The mountain town of Truckee lies just north of Lake Tahoe in California, on a line between Sacramento and Reno. Take a stroll through the old downtown and you will hear echoes of the raucous Old West in these streets.
Founded as a way station in the 1800s, the present day version of Truckee dates from the arrival of Central Railroad in the 1860s. Once the town became a stop on the Intercontinental Railroad, growth boomed. We can read about those times in diaries and books. Here’s one of my favorite descriptions, from the Truckee Historical Society:
“The town had begun to acquire its peculiar character, compounded of an intense respectability, a taste for the more expensive refinements of life, such as good cigars, good champagne, and good oysters, a sportive flair, expressed in heroic poker parties, and an easy tolerance of one of the most raffish underworlds of the West.”
Truckee is just a few miles from Donner Lake, named for the infamous Donner party that spent a horrible winter stuck outside of Truckee. The area today is a fine place to hike, with a small museum as the only nod to this tragic time.
Early Truckee, known as Coburn’s Station, tended to lean to the salon and wild west style of life. Eventually, Truckee settled down and schools and churches popped up. A lumber mill in the late 1800s helped keep Truckee prosperous and is still there today. An ice company also did a brisk business here.
Fire after fire plagued Truckee, so most buildings that exist today are apparently only around a hundred or so years old. The hotel and some of the shops on main street are obviously at least that old.
Truckee has grown through the decades, and many new housing developments and business have fanned out from the quaint downtown. If you visit, though, you will want to head straight to the middle of historical Truckee. Sit down for lunch in an old café or relax on a bench and sip your coffee. Let your imagination run wild, back to the early days of the town. You will surely hear echoes of the days of gunslingers, mountain men, muddy streets, horses and buggies – all the grit and romance of the Old West.
For more info about Truckee, check out the Historical Society’s web site.