The ‘Other’ California

When I meet new people on my travels, a common question asked is “where are you from?”  My answer is Northern California.  For those that have never been to California, a common perception is that California is sun, beach, surf boards, and palm trees.  These things do exist in California, but predominantly in Southern California.  The Northern part of the state has beaches but the coastline is much colder and more rugged than in the Southern end of the state.IMG_9452

There is a lot more to California than the Pacific Coast.  When questioned in detail about my origins, my response is that I am from a small town in the northeastern Sierra Nevada Mountains; a town called Truckee.  Truckee’s current population is about 17,000.  The town was much smaller 30 years ago, when I was growing up; the population was around 3000.

Since Truckee is located in the high mountains (it sits at an elevation of about 6000 feet), there is quite a lot of snow in the winter.  Yes!  There is snow in California, a lot of snow.  Located on a major interstate highway (80), the town is the gateway to many well-known ski resorts – Northstar at Tahoe, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Soda Springs….to name a few.  Beyond the snow, Truckee is also one of the coldest places in the United States, especially during the summer months.  It is not uncommon to have a day time temperature of around 80 F and the night time temperature (on the same day) at or below 32 F!


The many train tracks that go through Truckee

Truckee holds an important place in California history.  It grew as a lumber and railroad town, with the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.  At one point, the town was home to a large population of Chinese laborers working to build the railroad connecting the East and West of the United States.  Today, the train goes right threw the downtown area of Truckee numerous times a day


Donner Lake

There is a beautiful alpine lake, Donner Lake, located on the West side of Truckee. This lake is named after a well known group of people known as The Donner Party.  Throughout my childhood, I was enthralled by the story of The Donner Party, as the story took place in what felt like my back yard.  During the 1840’s, there was an increase of pioneers from the East that wanted to settle in the new territories of Oregon and California.  The Donner Party was one such group of 87 people.  The party was given advice to follow a new route to California.  As a result, they found themselves in the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains when a particularly harsh winter began.  The group ended up at what is now Donner Lake, for almost 4 months.  In the end, 48 of the original 87 pioneers survived their ordeal.


The rugged Donner Summit

Today, Donner Lake is an amazingly beautiful place, surrounded by homes and activity. It is the place that I see first when I visit Truckee.  It is the place that reminds me of my childhood and the incredibly beautiful area of California I call home.  It is the place that holds special memories of my lifelong friends.

The part of Truckee that I carry with me through life are the friendships that were made and have lasted 35+ years.  For some reason, unbeknownst to me, small-town childhood friends are the long-lasting kind of friends.  They are the thick and thin friendships that don’t need nurturing anymore; they are infinite.  They are the kind where your friends are able to complete memories of events that you can’t remember, but were part of.

Last weekend, my son and I attended a family memorial service in Truckee.  Typical of the weather in Truckee, Saturday was a beautiful, clear Fall day.  Sunday, the weather changed quickly.  By 2 pm, chains were required on 2 wheel drive cars traveling over Donner Summit-the high pass we needed to cross in order to return home.


Highway 70, Beckwourth Pass


Belden Town on Highway 70, Feather River Canyon

I do not enjoy putting chains on; I don’t think anyone does!  Luckily for me, there is another route I was able to take to get home.  The route, highway 70,  is through Sierra County and quite rural.  Driving through the high Sierra Valley, I found myself reflecting on the diversity of California which prompted this blog post.  I drove through areas along the highway where the population of cattle is much higher than the population of people!  I feel very fortunate to live in an area of extreme beauty and diversity.  In a 4 hour drive, I can go from the dense, urban setting of San Francisco to the sparsely populated High Sierras.

For further reading:

Truckee, California

Truckee Historical Society

Trip Advisor: Truckee

Truckee Chamber of Commerce


Carnegie Libraries

11031040_10206829525807497_6299490668037490125_oLast week, as I often do, I drove from Chico, CA to Monterey, CA.  I am accustomed to this 4.5 hour drive, as my father lives in Monterey.  As I mentioned in a previous post about elderly parents, my father needs a lot of help.  I won’t go into specifics here, but he is becoming less and less independent as the months go by.  Anyways, the route I usually drive takes me through the rice fields of the northern end of the Sacramento Valley.  It is really a beautiful area; an especially rural area of Northern California, filled with rice fields, dairy farms, orchards, a few houses, and lots of farm animals.  Right now, the rice fields are full of water and the area feels as if you are driving through Southeast Asia.

Along the way, I decided to stop at a little library in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by agricultural fields.  I have driven by this library hundreds of times and never stopped.  The library is called The Bayliss Public Library.  On the front of the library, there is a sign stating that the library is “a point of historical interest.”  A library, in the middle of rice fields-a point of historical interest?  On the other side of the door there is another sign, explaining that this particular library is a “Carnegie Library.”  The library was built with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie.  The name is quite well known throughout the United States;  it is attached to famous buildings, schools, and libraries.


Andrew Carnegie was born to a poor Scottish family in 1835.  He immigrated, with his parents, to the United States in 1848.  By 1861, he was a wealthy steel tycoon.  In 1901, he sold his steel company for $480 million dollars; this sale made him the richest man in the world.  Carnegie decided to give all of his money away through philanthropic projects; he invested his fortune in education and science research, global peace, museums, and……libraries.

Between 1883 and 1929, Andrew Carnegie donated the funds to build a total of 2,509 libraries in 11 different countries; 1689 libraries were built in the United States.  California was home to 142 of these libraries.  Today, 85 of these library buildings are still standing, and only 36 are still being used as a library.

So this leads me back to the little library standing out in the middle of agricultural fields – The Bayliss Public Library.  This particular library is the most rural of the Carnegie libraries built in California.  It was built in 1917 for $4 thousand dollars.  It is only open on Tuesdays from 10-6.  So, if you ever find yourself driving on Bayliss-Blue Gum Road, stop by on a Tuesday and check it out!

For further reading about Andrew Carnegie and his libraries, follow the links below:

Carnegie Libraries of California

Carnegie Library

How Andrew Carnegie Turned His Fortune into a Library Legacy