Staying at Donner Lake last week was so enjoyable. It was restful but it was also a time of finding bits of the past: mine and the people who came across this area a hundred years before me. One of the things we found was sections of the Lincoln highway, one of the earliest transcontinental highways.
Today though is about discovering the Lincoln Highway. A local forest ranger told us where to find a section of highway that runs next to an old mule packer’s cabin. We were happy to find the cabin still intact. The mules slept on the first floor and the men slept on the second. Must have smelled rather ripe, however the men probably weren’t too fresh themselves. Be that is it may, we were excited to walk along an area of this road that was built a hundred years ago. We found remnants of fences and household debris. It was fun to have a look around, but ‘BEWARE’ there are rattle snakes. We didn’t find any here, but on another day my husband was sure he heard one warning him.
The Lincoln Highway was the first national memorial to President Lincoln. The highway brought people and money to the towns along its route It was called ‘the Main Street of America” (Wikipedia). The Lincoln Highway inspired the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956, which was championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, influenced by his experiences as a young soldier crossing the country in the 1919 Army Convoy on the Lincoln Highway. Some sections of the Lincoln highway in this area became Highway 40 and then Interstate 80 which is now the cross-country highway most closely aligned with the Lincoln Highway. In the West, particularly in Wyoming, Utah and California, sections of Interstate 80 are paved directly over alignments of the Lincoln Highway.
In 1913, there were more than 3300 miles of highway stretching from New York to San Francisco. I can’t imagine traveling along this route through the Sierras. Then again, those that came during the 1840’s and the gold rush had no road at all. Standing up on the Donner Pass we looked down on a section of the highway that leads up through the tunnel that runs under the railroad. I’ll report on the railroad in another post.