It is 1846, and thirteen-year-old Virginia Reed is pioneering two-thousand miles from Illinois to California with her parents, younger sister and brother, and the Donner family. She's proud to ride ahead of the wagon train each day beside her beloved father, James.
But enthusiasm turns to alarm when her father and other party leaders make decisions that put the families dangerously behind schedule. Provisions dwindle. Hardships mount. Anger erupts. In a frantic effort to reach California before winter, the Donner Party takes an untried shortcut, with heartbreaking results.
Virginia painfully realizes the fallibility of the adults in her life and begins to rely on her own judgment. When the party becomes trapped in the Sierra by early snows, she must find the courage to defy her father in order to save the rest of her family.