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. ūüė¶

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‚Äď1847. 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‚Äôs memoir¬†Birth of a New Brain ‚Äď Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder¬†with a foreword by Dr. Walker Karraa (author of¬†Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women‚Äôs Stories of Trauma and Growth)¬†will be published by Post Hill Press in 2017.