. Evening primrose (despite the fact it was morning) and veiny dock dominated the wildflowers. Avocets and kildeers plied the lake’s edge for breakfast. We walked beside the dunes and along the shore for an hour then found the log, retraced our steps across the bog to Blue and set out on a day trip to the Mormon Station State Historical Park.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photos.

The small town of Genoa (gen-OH-wa), founded in 1851, is Nevada’s oldest community. The discovery of gold in Sutter’s Mill, California in 1848 instigated a mass migration west. Two Mormons established a trading post here in Genoa, a strategic point along the emigrant trail for weary travelers to restock and rest before tackling the Sierra Nevadas.

 Mormon Station in Genoa, Nevada

Mormon Station in Genoa, Nevada

The tiny museum was interesting and the local rangers were well versed in the history of Mormon Station and the town. We learned of the politics of the time; the push for western expansion; the gold rush. One docent happened to be a medium and related several stories of spirits who still wander through the station. In fact, once a month during the summer months, there’s an overnight camp-out at the Station, complete with historical accounts, ghost stories and a séance.

 The museum was interesting and the docents were well informed and happy to share their knowledge with us. One of the docents was a medium and told us about the 'paranormal evenings at the park' ... a chance to get up close and personal with spirits of Mormon station.

The museum was interesting and the docents were well informed and happy to share their knowledge with us. One of the docents was a medium and told us about the 'paranormal evenings at the park' ... a chance to get up close and personal with spirits of Mormon station.

mormon-paranormal evenings.JPG

We first saw mention of Jon Torsteinson–Rue aka John ‘Snowshoe’ Thompson in the small museum at Calaveras Big Trees Visitor Center. Here at Mormon Station, we learned more about ‘The Viking of the Sierras’.

 'Snowshoe' Thompson ... Viking of the Sierras

'Snowshoe' Thompson ... Viking of the Sierras

Born in Norway, he emigrated to America with his family in 1837. For 20 years, from 1856 to 1876, he carried the mail twice a month during the winter months across the Sierras … on a pair of homemade ‘long’ skis, not snowshoes. We’d called them cross-country skis nowadays. For a distance of 90 miles between Placerville, CA and Genoa, NV, he faithfully carried a 50-100 pound pack of mail on his back and made the trip in three days. A bronze statue stands in front of the Station in his honor.

 A tribute to John 'Snowshoe' Thompson

A tribute to John 'Snowshoe' Thompson

We learned that he was buried here in the Genoa cemetery, so we thought we’d pay him a visit. Turns out the cemetery was quite interesting, as most are. We wandered through the gravestones, found Snowshoe’s tombstone without any problem, then wandered back to the Station for a picnic lunch on one of their tables.

We’re planning to return to the other side of the Sierras with a quick stop at Lake Tahoe before heading further north in California. We’re posting four days a week now … Monday, Wednesday, Friday and a Blue View on Saturday. Join us for the next episode of the Great Western Loop 2018.