Our cabin at Donner Lake is called Snowboat because it is a hole in
the snow into which one pours money. It is on the water on the south
shore of Donner Lake in Truckee, CA. Friends old and new are always
welcome there. Snowboat hosts awesome ski patrol parties each winter. In
the summer, as Pooh Corner, it provides hospitality to Pacific Crest Trail
thru-hikers during the months of July and August. The living room
is dominated by a big fireplace and an indoor climbing wall.
Winter access is difficult, a walk down a snowy hill of about 300 feet
with a vertical drop of 75 feet or so.
Snowboat has one king bed and one queen futon plus two beds by the fireplace.
It has two baths, one with shower and one with a tub. It has a complete
modern kitchen and laundry facilities. There is a small hot tub on
the rear deck.
14386 South Shore Drive
Truckee, CA 96161
Note: When we are having a party, there are flashing red bicycle
lights on each side of the driveway.
11448 Deerfield Dr #2
Truckee, CA 96161
Assorted Snowboat Information:
1. From San Francisco area take I-80 past Sacramento. We
usually buy gas and snacks at the Forest Hill exit just past Auburn as
gas is usually much cheaper here than further up the hill and is hard to
find past Colfax.
Summer opening instructions
2. Pass the Soda Springs/Norden exit and the Castle Peak/Boreal exits
at Donner Summit. The freeway now curves downhill and Donner lake
is below on the right. Pass the "Vista Point" and in 1/2 mile take
the poorly marked Donner Lake exit. (In very icy conditions or if
you miss the exit, take the Donner Park exit at the bottom of the hill
and turn right on Donner Pass Rd)
3. At the bottom of the exit ramp, note milage as all milages will be
from this point. Turn right and wind down the hill to the lake.
If there are high snow banks, watch for people pulling out of almost invisible
driveways and side roads here and below.
4. At the bottom of the hill, about 1 mile, turn right on Donner Pass
5. At the end of the lake, about 1.3 mi from the freeway, turn left
on South Shore Drive and follow it around the back of the lake.
6. At milage 2.7, about half way around the back of the lake, at the
bottom of a slight hill, pass the small Sewage Pumping Station #6 on your
7. (At milage 3.0) Just up the grade on the far side but before the
crest of the hill, there is a private road which cuts off the hill crest
running parallel to the main road on the left or lake side. There
are signs for "14386"(whoops-it broke), "14408" and "14430" at the
junction. On a tree nearby are several names including "Person".
Turn left onto this road.
8. Pass the three garages. The blue roof is ours. (14386)
The driveway is very steep and may be slippery with ice or wet pine needles.
In summer go on down the driveway but be prepared to sweep or shovel if
necessary. In winter park on the private road if you are reasonably
certain of little or no new snow. If there is a snow storm predicted
or if the private road has not been plowed, there is also a parking space
on the main road above, near the peak of the hill. If you park there
please walk around to the private road. Please do not climb down
the hill unless there is at least 4 ft. of snow. (once there is a
lot of snow, we sometimes cut steps down this hill.)
Summer closing instructions
Winter opening instructions
1. Outside light and door access
At the top of the driveway there is a tree with a switch about 8 ft.
off the ground. It is approximately the fifth tree to the left of
the driveway. That switch turns on the lights down the driveway.
There is a second switch on the post of the right railing at the house.
Please turn the lights off when you are finished going up and down the
2. Turn on the heat.
A small snow shed attempts to divert most of the snow off to the sides
so that it does not pile up by the door. You will normally be able
to get into the snow shed & then have decent access to the door.
If you do find snow piled on the deck near the door, there are shovels
just inside the door. As you go in, make certain both doors are unlocked
with the button on the inside. All doors use the same key.
Please open only one at a time of the two doors to the entryway to avoid
letting out all the warm air. They both need to be closed firmly
to stay shut. Be sure that both are shut when you finish hauling
With the new thermostat, the house should be cool but not freezing.
The thermostat is in the living room on the wall near the TV.
Reset the high and low temperatures for your visit. We use 65 and
3. Turn on the water.
The ceiling fan is a significant help in heating the cabin. Turn
it on using the switch halfway down the spiral stairs. Once you have
turned the switch on, the pull chain controls the light and fan.
The light is controlled by the chain on the lake side, the fan by the chain
on the road side. The fan has three positions, off, high speed, and
low speed. You may need to start the fan at high speed and switch
to low speed once it is moving well. It changes speed very slowly.
Before turning on the water, be certain the house is warm or that the
temperature has not been much below freezing. If you found the house cold
and the furnace not yet on, you should wait at least one hour before turning
on the water. If you run water into the cold pipes too soon, it will
freeze and potentially break the pipes. This should not be an issue
with the new thermostat & furnace.
4. Sewage Pump
There are hot and cold drain valves in the basement. These must
be closed before you turn on the water. They should have been closed
by the person before you, but perhaps you should check. Otherwise
you create your own swimming pool in the basement. If you have any problem
turning on water check these drain valves for water coming out. (described
in shut down section)
In the downstairs bedroom/laundry room, just to the left of the washing
machine, there is a trap door in the carpet. Open it by pulling the
carpet up and turn the valve counter-clockwise to turn on the water to
Turn all the faucets to cold until they are running. They should
start flowing in a few seconds. If they do not, turn off the water
and check the drains in the basement. Once cold water is flowing,
turn all the faucets to hot. They will start flowing once the hot
water tank is full, four or five minutes. As you are doing this be alert
for any water where it should not be and shut off water immediately if
there is a problem. Call us if necessary to fix such a problem.
Once water is coming from the faucets, turn them off. (If the
weather is extremely cold, the house is not yet warm, or you are a pessimist,
leave a dribble of cold water running in each bathroom sink to prevent
freezing.) Then you can turn on the hot water heater. The hot
water switch is in the end of the upstairs bathroom closet. There
is a note and string to help you find the switch. Do not turn on the tank
until all faucets flow freely. The tank takes several hours to heat.
Since the cabin is below the road, we have to pump sewage up to the
road. There is a 500 gallon tank buried below the deck. A float
normally controls the pump. A remote arrangement allows you to monitor
the sewage tank from inside the house.
5. Fire Exit
In the downstairs bedroom, there is a louvered door to a small closet.
Just inside the door on the left there is a lead weight on a pulley arrangement
connected to the float. When you arrive, gently pull on the weight
to verify that the float can move freely. If it doesn't, you will
have to journey onto the back deck and pull the float up to free it.
The float is behind the wood rack on the east end of the porch. There
is a raised area with a covered hole in the center. You will see
the string to the weight running to the float rod. Pull straight
up gently on the rod to free it.
The sliding door onto the deck is your second exit in case of emergency.
You need to get the wooden doors open to provide an exit. Same key
as main door. The bolts may be down into the deck. You may need to
take a shovel around the cabin and clear snow from the space into which
the doors will move or from in front of them.
The damper handle is located in the middle of the fireplace just above
the opening. Pull it toward you before starting a fire. A switch
just to the right of the fireplace controls a fan that extracts heat from
the fireplace. We run the fan when the fireplace is in use.
7. Television & VCR
You may need to plug the television in. We do not have Cable
at Donner so there is unlikely to be any reception except from the VCR.
There is a box of VCR tapes kept close by.
Brief Winter Opening Checklist
Winter Daily Check List
turn on fan
turn on water
no water except from faucets
water flowing freely from all faucets hot and cold
shut off faucets and turn on water heater
check sewage pump
fire exit doors open
TV and nightlights
1. Please check the sewage level once a day or so. If the
float sticks, the tank will not empty and sewage will spill onto the ground.
There is now an alarm system which should screach if the tank does not
empty properly. Occasionally, the alarm goes off for a few seconds
and then the float breaks loose to trip the pump. The lead weight
should move to the "full" mark on the door frame and then the pump should
switch on and empty the tank. If it does not, either the float is
stuck or the starting relay is tripped. There is a small door made
of pegboard on the wall between the closet and the tool board. Behind
it is a reset switch for the pump. If you wish to manually trigger the
pump when the tank is partially full, gently and firmly pull the weight
down to the "full" mark. You will hear the pump switch on.
2. Each bed is equipped with an electric blanket. Please
turn them off in the morning.
3. Be certain to keep both bathroom doors wide open when not in
use. If the weather is very cold, leave a dribble or slow stream
of cold water running in each bathroom sink especially overnight.
Otherwise you may have frozen pipes and non-working bathrooms even though
the house is warm.
4. We have had trouble with the drain for the washing machine
freezing up. Before using the washer in cold weather, pour at least
a half gallon of water down the red funnel behind the washer while watching
the drain to see that it doesn't overflow. We have pumped forty gallons
of water onto the bedroom floor a few times.
5. If you are not using the fireplace and the fire is out, close
the damper to save heat. Obviously, keep the doors closed when the
furnace is on.
6. Put trash in the garbage can in the entry way. If you
move the garbage can outdoors, you must have the rubber cord over the lid
or you will have trash to pick up courtesy of the raccoons.
7. There is a thermometer outside the big window in the main room.
We are not yet satisfied that it is accurate.
8. When you leave for the day, please close all the shades and
drapes to insulate the windows.
Brief Checklist for Daily Departure
Winter Closing Instructions
Electric blankets off
Damper closed if fireplace is all the way out
lights, thermostat, shades, and drapes
check sewage pump
bathroom doors open
1. Turn off hot water heater
It is very important that the hot water heater never run without water
in the tank. We turn it off first thing as we get ready to leave.
You will still have fifty gallons of hot water in the tank. Turn
the switch in the upstairs bathroom to the left. The string leads
you to the correct switch.
2. Turn down the furnace to 55 degrees.
We turn down the furnace early so we don't have to be so careful with
Be certain the fire is all the way out. Shut the fireplace damper
by pushing it away from you and turn off the fireplace fan with the switch
to the right of the fireplace. Please refill the wood rack from the
wood rack at the right end of the porch if it is not at least 2/3 full.
Take with you or throw out anything in the refrigerator that won't
keep. Take all trash with you. Leave nothing on the counter or table which
a mouse could open or find attractive. (i.e no onions or fruit, no box
juices or fruit rolls even foil or plastic wrapped.) Empty the teakettle.
If you run the dishwasher on departure morning, it takes about 45 minutes
before you can turn it off and start draining the water. We usually try
to use a minimum of dishes and hand wash.
After all use of water is finished, including bathrooms, start draining
6. Anti-freeze in drains
be certain that you have turned off the water heater
shut off the water in the floor of the laundry room
open faucets all over the house. Only a little water will drain.
climb downstairs to the basement (lock uses same key)
open the cold water drain faucet just to your left at the end of the long
copper pipe. The cold water system drains quickly.
open the hot water drain faucet at the bottom of the water heater box in
the corner to the right as you enter. This drains into a hose through the
wall and onto the ground outside. Check that hot water is coming out of
the hose on your way up stairs and correct if necessary. Hot water will
take about 25 min to drain.
In each drain in the house place about 1/2 cup of antifreeze. The antifreeze
is stored in the upstairs bathroom closet below the circuit breaker panel.
We use a small red plastic cup to measure it. The faucets should
all be left open.
7. Special draining
_ _ shower or tub
_ _ bathroom sink
_ _ toilet tank (flush first)
_ _ toilet bowl (2 scoops = approx 1
_ kitchen sinks - both
_ red funnel behind washing machine
Sewage pump - Use the remote control in the shed off the laundry room
to drain the sewage pump as described above.
Washing machine - In the shed immediately to the right of the door
and under the shelf there are two pressure relief valves for the washing
machine lines. After the bulk of the upstairs plumbing has drained,
open the two valves momentarily to allow air into these lines. Do not leave
them open. You can hear air enter the pipes.
8. Close water supply drains.
When all else is done, return to the basement to close the two drain
valves. Be sure that hot water is no longer draining through the hose.
Please close both the hot water and the cold water drain valves. Turn off
the light. Close and latch but don't lock the basement door.
9. Close the lakeside doors
If you have not yet cleared any accumulated snow or ice from the barn
door tracks, do so now. Close the barn doors and padlock them. At least
one of the metal rods at the bottom of the door should go into a hole in
the deck. Close and latch the glass doors and close both sets of curtains.
10. Final Shutdown
Turn off the ceiling fan and light at the wall switch. Make a last
check of lights, electric blankets, etc and please lock both upstairs doors
on your way out. The entry way light is on a proximity detector so
you can leave it on. Take trash with you and get rid of it
someplace else. We usually just take it home. Be sure to turn
off the lights on the driveway. Have a nice trip home.
Brief Checklist for final departure.
Turn off water heater
Fireplace damper and fan, unplug TV and night lights
Kitchen cleanup and mouseproof
shut off water
open all faucets and flush toilets
open cold water drain valve
open hot water drain valve
_ _ shower or tub
_ _ bathroom sink
_ _ toilet tank (flush first)
_ _ toilet bowl (2 scoops = approx 1 cup)
_ kitchen sinks - both
_ red funnel behind washing machine
close cold water drain valve
close hot water drain valve
close and lock lakeside doors
lights, trash, lock doors
driveway lights off
Snowboat was built by Jack Hilligoss, the original owner in 1971.
It is post and beam construction. Only large beams in the corners
of the structure and the rings at the top are load bearing. When
we bought it in 1985, we did a lot of work to winterproof it since Jack
had built it largely as a fishing cabin.