Prior to our visit to the Cedar House Sport Hotel in January, I had only ever driven through Truckee before—and in summer, at that. In winter, it is a much bleaker picture entirely, though still beautiful nonetheless.
While there, SVV had one of his weekly crippling migraines, which meant he was resigned to a day under the covers, in total darkness, and Ella and I were banished to the outdoor world. So we bundled up, strapped on my camera and set out on foot to explore the town.
Just 85 miles from Coloma—where gold was first discovered (and really close to where SVV and I got engaged!)—Truckee was a key player in the Gold Rush back in the 1800s, and traces of this historical era are etched into its buildings and character.
The town was first settled in the 1860s when a new railroad went up over the Sierra Nevadas, though its most famous inhabitants were the Donner Party, who tried to cross the Donner Pass but wound up spending one very brutal winter in Truckee instead. In 1960, it would become more widely known as the host of the winter Olympics, many events of which took place at nearby Squaw Valley.
The downtown area is divided by an Amtrak train line. As I don’t know any Truckee locals, I can’t say with authority which side is “the good side of the tracks.”
Seeing as the town hadn’t been hit by snow in nearly a month, my companion was caked with black sludge by the end of our adventure.
You can cover the whole town by foot in 20 minutes or so; we spent a bit longer and looped Truckee three or four times, stopping in many of its trinket shops, to kill a couple hours. But once you get out of the downtown and head south toward the lake, you’ll be surrounded by a barren, ice-capped wilderness until you reach King Beach in the east, Tahoe City in the west. According to the Truckee Donner Historical Society, for the past three ice ages, the Truckee Basin was covered by glaciers.
Just do yourself a favor and take a moment to pull over and admire the view.