In 1844, the expedition led by John Fremont were camped out in Carson Valley (south of modern day Carson City) in Nevada waiting to cross the Sierras to get to Sutter's Fort in Sacramento. His guide, Kit Carson, decided to strike out in the snows of February to find a route, ignoring the advice of local natives to avoid it in winter.
Maybe he should have listened because they had a go of it, having to even eat their dogs when getting stuck in the snow. A couple of weeks later, they did make it through, however, and the mountain pass...where state highway 88 traverses...is now called Carson Pass in his honor. As are the Carson Valley and the capital of Nevada.
We're going the other way, from California to Nevada, following Mr. Carson's route. Today, highway 88 is an all-weather, year round pass through the Sierra Nevada mountains, topping out at just under 9,000 feet before it's descent into Hope Valley and then the quick jaunt down to Nevada.
Our first stop is to get some food in us at Cooks Station, serving travelers across the pass at 5,000 feet since 1863. We get some delicious pancakes and eggs to fortify us for the rest of the crossing and continue on our way.
Kirkwood Ski Resort is still going strong this third week of April. They will be closing for the season next week but they still have plenty of snow. In fact, although California's governor and other leaders are calling this year a drought for the state, there is still a good five foot snowbank along the road as we cross over the Carson Spur at near 8,000 feet and again at the peak of the pass near Red Lake.
It still seems like winter in one of California's most scenic areas, Hope Valley, as we pass through. Soon, it's a steep descent down the east side of the mountains where we pretty quickly cross the state line just south of Gardnerville.
We've got a couple hours to kill so we make a side trip to Genoa, Nevada. This is the oldest settlement in the state and where the settlement of Nevada started with a fort built by the Mormon Battalion in 1851.
It's still a quaint and very small little town where you can walk across the downtown area in the course of two blocks. A State Historical Park preserves the location of the original fort while antique shops, a bar, general store, and a couple of small dining spots do business here.
In front of the fort is a statue of Jon Torstensson Rue, better known as "Snowshoe" Thompson. Rue changed name to Thompson when he moved to America at the age of 10.
Showshoe Thompson delivered mail for 20 years on skis between Genoa and Placerville in the winter. He is also know as the father of skiing in California and his grave lies in the local cemetery.
It's a nice rest but now it's time to go find our hotel. Tomorrow, we've planned a deep dive into Carson City history.
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