Gift Shop Glee @ Donner Memorial State Park


We had a glorious time at the new Donner Memorial State Park Visitors Center! Built for $9.6 million dollars, I was expecting a day spa and amuse-bouche as part of our visit, but ’twas not to be. 😦

Years ago in my pre-bipolar diagnosis/pre-child days, I worked at a nonprofit called Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks (also known as Friends). Friends supported free educational programs at the Santa Cruz State Parks. Through my job as office manager, and later on as development assistant, I learned about the natural and cultural history of our local state parks. I worked with incredible staff, some of whom I profiled in articles I wrote for Friends‘ quarterly, award-winning newsletter Park Views. Ever since my Friends job I make a point of visiting state parks wherever we travel, whether it be in Tahoe or Hawaii.


I worked next to the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, built in the early 1800’s

Thanks to growing up with a father who loved backpacking in the Sierra Nevada and who was was well-versed in California history, I was familiar with the story of the doomed Donner Party.

Today’s field trip brought us near the site of the Donner Party’s ill-fated venture. If you’re unfamiliar with this tragic, stomach-turning epoch of Sierra Nevada Mountain history, this blurb taken from Wikipedia sums it up:

Donner Memorial State Park is a state park of California, USA, preserving the site of the Donner Camp, where members of the ill-fated Donner Party were trapped by weather during the winter of 1846–1847. Caught without shelter or adequate supplies, members of the group resorted to cannibalism to survive. The Sierra Nevada site has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The state park contains the Emigrant Trail Museum and the Pioneer Monument dedicated to the travelers of the Emigrant Trail.

Donner Memorial State Park is located outside Truckee, California.

(For more info. visit here.)

Whenever I visit a state park I love to check out the visitor center gift shop. Donner’s shop was extraordinary. There were the usual cute stuffed animals like deer, bear, and Tahoe Tessie. 


The Tahoe Tessie Family

There were historical books galore, key chains and coffee mugs. I continued wandering around the spacious store until I spotted a snack section. Feeling a bit peckish, I went to take a look.

To my delight, there was jerky, but not just any old jerky.

Donner Party Memorial Jerky!

Yes, it’s new! It’s cutting-edge! It’s gluten-free!

And Donner Party Memorial Jerky was calling my name. And each packet had a very special name.

There was Spicy Grandpa flavor, Uncle Ned (now in Teriyaki!), Tangy Clara, and Garlic Black Pepper Annie!


The Breens didn’t make it into the jerky…

I’m pleased to tell you that 10% of Donner Party Memorial Jerky proceeds benefit the Sierra State Parks Foundation.



I was hoping for a red carpet at the entrance and valet service; c’mon –

$9.6 million dollars???!!! And not even a gold-plated toilet or bidet in sight.

Photo on 12-25-15 at 4.25 PM #3

Mmm, mmm good! Spicy Grandpa sure tasted delicious!

And how could I possibly leave out the “Beef Jerky Time” scene from the classic Coming to America?

This post is:

“…just a fantasy
It’s not the real thing
But sometimes a fantasy
Is all you need.”

Sometimes a Fantasy, Billy Joel

Dyane’s memoir Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth) will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.


14 thoughts on “Gift Shop Glee @ Donner Memorial State Park

  1. Oh, my Lord! Donner Party themed jerky! Yikes! So glad that you are having fun. Thanks for keeping me in the kitschy-tourist loop. Love the Sierras. We are blessed in California to live close to such beauty.

    • I know you got married in Tahoe, so you’re familiar with the history and you definitely knew what I was talkin’ bout when it came to the Donner Party! 😉 It’s so beautiful here in all seasons – it has been snowing on and off since we got here. It’s hard to believe that in less than 7 months it will be a warm, wildflower-filled paradise here once again…..

      XOXOXO to you!Dy

      p.s. Thanks so much for stopping by here – it means a lot to me!

  2. Before I realised that snow was falling on your website, I thought I was experiencing the beginnings of a migraine!!! Thank goodness it was just snow 🙂

    • Hi my dear – you are so funny, I promise to return to Santa Cruz before a Donner Party strikes! Will read your latest post later today as we are off to go ice skating, which I rarely, rarely do, but I enjoy as long as I don’t fall (I’m renting helmets for us!!) – love you! p.s. Your handsome boys are just like their mom – super-photogenic!!!

  3. Great descriptive writing of your visit to the. Museum. So happy that you are better and enjoying your trip to Tahoe. Blessings for 2016.
    Granny Phia🎅🎵

  4. It’s a great idea to visit nearby state parks on your vacations. Not something I ever really thought about before.

    I love jerky, but I’m not sure I could manage the Donner party themed jerky. Yikes!

    • Hi Leslie! There are tons of state parks in CA, so I haven’t been to them all, but I’d say they’re a pretty good bet for having a fun time. Plus the parking fee supports the parks and not some greedy big wig! 😉 Take care and have a wonderful New Year!

  5. hello!!!! old friend! Jerky is the best- It’s good to see you enjoying the winter. 🙂 I miss ya. It’s been a year of growth and finding balance. I’ll be blogging soon… sometimes isolation and reflection and time away brings about some much needed perspective and ignites creative flow. Looking forward to reading many more fun and adventurous posts from you. Hope you are well. 🙂

    • SO GLAD to see you here!!! Sorry it took me so long to reply – I miss you too and I hope you get notified about tis comment. I’m looking forward to your blogging when it feels right – give me a shout if you can. You sound like you’re doing so well!!!! I’m honored that you read my posts! 😉 I’ll keep them coming! XOXOXOO always, Dyane

  6. Hey there!
    Cannabalism was a part of a movie I just saw. I just read an article about the grasslands in northeastern Montana and merging them with some BLM lands adjacent to preserve them both. I miss talking to you but know we are both really busy.


    • Hey there Allison! Ugh – I’m still sick with this evil cough! :(((( Craig threw out his back 2 days ago (which is very rare; he’s the healthy one, you know what I mean?) so that has been rough. We drive back to Santa Cruz today….I don’t want to go! I still have couple of your emails to reply to (I know I wrote that a few days ago but you know how I am) and I will enjoy doing that when I’m not stuck in a small cabin with 3 noisy people and a totally innocent dog! 😉 Thanks for your great comment about cannibalism, by the way!!!! Thinking of you – I hope *you* are well, I’ll be in touch before 2016! XO Dy

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