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              Woman Walks 2000 Mile Donner Route


I received an email recently from the nephew of a woman who walked the Donner route in 1978. The woman was Barbara Maat, who last week also emailed me and kindly sent me a copy of her book. Her email to me:

I finally got to your website. It is simply amazing. Having renewed an old interest in archaeology here in Colorado, I appreciate the hunt for facts in a historical context. I've also learned of the fallibility of human memory and even of documents, so I salute the efforts of your committee. Congratulations.


Yes, hard to believe, but Barbara walked 2000 miles to Sutter's Fort in Sacramento. Her book can be found on Amazon:



Below are some of the comments we've received from supporters during our fight to preserve this road between 2005 and 2012:


July 6, 2010:

Thanks Rick!  Did the hike and loved every minute of it. Parked at Sugar Bowl, hiked down to Old Highway Drive and then back to the summit. Saw a couple of old cars that looked like they had flown off the old highway and crashed right where they were.  So much history in one place, I am glad you are watching out for it.  Plan on taking my son on the same hike when he gets a little bigger.

Love the site by the way, very informative. God bless you guys for trying to keep trails open and history alive for the rest of us who only visit the area.
All the best,


San Rafael, CA


November 19, 2009:

I have lived in Truckee for the last 25 years and have always been curious about the area of the old Emigrant trail. Finally, yesterday with a friend that had been part way, we climbed the trail to where it crosses the creek and has the missing bridge, then we crossed over to old 40. What an incredible experience! 

I am keenly interested in progress on this battle, and would like to be contacted when meetings take place, or with any help I might provide to reopen this historic treasure to the public.  Thanks for your very informative site. 

Truckee, CA

June 18, 2009:

Thanks for the great information on this access issue. It is nice to see someone that is willing to stand up for the publics rights, I appreciate your efforts.
While not completely surprised of the behavior of county supervisors, I am surprised at the behavior mentioned of some of the non-profits. What were they thinking?!?!
I notice that the organization occasionally does a hike of the route. If you plan another one, let me know as I would like to join you.

Auburn, CA


May 8, 2009:

Glad to hear that you've been successful thus far in keeping the old highway open.



April 20, 2009:

I did not know that an organization like this exists, and I am relieved to know that other active citizens care about the Donner Trail.


New York City


March 3, 2009:

I greatly respect and appreciate the work you've done. Amazing effort, truly amazing, given what you are up against. Would love to come help with trail work / hikes / etc.
Alameda, CA


December 12, 2008:

Your organization and members are doing Great Work in resisting this wrong and sneaky deal. Best of Luck to you and your cause to preserve this historic trail and all that it represents. Keep Up The Great Work!!!
Victor & Kim
Fairlawn, NJ

December 1, 2008:

It was a blessing to find your site.  I had looked in many hiking books yet they did not reveal this road that you fight so hard to protect.  It is sad to hear that this guy is so anti-people.  Most hikers and history buffs are so cautious and respectful of the land they would not give any reason for him to try to prevent passage.  Thanks so much for your work.


Munich, Germany


August 7, 2007

Thanks, Rick, for working to keep the old wagon road open!


Dutch Flat, CA 

Sadly, Russell died in an auto accident on I-80 near Davis one year to the day after this email, August 7, 2008.

July 23, 2007:
At one of our DLPOA board meetings (I think it was in 9/05 or May or June/06), Leigh Fitzpatrick, (of Truckee Trails) spoke & urged the board to get behind the trail alternative. While Fitzpatrick was still there, I strenuously objected, saying that I did not think an historical, public trail should be abandoned to suit (a surrounding landowner) and the Truckee Trails people...


SF Bay Area

March 29, 2007:
It warmed my heart to read that Rick and his friends are successfully challenging the bully and his cohort, Ted Owens, to open this trail for all of us. I'm glad that your group wasn't intimidated by these selfish individuals, who've taken the 'law' into their own hands. Just when I've lost respect for what's happening in government, along comes a grassroots hero! You can count on me for a donation.
With humble gratitude,


Donner Lake, CA

March 19, 2007:
I am SO proud of you all standing up to these people. It sounds like the old south to me. So many will benefit from your efforts. I don't understand why this man bought this property with such an attitude.
If I can do anything to help the cause, I'd make the trip up there. Good Luck and keep it up.


March 9, 2007:
Add me to your list of interested parties. My family used that trail before (the adjacent landowner) got involved. I would support legal action to restore the public right to the trail.


Truckee, CA

October 3, 2006:
Thank you so much for your work in preserving this beautiful trail. Nevada County's historical heritage and natural beauty have long been under siege and I'm heartened that you're standing up to the developers -- and winning!
Kristin Johnson
New Light on the Donner Party

September 22, 2006:
Thanks to the efforts of the Historic Donner Trail Committee a portion of the California Trail from Donner Lake to the Summit won't be abandoned as a public road.  This section of the Trail became the main route with the construction of the Dutch Flat and Donner Lake Wagon Road in 1862, and later the Lincoln Highway.  It decayed after the construction of US Highway 40 and became a "Jeep" trail until a landowner blocked it.  A group of citizens has been fighting to preserve the old trail, and has stopped an attempt by Nevada County to abandon the road.
Dan Rosen, author of


Below are comments from supporters who sent comments with their signed petitions in late 2005 and early 2006 (over 230 petitions received out of 500 we sent out to Donner Lake property owners--Thanks to everyone who sent a petition back then).



December 20:

"Thanks for your efforts."

Michael and Susan


December 12:
" ...hiked the trail many times with family. Last time we encountered (the adjacent landowner). All of us were over 55."

November 29:
"Let me know when to go to the (Nevada) County Supervisors meetings and rattle a few cages."


November 29:

"If it would be useful, I can provide an encounter with (the adjacent landowner) on the Historic Trail in 1988. He was abusive and threatening to me and my wife."

Kim M

November 27:
"I have been going to Donner Lake since 'before birth' and hiked this trail and creek since the 1950s. What this bully is doing is criminal!!!"



November 27:

"Keep up the good work."

William McGlashan

November 22:
"This historic trail is important to remind us of our pioneer ancestors and their epic struggle crossing the Sierras."


November 19:
"Dear Committee: We have had property at Donner for over 30 years and hiked on the trail with our children. We appreciate your efforts to regain our legal access."


November 16:

"If the trail is abandoned, the houses are coming. History must be the winner, not one individual wanting to change it."

Frank Mullen, senior reporter

Reno Gazette-Journal

November 16:
"Thank you for educating me on this issue. I look forward to hearing from you as this group of activists is formed and activities are planned."


November 16:

"Enough of our history has been destroyed. The past must be preserved as accurately as possible."

Harold Curran

Reno Fearful Crossing


Included in the 230 petition signers were 2 directors and 4 advisors to the Truckee Donner Land Trust.


Here is the petition that we asked supporters to sign:

Help Protect The Historic Donner Trail 
November  2005

Robert Farnsworth, president of the board of directors of the Donner Lake Property Owners Association has called the Donner Trail, "…possibly the most important historical trail in this part of the Sierra and Northern California."


Its history began when the Indians found the best route from Donner Lake to the summit. The pioneers followed their trail, as did the Dutch Flat-Donner Lake Wagon Road and the Lincoln Transcontinental Highway (1914 to 1926). It was replaced with Highway 40 in 1926. The old unpaved road is a permanent right-of-way granted by the State of California to Nevada County in 1956, with Caltrans retaining ultimate control.


The trail was enjoyed by hikers from then until 1989 when it was blocked by huge boulders placed across it by (the adjacent landowner), the owner of some of the property through which the road runs. His 1987 deed states the land is "subject to any and all easements, rights of way, and restrictions upon or across said lands." He has blockaded the trail for over 15 years, hoping that if enough time goes by, Nevada County will abandon the road. He claims it is a nuisance to have hikers on the road; however, there is a new subdivision next to his property, and without the road, his property would be far more valuable for another subdivision. Then houses would be built on this historic trail. If that happens, this historic and beautiful trail for hikers will be gone forever. He has offered to give another route skirting the southern edge of his property as a "trade." County Supervisors John Spencer and Ted Owens, who seem not to be interested in preserving the history of the Donner Lake area, are on record encouraging him to apply for an abandonment of the road and have indicated they would vote in favor of it. This would be completely unacceptable since it would not preserve the original historic trail.




By signing this petition you will be joining other Nevada County voters and/or property owners demanding:

  1. that the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and the Truckee Town Council end any and all negotiations with (the adjacent landowner) regarding the abandonment of this historic pioneer trail or rerouting it in some other place.

  2. that the Board and Council shall order him to remove the ... rock barrier across the trail within ten days or it will be removed at his expense.

  3. that the Board and Council shall order him to immediately remove any no trespassing or guard-dog signs that are placed to discourage hikers from using the trail ...

Signed _______________________________________________ Date __/___/___


Address ________________________________________Tel. ____-____-______ 


Hopefully we will prevail in protecting this important historic trail for posterity!   






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