Between 1841 and 1869, up to 250,000 people sold their belongings, packed wagons, and set out for California. At the California Trail Interpretive Center, I learned the stories of the pioneers who endured the 2,000-mile trek; some seeking land, some gold, others seeking adventure, and some for reasons we may never know. The murals, dioramas and interactive exhibits immerse visitors in the trail experience.
While there I didn’t want to pass the chance to enjoy a hike on the trails. The easy hiking trails adjacent to the Trail Center offer spectacular views of the Ruby Mountains, the historic South Fork Canyon and the Humboldt River. There is a bench overlooking I-80 (originally the California Trail) which is where the Donner Party should have traveled. The trails are roughly 4,500 feet long and very well maintained, rattlesnake free.
The most common shrub scattered across the vast landscape is big sagebrush. Sagebrush is a woody evergreen shrub with silvery leaves that stay green all year. You can identify sagebrush easily by its sharp odor, especially after rain. Early pioneers traveling along the California Trail described the scent as a mixture of turpentine and camphor, however I found the scent quite pleasing, somewhat spicy and woodsy without being pine.
If you’re ever in Elko, Nevada discover in their words 2,000 miles of adventure at the California Trail Interpretive Center. If you’re more of an armchair traveler scroll down for photos or simply click here: http://www.californiatrailcenter.org/